Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Update: The Extermination of Entire Communities in Ukraine in 1941

Author: Jonathan Harrison
It is often assumed that no Axis orders were issued before the invasion to kill women and children in any part of the USSR, but this assumption is false. The General Inspector of the Romanian Gendarmerie, Constantin Vasiliu, issued an order on June 17 or 18, 1941, mandating "the extermination on the spot of all Jews in rural areas, enclosing them in ghettos in urban areas, and the arrest of all those suspected of being Communist party members or of having held important functions under Soviet rule [cited by Ancel, here, note 21, and by Deletant, p.143]." However, it is correct that in the area under the authority of HSSPF Jeckeln, the killing of women and children only became systematic in late August. Prior to the Kamenets-Podolsky massacre of 27.8.41, 40,000 Jews had been killed, but from 27.8.41 to 30.9.41, 100,000 were murdered [Dieter Pohl, here, p.32]. This article examines how the German policy escalated from one of primarily shooting male Jews (as a "security measure" or in reprisal) to one of exterminating whole Jewish population centres.

The argument below follows Pohl in showing how the impetus came from a combination of pressures from above and below. The German shooters and their collaborators were inspired by the fact that Einsatzgruppe D and the Rumanians had been exterminating entire communities along the Black Sea coast since the invasion. For example, 321 Jews of all ages and sexes were massacred at Sculeni, Bessarabia, in early July following an evacuation order by German Colonel Buck [Deletant, p.144]. In addition, the Wehrmacht proved to be willing facilitators, providing both manpower and ideological cover, as shown by the Reichenau order, which although dated October 10, must have reflected his position in August when he allowed surviving children to be shot in Bila Tserkva, a week before the Kamenets-Podolsky massacre. Reichenau had angrily dismissed the complaint of Groscurth that "[Riedl] stated that he considers the extermination of the Jewish women and children to be absolutely necessary, regardless of how this is to be done [Groscurth, 295th Infantry Division, 20.8.41]." According to Reichenau, "I [had] decided that once started the operation should be properly carried through."

Pressure from above was exerted by Himmler, who had given extra manpower to the leaders of the security police (HSSPF), with a mission to kill Jews more systematically than had been the case of the early weeks since the invasion. Himmler in turn was encouraged by more radical utterances by Hitler, such as those on July 16 here (which authorized "all necessary measures—shooting, resettling, etc") and August 19 (which praised Antonescu and said "But I will not rest or be idle until we too have gone all the way with the Jews [translation in Browning, p.320])." 

One of the tasks of the HSSPF was to provide more ruthlessness than had sometimes been exerted by Einsatzgruppen leaders. Some early Einsatzgruppen Situation Reports (hereafter EMs) had expressed skepticism about being able to shoot millions of Jews without an overall Europe-wide order of extermination being in place. Rasch had suggested that "Until the final solution of the Jewish question for the entire continent is achieved, the superfluous Jewish masses can be excellently employed and used for cultivating the vast Pripet swamps, the northern Dnieper swamps as well as those of the Volga [EM 52, 14.8.41]." This would result in "a gradual liquidation of the Jews, a development which corresponds to the economic conditions of the country [EM 86, 17.9.41]." However, Rasch was removed from his post in October 1941, and his successor stated unequivocally that "The extermination of the Jews, who are, without any doubt, useless as workers and more harmful as the carriers of the bacillae of Communism, was [unavoidably] necessary [EM 133, 14.11.41]."

Jeckeln provided Himmler with a daily report on shootings, summarized by Yad Vashem as follows:

1) O.53/86:
Page 105-107: Report dating from August 20 on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade and the Stabskompanie HSSUPF Sued, which shot 514 Jews and two partisans, southwest of Starokonstantinov.

Page 108: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade and Polizeibataillone 45 and 314 on August 21. Polizeibataillon 45 shot five prisoners (including three women), 19 "bandits" and 66 Jews, at an unknown place. Furthermore, they shot 471 Jews in Sudilkov. Battalion 314 shot 28 Ukrainians in Kulczka.

Page 109-111: Report from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade and Polizeiregiment Sued on August 21. The 1. SS-Brigade arrested and possibly shot five Communists in Luginy. They also arrested 30 in Opiluja. Polizeibataillon 314 shot 367 Jews, south of Rollbahn Nord.

Page 112: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade, which shot 65 Jews and took 48 prisoners near Korosten-Belokorovichi, on August 23.

Page 113-116: Report from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade and Polizeiregiment Sued on August 23. An unspecified Einsatzgruppe shot 12 "bandits" and 70 Jews. Polizeibataillon 314 shot 294 Jews, Battalion 45 shot 61 Jews near Kowel. Polizeischwadron shot 113 Jews in Polonnoye.

Page 117: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade. On August 24, SS-Infanterie-Regiment 10 shot 283 Jews and took 85 prisoners.

Page 118: Report from the HSSUPF Russland Sued. On August 24, Pol. Regiment Sued shot 1,342 Jews in Baranovka, Dubrovka and Izyaslav. Polizeibataillon 314 captured eight paratroopers and shot them.

Page 120: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade, which shot 82 Jews and took 46 prisoners on August 25.

Page 121-122: Report on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade, Polizeiregiment Sued, Polizeibataillon 314 and the Stabskompanie des HSSUPF Russland Sued on August 26. Polizeiregiment Sued captured one paratrooper and shot 549 Jews. Polizeibataillon 314 shot 69 Jews. Stabskompanie des HSSUPF Russland Sued shot 546 Jews in Berdichev.

Page 123: Report by the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade, Polizeiregiment Sued and Polizeibataillon 320 on August 27. During an operation north of the Rollbahn Korosten-Bielokorovichi, the 1. SS-Brigade shot 16 Jews and partisans and took 99 prisoners. Polizeiregiment Sued arrested 22 former POWs and shot 914 Jews. Polizeibataillon 320 and an Einsatzgruppe der Stabskompanie shot 4,200 Jews in Kamenets-Podolsk.

Page 124: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade on its activities on August 26, when they shot 16 Jews and partisans and took 99 prisoners, east of Bielokorovichi.

Page 125: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade on its activities on August 27, when they shot 12 Jews and one partisan north of Korosten–Bielokorovichi.

Page 130: Message from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities on August 27: The 1. SS-Brigade took 42 prisoners, shot 12 Jews and one partisan north of Korosten–Bielokorovichi (see page 125). Also, Polizeiregiment Sued shot 369 Jews and took four prisoners in a forest north of Jwatki (?). Polizeibatiallon 304 shot two parachutists, three Bolsheviks and one Jew. Polizeibataillon 320 shot 5,000 Jews during a raid in Kamenets-Podolsk. (See also pages 132 and 134)

Page 131: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade on August 28. They continued a raid, north of the Rollbahn Korosten-Bielokorovichi during which they shot 77 Jews and took 18 prisoners.

Page 132: Report from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade, the Stabskompanie HSSUPF Russland Sued and Polizeibatallion 320 on August 28. The Stabskompanie HSSUPF Russland Sued finished its raids in Kamenets-Podolsk, with the shooting of 7,000 Jews. The total number of murdered Jews in Kamenets-Podolsk thus increased to 20,000. In a correction of earlier reports (see page 130), the number of murdered Jews in Kamenets-Podolsk on August 27 was 11,000, not 5,000. Furthermore, it was not Polizeibataillon 320, but the Stabskompanie HSSUPF Russland Sued that carried out the executions. Polizeibataillon 320 only guarded the activities. (See also page 134)

Page 133: Report from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the SS-Kavalleriebrigade and Polizeiregiment Mitte on August 29. SS-Kavallerie Regiment 2 shot 40 Russians south of Rollbahn 1 near Domunowicze and Skawzin. Also, Polizeiregiment Mitte shot 84 Jews near Bykhov and 180 partisans near Gorditschew (?) and Kolitschenka. They also took 14 prisoners.

Page 134-135: Report from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade, Polizeiregiment Sued and Polizeibataillon 320 on August 29. The 1. SS-Brigade took one prisoner and shot 65 Jews north of the road Ignatpol-Malakhovka-Usovo. Polizieregiment Sued concluded a raid, south of the Zvyagel-Zhitomir road. They took three Ukrainians and four Russians, probably paratroopers, as prisoners and handed them over to the SD. The number of Jews murdered by the Stabskompanie HSSUPF Russland Sued was corrected to read 23,600.

Page 137: Message from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade, Polizeibataillone 304 and 320, and Polizeiregiment Sued on August 31. The 1. SS-Brigade arrested twelve men, including five partisans, north of the road Ignatpol-Malachowka-Usewo. Polizeiregiment Sued shot 20 partisans, including four women, near Dowbisch. In Slavuta, they arrested four Russians and handed them over to the SD, and shot 911 Jews. Polizeibataillon 320 shot 2,200 Jews during a raid in Minkovtsy.

Page 138: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade on August 31. They shot 66 Jews and two partisans along the Ovruch-Levkoviche-Slovechno line near Selezovka.

Page 143: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade on its activities on September 1, when they shot 15 Jews and 19 partisans.

Page 145: Message from HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade and Polizeiregiment Sued on September 3. The 1. SS-Brigade shot 26 Jews and nine, northwest of the Ovruch-Slovechno line. Polizeiregiment Sued shot 4,144 Jews.

Page 146: Report from the 1. SS-Brigade, which shot seven Jews in Lelchitsy on September 4.

Page 147: Report from the HSSUPF Russland Sued on the activities of the 1. SS-Brigade, Polizeiregiment Sued, Polizeibataillon 320 and the Stabskompanie HSSPF Russland Sued on September 6. The Stabskompanie HSSPF Russland Sued murdered 1,303 Jews in Berdichev. 
2) Christopher Browning collated these reports, based on YVA O.53/86 and O.53/128 [Ordinary Men, p.17]:
AUGUST 19: Battalion 314 shot 25 Jews. Battalion 45 at Slavuta shot 522 Jews.

AUGUST 22: Battalion 45 shot 66 and 471 Jews in two actions.

AUGUST 23: Battalion 314 shot 367 Jews in a"cleansing action."

AUGUST 24: Battalion 314 shot 294 Jews, Battalion 45 shot 61 Jews, and the "police squadron" (horse-mounted police) 113 Jews.

AUGUST 25: Police Regiment South shot 1,324 Jews.

AUGUST 27: According to the first of two reports, Police Regiment South shot 549 Jews and Battalion 314 shot 69 Jews. The second credited Police Regiment South with shooting 914 Jews.

AUGUST 28: Police Regiment South shot 369 Jews.

AUGUST 29: Battalion 320 provided the "cordon" while the staff company of the HSSPF shot 15,000 Jews at Kamenets Podolsky on August 26-27 and another 7,000 on August 28.

AUGUST 31: Battalion 320 shot 2,200 Jews in Minkovtsy.

SEPTEMBER 1: Police Regiment South shot 88 Jews; Battalion 320 shot 380.

SEPTEMBER 2: Police Regiment South shot 45 Jews.

SEPTEMBER 4: Police Regiment South shot 4,144 Jews.

SEPTEMBER 6: Police Regiment South shot 144 Jews.

SEPTEMBER 11: Police Regiment South shot 1,548 Jews.

SEPTEMBER 12: Police Regiment South shot 1,255 Jews.

OCTOBER 5: Police Battalion 304 shot 305 Jews.
 Operational Situation Report 106 noted the liquidation of 36,000 Jews in Kiev and 3,145 at Zhitomir. Operational Situation Report 128 made it clear that Jews were executed because they were Jews, without any investigation into whether or not they were Bolsheviks or partisans:
As to purely execution matters, approximately 80,000 person have been liquidated by now by the Kommandos of the Einsatzgruppe.
Among these are approximately 8,000 person convicted after investigation of anti-German or Bolshevist activities.
The remainder was liquidated in retaliatory actions.
Several retaliatory measures were carried out as large-scale actions. The largest of these actions took place immediately after the occupation of Kiev. It was carried out exclusively against Jews and their entire families.
The difficulties resulting from such a large-scale action, in particular concerning the round-up, were overcome in Kiev by requesting the Jewish population to assemble, using wall posters. Although at first only the participation of 5-6000 Jews had been expected, more than 30,000 Jews arrived who, until the moment of their execution, still believed in their resettlement, thanks to extremely clever organization [propaganda]. Even though approximately 75,000 Jews have been liquidated in this manner, it is evident at this time that this cannot be the best solution of the Jewish problem. Although we succeeded, particularly in smaller towns and villages, in bringing about a complete liquidation of the Jewish problem, nevertheless, again and again it has been observed in the larger cities that after such an action, all Jews have indeed been eradicated. But, when after a certain period of time a Kommando returns, the number of Jews still found in the city always surpasses considerably the number of executed Jews.
Kiev was arguably always slated for total liquidation. Food supply and security so far east would have placed heavy burdens on the occupation. It had been noted by Halder back on July 8 that Leningrad was to be leveled so that the population would not need to be fed, and it would appear probable that Kiev shared this fate. However, more recent events were also important, notably the desire for retaliation after Stalin's announcement that he was to deport Volga Germans to Siberia [see how the Nazis reported that event here].

Conclusion: As Pohl argues, there was more than one "green light" involved in the timelines given above. Bila Tserkva, Kamenets-Podolsky, Volhynia (Berdichev, Zhitomir, Rovno) and Kiev (Babi Yar) all required  judgments to be made about permissions and consequences, and these calculations worked back to the signals given by Hitler and Himmler via Jeckeln, plus the crucial role of the Wehrmacht (most notably Reichenau) in adopting at best "a blind eye" and at worst an active encouragement, as in Reichenau's subsequent order.

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