Ordinary men, p.4
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       Ordinary Men, p.4

           Christopher R. Browning

  Though the documentation of police battalion participation in the mass murder of Russian Jewry is not extensive, it does suffice to disprove beyond any reasonable doubt the chief postwar alibi of the Order Police leadership—namely, that Daluege had reached an agreement with Himmler whereby the Order Police would assist the Security Police, providing guard duty and any services short of shooting, but were forbidden to be the executioners themselves. This alibi, akin to the postwar claim of the Waffen-SS that they were soldiers like any others and did not participate in the ideologically grounded programs of the rest of the SS, was successfully pleaded before at least one German court in the trial of Police Battalion 11. The defendants persuaded the court that after only two executions—upon army orders in the Minsk region—they were able to invoke Daluege’s arrangement to secure their recall to Kovno.29

  As the documentation shows, the direct participation of the Order Police in the mass executions of Russian Jews in the summer and fall of 1941 was pervasive, occurring within the jurisdictions of the northern, central, and southern HSSPFs as well as in Białystok. Moreover, the mid-July massacre in Białystok took place directly after Daluege and Himmler met there with Bach-Zelewski, and the September 1 massacre in Minsk occurred immediately after Daluege’s visit with Bach-Zelewski in that city. Clearly, Daluege was not forbidding but rather inciting Order Police participation in the mass murder.

  Order Police involvement in mass shootings in Russia after the fall of 1941 is not well documented and in all probability was much less frequent. The major exception was extensive Order Police participation in the shooting of Jews in the Pinsk region in the fall of 1942.30 In the military crisis of the 1941-42 winter, many police battalions were pressed into frontline duty. Others had to contend with growing partisan resistance. Moreover, the number of men recruited from native populations into auxiliary units under the Order Police increased nearly tenfold in 1942, from 33,000 to 300,000.31 There was a constant tendency to assign the actual snooting duties to these units, in order to shift the psychological burden from the German police to their collaborators. This psychological burden was serious and extended even to Bach-Zelewski himself. Himmlers SS doctor, reporting to the Reichsführer on Bach-Zelewski’s incapacitating illness in the spring of 1942, noted that the SS leader was suffering “especially from visions in connection with the shootings of Jews that he himself had led, and from other difficult experiences in the east.”32


  The Order Police and the Final Solution: Deportation

  JUST AS THE ROLE OF THE ORDER POLICE IN THE MASSACRE OF Russian Jewry was beginning to wind down in the fall of 1941, Daluege took on a new and vital assignment contributing to the Final Solution: guarding the deportation trains “to the east.” In late September 1941 Hitler approved the commencement of Jewish deportations from the Third Reich, to be organized by Reinhard Heydrich through his Jewish expert in Berlin, Adolf Eichmann, and the regional Security Police offices throughout Germany.1 The only exceptions on the local level were in Vienna and Prague, where the deportations were to be handled by the Central Agencies for Jewish Emigration, created by Eichmann before the war and staffed by his handpicked men. Almost immediately, Heydrich reached agreement with Daluege on a division of labor. Daluege’s Order Police would guard the transports that Heydrich’s Security Police organized. Before each deportation wave, the local Order Police were instructed to accommodate Security Police requests for the agreed-upon transport guards. Ordinarily, the Order Police supplied one officer and fifteen men to each transport.2

  What was the scale of these operations? Between the fall of 1941 and the spring of 1945, over 260 deportation trains took German, Austrian, and Czech Jews directly to the ghettos and death camps “in the east” (i.e., Poland and Russia) or to the transit ghetto of Theresienstadt north of Prague and from there “to the east.”3 A minimum of 147 trains from Hungary, 87 from Holland, 76 from France, 63 from Slovakia, 27 from Belgium, 23 from Greece, 11 from Italy, 7 from Bulgaria, and 6 from Croatia—that is, close to 450 additional trains from western and southern Europe—were taken over by German guards at some point in their journey.4 No estimate has even been made of the number of Jewish deportation trains that traveled from Polish cities to the nearby death camps, but it was clearly in the many hundreds. Virtually all of these trains were guarded by Order Police.

  What did this mean in terms of what the Order Police experienced? One graphic report by Lieutenant Paul Salitter on guarding a deportation train from Düsseldorf to Riga on December 11, 1941, has already been published in both English and German.5 Two other reports—on deportation trains from Vienna to Sobibór and from Kołomyja in Galicia to Beżec—are noteworthy for an understanding of what numerous Order Police units did more than one thousand times during the war. First, the Vienna transport.

  152d Police Precinct   Vienna, June 20, 1942

  Report of Experiences

  Subject: Transport commando for the Jewish Transport Vienna-Aspangbahnhof to Sobibór, June 14, 1942

  The transport commando consisted of Reserve Lieutenant Fischmann as leader, two sergeants, and 13 reserve policemen of the 1st Reserve Police Company East. The duty of the transport commando began at 11 a.m. on June 14, 1942, at the Aspangbahnhof, in accordance with the prior telephone request of SS-Hauptsturmführer Brunner.

  The loading of the Jews:

  Under the direction and supervision of SS-Hauptsturmführer Brunner and SS-Hauptscharführer Girzik of the Central Agency for Jewish Emigration, the loading of the Jews into the special train waiting in the Aspangbahnhof began at noon and went smoothly. The guard duty of the transport commando commenced at this time. A total of 1,000 Jews were deported. The transfer of the Jews as listed occurred at 4 p.m. Because of a shortage of cars, the transport commando had to make do with a third- instead of a second-class car.

  Trip from Vienna to Sobibór:

  The train Da 38 was dispatched from Vienna at 7:08 p.m. on June 14, 1942, and traveled to Sobibór, not as scheduled to Izbica, via Lundenburg [Břeclar], Brünn [Brno], Neisse [Nysa], Oppeln [Opole], Częstochowa, Kielce, Radom, Dęb-lin, Lublin, and Chelm. Arrival in Sobibór on June 17, 1942, at 8:05 a.m. On arrival in Lublin at 9 p.m. on June 16, SS-Obersturmführer Pohl was waiting for the train at the station and had 51 Jews capable of work between the ages of 15 and 50 removed from the train and taken to a work camp. At the same time he gave the order to take the remaining 949 Jews to the work camp in Sobibór. Both lists of names, three wagons of baggage (with food supplies) as well as 100,000 zlotys were turned over to SS-Obersturmführer Pohl in Lublin. At 11 p.m. the train departed from Lublin for Sobibór. At the Jewish camp in Trawniki some 30 kilometers beyond Lublin the three baggage wagons and food supplies were surrendered to SS-Scharführer Mayerhofer.

  Delivery of the Jews in Sobibór:

  At 8:15 a.m. on June 17 the train drove into the work camp next to the Sobibór train station, where the camp commandant, First Lieutenant Stangl, took delivery of the 949 Jews. The unloading of the train cars began immediately and was completed by 9:15 a.m.

  Trip from Sobibór to Vienna:

  The return trip in the special train began about 10 a.m., immediately after the completion of the unloading of the Jews, from Sobibór to Lublin, where we arrived at 2:30 a.m. on June 18. No travel expenses were paid for this train. The trip continued from Lublin at 8:13 a.m. on June 18 by regularly scheduled express train to Kraków, where we arrived at 5:30 p.m. on the same day. In Kraków we billeted with the Third Company of Reserve Police Battalion 74. On June 19 this company handed out one day’s rations to each of the 16 men. From Kraków the return trip was again continued on a regularly scheduled express train at 8:08 p.m. on June 19. Arrival in Vienna east train station at 6:30 a.m. on June 20.

  The transport commando stopover in Kraków:

  The stopover of the transport commando in Kraków lasted 26 1/2 hours.

  Crossing the border:

  The special train crossed the b
order between the Reich and the General Government on the outward journey on June 15 at 1:45 p.m., the regularly scheduled express train on the return trip at 12:15 a.m. on June 20.


  The men of the transport commando were provided with cold rations for four days. This consisted of sausage, bread, marmalade, and butter, but was nonetheless not sufficient. In Kraków the daily ration of the Third Company of Reserve Battalion 74 was good and sufficient.


  In future it will be necessary to provide the men of the transport commando with marching rations, because the cold rations do not keep in the summer months. The sausage—it was a soft sausage—was already opened and cut up when handed out on June 15, and had to be consumed no later than the third day because of the danger of spoiling. On the fourth day the men had to be satisfied with marmalade, because the butter was also already rancid due to the tremendous heat in the train car. The size of the ration was also rather meager.


  No incidents occurred either on the outward journey, the stopovers in the train stations, or the return trip.

  (signed) Fischmann

  Precinct Lieutenant of the Schutzpolizei6

  The deportation of largely unsuspecting Viennese Jews, most of them elderly and/or female, passed with so little incident that Lieutenant Fischmann could concentrate on the hardships of a third- rather than second-class car, insufficient rations, and the summer heat that spoiled his butter. No mention, of course, was made of what the incarcerated Jews, without food or water, must have been suffering in the closed cattle cars during the sixty-one-hour journey. But Fischmann was quite conscious, as he delivered 949 Jews to the alleged work camp in Sobibór, that the Jews selected for work, the luggage, and the food supplies did not accompany them there. At Sobibór the gas chambers were deep in the forest and not visible from the unloading ramp. But contrary to most Order Police denials, Fischmann and his commando apparently entered the camp and watched the unloading.

  The Order Police who guarded the deportation train from Kołomyja in Galicia found the experience considerably more trying than the incident-free transport from Vienna. Indeed, in Galicia, where the Jews had been subjected to open-air massacres in the summer and fall of 1941 and to a first wave of deportations in the spring of 1942, the resumption of deportations in August 1942 clearly no longer entailed an unknown fate for many of the victims. In mid-September 1942 an Order Police captain of Reserve Police Battalion 133 in Police Regiment 24 reported on the experiences of one week of deportation operations.

  7./Pol. 24.  Lemberg [Lwów], September 14, 1942

  To: Commander of the Order Police in the district of Galicia, Lemberg Subject: Jewish Resettlement

  After carrying out Jewish resettlement actions on the 3d and 5th of September in Skole, Stryj, and Khodorov, for which Captain of the Schutzpolizei Kröpelin was in charge of the Order Police involved and which has already been reported in detail, the 7th Company of the 24th Police Regiment arrived as ordered in Kołomyja on the evening of September 6. I immediately contacted Kriminal Kommissar and SS-Obersturmführer Leitmaritz, head of the branch office of the Security Police in Kołomyja, and First Lieutenant Hertel of the Schutzpolizei station in Kołomyja.

  Contrary to the experience in Stryj, the action planned for September 7 in Kołomyja was well prepared and made easy for all units involved. The Jews had been informed by the above-mentioned agencies and the Labor Office to gather at the collection point of the Labor Office for registration on September 7 at 5:30 a.m. Some 5,300 Jews were actually assembled there at the appointed time. With all the manpower of my company, I sealed the Jewish quarter and searched thoroughly, whereby some 600 additional Jews were hunted down.

  The loading of the transport train was completed about 7 p.m. After the Security Police released some 1,000 from the total rounded up, 4,769 Jews were resettled. Each car of the transport was loaded with 100 Jews. The great heat prevailing that day made the entire action very difficult and greatly impeded the transport. After the regular nailing up and sealing of all cars, the transport train got underway to Beżec about 9 p.m. with a guard of one officer and nine men. With the coming of deep darkness in the night, many Jews escaped by squeezing through the air holes after removing the barbed wire. While the guard was able to shoot many of them immediately, most of the escaping Jews were eliminated that night or the next day by the railroad guard or other police units. This transport was delivered in Beżec without noteworthy incident, although given the length of the train and the deep darkness, the guard had proved to be too weak, as the commander of the transport guard from 6th Company of Police Regiment 24, who returned directly to Stanislawów, was able to report to me in person on September 11.

  On September 8, some 300 Jews—old and weak, ill, frail, and no longer transportable—were executed. According to the order of September 4, of which I was first informed on September 6, concerning use of ammunition, 90% of all those executed were shot with carbines and rifles. Only in exceptional cases were pistols used.

  On September 8 and 10, actions in Kuty, Kosov, Horodenka, Zaplatov, and Śniatyn were carried out. Some 1,500 Jews had to be driven on foot marches 50 kilometers from Kuty or 35 kilometers from Kosov to Kołomyja, where they were kept overnight in the courtyard of the Security Police prison with the other Jews brought together from the region. Other than the Jews rounded up in Horodenka and Śniatyn, who had already been loaded onto ten cars at each location by the Security Police, another 30 cars were loaded in Kołomyja. The total number sent to Beżec on the resettlement train of September 10 amounted to 8,205.

  In the actions in the area around Kołomyja on September 8 and 10, some 400 Jews had to be eliminated by shooting for the well-known reasons. In the great roundup of Jews to be resettled by September 10 in Kołomyja, the Security Police loaded all Jews into the 30 available train cars despite the objections I expressed. Given the great heat prevailing on those days and the strain on the Jews from the long foot marches or from waiting for days without being given any provisions worth noting, the excessively great overloading of most of the cars with 180 to 200 Jews was catastrophic in a way that had tremendously adverse effects on the transport.

  How densely the ten cars each in Horodenka and Śniatyn were loaded with Jews by the Security Police is beyond my knowledge. In any case, both transports arrived in Kołomyja with completely inadequate guard, so that the barbed wire closing the air holes was almost entirely removed. As quickly as possible I had this train moved out of the train station in Kołomyja and coupled with the 30 cars standing on a side track far from the station. The Jewish police (Ordnungsdienst) and members of the train station construction crew from Kołomyja were employed until the onset of darkness to close up all the insufficiently sealed cars in the usual regulation manner. A commando of one officer and fifteen men under the leadership of Captain Zitzmann was assigned to guard the parked resettlement train of 50 cars until departure and to prevent any escape attempt. Given the already described strains on the Jews, the negative effect of the heat, and the great overloading of most of the cars, the Jews attempted time and again to break out of the parked train cars, as darkness had already set in toward 7:30 p.m. At 7:50 p.m. the guard commando of the resettlement train, with nine men under Corporal Jäcklein, arrived at the side track. Breakout attempts from the parked train could not be prevented in the darkness nor could the escaping Jews be shot in flight. In all train cars the Jews had completely undressed because of the heat.

  As the train left Kołomyja on schedule at 8:50 p.m., the guard took up their stations. The guard commando, as initially stipulated by me, was divided into five men in a passenger car at the front and five men in a passenger car at the end of the train. On account of the length of the train and its total load of 8,205 Jews, this distribution proved to be unsuitable. Next time Corporal J. will arrange a distribution of the guards along the entire train. Throughout the entire trip the policemen had to remain in the ca
booses, in order to be able to counter the escape attempts of the Jews. Shortly into the journey the Jews attempted to break through the sides and even through the ceilings of certain train cars. They were partially successful in perpetrating this scheme, so that already five stations before Stanislawów, Corporal J. had to ask the Stationmaster in Stanislawów by telephone to lay out nails and boards in order to seal the damaged cars as required by orders and to request the station guard to watch the train. As the train entered Stanislawów, the train station workers and the station guards were present to carry out the necessary repairs and in addition take over guarding the train.

  The work took one and one-half hours. When the train subsequently resumed its journey, it was discovered at the next stop some stations later that once again large holes had been broken by the Jews in some of the train cars and that for the most part the barbed wire fastened on the outside of the ventilation windows had been torn off. In one train car the Jews had even been working with hammer and saw. Upon interrogation they explained that the Security Police had left these tools with them, because they could make good use of them at their next work place. Corporal J. made the Jews hand over the tools. During the further journey, at every station stop, help was needed to nail up the train, because otherwise the rest of the trip would not have been at all possible. At 11:15 a.m. the train reached Lemberg. Because no relief for the escort commando arrived, the escort commando J. had to continue guarding the train until Beżec. After a brief halt at the Lemberg train station, the train continued to the suburban station of Klaporov, where nine train cars marked with the letter “L” and destined for the labor camp were turned over to SS-Obersturmführer Schulze and unloaded. SS-Obersturmführer Schulze then had some additional 1,000 Jews loaded. About ]:30 p.m. the transport departed for Beżec.

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