REINHARD HEYDRICH - THE PROTECTORATE - THE GHETTOS AND THE FINAL SOLUTION
I spent more than one month at the end of the war from January 1st a945, as a youngster, age 17 mainly during military training in Slovakia and roamed for a number of days through Bohemia and Moravia sightseeing, before taking up my assignment at Rüdesheim am Rhein in Germany What impressed me most, was the old-world charm of their cities. Despite the winter, I very much liked the country side and could even now at an old age have happily lived there.
It can be claimed that, Germans had settled in the Central European territories of Bohemia and Moravia for over thousand years. In the 14th century under the German Emperor Karl IV they established a new Hapsburg capital in Prague, which became one of the most majestic cultural centres of Europa.
Although I traveled in a Jungvolk Uniform, I never received any hostility towards me. People to me looked more Germanic, than what we were told at indoctrination courses. Then again my own upbringing was of tolerance and acceptance towards minorities within an overall society.
Even the Reichs-Minister of Propaganda Dr. Josef Goebbels was smitten with the Nordic beauty by the Czechoslovakian movie star Ludmila Babková she gained the affection of Goebbels to the point that he wanted to divorce his wife, but Hitler forbade it. Wherever he went (Goebbels), she was with him.
The following narrative gives a different insight, that what was commonly known in German as 'Völkermord'
Goebbels with Ludmila Babková
HKWS Auckland NZ November 2016.
At the age of 17, March 1945. I did wear a HJ swastika armband for recognition as my Brigade was overrun several times by American Armor and we operated behind enemy lines, but had it removed when an escaped Wehrmacht soldier told me: 'The Yanks will make mincemeat out of you once they capture you.''
According to Heydrich, roughly half the Czech population would emerge from the ethnic engineering process of the coming years as Germans, the ultimate aim for the Protectorate's Jewish population was fundamentally different: The goal of Nazi anti-Jewish policies was immediate exclusion, then deportation and ultimately, extermination
Unsurprisingly, Heydrich's arrival in Prague led to a decisive radicalization of anti-Jewish policies in the Protectorate, As of 29 September 1941 Jews in mixed marriages with Czech partners, who had previously been exempted from wearing the yellow star, had this exemption revoked. All synagogues were closed and non-Jews who continued to interact socially with Jews were threatened with protective custody. In one of his first press conferences at Prague Castle, Heydrich told the assembled journalists of his fundamental belief, that:
'Judaism poses a radical and spiritual danger to peoples. The experience of Germany and of those who were reasonable, the experience of the Protectorate as well, confirm this view. The Reich's objective will and must be not only to eliminate the influence of Judaism within the people of Europe but, to the extent to which this is possible to resettle them outside Europe. All other measures... stages on the path to to this final aim. I have decided to pursue these stages in the Protectorate as consistently and as quickly as possible. The first step in the immediate future will be the concentration of Jewry in a town or in part of a town... as collection point and transitional solution for the already initiated evacuation.The first 5,000 Jews will leave the Protectorate over the course of the coming weeks. It goes without saying that the Jews who have practically engaged in black-marketing, illegal butchering etc. will be led to work in an orderly way that serves the community... For those who, for operational reason or due to lack of understanding, believe that they must continue to have open or secret dealings with the Jews or express sympathy for them, I reserve the right to apply the previously outlined measures to them as well'.
The next day, October 6, Heydrich demanded that the Protectorate Government immediately dismiss or retire all Jewish half-breeds and public officials with Jewish relatives who had previously been exempted from persecution. Exceptions such as Jewish Mischlinge who had already been public officials before 1914 and had served in the First World War, required the explicit approval of Heydrich himself.
In the spring of 1942, Heydrich further extended his policies against the half-breeds, ordering that all Mischlinge who had obtained Reichs citizenship under Neurath's 'lax' regime were to undergo 'proper' racial testing. Another decree prohibited Protectorate nationals from marrying Jews, while first degree Mischlinge could marry. Czechs only with permission of the Ministry of Interior. The Protectorate, under Heydrich's aegis, was therefore among the first of the occupied territories to screen Jewish Mischlinge and to revoke their German citizenship if they were considered an 'unwanted population addition'.
On Heydrich's orders, the director of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Prague, Hans Günter, presented a statistical survey on the preparation for the 'final solution' of the Jewish question in the Protectorate in early October 1941 . According to this report, just over 118,000 Jews (as defined by the Nuremberg Laws) had been living in the Protectorate at the beginning of the German occupation in March 1939. Of this number, nearly 26,000 had migrated by 1 October 1941. Due to the low birthrate in the same period, only 88.105 Jews were still living in the Protectorate at the time of Heydrich's arrival in Prague.
Prague Castle, the ancient seat of Bohemian dukes and kings,
Roman kings and emperors, and after 1918 the office of the
Czechoslovak and Czech presidents .Heydrich lived with his family some twenty kilometrs north of the capital, in he leafy gardens of his most neo-classical country estate, although he had his office there..
Between the late 1941 and the summer of 1944, the German authorities deported about 64,000 Jews from the Protectorate to Theresienstadt., about sixty kilometres north-west of Prague. Theresienstadt served as a transit camp for Protectorate Jews on their way to various killing sites in Eastern Europe. particularly, from 1942 onwards to Auschwitz. Of the 82,903 Jews deported from the Protectorate during the war, the Germans and their Ukrainian, Baltic and Russian collaborators killed approximately 77,000 men, women and children. Only 14,000 Protectorate Jews survived the end of the Second World War.
Thousands of Polish Jews on the spot between the 16 March and 29 April and deporting further 30,000 to Belzec where they were gassed.
Jews in Prague rounded up for evacuation
Heydrich was determined to solve the Protectorate's Gypsy problem in a similar fashion. In the months leading up to his arrival in Prague, police had rounded up hundreds of wandering Gypsies or tramps, suggesting, that 'Gypsy' was still primarily considered a criminal, rather than racial, a category that included whole array of asocial. Upon his arrival, Heydrich inserted racial criteria in the definition of 'Gypsy', hence widening the net for persecution. In October 1941, Heydrich noted that he wished to evacuate all Gypsies living in Bohemia and Moravia. The following spring he ordered that their identification cards be marked with a "Z" for Zrgeuner, the German word for Gypsy. In total 6,500 people in the Protectorate fell into this category. At least 3,000 of them were murdered in the Gypsy camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, and further 533 died in the special camps in Lety and Hodonin in the Protectorate. Yet Heydrich's energetic drive for the total extermination of the Protectorate's Gypsies was the exception rather than the rule in German occupied Europe. Right up to the end of the war, it remained uncertain whether all Gypsies within the German sphere of influence would be murdered. In the summer of 1942 for example, Himmler gave an explicit order that in the case of Gypsies with permanent hones in the General Government 'police intervention' was unnecessary.
[Two mass transports were carried out from the Hodonín camp. The first transport of 46 men and 29 women (the "asocials" set out on the 7th of December 1942 to the Auschwitz I concentration camp, on the basis of a decree on crime prevention. The second mass transport took place on the 21th of August 1943, with 749 prisoners being taken to the Auschwitz II - Birkenau concentration camp. .After the second transport left, only 62 prisoners remained in the camp. A non-Roma family from Olešnice adopted an eight-year-old prisoner from the camp, thus saving her from further suffering, since only a few of the remaining prisoners were released. The rest were taken to the concentration camp at Auschwitz in winter 1944.sic]
A view of the
gypsy campat Lety u Písku, 1942. (EÚ AV Prague, photo: Museum of Roma Culture.) The camp supervisors were recruited from the police force .
The accelerated speed of the implementation of Nazi anti-Gypsy and anti-Jewish policies was largely due to Heydrich;s own activism, spurred on by Hitler's decision, in mid-September 1941 'to make the old Reich as well as the Protectorate, from east to west, as Jew free (Judenfrei) as soon as possible'. However, Hitler insisted that the progress of deportation be dependent on the the further development of the military situation. Heydrich nonetheless was bound to be able to resettle the Jews from the Old Reich, particularly into into the Lodz ghetto and then more permanently further east as soon as the military situation allowed him to do so.In view of the hopeless overcrowding of the ghetto and strong protests from the local German authorities only 20,000 Jews and 5,000 Gypsies from the Protectorate, Berlin and Vienna actually deported to Lodz in the second half of October 1941. During the following three months. 30,000 more Jews were departed to Minsk and Riga. What happened to them was extremely variable. Those sent to Lodz were interned in the ghetto where living conditions were appalling, but inmates were not immediately murdered. The Jews deported to Riga, on the other hand, arrived before the ghetto construction was completed. The first transports were therefore sent to Kaunas in Lithuania where all deportees were murdered on arrival in the infamous Fort IX.
[Karl Jäger was the head of Einsatzkommando 3, a sub-unit of Einsatzgruppe A. Under his command, Einsatzkommando 3 took everyone off the trains after their arrival to the Ninth (IX) Fort, where, shortly after arrival, the Einsatzkommando shot them all. There were two separate shootings, on 25 November and on 29 November. In the 25 November shooting, 1,159 men, 1,600 women, and 175 children were killed (resettlers from Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt). In the 29 November shooting, 693 men, 1,155 women, and 152 children were killed (resettlers from Vienna and Breslau).It is not known who issued the orders for the murders of these people.[sic]
Thousands of Polish Jews on the spot between the 16 March and 29 April and deporting further 30,000 to Belzec where they were gassed.
At a meeting of the Protectorate's leading SS representatives on 10 October 1941 further measures of the solution of the Jewish question were discussed. Under Heydrich's chairmanship and the presence of his chief adviser on Jewish matters, Eichmann, the meeting established that roughly 88,000 Jews were still living in the Protectorate, roughly half of them in Prague, At this stage Heydrich still thought that he could evacuate 50,000 of the Protectorate's most 'burdensome' Jews - those least capable to work - to Riga and Minsk. He further believed that Arthur Nebe and Otto Rasch the heads of the four Einsatztruppen operating in occupied Soviet territory, could concentrate some of the deported Jews' in the camps for Communist prisoners in the operational area. For Jews not in the first deportation lists, Heydrich planned to create separate ghettos for those to work and those dependent on relief (Versorgungdlager). He clearly anticipated a very low survival rate, envisaging that the remaining Jewish communities would suffer high mortality rates even before they eventually boarded trains to the East
Public hanging of Maria "Masha" Bruskina she was a 17-year-old Jewish member of the Minsk Resistance
One week later on 17 October, Heydrich first introduced the ides of converting the garrison town Theresienstadt into a temporary collection point and transit camp for the deported Jews, demanding that under no circumstances should even the smallest detail of the plan become known to the general public. The barracks of the town would be cleared and it's civilian population resettled. Heydrich confidently expected that the evacuation of the Jews from the Protectorate to Theresianstadt would happen quickly. Every day, two or three trains would depart for the camp each carrying 1,000 Jewish deportees. Heydrich assumed that Theresienstadt would be comfortable to accommodate 50,000 to 60,000 Jews, but by the end of the year only 7.350 persons were resettled in Theresienstadt. Aside from the Jews, who had been deported to Lodz,
Before the first Jewish deportee's arrived in Theresianstadt on 24 November, another idea regarding the future function of this ghetto had began to take shape in Heydrich's mind. As Goebbels noted on 18 November 1941, following a meeting with him in Berlin, the Reichs Protector planned to establish Theresienstadt as an 'old-age ghetto' for German Jews whose deportation continued to pose 'unforeseen difficulties'.
The execution site at Theresienstadt
The Wannsee Conference of January 1942 confirmed this role for Theresienstadt. German and Austrian Jews aged over sixty-five years, plus Jewish war invalids and decorated Jewish veterans from the First World War would not be evacuated to the East, but rather transferred to the old-age ghetto in Theresianstadt. This solution would solve the foreseeable problem of intervention and objections from within the German population. Furthermore, the establishment of an old-age ghetto would deceive the inmates of Theresienstadt about their future fate. Theresienstadt was still intended only as a transit camp from which prisoners would be deported to the East in order to murder them or use them as forced labour. Indeed the first transport eastward fTheresienstadt had left on 9 January 1942. Of nearly 877,000 inmates deported to the East, roughly 84,000 died before the end of the war.
Shortly after the beginning of deportations from Theresienstadt, the Nazi extermination policy against the Jews escalated further. UP to this point, systematic and indiscriminate mass murders of Jews ad been restricted to certain geographical areas, particularly to Serbia and the territories of the Soviet Union , where by the end of 1941, between 500,000 and 800,000 Jews of all ages and both sexes had been murdered by the Germans and their local helpers.
In the spring of 1942, the pan-European implementation of the Holocaust began to take their shape. Heydrich and Himmler are likely to have sought Hitler's authorization for a third wave of deportation from the Reich into the Lublin district during their meeting with the Führer on 30 January 1942. No record of this meeting has survived, but only one day after the meeting, an express letter to all Gestapo Branch Offices, Adolf Eichmann announced that the recent evacuation of Jews from individual areas to the East marked the beginning of the final solution to the Jewish question to the Reich and the Protectorate.
By early March Eichmann had defined the plans for these deportations. During a meeting at Gestapo Headquarters in Berlin on 9 March, he explained that over the course of the next few months 55,000 Jews would be deported from the Reich and the Protectorate to a number of ghettos in the Lublin district. He also announced that more of the remaining elderly German Jews would be deported from the Reich to Theresienstadt.
(There are no members of the Hitler Youth recognizable in the above picture.it is doubtful the event took place in Vienna.sic)
[Heydrich's original policy regarding the Jewish question, was, that the problem should be resolved as quietly as possible, ideally through incentivized immigration in contrast to noisy anti-Semitic party leaders such as Josef Goebbels or Julius Streicher, Heydrich's experts promoted a more sober (ultimately no less radical) strategy against the Jews - a strategy that explicitly included humiliation in order to achieve its goal of a free Jew-Europe. Systematic mass murder was, however, still beyond in the early days of Nazi Germany, even for Heydrich and his anti-Jewish think tank within the SD.sic]
Heydrich had just returned from a relaxing skiing holiday with his family in the Bavarian Alps, he was happy with the progress made in his absence, On 11, 12, and 13 March, he and Himmler discussed the progress of the solution to the Jewish problem. Just before the deportation trains arrived, the SS and Police Leader in the Lublin district, Odilo Globocnik, cleared the Lublin ghetto of it's inhabitants, shooting thousands of Polish Jews on the spot between the 16 March and 29 April and deporting further 30,000 to Belzec where they were gassed.
The miserable living condition iv the ghetto around Lublin - Izbica, Piaska, Zanocs and Trav
niki - meant that a great majority of the German, Austrian and Slovak deportees died within a few months of their arrival. Those Jews who had been deported to Lpdz from the Reich during the previous autumn, had survived the devastating condition in the Lodz ghetto - almost11,000 people overall - were deported to Chelmmo between 4 and 15 May and murdered in stationary gas vans. Heydrich, in the meantime, decided to begin the clearing of the Theresienstadt ghetto, primarily to create space for new arrivals.
In March 1942, the deportations were also extended to Slovakia and France. According to the terms of agreement with Slovakia, some 4,500 young Jews fit for work were deported to Majdanek in the Lublin district and an additional four train loads of young women were sent to Auschwitz between 25 March and 7 April. On 10 April, Heydrich travelled to Bratislava to meet with the Slovak Prime Minister VojtechTuka, who declared his government willingness to deport all of Slovakia's more than 70,000 Jews.The deportations from Slovakia began on the following day - a significant event as Slovakia was the first state outside direct German control to agree to the deportation of its Jewish citizens. By 29 June, seven trains from Slovakia had arrived in Auschwitz where the deportees were used as slave labourers, A further thirty-four transports were sent to ghettos in the district of Lublin where the Slovakian deportees replaced those Jews inhabitants who had previously been sent to the extermination camps of Sobibor and Belzec. As Heydrich explained to Tulka during his visit to Bratislava, the deportation of Jews from Slovakia was only part of the much wider programme of resettlement that would affect not only Slovakia, the Reich and the Protectorate but also Western Europe, including the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
In France, from where 1,000 Jewish hostages were deported to Auschwitz on 30 March in retaliation for bombing attacks by French Resistance. Heydrich pressed his Jewish expert, Theodor Dannerker to to step up the pace., while still negotiating with the German Military Administration.
The Vel' d'Hiv Roundup (French: Rafle du Vélodrome d'Hiver, commonly called the Rafle du Vel' d'Hiv: "Vel' d'Hiv Police Roundup / Raid"), was a Nazi directed raid and mass arrest of Jews in Paris by the French police, code named Opération Vent printanier ("Operation Spring Breeze"), on 16 and 17 July 1942. The name "Vel' d'Hiv Roundup" is derived from the nickname of the Vélodrome d'Hiver ("Winter Velodrome"), a bicycle velodrome and stadium where a majority of the victims were temporarily confined. The roundup was one of several aimed at eradicating the Jewish population in France, both in the occupied zone and in the free zone. According to records of the Préfecture de Police, 13,152 Jews were arrested, including more than 4,000 children. They were held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver in extremely crowded conditions, almost without water, food and no sanitary facilities, as well as at the Drancy, Pithiviers, and Beaune-la-Rolande internment camps, then shipped in rail cattle cars to Auschwitz for their mass murder. French President Jacques Chirac apologized in 1995 for the complicit role that French policemen and civil servants served in the raid..
Two Jewish women in occupied Paris wearing the yellow Star of David badge in June 1942, a few weeks before the mass arre
French police round up Jews. Paris, France, August 20, 1941.
These major pan-European waves of deportations coincided with the completion of construction works on various extermination sites in the General Government. By mid-May 1942, camp officials at Auschwitz-Birkenau had converted a former peasant hut into a gas chamber and started to murder Jews incapable to work that summer with Zyklon B. In May the extermination camp Sobibor was opened, while the first extermination camp, Belzec, underwent construction work that summer to to extend its killing capacity. At the same time, in the district of Warsaw, construction work begun on a further extermination camp, Treblinka
Simultaneously, in May 1942 , Heydrich's Einsatzgruppen in the Soviet Union resumed the mass murder of Soviet Jews, which had begun in the summer of the previous year. This was particularly the case in the Ukraine and Belarus, where Heydrich's brief visit to Minsk in April and his announcement that those deported from the Reich were to be liquidated upon arrival appears to have triggered a renewed wave of mass shootings with more than 13,000 Jewish victims. But this was merely the tip of the iceberg. Heydrich's Einsatzgruppen and special SS Anti-Partisan Units shot at least 380,000 Jews in theUkraine and Belorussia during the spring and summer of 1942. .
Einsatzgruppen executing Jews in Ukraine, 1942. [enlargement of photo does indicate, the executioner and bystanders are foreign mercenaries, NOT members of the SS-Einsatzgrppe,sic]
(Photo: Library of Congress, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.)
The decision-making process that led to this further escalation of anti-Jewish extermination policies and the beginning of a full-blown pan-European genocide is difficult to put down with any certainty. At the Wannsee Conference of January 20th 1942, two proposals had been made for solving the Jewish question on a European scale. Apart from Heydrich's older notion of deporting European Jews to the occupied Soviet territories, where they would be decimated by a combination of forced labour and special treatment, a new option had been discussed, the systematic murder of those Jews incapable to work in the General Government which was with 1.7 million people by far the largest community of Jews under German control. This was to be achieved through gassing facilities in Belzec and Auschwitz, which were completed and fully operational by the spring of 1942.
The idea of systematically murdering Jews in the occupied Poland gained further impetus when, in March 1942 , the SS managed to gain complete control over anti-Jewish policies in the General Government. Compromised by a serious corruption scandal in the spring of that year, General Governor Hans Frank conceded complete authority over all policing matters and question of Germanization in the General Government to the local higher SS and police leader, Friedrich Wilhelm Krüger, thus strengthening the hand of the SS vis-a-vis the civilian authorities. Himmler, Heydrich and their men on the ground - Krüger and Globocnik would use their new power to include Jews from all parts of Poland in the killing process.
Shortly before the murders were decisively extended at the beginning of May 1942, Heydrich and Himmler met seven times in three different places within the space of a week. The first meetings took place in Berlin on 25, 26 and 27 April, followed by a long conversation in Munich on 28 and 30 April, and then in Prague on 2 Nay, a meeting for which Himmler made a special journey. This series of intense discussions was framed by two longer meetings between Himmler and Hitler, which took place on 23 April and 3 May. No records of these meetings have survived the war, but the chronology of the events of the following weeks suggests that it was during these meetings that Hitler, Himmler and Heydrich decided on the framework for the implementation of a pan-European programme of systematic destruction that was to be carried out from May 1942 onwards.
If the realization of the Nazis Germanization project was based on a historically unprecedented programme of racial stock-taking, theft, expulsion and murder, Germanization, as understood by Heydrich, meant far more than racial tests and extermination. Murder and resettlement were only the preconditions for the creation of a purified utopia, a German Empire that would dominate the New Europe for the next thousand years. As Heydrich pointed out in mid-December 1941 : 'Wile under the blows of Germany and their allies a degenerate world is being crushed, perishing in the chaos which it has created, a New Order is appearing behind the fronts of our soldiers, an order whose structures are already becoming clearly visible..
Heydrich's New Order was never realized, he did not see Germany in ruins!
Apology: To the extent possible I have avoided the expression "Nazis", as this is derogative and offensive to German readers, yet it is so entrenched in journalism that it can not be avoided.
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