Thursday, February 23, 2017

Update: Kube, Lohse and Strauch (Part 1: September 1941 to December 1942)

Author: Jonathan Harrison
A major theme of the literature on the Ostland is the disputes between the civil administration and the SS over the scope and methods of killing operations. In the Autumn of 1941, Lohse prohibited the killing of work Jews in both Schaulen (at the instigation his subordinate Gewecke) and Libau. In the summer of 1943, he expressed disgust at the methods used to kill partisans. Kube and Strauch meanwhile had an ongoing feud that lasted throughout Strauch's time as KdS Weissruthenien and only concluded when Kube was assassinated (see extract from Hilberg here). The following article updates the material presented in the Critique on these issues (here and here) and adds links to sources that have come to our attention since 2011.

On November 1, 1941, Kube wrote two letters to Lohse (1104-PS; YVA O.18/107). The first complained that Police Battalion 11 had carried out an action in Slutsk without Kube's agreement. It also expressed a grievance that an officer arrested by Kube had been immediately released by the court martial officer. The second enclosed a report by Slutsk Gebietskommissar (regional commissioner) Carl on the atrocities committed, which included the fact that "persons shot have worked themselves out of their graves some time after they had been covered." Carl echoed the complaints of Gewecke in Schaulen and Lohse over Libau by noting that essential tradesmen had been liquidated.

On December 2, 1941, Lohse requested "most emphatically that the liquidation of Jews employed as skilled workers in armament plants and repair workshops of the Wehrmacht who cannot be replaced at present by local personnel be prevented" (3664-PS. Scan in O.18/203, translation here).  However, as with Gewecke's similar prohibition in Schaulen, this was only a temporary reprieve until non-Jewish replacements had been trained, so Lohse was not opposing total extermination, merely amending the timetable.

Kube re-entered the fray on December 16 by expressing his concerns to Lohse about the Reich Jews who had been deported to Minsk. He asked, "Is the slaughter to be carried out by the Lithuanians and Letts, who are themselves rejected by the population here?" (3665-PS; O.18/204; translation here). Kube was expressing the wish that Reich Jews, whom he regarded as culturally superior to Russian Jews, should be killed in a more humane manner than those Ostjuden had been, and should not be left to die of cold, starvation and disease.

In June 1942, Lohse signaled a new phase of killing by noting that the disadvantages of employing skilled, professional Jewish labour outweighed the benefits (O.18/178 and here). Kube agreed (O.18/179) and sent an order to his subordinates to make strict inspections and to segregate Jews by sex (O.18/180). This led eventually to the Grossaktion of July 1942 (3428-PS; O.18/181), which I discuss extensively in my refutation of Mattogno here:
Mattogno then commits multiple dishonesties in his treatment of Kube's report to Lohse of July 31 [1942]. He gives the impression that he is quoting the whole of the document in the text that he quotes on pages 345-346 of the Riposte, taken from pages 192-193 of NMT IV. However, Mattogno's quotation stops abruptly, with no explanation, at the words "cease to exist." He thus omits the remainder of that paragraph, and the whole of the following paragraph, which are crucial to the document's meaning:
I myself and the SD would certainly much prefer that the Jewish population in the district general of White Ruthenia should be eliminated once and for all when the economic requirements of the Wehrmacht have fallen off. For the time being, the necessary requirements of the Wehrmacht who is the main employer of the Jewish population are still being considered. The clear anti-Jewish attitude of the SD and the difficult task of the units in White Ruthenia to deliver again and again new Jewish transports from the Reich to their destination, both put an undue strain on the physical and spiritual strength of men of the SD and diverts them from their real purpose, which lies in the White Ruthenian region itself.

I should therefore be grateful if the Reich Commissioner could see his way to stop further Jewish transports until the partisan threat has finally been overcome. I must make 100 percent use of the SD against partisans and against the Polish Resistance Movement, both of which demand the use of the full strength of the SD units, which are none too strong as it is.
This is crystal clear and unambiguous about the killing of Jews in two ways. Firstly, the personnel of the SD were suffering undue stress from their role in the killing process. The passage can have no other plausible meaning, unless Mattogno would like us to believe that brave SD men would suffer "an undue strain on [their] physical and spiritual strength" when they delivered a train to a terminal. Secondly, there were no units available for dealing with transports because they were needed "100 per cent" for anti-partisan actions. This would clearly rule out their use in resettlement actions east of Minsk.

The passages Mattogno does quote also cause him severe problems that he ignores. Most of the 3,500 Reich Jews killed in the Grossaktion of July 28-29 were from the 7,000 deported in the Autumn, leaving only 2,600 remaining in the ghetto. This leaves a huge hole where those deported in the second wave seem to be absent from the ghetto population. If these had been transported east, why weren't the 3,500 Reich Jews shot on July 28-29 transported east with them instead of being shot? If the second wave deportees were not transported east, where were they located, if not killed?
On November 23, 1942, the remaining Jewish population and future anti-Jewish policy were described:
Jewry in the General District Minsk has in the first year of civilian administration been reduced to the number of about 30 000 in the whole General District. The flat land can be considered completely cleaned of Jews. Jewish ghettoes there are only in a number of larger cities of the General District. The inmates are under strict surveillance and consist only of indispensable skilled workers and labor forces that cannot be replaced by locals for the time being. Not a single Jew is being employed as an interpreter in White Ruthenia anymore. In the service of the German authorities and military entities there are only artisans and skilled workers left. In agreement with the Security Service the possibilities of further rolling back Jewry are constantly examined and initiated. Some attempts to accommodate new Jews in White Ruthenia through further Jewish transports from the Reich I have always rejected. In this context I call attention to the fact that the Reich Commissar refuses to protest against further Jewish transports to the Eastern Territories, as this question is the exclusive competence of the Security Police. As the Commander of the Security Police and the Security Service claims the exclusive decision-making in all Jewish matters also in White Ruthenia, I am restricted to suggestions from the Security Police in handling the Jewish question [YVA O.53/49, p.1, translation by Roberto Muehlenkamp here].
Several key points about this passage can be compared to other documents in the series, and to the parallel cases in the Baltic States and the General Government. Firstly, although Lohse and Gewecke had successfully preserved Jewish labour against the wishes of Einsatzgruppe A in 1941, the SS had won the battle with the civil administration by 1942 and was fully in command of the Grossaktion in Minsk and Erntefest in the General Government, despite Mattogno's claim that there was a "chain of command" in 1943 that would have required Hans Frank's express consent to kill Jews in SS concentration camps. Secondly, although transports from the Reich were flowing into Minsk, the Jewish population was being reduced, not increased. Thirdly, Kube was prepared to throw Lohse and Strauch "under the bus"; castigating them in letters to Berlin. Fourthly, the fact that "The flat land can be considered completely cleaned of Jews" clearly fulfilled a plan that was formulated quite early in the Ostland, as shown by the fact that the Schaulen district had been virtually judenfrei in early September 1941 with the exception of 4,000 labourers who were being protected by Gewecke and Lohse. The zeal with which the SS carried out this genocide is clear from the reports of Jaeger and Strauch, despite the euphemisms of the latter, which are the theme of Part 2 of this article.

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