The Raul Wallenberg Mystery (4)

nazi-gold-train-allegedly-found-in-poland

The Holocaust was triggered by a “critical mass” of factors accumulated by the beginning of Operation Barbarossa on June 22nd, 1941. The decisive factor was Operation Barbarossa itself as Nazis (erroneously) believed that with the start of the “hot” all-out existential war with “Judeo-Bolshevism” they had no other choice but to kill all Jews in German-controlled territories (in their deranged minds, it was the only way to win the war and save the German race from annihilation).

However, there was another – very much mundane – reason that must not be overlooked. The Nazis needed money for their war effort (German historian Götz Aly estimated that about 15% of financing for the Second World War came from valuables taken from the Jews at gunpoint).

Valuables that they have no desire to ever return to their rightful owners. And the best way to make sure they never have to do it was, obviously, to kill the creditors. Dead do not sue – or protest in any other way for that matter.

Likewise, the key objective of the “Hungarian Holocaust” which began in mid-May of 1944, was to obtain funds for ODESSA (in other words, for the future Fourth Reich).

All 800,000 or so Hungarian Jews were forced by the Wehrmacht and the SS (who have occupied the country two months earlier) and their willing local collaborators from ACP to hand over all of their valuables to government officials.

Valuables included foreign currency, gems, gold and silver jewelry, wedding rings, paintings, other valuable works of art and anything else considered to be sufficiently liquid and of sufficiently high monetary value in the post-war world.

The confiscated property was then placed into individual bags and boxes which identified the owners, and receipts were properly issued. However, the latter were of no value to poor Jews as more than half of them (437,000) were shipped to the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau where just about all of them were murdered.

The remaining Jews were essentially made hostages and to make sure they will never be able to lay any claims to any valuables, the German and ACP re-sorted all the confiscated valuables into content categories making all but impossible to identify proper ownership of any of the valuables. Which, in turn, made any post-war lawsuits for all practical purposes impossible.

Some of the valuables were transferred to Germany; other ones went to neutral countries via the “Wallenberg Channel” (more on that later) but most stayed in Budapest until late 1944 when the victorious Red Army began to close in on the Hungarian capital.

The Arrow Cross Party – Hungary’s fascist government, led by Ferenc Szálasi had no desire to let these valuables to fall into the Soviet hands. So they (together with SS representatives) appointed one Árpád Toldi to take care of this very serious problem.

He developed a plan to evacuate much (but not all!) of the Jewish loot out of Hungary to Germany. The plan was approved by the SS and the ACP (the latter was obviously a formality) and in a few days large amounts of Jewish valuables were loaded onto a 42-car freight train that was to head for Germany.

No official list of valuables survived; according to various reports about the train, the contents included both highly liquid valuables (gold, gold jewelry, gems, diamonds, pearls and, of course, foreign currency – mostly US dollars and Swiss francs) and illiquid assets – watches, paintings, Persian and Oriental rugs, silverware, chinaware, furniture, fine clothing, linens, porcelains, cameras… even stamp-collections.

Jewish organizations and the Hungarian government estimated the total value of the train’s contents at $350 million in 1945 prices equivalent to almost $4 billion in 2007.

As the “Hungarian Gold Train” crawled throughout Hungary and Austria, it stopped occasionally to transfer some of its load to German military trucks. The fate of this load remains unknown.

In Austria, the train was eventually seized by Allied troops, first by the French Army and then finally by the United States Army near the town of Werfen (in Austrian state of Salzburg).

Shortly after the US army seizure of the train, the majority of the assets was transferred to a Military Government Warehouse in Salzburg. The paintings, however, were stored in the Salzburg Residenz palace.

As ownership of the valuables was impossible to ascertain (SS and ACP did a really good job at erasing any trace of original owners), the official US position, articulated by United States Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, was that the abovementioned assets were to be given to refugee aid organizations in accordance with international restitution agreements.

The majority of the remaining assets from the train was either sold through Army exchange stores in Europe in 1946 or auctioned off in New York City in 1948, with the proceeds going to the International Refugee Organization (IRO).

According to The New York Times, the auction receipts totaled a mere $152,850.61, or approximately $1.3 million in 2007 prices.[3] Items of clothing allocated for Army exchange store sales that were considered of lesser value were turned over to a Division chaplain for distribution “to needy displaced persons”.

It is common knowledge that the Nazis stole works of art and other valuables in occupied territories left and right. It much less known that the liberators (the Soviets and the Allies) did the same, albeit not at the same grand scale, of course.

Hence it is no surprise that some (actually, a lot) of the loot on the Hungarian Gold Train ended up in the possession of high-ranking US Army officers who were stationed in Central Europe to oversee post-war and Marshall Plan reconstruction efforts.

For example, by requisition order of Major General Harry J. Collins, Commander of the 42nd Infantry Division (the famed “Rainbow” Division), many of the items were used to furnish his home. Other items furnished the homes and offices of other US senior officers including Brigadier General Henning Linden and Major General Edgar E. Hume. The property included chinaware, silverware, glassware, rugs, and even table and bed linen.

The ultimate fate of approximately 200 paintings seized from the train is unknown. As they were deemed “cultural assets” under official US restitution policy, they should have been returned to their country of origin. However, they were not. In fact, with very few exceptions, none of the valuables were returned to Hungary, their rightful owners, or their surviving family members.

I think that the real story was very different from the official version of events. IMHO, the whole train was but a highly skillfully arranged cover, a deception intended to conceal the real fate of highly liquid assets looted from the Hungarian Jews.

As was the case with other “Nazi Gold”, these valuables were divided into three (not necessarily equal) “piles”. The first one (probably the largest one) was sent through the “Wallenberg Channel” (i.e. via diplomatic mail) to Sweden, Switzerland, the Vatican and possibly to other neutral nations. It was subsequently carefully and thoroughly laundered and transferred to Die Neue SS (possibly to Heinrich Himmler himself).

The second “pile” went to Latin America (e.g. on board of U-530 or U-977); the third one was hidden in German and/or Austrian underground storage facilities built by Hans Kammler and his team. In early 1950’s the latter was retrieved, laundered (as was the “Latin American” pile) and, again, was transferred to Die Neue SS (“the real ODESSA”).

In other words, Heinrich Himmler skillfully used Hungarian Jews as hostages to negotiate a deal with the Wallenberg family (Jewish lives in exchange for transportation and laundering of Nazi loot – and possibly for a few dozen blank Swedish passports as well). This deal essentially put Raoul Wallenberg in charge of the whole network of individuals working on saving Jews in Hungary in July-December of 1944.

It is known that Himmler did initiate a number of such negotiations with both his adversaries (Anglo-Americans) and the neutral nations. And Raoul Wallenberg’s uncle was a prominent Swedish banker (and a very much pro-Nazi) so the abovementioned deal would have been no surprise at all.

There are legends about other “Nazi gold trains”. The most widely known is about a train that in May of 1945 allegedly left Breslau (now the Polish city of Wrocław) laden with gold and other treasures looted from the Poles and the Jews.

The armored and otherwise well-protected and well-guarded was then driven into a system of tunnels under the Owl Mountains (a mountain range of the Central Sudetes in southwestern Poland).

These tunnels were allegedly a part of the mysterious Projekt Riese (“Project Giant”) that was never completed and whose purpose remains unknown to this day (no documentation on the project was ever found).  I tend to think that the objective of this project was to host production facilities for some kind of Wunderwaffe (missiles, jets or some other stuff).

The “Gold Train” was supposedly buried in a warren of tunnels and mines created by the Nazis (actually, by slave laborers). The train is rumored to contain to 300 tons of gold, jewels, weapons, and other valuables (such as paintings and other artwork).

There is no proof that this train ever existed and I think that (unlike the Hungarian Gold Train), it never existed. However, some of the valuables looted by the Nazis in Poland and possibly in the Soviet Union were, indeed, transported to Greater Germany (but not to the territories eventually ceded to Poland, of course).

And were, indeed, buried in Thuringia or in some other mountainous region in Germany or Austria. Obviously, they were retrieved by Die Neue SS in the 1950s so any search for them is a total waste of time, money and energy.

Soviet military intelligence at the end of the war was good (in some aspects, possibly even better than the British one). Hence it is no surprise that it got the whiff of the deal between Heinrich Himmler and the Wallenberg family and wanted to get hold of at least some of the money transported out of Germany into the neutral nations.

According to some witnesses’ statements, the Soviet SMERSH (military counter-intelligence) searched Wallenberg’s car, his apartment and even his workplace in the Swedish embassy and found a not insignificant amount of valuables. Wallenberg claimed that these assets were given to him by the Jews for safekeeping; however, the Soviets did not buy it. They believed (possibly for a good reason) that it was the Nazi loot to be transported to Sweden.

For two years the Soviet secret police (NKGB and subsequently the MGB) had been trying to use Raoul Wallenberg to get access to the Nazi loot laundered via Swedish and other neutral banks.

To no avail as the hapless diplomat was but a courier (actually even a “transfer facilitator”) who had no clue of the whereabouts of the valuables (let alone access to them). For obvious reasons, the Swedish government had to desire to be involved in Nazi gold laundering operation in any capacity so they did precisely nothing to help Raoul Wallenberg (wisely choosing to believe the official Soviet story).

Raoul’s uncle and other family members who were a part of the operation were only intermediaries who transferred the valuables to other parties – most likely, to the Swiss banks and the IOR (Istituto per le Opere di Religione – the Vatican Bank).

By the time the Soviets arrested Raoul Wallenberg on January 17th, 1945, the assets were long gone from the Swedish bank so the family could do nothing to buy Wallenberg out. Paying the ransom with their own money was out of the question – the Soviets wanted way too much.

By mid-July of 1947, it became obvious to Stalin that Raoul Wallenberg was useless – no money or any other financial assets could be obtained by or through him. So – in the “best” traditions of the Stalinist USSR – he was murdered on or about July 16th, 1947.

Having made a very significant contribution to the financing of Die Neue SS. And possibly to the whole Fourth Reich project.

The “Commissar Order” (5)

20190907_201735000_iOSBecause of his deeply entrenched habit of issuing oral (and often very broad) directives, we do not know for sure when Hitler ordered the development of the “Commissars’ Order”.

Most likely, he gave the corresponding directive – either to Head of OKW (Wehrmacht High Command) Wilhelm Keitel or (more likely) directly to Chief of the OKH General Staff Franz Halder sometime around March 30th, 1941.

On that date, Hitler addressed over 200 senior Wehrmacht officers in the Reich Chancellery. In that speech (devoted mostly to the upcoming war with the Soviet Union), he explicitly declared that political officers in the Soviet Armed Forces had to be “liquidated” without mercy because Germany was fighting the existential ideological war with the USSR.

To win this war, Germany had to eradicate the Bolshevist ideology; and to wipe it out, it was necessary to physically exterminate its bearers – the “Bolshevist commissars” in the Armed Forces and the “Communist intelligentsia” in the civilian administration.

There is some indication (but not a definite proof) that the Hitler’s real reason to order the Kommissarbefehl was a bit different. It is a well-known fact that Karl Marx – the founder of Marxism (and thus ultimately of Bolshevism – its Russian strain) was Jewish by blood (although baptized Protestant).

The individual responsible for bringing Bolsheviks to power (and the subsequent commander-in-chief of Bolshevist armed forces) Leon Trotsky was a Jew. The titular head of Russian Bolshevist state Yakov Sverdlov was a Jew. Grigory Zinoviev – the CEO of Comintern – organization established by the Bolsheviks with the explicit objective to Bolshevize the whole world was Jewish.

In fact, most of the leaders of the Soviet Russia and of the Bolshevist coups in Europe (as well as the author of Weimar Constitution and some of the influential Weimar leaders) were Jewish.

From these irrefutable facts, Adolf Hitler made an understandable, but totally erroneous conclusions – that just about all Soviet “commissars” and the “Communist intelligentsia” were Jewish.

Hitler was right about the reality of the Bolshevist existential threat to Germany, Europe, the whole Western Civilization and the whole world. He was, however, hopelessly wrong about the nature of that threat (and thus of the very real existential war between Germany and the Soviet Union).

He perceived it as a racial war with the mythical “Jewish race” (which existed only in Nazi imagination). And with the “Judeo-Bolshevist ideology”, which in reality was the Russian-Marxist messianism.

He also deeply (and incorrectly) believed that to win this war, German (“Aryan”) race had to completely exterminate its opponent. Either geographically (by deporting all Jews from all German-controlled territories) or physically – by murdering them.

According to his very much twisted logic, this physical annihilation had to start with the most powerful and influential (and thus the most dangerous) Jews. With political officers in the military and civilian managers in the Communist party, government, economy, etc.

He could not have been more wrong. First, although initially the share of Jews in the Armed Forces, in the Communist Party and in the civilian administration was disproportionately high (to put it mildly), the Great Purge of 1936-38 drastically reduced it.

Consequently, by 1941, Jews both in the military and in the civilian government were in a small minority, not in an overwhelming majority as Hitler (incorrectly) perceived.

Second, unlike the Third Reich, the Soviet Union was not about Bolshevism at all. It was all about the unlimited power of and world domination by but one individual – the “Red Tamerlane” Joseph Stalin.

Who (contrary to a very popular misconception), was no Bolshevism at all. In fact, he was a typical Asian despot and conqueror, a reincarnation (of sorts) of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane.

For him Bolshevism was simply a convenient tool for attaining the absolute power inside his country and conquering the outside world. Convenient because it was both an excellent disguise and a highly efficient detonator for the real drive that Stalin used to motivate the “Soviet people” to conquer the world for him.

This drive was Russian imperial Orthodox messianism and I will cover it in the appropriate detail in the very next chapter of this book.

Consequently, Adolf Hitler had a totally erroneous perception of how the Soviet Union and its Armed Forces were managed. It was run not by the Party officials in the civilian life and political officers in the Armed forces, but by the government bureaucrats (“apparatchiks”) and security services (the much-feared NKVD) on the civilian side and by regular commanding officers in the military.

Hence the physical extermination of even all “commissars” in all branches of the Soviet Armed forces would not have made any significant impact on the fighting capabilities of the Red Army.

In fact, it could have (and sometimes did – when the “commissars” died from “natural causes”) made the latter far more efficient as it would have eliminated totally redundant officers and thus considerably simplified the system of command.

After the war, several German generals (including Generalfeldmarschall Erich von Manstein) were tried and convicted for war crimes which included carrying out the “Commissars’ Order”.

However, it was only one of the charges (and a relatively minor ones). None of the defendants was sentenced to death or life imprisonment and all served eight years in jail at most.

The “Commissar Order” (4)

20190907_201759000_iOSJust about all historians severely underestimate the importance of the Kommissarbefehl and its impact on the course of the Second Great War (and thus on the fate of the Third Reich, the Nazi Party and of Adolf Hitler personally).

The key reason for this underestimation is the death toll generated by this very much criminal order (which was minuscule compared to other mass murders committed by the Nazis – with the exception of the Night of the Long Knives, of course).

If we take the reports of Army Group North at face value and assume that two other Army Groups – Center and South – murdered about the same number of Soviet political officers (IMHO, a realistic assumption), we will arrive at the total death toll of under 1,000. Even the Nazi human experimentations (that I will cover in one of the subsequent sections) killed far more human beings.

However, the influence of the Kommissarbefehl on the German blitzkrieg and thus on the whole course of war on the Eastern front and in general went far, far beyond these relatively infinitesimal numbers.

I would even argue that this immensely idiotic, moronic and genuinely insane order did far more damage than any other Hitler’s blunders (and possibly even delivered a fatal blow) to the blitzkrieg – and thus the whole Nazi war effort.

The reason for this bold (even brazen) statement is, actually, quite simple. In June of 1941, the Red Army had an immense numerical superiority to Wehrmacht (which included Waffen SS). 3:1 in troops, 4:1 in aircraft; 5:1 in artillery pieces, 6:1 in tanks (if you use dynamic, not static calculations).

There was only one way for the Wehrmacht to defeat that monster – make it lose the will to fight. In other word, completely destroy the morale of the opponent which would make the monster collapse even if it had superior organization, command skills, communications, etc. (the Red Army did not).

On the other hand, if the enemy has the will to fight (let alone fight to the death), “all of the above” does not matter (which have been proven beyond the reasonable doubt countless times in the history of warfare).

Destruction of enemy morale was one of the key tools in the “blitzkrieg toolbox”. The tool that had been use very successfully many times – most notably during the French campaign.

Enormous, miraculous successes of the Wehrmacht during first months of Operation Barbarossa (initially the most wildly successful campaign in the history of wars) were caused by many factors but the chief of the latter was the collapse of Soviet morale and all but complete loss of any will to fight.

Which explains astonishingly high – and totally unexpected – number of Soviet troops that surrendered to the victorious Wehrmacht and (to a far lesser extent). Waffen SS.

Soviet political officers were not immune to this collapse of morale and loss of the will to fight – so in reality they made no impact on the fighting capabilities of Soviet troops (contrary to what Nazis believed).

But that was before the Soviet military propaganda got hold of the Kommissarbefehl (the Soviet military intelligence was actually one of the best in the world at that time). And used it will all its enormous power (which put Dr. Goebbels and his Ministry to shame) – and with devastating results. Devastating for their adversary that is.

Now all Soviet “commissars” had no other choice but to use all their resources and all their power (and they, indeed, had some) to convince, inspire and motivate their troops tom fight to the death.

Kommissarbefehl did exactly what Wehrmacht generals feared the most – by creating sufficient incentive for political officers to become genuine leaders, it gradually (over several months) transformed a rudderless and leaderless mass of Soviet soldiers and officers into a swarm of fierce fighters.

Swarm that held long enough for the Soviet High Command to transform the chaotic, depressed and devastated “armed crowd” into a formidable fighting force. The force that in December of 1941 not only stopped the Wehrmacht cold, but delivered the first military defeat to previously always victorious German Armed Forces.

And ultimately won the war, destroyed the Third Reich (and most of German infrastructure), killed millions of Germans and forced Hitler himself (and many of his associates) to commit suicide.

Consequently, there is no doubt whatsoever that no German general had any desire to issue this order – or follow it. Only one man in German chain of military command had this desire (i.e. motive).

As well as the power to get the Kommissarbefehl written, issued and distributed (following the order and enforcing it were different matters entirely).

Adolf Hitler.

 

The “Commissar Order” (3)

Soviet POW

A short message about every incident [i.e. the executed commissar] will be sent: (a) by divisional units to divisional headquarters (its Intelligence Officer); (b) by troops directly under the command of a corps, an army or an army group or a Panzer group, to the respective headquarters (also their Intelligence Officer).

[This clause makes sense; however, it was most likely added on order from Adolf Hitler himself. Consumed with hatred for “Bolshevist Commissars”, Der Führer wanted to know exactly how many of the latter were executed by his troops]

Commissars who are arrested in the communications zone [a part of the theater of war operations – behind but contiguous to the combat zone] on suspicion of a doubtful’ attitude will be handed over to the Einsatzgruppen and/or of the Security Police (Security Service)

[Which meant death sentence – and a swift execution without trial or any kind of due process]

The courts-martial and summary courts of the regimental and other commanders must not be entrusted with the execution of the abovementioned measures

[Which means that all activities under the Kommissarbefehl take place completely outside the military law and the legal system of the Wehrmacht]

The final text of the Kommissarbefehl included the following appendix (added by von Brauchitsch on May 24th, 1941 and appropriately called the Maintenance of Discipline order):

I expect that all counter intelligence measures of the troops will be carried out energetically, for their own security and the speedy pacification of the territory won. It will be necessary to take into account the variety of ethnic strains within the population, its overall attitude, and the degree to which they have been stirred up [by the Bolsheviks against the Germans].

[Makes complete sense – with the exception of the “ethnic strains”, of course]

Movement and combat against the enemy’s armed forces are the real tasks of the troops. It demands the fullest concentration and the highest effort of all forces. This task must not be jeopardized in any place. Therefore, in general, special search and mopping-up operations will be out of question for the combat troops.

[The shortened version of the last sentence found its way into the main body of the order. Which means that von Brauchitsch was not happy – to put it mildly – with combat troops being forced to do the police work (let alone perform executions)]

The directives of the Fuehrer [i.e. the Kommissarbefehl] concern serious cases of rebellion, in which the most severe measures are required

[In other words, death sentence is warranted only when the “commissar” in question was captured with literally “a smoking gun”. Less serious felonies committed by the latter (let alone suspicions) warrant far more lenient measures. This pretty much watered down the harsh order]

Under all circumstances it will remain the duty of all superiors to prevent arbitrary excesses of individual members of the Army and to prevent in time the troops becoming unmanageable. It must not come to it that the individual soldier commits or omits any act he thinks proper toward the native population; he must rather feel that in every case he is bound by the orders of his officers.

I consider it very important that this be clearly understood down to the lowest unit. Timely action by every officer, especially every company commander, etc., must help to maintain discipline, the basis of our successes.

[In other words, maintaining discipline and fighting the enemy is far more important than hunting down and executing “commissars”. Another powerful excuse to pretty much ignore the murderous and criminal order]

 

The “Commissar Order” (2)

Russland-Nord, Erschießung von Partisanen

In the fight against Bolshevism it is not to be expected that the enemy will act in accordance with the principles of Humanity or of the International Law.

[As I will demonstrate in the next section, this expectation turned out to be 100% accurate]

In particular, a vindictive, cruel and inhuman treatment of our prisoners must be expected on the part of the political Commissars of all types, as they are the actual leaders of the resistance

[The expectation how the German POW would be treated turned out to be completely accurate as well. However, political officers had nothing to do with that – the POW camps were run by NKVD (the Soviet security police). Hence it was totally and completely wrong to hold political officers accountable for horrible mistreatment of German POW]

In this fight, leniency and considerations of International Law are out of place in dealing with these elements. They constitute a danger for their own safety and the swift pacification of the conquered territories.

[Wrong. In reality, after the Great Purge, (which all but exterminated diehard Bolsheviks) most Soviet political officers were pure egotistical careerists who did not really care whom to serve (they were programmed into servitude to the boss whoever the one might be). Hence when they were treated humanely (it did happen), many of them became excellent servants of the Nazis]

The originators of barbarous Asiatic methods of warfare are the political commissars. They must therefore be dealt with most severely, at once and summarily. Therefore, they are to be liquidated at once when taken in combat or offering resistance.

[Wrong on all counts. In reality, methods employed by the Nazis in their Eastern campaigns (especially by the Einsatzgruppen) were far more barbarous – and much more close to Asiatic (i.e. the ones used by the Japanese) than the ones used by the Soviets]

Political commissars who oppose our troops will be treated in accordance with the “Barbarossa Decree” [Decree on the Application of Martial Law and on Special Measures by Our Troops signed by Wilhelm Keitel]. This applies to commissars of any type and grade, even if they are only suspected of resistance, sabotage or of instigation thereto

[In practice it authorized every Wehrmacht officer (and those of the Waffen-SS, of course) to execute every Soviet political officer right then and there without trial or any other formalities – only on suspicion of hostile plans or actions.

Which led to mass murder of thousands and thousands of Soviet POW which I will cover in the section of mistreatment of the latter and of civilians which I will cover in the section of reprisals]

Reference is made to the ‘directive concerning the conduct of the troops in Russia.’

[“Guidelines for the Conduct of the Troops in Russia” was another very much criminal order issued on 19 May 1941 by the Wehrmacht High Command. The order called for ruthless and “complete elimination of both active and passive resistance” by whatever means deemed necessary. Including mass murder]

Political commissars as organs of the enemy troops are recognizable by special insignia-red star with interwoven gold hammer and sickle on the sleeves

[This information was not very useful because Soviet political officers knew that they would be executed and thus either avoided capture at all cost or changed into uniforms of their dead comrades. Hence the Wehrmacht officers had to rely on other POW to denounce “the commissars” – the task for which the Wehrmacht was ill-equipped, to put it mildly]

Commissars are to be segregated at once (i.e. still on the battlefield, from other POW. This is necessary to prevent them from influencing the prisoners of war in any way.

[The reason for segregation stated in the Kommissarbefehl demonstrates a woefully incorrect perception of Soviet military realities by the Nazis. Contrary to these perceptions, just about all Soviet troops were influenced only by their commanding officers.

The “commissars” were little more than Communist party spies tasked with keeping the superiors informed about what was said and done by the troops and what was the mood and intentions of the latter]

These commissars will not be recognized as soldiers, the protection of prisoners of war by International Law does not apply to them. They will be liquidated after segregation.

[A totally criminal – and completely unfounded – command. It not just made no sense, but led to disastrous and even catastrophic results]

Political commissars who have not committed or are not suspected of hostile acts will not be harmed for the time being. Only after deeper penetration of the country will it be possible to decide whether officials who were left behind may stay where they are or will be handed over to the nearest Einsatzkommando. Preferably the latter should make the final decision concerning the fate of the commissars.

[Now that was definitely written by the lawyer. This paragraph gave every Wehrmacht officer (or general) an excellent excuse to not getting involved in this whole “commissar” business. Simply by declaring every identified political officer as “harmless”.

As the German officers were trained to fight, not do police work (let alone executions), I strongly suspect that just about everyone took this easy way out of this literally bloody and very dirty mess]

As a matter of principle, in deciding the question whether [the political officer] ‘guilty or not guilty’ [of intent to resists] the personal impression [of the Army officer] which the commissar makes of his mentality and attitude will have precedence over facts which may be unprovable.

[Makes completes sense as investigating captured political officers at or even near the front is an exercise in futility and a total waste of highly valuable resources]

None of the above-mentioned measures must obstruct the [military] operations. Methodical searches and mopping-up actions, therefore, will not be carried out by the troops.

[Another clause that makes perfect sense – and provides an excellent excuse for simply ignoring this criminal and idiotic order altogether]

The “Commissar Order” (1)

686px-Kommissarbefehl_001

Mass murder of political officers of the Red Army (incorrectly labeled as “commissars” by the Nazis) was indisputably the most mysterious (and the most idiotic) of Nazi crimes.

The most mysterious because to this day it is not known even roughly how many Soviet “commissars” were murdered (or even if these murders took place at all). The only execution reports in existence were sent to the Army High Command (OKH) in Berlin by Army Group North then commanded by Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb.

According to those reports, 268 political officers had been shot between June and December of 1941. However, it is not known for sure whether these executions did take place or whether commanders of the armies in Army Group North simply lied to please their commander-in-chief. I am inclined to believe the latter for the reasons I will explain shortly.

The order was obviously illegal according to German law then in force because it flagrantly violated the 1929 Geneva Convention on the treatment of the POW that Nazi Germany never discarded.

Hence, the Nazis were bound by both international and domestic law to adhere to that convention (which clearly prohibited the summary execution of any POW) even when the other side (the Soviet Union) did not.

This order was idiotic because it could have been exactly what have prevented Nazi Germany from winning the “lightning war” on the Eastern front. And thus very well could have cost the Nazis their war, their state, their civilization and for many (including Adolf Hitler himself) his very life.

The first draft of Kommissarbefehl (officially Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars) was written by General of the Artillery (three-star general) Eugen Müller who was the one of the deputies of Franz Halder – Chief of Staff of the OKH.

Although he had the third highest rank in the Army (after Field Marshal and Generaloberst), Müller was essentially a military lawyer – hence it is no surprise that he was tasked with writing a legal document (which ironically was blatantly illegal).

The final text of the order was issued by OKH (signed by Supreme Commander of the German Army Walther von Brauchitsch) on June 6th, 1941 – two weeks before commencement of Operation Barbarossa.

Due to a fundamentally criminal nature of the Kommissarbefehl, only 340 commanders received the typed copy (meaning that distribution of written orders stopped at the divisional level). Lower-level commanders were to be informed orally.

Now let’s take a very close and very detailed look at the text of that infamous order.

 

KL – Actual Results

ebensee-survivors

The actual results of the Nazi KL program (in terms of functional value for the Third Reich) were mixed at best. The obvious (and very tangible) positive result was that the Nazis eliminated all political obstacles to their grandiose project of a radical engineering of Germany.

Which was more than successfully accomplished by the end of 1938. As was “reprogramming” of political opponents into a firm and committed supporters of the Nazi regime.

However, the way the Nazis eliminated these obstacles can be classified only as “overkill” (often in a very literal sense). Hitler’s appointment to the position of Chancellor, the Reichstag Fire Decree (and the fire itself) and, finally, the Enabling Act (passed by the German Parliament in a very much legal way) delivered three crushing blows to the opposition (made even more crushing by ruthless destruction of the opposition’s infrastructure by the Nazis).

So crushing, in fact, that after these blows the political opposition ceased to become a credible threat (i.e. obstacle) to the Nazi plans of a radical political, economic, military, social and cultural reengineering of Germany.

Hence, there was no need to send so many political opponents (active and potential) of the Nazi regime to internment camps or treat them so brutally (let alone murder any of them).

Again, Nazi obsession with violence and brutal force and their (bad) habit of choosing the most radical solution to the problem at hand made them commit heinous (and totally unnecessary) crimes against humanity.

It must also be noted that no matter how they tried (and they tried very hard), the Nazis failed to even weaken (let alone eliminate completely) the internal existential threat to their regime.

For a very simple reason – this threat came from the military which was off-limits to Nazi security services. Which is exactly why these services failed to uncover the plot of the senior officers of the Wehrmacht which led to assassination attempt on July 20th, 1944.

Or the previous plot in September of 1938 when only the miraculously (literally) timely signing of the infamous Munich agreement saved Adolf Hitler from being killed and his Third Reich from being destroyed by the Wehrmacht.

Another highly positive result was a radical reduction in crime (and all but complete elimination of organized crime). With career and habitual criminals locked away for good in places like Dachau, the infrastructure of the organized crime annihilated and indefinite “preventive custody” creating a strong deterrent to criminal activity it is no surprise that the number of individuals willing to commit crimes went down dramatically.

Obviously, the KL program made German society much healthier, cleaner and substantially more moral (by Nazi standards, of course). Prior to 1933, Berlin and just about all other large German cities were hotbeds of all kinds of sexual deviations and depravities – from very much accepted in the modern democratic society (i.e. of the LGBTQ) to human trafficking, sexual slavery, child pornography and child prostitution (which are not).

The Nazis ruthlessly all but eliminated “all of the above” – to the applause of mostly conservative, puritan and even prudish German public.

Was it necessary to eradicate “all of the above” by such brutal and violent means? IMHO, it depends. Radical reduction in crime, elimination of the organized crime and ruthless crackdown on human trafficking, sexual slavery, child pornography and child prostitution are probably the only Nazi measures in the “crimes” category that I would wholeheartedly support.

It is important to note that there was no equivalent of the “preventive custody” system in the Soviet Union. Hence it is no surprise that crime in the Bolshevist Soviet Union was far more rampant (and hence a far more serious problem) than in Nazi Germany.

Which was probably the result of a very different system of priorities in Stalin’s mind than in Hitler’s. While the latter wanted to make his people genuinely happy and saw everything else as the means to that (highly noble) end, the former viewed all his subjects (and everyone else) as but a tool in his battle for the conquest of an entire world.

And, last but not the least, the KL system made it possible for the Nazis to mobilize sufficient amount of forced labor from all over Europe (and occupied territories of the Soviet Union) to fight the war of attrition for 3.5 years after the miserable failure of Blitzkrieg on the Eastern front in December of 1941. Which was, of course, an achievement of sorts.

However, this achievement was dubious, to put it mildly. First, Nazi Germany lost the war of attrition, suffered human casualties in the millions, had most of its infrastructure destroyed, lost a quarter of its pre-1938 territory and was occupied and ruthlessly reengineered by the victorious Allies.

Which means that forcing millions of Europeans into slave labor was the wrong way to find the war of attrition. As I will demonstrate in the chapter on “Hilter’s War”, there was a far better way to win the war of attrition – the one that would actually work. Oh, and Hitler could (and should) have won the “lightning war” on the Eastern front – simply by making the right decisions (not the ones that he actually made).

As all Nazi KL were forced labor camps (one way or the other), millions of Germans, Austrians and inhabitants of occupied territories were tortured, exploited, starved and in many cases killed for nothing.

They became the victims not only of inhuman (I would even say demonic) system and processes of the Nazi KL system, but, first and foremost, colossal strategic blunders (political and military) committed by Adolf Hitler and his closest partners-in-crimes.

KL – Victims

KL Inmates

Nazi objectives for creating a system of KL pretty much defined its victims:

  • Leaders, functionaries and influential members of political parties – Communists, Social-Democrats, Catholics, Conservatives, etc.
  • Active and potential members of Resistance groups not affiliated with any political party (i.e. members of the elites of German-occupied nations)
  • Influential Christians (priests, monks, nuns, lay officials, theologians etc.) who publicly oppose and criticize Nazi regime
  • Members of religious groups openly opposed to Nazism (Jehovah Witnesses, etc.)
  • Individuals (i.e. not affiliated with any group) engaged in violent or non-violent protests – from journalists to terrorists
  • Career (habitual) criminals
  • Homosexuals (oddly, the Nazis persecuted almost exclusively male homosexuals, leaving lesbians pretty much alone)
  • Prostitutes, pimps, brothel owners and others engaged in providing sexual services
  • “Asocials” – trumps, homeless, vagrants, “work shy”, beggars, etc.

How many KL were there? The honest answer is: we do not know (and might never know). Estimates range from 1,200 (probably too low) to a whopping 42,500 (way too high; however the latter include Jewish ghettos).

How many individuals were interned in KL at some point in their lives? We have no idea. It is estimated that in January of 1945 there were about 715,000 inmates in all camps both inside and outside Germany (far less than there were in Gulag at its peak). But whether this number includes all inmates, we do not know (at that time statistics in Germany was not exactly accurate).

How many died in the camps – murdered or succumbed to hunger, diseases, etc. We have no clue. One estimate puts the total number of death at (IMHO, realistic) half a million but how accurate is this estimate?

In short, we only know that we do not know – and probably will never know. Most likely, the total number of inmates at least once incarcerated in KL was in single-digit millions (with the overwhelming majority coming from occupied territories) and the death toll is around one million or less.

 

KL – the Objectives

Majdanek concentration camp on the outskirts of Lublin, Poland

Prior to the outbreak of World War II (which, contrary to a very popular misconception, was started by Britain and France on September 3rd, 1939 – not by Germany two days earlier), Nazi intended to use KL to achieve the following two desired results:

  1. Eliminate all opposition to Nazi regime in Germany by (a) transforming political opponents into committed supporters of the regime – a preferred option; (b) isolating indefinitely those who successfully resist this transformation; (c) scaring all potential opponents into at least neutrality; and (d) physically eliminating those who present a material threat to the regime even inside and internment camp
  2. Make the Nazi society squeaky clean by eliminating all “social dirt” (as defined by the Nazis, of course) – incorrigible criminals, beggars, idlers, vagrants, tramps, alcoholics, prostitutes, juvenile delinquents, rebels and other “undesirables” similar. This objective was supposed to be achieved using exactly the same tools as the first one – only physical elimination tools were different (these characters were included into Action 14f13)

Given the fact that by the beginning of 1938 (i.e. before Anschluss of Austria) the number of KL inmates declined almost six-fold from its peak in 1933 (from over 45,000 to just 7,750) these objectives – which made complete sense given the fundamental strategic objectives of the Nazis (and of Hitler personally) – have been largely achieved.

However, the outbreak of the Second Great War added three other natural objectives:

  1. Eliminate all opposition to Nazi regime in German-occupied territories
  2. Provide German economy (first and foremost the armaments production) with the maximum possible amount of the cheapest possible labor
  3. Get the maximum possible amount of value (first and foremost, functional) from every inmate at the lowest possible total cost (food, shelter, medical care, etc.)

The first additional objective made complete sense (any occupying power would want to achieve it) but the second and third were grossly incorrect (to put it mildly).

Instead of the “cheapest possible” labor the Nazis should have striven to acquire the most efficient labor (which would have meant keeping the Jews very much alive and reasonable well – among other things).

And instead of getting the maximum possible amount of value from every inmate at the lowest possible cost, they should have endeavored to get the maximum possible value period.

These gross misconceptions predictably led to enormous and horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity (I will present details later in the section on forced labor in Nazi Germany).

Unfortunately, these misconceptions were added by the third one which was about the implementation of the first and third objective. As for the first, the Nazis (who always chose the most radical solution to any problem at hand and worshiped violence and brutal force) achieved it mostly through the latter – and overwhelmingly powerful brainwashing.

It did work in Greater Germany – but not on occupied territories. Consequently, mass incarceration, violence, brutal force and mass murder (chosen by the Nazis to achieve the objective #3) were (like all other Nazi crimes) a colossal blunder. Instead, the Nazis should have developed and implemented some form of a “social contract” with the population of the occupied territories.

 

Aktion 14f13 (2)

hartheim-castle

For five months both operations (Aktion T4 and Aktion 14f13) were running in parallel and largely followed the same very much criminal process. Actually, de-jure the latter was even more criminal than the former, because Hitler’s letter (of questionable legality) that authorized Aktion T4 said nothing about KL.

Viktor Brack assembled a panel of psychiatrists and physicians who (unlike the Aktion T4 experts who worked with reports only) personally visiting KL to select sick and incapacitated prisoners for euthanasia.

The reason for personal visits was plain and simple – unlike institutions that sent reports to Aktion T4 doctors, KL simply could not do it because it did not have qualified psychiatrists (or physicians for that matter).

As experts had to examine the subjects themselves (and as there were far more KL inmates than patients in mental institutions), Aktion 14f13 panel employed far more experts.

Hence the list of “medical perpetrators” was quite long and included a number of prominent and distinguished professionals – professors Werner Heyde and Hermann Paul Nitsche and doctors Friedrich Mennecke, Curt Schmalenbach, Horst Schumann, Otto Hebold, Rudolf Lonauer, Robert Müller, Theodor Steinmeyer, Gerhard Wischer, Viktor Ratka and Hans Bodo Gorgaß.

Still, to speed up the process, KL commandants made a preliminary list of Ballastexistenzen (“dead weight prisoners”) themselves thus pre-selecting inmates for euthanasia. However, the experts had the right (and often exercised it) to expand these lists including inmates that commandants could have overlooked.

The final lists included all inmates who had been unable to work for a certain period of time or was substantially incapacitated and would not be able to ever return to work.

These lists were then were sent to central T4 office in Berlin where the final euthanasia decisions were made. Those selected for “special treatment” were transported either by bus (using the special transportation company) or by train to the nearest killing center.

There they were examined for gold teeth by a prison doctor and labeled appropriately before being led (usually using some type of ruse) into a gas chamber, where they were gassed with carbon monoxide – usually less than 24 hours after arrival.

Orderlies of the killing center in question removed gold teeth from the mouths of the cadavers (these were considered Reich’s property and thus were sent to Berlin HQ). After this procedure was completed, the bodies were incinerated in the center’s crematorium.

The murders were carried out by the same staff and using the same means as used previously in Aktion T4. A few administrative details were changed, in that the deaths were recorded by members of the respective camp administration (not medical doctors); they informed relatives of the deaths, claiming illness (usually pneumonia) as the cause.

To avoid even the possibility of resistance, condemned inmates were told (rather convincingly) they would go to a “recovery camp”, where they would have light duties. However, as the belongings of murdered victims were sent back to the camp warehouse for sorting (a really dumb idea), some inmates had to be taken to gas chambers by force.

Aktion 14f13 was launched sometime in April 1941 when the first known selection of “unproductive ballast” took place at Sachsenhausen. By the summer, at least 400 prisoners from that camp had been killed. During the same period, 450 prisoners from Buchenwald and 575 prisoners from Auschwitz were gassed at the Sonnenstein Euthanasia Centre.

Between September and November 1941, 3,000 prisoners from Dachau and several thousand inmates from Mauthausen and neighboring KL Gusen, were gassed at Hartheim.

The Ballastexistenzen from the Flossenbürg, Neuengamme and Ravensbrück camps were also selected and killed. After November, another 1,000 prisoners from Buchenwald, 850 from Ravensbrück and 214 from Groß-Rosen, were gassed at Sonnenstein Castle and Bernburg. From March to April 1942, some 1,600 women were selected at Ravensbrück and gassed at Bernburg.

The death toll of Aktion 14f13 is estimated at about 20,000 making it a “mini T4” (the latter killed about ten times more). The main reason for that is that, unlike mental institutions, KL were factories that produced highly valuable products.

Consequently, with a constantly increasing demand for labor (especially after the commencement of the “final solution tom a Jewish question”) camp commanders increasingly focused on getting as much as possible value out of every inmate. Which predictably imposed strict restrictions on selections (and thus on euthanasia).

In April of 1944 the KL-Inspectorate (the central SS administrative and managerial authority for the internment camps of the Third Reich) made the next logical step. From that date on, selection of the inmates to be euthanized became the responsibility of camp administrations, usually the camp doctor.

Some Ballastexistenzen were killed in the camp (usually by lethal injection); others were sent to a death camp (i.e. the one that had a gas chamber, such as Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen or Auschwitz).

Still others (including no longer useful forced laborers from Eastern Europe, Soviet POWs and even some Hungarian Jews) were gassed at Hartheim. The last prisoner transport to Hartheim was on December 11, 1944, ending the operation (thankfully) for good.

The gas chambers at Hartheim were destroyed and traces of their use were removed, as much as possible and the castle was used as an orphanage (of all purposes).

Like its “bigger sister” (Aktion T4), Action 14f13 was an extensive operation; consequently, the list of perpetrators (i.e. guilty of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and felony murder) is quite long.

The key individuals that initiated and managed this murderous operation are:

  • Heinrich Himmler – SS Reichsfuhrer; ordered planning and execution of Action 14f13. Committed suicide (?) after being captured by the Allies
  • Philipp Bouhler – Reichsleiter and SS-Obergruppenfuhrer; ordered resources of Aktion T4 to be delivered to Heinrich Himmler to be used in Aktion 14f13. Committed suicide to avoid trial for his crimes.
  • Viktor Brack – SS-Oberführer; chief of Hauptamt II of the KdF and the COO of Aktion T4; delivered the resources of the latter to Heinrich Himmler. Tried, convicted and executed for crimes against humanity.
  • Werner Heyde – SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain); chief of staff of the medical department in the SS-Hauptamt (headquarters); one of the top managers of the medical side of Aktion T4 (and the key member of the panel of medical experts that selected inmates for euthanasia). Committed suicide to avoid trial for his crimes.
  • Horst Schumann – SS-Sturmbannführer (major); key member of the panel of medical experts that selected inmates for euthanasia. Arrested only in 1970 but quickly released due to “heart condition and generally deteriorating health”. Given the fact that he lived for 11 more years, he was possibly released because he had acquired valuable knowledge on radiation poisoning (he conducted experiments of that nature in Auschwitz)
  • Richard Glücks – SS-Gruppenführer; Concentration Camps Inspector; managed the administrative side of Aktion 14f13. Committed suicide (?) on May 10th, 1945.

Again, like its “bigger sister” (Aktion T4) made no material contribution to the Nazi war effort. It only consumed highly valuable resources (including time and energy of SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler). Consequently, it was a colossal blunder – Nazis would have been much better off by just feeding and otherwise helping sick prisoners (or, better, by having them released as due to ill health they were no longer a security risk).