The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Deportations from Greater Germany

"Deportations From Greater Germany

"In Greater Germany (Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia, which for our purposes consititute a single area, the deportations were carried out by the regular German police, under the supervision of IVb.

"Mass deportations from Germany began on October 15, 1941. They started before procedures for the "final solution" had been settled by the RSHA, even before the technical plans for extermination had been completed. But Heydrich and Eichmann, as we have seen, had been eagerly looking forward to the moment when they could make the Jews disappear from the Third Reich. After July 31, they were given 'carte blanche' to realize their wishes.

"Between October 15 and October 31 close to 20,000 Jews, for the most part old people, were deported to the Lodz ghetto, despite the protests of the German authorities in that ghetto, including its commissioner, Hans Bielow. Later, during November 1941, 50,000 German and Czech Jews were deported to occupied Russia, principally Riga and Minsk. The first group was exterminated some weeks later, the second survived for several months. The Jews picked for deportation were notified individually, sometimes one or two weeks in advance. The possibilities of taking flight or going into hiding were nonexistent; almost nobody escaped. On the other hand, suicides were frequent. Carefully organized, the convoy departures aroused little emotion in the German population. The reports sent to the RSHA by convoy escorts mention hardly any incidents. Indifference mixed with hostility, generally accompanied them on their interminable trips. `The Union of Jews of the Reich' took an active part in organizing the transports, and its branches were sometimes also charged with selecting the deportees.

"We thus see emerging here the customary Nazi procedure of making their victims assist in the different stages leading up to their own extermination. Doubtless arising out of a desire to simplify things, since self-governing Jewish organizations were already available, this procedure everywhere furnished ample occasion to the Nazis for giving vent to their hatred. The Jewish leaders, who paid with their lives or those of their families in case of defection or escape, were asked to become accomplices in the search; one can easily feel the anguish of their dilemma. In the end the entire personnel of the Union was obliged to lend a hand in the deportations. The naive account of a young Jewess, a social worker in Berlin, is an example.

"At eight o'clock in the evening we were summoned to the headquarters of the community. The Gestapo told us that a convoy of orphans was to leave, and that since the necessary quota would not be supplied by children's homes, we had to find orphans living with private families and bring them to the transit camp. We young Jewish girls were to go out and look for Jewish children. Even today I do not understand how I found the courage and strength to do it. I was twenty at the time. We received a pass for the night, a list of four or five addresses. They gave us until four in the morning.

"We set out in pairs, looking for the houses in the dark. Since doors were locked at nine o'clock in Berlin, we had to wake up the porter and show our pass. The Jewish apartments opened only after we rang the bell a great many times, for this was the frightening hour of the night when the arrests were made, when a family turned pale at every ring of the doorbell and the wife went to look for the bags while the husband opened the door.

"Seeing us with our [yellow] stars, the people began to breathe again, but what terrible scenes were witnessed after they learned the reason for our coming.<14>

"The rate of deportation fell off considerably at the beginning of 1942, picking up again in the fall with added vigor. The statistical report already cited estimates at 217,748 the total number of Jews deported up to December 31, 1942 (in Germany proper: 100,516; Austria, 47,555; Bohemia-Moravia, 66,677). The few tens of thousands of skilled workers that remained were deported during the first months of 1943 (in Berlin the "clean sweep of the factories" of February 27 and March 3, 1943, affected 12,000 Jews). All these convoys went directly to Auschwitz, with the exception of a few `privileged' transports sent to Theresientstadt.

"A few words need to be added about the fate of those deported in the fall of 1941. As we have said, they were granted a respite of several months. Those sent to Minsk profited in addition from the unexpected intercession of the Commissioner General of White Russia, Gauleiter Wilhelm Kube, a veteran of the Hitler movement. `I beg you to send me instructions,' he wrote to his chief, Reich Commissioner Heinrich Lohse. `These Jews include war veterans, holders of the Iron Cross, those wounded in war, half-Aryans, and even three-quarter Aryans ... I do not lack hardness and I am ready to contribute to the solution of the Jeiwsh problem, but people who come from the same cultural circles as ourselves are different from the bestial, aboriginal hordes.'<15> A long report by the SD of White Russia enumerated the many failings of the old Gauleiter: he had shaken hands with a Jew who ha rescued his car from a birning garage; he had confessed to appreciating the music of Mendelssohn and Offenbach, adding that "beyond a doubt there were artists among the Jews."; he had promised safety to 5,000 German Jews were deported to Minsk.<16> But on July 31, 1942, a report from the same Kube reported to Lohse: "At Minsk approximately 10,000 Jews were liquidated on July 28 and 29... Most of them had been deported to Minsk last November from Vienna, Brunn, Bremen, and Berlin by order of the Führer."<17> (Poliakov, 146-149)


<14> Anonymous testimony collected by Hans Klee in Switzerland at the end of 1943. (LXX, 70)
<15> Confidential letter from Kube to Lohse, dated December 16, 1941. (PS 3665)
<16> Report from SS Sturmbannführer Brand to SS Obergruppenführer von dem Bach, dated July 25, 1943. (NO 2262)
<17> Report from Kube to Lohse, Minsk, July 31, 1942. (PS 3428)

Work Cited

Poliakov, Leon. Harvest of Hate: The Nazi Program for the Destruction of the Jews of Europe. Syracuse University Press., 1956.

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