Archive/File: people/e/eichmann.adolf/transcripts/Sessions/Session-006-007-008-06 Last-Modified: 1999/05/28 The Extermination in Poland Poland was the first country to savour the bitter taste of the German Blitzkrieg, when a million and a half soldiers, armed with a range of destructive weapons, protected by a gigantic umbrella of fighter-planes and equipped with all modern instruments of communication, swept into the country at the outbreak of World War II. Poland had always been especially hated by the Nazis: it was the offspring of the Versailles Peace Treaty, which they regarded as an insult to the German people; it separated East and West Prussia; and it controlled Danzig. These facts were featured in the campaign of incitement conducted by the Nazis, while they were fighting for power, against the idea that Germany might accept the consequences of her defeat in World War I. After coming to power, Hitler succeeded in misleading the Polish statesmen of the day, who fell unsuspectingly into his trap. As far back as 1934, he managed to drive a wedge between Poland and France by enticing the Poles to sign a non-aggression treaty, and while he was busy making conquests without war in other places, he led them to believe that he sought peace. This situation did not last long, however, and the Teutonic fury was directed against Poland in the lightening invasion of 1 September 1939. Nazi race doctrines regarded the Slav people as inferior beings, whose historic destiny it was to serve "higher" and "nobler" peoples. It was therefore, the declared aim of Nazi policy to subjugate the Polish people and never to allow it to recover. Thus, after the conquest, Hitler told Frank, the Reich Governor General of Poland: "The Generalgouvernement will serve only as a reservoir of manual labour. Workers required by the Reich will be brought from the Generalgouvernement...There will be only one master for the Poles - the Germans...and therefore all the representatives of the Polish intelligentsia are to be destroyed... "We shall see to it that the Poles do not die of hunger and so forth, but they must not reach any higher level...If once the Poles reach a higher level of development, they will cease to be the manpower reservoir which we need...The humblest German worker or farmer must always be at least ten per cent higher than any Pole." If this was the attitude of the Germans to the Poles, their attitude to the Jews of Poland was immeasurably worse. They were simply abandoned to their fate. Insofar as there were any divisions of opinion between the Generalgouvernement and the RSHA on the attitude to be adopted towards the Polish Jews, they relate solely to the choice of the appropriate date for their extermination. While Frank tried to carry out his mission of Governor of the "Corridor to the Reich" by supplying labour, manufacturing ammunition, food and other commodities and destroying the Jews only after they had contributed their sweat and manpower to German industry, orders came from Berlin to exterminate them, and besides, the Gestapo machine acted on its own responsibility, without coordination with, or regard for, the Generalgouvernement. This aroused Frank's anger to fever pitch. We have in our posSession Frank's diary, which contains minutes of meetings of his administration and notes from his speeches. I shall quote a few extracts from this document. At a meeting held on 3 December 1942, Frank complained that the Jewish labour force was being taken away from him. "It is obvious that they are making our work very difficult if in the middle of this war work an order comes to send all the Jews for extermination. The responsibility for this does not rest on the administration of the General_gouvernement. The order to exterminate the Jews comes from higher levels...Taking the Jews away has caused immense difficulties in the labour field...Now the order comes to take the Jews out of the munitions factories." Let us not delude ourselves that Frank wanted to save the Jews from their doom. A year earlier he had said at a meeting of his government: "As far as the Jews are concerned - this I must say frankly - they must be finished off in one way or another... "There is criticism of many measures at present being employed in the Reich against the Jews. There is talk of atrocities, brutalities, etc. "I must ask you first to agree with me before I go any further on one formula: We shall have sympathy for the German people alone, and not for any one else in the world... "As a veteran National Socialist, I have to say that if the Jewish community in Europe survives the War, after we have sacrificed our dearest blood to hold Europe, then we shall have achieved only partial success in this war. I have, therefore, basically only one expectation of the Jews - that they shall disappear!" There were, however, differences of opinion as to the method of their "disappearance." From time to time, Frank asked the Gestapo to leave him at least the skilled workers and not to send them off to be killed, but generally the Gestapo paid no attention to his requests and the Accused and his accomplices went ahead with the destruction of the Jewish community in Eastern Europe. Frank complained bitterly that the Gestapo was acting independently in the area under his rule and creating a state within a state: "We have established in the Reich a plethora of authorities which are actively engaged in warring one against the other." The quarrel reached the point where Frank submitted his resignation in May, 1943, but Hitler did not accept it. By then the greater part of Polish Jewry had been destroyed, and internal Nazi power struggles brought no deliverance whatsoever to the Jews. And when the ashes of the last of the Polish Jews were heaped up in the sandhills of Auschwitz, Frank said: "We started here with three and a half million Jews of whom only a few labour companies are left. All the rest have - let us say - emigrated." The minutes add that amongst those present there was a general atmosphere of joy at hearing this description of the extermination process. the extermination of the Jews was not the work of Frank. We have already heard Buehler, the head of his government, announcing at the Wannsee conference that this matter belongs to the RSHA, namely to the Accused. Nor were the death camps under Frank's control, and this too was stated explicitly at those meetings:"...These camps were set up directly by the SS from Berlin, whence they were administered, and for everything which takes place in those camps, the Centre in Berlin is responsible." So in fact it was, and we shall receive evidence of this from others also. In Poland, Jewish suffering began with the entry of the German army. Pogroms, brutality, degradation, the burning of synagogues, the plunder of property - collective fines all this immediately became the lot of the Jews in occupied Poland. Thousands fell victim in the very first weeks and were killed in a variety of ways. The Jews of Jaroslav were brought to the banks of the river San and drowned in their hundreds, and the Jews of Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) were butchered. In Lodz a pogrom was held in honour of Goebbels' visit. Atrocities against the Jews were the order of the day. Their beards were forcibly torn out with the skin. Synagogues were set on fire and often, as in Wloclawek, the Jewish leaders were arrested and forced to sign a declaration that they had been the incendiaries - in fact, on the basis of this declaration the Jews of the city were fined 100,000 zlotys on account of the fire. In the space of a few weeks, hundreds of synagogues were burned down, blown up or converted into prisons, and public lavatories. The Jews were ordered to clean the streets with their prayer shawls, to burn holy books and to dance around the bonfires, all these spectacles being photographed for publication in the Stuermer and other Nazi newspapers. Simultaneously, the Nazis began the systematic plunder of Jewish property by various methods, including collective fines, confiscation of houses and their contents, and at times straightforward theft - on the pretext of searching for weapons, valuables could be seized and carried away. Jews were kidnapped and carried off for forced labour. Passers-by were seized in the streets. A man would go out in the morning and not know whether he would come home in the evening. Some would return with "labour cards" in their possession. Others did not return at all; the Germans explained that they had been sent off to work "outside the city," and they were never seen again. SS men would burst into the ghettoes and, with blows, force the Jews to come out and perform duties designed to degrade them: digging open pits and then closing them up, moving mounds of stones and putting them back again, and the like. The Jews were transformed into a herd of terrified, degraded and depressed beings, lacking all human rights. Their synagogues were close; their public life came to a standstill; their sources of livelihood dwindled. This, however, was for the time the period of "minor terror." The tragedy and destruction of Polish Jewry was yet to come. Heydrich's instructions of 21 September 1939, with regard to the treatment of the Jews have already been mentioned in connection with the planning of the Holocaust. The first part of these instructions - given in cooperation with the Accused, to Einsatzgruppen - involved the identification and concentration of the Jews as intermediate steps towards the final solution. This concentration was not very difficult to carry out on Poland as the majority of the Jewish population in any case lived in cities and townlets. It was immediately ordered that every Jew must wear the Jewish badge, and anyone who violated the instruction was put to death. Hitler, Goering and Keitel issued orders on 7 October 1939 for the establishment of settlement areas for Germans in the East, from which other ethnic groups were to be removed. Himmler was given almost unlimited powers. The implementation of this programme devolved on the Security Police, whose chief, Heydrich, gave the following order on 12 December 1939: "Important reasons make the central handling of all police and security matters connected with the execution of the evacuation in the Eastern areas necessary. "I have, therefore, appointed SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Eichmann (deputizing for SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Guenther) as my special representative in the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, Bureau IV03." The objectives of this action were defined in a detailed document describing the aims of German policy in the areas of Poland annexed to the Reich. These aims included the deportation of all the populations which could not be restored to the bosom of the German people by a process of "Germanization" and the resettlement of the whole area by Germans. The Jews were to be deported as swiftly as possible and all their rights cancelled. The task of making the detailed plan and carrying out the deportations devolved upon the Accused. It was also thenceforth his function, inter alia, to carry out Himmler's orders for the deportation of all the Jews from what was called the Ostraum. From then on, Eichmann operated in the East in the name of the Reichsfuerer himself and with his authority. In September 1939, orders were also carried out with regard to organized plunder of Jewish property, confiscation of their factories and warehouses and, after that, pillage of whatever came to hand. In addition, they began to impose financial levies on the Jewish communities, simply according to whim. In October, 1939, an Eastern Trustees Authority (Treuhandstelle Ost) was set up to handle the plundered property, with a head office in Berlin and branches in a number of leading Polish cities. Himmler issued regulations for cooperation with this authority which was given unlimited rights to confiscate Polish and Jewish property. In January, 1940, we already find a representative of the Treuhandstelle Ost present at a meeting to deal with the deportations, presided over by Eichmann. In this meeting, there was a discussion on the methods used so far to carry out the deportations to the area of the Generalgouvernement and it was reported that in one transport a hundred men had frozen to death. It was decided that at an early date about three hundred and fifty thousand Jews would be deported from the Warthegau area which included Lodz and Poznan to the Generalgouvernement in coordination with Frank's government. The only property which a Jews would be allowed to take with him would be 100 Polish zlotys. Reports on each transport were to be submitted to police headquarters in Cracow and to Adolf Eichmann. At a meeting of the administration of the Generalgouvernement this movement was described as a "modern migration of peoples," and two years later Frank was to describe this operation as follows: "...Then came the fantastic tranfer of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles to the Generalgouvernement. You will recall the terrible months during which freight trains fully loaded with people rolled in day by day; there were trucks filled to overflowing with corpses. This was a terrible time, when every district chief, every local and municipal officer had to chase around from morning to night to get rid of the influx of these elements who had become unwanted in the Reich, and whom they had suddenly decided to shift...All this we had to endure." What the victims of the dreadful journey had to endure, what suffering and torment, how they fell by the wayside with their little ones, how they dragged through the mud and snow - of all of this, of course, Frank had nothing to say. This deportation encompassed about half a million people and was carried out by the special RSHA Department, IVD4, headed by Adolf Eichmann. Included also in this deportation programme were the Jews of East Prussia. Finally, in view of Frank's protests that the transports gave him and his assistants too heavy a load of work, Goering ordered, on 23 March 1940, that there should be no more deportations to the area of the Generalgouvernement without Frank's prior consent. In the meantime, the concentration of the Jews in Poland and the plunder of their property continued, in accordance with the master plan of 1939. Ghettoes were established in the worst districts of the cities, where it was quite impossible to maintain hygiene. The inhuman overcrowding and filth soon produced severe epidemics. To leave the ghetto meant public execution. The ghetto itself became an instrument of extermination. Let us listen to an authentic description: "...On Yom Kippur, 1940, the radio announced the German order for the setting up of a Jewish quarter in the city of Warsaw. Within a few days the Jews had to leave their homes outside and enter the quarter without being told into which part they were to go. Thus about one hundred thousand Jews entered the Jewish quarter, which was already overcrowded. They became refugees, carrying their worldly goods by hand or on a cart, wandering through the streets, stopping at a house, standing confused, not knowing where to go. At that time the Ghetto was still open and there was contact with the outside world. It was still possible to go to work outside the Jewish quarter. "After a short while, and without previous notice, the Jewish quarter was isolated and walled off and German and Polish police stationed at every gate or exit. All at once the Ghetto was cut off from its sources of livelihood, from places of work and from all possibility of obtaining essential commodities, and its inhabitants felt that prison walls had closed in upon them. "During that period, tens of thousands of Jews were brought into the Warsaw Ghetto from nearby provincial towns. These people were told to wind up their affairs at two hours' notice, to take with them what they could carry in their hands and on their backs, and they were all brought on foot into the Warsaw Ghetto. Generally, anyone who faltered or stumbled, who stopped for a moment with a groan, was shot dead. Once again, a stream of refugees came into the Ghetto, once again people were seen standing or sitting in the Ghetto streets without roof or food, waiting for salvation. Life in this ghetto became an unbearable hell. There was frightful overcrowding - with tens of people to a room. The sanitary conditions were appalling, which led to epidemics and disease. "Since it was impossible to find work, except in the German slave enterprises, or to obtain food, starvation soon followed. Entire Jewish families - men, women and children - could be seen sitting on the pavements, swollen with hunger. During the curfew hours, when it was quiet in the streets, the voices of little children could be heard on all sides, begging for a piece of bread ("a shtickele broit") but all they could get were a few crumbs from Jews who had pity upon them. In the morning, corpses - especially of children - were found on the pavements near the gates, covered with paper - for during the night even their clothing had been taken. "Of course the most difficult plight was that of the refugees who had come in from the neighbouring towns, as it was impossible to find any unoccupied space for them within the Ghetto, and they were packed into refugee houses. In these it was impossible to pass - there was not an inch of space unoccupied. Their food consisted only of a plate of soup and a piece of bread per day. Every day, hundreds of Jews were buried... "Every morning, those Jews assigned to the factories set up by the Germans ran out to work, hoping thus to save their lives. Many never managed to reach the workshops because the Germans would enter the Ghetto, take up positions in the middle of the street and begin to shoot. The Jews did not know where the danger points were and generally gathered together in one place. Then the SS men would close off the streets, collect the Jews together in one place and take them off to an "Umschlag" (transfer point), always on the pretext of examining labour cards. They would release a few people "because of their work." There were heart-rending scenes. They would catch a Jew who had a labour card but take his children away from him, while he pleaded for permission to go with his children - but to no avail. They would provide carts for the old and the sick, and these people could be seen with their pitiful bundles travelling through the streets on their last journey. At the same time, the terror within the Ghetto did not cease during the whole period of the deportations. Using "resistance" as an excuse, they would kill scores of Jews as an example to others. There were SS men who caught little children and smashed their heads on the paving stones. In many cases it seemed that, apart from the deportations, Germans were treating the Jews with brutality simply for the pleasure of doing so. "As the famine grew worse, the SS men developed a 'new method.' They announced that volunteers for deportation would receive three kilograms of bread and a kilogram of jam for the journey, and indeed, many were compelled by the insupportable pangs of hunger to present themselves at the deportation point . Again, convoys of Jews were seen moving towards the Umschlag, carrying their goods and their children." One of the first ghettoes was set up in Lodz (Litzmannstadt), where one hundred and sixty thousand persons were crowded together in an area of four square kilometers. People lived six to a room. In the first year and a quarter, about fifteen thousand of them died. In spite of the terrible conditions, Eichmann pushed into the city another twenty thousand Jews and five thousand gypsies from the Reich. The District Commissioner complained to Himmler himself that Eichmann had apparently given incorrect facts with regard to the capacity of the Ghetto, which was being swept by epidemics. He compared Eichmann's methods with those of gypsies at a horse market. When he wrote this on 9 October 1941, he did not know that a decision had already been taken to exterminate all the Jews and that it did not matter by what methods this would be achieved. In the fateful summer of 1941, ideas and plans for the extermination of the Jews were being mooted in Germany. Eichmann's representative in Poznan, Sturmbannfuehrer Heppner, wrote a personal letter to the Accused in which, inter alia, he suggested that all the Jews from the Warthegau area (about 300,000 in number) should be concentrated in a place where they could work in the coal mines. He thought that in this way he would overcome the danger of epidemics that existed in Lodz and other ghettoes, and also get control of the problem. In this camp all the Jewish women would be sterilized, so as to finish off the Jewish Question in this generation. He added: "There is a danger that this winter we shall be unable to feed all the Jews. It is worth considering seriously whether it would not be the most humane solution to finish off the Jews, insofar as they are not fit to work, by some quicker method. At all events this would be more pleasant than to let them die of hunger." In an accompanying letter, Heppner writes that possibly his proposals seemed fantastic, but they were practicable. Apparently he did not know the degree to which plans of this kind had been prepared for implementation as part of the "general solution." In the summer of 1943, Eichmann came to the Lodz Ghetto and there, after consultation with those concerned, the conclusion was reached that the Ghetto was no longer worth maintaining. It was therefore decided that it should be turned into a concentration camp, in which only persons fit for work would be left. The others would be "sent off." Another method used by the Gestapo to liquidate Polish Jewry was that of the labour camps. As early as the second month after the conquest, all Polish Jews between the ages of 14 and 60 were told to register for work. They were ordered to carry out the most difficult assignments under a regime of blows and severe physical punishment. In these camps men began to collapse, because the effort demanded of them exceeded human strength. According to the report of the Polish Government Committee for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, there were more than 300 such labour camps. The prisoners built roads, set up fortifications, diverted streams and worked in factories, quarries and so forth. In the ghettoes also, labour duty was the general rule. Evidence will be brought as to the living conditions in such a camp. In Plaszow, near Cracow, the day's work started at 4:00 a.m. and finished late at night. The living quarters consisted of huts, in which several hundred people slept in three-tiered bunks. Work was carried out continually on the run. Those who fell behind, received twenty-five strokes on their bare bodies. For food, there was a little bread, twice a day a drink that was called coffee, a weak soup at midday and, at times, a little fat. The inmates were always hungry, but it was forbidden to bring food in from outside, and violators of this rule were shot or hanged. At times, a whole group would be punished for this offence. Very often, mass beatings would be carried out on the parade_ground. Punishment parades were frequently held, and on these occasions people were ordered to stand for hours without moving. Anyone who weakened was shot on the spot. Hangings were carried out in the presence of all the camp inmates. Here is a sample picture of these horrors: Twenty thousand people standing in the square, surrounded by electrified barbed wire, with machine guns mounted in the turrets of the observation towers. Before their very eyes, a youth of fifteen is hanged. The rope snaps and the youth pleads for his life, but they hang him a second time. The next person sentenced to death cuts his veins while awaiting his fate, and is brought bleeding to the gallows. You will hear evidence of dogs being set onto human beings who were bitten and torn to pieces; of SS men who would go up to people and shoot them just because they felt like doing so at the moment; of selection parades in which the weak, the old and the children were dispatched to the extermination camps while cradle songs were played over the loudspeakers. And to move was forbidden. The slightest movement set the machine guns working. Of course the mortality rate in camps such as these was frightful; they too served as instruments of extermination. Here is an eye-witness account of what happened in Lvov: "On July 2nd, 1941, I was arrested with about five thousand other Jews. After three days of suffering, a few of us escaped. All the others were killed. Two days later, I was taken off for work with one hundred Jews. In the evening, twelve returned; the others had been killed. In February 1942, I was taken to the Janowska concentration camp, where I got typhus and pneumonia. On June 8th, I was taken away to be shot. They gave us spades to dig our own graves. When we had finished, everyone was called by name, two went down into the pit and lay down side by side, faces to the ground - and were shot. The next two poured a little sand over those who had gone before them, went down into the pit, laid themselves down and were shot...At the last moment I escaped. "On June 15th, 1943, I was taken to the Death Brigade Commando Unit 1005. This Brigade was created in order to wipe out all traces of the German crimes. Our job was to open graves, burn the bodies, after extracting gold teeth and gold rings, and then scatter the ashes. Every day we collected about eight kilograms of gold. When a new batch of victims arrived, they would shoot them and burn them on the spot. Sometimes two thousand would arrive in one day. I was there until November 19, when I escaped." We also have a picture of the Holocaust in Eastern Poland, as seen from the German side. There has survived for the information of future generations a report by SS Gruppenfuehrer Katzmann exterminator of the Jews in Eastern Galicia. He describes the introduction of the Jewish badge, the setting-up of labour camps, the transfer of the Jews to the ghetto and, on this occasion, the "special treatment" admininstered to "all the work-shy and asocial elements in the Jewish mob." It soon became clear, Katzmann adds, that the Jews saw in their assignment to labour duties and the procurement of a labour card only an opportunity to escape severer measures. Accordingly, new operations were carried out, as a result of which thousands more Jews were sent for "special treatment." It was necessary to "dispatch" (Aussiedeln) more Jews - in tens of thousands - because it was apparent that they could obtain labour certificates by bribing Germans. While these transports were being dispatched, Katzmann became aware of "unusual difficulties," since, according to his account, the Jews tried to hide in cellars, bunkers, ditches and "the most unthinkable places." But, of course the brave SS men succeeded in overcoming difficulties of this kind by using fire or gas to force the Jews to come out of their hiding-places. Some Jews managed to obtain weapons. There were even some attempts to escape abroad. "Finally," writes Katzmann, "I was compelled to use brutal measures": the remaining Jews of Lvov were exterminated by burning or demolishing their houses and hiding places. "At least three thousand Jews committed suicide." The report contains the information that 434,329 Jews were exterminated by Katzmann, that in a number of camps in his area, there were only 21,156 Jews left, and that this number would gradually diminish. Attached to this report is a long list of plundered property. Pictures, too, were enclosed. Katzmann gives the following list of his losses during the liquidation of Galicia Jewry: 18 men died from typhus which they had caught from the Jews; 8 were "murdered" by the Jews; and 2 died as a result of accidents during the operations. And Katzmann concludes his report on the extermination of Galician Jews as follows: "In spite of the extraordinary load of work imposed on every member of the SS and the police during these operations, their spirit remained firm and praiseworthy from the first day to the last. Only because of the sense of personal duty felt by every officer and man was it possible for us to get control of this plague in the shortest possible time." 03Whenever Katzmann or other Nazi leaders speak of "Aussiedlung" - "expulsion" or "dispatch" - the true reference is to the deportation of Jews to extermination camps, of which I shall speak later. During the years 1941- 1944, Polish Jewry in its millions was destroyed in these camps. The Accused, as head of the Gestapo Department for Jewish Affairs, as Special Commissioner for the extermination of the Jews, bears direct responsibility as the initiator and implementer of this blood-bath. We shall show proof of his initiative and his control over the ghettoes, his responsibility and his role in the setting-up and the operation of the extermination camps, and the responsibility for the destruction of Polish Jewry. Here too, we shall come across Eichmann's work both in overall terms and in detail. He implemented the Heydrich plan of 21 September 1939. He approached the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and requested its agreement for the application to foreign passport holders in the Warsaw Ghetto of all the police measures used vis-a-vis the general population of the ghetto. He made a journey to Warsaw to "deal" with matters. He carried out the enormous deportation of Polish Jewry to the extermination camps. At the same time we shall find him dealing with "minor matters," such as sentencing four Jews to death in Zichenau and later, ordering the hanging of another seven Jews in the same ghetto in the presence of all the inhabitants. Eichmann also informed the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that Hersh Reifer, a Rumanian Jewish citizen, of Lvov, had disappeared and apparently fled to Rumania. Property too, was not forgotten. We shall present to the Court the specific instructions which were given in regard to plunder. An order issued by the SS Head Office for Administrative and Economic Affairs (WVHA) in regard to Polish Jews deported to the Lublin area and Auschwitz stated that Jewish property should be described as "confiscated property" because it was stolen or smuggled. A whole series of instructions follows: cash was to be sent to the Central Bank; watches, fountain-pens, torches, wallets and other personal belongings were to be repaired, cleaned and sold at minimum prices to the soldiers at the front. Men's and women's clothing was to be sold to the "Volksdeutsche" settled in the eastern areas. So were blankets, umbrellas, children's carriages and a long list of other articles. Linen and tablecloths were to be supplied to the army. Spectacles were to be sent to the Ministry of Health and furs to the SS Head Office. Finally, there were two standing instructions: "Particular care must be taken to see that the Jewish badge be removed from all clothing and overcoats." "All items of clothing are to be examined to see whether any valuables are hidden therein." A further devilish invention of the SS was the employment of the Jews themselves in handling, cleaning and repairing these clothes. A special SS unit was engaged in what was known as "Operation Reinhardt," so named in memory of Heydrich, who was killed with a hand-grenade in June 1942 by a Czech partisan in an act of great bravery. Globocnik, Chief Police and SS Commander in the Lublin area, was appointed to take charge of this operation, the purpose of which was the general plunder of all Jewish property in Poland and the killing of its owners. Globocnik presented a report containing a list of foreign currency, valuables and personal belongings that had been pillaged. According to his own account, he placed a nominal value only on the property and reached a total of two hundred million marks. It may be assumed that the greater part of the property was stolen for private purposes by those who carried out the task and was not included in the report, for at a meeting of the administration of Frank's Generalgouvernement the plundered property was assessed at many milliards. In order to exploit the Jewish labour force in the Ghettoes and camps, the SS set up and administered a company called Ostindustrie G.m.b.H., or OSTI for short. The purpose of this company was to establish undertakings in which Jews would be employed to take posSession of all Jewish-owned equipment and raw materials, and to operate concerns which were previously in Jewish hands. Many private German firms were also set up and supplied with Jewish slave_labour. Globocnik reported on the success of this undertaking and the mobilization of tens of thousands of Jews for unpaid labour in the OSTI factories. "At any rate, on the whole it was successful," he writes, "Only in one place there was a failure: in Warsaw, where the operation was not properly carried through on account of misunderstanding of the situation." The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest in Europe, not only because the Jewish population of the city was considerable but because many Jews fled to Warsaw from the surrounding districts and other towns. It appears that during a certain period, it contained about half a million people. Himmler noted that the German economic enterprises of Toebbens made millions by exploiting Jewish slave labour, but he gave orders that the Jews should be gradually removed from industrial undertakings. "We must make an effort to bring in Poles in place of the Jewish workers. Of course, there as well the Jews will have to disappear one day in accordance with the Fuehrer's wish. Himmler was not prepared to accept the argument that it was desirable to keep the Jews alive because these undertakings were working for the army. "The army will give us its orders and the items of clothing which it requires will be supplied. I have ordered steps to be taken, come what may, against all those who believe that they can oppose our steps with the so-called munition pretext but who actually want to help the Jews and promote their interests." In the middle of 1942, there were no longer any illusions in Warsaw with regard to the purpose of the Germans' deportations. Until then, the Jews still hoped, still deluded themselves, and did not listen to the underground movement's plea for violent resistance to the Germans. The Chairman of the Ghetto Council, Adam Czerniakow, committed suicide by poison together with his wife in July 1942, when the Germans demanded that more Jews be supplied for "dispatch." But the transports nonetheless added up to thousands and tens of thousands. In September, over a hundred thousand Jews were collected together in an area called "The Pot": Thirty thousand were released for work and the rest were sent to death camps. This time the Jewish Ghetto Police were also dispatched. Listen to this account: "The Germans are transporting the surviving Jews into 'The Pot,' between Zamenhoff, Starki, Smotscha and Genscha streets. At the junction of Mila and Genscha streets a wooden gate blocks off the whole width of the pavement. Through this gate of life and death, the crowd passes slowly in single file. Each person has to submit to a thorough search. There is a line of young, alert SS men on guard...the revolvers hanging from their uniforms. 'Quicker, quicker!'they yell accompanying their threats with lashes of the whip. "The crowd marches on in endless line, through the gate of life and death. Pale and confused figures pass by, their eyes red with fear. Men help their wives, mothers clasp their little ones. Daughters carefully guide their old mothers. Families try to keep together and cling solidly to each other. Each person holds firmly in his hands the "work-card," which gives him the right to live. They hold on to this document desperately, for it is the only guarantee of their right to live, and - even more important - the right of their dear ones to live. "Today is the great day. The weather is pleasant. The sun is shining brightly. Untersturmfuehrer Handke wipes the sweat from his fat, red face. Then he wipes his neck and gets ready again for action. He lashes out again with the whip and strikes the terrified victims on their heads and faces and any other parts of the body he can reach. An energetic and aggressive officer is showing the confused people which way to go. "Left - towards Stavki - is the gate of death, leading to the train that will carry them off to Malkinia and Treblinka. This is the place marked out for the women, the old and the crippled. "A gesture of the hand to the right - this is the way to Lesno, Kremlizka, and Novolipia, the way to life. To the right go those from whose toil and sweat some profit can still be wrung." That is how the selections were carried out in the ghetto. The youth movements were longing for action, but they had no weapons. The Polish underground supplied nine revolvers and five hand-grenades. With this equipment, they had to go into action. Finally a coordinating committee for underground activity was elected, headed by Mordechai Anilewicz, with Yitzhak Zuckerman as second-in-command. There had been isolated instances of desperate resistance before, but from now on activities were coordinated. In January 1943, the underground acted for the first time, and the first German victims fell. When his ammunition was spent, Anilewicz fell on the nearest German soldier with his bare hands, snatched his rifle and disappeared. Later he was to fight and command in many a battle. The spirit of the oppressed Jews rose once more, for they saw that the Germans were vulnerable, and that it was possible to inflict casualties on them. Yitzhak Katzenelson, a poet of the Holocaust, who himself was killed later, wrote: "They did not know, they did not believe, 'The Jews are shooting' - I heard an ugly voice in a corrupt mouth Before he breathed his last, unclean breath; No normal shout I heard - Only a horrified cry: 'Is it possible?!'" The fight was on. It was a desperate struggle without a shadow of hope, without prospects, without a chance of success, but they would no longer go as sheep to the slaughter - they would strike at the despicable killers. The underground was reorganized, the Ghetto was divided into areas, and feverish efforts were made to acquire weapons from the Christian side of the city. A revolver cost thousands of zlotys. Weapons were smuggled in by all possible means, through the sewage canals, by bribing the watchmen, in the food trucks. "If only we could get the weapons and ammunition we need," wrote Anilewicz on the eve of the revolt, "the battle for the Ghetto would cost the enemy an ocean of blood. But even so we shall prove the power of our faith and confidence in our strength." They began setting up bunkers as hiding-places and underground passages for storing weapons, for use as lines of communications and to facilitate the fighting. The Nazis were struck with amazement. After wiping out the first nests of resistance, they tried their usual wiles:"All we want is to send a number of Jews to work camps. What is all the fuss about?" Once more the SS tried to use threats against the Ghetto council, but the latter replied that they no longer had control over the Jews. Himmler gave orders for the destruction of the Ghetto. "This quarter, so far inhabited by five hundred thousand sub_human creatures, who in any case are of no use to the Germans, must disappear!" On 19 April 1943, on Passover eve, Waffen-SS forces, commanded by Juergen Stroop, who had recently been appointed Police Commander in Warsaw, began to move in the direction of the Ghetto. The attacking force consisted of two thousand and one hundred soldiers, supported by tanks. The Jewish underground opened fire, and many of the Germans were wounded. The tanks were driven off with Molotov cocktails. Anilewicz wrote to Zuckerman, who had been sent to the other side of the city to secure supplies and assistance from the Polish underground: "Something has happened which is beyond our wildest dreams. The Germans have fled twice from the Ghetto...From this evening we move over to partisan methods of operation. Three of our squads go out tonight, with two objectives: to get food and to secure weapons...I cannot describe the conditions under which the Jews are living. Very few will hold out. Sooner or later the rest will perish. The dice is cast. In all the bunkers where our comrades are hiding, it is impossible to light a candle at night for lack of air...Keep well, dear friend. Perhaps we shall meet again. The main thing is - the dream of my life has come true. I have lived to see a Jewish defence force in the Ghetto in all its greatness and glory." The heroic and desperate battle began. The Germans laid siege to the Ghetto, opening up a merciless bombardment, which was followed by the entry of SS units. They took prisoners and destroyed buildings and bunkers. The tens of thousands of prisoners were wiped out, some on the spot and others in the camp at Treblinka. In his last report, dated 16 May 1943, Stroop who quelled the revolt reported that 56,065 Jews were killed in the process. One cannot refrain from pointing out that this butcher and murderer calls his victims "bandits." We shall submit to the Court Juergen Stroop's report, which begins with these words:"There are no Jewish habitations left in Warsaw." We shall also submit to you the photographs which he attached to his report - the famous photograph of the little child standing with his hands up (he too an enemy of the Reich!) and the picture of the girl fighters with the shadow of death in their eyes. In this case against Adolf Eichmann, I shall not describe the whole scope of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. It will for ever be enshrined in Jewish history as an act of supreme valour, as the last desperate stand of national heroes, who succeeded in holding their positions for nearly a month against the might of the German army. When organized resistance came to an end, they kept up the struggle for months amongst the debris, and from the sewers and hideouts, in spite of all the weapons of destruction the Germans deployed against the fighters. Even in September, 1943, isolated clashes continued, until the sound of the heroic struggle was stilled, and the last of the fighters had fallen. Wasrsaw was not the only place where the Jews organized resistance against their destroyers. Before and after Warsaw, there were military operations in Cze@69stochowa, Vilna, Cracow, Bedzin, Bialystok and many other places. Later there were uprisings in the hearts of extermination centres at the gas chambers of Treblinka, Sobibor and Auschwitz. In fact, there were hundreds of individual examples of heroism, resistance and revolt. The Jews tried everywhere and at all times to stand firm against the destroyers without losing the image of God and the dignity of man. The SS forbade religious services, but the Jews secretly organized prayer groups in all manner of places, even in the very death camps and on the threshold of the gas chambers. The Germans forbade all communal activities and mutual aid - but the Jews set up hundreds of welfare institutions. The teaching of children was forbidden, but the Jews found a way of teaching their children secretly. Death was the punishment meted out by the Germans for listening to foreign radio stations, but the Jews secretly published newspapers containing news from the Allied side. Tens of thousands of Jews joined the partisans and fought against the Germans in combatant units. The great wonder was that after years of oppression, degradation and hunger, the Jews found spiritual strength for all these examples of revolt and resistance, in face of the mighty Gestapo machine and its deadly power, destruction on the one hand and - on the other - the Nazi's trickery, deception and concealment of their intention to exterminate the Jews. After the suppression of the revolt, the survivors in the rest of Warsaw formed a Jewish national organization, calling the Jews, in July 1944, to combine and fight the enemy. "The Jewish people lives," they wrote, and they foretold the emergence of a free, democratic state, in which the long_suffering Jewish people could develop and be creative, as the only historic compensation for their afflicted people - which, they said, had lost five million souls. Their proclamation concluded: "If we have been condemned to die, let it be in battle. Each of us has already been face to face with death so many times that it no longer holds any terrors...Every Jew who has been saved must regard himself as a soldier in the Jewish army of mutual aid and battle, a fighter for democracy and freedom." But it was the Warsaw Ghetto revolt which became a symbol of heroic struggle, the like of which had not been known in Jewish history since the days of Bar Kochba. They fought without the slightest hope of victory, but in the clear conviction that their death would give meaning to the lives of others. They and their companions in revolt and in resistance to the oppressor were no longer able to save Jewish lives, but they redeemed the honour of their people. Israel mourns their death and will pass on to its children the heritage of their valour. The bitter end of Polish Jewry came, as I have said, in the extermination camps to which millions were transported by order of Eichmann and his accomplices in crime. The end came in Auschwitz, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek and Chelmno, and of what happened there I shall speak later.
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor