In September 1941, a special squad 4A moved further to the East. Trucks and passenger vehicles, all-terrain driving through the endless roads through clouds of dust. While the column goes, people on the right and left side of the road there is hope — maybe she will pass on. But the SS is known for its thoroughness. In Zhitomir, on their last stop, alive, not a single Jew. Now the squad moves into Kiev. On 29 September, the day before Yom Kippur, the day of repentance, the Jews were driven out of the city to the ravine of Babi Yar. What happened there, leaking out only in the form of rumors. Ukrainian Irina Khoroshunova writes in his diary: “I only know one thing, there is something terrible, something shocking, unimaginable, impossible to understand, realize or explain”.
For members of the special squad 4A and the other brigades of death, which since the summer of 1941 raged with the Soviet Union, it is “unimaginable” has long become routine. Hundreds and thousands they catch helpless people and break them. Not by machine in factories of death the Holocaust begins, and in the pits for the Eastern front, where he dumped shot, and where the killer got stuck in the blood of their victims. Until the end of the year, the German battle group, the SS troops and police, supported by the Wehrmacht, buried in mass graves of about half a million Jews.
How could this happen? Who unleashed mass murder? And what motivated the people who so willingly committed? Later, after the war, the answer was simple — I followed the orders came from the top. But as simple as this was said by the defendants at the Nuremberg trials by combat groups in 1947-1948, it was not.
When the Wehrmacht June 22, 1941 attacked the Soviet Union, and it was followed by four battle groups of the security police and security service, there was no Hitler order, no specific plan to murder the Soviet Jews. Detachments acted so differently that nothing pointed to the existence of such an order. Commanders of combat units and their associated command even had a certain freedom of action when fighting against the enemy.
And yet Hitler stood at the beginning of the radicalization, which was to take place in the summer of 1941. The campaign against the Soviet Union, which fell about 30 million people, was conducted from the beginning as an ideological war of racial destruction. The declared aim of Hitler was not only to destroy the enemy’s army, it was not only the economic ruin of the country — German state secretaries were counting on starvation of millions of people, but first and foremost, the physical destruction of the main enemy, the “Jewish Bolshevism.”
This composite picture of the enemy, prayer wheel of the racist-right propaganda since 1917, gave the Jews the state role. In the Soviet Union they were considered not only hated minority in Poland, and the Creator and substance of the system. For the first time a military campaign was pronounced against the Jews. War and racial struggle became one.
Hitler rants about the destruction of the leadership of the Wehrmacht before the attack transformed into orders that have breached the boundaries of international law. Thus, the decree on the military justice gave officers in may 1941, freedom of action concerning attacks on civilians and protected soldiers from prosecution. With the aim of killing military among commanders was introduced the division of labor.
According to the order, the Wehrmacht had to kill politoffizier the red army, while the battle group of Reinhard Heydrich was aimed at the execution of managerial personnel among the civilian population, including treated along with Communists and “Jews in party and state positions”. But orders genocide it wasn’t — the elite functionaries were to be eliminated, to cause a quick collapse of the Soviet state. The SS leadership believed, as the historian Michael Wildt that can literally decapitate Bolshevism.
The first wave of criminal violence began with the onset of advanced troops of the Wehrmacht on the Soviet Union. Political Commissars of the red army were systematically shot, and with the other prisoners of war, the process was short, as the soldiers wrote in letters to relatives. Although the war on both sides was conducted against all the rules, but the growing violence could only partly explain the behavior of German soldiers. Their cruelty was to follow the racist orders of the Wehrmacht, who before the war had created a picture of “treacherous”, “sadistic” and violate the right of the military of the enemy.
German propaganda worked: she turned the attackers into defenders, killing in revenge. The Wehrmacht also pre-announced battlefield rear, in which it was necessary to “mercilessly and resolutely fight the Bolshevik instigators, partisans, saboteurs and Jews.”
Such scenarios of threats showed its effectiveness. In the East the German soldiers saw what they were waiting for. “Partisans” lurking around every corner. Didn’t need any additional evidence, to see the resistance and expose the Jews as perpetrators. The explanation for the nests of resistance lay on the surface — the rapid advance of the Wehrmacht pushed hundreds of thousands of red army soldiers in the rear of the front. Only here the invaders took the time to explain the fire in the rear of their own logic of warfare. Much more likely he was talking about how cowardly, basely, treacherously acted enemy.
To answer for the alleged betrayal had on the civilian population — in the first place, the Jewish men who were believed to pose a threat to security. A week after the beginning of the campaign the soldiers of the Wehrmacht Michael B. wrote in his diary: “Shot 30 guerrillas.” And the next day: “Many Jews were targeted as partisans”. As soon as the Jews were thus integrated into the military enemy picture, opened the border between war and murder. Tructuyen as preventive measures against partisans, the killing aura of justice, writes historian Klaus-Michael Mallman.
In addition, the German furor ignited the vengeance due to the murder of prisoners committed by the NKVD in the course of the waste. When German soldiers in the first weeks of the war were to stumble on bodies lying, propaganda does not have to wait long and announced “bloodthirsty Bolshevik beasts”. Killings in the prison population of Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine reacted to the pogroms against the Jews, which the occupation authorities although intimidated, but tolerated. And the Germans began a campaign of revenge — fighting group were killing the Jewish population.
Command of death, numbering from 500 to 1,000, was made just a few weeks earlier of a member of the Waffen-SS, police and security services. These groups destruction, which operated side by side with the police battalions, SS brigades and divisions of the Wehrmacht, sowed death in the rear of the Eastern front. First battle group were killed under the sign of peace enforcement members of the Communist and Jewish elite, while most of the Jewish population were forced into the ghetto. However, understanding of the task was varied — while some units are still deliberately hunted for the top of the Soviet system, others have already moved on to killing all suitable for military service Jewish men.
From the beginning of the murder had a momentum of its own. In Bialystok police battalion 309 was not required in order to start attempting to shoot the Jews and burn them alive in the synagogue. The first big massacre took place on June 27 when about 2000 people become its victim. Murderers are regarded as war heroes, they were awarded medals.
Such excesses everywhere borders of the murder. Among militant groups began a kind of competition on the number of victims, instigated by Himmler and Hadrian that praised radical examples and criticized medley officers. Self-initiative “from below” and empowerment from “above” were the impulses that turned the election of murder in the first weeks of the genocide. Not one blow, and not always at the same pace, but given the direction has not changed. The most brutal example to set the standard, and there was neither stop nor reverse.
The only traditional border military violence in June and July 1941, there remained — the terror is only in exceptional cases have been women and children. This is the last taboo broken brigade of the SS that followed the orders of Himmler. Preceded them the solution to Hitler, 16 July 1941, identified the radical directives of the occupation policy. The question of how to seize a vast territory, Hitler had given a definite answer — deterrence. Stalin declared guerrilla war had become an excuse to shoot everyone, “who only look askance”. And everyone knew what it meant when the next day Himmler received the assignment about “police protection” of the Eastern territories.
About how Himmler interpreted its mission, evidenced by his order to the brigades of the SS, which at the end of July 1941, hunted partisans in the marshes of Pripyat. Cavalry regiments of the SS was to “shoot all the Jews and drive into the swamps of all Jewish women.” Command one of the regiments said that the second part of the order is impracticable, and the soldiers of another regiment began to kill women and children. Thus was the “open gate” to genocide. The first time German commanders gave the order to the full “getting rid of the Jews”: in accordance with Himmler’s ideas of a “new racial device living space,” kill all the Jews and “freed” them from whole areas.
SS brigade surpassed the regular army in the “suicidal zeal” at precisely the moment when Berlin was engaged in fundamental reflections on the “Jewish question” Heydrich gave the order to develop an appropriate plan for the whole of Europe. Thus, if you do not take into account the Soviet Union, the turning point on the path to the Holocaust began July 1941. While the genocide in the East became a bloody reality, the Nazi leadership set the task of “final decision” in full.
“The Jewish question in the East can be considered solved”
At the end of July 1941 a regular part of the Wehrmacht also began to kill women and children. Senior leaders of the SS and police took the initiative in their hands and followed the directives of Himmler. One of the bloodiest satraps were Friedrich Jeckeln, who commanded the troops in the South of Russia. He personally organized two bloody operation, eclipsed all previous. In Kamenetz-Podolsk Jeckeln saved the Wehrmacht from the problem of ensuring the Jews, brought there from Hungary. Police and members of his staff from 26 to 28 August killed 23 600 Jewish men, women and children.
Troops Jeckeln then went to Kiev, in which the forces of the Wehrmacht occupied on September 19. In the following days the city was blown up several powerful bombs, and then entire neighborhoods were covered by fire. In this case the guilty look was not necessary, because they were known in advance: of course, as usual, was declared guilty Jews.
September 29, thousands of Jews on the orders of the Wehrmacht was to “share resettlement” — but it turned out that they were not ready to send the train, and soldiers of the special command 4A. The unsuspecting Jews were herded to Babi Yar where they were ordered to remove their clothes and any valuables. Then they were divided into groups and sent to execution. One of the participants of the shooting named Kurt Werner (Kurt Werner), later told me: “Coming (to the place of execution) of the Jews had to lie down on the corpses of executed informed. Arrows stood up behind and shot them in the head. I still remember the horror came the Jews, seeing the corpses lying on the bottom of the ravine. Many of them were screaming”. These days the soldiers of the special command were shot a total of 33, 771 people. Then sappers Wehrmacht blew up the slopes of a ravine and covered this huge “mass grave”.
No later than October of 1941 in all parts of the occupied territories, the war with the Bolsheviks was replaced by a racial war against all Jews. As drastically as the command 4A in the South, operated a group A special purpose in the Baltic States, which in December was sent to the Berlin report: “the Jewish question in the East can be considered solved.” Before German and local “special team” cleared the ghetto in Riga, shooting people — including Jews before deported there from Germany.
Tested here methods were soon applied to other areas. In the autumn of 1941, the occupiers due to compounded by the supply crisis began to destroy all disabled people declared “useless eaters”. In the West, occupied territories, special attention has been paid to the ghettos in which they lived previously, the surviving Jews — they were the “epicenter” of genocide in 1942. In the East the huge occupied territories the ghettos, and were not created. The head of the special command 4A Carl Kretschmer (Karl Kretschmer) wrote to his sweetheart in September 1942: “In that part of Russia, which has already reached German soldiers, the Jews are no more”.
What made people like Kretschmer, themselves to become murderers? Because it is impossible to explain solely by orders! Post-war claims about the “execution of orders”, repeated like a mantra, was a fiction: those who refused to personally shoot people, do not have to fear for their own lives. Participation in the executions was voluntary, however, few refused it. Were all of these soldiers are notorious anti-Semites, and became racial war, their mission? For those who were killed because of beliefs, it may have been so, but relative to the overwhelming number of German soldiers put it accurately, Jan Philipp Reemtsma (Jan Philipp Reemtsma): “Many did so because I wanted to. But others wanted because I was doing it.”
The commander of the SS Kretschmer blamed the Jews themselves for his own death: “As this war is, in our opinion, was Jewish, the Jews felt it in the first place,” he wrote his “Nipple”. But if he’s killed for that reason? Or he thereby tried later to explain that he personally participated in the killings?
In the absence of a deep hatred for the Jews, these crimes defy explanation — however, in reverse order, this explains not all. Often the killing was due to the circumstances of the war itself. But when the façade was covered with “cracks”, the whole morality of murder was very fragile. Primarily, it concerned the killing of women and children. “I had to step over yourself,” admitted Kretschmer, looking at the victims, which hardly can be regarded as a “Jewish threat.”
But Kretschmer knew that people like him had to be “rude dogs” who could not afford to give in to emotions. “We need to demonstrate toughness, as otherwise we will lose the war,” he admitted. “Sympathy in any form don’t belong here”. Most of the soldiers of the SS, Wehrmacht and police were cultured rigidity, among them was considered “good form” to suppress the pangs of conscience, without losing face.
The incredible became a reality
Home “test of strength” was considered to participate in the executions. For Kretschmer, the new guy in command, it became the “entry ticket” to the partnership, which were adopted only “real men”: “about executions I already wrote to you that I could not afford to “give slack”. In General, they said, finally, their head of Department — a real man, after some were cowards,” he wrote the Teat in October 1942. Those who wanted to be for the other “its” had to pass the “test of strength” and become killers. So didn’t need to be a notorious anti-Semites to kill Jews. It was enough to only be a “real man” or good friends.
However, the pursuit of the genocide cannot be explained only by reasons and motives. Not all participants in the murders were committed national socialists. Moreover, not all of them were Germans — and not all of the victims of the shooting were Jews. In Latvia, Lithuania and Western Ukraine occupants have easily found supporters from among local residents who, like the Latvian command arays, killing people on their own initiative.
In the South the Wehrmacht could rely on the help of ally, who himself was not against participation in the genocide: the Romanian army and the police rounded up the Jews in a special place, there to destroy them. Genocide was a common objective, including among the Germans. Individual soldiers and units of the Wehrmacht participated in it directly, but the military command provided them with logistical support. In Serbia, the Wehrmacht, even himself took on the role of “Director” in October of 1941 it for each killed partisans killed German 100 Jewish hostages. Thus, by the end of the year in this area practically no Jewish men.
In the autumn of 1941, the German command turned the “East” into one large death zone. Widespread sweep has reached the murder not only of Jews. At the same time began also the extinction and non-Jewish civilians, when it became apparent how devastating was the German “politics of hunger”. In cities such as Leningrad, or Kharkov famine killed hundreds of thousands of people. The same fate waited and prisoners of war: those who survived the catastrophic camp conditions, finished a further reduction of the ration and frost. Until the end of the winter of 1941-1942, was killed about two million Soviet soldiers were captured.
How “radical” this background was meant by “final solution of the Jewish question” a mass murder? In the course of this “war of extermination” unthinkable became reality: crimes crossed all limits. As written by historian mark Roseman (Mark Roseman), the USSR had “overcome the psychological barriers and reached limits where it could not be return”.
When in October 1941 from Germany to the East was “deportation trains”, all responsible persons was already clear that their path led to the mass killings. And the conference on the shore of lake Wannsee in January 1942, spoke of the “final solution of issue,” meant something different than back in the summer of 1941. Question about what the order turned the deportation of Jews to an even more brutal reality may be, is not decisive. By themselves, the murder has transformed the “final solution” in the Holocaust.