THE VICTIMS DURING THE FIRST PERIOD OF THE CAMP UP TO APRIL 1943After the murder of the Jews of the counties Warthbrücken and Turek, almost at the same time during the year arrived those Gypsies who had come in November of the previous year as part of the resettlement (Verschleppung) of 20 000 Jews and 5,000 Gypsies into the Lodz(Litzmannstadt) ghetto. Since the beginning of December there was a raging typhus epidemic in the large hermetically sealed ghetto of the gypsy camp, so the rapid killing of infected individuals served as an alternative, a proven solution for their deaths. They were taken by truck directly to Chelmno. 4300-4400 people fell victim to this mass murder.
Between 16 January and 2 April 1942 over 44 000 Polish Jews were deported from the ghetto who had been forcibly picked by the Jewish self-government (Judenrat) at random. Then another 11 000 left in the period between May 4th to 15th who were predominantly German, Austrian, Czech and Luxembourgian Jews of the ghetto in the direction of Chelmno. This was more than half of the 20 000 people deported in fall of 1941. They were moved by a rail-way-spur system within the ghetto towards Warthbrücken, from there they went by a narrow gauge railway (Kleinbahn) to the terminus at Arnsdorf (Powiercie). The Jews then walked about half a mile away to an abandoned water mill of the hamlet Schöntal (Zawaki), where they spent in most cases one night. The next morning they were picked up by trucks of the Sonderkommando, and counted in a way that the "human cargo" fitted exactly into a gas-van.
|Announcement from Chaim Rumkowski, the "Jewish Elder", on the imminent deportation of Jews to the West from the Litzmannstadt ghetto, 29 April 1942
Rumkowski, the head of the Lodz (Litzmannstadt) Judenrat, was an insurance agent and was not part of the leading circles of the Jewish community. He cooperated fully with the Germans and ran the ghetto in a dictatorial manner. He has attracted more attention than any other Judenrat leader. In view of some historians, he was a traitor and collaborator. Others believe that his policies helped extend the life span of the Ghetto, which remained in existence when all other ghettos in Poland had been liquidated. Those who hold the latter opinion point out that the 5,000 to 7,000 survivors of the Lodz ghetto constituted, in relative terms, the largest among all the groups of Holocaust survivors in Poland. Fate was not kind to Rumkowski. When the last of the Jews were to be deported from Lodz, he was the victim of a cruel hoax by his German friends. He was told by Hans Biebow, the head of the German administration in Lodz, that he would have to go to a labour camp, but that he would continue to be the head of the Jews, and Biebow gave him a letter to present to the labour camp authorities. Biebow sent him to Auschwitz in a private railroad car with great pomp and circumstance, while the other Jews were crowded into cattle cars. When he got to Auschwitz, he and his family went to the selection point with everyone else. He presented his letter to the Germans, and they made him stand at the side, and he was later driven away in a car straight to the crematorium, rather than going through the gas chambers. [You can see him in the following video LITZMANNSTADT, the language is Polish.sic] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q5FxA4bS-Yk
After working as a coffee importer in his hometown of Bremen, Biebow became the overseer of the Lódz (Litzmannstadt) Ghetto. He realised that the Lodz Ghetto could make a profit for the Germans if it were converted into essentially a slave labour complex.
Under his administration, the 164,000 Jews of Poland's second largest city were crammed into a small area of the city. Communication between the Ghetto inhabitants and the outside world was completely cut off and the supply of food was severely limited, ensuring that many of the inhabitants of the Ghetto would slowly starve. Over the course of its existence, the population of the Ghetto swelled to 204,000 with more Jews from Central Europe being sent there. The Ghetto Administration remained in operation from April 1940 until the summer of 1944, but there were transports out of the Ghetto to extermination camps (primarily Auschwitz and Chelmno) beginning at the end of 1941.
Biebow was a ruthless administrator, concerned with the ghetto's productivity and his own personal gain. He was directly responsible for starving the ghetto's population beyond limits of endurance, and he assisted the Gestapo in rounding up Jews during deportations. In the days just before the liberation of Lodz by the Red Army, Biebow ordered large burial pits to be dug in the local cemetery, intending that the Gestapo execute the remaining 877 Jews who served as a clean-up crew in the ghetto. This might have been an attempt by Biebow to eliminate witnesses to his role in the workings of the Ghetto.
Biebow exercised his control in partly through a Jewish administration headed by Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski. Rumkowski believed that the Jews could survive if they produced cheap, essential goods for the Nazis. Biebow profited substantially from the sale of the products of Jewish labour as well as from the seized properties of Jews. He is also said to have provided less food to Ghetto inhabitants than was paid for, pocketing the difference. The Ghetto factories produced products such as boots for German Army and were profitable for the Germans because the Jews, cut off from all resources, worked for wages that consisted only of bread, soup, and other essentials. The German profits from the Jewish factories have been estimated at $14,000,000 and the productivity of the Ghetto was a factor in its comparatively long survival. The inhabitants endured four years of starvation, illness and overcrowding before being sent to the extermination camps of Chelmno and Auschwitz. Of the 204,000 inhabitants, approximately 10,000 survived.
Among the Nazi hierarchy, Biebow was an early exponent of using the Jews as cheap labour rather than killing them, but he readily adapted to the extermination policy. Survivors report his encouraging the last surviving Jews of the Ghetto in the summer of 1944 to board the trains to Auschwitz with a speech that began "My Jews...” and promised them work in the West.
Biebow was able to escape into hiding in Germany in 1945 after the unconditional surrender, but was recognised by a survivor of the ghetto and subsequently arrested in Bremen. After he was extradited by the Allies to Lódz, he stood trial from April 23 to April 30, 1947. He was found guilty on all counts and executed by hanging.
Around the same time in the spring of 1942, the so-called most open areas in the Jewish Regional Council Hohensalza were cleared. This required that the on-site mobile command was sent from Kulmdorf as reinforcement for the officers of the local police station. But only with the arrival of the clean-up squad of the urban ghetto of Lodz the necessary administrative personnel was at full strength. They worked quickly and systematicly: The Jews were forced to congregate in a central square, mainly at the Catholic Church. Subsequently the Ghetto Administration together with the Sonderkommando selected all persons who were classified as fit for work and then transported them to Lodz. All people assessed as disabled or unfit for work were taken by truck or rail transport via Warthbrücken and deported to Chelmno. Afterwards, the Lodz Ghetto Administration took care of the removal of all recyclable and usable materials and entered debtors or creditors of the dissolved ghettos over to themselves as its Legal Successor. The entire household goods of the Jews that was still usable and auctioned off under the supervision of the local commissioners and mayors office. Any amounts of profit received was transferred to the Ghetto Administration of Lodz. How many people from the rural ghettos of the Government Praesidium Hohensalza were murdered, is difficult to determine. On that date and time, many Jews worked outside the ghetto in labour camps in various private and municipal facilities, such as country estates, water works operated by authorities or companies that were involved in the construction of the autobahn. According to statistical data, however, the Department of Jewish Self-Government in the Lodz ghetto, shows in April 1942, only eight Jewish people came from the Warthegau into the ghetto.
Immediately after the conclusion of transports of non-Polish Jews from Lodz to Chelmno, began the deportations from the ghettos of the same county administrative district. Government Statistics from President Frederick Uebelhoer show at the cut-off date May 1st 1942, altogether 36 211 Jews lived outside the greater ghetto Lodz, these were districts of Lask, Lentschütz, Schieratz and Welungen and the city of Kalisch (Kalsz). Between May and August 1942 all the ghettos of these counties were forcibly closed, although statistical figures were maintained, only 105 487 Jews are mentioned on the 1st September living in the metropolitan Ghetto. Between May and August 1942, there arrived 14 441 selected Jews in the Lodz ghetto. Whether 21 770 Jewish people were murdered in Chelmno, is in question as well as those in the case of Hohensalza, because here again was an unknown number of Jewish workers already confined in labour camps and living in barracks outside civil jurisdiction and not included in the count.
|SS men stand over murdered Jews in Chelmno
COMMAND AND RESPONSIBILITIES - ACCUMULATION OF WEALTH THROUGH MURDER -
Gauleiter Arthur Greiser made an approach to Himmler after the announcement of an imminent arrival of 20 000 Jews and 5000 Sinti and Roma from Burgenland[Austria,sic] that two of his senior officials in the Reich Government should be appointed and made responsible to organise all that was necessary prior to the onset of mass murder. Although Wilhelm Koppe of the HSSPF still had personal jurisdiction over the Police of Kulmhof for safety and order, but the overall financial and organisational aspects of the regional "Final Solution" was held under the direction and conducted by SS-Oberführer Herbert Mehlhorn in Division I within the Reich Government. This is particularly evident on the basis of a memo, written by the local head of Göring's eavesdropping organisation, on 9 December 1941. He[Göring,sic] learned from a conversation that took place a few days earlier, between the Government President Uebelhoer and the Litzmannstadt Gestapo Leader Schefe, that the sick of the ghetto would be removed on the orders of the Gauleiter only, which is and was a civil administration. As Schefe inquired whether Berlin knew about it, 'they answered evasively'. This discussion on December 5, 1941, shows that the Gestapo can not be considered to act as the dominant player in the planning of mass murder. Thus, these remarkable findings deepened with the restructuring of financial responsibility. An essential prerequisite for the permanent use of the death camp was the practice of mass murder by car/truck exhaust fumes and the development of a division of a labour force, the financing of property and recompense personnel costs. This was no longer in the hands of HSSPF or the Security Police, but was solely controlled by Mehlhorn's Division I.
The Head of Unit I/13 Budget and Accounting, was a quiet and efficient official of the Reich District of Sudetenland named Frederick Häusler, together with a colleague on February 5, 1942 they appeared at the office of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration: "Both men appeared on behalf of Oberführer(Full Colonel) Mehlhorn to get an overview of the financial situation of the ghetto. They tried to lead negotiations on the establishment of a special central bank account, which should meet all levels of costs concerning the Evacuation Measures taking place in the Warthegau".
|Fort Winiary where Greiser was executed
|Greiser publicly hanged
Following examples are intended to illustrate the typical operating method of financial accountability: All security and regularity police officers of the Sonderkommando received in addition to their normal pay on a daily basis a wage envelope to the amount of 12 to 20 Reichsmark. There were other expenses for meals for the men, so that at the Kulmhof Administration always larger sums of cash adjustments were made. This money was picked up repeatedly by individual members of the Sonderkommando from the Litzmannstadt Ghetto Administration. They obtained either mostly cash amounting to 50 000 RM or received a cashier's check, which was immediately drawn at the local town bank. In the course of 1942 the Ghetto Administration had paid out a total of 680 000 RM. Fourteen times appeared the names Behm, Bürstinger, Neumann, Otto and Plate in the accounting for amounts of RM 30 000, on one occasion to pick up 100 000 RM. The members of the Municipal Evacuation Staff were also paid in cash as an extra allowance in addition to their salary.
Also, all non-personnel costs for the operation of the extermination camp were financed from this Special Account. Cement, chloride of lime, disinfectant, or waste oil were repeatedly ordered on demand by Kulmhof from the Ghetto Administration and picked up by the Sonderkommando. Ultimately it also included the constant supply of liquor and cigarettes for the murderers as a running cost.[It is not clear if inmates assisting in the disposal of the dead received alcohol and cigarettes,sic]
Cash deposits came of course directly from Chelmno, where the Jewish castle commando had to search through the clothes and bags of the victims. Between February 28 and 31 December 1942, a total of 21 entries totalling 1.9 million Reichsmarks were made, also deliveries of foreign exchange and gold currencies were made and then sent by the Ghetto Administration to the Reichsbank in Berlin. A little later the Reichsmark-Credit-System came into use for the special account.
|Jews forced to sort confiscated goods
The lack of storage capacity on the castle grounds for luggage and textiles required in the spring of 1942, the first funded investment through the special account. Because they feared the self-ignition of clothing, the ghetto administration purchased a disused factory in the village of Pabinice outside the city limits of Litzmannstadt, as a branch warehouse. Here, the researching and recovery of garments were outsourced from the courtyard. The location was chosen because of its proximity to the large ghetto, where reusable material was transferred to. In addition, there was a greater disinfection plant used by Volksdeutsche(ethnic Germans) who would in turn send wearable clothing and bedding material to the appropriate NS-Wohlfat [a Nazi Welfare Organisation.sic]
The scope of this vast accumulation of "wealth" from deported and murdered Jews, with the amount of inventory work involved, can be seen from a letter written by a staff member of the Country's Economy Office in Poznań (Posen) barely two weeks after the opening of the camp on 18 May 1942. The Department was advised to expect 900 truckloads from Camp Chelmno (Kulmhof), which would require a higher allocation of diesel fuel. The financial transactions of reclaimed and found material from the victims at the camp, which an accounting staff member of the Ghetto Administration once dubbed and entered it mischievously as "Factory-Kulmhof--Pabianice" was also huge. Between 22 May 1942 and February 1943, they made 67 entries for a total of 1,076,689.44 Reichsmark and 11,719.00 U.S. dollars into the accounts of the Ghetto Administration. The uncounted coins were sent in 93 bags in the summer of 1942. Again, gold currencies had been found: 4480 Rubles, 1525 Goldmark, 1451 Gold Dollars, which were handed over to the Reichsbank.
It is clear that the control over such an important account, the responsibility of the regional planning for the Holocaust lies with the highest level of the NS-Leadership . Häusler and his superior Mehlhorn received duplicates of the bank statements, which was sent to them in Posen, so they were always informed about the current account balances. While the staff of the Reich Government could direct the Accounting Department of the Ghetto Administration to spend certain amounts, this was not possible for the staff of the Security Police. Some examples show very well that even the HSSPF Wilhelm Koppe could suggest payouts to the benefit of the Gestapo, but this was not automatic and he did not have direct excess. His requests to that effect had to be approved by Greiser. When in the course of 1942, the Inland Revenue Department came to the Litzmannstadt Gestapo office, because there was a Jewish person deported as a debtor, the clerk had to present management of the Ghetto Administration the complaint and then ordered the payment of the outstanding amount. Gauleiter Greise personally put his hand into the till. He requested on 17 February 1943 an amount of 4 million Reichsmarks[a considerable sum at that time.sic] to fund one of his reptile projects. With this transaction, (concealed) in favour of Greiser, the account balance temporarily had dwindled to RM 8000. But the special account was always replenished with the proceeds from the auctions of the Jewish households and the wage share of those Jews who were being exploited in the labour camps(Arbeitslager). In this way it retained even after the closure of Kulmhof a high positive balance.
|SS-Obergruppenführer(SS-General) Wilhelm Koppe salutes SS and German police troops
He also held the position of state secretary on the issues of security (Staatssekretär für das Sicherheitswesen) in the General Government, and was involved in the operations of Chelmno extermination camp and Warsaw concentration camp as well as operations against the Polish resistance. He organised the execution of more than 30,000 Polish patients suffering from tuberculosis, and ordered that all male relatives of identified resistance fighters should be executed, and the rest of their family sent to concentration camps.
The Polish Secret State ordered his death, but an assassination attempt failed. He was wounded by the Kedyw unit - Batalion Parasol in "Operation Koppe" (Akcja Koppe) part of "Operation Heads" on 11 July 1944 in Kraków(Krakau).
With the Eastern Front approaching Poland, Koppe ordered all prisoners to be executed rather than freed by the Soviets.
In 1945 Koppe went underground and assumed an alias (Lohmann, his wife's surname) and became a director of a chocolate factory in Bonn, Germany. In 1960 he was arrested but released on bail on 19 April 1962. His trial opened in 1964 in Bonn. He was accused of being accessory to the mass murder of 145,000 people. The trial was adjourned due to Koppe's ill health and in 1966 the Bonn court decided not to prosecute and Koppe was released for medical reasons. The German government refused a Polish request for extradition. Koppe died in 1975 in Bonn.
Continued under part 3