Wednesday, November 20, 2013



Victims of the 'interim solution' to the 'Jewish question' as they were pursued by the German Occupation Organisations (Besatungsorgane) during the summer of 1941 within the ghetto were the survivors of Kaunas, of about 30,000 from the first pogroms and mass shootings. The conditions in the district Viliampole in which the ghetto should be established, faced the 'Committee for the relocation of the Jews', from the Council of Elders (Judenrat) under the guidance of renowned physician Elchanan Elkes, with overwhelming problems. There were the usual lack of housing and health problems right from the start. Situated in the north-east on the banks of the River Neris, the ghetto terrain offered not sufficient living space requirements to accommodate such a large number of people. The State Commissioner under the former mayor of Dachau, Hans Cramer,  and the  agency of Jäger shared the control and exploitation of the ghetto. Although the paramount importance of the civil administration they pursued in RKO was to exploit the remaining Jews as long as possible as a source of government as well as personal enrichment, but they also approved that Stahleckers men were free to conduct 'further measures'. This included not only sustained terror and systematic looting, conveniently for their own gains, overlooking the targeted and planned 'Final Solution', and the attempt to prevent the propagation of the Jews. [In Kaunas pregnancies were banned since mid-1942, on the pain of death, until the final stage of the history of the ghetto. But still the Elders succeeded, many pregnant women and newborns to escape the clutches of the guards, (see ibid, page 111 and 205, Hidden History, page 36) sic]
Siauliai, Lithuania, 26-29.06.1941, A group of Jews before being executed in the forests' 
For residents the spatial concentration meant the precursor to physical extermination. Up to the end of October 1941 about 13,000 ghetto inhabitants were singled out during several 'actions', in particular, but not exclusively those that did not seem suitable for forced labour, and shot at Fort IX. In the largest action of murder on 29/30 October, more than 9,000 victims of the ghetto had to pass a KdS official, who decided in seconds with a flick of the hand movement, 'the able-bodied to the left and the other to the right' thus decided over life and death, a picture that was reminiscent of the later 'selections' on the ramp at Auschwitz. Elkes, like the other members of the Jewish Elder Councils in German-occupied Eastern Europe, despite the incredible brutality of anti-Jewish policy had little choice, to ask for a minimum of rationale in the measures as occupiers: If the Germans had otherwise no interest in the Jews, and considering the continuing war and the economic exploitation of the Jews, the Elders in the Kaunas Ghetto accepted this behaviour on the profit motive of the occupiers and voted accordingly. While they tried to accommodate the insatiable rapacity of German officials of all ranks and services as much as possible was done in reports, to Berlin, that showed detailed statistics to prove how important the Jews were as workers inside and outside the ghetto.
A sign fixed on the barbed wire entanglement surrounding the ghetto, in both German and Latvian: “Those, who will try to climb across the fence or try to communicate with the ghetto internees, will be shot down without warning.”
About the priorities in dealing with the Jews of the ghetto that took place between the participating German Departments, the instances of controversies without guidelines remain unclear. As to the situation in the Eastern European Ghettos quite a few typical front lines existed: There was the Civil Administration against the Security Police, Occupation Officials with official as well as private profit interests against those which strove for a  rapid murder of the Jews, against German local authorities who opposed such move. For the affected Jews tensions within the terror apparatus were usually not visible or noticeable or of any concern, it presented itself from their perspective as a closed system, whose decisions had no immediate effect in general terms. Even in the 'quiet period' in the history of the ghetto, from the end of the mass shootings in the fall of 1941 to the spring of 1943, no real peace was ever established. The authorities responsible for guarding of the ghetto, Germans and Lithuania's tolerated attacks from outsiders as they themselves robbed, raped and pillaged. The Council of Elders, the Jewish Police under its control could not intervene to stem the violence as documented in their files. To of-set strict rationing,  efforts of the ghetto inmates to supplement inadequate supplies, meant black marketing and the growing of crops, despite measured action taken by the trustees of German interests on the pretext for a wide range of criminal activities to the public hanging. Who had to work on outside commandos as those Jews used on the airfield at Aleksotas district depending on progress of construction, there were from 1.000 to 5.000 men and women employed, who found themselves exposed to the harshest conditions, and tried everything to get another, less dangerous activity assigned to. Elkes' Elders, like other Jewish Councils were faced with unsolvable problems and a variety of different expectations. Tensions within the ghetto population were inevitable and were discharged with contempt in demonstrations against Jewish Elite Functionaries . Overall, however, the Council of Elders in Kaunas is largely credited with exceptional positive assessment and Elkes for his efforts, attested by surviving ghetto inmates.
Dr Elchanan Elkes of the Kovno Judenrat'
Elchanan Elkes, head of Kovno (Lithuania) Ghetto's Jewish Council, was unlike other ghetto council heads. A Lithuanian physician,(he had studied in Königsberg, Germany) Elkes was not a dictatorial leader, but rather an exemplary figure of high moral standards who served his community with integrity and selfless dedication. Elkes left the day-to-day running of ghetto affairs to his deputy. His main function was to intercede with German authorities, who respected him. He worked tirelessly to persuade them to soften harsh decrees. Elkes created work for ghetto residents, and encouraged underground activity that helped many escape to nearby forests.
During the ghetto's final days, Elkes desperately tried to convince the SS to spare the surviving Jews, warning them of accountability for their crimes. Unable to halt the murder of the ghetto's population, Elkes wrote: "My soul is scorched. I am naked and empty." When the ghetto was in the process of extermination, seeing that he could not save people any-more, doctor Elkes went on a hunger strike and refused to sort out people for their deaths. Elkes was sick and deported to the Kaufering near Landsberg (Germany) concentration camp, where he died of typhus in 1944. See also a poignant letter, of a deeply caring person for his Brethren's, written to his son and daughter>HKS<:

 The need for Jewish workers increased further in the absence of other sources in the course of time, a fact to which even those who could not see other than a rapid implementation of the 'Final Solution' and continued pushing for it. Every day as Jäger reported in early 1943 on the basis of reports provided by the Elders, nearly 10,000 Jews were employed at 140 workplaces in and around Kaunas. Nevertheless with proven evidence of the economic usefulness, the continued existence of the ghetto and thus the survival of the Jewish majority in the long run could neither be secure in the Ghettos nor in the rest of the Lithuanian 'Ostland'. In the summer of 1942, the Civil Administration withdrew Elkes' Elders many of their functions, which made their efforts to the livelihood for the majority of them even more hopeless. Since the beginning of 1943 the rise in the 'risk of partisan participation' grew, and with that the German determination to take the last step regarding the 'Jewish question'. In early April 1943, in the forest of Ponar at Vilna, after it was said, they would be relocated to the ghetto of Kaunas, approximately 4,000 residents of the smaller ghettos were shot. There (in Kaunas)they feared the worst, especially for offences such as trafficking in Black Market, the Sipo more frequently than before, carried out death sentences. [Ibid, page 280-286, Arad, Ghetto, page 357-362. Rosenfeld, 'Mordaktion' page 139, sic]
Two Jews hanging from a utility pole in Kovno'      
Sipo and SD justified the murder of the Jews in the ghettos of the Vilna region as a selection of 'not fit for work' and as a means to curb the partisan threat. Both arguments reflected in reality, the special interests of civil administration and SS headquarters in Berlin. Firstly, the Lithuanian Jews were not, as claimed by German security forces for their ideologically distorted perception, a threat of 'dangerous Bandits' because the connections between underground groups in the ghettos and the partisans were only emerging in the rural areas. Secondly, there had been no 'selection before the murder of 4,000 Jews from the surrounding area of Vilna, among the dead, according to estimates of  Yitzhak Arad there were thousands of fully employable Jews. However, the responsible Sipo officers could be sure that their specious arguments for the addressee of the reports would therefore receive a positive response, because they helped substantiate the claim of Himmlers guide lines against the civilian administration. Since Stalingrad, the central war economic planning became more increasingly important. This drove the Berlin SS hierarchy to new ways of intensified exploitation for people of the East that were caught in the camps. What has been created at the local or regional level, camp categories, that were now tested for its usefulness to increase 'labour performance' and Berlin insisted of the incorporation into the concentration camp system in case of need. The arrangement of the Gestapo chief Heinrich Müller from the spring of 1943, was to set up a concentration camp (labour camp) in Riga which was meant as an intermediate step on the way to the expansion of the concentration camp system in RKO, which had been demanded since summer 1941 by the Security Police and SD in the' Ostland.  As so often in the context of German occupation policy in Eastern Europe it was also sanctioned by the Berlin headquarters, which had long been planned  but was locally already common practice.
It is amazing  that the  RSHA in Berlin in December 1943, made enquiries, 'if not in the Latvian Salaspils aea a Concentration Camp existed'. It was reported from Riga, in reply,  that a 'real concentration camp' did not exist throughout the 'Ostland', since the Security Police has assumed the initiatives and assumed management of the concentration camps, they had constructed  only more police jails and labour education camps  as in Salaspils with only 380 prisoners a significantly smaller number than in Pravieniskis near Kaunas. [Vermerksfragment Lange, O.D. Ende 1942, in: AHD 504-2-8, Bl. 168 BdS Ostland an RSHA IV-C 2 11.9.1942, in: ebenda, Bl.169, BdS Ostland an RSHA II, 14.12.1942 Bl. 199 sic]

Jewish workers on their way back to the Ghetto after a day of forced labour' 
The forms of resistance varied depending on place and time, and so did the Germans' countermeasures. Both the scale of resistance and the severity of German reprisals were much more limited in the West than in the East. While Germans were much more likely to treat the entire local populace as enemies in the East, they were much less ideologically driven in the West, where, for example, women and children were only rarely killed by SS troops (while being a much more common target in the East). In the East, some scholars noted that the anti-partisan operations gave Germans a pretext for ideologically motivated ethnic cleansing.The Germans concentrated on short-term victories against the partisans and were able, in some cases, to defeat the partisans militarily, but on the whole their atrocities against civilians in the East resulted in a continuous flow of volunteers joining the partisan ranks.
The first resistance movements were created as early as in late 1939 in occupied Poland. As the war progressed and the number of Nazi-occupied territories grew, so did the number and strength of resistance movements.
Throughout the war, regular formations of German army, auxiliary police formations (Ordnungspolizei) and their helpers (Schutzmannschaft or Hilfspolizei) would be used in anti-partisan operations.
Overall, the Germans were able to achieve military successes but were never able to end the partisan threat; the struggle of Germans versus the partisans can be described as a stalemate – eventually ended by the German military defeat in the regular war.
After the war, brutal German tactics used against the partisans were one of the charges presented at the Nuremberg Trials (see legality of the Commando Order and Hostages Trial).
against the Polish partisans.

The importance of Himmler's order of June 21, 1943 as a founding decree for concentration camps in the 'Ostland' reveals benefits not only in view of the previous plans but also certain independent measures that could be taken on site. Add to that the fact that the command of the Reichsführer SS was implemented only slowly in the subsequent period, and Jägers men sought in their reports to give the impression of an economic efficiency in the use of the 'Jewish question', yet it was the Civil Administration, the systematic, organized Jewish labour exploitation mitigated by forces of the Elders that achieved this. Only Arbetiskommandos in the ghetto workshops and in consultation with the Wehrmacht and private companies made this possible. It  was one thing to fight Berlin regarding the competence over the 'Jewish question', another to meet the diverse economic demands and needs on site.  As the work team leaders of the City Council attested after the war, it was with considerable tact in dealing with the German authorities and at least a modicum of consideration against vital interests of the ghetto, so that the quest for controlled war economy production should not end in chaos. As long as the City Council defended their own sinecures and not pursued Himmler's deputy on site with the necessary expertise, the ghettos  remained largely the same. However, already in the late summer of 1943 began the preparatory work for the targeted 'segregation' (Aussonderung) as two years earlier. The sole criterion, able to work,  was not necessarily the decision of life or death.
Scene during the deportation of Jews from the Kovno ghetto. Kovno, Lithuania'
At the time of Himmler's order, about 72,000 Jews lived in the urban ghettos of the 'Ostland', of which 17,000 were in Kaunas, about 20,000 more in the Lithuanian cities of Vilnius (Wilna) and Siaulai. The transition from a ghetto to a concentration camp system occurred in successive  stages, while out of fear, the methods applied, pointed back to the early stage of mass shootings in Lithuania. The destruction of the ghetto in Wilna was driven by the Gestapo to forestall a Jewish rebellion and at the same time prevent the high number of escapes into nearby woods, this became quickly known in Kaunas. Elders and ghetto residents feared the worst when in mid-September 1943 the Production Management in the ghetto was taken over by the Sipo and SD. In the months past, the life of the Jews in the ghettos had in the opinion of Chronicler Avraham Tory, designed to be comparatively tolerable. With the transfer of power from civilian administration to the security police, the 'good times' had ended. The Elders had tried from the beginning, alongside the civilian officials, focused on economic performance and to tread other, forbidden paths to improve the livelihood of the majority, which included also contacts with the outside world, and meant meeting  with Lithuanian partisan movement or opposition circles. The dwindling prospect to survive in the ghetto, gave the hitherto small resistance groups greater retention and enhanced the willingness to evade the German access through the dangerous escapes into the woods. Despite various efforts to organize resistance, it was only a minority that escaped and able to survive in hiding. It was known that beyond the ghetto fence German security forces were lurking with their helpers to track 'Jews and bandits' and kill.
The Kovno ghetto, 1941–1944
The goal of a rapid and radical reorganization by Himmler, roughly written arrangements as he outlined them, proved to be unrealistic. Structural changes that should have provided storage-similar conditions, failed due to material shortages, the authorities responsible for the ghetto members of the civil administration could only slowly removed from their functions and their successors lacked any experience, then there was the unstable balance between rival interests that would not provide Jewish forced labour when necessary during the reorganization. Even in the early phase of German rule the Security Police and SD in the RKO had resorted always to 'interim solutions' in the form of ghettos, labour education and police detention centres or other types of camps. For them, the conversion of the ghettos to concentration camps played more a formalistic bureaucratic aspects and a subordinate role. After Himmler had forced and set the parameters over the civil administration at the highest level, he gave strict commands to his representatives to exploit to the the extent possible Jewish forced labourers at the site. The officially managed concentration camp Kauen was no longer under the Administrative Main Office in Berlin, but under the SS Administrator at HSSPF 'Ostland' in Riga with effect of 15 September 1943. Acting as camp commander was placed SS-Obersturmbannführer Wilhelm Goecke. For differentiated departments with fixed task areas he had a 'bunch' of SS men and the remnants of the Jewish 'self-government' available to him, the total strength of the SS guards of the concentration camp was about 700 men.
Jewish partisans group operating in the forests near Kovno'
Gloecke and his men knew from other camps at Mauthausen and Neuengamme as well as from others, where they had been stationed, what they had to do in Kaunas. Nevertheless, they had, like the Berlin Central Headquarters expected them, to adapt to the conditions on the sites to the planned exploitation of Jewish labour force, such as the proposed acquisition of Himmlers of the Estonian oil shale, with a minimum of organizing efficiency. This included to counteract not only the anxiety of the ghetto inmates through false promises or the temporary relief of supplies and fit part of Elke's Council of Elders into the new structure. Despite increased regulation of everyday camp life, it forced the recruitment for fixed strenuous working commandos, (Schwerstarbeiter) which , although to be avoided by inmates, had its own repercussions. Other new measures were the departure and return-marches of the external working commandos (Außenkommandos) in guarded columns, reinforcement of monitoring and control of working efficiency. The established management methods were first carried on a largely aimless basis, not only to lull the Jews into the believe of a safe environment, but also because the men about the concentration camp Kaunas given the existing constraints had to make changes: the site of the camp since August 1941 corresponded to that of several smaller ghettos, construction of new barracks and other improvements, were just as impossible as the proposed resolution of the many work commandos who were still employed outside the site.

Looking at the economic importance of the location of Kaunas and the close network and dependence on other existing camps, the SS had to go easy and step by step. A management report of the KdS Lithuania by the end of 1943, according to Goecke, he couched his intention thus: 'that for the time being in the interest of peaceful construction of the KL and the proposed external camp a premature removal of the Jews that are not fit for work is out of the question' and he personally reserved the right to the date of separation. Accordingly the Camp Administration changed their arbitrarily set method into a ' new reorganization in Labour Assignments'. By the end of October 1943 about 2,000 Jews were deported to work camps in Estonia and at the same time more than 700 children and the old were selected, and were probably deported to Auschwitz and murdered there. [In addition to his Testament, Elke speaks of deporting of 2,709 victims during the 'Action' of 26.10.1943 (Tory, Surviving, page 507) Dickmann, Ghetto, page 455, lists the number 2,758 and mentions manhunts in the ghetto. sic]. The Family Unit  for those Jews now living in the more reduced area of ​​the former ghetto was provisionally preserved, but the Jews that still remained in sub- and labour camps  as part of the concentration camp of Kaunas, with about 4,000 forced labourers were, as previously recommended by Stahlecker and Jäger housed separately according to sex.  After the 'Estonia Action' it was found that among the approximately 8,000 remaining Jews in the concentration camp, a significant proportion were children, elderly and the sick, who within the SS-Grouping analysis were termed as 'useless eaters'. Their protection was Elkes and his colleagues of particularly concern and dear at heart. Success in their efforts, could only last as long as Gloecke's men held back the targeted killing of 'non-fit Jews for work'.

David Levin poses in a hiding spot outside of Kovno'
The fact that the ultimate goal of German Jewish policy after the turn of the war since Stalingrad had not changed, it showed up with the transformation of the ghetto into a concentration camp and with the first steps of the 'exhumation action' at Fort IX, during which, under the leadership of the Gestapo, a group of 60 male and four female prisoners (among them the only non-Jewish member of the work detail) opened the graves and cremated (burnt) the corpses. However, it still took another three months for the German attempt to hide the evidence of their own crimes, before it became known in the camp: On Christmas Day 1943, some members of the 'exhumation commandos' succeeded to escape from the Fort on the perilous path to the partisans, but only few stopped briefly in the camp, where they bore witness about what they had experienced at the Fort. By now there was no doubt that the Germans wanted to proceed with the 15 mass graves containing the bodies of about 45,000 victims, including Jews from the ghetto, the POW camps including the deportation transports, and continue the exterminations until no more Jews were alive in Kaunas. With the growing constriction of the camp and the more rigid controls of the SS, the noose tightened around the remaining occupants always closer, after it was discovered that the  organized resistance by the end of 1943, had managed to smuggle hundreds of Jews out of the concentration camps. What remained was the attempt of an individual to hide himself in self-dug underground hiding places, so-called Maline, that the Germans would not find him (or her), when the time came to the camps closure.
'Childrens school in the Kovno Ghetto'
To the end of the month of March and April 1944, the SS ended the transition phase of the 'quiet re-structure' (ruhigen Aufbaues) in the history of the concentration camp Kaunas. The remaining institutions of Jewish self-government were destroyed, or dissolved and the Elder Elchanan Elkes, now 'top Jew' removed from his function. While the former asked his councillors to flee, he himself was determined to stay until the end of the camp. At the end of March the members of the ghetto police had been arrested and 36 police officers shot at Fort IX for having contacts in leading the resistance on 27 March 1944. In  place of the ghetto police a 'Jewish Order Service' was formed under the direct control of Sipo and SD, who participated in the liquidation of the last remnants of the Jewish family cohesion. Also on the 27th of March the Gestapo apprehended and captured in an 'action' around 1,300 children (under the age of twelve years) and elderly (over 55) that had been previously termed as the 'incapacitated' (arbeitsunfähigen) victims in the 'Estonia Action', and deported to extermination camps. About 60 children were able and remained hidden in the Malines from the Gestapo and their Ukrainian assistants.
Jews at the Ninth Fort awaiting execution' 
During the months of the German retreat the German camp management reinforced their pressure on the people in the concentration camp and its satellite facilities. It was essential to ensure that no one escaped and the remaining prisoners were exploited and at the same time that the SS maintained the territorial control, despite the difficulties. This is how Gloecke early May 1944, claiming in a letter to the Administrator of the HSSPF- Ostland, SS-Standartenführer Eduard Bachl summarized the situation: With 'good conscience'  I maintain  to believe, we are working at this time alone in the big workshops in concentration camps with around 3,000 prisoners 'for the entire supply of Army Group North'. Given the threatened dissolution of the concentration camp workshops in Kaunas, Gloecke ensured, 'that for the Army Group North and Centre, these are of the greatest war important workshops there are, you can also say they are decisive for the final victory'. [KZ Kommendantur Kaunas SS economists' concerns resolution of the workshops of the camp Kaunas 06.05.1955, in: ITS / ANF / KDL-Kovno ghetto folder 1. sic]
The concentration camp Kaunas falls in many ways from the scope of what can be considered a characteristic of this type of camp,  it presents over longer distances the final chapter of the ghetto story. Most points at the end of the camp can be compared with similarities of others, managed by Himmler's SS and police apparatus of terror and extermination. With the approach of the Red Army, Gloecke's men began on 8 July, 1944, to round up the remaining Jews in Kaunas from their homes to deport them in trains and by vessels into the Reich territory and destroy the concentration encampment. As part of this 'action' there remained an estimated 2,000 people who were hiding in the Malines, and perished. Among the victims were many who burned alive in their hiding places, after the Germans continued their retreat  out of the camp grounds and set it on fire.
Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania. The completely destroyed Ghetto, 1944, in July 1944, the Germans blew up and burned down this Ghetto in search of Jews hiding there'.
When the Red Army reached on 1 August 1944 Kaunas, they found in the rubble of the former ghetto and concentration camp only 90 living Jews. The first deportees to the Stutthof concentration camp were subjected to a selection process. Who did not go to Auschwitz, went either, as the female prisoners to Stutthof or were, as the men, taken further into sub-camps of Dachau concentration camp. This is were Elchanan Elkes, the protector of the Jews of Kaunas ghetto and concentration camp died  on October 17, 1944. [Elkes what deported to Kaufering near Landsberg, which was a notorious satellite camp of Dachau. HKS] The survivors of the deportation to the Reich were often caught up within the maelstrom at war's end  in the throes of death marches. It is estimated that 2,000 Jews from Kaunas survived which had been liberated the by the Allies.

The Lithuanian-Jewish culture had been wiped out after the Holocaust. Currently, there are about 4,000 Jews living in the country. After the war it took a long time until it came to a reasonable examination of the crimes committed in Lithuania. Collaborators with the Germans in exile established a dense network of mutual aid, which promoted the re-evaluation of one's own role in the years between 1941 and 1945 according to the value measured by and during the Cold War. In the Federal Republic of Germany, it came in the late 1950s, and later in other countries, to the criminal investigations against perpetrators: Members of EK 3 (Karl Jäger committed suicide in July 1959 while in detention). The 'Roll Kommando Hamann' (Hamann, had killed himself in July 1945) as well as against members of the civil administration and Lithuanian helpers, enquiries were proceeded with. Concentration camp commandant Wilhelm Goecke had been killed in action in October 1944 in Italy. Against Helmut Rauca, who had at the end of October 1941 directed the selection of nearly 10,000 Jews at the 'big action' in the Kaunas Ghetto, was first detected in Canada, then in Germany, where he died in custody in 1983. The U.S. Department of Justice has since the 1970s led many de-naturalization and deportation processes against members of the Lithuanian Protection Battalions (Schutzmannschft). Further investigations of other participants in the murder of  Jews in Lithuania are ongoing.
Einsatzkommando Tilsit
[The execution of the Jewish men in Gargzdai took place on June 24, 1941, prior to the first execution listed in the Jäger report. These killings in Gargzdai were the first mass execution following Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and may be regarded as the start of the Holocaust.   The group which perpetrated the killings is sometimes called Einsatzkommando Tilsit.  Tilsit was in East Prussia, close to the border with the Soviet Union. Einsatzkommando Tilsit was not formally part of Einsatzgruppe A, but acted as an adjunct to it.  The Tilsit unit was commanded by SS-Major Hans - Joachim Böhme, and composed of personnel from the Gestapo and Security Service in Tilsit, as well as police from Memel (led by Oberführer Bernhard Fischer-Schweder) and Memel Border Police.  It committed mass executions in the area of the Soviet Union close to the border with Germany.
The killings by the Tilsit unit were reported to Berlin in the same "Operational Situation Reports" which reported the killings by Einsatzgruppe A.  Report No. 12, dated July 4, 1941, states that Stapo (State-Police) Tilsit had so far carried out 200 shootings.  These are evidently the shootings in Gargzdai.  Report No. 14, dated July 6, 1941, lists the killings in Garsden (the German name for Gargzdai), as well as in Krottingen (Kretinga) and Polangen (Palanga). The Report lists these killings under the heading of Einsatzgruppe A, but states that "Tilsit was used as a base" for these "major cleansing operations." The Report sets forth that 201 persons were executed in Garsden, and gives a cover story to explain the Garsden shootings - that the "Jewish population had supported the Russian border guards." Similar cover stories were given with regard to the other two towns.
In Report No. 19, dated July 11, executions in additional towns are attributed to "Stapo Tilsit," including Tauroggen (Taurage), Georgenburg (Jurbarkas), and Mariampol (Marijampole). The author no longer found it necessary to give any supposed excuse for the executions.
In Report 26, dated July 18, a total of 3302 executions are attributed to "Police Unit - Tilsit," and these are set forth separately from Einsatzgruppe A.
Stahlecker later wrote a document dated October 15, 1941, known as the Stahlecker Report, which referred to a total of 5502 killed by State Police Security Service Tilsit.
The summary figures in Report 26 and the Stahlecker Report presumably include the 201 persons previously reported as killed in Garsden.
Scholars have more recently discovered in the archives of the former Soviet Union Report from Staatspolizei Tilsit to RSHA, July 1, 1941. This document was evidently used as a source for Operational Situation Report No. 14 (which was dated five days later), and also contains additional information. HKS]

Der Ort des Terrors Vol 8
C.H.Beck oHG, München 2006
Researcher/Author: Jürgen Matthäus
Vetted by:
Institute for Research on Anti-Semitism-Berlin
Translated from German:
Herbert Stolpmann, Nov. 2013
HKS: My Initials, when expressing
my own opinion or other sources
a)Cultural Department of the
Federal Republic of Germany
b)The Foreign Office of Germany
c)Alfred Krupp Foundation

Monday, November 18, 2013



In the history literature of the German occupation regime in the Soviet Union, the Lithuanian city of Kaunas  (Russian Kovno, German Kauen) is mostly mentioned if it comes to the transition to the genocide of the Jews. With the German arrival came in late June 1941 pogroms and mass shootings. From Kaunas with the death squads stationed there, commenced the killing of Jews from mid-August 1941, regardless of age and gender, and with the rapid ghettoising it  refers to the momentous transformation of the 'Nazi Jewish policy' (NS-Judenpolitik) to simply exterminate the Jews. By the end of 1941 the Security Police (Sipo) and Security Service (SD), considered the 'Jewish question' in Lithuania after the murder of close to 140,000 Jewish men, women and children as 'solved'. About the concentration camp Kauen however, there is very little knowledge or reliable evidence. Sources of that time are few and far between, and the (now in many cases published) survivor testimony focuses primarily on the events in the ghetto. The reason for the establishment of concentration camps in the 'Reichs Commissariat Ostland' (RKO) which was already set up with a German Civil Administration under Alfred Rosenberg as 'Minister for the Occupied Territories' in the summer of 1941 and included the 'General Commissariat' Lithuania, it was Himmlers order (Befehl) on the 21st of June, 1943, in which the Reichsführer of the SS ruled the closure of the remaining ghettos, and that the not employable Jews were 'to evacuate to the East', [this is a typical German euphemism,sic] in other words, to have them killed. But actually it was already planned in the early phase of the occupation for the establishment of concentration camps in the region. In addition to increasing war production requirements at low cost, by the exploitation of Jewish forced labourers, it kept the enforcement of the 'Final Solution' in mind as well as the goal of sustainable security 'pacification'. Ghetto and concentration camp Kaunus served the Administration and their Civil Managers alike as instruments of destruction, terror and enrichment. For the prisoners these were places of death, crime and despair.
 Civilians looking at the massacre of 68 Jews in the Lietukis garage of Kaunas on June 25 or 27, 1941
A Lithuanian perpetrator (named the "Dead Dealer") of the massacre of 68 Jews in the Lietukis garage of Kaunas
With the beginning of the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union, the Nazi leadership has seen an opportunity to realize their visions of 'Lebensraum in the East'. Before the planned 'Eindeutschung' (Germanization) was the sustainable 'pacification' of the conquered countries. These were measures already introduced in the Reich and continued slowly in occupied  Poland by the segregation of unpopular groups, especially the Jews. It was primarily the responsibility of the Police led by Himmler, the SS and their Resettlement Apparatus, but also the efforts of other departments that worked in the same direction. The compiled policies of Rosenberg's Ministry Management  towards the 'Jewish question' saw as a first step, the 'solution to the overall problem' a 'transfer into ghettos'. Similar intentions were followed by the Wehrmacht in the 'Ostland' as it happened in the summer of 1941 in some cities, that 'Jewish concentration camps' were established.

Franz Walther Stahlecker
Himmler's men in the Baltic states were experts with their leader of the Special Task Force led by SS-Major-general (SS-Brigadeführer) Stahlecker who directed Operational-Group-A. In round-up measures they refused to accept advice nor cooperation from other Field-Units, which they claimed, was their own field of expertise and showed very early individual initiatives to accomplish a given order. About two weeks after the start of the German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 in the reported 'Event Messages USSR' (Ereignismeldungen) the leaders of Sipo and SD of the Task Force (EK) 3,  group A, showed plans to:  Re-vamp the uncoordinated pogroms in Kaunas, and stated that SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) Karl Jäger will establish a 'Jewish concentration camp' in Fort VII (which was part of a chain of defence systems around the city centre). In this camp Jewish men, women and children would be housed separately and mass executions were to be carried out. Another 'Jewish concentration camp' was planned in the Ninth Fort. By the time the 'Event Message' appeared in Berlin, Jäger had already completed his projects. Up to this point primarily Lithuania's  with the endorsement or initiative of German authorities had violently assaulted their Jewish neighbours. The first large combined 'Action' took place on 6 July 1941 in Kaunas, headed by the EK, which cost the lives of more than 2,500 mostly male Jews .

a) Reconstructed Ninth Fort
 b) Remaining parts of the first Fort
    During World War II, parts of the fortress complex were used by the governments of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union for detention, interrogation, and execution. About 50,000 people were executed there, including more than 30,000 victims of the Holocaust. Some sections have since been restored; the Ninth Fort houses a museum and memorial devoted to the victims of wartime mass executions. The complex is the most complete remaining example of a Russian Empire fortress.

 Like Jäger and his superior Stahlecker, both recommended (if not pushed) in the summer of 1941, at the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), for a spatial segregation of potential 'enemies of the Reich'. Stahlecker aimed at two things: Firstly, the definition of 'Jewish reservations', in other words, the establishment of a concentration camp in the Latvian capital Riga. This camp, he stated, should allow inmates who are sitting in a prison of the city as 'unsustainable in the long run' and despite ongoing releases and liquidations their number would not diminish , secondly,  these individuals should economically be exploited. By the beginning of October 1941 the Commander of the Security Police and the SD (KdS) in Latvia, Rudolf Lange, proposed his own plan which combined various proposals and opinions of the Regional Sipo and SD Leaders for the establishment of a Concentration Camp. His main argument, was the problem of overcrowding and waste of resources in the prisons of Riga which could not be solved otherwise. Besides, there still lived in the city of about 23,000 Jews, the 'crowding [...] in a ghetto' with a view of the demand for housing in the city, the desired total registration of Jews as forced labour and the objective of preventing births' can only be an interim solution. Especially the last aspect speaking in favour for a concentration camp, because there, Jewish men and women could be housed separately, 'to prevent further multiplication'. [This assumption is a fallacy, sexual intercourse took place if separated by a non-electrical chain-link-fence within a KZ. I witnessed this performance in a POW camp at Regensburg-Germany 1945. Readers have to work it out by themselves, how its done, it certainly was not in the frontal position! This was also a common  occurrence in the Soviet Gulag Archipelago, pregnant women were released earlier. HKS] Notwithstanding the reservations about the 'provisional solution' (Übergangslösung) it seemed like the type of ghettos the German occupation authorities had previously set up in Poland, here they were in the meantime indispensable. It was thought at first to be able to draw from the seemingly inexhaustible pool of Soviet prisoners of war, but the consequences of the German extermination policy towards this group were noticeable for their cause: The Red Army prisoners died in unimaginable numbers, of consequences in missing meals and general provisions. At the beginning of September 1941 the daily death rate in the prisoner of war camps in and around Kaunas, rose from 50 to over 300. The approximately 30,000 Jews in Kaunas, which had survived the first wave of murders had, up to 15 August1941 resettled in the area delineated in the Viliampole ghetto. Major projects such as  the construction of the airfields for the Luftwaffe demanded that Jewish forced labourers were not only, as originally planned by the civil administration, used in ghetto workshops, but also in the city. According to Jäger, it had proven to raise the 'Arbeitsfreudigkeit' (Delight in working) in the ghettos to be appropriate to let the Jews initially work with their relatives. Moreover, and this aspect was due to the pressing shortage of civilian personnel at least a strong motivation, and offered the ghettos the advantage that important organizational issues, leaving the implementation of resettlement and the management of shortages in supplies, in addition to the countless instructions, to the Judenrat (Jewish Elder).  These measures the Germans could maintain to 'sell' effectively as their 'Neuordnung' (New Reorganization) that gave the impression  to the Jews they were safe, but not for long.
Jewish Executions Carried Out by Einsatzgruppe A" from the Stahlecker's report. Marked "Secret Reich Matter", the map shows the number of Jews shot in Reichskommissariat Ostland. According to this map the estimated numbers of Jews killed in Lithuania is 136,421 by the date that his map was created.
 Although there was little social integration between the Jewish and Lithuanian populations of pre-war Kaunas, outbreaks of explicit anti-Semitism were rare. However, the arrival of German troops on June 23, 1941  unleashed an unexpectedly ferocious wave of popular violence. On June 25, Lithuanian gangs ran riot in Viliampole  killing an estimated 1,000 civilians and decapitating chief rabbi Zalman Ossovsky. Two days later in central Kaunas, a group of over fifty Jews was driven onto the forecourt of the Lietükis garage and clubbed to death by the locals, with German soldiers looking on. Gruesome footage of the incident has subsequently been used in several Holocaust documentaries. On July 10, all the city's Jews were herded into the newly established Ghetto in Viliampole (Viljampo). Many were relieved by the move, thinking this would protect them from violence of the Lithuanian hooligans. However, regular 'actions', in which arbitrary chosen groups of Jews were rounded up and shot by the Germans, and became commonplace as the autumn of 1941 wore on. The enthusiasm of the local Lithuanian population for ant-Semitic excesses continued to astound even the Germans. Colonel Jäger of Einsatzgruppe A, the organisation charged with implementing mass killings throughout north-eastern Europe, notoriously reported that Kaunas, 'where trained Lithuanian volunteers are available in sufficient numbers, it is comparatively speaking a shooting paradise'.
Einsatzgruppe A:
[Germany invaded the Soviet Union beginning on June 22, 1941. Mobile killing squads known as Einsatzgruppen followed the German Army into the occupied areas. There were four Einsatzgruppen (A, B, C and D), which were in turn divided into smaller units called Einsatzkommandos and Sonderkommandos. Einsatzgruppe A, commanded by SS - Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker, carried on mass executions of the Jewish population in Lithuania and other Baltic areas. Einsatzkommando 3 (a subunit of Einsatzgruppe A) operated in Lithuania. The deeds of Einsatzkommando 3 were set forth in an infamous document known as the Jäger report, which was dated December 1, 1941. In that document Karl Jäger, commander of Einsatzkommando 3, set forth totals of executions by location in Lithuania. The executions outlined in the report began on July 4, 1941, and totalled over 137,000.HKS]
Right from the start it was clear that those members in the [Jewish] community required by the Germans for work duty stood a good chance of surviving (for the time being), while the others were likely to be murdered. This placed Jewish Leaders, who controlled the issue of permits, in the unenviable position in deciding who lived and who died. Some argued that a refusal to issue work permits at all would be the only morally correct action to take, until the new chief rabbi Abraham Dov Shapiro decreed that an attempt to save some Jewish lives was better than no attempt at all. On October 28, the Jews of Vijampole were assembled by their community leaders so that several thousand of them could be selected for work duties by the SS. Of the 20,000 of them were taken away and shot within weeks, most were murdered in the notorious Ninth Fort just outside the city.
Despite frequent actions and arbitrary shootings Vijampole's surviving Jews attempted to preserve a semblance of normal life in the years that followed. The able-bodied continued to work in factories inside and outside the Ghetto, squares were ploughed up and used to grow vegetables, and a 35-piece Ghetto-Orchestra gave regular concerts. In April 1944, the Germans decided to clear the Ghetto of its remaining 8,000 inhabitants. The women were sent to Stutthof, the men to Dachau, where 75 percent of them perished. By the time the Red Army arrived in August there were no Jews left in Kaunas, save for the fortunate ones hiding in the surrounding forests.
 Buildings in Jurbarko street. This trunk road delimits the southern boundary of historic southern Vilijampolė. 
The small rental apartments in architecturally unimpressive buildings once housed poor Jewish and non-Jewish families (rich Jews left Vilijampolė for better boroughs in the 19th century but were forced back during the German occupation in 1941). Even the local Catholic church building lacks the typical glory: built as a simple two-story house it received a tower only late in 2004.

The handling of the 'Jewish question' particular in the early phase of German occupation regime in Lithuania and the unbalanced interplay between economic considerations and possible adverse economic consequences in the pursuit of murders by the SS and police units, often with the participation of the armed forces (Wehrmacht), the Civil and the Lithuanian Auxiliary Administration, was often incredulous.  Jewish Men and women, old people and children in Jägers opinion, he maintained, that on the grounds of anxiety, they were a 'considerable risk factor for the troops in the rear'. As potential trouble spots alongside Jews there were other groups: In February 1942, Jäger asked his superiors of the KdS Lithuania, in Berlin, by recommending the creation of a concentration camp for prisoners of up to 3,000-4,000 not far from Kaunas. For the duration of the war there were people incarcerated, 'who had supported the Bolsheviks, no serious charges can be held against them, but at present a special treatment could not be justified'. A release of these prisoners from overcrowded prisons is, 'with regard to the safety of the rear army(rückwärtiges Heeresgebiet) is impossible'. About the Jews as prisoners in Jägers writings was also little mention of how the existing Kaunas ghetto should be dissolved, but he reveals that the objective is essentially the same as his Sipo colleagues in the 'Ostland': The camp can  be 'a very lucrative operation', by forcing the prisoners to break down the large peat deposits in the area.
In their efforts to create concentration camps, the regional Security Police commanders were more guided by functional rather than formalistic considerations in this early phase of German rule of occupation. This corresponded in their task with the largely independently self-understanding acting SS officers and their own interests. Whether concentration camps, ' camps for Jews' or ghettos, it was important to them in their planned design, to have total control of safety and policing. (sicerheitspolizeiliche Kontrolle). With this objective, they followed the lead of their leadership, but the initiatives of Stahlecker, Lange and Jäger, did not receive a positive reaction from Berlin at this time. Firstly, the SS headquarters was not convinced of the economic viability of new camps. They did not approve of another haphazard proliferation of concentration camp systems that required an Administration and had to be fed. For the RSHA therefore, the establishment of concentration camps was out of question. Instead, Sipo and SD in the 'Ostland' in question, could under Stahlecker's direction set up only extended police prisons or work camps (Arbeitserziehungslager). Secondly, they raised the question of the crucial civil administration, who were sub-ordinate to the stationed Sipo and SD commanders in accordance with Hitler's instructions (Hitler-Anweisung), who would claim a decisive voice in dealing with the 'Jewish question'. When Rosenberg's first governors took up their new posts in the 'Ostland' at the end of July, 1941, they could only prevail through official channels of the Sipo and SD Departments, although they were responsible for the civil administration and the supervision of the ghetto, with its extensive labour and enrichment potential, while Stahlecker's men kept the overall security police control of all facilities in the ghetto.
The 21st Latvian Police Battalion assemble a group of Jewish women for execution on a beach near Liepaja.
The course of their representatives in the 'East' would not always meet with the approval of the Berlin SS guide lines, but somehow they increased their willingness to act more radically than before. At a meeting of the 'solution of the Jewish question' in October 1941 Heydrich and Eichmann decided , that Jews from the Reich and the 'Protectorate' in camps for communist prisoners be deported into the operational area'. Gypsies were to be brought to Riga 'where Stahlecker, whose camp is set up according to the pattern of Sachsenhausen ', despite the fact that once before creating such a concentration camp had explicitly prohibited by the RSHA. Shortly after the deportation of Jews from the Reich and the Protectorate began into the ghettos of  'Ostland', where the initiators seemed confident that they would already know, what to do with the displaced people. In fact, Sipo and SD proceeded at its own discretion. In Kaunas, which was not originally intended as the destination of these transports, the nearly 5,000 Jews were deported from the Reich and immediately shot in late November after their arrival at Fort IX, and not, as the majority of German Jews deported to Minsk and Riga to the ghetto as first instructed. [Ref.: Generic for the deportation of German Jews in the Ostland. Hans Safrian, 'Die Eichmann-Männer, Wien, pages 134-168, HKS]

Construction of 9th Fort began in 1902, and it was completed on the eve of the First World War.
[Originally the ghettos of Riga, Lodz, and Minsk were to receive the Reich Jews. In particular, it was planned to send 25 trains to Riga. There had been some reluctance on the part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland headquarters in Riga, headed by Hinrich Lohse, [who was part of the Civilian Administration, appointed July 17, 1941 "Reichskommissar for the Ostland". sic] to having to find accommodation for 25,000 Jews. This and other issues related to the treatment of Jews in the northern part of the Nazi-occupied Soviet territory, caused Lohse and his deputy Otto Drechsler to become embroiled in a dispute with Franz Walter Stahlecker, commander of the Einsatzgruppe A, who favoured a more rapid policy of radical extermination. On 8 November 1941, Stahlecker informed Lohse's staff in Riga that five of the 25 trains bound for Riga would go instead to the Kaunas Ghetto. Stahlecker did not state which of the 25 trains would be rerouted. On 20 November 1941, Rudolf Lange, another Einsatzgruppen commander, informed Lohse's administration that it would in fact be the first five trains that would be rerouted to Kaunas. By this time, some of the trains were already en route. They had left from Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Vienna, and Breslau between 13 and 23 November.
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 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. In the 29 November shooting, 693 men, 1,155 women, and 152 children were killed. It is not known who issued the orders for the murders of these people.
By November 1941, the Nazi regime had murdered very large numbers of people in mass shooting incidents, and the murder of 5,000 people, including large number of children, in two days would not have been unusual for the Einsatzgruppen. However, until the November massacres at the Ninth Fort, no Reich Jews had been killed in such massacres. Some Nazis who were quite willing to kill Ostjuden (Eastern Jews) hesitated when it came to the Reich Jews. Wilhelm Kube, one of the chief Nazi officials in Minsk, stated:
Among these Jews are front veterans with the Iron Cross first and second class, war wounded, half Aryans, and even a three-quarter Aryan ... In repeated official visits in the ghetto I have discovered that among the Jews, who distinguish themselves from Russian Jews in their personal cleanliness, are also skilled workers, who are perhaps five times as productive as Russian Jews ...
I am certainly tough and ready to help solve the Jewish question, but human beings who come from our own cultural sphere are something other than the native bestial hordes. Should one assign the Lithuania's and the Latvian's, who are even rejected by the population here, with their slaughter? I could not do it.
Consequently, it is believed issues of this nature related to the Ninth Fort murders, together with the 1,000 German Jews killed at Rumbula near Riga on 30 November, caused Himmler to temporarily (with certain exceptions) halt the mass killings of deported Reich Jews, until some means of slaughter other than mass shooting could be devised. Despite this, significant numbers of German Jews (approximately 4,300) were killed in Riga in February and March 1942, in massacres which included the Dünamünde Action. Important issues related to the Ninth Fort November killings remain in dispute among historians. In particular, it is unknown why Himmler should have (belatedly) objected to the murder of 1,000 Reich Jews at Riga on 30 November, when he apparently said nothing about the killings of 5,000 Reich Jews at the Ninth Fort on 25 and 29 November.HKS]
The war economic aspect of the 'Final Solution' from the beginning of 1942 moved closer to the centre of planning. Only five days after the Wannsee Conference Himmler advised the inspector of concentration camps Richard Glücks about his view 'of the Jews, who intend emigrating from Germany, a large number', Himmler mentioned 100,000 male and 50,000 female Jews, they have to be deported until the spring into concentration camps. 'Big economic tasks and jobs' Himmler's explained, will be demanded to his assessment in the coming weeks from concentration camp facilities. Nevertheless, it was difficult to enforce these new priorities in the existing system: In the concentration camps in the Reich, Jews were since 1933 considered as 'fair game', the camp SS in their treatment itself imposed no consideration, and also in the 'East' it was in dealing with Jews that they have only proceed on the criterion of economic-interests, if it could not be avoided.
Of particular importance emerged the transfer of East-West expertise in dealing with the 'Jewish Question' from those camps that had been established on Initiatives by regional SS and Police Leaders. During spring of 1940 Odilo Globcnik ordered to build in the Lublin district of the 'General Governments' dozens of 'forced labour camps for Jews' for a total of 70,000 prisoners. Similar camps were created since October 1941 in Galicia, by Friedrich Katzmann to build the 'thoroughfare IV '(Durchgangsstraße IV). Since late 1941, SS and police brought hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews into the death camps of Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka Sobidor who had been deported first to Poland and temporarily subdued and left alive under a concentration camp-like regime. Other camps which at first operated in a regional function, like Plaszow, Lublin-Majdanek or Pionki were integrated as a main or secondary internments into the concentration camp system, after they had demonstrated  in the eyes of the Berlin headquarters their usefulness. Between the occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Berlin, the exchange of information flowed sometimes very sparsely which did not help to improve existing problems. In May 1942, the Security Police and SD sites were instructed by Gestapo chief Müller of 'Ostland' via  messages received, of 'special treatment' towards Jewish forced labourers that in the future 'in execution of a general arrangement'(Anordnung) by Himmler, able-bodied Jewish men and women aged from 16 to 32 years, should be absorbed and integrated into concentration camps or labour camps 'to be used in a controlled environment for useful purposes'.

                                                                                                                                                            ;         CONTINUED UNDER PART 2/2