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the Final Solution & the Massacres of the Jews

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Sarah
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« 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.
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