The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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On October 15, 1941, the big exodus from Europe to the east began - the Jews
being herded initially into the Lodz ghetto. On October 18, Himmler
scribbled on his telephone pad the message he had just dictated to Heydrich:
"No emigration by Jews to overseas." "In daily transports of a thousand
people, 20,000 Jews and 5,000 Gypsies are being sent to the Lodz ghetto
between October 15 and November 8." Heydrich confirmed to Himmler on October
19. For the time being Himmler kept the Jews alive for the work they could
perform; but farther east the Gauleiters had no intention of preserving the
unemployable Jews: a letter dated October 25 in SS files states that Adolf
Eichmann had now approved Gauleiter Lohse's proposal that those arriving at
Riga should be killed by mobile gas trucks. This initially ad hoc operation
gathered momentum. Soon the Jews from the Lodz ghetto and Greiser's
territories were being deported further east - to the camp at Chelmno. There
were 152,000 Jews involved in all, and Chelmno began liquidating them on
December 8. It is possible to be specific about the instigators, because on
May 1, 1942, Greiser himself would mention in a letter to Himmler that the
current "special treatment" program of the hundred thousand Jews in his own
Gau had been authorized by Himmler "with the agreement of" Heydrich. Hitler
was not mentioned.

Meanwhile, from mid-November 1941 onward, the Reichsbahn sent trainloads of
Jews - rounded up in Vienna, Bru"nn (Brno), Bremen, and Berlin - direct to
Minsk, while others went to Warsaw, Kovno, and Riga. At Kovno and Riga the
Jews were shot soon after. At Minsk the Jews did not survive much longer:
Richard Kube, Roseberg's general commissioner of White Ruthenia, would
record on July 31, 1942, that 10,000 had been liquidated since the
twenty-eighth, "of which 6,500 were Russian Jews, old folk, women and
children, with the rest unemployable Jews largely sent to Minsk from Vienna,
Bru"nn, Bremen and Berlin in November last year on the Fu"hrer's order."
Himmler's handwritten telephone notes include one on a call to Heydrich on
November 17, 1941, on "getting rid of the Jews"; twelve days later Heydrich
circulated invitations to an interministerial conference on the Final
Solution of the Jewish Problem - delayed until January 1942, it became
notorious as the Wannsee Conference.

No documentary evidence exists that Hitler was aware of what was befalling
the Jews. His remarks, noted by Bormann's adjutant Heinrich Heim late on
October 25, 1941, indicate that he did not: "From the rostrum of the
Reichstag, I prophesied to Jewry that if war could not be avoided, the Jews
would disappear from Europe. That race of criminals already had on its
conscience the two million dead of the Great War, and now it has hundreds of
thousands more. Let nobody tell me that despite that we cannot park them in
the marshy parts of Russia! Our troops are there as well, and who worries
about them! By the way - it's not a bad thing that public rumor attributes
to us a plan to exterminate Jews. Hitler added however that, just as he was
postpoining the final reckoning with the turbulent Bishop von Galen until
later, "with the Jews too I have found myself remaining unactive. There's no
point adding to one's difficulties at a time like this." Hans Lammers
testified later that this was undoubtedly Hitler's policy; Hitler had
confirmed this to him, saying: "I don't want to be bothered with the Jewish
problem again until the war is over." (Irving, Hitler's War, 426-427)

                              Work Cited

Irving, David. Hitler's War. New York: Avon Books, 1990

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