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Modern Historical Mysteries => the Holocaust => Topic started by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:32:21 pm

Title: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:32:21 pm
I thought I might open a separate topic on this so it doesn't get lost:

The Final Solution of the Jewish Question (German Endlösung der Judenfrage) refers to the German Nazis' plan to genocidally kill the entire European Jewish population during World War II. The term was coined by Adolf Eichmann, a top Nazi official who supervised the genocidal campaign and was later judged in Jerusalem in 1961. The execution of the Final Solution resulted in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust.

Mass killings of over one million Jews occurred before the plans of the Final Solution were fully implemented in 1942, but it was only with the decision to eradicate the entire Jewish population that the extermination camps were built and industrialized mass slaughter of Jews began in earnest.This decision to systematically kill the Jews of Europe was made by the time of, or at the Wannsee conference, which took place in Berlin, in the Wannsee Villa on January 20, 1942. During the conference there was a discussion held by a group of Nazi officials to decide on the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question". The records and minutes of this meeting were found intact by the Allies at the end of the war and served as valuable evidence during the Nuremberg Trials. By spring of 1942, Operation Reinhard began the systematic extermination of the Jews, although hundreds of thousands had already been killed by death squads and in mass pogroms.

There is still considerable debate among historians about when, exactly, the decision to eradicate the Jewish population of Europe was made by the Nazi leadership. The consensus is that the outlines of the Final Solution arose gradually throughout the summer and fall of 1941. Prominent Holocaust historian Christopher Browning has stated that the decision to exterminate the Jews was actually two decisions, one in July of 1941 to kill the Jews of Russia (mass killings by the Einsatzgruppen had already begun by the summer of 1941), the second in October of 1941 to exterminate the remaining Jews of Europe. There is ample evidence for this view, for example in July 31, 1941, under instructions from Adolf Hitler, Nazi official Hermann Göring ordered SS general Reinhard Heydrich to "submit to me as soon as possible a general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for carrying out the desired final solution of the Jewish question."

Christian Gerlach has argued for a different timeframe suggesting that the decision was made by Hitler on the 12 December 1941, when he addressed a meeting of the Nazi Party (the Reichsleiter) and of regional party leaders (the Gauleiter). Joseph Goebbels recorded in his notes the following, "Regarding the Jewish question, the Führer is determined to clear the table. He warned the Jews that if they were to cause another world war, it would lead to their own destruction. Those were not empty words. Now the world war has come. The destruction of the Jews must be its necessary consequence. We cannot be sentimental about it. It is not for us to feel sympathy for the Jews. We should have sympathy rather with our own German people. If the German people have to sacrifice 160,000 victims in yet another campaign in the east, then those responsible for this bloody conflict will have to pay for it with their lives." In his diary entry of 13 December 1941, the day after Hitler’s private speech, Joseph Goebbels wrote:"In respect of the Jewish question, the Führer has decided to make a clean sweep. The world war is here, the annihilation of the Jews must be the necessary result.”

After this decision, plans were made to put the Final Solution into effect. For example, on December 16, at a meeting of the officials of the General Government, Hans Frank referred to Hitler's speech as he described the coming annihilation of the Jews:

As for the Jews, well, I can tell you quite frankly that one way or another we have to put an end to them. The Führer once put it this way: if the combined forces of Judaism should again succeed in unleashing a world war, that would mean the end of the Jews in Europe. .... I urge you: Stand together with me ... on this idea at least: Save your sympathy for the German people alone. Don't waste it on anyone else in the world, . . . I would therefore be guided by the basic expectation that they are going to disappear. They have to be gotten rid of. At present I am involved in discussions aimed at having them moved away to the east. In January there is going to be an important meeting in Berlin to discuss this question. I am going to send State Secretary Dr. Buhler to this meeting. It is scheduled to take place in the offices of the RSHA in the presence of Obergruppenführer Heydrich. Whatever its outcome, a great Jewish emigration will commence. But what is going to happen to these Jews? Do you imagine there will be settlement villages for them in the Ostland? In Berlin we were told: Why are you making all this trouble for us? There is nothing we can do with them here in the Ostland or in the Reich Commissariat. Liquidate them yourselves! .... Here are 3.5 million Jews that we can't shoot, we can't poison. But there are some things we can do, and one way or another these measures will successfully lead to a liquidation. They are related to the measures under discussion with the Reich.... Where and how this will all take place will be a matter for offices that we will have to establish and operate here. I will report to you on their operation at the appropriate time.

By 1 November 1941 the first extermination camps were being built; first Belzec, then Sobibor and finally Treblinka, the mass execution of Jews began in early 1942.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:33:15 pm
Einsatzgruppen (a German military term meaning "mission groups", loosely translated as "Task Force") were semi-military groups formed in Nazi Germany before and during World War II. These death squads belonged to the SS and followed the Wehrmacht in their attacks first on Poland and then the Soviet Union. Their principal task, in the words of SS General Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski at the Nuremberg Trial "was the annihilation of the Jews, gypsies, and political commissars." According to their own records, they killed over 1 million people, almost exclusively civilians, without judicial review and later without semblance of legality (no reading of sentences of martial or administrative law), starting with the Polish intelligentsia and quickly progressing by 1941 to target primarily the Jews of Eastern Europe. Raul Hilberg estimates that the Einsatzgruppen killed over 1.4 million Jews in open air shootings between 1941 and 1945.

After the occupation of Poland in 1939, the Einsatzgruppen killed Poles belonging to the intelligentsia, such as priests and teachers. The Nazis considered all Slavic people Untermenschen, or subhumans, and wanted to use the Polish lower classes as servants and slaves. The mission of the Einsatzgruppen was therefore the forceful depoliticisation of the Polish people and the elimination of the groups most clearly identified with Polish national identity. Following the German invasion of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France in May 1940, the Einsatzgruppen once again travelled in the wake of the Wehrmacht, but unlike their operations in Poland, the Einsatzgruppen operations in Western Europe in 1940 were within the Einsatzgruppen original mandate of securing government offices and papers. Had Operation Sealion, the German plan for an invasion of the United Kingdom been launched, six Einsatzgruppen were scheduled to follow the invasion force to Britain. The Einsatzgruppen intended for the Sealion were provided with a list (known as the Black Book after the war) of 2, 820 personalities to be arrested immediately.

After the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, the Einsatzgruppen's main assignment was to kill Communist officers and Jews which they did on a much larger scale than in Poland. They were under control of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (RSHA) (Reich Security Main Office); i.e., under Reinhard Heydrich and his successor Ernst Kaltenbrunner. The original mandate set by Heydrich for the four Einsatzgruppen sent into the Soviet Union as part of Operation Barbarossa was to secure the offices and papers of the Soviet state and Communist Party; liquate all of the higher cadres of the Soviet state; and to instigate and encourage pogroms against all local Jewish populations. As the Einsatzgruppen advanced into the Soviet Union, after July 1941, the Einsatzgruppen increasingly engaged in the mass murders of the local Jews themselves rather than encouraging pogroms. Initially, the Einsatzgruppen generally limited themselves to shooting Jewish men; but as the summer wore on, increasingly all Jews regardless of age or sex were shot. The most murderous of the four Einsatzgruppen was Einsatzgruppen A, which operated in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania formally occupied by the Soviets. Einsatzgruppen A was the first Einsatzgruppen to attempted to systematically exterminate all Jews in its area. After December 1941, the other three Einsatzgruppen began what the historian Raul Hilberg has called the "second sweep", which lasted into the summer of 1942, where they attempted to emulate Einsatzgruppen A by likewise systematically killing all Jews in their areas.

They murdered more than 1.5 million Jews, Communists, prisoners of war, and Roma (Gypsies) in total. They also assisted Wehrmacht units and local anti-Semites in killing half a million more. They were mobile forces in the beginning of the invasion, but settled down after the occupation. In addition, the Einsatzgruppen were often used in anti-partisan operations in the occupied Soviet Union.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:34:03 pm
Methods of murder

The standard method employed by the Einsatzgruppen was to post a proclamation ordering all the Jews and other condemned people in an occupied area to gather on a certain day. Once their victims were assembled, the squads led them to the place where they were to be killed, which was usually an open, isolated area where mass graves had been prepared. Sometimes, natural features of the landscape like the ravine at Babi Yar were used. The victims were forced to surrender their belongings and undress, after which they were positioned either on the edge of the grave or in it and shot.

The Nazis were not satisfied with shooting as a method of mass murder, however. It was costly in effort, there were too many potential witnesses to the murders, and the constant, close-quarters killing of defenseless men, women and children took a heavy psychological toll on the killers themselves. The men in charge of the Final Solution began searching for an alternative.

In some areas, the Einsatzgruppen also brought along specialized trucks called Gasenwagen, or gas van, developed for the since-terminated T4 euthanasia program operated by the Reich Chancellery. Victims were forced into the backs of vehicles into which the exhaust from the engine was routed. The victims were then variably poisoned, or asphyxiated from the carbon monoxide accumulating within the truck compartment as the vehicle travelled to a burial pit. Gas trucks were subsequently employed at the Chełmno extermination camp. The stationary gas chambers of the subsequent death camps of Poland were an outgrowth of this idea, resourced by T4 staff on loan to the SS.

The Jäger Report
Map titled "Jewish Executions Carried Out by Einsatzgruppe A" from the December 1941 Jäger Report. Marked "Secret Reich Matter," the map shows the number of Jews shot in the Baltic region, and reads at the bottom: "the estimated number of Jews still on hand is 128,000."The Einsatzgruppen kept track of many of their massacres, and one of the most famous of these officials records is the Jager Report, covering the operation of a Einsatzkommando 3 over five months in Lithuania. Written by the commander of Einsatzkommando 3, Karl Jager, it includes a detailed list summarizing each massacre, totaling 137,346 victims, and states "…I can confirm today that Einsatzkommando 3 has achieved the goal of solving the Jewish problem in Lithuania. There are no more Jews in Lithuania, apart from working Jews and their families." After the war, despite these records, Jäger lived in Germany under his own name until arrested for war crimes in 1959, when he committed suicide

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:34:44 pm
Babi Yar, Russian:Бабий яр, (Ukrainian:Бабин яр, Babyn Yar) is the name of a ravine situated outside the Ukrainian city of Kiev. It was the site of a massacre of Jews, Gypsies, and other civilians by the Nazis, with assistance from Ukrainian collaborators, during World War II. It was conducted by Friedrich Jeckeln.

Before the massacre

The Germans reached Kiev on September 19, 1941. On September 28, notices around town read:

"All Jews living in the city of Kiev and its vicinity are to report by 8 o'clock on the morning of Monday, September 29th, 1941, to the corner of Melnikovsky and Dokhturov Streets (near the cemetery). They are to take with them documents, money, valuables, as well as warm clothes, underwear, etc. Any Jew not carrying out this instruction and who is found elsewhere will be shot. Any civilian entering flats evacuated by Jews and stealing property will be shot."

Most, including the 175,000-person Jewish community of Kiev, thought this meant the Jews were to be deported. The Nazis, however, had decided on September 26 that the Jews would all be killed in retaliation for a series of bombings against German installations for which they were blamed (though the NKVD actually conducted them).

The massacre

The Jews of Kiev gathered by the cemetery, expecting to be loaded onto trains. The crowd was large enough that most of the men, women, and children did not know what was happening, and by the time they heard machine-gun fire, it was too late to escape. They were driven in small groups of ten, and led down a corridor of soldiers, as described by A. Kuznetsov:

There was no question of being able to dodge or get away. Brutal blows, immediately drawing blood, descended on their heads, backs and shoulders from left and right. The soldiers kept shouting: "Schnell, schnell!" laughing happily, as if they were watching a circus act; they even found ways of delivering harder blows in the more vulnerable places, the ribs, the stomach and the groin.

The Jews were then ordered to undress, beaten if they resisted, and then shot at the edge of the Babi Yar gorge. According to the Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Report No. 101, at least 33,771 Jews from Kiev and its suburbs were killed at Babi Yar on September 29 and September 30, 1941: systematically shot dead by machine gun fire. As many as 60,000 more people, including Roma and Soviet POWs were later shot at the site.

Carrying out the massacre was the Einsatzgruppe C, supported by members of a Waffen-SS battalion and units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police. The participation of Ukrainian collaborators in these events, now documented and proven, is a matter of painful public debate in Ukraine.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:35:37 pm
Rumbula Forest is a pine forest enclave in Riga, Latvia in which Jews were massacred during the Holocaust.

In two days, November 30 and December 8, 1941 25,000 Jews were murdered in Rumbula Forest. Of the 25,000, 24,000 were Latvian Jews from the Riga Ghetto and 1,000 were German Jews transported to the forest by freight train. The systematic mass murder was carried out by the Nazi Einsatzgruppen with the help of Arājs commando, with support from other Lithuanian police units.

Over 25,000 Jews were ordered to disrobe in freezing weather to be shot in the back of the head at close range in pits that were mass graves. Two women survived. One of them, Frida Michelson, took advantage of a distraction and fell into the pit of dead bodies as if dead herself. She survived the war to write the book, I Survived Rumbula, later translated into English and published by the Holocaust Memorial Museum.

During the Holocaust, 90% of Latvia's Jews were murdered at Rumbula, Liepaja (Libau) and other locations. When the war turned against Germany, the bodies at Rumbula Forest were ordered dug up and burned. The site has been marked by a series of makeshift memorials over the years. In November 2002 a moving Rumbula memorial was dedicated 61 years after the killings.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:36:23 pm

Paneriai (Polish: Ponary, German: Ponaren) is a suburb of Vilnius, situated about 10 kilometres away from the city centre. The town is located on low forested hills, on the Vilnius-Warsaw road. Paneriai was the site of a mass killing of as many as 100,000 people (mostly Jews and Poles) from Vilnius and nearby towns and villages during World War II.


The village was probably founded some time in 14th century. In 1390 it was acquired by the Vilnius bishopric chapter and soon became the main supplier of bricks to the nearby city. It shared the fate of the nearby city. After the Partitions of Poland in 1795 it became a part of Imperial Russia. During the November Uprising, on June 19, 1831, a Battle of Ponary took place near the village, in which the forces of Dezydery Chłapowski and Antoni Giełgud were defeated by Russian infantry.

During World War I, in the effect of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk it was acquired by Germany and transferred to Belarusian People's Republic, but in the effect of the Polish-Bolshevik War it eventually became a part of Poland. In 1939, after the Polish Defence War the village was captured by the Soviet Union and transferred to Lithuania, only to be reannexed by Soviet the following year. Since 1991 yet again part of Lithuania, recently incorporated to the city of Vilnius as one of its districts.


After the annexation of Lithuania the Soviet authorities started to build a huge oil warehouse for the nearby military airfield. The construction was never finished as in 1941 the area was occupied by Nazi Germany. Between July 1941 and August 1944 Paneriai became the mass murder site of approximately 100,000 victims, the vast majority of them Jews, many from nearby Vilna. The executions were carried out by German units of SD and SS with help from local Lithuanian police unit Ypatingasis Būrys. The victims were usually brought to the edges of huge pits and shot to death with machine gun fire.

The massacres began in July, 1941 when Einsatzkommando 9 rounded up 5,000 Jewish men of Vilnius and took them to Paneriai where they were shot. Further mass killings, often aided by Lithuanian police, took place throughout the summer and fall. By the end of the year, more than 40,000 Jews had been killed at Paneriai.

The total number of victims by the end of 1944 was between 70,000 and 100,000. According to post-war exhumation by the forces of 2nd Belorussian Front approximately 70 to 90% of the victims were Jews from nearby Polish and Lithuanian cities, while the rest were mostly members of Polish intelligentsia and Home Army, including 7,500 Polish POWs shot in 1941.
At later stages there were also smaller numbers of victims of other nationalities, for instance local Russians, Roma and Lithuanian communists. The executions at Paneriai are currently a matter of an investigation by the Gdańsk branch of the Polish IPN.

As Soviet troops advanced in 1943 the German-led units tried to cover up the crime. A unit of 80 workers was brought form a nearby Stutthof concentration camp in order to dig out the bodies, pile them with wood and burn them. The ashes were then mixed with sand and buried. After 6 months of such actions the brigade managed to escape on April 19, 1944. 11 of them managed to survive the chase in order to tell the tale.

The site of the massacre is commemorated by the memorial to the victims of the holocaust and a small museum.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:37:12 pm
Odessa massacre

The Odessa massacre was the extermination of Jews in Odessa and surrounding towns in Transnistria during the autumn of 1941 and the winter of 1942 in a series of massacres and killings during the Holocaust, primarily by Romanian forces. Depending on the definition, it can either refer to the events of October 22 - October 24, 1941 in which between 25,000 and 34,000 Jews were shot or burned alive, or to the murder of well over 100,000 Ukrainian Jews in the town and the areas between Dniestr and Bug rivers, over the course of the Romanian and German occupation.

Before the massacre

Odessa had a large Jewish population of approximately 180,000, or 30% of the total, before the war. By the time that the Germans and Romanians had taken the city, between 80,000 and 90,000 Jews remained, the rest having fled or been deported by the Soviets. As the massacres occurred, Jews from surrounding villages would be concentrated in Odessa and Romanian concentration camps set up in surrounding areas.

On October 16, the Germans and the Romanians marched into Odessa following the Soviet evacuation. No resistance was offered but the invaders shot indiscrimately at civilians as they marched in, killing 8,000 civilians, mostly Jews.

One week later on October 22, a bomb detonated in the Romanian HQ, killing the Romanian commander, 16 officers, 9 non-commissioned officers and public servants, and 35 soldiers.

General Ion Antonescu ordered from Bucharest that for every killed Romanian and German officer, 200 Jews and Communists were to be killed, and for every soldier, 100 were to be executed. All the Communists were to be imprisoned and one person was to be taken hostage from every Jewish family. The order, no. 302.826 demanded “immediate retaliatory action, including the liquidation of 18,000 Jews in the ghettos and the hanging in the town squares of at least 100 Jews for every regimental sector."

Massacres of October 22-24

Blaming the Jews incorrectly for the massacre, and using it as an excuse, the Romanians begin the slaughter of 5,000 Jews in Odessa, on October 23, first shooting them in groups of 30-40 or hanging them.

In the afternoon, more than 25,000 Jews were assembled and taken out to the gates of Dalnik. The 30 km long road was littered with shot women, children and handicapped people who couldn't keep up the pace. When they reached the gates, 50 people were moved into the trenches and shot by Lieutenant-Colonel Nicolae Deleanu himself. The Romanians were concerned that the killing would take too long a time and moved the rest of the Jews (approximately 22,000) inside four large storage buildings in which they made holes for machine guns. The doors were closed and the Lieutenant-Colonel Nicolae Deleanu ordered the soldiers to fire into the buildings. In order to make sure that nobody had survived, they set the buildings on fire at 17:00 hours. The next day grenades were thrown into one of the buildings. Other Jews were herded into the harbor square, sprinkled with gasoline, and set on fire. Over 22,000 corpses were found in mass graves after the war.

Around 35,000 – 40,000 of the Jews that remained were moved into the ghetto in the suburb of Sloboda where most of the buildings were destroyed, and left outdoors for ten days, between October 25 and November 3, and many Jews, especially children and the elderly froze to death.

Further massacres of the Jews of Odessa

On October 28, a new massacre was started when 4,000-5,000 Jews were herded into stables and shot. By the end of December an additional 50,000 Jews from the concentration camp at Bogdanovka had been killed. One month later, 10,000 were taken on a death march to the three concentration camps in Golta.

In January, the extermination was ended, by killing those who remained in Slobodka. From January 12-23, the last 19,582 Jews were transported in cattle wagons to Berezovka from where they were transported to the concentration camps in Golta. Eighteen months later almost everyone had died in Golta.

Defining the Odessa massacres

Although these facts are not doubted by historians, some accounts differ (often greatly) in the numbers, partially due to different definitions of what constituted the Odessa massacres, as opposed to other acts of genocide in Transnistria carried out by the Germans, Romanians, and their allies.

The official report on the Romanian role in the Holocaust states that in the city of Odessa from October 18, 1941 until mid-March 1942, the Romanian military, aided by local authorities, murdered up to 25,000 Jews and deported over 35,000, most of whom were later killed. The report also details 50,000 Jews killed in Bogdanovka, and tens of thousands more in Golta and the surrounding areas. The Jewish Virtual Library cites figures of 34,000 Jews murdered during October 22-25, and the US Holocaust Museum concludes that "Romanian and German forces killed almost 100,000 Jews in Odessa during the occupation of the city."

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:38:01 pm
Extermination process
The Höfle Telegram lists the number of jews killed at the Aktion Reihard Camps in 1942 (1,274,166)
The extermination process in Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka was similar to the method used in the six euthanasia killing centers in Germany and Austria, but hugely scaled up for killing whole transports of people at a time.

Victims would hand over their valuables, which became property of the German Reichsbank. They then undressed, and their clothes were searched for jewelry and other valuables. Victims were then marched into the gas chamber and packed tightly to minimize the available fresh air. Carbon monoxide gas was then discharged through gaspipes, killing the occupants. Their corpses were cremated after any gold dental fillings were removed. The mass murder was carefully tracked and documented. For example, the intercepted Höfle Telegram sent by SS-Sturmbannführer Hermann Höfle on January 11, 1943 to SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann in Berlin listed 1,274,166 Jews killed in the four camps of Aktion Reinhard during 1942 alone, breaking down the number of Jews killed by week by camp.

The structure of all camps was nearly identical. From the reception area with ramp and undressing barracks, the Jews entered a narrow, camouflaged path (called sluice or tube) to the extermination area with gas chambers, pits and cremation grids. The SS and Trawnikis stayed in a separate area. Barbed wire fences, partially camouflaged with pine branches, surrounded the camp and separated the different parts. Unlike Auschwitz, no electric fences were used. Wooden watchtowers guarded the camp.

Approximately 2 million Jews lost their lives in Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek in the course of Operation Reinhard. Approximately 178,045,960 German Reichsmarks' worth of Jewish property (today's value: around 700,000,000 USD or 350,000,000 Euro) was stolen. This money went not only to German authorities, but also to single individuals (SS and police men, camp guards, non-Jewish inhabitants of towns and villages with ghettos or adjacent camps).

Operation Reinhard ended in November 1943. After their work in the German concentration camps established in Poland, most of the staff was sent to northern Italy for actions against remaining Jews and partisans. Many of the perpetrators turned up again in the concentration camp of San Sabba near Trieste. The group disintegrated after the surrender of the German Wehrmacht in Italy. Some of them were tried after the war, but others continued to work in Germany and elsewhere throughout the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:38:48 pm
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, was a Jewish armed resistance against Nazi Germany attempt to liquidate the remains of the Warsaw Ghetto in occupied Poland during World War II. The main struggle lasted from April 19, 1943 to May 16 that year and was finally crushed by SS-Gruppenführer (then Brigadeführer) Jürgen Stroop. The significant precursor to the main uprising was an armed civilian action launched against the Germans on January 18, 1943. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is not to be confused with the Warsaw Uprising which took place more than a year later (see more details below).

Starting in 1940, the Nazis began concentrating Poland's over 3 million Jews in a number of massively overcrowded ghettos in various Polish cities. The largest of these, the Warsaw Ghetto, held 380,000 people in a densely-packed area in the middle of the city. Thousands of Jews were killed by disease or starvation before the Nazis began massive deportations of the Jews of the ghetto to the Treblinka death camp. In the 52 days before September 12, 1942 about 300,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the extermination camps and killed. At the start of the deportations, members of the Jewish underground met, but decided not to resist, believing that the Jews were really being sent to work camps rather than their death. By the end of 1942, it was clear that the deportations were instead to death camps, and many of the remaining 40,000-50,000 Jews decided to resist. Of those, approximately 750 to 1,000, including children, actually fought.[1]

The fight

SS men burning housesOn January 18, 1943, the first instance of armed resistance occurred when the Germans started the second expulsion of the Jews. The Jewish fighters achieved noteworthy success. The expulsion stopped after four days and the ŻOB and ŻZW resistance organizations took control of the Ghetto, building dozens of fighting posts and operating against Jewish collaborators.

As the frustrated Germans diverted additional resources to end the standoff, during the next three months all inhabitants of the Ghetto prepared for what they realized would be a final struggle. Hundreds of bunkers were dug under the houses (including 618 air raid bunkers), most connected through the sewage system and linked up with the central water supply and electricity, and in some cases featuring camouflaged air supplies and tunnels leading to safer areas of Warsaw. The Germans eventually committed 821 Waffen SS troops and 363 Polish police as part of their 2,054 soldiers fighting in the Ghetto.[2]

Support from outside the Ghetto was limited, but Polish units from Armia Krajowa (AK) and Gwardia Ludowa sporadically attacked German sentry units near the ghetto walls and attempted to smuggle weapons and ammunition inside. One Polish unit from AK, namely KB under the command of Henryk Iwański, even fought inside the Ghetto together with ŻZW. The AK tried twice to blow up the Ghetto Wall, but without much success.

The victimsThe final battle started on the eve of Passover, April 19, 1943. Jewish partisans shot and threw grenades at German and allied patrols from alleyways, sewers, house windows, and even burning buildings. The Nazis responded by shelling the houses block by block and rounding up or killing any Jew they could capture. Significant resistance ended on April 23, and the uprising ended on May 16. Nevertheless, sporadic shooting could be heard in the area of the Ghetto throughout the summer of 1943.

Aftermath and Death Toll

During the fighting approximately 7,000 of the Jewish residents were killed. An additional 6,000 were burnt alive or gassed in bunkers. The remaining 50,000 people were sent to German death camps, mostly to Treblinka extermination camp.
Approximately 300 Germans and collaborators were killed in the fighting.

After the uprising, the Ghetto became the place where Polish prisoners and hostages were executed by Germans. Most of the houses were levelled to the ground. Later the KL Warschau concentration camp was founded in the area of the Ghetto. During the later Warsaw uprising in 1944, Polish Home Army battalion "Zośka" was able to save 380 Jewish concentration camp prisoners from the Gęsiówka and Pawiak prisons, most of whom immediately joined the AK.

A man jumping out of a window of a burning house during the fights; German soldiers nick-named such people ParachutistsThe final report of Jürgen Stroop on May 13, 1943, stated:

180 Jews, bandits, and subhumans were destroyed. The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large-scale action was terminated at 2015 hours by blowing up the Warsaw Synagogue.
Total number of Jews dealt with 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved.[3]

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:39:34 pm
Nazi extermination camp

Extermination camp (German: Vernichtungslager) or Death Camp was the term applied to a group of facilities set up by Nazi Germany during World War II for the express purpose of killing the Jews of Europe, although members of some other groups whom the Nazis wished to exterminate, such as Roma (Gypsies), Soviet prisoners of war, Poles and many others, were also killed in these camps. Prisoners at these camps were not expected to live more than 24 hours beyond arrival. This was part of what has become known as the Holocaust.

The camps
Major deportation routes to the extermination camps in Europe.Most accounts of the Holocaust recognise six extermination camps, all located in occupied Poland. These were:

Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau) (Auschwitz I was a concentration camp and Auschwitz III a labor camp)
Chelmno (German: Kulmhof an der Nehr, Polish: Chelmno nad Nerem)

Of these, Auschwitz II and Chelmno were located within areas of western Poland annexed by Germany - the other four were located within the General Government area.

A seventh camp, much less known than these six, was located at Maly Trostenets, in present-day Belarus. The Croatian Ustaše puppet regime also operated an extermination camp at Jasenovac.

Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibór were constructed during Operation Reinhard, the codename for the systematic killing of the Jews of Europe, widely known under the euphemism, the "final solution of the Jewish question" (Endlösung der Judenfrage). The operation was decided at the Wannsee Conference of January 1942 and carried out under the administrative control of Adolf Eichmann.

While Auschwitz II was part of a labour camp complex, and Majdanek also had a labour camp, the Reinhard camps and Chelmno were pure extermination camps, built solely to kill vast numbers of Jews within hours of arrival – the only prisoners sent to these camps not immediately murdered were those used as slave labour directly concerning the extermination process (e.g. to remove the corpses from the gas chambers). These camps were small in size – only several hundred meters on each side – as only minimal housing and support facilities were required. Arriving persons were told that they were merely at a transit stop for relocation east.

In addition, many non-Jews were also killed in these camps, mostly (non-Jewish) Poles and Soviet prisoners of war.

The number of people killed at the seven major camps has been estimated as follows:

Auschwitz II: about 1,100,000
Belzec: 436,000
Chelmno: 340,000
Majdanek: 78,000 [1] - 235,000
Sobibór: 260,000
Treblinka: at least 700,000, possibly over 1,000,000
Maly Trostenets: at least 200,000, possibly over 500,000
This gives a total of at least 3,100,000, and possibly 3,800,000. Of these, over 90% were Jews. These seven camps thus accounted for about half the total number of Jews killed in the entire Nazi Holocaust, including almost the whole Jewish population of Poland.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:40:20 pm
Operation of the camps
Majdanek - crematorium The method of killing at these camps was by poison gas, usually in "gas chambers", although many prisoners were killed in mass shootings and by other means. The bodies of those killed were destroyed in crematoria (except at Sobibór where they were cremated on outdoor pyres), and the ashes buried or scattered.

The camps differed slightly in operation, but all were designed to kill as efficiently as possible. SS Lt. Kurt Gerstein, who worked in the SS medical service, for example, testified to a Swedish diplomat during the war about what he had seen at the camps. He describes how he arrived at Belzec on August 19, 1942 (at the time, the camp was still using primarily carbon monoxide from a gas engine in its gas chambers), where he was proudly shown the unloading of 45 train cars stuffed with 6700 Jews, many of whom were already dead, but the rest were marched naked to the gas chambers, where, he said:

Unterscharführer Hackenholt was making great efforts to get the engine running. But it doesn't go. Captain Wirth comes up. I can see he is afraid because I am present at a disaster. Yes, I see it all and I wait. My stopwatch showed it all, 50 minutes, 70 minutes, and the diesel did not start. The people wait inside the gas chambers. In vain. They can be heard weeping, "like in the synagogue," says Professor Pfannenstiel, his eyes glued to a window in the wooden door. Furious, Captain Wirth lashes the Ukrainian assisting Hackenholt twelve, thirteen times, in the face. After 2 hours and 49 minutes - the stopwatch recorded it all - the diesel started. Up to that moment, the people shut up in those four crowded chambers were still alive, four times 750 persons in four times 45 cubic meters. Another 25 minutes elapsed. Many were already dead, that could be seen through the small window because an electric lamp inside lit up the chamber for a few moments. After 28 minutes, only a few were still alive. Finally, after 32 minutes, all were dead...Dentists hammered out gold teeth, bridges and crowns. In the midst of them stood Captain Wirth. He was in his element, and showing me a large can full of teeth, he said: "See for yourself the weight of that gold! It's only from yesterday and the day before. You can't imagine what we find every day - dollars, diamonds, gold. You'll see for yourself!"

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:41:22 pm
Chelmno extermination camp

The Chełmno concentration camp was a Nazi extermination camp that was situated 70 km from Łódź near a small village called Chełmno nad Nerem (Kulmhof an der Nehr, in German), in Greater Poland (which was, in 1939, annexed and incorporated into Germany under the name of Reichsgau Wartheland). It was the first extermination camp, opened in 1941 to kill the Jews of the Łódź Ghetto and the Warthegau; it was the first camp to use poison gas.

At least 152,000 people were killed in the camp, mainly Jews from the Łódź Ghetto and the surrounding area, along with Gypsies from Greater Poland and some Hungarian Jews, Poles, Czechs and Soviet prisoners of war.

Operation of the Camp

The death camp operated from December 8, 1941 until April 1943 when it was closed down and its crematorium blown up. In spring 1944 it was reestablished and closed down again in fall 1944. A special SS Sonderkommando called Sonderkommando Kulmhof gassed people with exhaust fumes and then burnt them. The first commandant was Herbert Lange. The camp consisted of two parts: an administration section, barracks and storage for plundered goods; and a burial and cremation site. It operated three gas vans using carbon monoxide.

Adolf Eichmann testified about the camp during his trial. He visited in late 1942:

As soon as the ramp had been erected in the castle, people started arriving in Kulmhof from Lizmannstadt (Łódź) in lorries... The people were told that they had to take a bath, that their clothes had to be disinfected and that they could hand in any valuable items beforehand to be registered...
When they had undressed they were sent to the cellar of the castle and then along a passageway on to the ramp and from there into the gas-van. In the castle there were signs marked "to the baths". The gas vans were large vans, about 4-5 m long, 2.2 m wide and 2 m high. The interior walls were lined with sheet metal. On the floor there was a wooden grille. The floor of the van had an opening which could be connected to the exhaust by means of a removable metal pipe. When the lorries were full of people the double doors at the back were closed and the exhaust connected to the interior of the van...
The commando member detailed as driver would start the engine right away so that the people inside the lorry were suffocated by the exhaust gases. Once this had taken place, the union between the exhaust and the inside of the lorry was disconnected and the van was driven to the camp in the woods where the bodies were unloaded. In the early days they were initially burned in mass graves, later incinerated... I then drove the van back to the castle and parked it there. Here it would be cleaned of the excretions of the people that had died in it. Afterwards it would once again be used for gassing...

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:42:50 pm
Belzec extermination camp

Bełżec was the first of the Nazi German extermination camps created for implementing Operation Reinhard during the Holocaust. Operating in 1942, the camp was situated in occupied Poland about half a mile south of the local railroad station Belzec in the Lublin district of the General Government. At least 434,508 Jews died at Belzec, and only two Jews are known to have survived Belzec: Rudolf Reder and Chaim Herszman. The lack of survivors may be the reason why this camp is so little known despite its huge number of victims.

The wooden gas chambers were disguised as the barracks and showers of a labor camp, so that the victims would not realize the true purpose of the site, and the process was conducted as quickly as possible: people were forced to run from the trains to the gas chambers, leaving them no time to absorb where they were or to plan a revolt. Finally, a handful of Jews were selected to perform all the manual work involved with extermination (removing the bodies from the gas chambers, burying them, sorting and repairing the victims' clothing, etc.). The extermination process itself was conducted by Hackenholt, Ukrainian guards, and a Jewish aide. The Jewish Sonderkommandos were killed periodically and replaced by new arrivals, so that they would not organize in a revolt either.

There were many technical difficulties in this first attempt at mass extermination. The gas chamber mechanisms were problematic, and usually only one or two were working at any given time, causing a backlog. Furthermore, the corpses were buried in pits covered with only a narrow layer of earth. The bodies often swelled in the heat as a result of putrefaction and the escape of gases, and the covering of earth split. This latter problem was corrected in other death camps with the introduction of crematoria.

It was soon realized that the original three gas chambers were insufficient for completing the task at hand, especially with the growing number of arrivals from Kraków and Lvov. A new complex with six gas chambers made of concrete, each 4 x 4 or 5 meters, was erected, the wooden gas chambers were dismantled. The new facility, which could handle over 1,000 victims at a time, was imitated by the other two Operation Reinhard extermination camps: Sobibór and Treblinka. In December 1942, the last shipment of Jews arrived in Belzec. By that time, the Jews in the area served by Belzec had been almost entirely exterminated, and it was felt that the new facilities under construction at Auschwitz-Birkenau could handle the rest.

Death toll

After the war, Eugeniusz Strojt in an article in the Bulletin of the Main Commission for Investigation of the German Crimes in Poland, estimated the people murdered in Belzec as 600,000. This number became widely accepted in literature. Raul Hilberg gave a figure of 550,000. Y. Arad accepted 600,000 as minimum, and the sum in his table of Belzec deportations exceeded 500,000. J. Marszalek calculated 500,000. Robin O'Neil once gave an estimate of about 800,000. Dieter Pohl and Peter Witte gave estimate of 480,000 to 540,000. Michael Tregenza wrote of possible 1,000,000 victims.

The crucial piece of evidence in the debate was published in 2001 by Stephen Tyas and Peter Witte. It was a telegram sent by Hermann Hoefle, Operation Reinhard's Chief of Staff, which indicates that 434,508 Jews were killed in Belzec through December 31, 1942.

The difference between this "low-end" figure and other estimates can be explained by the lack of exact and detailed sources on the deportations statisics. Thus, Y. Arad writes, that he had to rely, in part, on Yizkor books, which were not guaranteed to give the exact estimates of the numbers of deportees. He also had to rely on partial German railway documentation, from the numbers of trains could be gleaned. But here also assumptions had to be made about the number of persons per train. Considering the vagueness of primary sources, many old scholarly estimates are not far off the mark.

It should also be noted that it is not completely clear whether the Jews who died in transit are included in the final sum. Considering the aim of compiling such a statistic (which was to know the overall number of the victims of the "Final Solution" - Hoefle's numbers were used in Korherr's report) they probably were included. Also, the sources like Westermann's report[1] contain the exact data about the number of deported persons, but only estimates of the numbers of those who died in transit, the fact which also hints that they were included in the final sum, because it would be hard for the authorities in Belzec to learn the exact number of those murdered, exlucing the dead in transport. Nevertheless, there is no final clarity in this question.

Remains of the camp
As was the case in all of the extermination camps, the Nazis tried to hide or destroy evidence at the end of the war. Bodies were dug up and then crushed and cremated, and the camp was systematically dismantled. From late 1997 until early 1998, a thorough archaelogical survey of the site was conducted as there was no memorial yet at the site. The survey was headed by Andrzej Kola, director of the Underwater Archaeological Department at the University of Torun, and Mieczyslaw Gora, senior curator of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Lodz. The team identified the railway sidings and remains of a number of buildings. They also found 33 mass graves, the largest of which were 210 by 60 feet. The team estimated that they had found 15,000 unburned bodies, and "The largest mass graves ... contained unburned human remains (parts and pieces of skulls with hair and skin attached). The bottom layer of the graves consisted of several inches thick of black human fat. One grave contained uncrushed human bones so closely packed that the drill could not penetrate." (Archeologists reveal new secrets of Holocaust, Reuters News, 21 July 1998)

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:45:24 pm
Sobibór extermination camp

Sobibór was a Nazi extermination camp that was part of Operation Reinhard. It is also the name of the village outside which the camp was built, which is now part of Lublin Voivodship in Poland. Jews, mostly Jewish Soviet POWs, and possibly Gypsies were transported to Sobibór by rail, and suffocated in gas chambers that were fed with the exhaust of a petrol engine. At least 250,000 people were killed in Sobibór.

The camp

In May of 1942, Sobibor began gassing operations. Trains entered the railway station, and the Jews onboard were told they were in a transit camp, and were forced to undress and hand over their valuables. They were then led into the "Road to Heaven" which led to the gas chambers, where they were killed using the carbon monoxide released from the exhaust pipes of tanks.

SS-Oberscharführer Kurt Bolender described the way the gassing operations ran during his trial:

Before the Jews undressed, Oberscharführer Hermann Michel made a speech to them. On these occasions, he used to wear a white coat to give the impression he was a physician. Michel announced to the Jews that they would be sent to work. But before this they would have to take baths and undergo disinfection, so as to prevent the spread of diseases. After undressing, the Jews were taken through the "Tube", by an SS man leading the way, with five or six Ukrainians at the back hastening the Jews along. After the Jews entered the gas chambers, the Ukrainians closed the doors. The motor was switched on by the Ukrainian Emil Kostenko and by the German driver Erich Bauer from Berlin. After the gassing, the doors were opened and the corpses were removed by a group of Jewish workers.

The victims were mostly Jews, from Poland (especially Lublin and eastern Galitzia) (145,000-150,000 Jews), the Czech Republic and Slovakia (31,000), Germany and Austria (10,000), France (4,000), Lithuania (14,000), and the Netherlands (34,313). Although official estimates put the number of dead around 250,000, survivors from the camps like Esther Rabb (whose life is dramatized in Richard Raschke's play, "Dear Esther) recall the Nazi celebration for the death of the millionth Sobibor Jew.

The rebellion

Sobibór was the site of one of three successful rebellions by Jewish prisoners in a Nazi extermination camp — there was a similar revolt at Treblinka, and at Auschwitz one of the crematoria was blown up during an attempted revolt. On 1943-10-14, members of the Sobibór underground, led by Alexander Pechersky, succeeded in covertly killing 11 of their SS guards and a number of Ukrainian guards. Although their plan was to kill all the SS and walk out of the main gate of the camp, the killings were discovered and the inmates ran for their lives under fire. About half of the 600 inmates in the camp escaped. Most of them were either killed by the mines surrounding the site or recaptured and shot in the next few days, but about 50 escapees survived the war. The Nazis closed and dismantled the camp, and planted a forest at the site, in an effort to hide what they had done.

The revolt was dramatized in the 1987 TV movie Escape from Sobibor, directed by Jack Gold, based on the book of the same name written by Richard Rashke.

An award-winning documentary about the escape was made by Claude Lanzmann, entitled Sobibor, 14 octobre 1943, 16 heures. (The English title was Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4 p.m.)

A memorial and museum are at the site today.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:46:16 pm

Majdanek is the site of a Nazi concentration and extermination camp, roughly 2.5 miles (four kilometers) away from the center of the Polish city Lublin. Unlike many other Nazi concentration and extermination camps, Majdanek is not hidden away in some remote forest or obscured from view by natural barriers, nor was it surrounded by a "security zone." It was established in October 1941, at Heinrich Himmler's orders, following his visit to Lublin in July 1941. Majdanek was an SS-run prisoner of war camp, under the command of Karl Otto Koch. In February 1943, it was turned into a concentration camp.

In October 1942, several female SS troopers arrived from the Ravensbruck camp in Germany, where they were trained. These women included Elsa Erich, Hermine Braunsteiner, Hildegard Lachert and Rosy Suess. Elisabeth Knoblich was one of the most ruthless overseers in the camp. She was so brutal and sadistic that even her fellow Aufseherinnen feared her and nicknamed her "Halt Die Klappe" (Shut Your Mouth!). When the Soviets liberated Majdanek, they found unending evidence that pointed to the ruthless attitude of the female overseers.

Death toll
Monument at Majdanek Memorial. It contains ashes of human bodies found around the concentration camp.Because of a lack of records, the death toll at Majdanek has always been more difficult to estimate than that of other extermination camps. The Soviets initially overestimated the number of deaths, claiming in July 29, 1944 that there were no less than 400,000 Jewish victims, and the official Soviet count was of 1,500,000 victims of different nationalities, though this estimate was never taken seriously by scholars. In 1961l Raul Hilberg estimated the number of the Jewish victims as 50,000, though other sources (including the camp museum) officially estimated 100,000 Jewish victims and up to 200,000 non-Jews killed.

The most recent research by the Head of Scientific Department at Majdanek Museum, historian Tomasz Kranz indicates that there were 78,000 victims, 59,000 of whom were Jews[1].
The differences in various estimates stem from different methods used for estimation and the amounts of evidence available to the researchers. The Soviet figures relied on the most crude methodology, also used to make early Auschwitz estimates - it was assumed that the number of victims more or less corresponded to the crematoria capacities. Later researchers tried to take much more evidence into account, using records of deportations and population censuses, as well as the Nazis own records. Hilberg's 1961 estimate, using these records, aligns closely with Kranz's report.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:47:21 pm
Treblinka extermination camp

Treblinka was an Nazi Germany extermination camp, part of the Holocaust, the systematic murder of Jews and others. It was operated from July 1942 until October 1943. Current estimates are that around 800,000 to 900,000 people were killed there, second only to Auschwitz II (Birkenau) as the site with the most victims killed in the Holocaust.

Organization of the camp

The camp was operated by 20-25 SS (Germans and Austrians) and 80-120 Ukrainian guards.

The work was performed by 700-800 Jewish prisoners, organized into special squads (Sonderkommandos). The blue squad was responsible for unloading the train, carrying the luggage and cleaning the wagons. The red squad had the task of undressing the passengers and taking their clothes to the storage areas. The Geldjuden—Money Jews—were in charge of handling the money, gold, stocks, and jewelry. They were forced to search the prisoners just before the gas chambers. Another, the dentist, would open the mouths of the dead and pull out gold teeth with a pair of pliers. Then there were the Totenjuden, the Jews of death, who lived in Treblinka II and were forced to carry the dead from the gas chamber to the furnace and sifted through the ashes of the dead, ground up recognizable parts, and buried the ashes in pits. There also were the court Jews, who took care of the upkeep of the camp. There was the camouflage commando, which went every day into the forest and gathered branches to camouflage the camp and the "funnel" by weaving branches in the barbed wires.8 The work squads prisoners were continuously whipped and beaten by the guards and were often killed. New workers were selected from the daily arrivals and pressed into the commandos.

There was a bruise rule; if a prisoner had been bruised on the face, he would be shot that evening at roll call, or the next morning if the bruise had begun to show. Many prisoners, in utter despair at the horrible deaths of their families and unwilling to go on living, committed suicide by hanging themselves in the sleeping barracks with their belts.9 Normally, the work crews were almost entirely replaced every three to five days.10

Mass slaughter
A mass grave in Treblinka opened in March 1943, the bodies were removed for burning in this picture taken by the camp's deputy commander. In the background, dark gray piles of ash from cremated bodies can be seen.At Treblinka, arriving train passengers were savagely pulled from the train, separated by sex, and ordered to strip naked. In winter, the temperature often dropped to -5 °C (25 °F). The guards chose who would go to the "infirmary". The technique was to rush the whole process while beating everyone so nobody would have the chance to resist. The guards would first whip the men and force them to run uphill through the thirteen feet wide funnel all the way to the gas chambers. The men were locked in and asphyxiated with carbon monoxide from two captured Soviet tank engines. Making them run also raised their heartbeat, which made the process go faster (Lanzmann). It took thirty to forty minutes, then the "Jews of death" unloaded the dead and cleaned the chambers. Then the women were rushed in, and everyone was crammed as much as possible. The children that were "thrown into the chambers hit the ceiling and then, disfigured, sometimes with broken heads, fell on the heads of the prisoners."11

When the gassing was in progress, begun with a "Ivan, water!" by one of the guards, the prisoners screamed and pounded on the walls. There was a little peephole so the soldiers could see if the prisoners were dead yet.10 While the men were being gassed, the women were waiting naked in the funnel. They could hear their fathers, husbands, and sons dying. They experienced the "death panic", which caused them to empty their bowels involuntarily, because of the fear of imminent death. The ground in the funnel was covered with piles of excrement afterwards.12

When the doors were opened, "the disfigured, bitten prisoners, with ears torn off, lay on top of each other in the most varied posture."
The bodies were then carried to the furnace to be burned. Sometimes, the people were not dead and began to revive in the fresh air, especially pregnant women. They were shot by the guards and burned like the others. Some 800-1000 bodies were burned at the same time. They would burn for five hours. The incinerator was operated twenty-four hours a day.13

The killing centers had no other function. They were not part of the war effort, so the prisoners were just killed as soon as possible.14 But the prisoners, mostly Jewish, would believe anything in the face of such a monstrosity. So everything was eventually set up to make them feel better. The Germans had the camp decorated into a train station, complete with train schedules, posters of faraway lands and a real-looking clock (in reality, a prisoner would move the hands to the approximate time before each convoy arrived). The Nazis did not do this in order to make things more humane for the prisoners, but rather to have less work. Originally, the prisoners, as soon as they realized where they were, went mad and began to run around in horror, screamed horribly and tried to escape or commit suicide by jumping onto the barbed wires. This caused a lot of work for the soldiers. After the camp had been camouflaged as a station, the people did not suspect that their death was imminent.15


In August of 1943, the prisoners of the work commandos rebelled. They seized small arms, sprayed kerosene on all the buildings and set them ablaze. In the confusion, many German army soldiers were killed but many more prisoners perished. Of 1500 prisoners, only 12 survived the revolt. The camp ceased operation. Camp commander Kurt Franz recalled during his testimonies: "After the uprising in August 1943 I ran the camp single-handedly for a month; however, during that period no gassings were undertaken. It was during that period that the original camp was leveled off and lupins were planted."17 There was also a revolt at Sobibór around the same time.

After the revolt, it was decided to shut down the death camp and shoot the last of the Jewish prisoners [Arad, p.373]. The camp had been badly damaged by the fire, and the murder of the Polish Jews was also largely complete. Odilo Globocnik wrote to Himmler: "I have on [October 19, 1943], completed Action Reinhard, and have dissolved all the camps."18 The final group of about thirty Jewish prisoners at Treblinka were shot at the end of November.

Death Toll and Aftermath
A picture taken of the Treblinka site in 1945. Among the ashes and bone fragments in the disturbed mass burial pits are larger fragments of bone and various personal effects.In 1965, after a report by Dr. Helmut Krausnick, director of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, the Court of Assize in Dusseldorf concluded that the minimum number of people killed in Treblinka was 700,000. In 1969, the same court, after new evidence revealed in a report by expert Dr. Wolfgang Scheffler, reassessed that number to 900,000. According to the German and Ukrainian guards who were stationed in Treblinka, the figure ranges from 1,000,000 to 1,400,000.19 It is exceedingly difficult to correctly assess the actual number of those killed, as many witnesses were killed later during the war (which ended two years after the camp's closure, on May 8, 1945). Many records were lost or destroyed, especially regarding railroad transports, which were heavily bombed by Allied warplanes. Less than one hundred Treblinka survivors were found at the end of the war.20

In 2001, a copy of a decerypted telegram sent by the deputy commander of the Operation Reinhart was discovered among recently declassified information in Britain. The Höfle Telegram listed 713,555 Jews killed in Treblinka through the end of December, 1942, though the camp continued operating through 1943. Recent estimates are that at least 800,000 to 900,000 people were killed at Treblinka.[1]

After the camp was dismantled, local farmers began to dig up the ground around Treblinka, looking for valuables and bits of bone and decaying tissue were strewn around the site, even in 1959, visitors to the site found that the soil was still filled with millions of tiny bone fragments. [2] Today, Treblinka has a small memorial.

In Israel on April 25, 1988 John Demjanjuk was sentenced to death for war crimes committed in the camp. He was accused of being a notorious guard known as "Ivan the Terrible" by survivors, then later acquitted in 1993.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:48:28 pm
Auschwitz concentration camp

Auschwitz is the name loosely used to identify the largest Nazi extermination camp along with two main German concentration camps and 45-50 sub-camps. The name is derived from the German name for the nearby Polish town of Oświęcim (pronounced [oɕ'fʲeɲʨiːm]), situated about 60 kilometres (37 mi) southwest of Kraków. Beginning in 1940, Nazi Germany built several concentration camps and an extermination camp in the area, which at the time had been annexed by Nazi Germany. The camps were a major element in the perpetration of the Holocaust, killing around 1.1-1.6 million people, of whom over 90% were Jews.

The three main camps were:

Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp which served as the administrative centre for the whole complex, and was the site of the deaths of roughly 70,000 people, mostly Poles and Soviet Prisoners of War
Auschwitz II (Birkenau), an extermination camp and the site of the deaths of at least 1.1 million Jews, 75,000 Poles, and some 19,000 Roma
Auschwitz III (Monowitz/Monowice), which served as a labor camp for the Buna-Werke factory of the IG Farben concern.
See List of subcamps of Auschwitz for others. The exact number of people killed in the camps is not known, but most modern estimates are around 1.1-1.6 million.[/b]

Like all Nazi concentration camps, the Auschwitz camps were operated by Heinrich Himmler's SS. The commandants of the camp were the SS-Obersturmbannführers Rudolf Höß (sometimes transliterated in English as "Hoess") until Summer 1943, and later Arthur Liebehenschel and Richard Baer. Höß provided a detailed description of the camp's workings during his interrogations after the war and also in his autobiography. He was hanged in 1947 in front of the entrance to the crematorium of Auschwitz I. Chief of the women's field was handled by Johanna Langefeld, Maria Mandel and last by Elisabeth Volkenrath.

About 700 prisoners attempted to escape from the Auschwitz camps during the years of their operation, with about 300 attempts successful. A common punishment for escape attempts was death by starvation; the families of successful escapees were sometimes arrested and interned in Auschwitz and prominently displayed to deter others.

Auschwitz I
Entrance to Auschwitz in 1941. The slogan Arbeit macht frei over the gate translates as "Work (shall) make (you) free" (or "work liberates")
Auschwitz I concentration camp in 2001
View of Auschwitz in the winter(2002)Auschwitz I served as the administrative center for the whole complex. It was founded on May 20, 1940, on the basis of an old Polish brick army barracks. A group of 728 Polish political prisoners from Tarnów became the first residents of Auschwitz on June 14th that year. The camp was initially used for interning Polish intellectuals and resistance movement members, then also for Soviet Prisoners of War. Common German criminals, "anti-social elements" and 48 German homosexuals were also imprisoned there. Jews were sent to the camp as well, beginning with the very first shipment (from Tarnów). At any time, the camp held between 13,000 and 16,000 inmates; in 1942 the number reached 20,000.

The entrance to Auschwitz I was (and still is) marked with the cynical sign "Arbeit macht frei", "Work (shall) make (you) free" (or "work liberates"). The camp's prisoners who left the camp during the day for construction or farm labour were made to march through the gate at the sounds of an orchestra. Contrary to what is depicted in several films, the majority of the Jews were imprisoned in the Auschwitz II camp, and did not pass under this sign.

The SS selected some prisoners, often German criminals, as specially privileged supervisors of the other inmates (so-called: kapo). The various classes of prisoners were distinguishable by special marks on their clothes; Jews were generally treated the worst. All inmates had to work; except in the associated arms factories, Sundays were reserved for cleaning and showering and there were no work assignments.

The harsh work requirements, combined with poor nutrition and hygiene, led to high death rates among the prisoners.

Block 11 of Auschwitz I was the "prison within the prison", where violations of the numerous rules were punished. Some prisoners had to spend several days in tiny cells too small to sit down. Others were executed by shooting, hanging or starving.

Entrance of Auschwitz IIn September 1941, the SS conducted poison gas tests in block 11, killing 850 Poles and Russians using cyanide. The first experiment was on 3 September, 1941, and it killed 600 Soviet POWs. The substance producing the highly-lethal cyanide gas was sold under the trade name Zyklon B, originally for use as a pesticide used to kill lice. The tests deemed successful, a gas chamber and crematorium were constructed by converting a bunker. This gas chamber operated from 1941 to 1942 and was then converted into an air-raid shelter.

The first women arrived in the camp on March 26, 1942. From April 1943 to May 1944, the gynecologist Prof. Dr. Carl Clauberg conducted sterilization experiments on Jewish women in block 10 of Auschwitz I, with the aim of developing a simple injection method to be used on the Slavic people. Dr. Josef Mengele experimented on twins in the same complex. Prisoners in the camp hospital who were not quick to recover were regularly killed by a lethal injection of phenol.

The camp brothel, established in the summer of 1943 on Himmler's order, was located in block 29 and was used to reward privileged prisoners. It was staffed by women specifically selected for the purpose, and by some volunteers from the female prisoners most of whom were raped by the Nazis.

Auschwitz II (Birkenau)

Entrance to Auschwitz II (Birkenau), the main extermination camp, in 2002
Selection at the Birkenau ramp, 1944 — Birkenau main entrance visible in the background
Birkenau concentration camp in 2001Auschwitz II (Birkenau) is the camp that many people know simply as "Auschwitz". It was the site of the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands, and the killings of over one million people, mainly Jews.

The camp is located in Brzezinka (Birkenau), about 3 kilometres (1.8 mi) from Auschwitz I. The camp was designed, according to the Bauhaus concept of functionalism and construction started in 1941, as part of the Final Solution (Endlösung). The camp was about 2.5 kilometres by 2 kilometres (1½ mi by 1¼ mi) large and was divided into several sections, each of which was separated into fields. Fields as well as the camp itself were surrounded with barbed, electrified wire (which was used by some of the inmates to commit suicide). The camp held up to 100,000 prisoners at one time.

The camp's main purpose, however, was not internment with forced labour (as Auschwitz I & III) but rather extermination. For this purpose, the camp was equipped with four crematoria with gas chambers; each gas chamber was designed to hold up to 2,500 people at one time. Large-scale extermination started in Spring 1942.

Most people arrived at the camp by rail, often after horrifying trips in cattle cars lasting several days. From 1944 railway tracks extended into the camp itself; before that, arriving prisoners were marched from the Auschwitz railway station to the camp. At times, the whole transport would be sent to its death immediately. At other times, the Nazis would perform "selections", often administered by Josef Mengele, to the end of choosing whom to kill right away and whom to imprison as labour force or use for medical experiments. Young children were taken from their mothers and placed with older women to be gassed, along with the sick, weak and old.

Those arriving prisoners who survived the initial selection would go on to spend some time in quarantine quarters and eventually work on the camp's maintenance or expansion or be sent to one of the surrounding satellite work camps.

One section of the camp was reserved for female prisoners. In another section known as "Canada" (so named because Germans believed that Canada was a land of vast riches), the belongings of the arriving victims were sorted and stored, to be transferred to the German government. Items such as banknotes, coins, jewellery, precious metals and diamonds were removed from "Canada" and shipped off to the Reichsbank.

Those selected for extermination were sent to any of four massive gas chamber/crematorium complexes, all at the edge of the camp. Two of the crematoria (Krema II and Krema III) each had an underground undressing room and the underground gas chamber, capable of holding thousands of people. To avoid mass panic, the victims were told that they were going there for showering; to reinforce this impression, shower heads were fitted in the gas chamber, though never connected to a water supply. The victims were ordered to strip naked and leave their belongings in the undressing room in a location that they could subsequently remember, before being led to the adjacent gas chamber. Once the victims were sealed shut in the chamber, the toxic agent Zyklon B was discharged from openings in the ceiling. Gas chambers in crematoria IV and V were above ground and Zyklon B was poured through the special windows in the walls. An oven room, where selected camp prisoners called Sonderkommandos took out the dead bodies and burned them, was part of the same building. This same process happened in Auschwitz I, but on a smaller scale.

Empty poison gas canisters and hair from victims, as seen in the Auschwitz museum that has been built in Auschwitz IJews from many countries were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau to be killed: 300,000 from Poland, 69,000 from France, 60,000 from the Netherlands, 55,000 from Greece, 46,000 from Moravia, 25,000 from Belgium, as well as tens of thousands of Jews from other countries. The largest group of Jews deported to Auschwitz came from Hungary after Germany took control of its former ally in March 1944. Between May and July 1944, about 438,000 Jews from Hungary were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the most were killed there. When the crematoria could not keep up, bodies were burned in open pits. [1].

Many Roma had been imprisoned in a special section of the camp, mostly in family units. They were gassed in July 1944. On 10 October, eight hundred Roma children were systematically killed at Birkenau.

On October 7, 1944, the Jewish Sonderkommandos (those prisoners kept separate from the main camp and involved in the operation of the gas chambers and crematoria) staged an uprising. Female prisoners had smuggled in explosives from a weapons factory, and crematorium IV was partly destroyed by an explosion. The prisoners then attempted a mass escape, but nearly all of the 250 were killed soon after.

Many of the inmates enslaved here survived less than a year due to their harsh living conditions. Birkenau was liberated on January 27, 1945.

Auschwitz III and satellite camps
Also see List of subcamps of Auschwitz
The surrounding satellite work camps were closely connected to German industry and were associated with arms factories, foundries and mines. The largest work camp was Auschwitz III Monowitz, named after the Polish village of Monowice. Starting operations in May 1942, it was associated with the synthetic rubber and liquid fuel plant Buna-Werke owned by IG Farben. In regular intervals, doctors from Auschwitz II would visit the work camps and select the weak and sick for the gas chambers of Birkenau. The largest subcamps were built at Trzebinia, Bleechammer and Althammer. Female subcamps were constructed at Budy , Plawy, Zabrze, Gleiwitz I, II, III, Rajsko and at Lichtenwerden.

Knowledge of the Allies
A photograph of Birkenau, taken May 31, 1944 by a Mosquito plane from South African Air Force, sent to take photographs of the fuel factory at nearby Monowitz. The photographic analysts missed the significance of the photograph, it was identified in the late 1970s and analyzed by the CIA in 1978. Smoke can been seen coming from Crematoria V, indicating that a group of prisoners were recently gassed.Some information regarding Auschwitz reached the Allies during 1941-1944, such as the reports of Witold Pilecki and Jerzy Tabeau, but the claims of mass killings were generally dismissed as exaggerations. This changed with receipt of the very detailed report of two escaped prisoners, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, which finally convinced most Allied leaders of the truth about Auschwitz in the middle of 1944.

Detailed air reconnaissance photographs of the camp were taken accidentally during 1944 by aircraft seeking to photograph nearby military-industrial targets, but no effort was made to analyse them. (In fact, it was not until the 1970s that these photographs of Auschwitz were looked at carefully.)

Starting with a plea from the Slovakian rabbi Weissmandl in May 1944, there was a growing campaign to convince the Allies to bomb Auschwitz or the railway lines leading to it. At one point Winston Churchill ordered that such a plan be prepared, but he was told that bombing the camp would most likely kill prisoners without disrupting the killing operation, and that bombing the railway lines was not technically feasible. Later several nearby military targets were bombed. One bomb accidentally fell into the camp and killed some prisoners. The debate over what could have been done, or what should have been attempted even if success was unlikely, has continued heatedly ever since.

Evacuation and liberation

The gas chambers of Birkenau were blown up by the Germans in November 1944 in an attempt to hide their crimes from the advancing Soviet troops. On January 17, 1945 Nazi personnel started to evacuate the facility; most of the prisoners were marched West. Those too weak or sick to walk were left behind; about 7,500 prisoners were liberated by the 322nd Infantry unit of the Red Army on January 27, 1945.

'Liberation' was not necessarily the end of the ordeal for many prisoners. Soviet POWs were accused of collaborating with the Germans and were either executed or sent to gulags in the Soviet Union.

Death toll

Since the Nazis attempted to destroy the evidence of the mass murder at Auschwitz, the exact number of victims is impossible to fix with certainty. Early efforts to count the number of dead relied on the testimony of witnesses, especially Nazi Rudolf Hoess, who gave the number of dead at 2.5-3 million. Though this number, and a higher total of 4 million, was used by Soviet and Polish authorities, it was never taken seriously by Western scholars, who generally supported numbers of around 1-2 million. In 1983, French scholar George Wellers was one of the first to use Nazi data on deportations to estimate the number killed at Auschwitz, arriving at 1.613 million dead, including 1.44 million Jews and 146,000 Poles. A larger study started around the same time by Franciszek Piper used time tables of train arrivals combined with deportation records to calculate 1.1 million Jewish deaths and 140,000-150,000 Polish victims, along with 23,000 Roma. This number has met with "significant, though not complete" agreement among scholars.^

After the war

After the war, the camp served as a prison of the NKVD through most of 1945 and then remained in a state of disrepair for several years. The Buna Werke were taken over by the Polish government and became the foundation for the chemical industry of the region.

The Polish government then decided to restore Auschwitz I and turn it into a museum honouring the victims of nazism; Auschwitz II, where buildings were prone to decay, was preserved but not restored. Today, the Auschwitz I museum site combines elements from several periods into a single complex: for example the gas chamber at Auschwitz I (which did not exist by the war's end) was restored and the fence was moved (because of building being done after the war but before the establishment of the museum). However, in most cases the departure from the historical truth is minor, and is clearly labelled.

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site - ruins at Birkenau, 2002Auschwitz II and the remains of the gas chambers there are also open to the public. The Auschwitz concentration camp is part of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

In 1979, the newly elected Polish Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on the grounds of Auschwitz II to some 500,000 people. After the pope had announced that Edith Stein would be beatified, some Catholics erected a cross near bunker 2 of Auschwitz II where she had been gassed. A short while later, a Star of David appeared at the site, leading to a proliferation of religious symbols there; eventually they were removed.

Carmelite nuns opened a convent near Auschwitz I in 1984. After some Jewish groups called for the removal of the convent, representatives of the Catholic Church agreed in 1987. One year later the Carmelites erected the 8 metre (26 ft) tall cross from the 1979 mass near their site, just outside block 11 and barely visible from within the camp. This led to protests by Jewish groups, who said that mostly Jews were killed at Auschwitz and demanded that religious symbols be kept away from the site. Some Catholics have pointed out that the people killed in Auschwitz I were mainly Polish Catholics. The Catholic Church told the Carmelites to move by 1989, but they stayed on until 1993, leaving the large cross behind. In 1998, after further calls to remove the cross, some 300 smaller crosses were erected by local activists near the large one, leading to further protests and heated exchanges. Following an agreement between the Polish Catholic Church and the Polish government, the smaller crosses were removed in 1999 but the large papal one remains. See Auschwitz cross for more details.

In 1996, Germany made 27 January, the day of the liberation of Auschwitz, the official day for the commemoration of the victims of 'National Socialism'.

The European Parliament marked the anniversary of the camp's liberation in 2005 with a minute of silence and the passage of this resolution:

"27 January 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany's death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a combined total of up to 1.5 million Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and prisoners of various other nationalities, and homosexuals, were murdered, is not only a major occasion for European citizens to remember and condemn the enormous horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also for addressing the disturbing rise in anti-semitism, and especially anti‑semitic incidents, in Europe, and for learning anew the wider lessons about the dangers of victimising people on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, social classification, politics or sexual orientation."

Other Controversies

For many years, a memorial plaque placed at the camp by the Soviet authorities and the Polish communist government stated that 4 million people had been murdered at Auschwitz. This number was never taken seriously by Western historians, and was never used in any of the calculations of the death toll at Auschwitz (which have generally remained consistently around 1-1.5 million for the last sixty years) or for the total deaths in the Holocaust as a whole. After the collapse of the Communist government, the plaque was removed and the official death toll given as 1.1 million. Holocaust deniers have attempted to use this change as propaganda, in the words of Nizkor: "Deniers often use the 'Four Million Variant' as a stepping stone to leap from an apparent contradiction to the idea that the Holocaust was a hoax, again perpetrated by a conspiracy. They hope to discredit historians by making them seem inconsistent. If they can't keep their numbers straight, their reasoning goes, how can we say that their evidence for the Holocaust is credible? One must wonder which historians they speak of, as most have been remarkably consistent in their estimates of a million or so dead. In short, all of the denier's blustering about the 'Four Million Variant' is a specious attempt to envelope the reader into their web of deceit, and it can be discarded after the most rudimentary examination of published histories."[2]

Recently the Polish media and the foreign ministry of Poland have voiced objections to the use of the expression "Polish death camp" in relation to Auschwitz, as they feel that phrase might misleadingly suggest that Poles (rather than Germans) perpetrated the Holocaust. Most media outlets now show awareness of the offence this may cause, and try to avoid using such expressions (or issue an apology after using them, see for example the recent note in The Guardian).

The Polish film directors Andrzej Munk and Andrzej Wajda were both given permission to film in Auschwitz for the films Pasażerka and Krajobraz Po Bitwie respectively. However, permission was denied to Steven Spielberg for Schindler's List. His Auschwitz scene was therefore filmed outside the near-symmetrical entrance, with scenery added to make it look like the real thing.

In February 2006, Poland refused to grant visas to Iranian researchers who were planning to visit Auschwitz.[3]. Polish Foreign Minister Stefan Meller said his country should stop Iran from investigating the scale of the Holocaust, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed as a myth.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:49:19 pm
Holocaust Death marches

The death marches refer to the forcible movement in the winter of 1944-5 by Nazi Germany of thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, from German concentration camps near the war front to camps inside Germany. Later the term "death march" was applied to similar events elsewhere.

Toward the end of World War II in 1944, as The United States, Britain, and Canada moved in on the concentration camps from the west, the Soviet Union was advancing from the east. The Germans decided to abandon the camps, moving or destroying evidence of the atrocities they had committed there.

Prisoners, already sick after months or years of violence and starvation, were marched for tens of miles in the snow to train stations; then transported for days at a time without food or shelter in freight trains with open carriages; and forced to march again at the other end to the new camp. Prisoners who lagged behind or fell were shot.

The largest and best known of the death marches took place in January 1945, when the Soviet army advanced on Poland. Nine days before the Soviets arrived at the death camp at Auschwitz, the Germans marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzislaw, thirty-five miles away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. Around 15,000 died on the way.

The Germans killed large numbers of prisoners before, during, or after death marches. Seven hundred prisoners were killed during one ten-day march of 7,000 Jews, including 6,000 women, who were being moved from camps in the Gdansk region, which is bordered on the north by the Baltic Sea. Those still alive when the marchers reached the coast were forced into the sea and shot.

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, was forced on a death march, along with his father, Shlomo, from Auschwitz to Buchenwald, which he describes in his 1958 novel Night.

Title: Re: the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews
Post by: Sarah on February 09, 2007, 10:50:19 pm
March of the Living
Polish-Jewish March of the Living, Auschwitz, 2000The March of the Living, also called "The March of Remembrance and Hope", is a dynamic educational program which brings students from all over the world to Poland, where they explore the remnants of the Holocaust. On Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah), Participants march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during World War II.

The programme was established in the 1990s by the government of Israel and worldwide Jewish organisations and takes place annually in April for two weeks. Its purpose is to teach students of different religious and ethnic backgrounds about the dangers of intolerance through the study of the Holocaust, and to promote better relations among people of diverse cultures.

At the climax of the programme is the march, which is designed to contrast with the death marches which occurred towards the end of World War II. When Nazi Germany withdrew its soldiers from forced-labour camps, inmates—usually already starving and stricken by oppressive work—were forced to march tens of miles in the snow, while those who lagged behind or fell were shot. This irony of the living walking the path of a death march serves to illustrate the continued existence of world Jewry despite Nazi attempts at their obliteration.

March of the Living programmes often conclude by travelling to Israel to celebrate its independence day (Yom Haatzmaut), further strengthening the contrast of Jewish life and death.   

Sh'erit ha-Pletah (Hebrew: שארית הפליטה, literally: The Surviving Remnant) is a biblical (First Chronicles 4:43) term used by Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust to refer to themselves and the communities they formed following their liberation in the spring of 1945. It took on significant meaning in the several years when hundreds of thousands of such survivors made their homes in displaced persons camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy.

Sarah (שָׂרָה means "Princess" in Hebrew.

Shalom(שָׁלוֹם) is a Hebrew word meaning peace.