Newsgroups: alt.revisionism Subject: Holocaust Almanac: The Europa Plan Archive/File: holocaust/germany europa.001 Last-Modified: 1994/08/17 The Europa Plan "Another project for the more rational exploitation of the Jews, one that engaged the attentions of a number of highly placed SS men and strongly tempted the Reichsfu"hrer himself, contemplated a gigantic ransoming of all the Jews still alive in German hands. This project, unlike the preceeding one, was actually begun. [Poliakov here refers to an abortive plan to sterilize the Jews through the use of Caladium senguinum, a tropical plant. See Poliakov, 253. knm] As we have said, Himmler very early in the war permitted SS bureaus to make individual arrangements to allow very rich Jews to emigrate in exchange for payment in hard currency, dollars or Swiss francs, which in principle were earmarked for the equipping of the Waffen-SS. This was done especially in the Netherlands, and the ransom was considerable: $5,000-$10,000 per person. However, only about fifty Dutch Jews were able to ransom themselves in this way. <18> At the end of 1942, Himmler's staff thought of extending the ransoming to other countries, especially Slovakia, where the deportations had just been suspended.<19> The ground was thus gradually prepared for a more comprehensive transaction. It turned out that the permanent IVb representative in Slovakia, Dieter Wisliceny, although one of Adolf Eichmann's oldest friends, deviated somewhat from the classic type of the Nazi executioner. This former journalist had a certain cultivation, even some refinement. He tended to carry out his functions like a dilettante, and showed an exemplary correctness toward his victims; he pursued his own interests rather than trying scrupulously to carry out his task, for which, all told, he seems to have had only a limited enthusiasm. Such a person was just the kind of intermediary needed for extending the scope of the ransoming from individual rich Jews to the entire Jewish collectivity, so that many, not merely a few, might be saved. But the idea first occurred to a Bratislava Jewess, Gisi Fleischmann, a woman with a great heart and devouring energy. Since individual Jews could escape the fate lying in wait for them by paying a ransom, why not try to ransom all the Jews at a single stroke, even if the sum ran into the millions. Gisi Fleischmann made contact with Wisliceny, and at the same time sent couriers to alert the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the powerful Jewish philantropic organization. Collected on the spot, a first payment of $25,000 was handed to Wisliceny; the latter tried hard to obtain the Reichsfu"hrer's approval of what the negotiators called by the code name "Europa Plan." These conversations and negotiations were of course carried on in complete secrecy, since the slightest indiscretion entailed serious consequences. No trace of it has remained in the SS archives, but the flaming appeals that Gisi Fleischmann sent abroad have been preserved. Here are a few extracts that recall the hopes that filled the hearts of this little group: (March 24, 1943) Our chances are unfortunately limited. But a tenacious and inflexible determination to attain our ends gives us the strength and courage to continue along this way. We must strive with all our strength to reach our sacred goal. (June 18, 1943) I am finishing this report at perhaps a historic moment, for your acceptance of the project opens possibilities for stopping the terrible work of extermination. If this great labor of human love succeeds, we can say that we shall not have lived in vain.<20> Characteristically, Himmler hesitated a long time before giving Wisliceny exact instructions. His first reaction apprently was favorable; it would seem that a mass emigration of children figured among the first measures under consideration. But Eichmann, solidly entrenched in a key position, tried his best to wreck the agreement. He found an unexpected and influential ally in the Grant Mufti of Jerusalem, a refugee in Germany since the summer of 1941, who jealously watched to see that no Jew left the European continent alive.<21> Other high-ranking SS men, especially Walter Schellenberg, chief of the SS information service, tried to influence Himmler in the opposite direction; a definite answer was forthcoming only after many months. Deportations meanwhile continued, and the gas chambers continued their work. The Bratislava plan, however, did not go through in its original form, and in 1944 Eichmann took his revenge by maneuvering successfully to have Gisi Fleischmann deported and executed. The project was taken up again in Budapest when the complete IVb team appeared there in March 1944 following in the wake of the German armies. With catastrophe imminent, the journalist Rudolf Ka"stner, who had been kept informed of the Slovakian negotiations, tried to have them resumed again. The presence of Wisliceny among the people Eichmann had brought to Budapest made Ka"stner's task easier. The fortunes of war had meanwhile changed sufficiently for Himmler to take a serious interest in these overtures. He selected a special agent to continue these negotiations - Kurt Becher, a Waffen SS administrative officer who had already come to his attention by negotiating the release of the Jewish owners of the Manfred Weiss Hungarian industrial trust, in exchange for substantial economic advantages. Parleys were finally begun during the spring of 1944. Having succeeded in making contact with Jewish organizations abroad, Rudolf Ka"stner tried by every means to put Hitler's emissary in direct contact with their representatives. An interview in Lisbon was contemplated, with the SS proposing an exchange of Jewish lives for trucks and medicines. The affair was to be handled on a strictly economic basis, without any humanitarian considerations, since the latter might very well ruin the whole thing. A daring chance, but Ka"stner and his friends showed themselves good psychologists, and the arguments they advanced were admirably conceived to impress the Nazis. Here they are, as summed up in a memorandum submitted to Himmler in July 1944: We believe that the cessation of the deportations in Hungary represents an indispensable premise for the Lisbon conversations; once agreement is reached, this would be followed by a regular emigration of the remaining Hungarian Jews. We again insist most urgently that the Jews already deported from Hungary be spared from total or partial destruction; people able to work by this very fact constitute an actual value for the German economy, while those unable to work, who will be the first ones to be exchanged, constitute a potential and quickly realizable value. In this regard, we recall that it was agreed at our last meetings that the meaning of our agreements is not solely financial. The security to be put up by us, especially the trucks, means in fact a saving of German blood. In this way, as a counterpart to the Jewish lives, you will indirectly be saving German lives. Any deterioration of the Jewish substance in your hands would, it seems to us, be unwise under these conditions and a blow to your own national substance.<22> It is certain that Himmler for his part was now completely for the "Europa Plan." But he took care not to tell the Fu"hrer, and maneuvered with extreme caution. One of Ka"stner's aides, Joel Brandt, was able to go to Constantinople, then to Cairo, to expedite the negotiations. The deportation of the Jews of Budapest was postponed, and, in fact, never took place. Small groups of Hungarian Jews, 3,000 in November 1944, 1,200 in February 1945, were convoyed to the Swiss border and set free as a "gesture of good will." In fact, it was on the Allied side that obstacles were raised. Joel Brandt was interned by the British authorities without having had a chance to accomplish his mission, and the United States Department of State forbade Joseph Schwartz, director of the JDC, to negotiate with enemy subjects. Only after great difficulty, thanks to the intervention of various Swiss and Swedish intermediaries, did these excessively complicated negotiations manage to continue; but this was enough for the SS Reichsfu"hrer, especially as the German military situation was rapidly deteriorating, to grant new concessions. The success of the Allied landing in Europe seems to have caused Himmler really to change his course. From then on, he not only acted without Hitler's knowledge, he no longer paid any attention to Hitler's express wishes. In October 1944, still unbeknownst to Hitler, he stopped the exterminations, and at the end of 1944 he agreed to continue negotiations not only on an economic but also on a "humanitarian" basis. The transfigured Himmler of 1945 now emerged, a man so unselfconscious that when preparing to surrender he wondered whether he should or should not shake General Eisenhower's hand,<23> and in March asked for a meeting with a representative of the World Jewish Congress, mentioning in this connection his pre-war "benevolent efforts" in favor of Jewish emmigration, efforts which "war and human folly" had terminated.<24> A few days before this, he ordered General Pohl, supreme head of all the concentration camps, to drop everything and go to the principle camps and see to it that preferential treatment was given to the Jews still alive.<25> On April 5 he named Kurt Becher special Reich commissioner for concentration camps; Becher was authorized to stop the evacuation of the camps, or, as the case might be, turn them over to the Allied authorities.<26> These missions by Pohl and Becher, although impeded by the anarchy into which the Third Reich was already collapsing, stopped many a last-minute massacre, and the tireless Ka"stner was even able to save several hundred lives by donning an SS uniform and making a mad race through the chaos of Nazi Germany's last hour. Such were the results of the desperate efforts of a handful of Jews and neutral missionaries to come to terms with Himmler and slow down the exterminations. It should be pointed out that the above lines concentrate on the main theme of the "Europa Plan," an excessively complex negotiation shot through with a thousand intrigues and participated in by so many other important actors, of whom we need mention only Count Bernadotte and Carl Burckhardt, president of the International Red Cross. But a direct line leads from the initiative taken by Gisi Fleischmann in 1943 to the events of April-May, 1945. In the last analysis, the "great work of human love" begun by the unknown Jewess of Bratislava saved the lives of countless thousands of deportees of all categories and nationalities and prevented the worst from happening during the collapse of the German concentration camps." (Poliakov, 254-58) <18> Report of the chief of the SD and the security police to the SS Reichsfu"hrer. Berlin, November 24, 1942. (NO 2408) <19> Idem. <20> Copies of the messages sent by Mrs. Gisi Fleischmann in Switzerland. (LXX, 83; LXX, 84) <21> On the role of the Grand Mufti, see S. Wiesenthal, "Grossmufti-Grossagent der Axe," Vienna, Ried-Verlag, 1947, and Pearlman, "Mufti of Jerusalem, the Story of Haj-Amin el Hussein," London, Gollancz, 1947, as well as the depositions of Dieter Wisliceny, Bratislava, November 18, 1946. <22> Note dated July 22, 1944, signed Biss. (LXX, 13) <23> Cf. Count F. Bernadotte, "La Fin," Lausanne, Margeurat, 1945. <24> Letter from the SS Reichsfu"hrer to Dr. Kersten, Berlin, March 21, 1945. Cf. the photostat of the letter in "Klerk en Beul, op. cit." <25> Deposition of Oswold Pohl during his trial at Nuremberg, session of May 19, 1947. <26> Report of the Budapest Jewish Rescue Committee, prepared by Ka"stner, p. 172. See also the note drawn up by K. Becher after his capture, and the notes of Dieter Wisliceny. Work Cited Poliakov, Leon. Harvest of Hate: The Nazi Program for the Destruction of the Jews of Europe. Syracuse University Press., 1956.
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