The Persecution of the Jews (Part 10 of 14)
Nazi Conspiracy & Aggression
Volume I Chapter XII
The teletype message of 15 May 1945 indicates that the operation is in its last stage:
"A special unit once more searched the last block of buildings which was still intact in the Ghetto, and subsequently destroyed it. In the evening the chapel, mortuary, and all other buildings in the Jewish cemetery were blown up or destroyed by fire.." (1061-PS) On 24 May 1943 the final figures were compiled by Major General Stroop:
"Of the total of 56,065 caught about 7,000 were destroyed in the former Ghetto during large scale operation. 6,929 Jews were destroyed by transporting them to T.II [believed to be Treblinka Camp No. 2]. The sum total of Jews destroyed is therefore 13,929. Beyond the number of 56.065 an estimated number of 5 to 6,000 Jews were destroyed by being blown up or by perishing in the flames." (1061-PS) It was not always necessary, or perhaps desirable, to place the Jews within Ghettos to effect elimination. In the Baltic States a more direct course of action was followed. According to a report by SS Brigade Fuehrer Stahlecker to Himmler, dated 15 [Page 999] October 1941, entitled "Action Group A," which was found in Himmler's private files, 135,567 persons, nearly all Jews, were murdered in accordance to basic orders directing the complete annihilation of the Jews. SS Brigade Fuehrer Stahlecker continues his report: "*** To our surprise it was not easy at first to set in motion a extensive pogrom against the Jews. Klimatis, the leader of the partisan unit, mentioned above, who was used for this purpose primarily, succeeded in starting a pogrom on the basis of advice given to him by a small advanced detachment acting in Kowno and in such a way that no German order of German instigation was noticed from the outside. During the first pogrom in the night from 25 June to 26 June the Lithuanian partisans did away with more than 1,500 Jews, setting fire to several synagogues or destroying them by other means and burning down a Jewish dwelling district consisting of about 60 houses. During the following nights about 2300 Jews were made harmless in a similar way. ***" ******* "It was possible, though, through similar influences on the Latvian auxiliary to set in motion a pogrom against the Jews also in Riga. During this pogrom all synagogues were destroyed and about 400 Jews were killed." (L-180)
Nazi ingenuity reached its zenith with the construction and operation of the gas van as a means of mass annihilation of the Jews. A description of the operation of these vehicles of death is fully set forth in a captured Top Secret document dated 16 May 1942, addressed to SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Rauff, 8 Prince Albrecht-Strasse, Berlin, from Dr. Becker, SS Untersturmfuehrer. The report reads in part:
"The overhauling of vans by groups D and C is finished. While the vans of the first series can also be put into action if the weather is not too bad, the vans of the second series (Saurer) stop completely in rainy weather. If it has rained for instance for only one half hour, the van cannot be used because it simply skids away. It can only be used in absolutely dry weather. It is only a question now whether the van can only be used standing at the place of execution. First the van has to be brought to that place, which is possible only in good weather. The place of execution is usually 10 to 15 km away from the highways and is difficult of access because of its location; in damp or wet weather it is not accessible at all. If persons to be executed are [Page 1000] driven or led to that place, then they realize immediately what is going on and get restless, which is to be avoided as far as possible. There is only one way left; to load them at the collecting point and to drive them to the spot.
"I ordered the vans of group D to be camouflaged as house-trailers by putting one set of window shutters on each side of the small van and two on each side of the larger vans, such as one often sees on farm houses in the country. The vans became so well-known, that not only the authorities but also the civilian population called the van 'death van', as soon as one of these vehicles appeared. It is my opinion the van cannot be kept secret for any length of time, not even camouflaged." ******* "Because of the rough terrain and the indescribable road and highway conditions the caulkings and rivets loosen in the course of time. I was asked if in such cases the vans should be brought to Berlin for repair. Transportation to Berlin would be much too expensive and would demand too much fuel. In order to save those expenses I ordered them to have smaller leaks soldered and if that should no longer be possible, to notify Berlin immediately by radio, that Pol.Nr. is out of order. Besides that I ordered that during application of gas all the men were to be kept as far away from the vans as possible, so they should not suffer damage to their health by the gas which eventually would escape. I should like to take this opportunity to bring the following to your attention: several commands have had the unloading after the application of gas done by their own men. I brought to the attention of the commanders of those S.K. concerned the immense psychological injuries and damages to their health which that work can have for those men, even if not immediately, at least later on. The men complained to me about headaches which appeared after each unloading. Nevertheless they don't want to change the orders, because they are afraid prisoners called for that work, could use an opportune moment to flee. To protect the men from those damages, I request orders be issued accordingly.
"The application of gas usually is not undertaken correctly. In order to come to an end as fast as possible, the driver presses the accelerator to the fullest extent. By doing that the persons to be executed suffer death from suffocation and not death by dozing off as was planned. My directions now have proved that by correct adjustment of the levers [Page 1001] death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully. Distorted faces and excretions, such as could be seen before, are no longer noticed. "Today I shall continue my journey to group B, where I can be reached with further news.
"Signed: Dr. Becker, SS Untersturmfuehrer." (501-PS) A letter signed by Hauptsturmfuehrer Truehe on the subject of S-vans, addressed to the Reich Security Main Office, Room 2-D-3-A, Berlin, and marked "Top Secret," establishes that the vans were used for the annihilation of the Jews. The message reads: "A transport of Jews, which has to be treated in a special way, arrives weekly at the office of the commandant of the Security Police and the Security Service of White Ruthenia. "The three S-vans which are there are not sufficient for that purpose. I request assignment of another S-van (five tons). At the same time I request the shipment of twenty gas hoses for the three S-vans on hand (two Diamond, one Saurer), since the ones on hand are leaky already. (signed) The Commandant of the Security Police and the Security Service, Ostland." (501-PS)
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A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
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