The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Persecution Of Jews
(Part 1 of 2)

[Page 60]

The persecution of the Jews at the hands of the Nazi Government has been proved in the greatest detail before the Tribunal. It is a record of consistent and systematic inhumanity on the greatest scale. Ohlendorf, Chief of Amt III in the RSHA from 1939 to 1943, and who was in command of one of the Einsatz groups in the campaign against the Soviet Union testified as to the methods employed in the extermination of the Jews. He said that he employed firing squads to shoot the victims in order to lessen the sense of individual guilt on the part of his men; and the 90,000 men, women, and children who were murdered in one year by his particular group were mostly Jews.

When the witness Bach Zelewski was asked how Ohlendorf could admit the murder of 90,000 people, he replied:

"I am of the opinion that when, for years, for decades, the doctrine is preached that the Slav race is an inferior race, and Jews not even human, then such an outcome is inevitable."

But the Defendant Frank spoke the final words of this chapter of Nazi history when he testified in this Court:

"We have fought against Jewry: we have fought against it for years: and we have allowed ourselves to make utterances and my own diary has become a witness against me in this connection utterances which are terrible .. A thousand years will pass and this guilt of Germany will still not be erased."

The anti-Jewish policy was formulated in Point 4 of the Party Program which declared "Only a member of the race can be a citizen. A member of the race can only be one who is of German blood, without consideration

[Page 61]

of creed. Consequently, no Jew can be a member of the race." Other points of the program declared that Jews should be treated as foreigners, that they should not be permitted to hold public office, that they should be expelled from the Reich if it were impossible to nourish the entire population of the State, that they should be denied any further immigration into Germany, and that they should be prohibited from publishing German newspapers. The Nazi Party preached these doctrines throughout its history. Der Stuermer and other publications were allowed to disseminate hatred of the Jews, and in the speeches and public declarations of the Nazi leaders, the Jews were held up to public ridicule and contempt.

With the seizure of power, the persecution of the Jews was intensified. A series of discriminatory laws was passed, which limited the offices and professions permitted to Jews; and restrictions were placed on their family life and their rights of citizenship. By the autumn of 1938, the Nazi policy towards the Jews had reached the stage where it was directed towards the complete exclusion of Jews from German life. Pogroms were organized, which included the burning and demolishing of synagogues, the looting of Jewish businesses, and the arrest of prominent Jewish business men. A collective fine of RM1 billion was imposed on the Jews, the seizure of Jewish assets was authorized, and the movement of Jews was restricted by regulations to certain specified districts and hours. The creation of ghettos was carried out on an extensive scale, and by an order of the Security Police Jews were compelled to wear a yellow star to be worn on the breast and back.

It was contended for the Prosecution that certain aspects of this anti-Semitic policy were connected with the plans for aggressive war. The violent measures taken against the Jews in November, 1938, were nominally in retaliation for the killing of an official of the German Embassy in Paris. But the decision to seize Austria and Czechoslovakia had been made a year before. The imposition of a fine of one billion marks was made, and the confiscation of the financial holdings of the Jews was decreed, at a time when German armament expenditure had put the German treasury in difficulties, and when the reduction of expenditure on armaments was being considered. These steps were taken, moreover, with the approval of the Defendant Goering, who had been given responsibility for economic matters of this kind, and who was the strongest advocate of an extensive rearmament program notwithstanding the financial difficulties.

It was further said that the connection of the anti-Semitic policy with aggressive war was not limited to economic matters. The German Foreign Office circular, in an article of 25th January 1939, entitled "Jewish Question as a Factor in German Foreign Policy in the Year 1938" described the new phase in the Nazi anti-Semitic policy in these words:

"It is certainly no coincidence that the fateful year 1938 has brought nearer the solution of the Jewish question simultaneously with the realization of the idea of Greater Germany, since the Jewish policy was both the basis and consequence of the year 1938. The advance made by Jewish influence and the destructive Jewish spirit in politics, economy, and culture, paralyzed the power and the will of the German People to rise again, more perhaps even than the power policy opposition of the former enemy Allied Powers of the first World War. The healing of this sickness among the people was therefore certainly one of the most important requirements for exerting the force which, in the year 1938 resulted in the joining together of Greater Germany in defiance of the world."

[Page 62]

The Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany before the war, severe and repressive as it was, cannot compare, however, with the policy pursued during the war in the occupied territories. Originally the policy was similar to that which had been in force inside Germany. Jews were required to register, were forced to live in ghettos, to wear the yellow star, and were used as slave laborers. In the summer of 1941, however, plans were made for the "final solution" of the Jewish question in Europe. This "final solution" meant the extermination of the Jews, which early in 1939 Hitler had threatened would be one of the consequences of an outbreak of war, and a special section in the Gestapo under Adolf Eichmann, as head of Section B 4 of the Gestapo, was formed to carry out the policy.

The plan for exterminating the Jews was developed shortly after the attack on the Soviet Union. Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD, formed for the purpose of breaking the resistance of the population of the areas lying behind the German armies in the East, were given the duty of exterminating the Jews in those areas. The effectiveness of the work of the Einsatzgruppen is shown by the fact that in February, 1942, Heydrich was able to report that Estonia had already been cleared of Jews and that in Riga the number of Jews had been reduced from 29,500 to 2,500. Altogether the Einsatzgruppen operating in the occupied Baltic States killed over 135,000 Jews in three months.

Nor did these special units operate completely independently of the German Armed Forces. There is clear evidence that leaders of the Einsatzgruppen obtained the co-operation of Army commanders. In one case the relations between an Einsatzgruppe and the military authorities was described at the time as being "very close, almost cordial" in another case the smoothness of an Einsatz-commando's operation was attributed to the "understanding for this procedure" shown by the Army authorities.

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