Arthur Greiser was born in Schroda, Posen on 22 January 1897, the son of a civil servant. During World War One he served as a naval officer, and after a period in the Freikorps and later as an unsuccessful businessman, co-founded the Stalheim, a veterans’ organisation in Danzig in 1924.
Greiser joined the Nazi Party in 1929 and the following year he entered the SS as one of Himmler’s earliest adherents. From 1930 Greiser was deputy district leader of the NSDAP in Danzig and leader of the Party faction in the district. On 20 June 1933 he became Deputy President of the Danzig Senate and on 28 November 1934 he succeeded Hermann Rauschning as President, a post he retained until 1 September 1939.
Greiser was then made head of the Civil Administration in Posen and on 21 October 1939 he became Gauleiter and Reich Governor of the Warthegau- the Polish western regions annexed to the German Reich, which also included the district of Lodz.
From July 1940 Greiser was a member of the Reichstag for the Warthegau electoral district and in 1943 he was promoted to the rank of SS General. As Gauleiter for the Warthegau and Lodz, he was in charge of the mass deportation and extermination of Jews and Poles to provide room for Germans from the Baltic States, Volhynia, the Balkans and the Reich proper.
As a result of his measures the German population in his region swelled from 325,000 in 1939 to almost 950,000 by the end of 1943. Greiser had a black record of cruelty towards the Polish population, advocating in a letter to Himmler of 1 May 1942 that tubercular Poles be sent for “special treatment” to Chelmno death camp.
Greiser also supervised the anti-Jewish terror which led to the burning of synagogues, the sending of thousands of Jews to forced labour, deportations to Germany, to the Generalgouvernement and to the extermination camps.
Theodor Malzmuller one of the members of the Chelmno Sonderkommando, recalled a visit to the death camp by Arthur Greiser:
_"Shortly before the dismantling of the Chelmno death camp in March 1943 Gauleiter Greiser suddenly appeared at the camp, together with his staff – consisting of fifteen high-ranking SS officers. _All members of the SS-Sonderkommando and the Wachkommando had to assemble in the courtyard of the castle where they were addressed by Greiser.
In the presence of his staff he explained that Chelmno extermination camp would shortly be dismantled and he wanted to thank us on behalf of the Fuhrer for the work we had done in Chelmno.
A few days ago I visited Lange’s former Sonderkommando, which today is under the command of SS-HauptsturmfuhrerKriminalkommissar Bothmann and stationed in Kulmhof, Kreis Warthbrucken, until the end of the month.
During my visit I was so struck by the conduct of the men of the_Sonderkommando_ that I would not like to fail to bring it to your attention. The men have not only fulfilled the difficult task that has been set for them loyally, bravely and in all respects appropriately, but also their soldierly conduct is exemplary.
For example during a social evening to which I had invited them they gave me a contribution of 15,150 RM in cash which they had that day collected spontaneously. That means that each of these eighty-five men in the Sonderkommando had contributed about 180 RM.
I have given instructions for the money to be put in the fund set up for the children of murdered ethnic Germans, unless you, Reichsfuhrer, wish it to be put to another or better use.
The men further expressed the wish that all of them, if possible, be put under the command of their _Haupsturmfuhrer _Bothmann when they are transferred to their new assignment. I promised the men that I would communicate this wish to you, Reichsfuhrer.
I should be grateful if you would give me permission to invite some of these men to be my guests on my country estate during their leave and to give them a generous allowance to make their leave more enjoyable.
Towards the end of the war he fled to the Bavarian Alps, where he eventually surrendered to the Americans. Extradited to Poland and tried by a Polish court, he was sentenced to death and hanged on 20 June 1946
Arthur Nebe was born on 13 November 1894, in Berlin, the son of an elementary school teacher. He volunteered for military service fighting in the 17th Pioneer Battalion during the Great War, where he was wounded twice by poison-gas.
Arthur Nebe as head of KRIPO
After the war ended Nebe joined the criminal police and reached the rank of Police Commissioner in 1924. A professional policeman and the author of an authoritative treatise on criminology, Nebe entered the NSDAP on 1 July 1931 and the SS on 2 December 1936.
Even before the Nazis seized power Nebe was their liaison man in the Berlin criminal police, with close links to the SS group led by Kurt Daluege, who in April 1933 recommended him as Chief Executive of the State Police.
Though initially fond of Hitler and his vows to restore Germany to great power status, Nebe soon develops serious doubts about the Nazi regime following the Röhm massacre.
As these doubts accumulate, he eventually confides to his close friends of his intention to resign from the force, especially after the Criminal Police is absorbed into the SS empire.
A close colleague, Hans-Bernd Gisevius persuades him to stay on arguing that the conspirators desperately need someone within Himmler's empire to carefully document all the crimes that were being perpetrated by the Nazi regime - evidence the conspirators hope one day to use to bring Hitler, Goering, Himmler, and the rest to justice before Germany and the world.
The former Chief of the Berlin CID under Weimar, Nebe was now given the task of reorganising the criminal police in the Third Reich. As head of the KRIPO and a top Gestapo official, Nebe played an important part in the establishment of the totalitarian police system.
In September 1939 Nebe was put in charge of Amt V of the RSHA, which was responsible for the criminal police. Promoted to the rank of SS-Gruppenfuhrer, Nebe was later given command of Einsatzgruppen B between June and November 1941, an extermination unit whose headquarters were in Minsk, and which also covered the area of the Moscow front.
During this period of five months, Nebe was credited with the “modest” number of 46,000 executions. During Himmler’s visit to Minsk in July 1941, Nebe was instructed to find new methods of mass killing. After the war an amateur film showing a gas chamber worked by the exhaust gas of a lorry was found in his former Berlin flat.
It should be noted that Nebe took it upon himself to save thousands of Russian civilians from execution by falsifying figures and claiming credit for slaughters that have never been carried out, however Nebe is soon suspected by fellow SS-Einsatzgruppen colleagues of being "too soft."
In late 1942, using a special code-language, Nebe informs co-conspirators of secret conferences he has attended chaired by Himmler to develop a clandestine extermination program referred to repeatedly as The Final Solution. The program involves the extermination of European Jewry and all other categories of people deemed by the fuehrer as unfit to exist. Measures such as transportation by rail in sealed wagons and gas chambers are discussed.
Nebe’s alleged disgust at mass murder is somewhat weakened by a letter he wrote on 28 June 1944 recommending the use of so-called “half-breed asocial types from Auschwitz for human guinea- pig experiments such as drinking sea-water.
Rudolf Höss was born in Baden –Baden on 25 November 1900, the son of pious Catholic parents. His father, a shopkeeper who wanted his son to become a Roman Catholic priest, was dogmatic, overpowering influence in his early life.
After his father’s death, the fifteen- year old Rudolf Höss secretly joined the army, serving on the Turkish front and becoming at seventeen the youngest NCO in the German forces, as well as receiving the Iron Cross – First and Second Class – for bravery.
One year after the end of the Great War in 1919 he joined the East Prussian Volunteer Corps for Protection of the Frontier and became a member of the Rossbach Freikorps, taking part in battles in the Baltic region, the Ruhr and Upper Silesia.
In 1923 he was involved in a brutal political murder of Walter Kadow, who was alleged to have betrayed Nazi proto-martyr Leo Schlageter to the French occupation authorities, one of his accomplices was Martin Bormann, who subsequently protected him at a later stage in his career – for which he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.
He was released under the Amnesty Law of 14 July 1928, having served less than half his sentence, and for the next six years worked on the land in Brandenburg and Pomerania, in various service groups. In 1934 Himmler invited him to join the active SS and, in June of the same year, he was posted to the protective custody camp at Dachau, as a block overseer.
Transferred to Sachenhausen concentration camp in 1938 and promoted to SS Captain two years later Höss was appointed as the first Commandant at Auschwitz concentration camp on 1 May 1940.
Höss held this position until 1 December 1943 and during these three and a half years at Auschwitz, Höss proved himself the ideal type of the passionless, disinterested mass murder, the quiet bureaucrat who rarely, if ever, personally attended selections for the gas chamber or mass executions.
To all appearances Höss was a kindly, unselfish, introverted family man and animal lover, a perfectionist who took great pride in his work, noting in his memoirs that “by the will of the Reichsfuhrer –SS, Auschwitz became the greatest human extermination centre of all time.”
It was Höss, the perfect example of the conscientious, self-disciplined, petty –bourgeois, automaton whose golden rule was “Only one thing is valid – orders, “ who ensured the smooth functioning of the extermination system at Auschwitz, treating mass murder as a purely administrative procedure.
What concerned Höss was not the indescribable suffering of his victims, but rather the practical difficulties of carrying out his assignment with maximum efficiency, questions involving the precise adherence to timetables, the size of transports, the types of oven and methods of gassing.
He took pride in being the first to utilise successfully the gassing agent “Zyklon B” – the squeamish Höss, who could not bear shootings and bloodshed found gas to be infinitely more rational, bloodless and hygienic.
Höss sense of duty, his absolute submission to authority, his conscientious adherence to the SS motto – “Believe! Obey! Fight!” immunized him to any emotion except that of self-pity.
Höss wrote after his capture that “he regarded this compulsion to obey orders and to surrender all personal independence as a hallmark of his own morality and bourgeois decency. “Even while I was carrying out the task of extermination I lived a normal life and so on.”
So efficiently did Höss carry out his duties at Auschwitz that approximately two and a half million inmates were liquidated and in 1944 he was commended to his superiors as “a true pioneer in this field, thanks to new ideas and new methods of education”
Höss visited Chelmno in September 1942 to study cremation techniques and he also visited Treblinka death camp, he met Odilo Globocnik the SSPF Lublin, who was in charge of the “Aktion Reinhard” murder programme, Höss regarded Globocnik as “a pompous busybody whose object was to put himself in the foreground and to describe his fanciful plans as though they had to a large extent already been put into practice.”
Höss found it difficult to uproot himself from “his work” at Auschwitz, but in November 1943 he was made head of number one branch of Amstgruppe D of the WVHA, later becoming the deputy of Richard Gluecks, the Inspector – General of Concentration Camps. Höss though returned to Auschwitz on 8 May 1944 to oversee the extermination of Hungarian Jewry, under the codename “Aktion Höss.”
Höss was arrested by military police near Flensburg, Schleswig- Holstein, on 2 March 1946 and handed over to the Polish authorities just over two months later.
Whilst in custody Höss wrote a detailed statement about his stewardship of Auschwitz – Birkenau, extracts are as follows:
Translation of Deposition of Franz Ferdinand Höss – alias Fritz Lang in British Captivity
I Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss, alias Franz Lang, hereby declare, after having been warned accordingly, that the following statement is true:
In 1933 I formed a squadron of horse SS on the farm Sallentin in Pommern. I was detailed by the Party and by landowners to do this as I have been in the cavalry. My party number is 3240.
Himmler noticed me during an inspection of the SS in Stettin – we knew each other from the Bund der Artamanen – and he arranged that the administration of a Concentration Camp was given me.
I came to Dachau in November 1934 where, after additional military training, I was employed as a_Blockfuhrer_ in the Schutzhaftlager. Later on I did the job of a Rapportfuhrer and_Gefangenenigentumsverwalter_
When I came to Dachau I held the rank of Scharfuhrer SS and was promoted, in 1935, SS Untersturmfuhrer. In 1938 I was sent, as Adjutant, to the Camp Commandant of Sachsenhausen, Oberfuhrer Barananowski.
In November 1938 I was made Schutzhaftlagerfuhrer holding the rank of a SS- Hauptsturmfuhrer until my transfer to Auschwitz on the 1 May 1940.
I was given the order by a higher authority, to transform the former Polish Artillery Barracks near Auschwitz into a quarantine camp for prisoners coming from Poland.
After Himmler inspected the camp in 1941 I received the order to enlarge the camp and to employ the prisoners in the, to be developed agricultural district, and to drain the swamps and inundation area on the Weichsel.
Furthermore he ordered to put 8 – 10,000 prisoners at the disposal of the building of the new Buna Works of the I.G. Farben. At the same time he ordered the erection of a POW Camp, for 100,000 Russian prisoners, near Birkenau.
The number of prisoners grew daily in spite of my repeated interventions that billets were not sufficient, and further intakes were sent to me. Epidemic diseases were unavoidable because medical provisions were inadequate. The death rates rose accordingly, as prisoners were not buried, crematoriums had to be installed.
In 1941 the first intakes of Jews came from Slovakia and Upper Silesia. People unfit to work were gassed in a room of the crematorium in accordance with an order which Himmler gave me personally.
I was ordered to see Himmler in Berlin in June 1941* and he told me, approximately, the following:
The Fuhrer ordered the solution of the Jewish question in Europe. A few so called Vernichtungslager are existing in the General Government.
These camps come under the Einsatzkommando of the _Sicherheitspo_lizei under the leadership of high SIPO officers and guard companies. These camps were not very efficient and could not be enlarged. I visited the camp Treblinka in spring 1942 *** to inform myself about the conditions. The following method was used in the process of extermination. Small chambers were used equipped with pipes to induce the exhaust gas from car engines.
This method was unreliable as the engines, coming from old captured transport vehicles and tanks, very often failed to work. Because of that the intakes could not be dealt with according to the plan, which meant to clear the Warsaw Ghetto.
According to the Camp Commandant of Treblinka, 80,000 people have been gassed in the course of half a year. ****
For the above mentioned reasons Himmler declared the only possibility to extend this camp, in accordance with this plan was Auschwitz, as it was a railway junction of four lines and, not being thickly populated, the camp area could be cut off completely. This is the reason why he decided to do the mass exterminations in Auschwitz and I had to make the preparations at once.
He wanted the exact plan in accordance with this instruction in four weeks. Furthermore he said this task is so difficult and important that he cannot order just anybody to do it and he had the intention to give this task to another high ranking SS officer but he did not consider it advisable to have two officers giving orders whilst on a construction job.
I was then given the definite order to carry out the destruction of the intakes sent from RSHA. I had to get in touch with SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Eichmann of Amt 4 (Dienststelle commanded by_Gruppenfuhrer_ Muller) concerning the sequence of incoming transports.
At the same time transports of Russian P.O.W. arrived from the area of the Gestapo _Leitstelle_Breslau, Troppau, and Kattowitz, who, by Himmler’s written order to the local Gestapo leaders, had to be exterminated.
As the new crematoriums were only to be finished in late 1942, the prisoners had to be gassed in provisionally erected gas-chambers and then had to be burned in pits. I am now going to explain the method of gassing.
The sick and people unfit to walk were taken there in lorries. In front of the farmhouses everybody had to undress behind walls made from branches. On the door was a notice saying “Disinfectionsraum.”
The Unterfuhrer on duty had to tell the prisoners to watch their kit in order to find it again after having been deloused, this prevented disturbances.
When they were undressed, they went into the room according to size, 2-300 at a time. The doors were locked and one or two tins of zyklon B were thrown into the room through holes in the wall.
It consisted of a rough substance of Prussic acid. It took, according to the weather 3-10 minutes. After half an hour the doors were opened and the bodies were taken out by the commando of prisoners, who were permanently employed there, and burned in pits. Before being cremated, gold teeth and rings were removed.
Firewood was stacked between the bodies and when approximately 100 bodies were in a pit, the wood was lighted with rags soaked in paraffin. When the fire had started properly more bodies were thrown on to it.
The fat which collected in the bottom of the pits was put into the fire with buckets to hasten the process of burning when it was raining. The burning took 6 -7 hours.
The smell of the burned bodies was noticed in the camp even if the wind was blowing from the west. After the pits had been cleaned the remaining ashes were broken up. This was done on a cement platter where prisoners pulverised the remaining bones with wooden hammers.
The remains were loaded on lorries and taken to an out of the way place on the Weichsel and thrown into the river. After the erection of the new big crematorium, the following method was used. After the first two big crematoriums were finished in 1942 (the other two were finished half a year later) mass transports from Belgium, France, Holland and Greece started.
The following method was used:
The transport trains ran alongside an especially built ramp with three lines which was situated between the crematorium, store and camp Birkenau. The sorting out of the prisoners and the disposing of the luggage was done on the ramp.
Prisoners fit to work were taken to one of the various camps, prisoners to be exterminated were taken to one of the new crematoriums. There the first went to one of the big underground rooms to address. This room was equipped with benches and contraptions to hang up clothing and the prisoners were told by interpreters that they were brought here to have a bath and be deloused and to remember where they put their clothing.
Then they went on to the next room which was equipped with water pipes and showers to give the impression of a bath. Two_Unterfuhrers _remained in the room until the last moment to prevent unrest.
Sometimes it happened that prisoners knew what was going to be done. Especially the transports from Belsen knew, as they originated from the East, when the trains reached Upper Silesia, that they were most likely taken to the place of extermination.
When transports from Belsen arrived safety measures were strengthened and the transports were split up into smaller groups which we sent to different crematoriums to prevent riots. SS men formed a strong cordon and forced resisting prisoners into the gas-chamber. That happened very rarely as prisoners were set at ease by the measures we undertook.
One transport from Belsen arrived, approximately two-thirds, mostly men were in the gas- chamber, the remaining third was in the dressing room. When three or four armed _SS Unterfuhrers _entered the dressing room to hasten the undressing, mutiny broke out.
The light cables were torn down, the SS men were overpowered, one of them stabbed and all of them were robbed of their weapons. As this room was in complete darkness wild shooting started between the guard near the exit door and the prisoners inside.
When I arrived I ordered the doors to be shut and I had the process of gassing the first party finished and then went into the room together with the guard carrying small searchlights pushing the prisoners into a corner from where they were taken out singly into another room of the crematorium and shot, by my order, with small calibre weapons.
It happened repeatedly that women hid their children underneath their clothing and did not take them into the gas chamber. The clothing was searched by the permanent commando of prisoners under the supervision of the SS and children who were found were sent into the gas-chamber.
After half an hour the electric air conditioner was started up and the bodies were taken up to the cremating stove by lift. The cremation of approximately 2,000 prisoners in five cremating stoves took approximately 12 hours.
In Auschwitz there were two plants, each of them had five double stoves. Furthermore there were another two plants, each having four bigger stoves and provisional plants as described above. The second provisional plant had been destroyed. All clothing and property of prisoners was sorted out in the store by a commando of prisoners which was permanently employed there and was also billeted there.
Valuables were sent monthly to the Reichsbank in Berlin. Clothing was sent to armament firms, after having been cleaned, for the use of forced labour and displaced persons. Gold from teeth was melted down and sent monthly to the medical department of the Waffen –SS.
The man in charge was Sanitaetsfeldzeugmeister SS – _Gruppenfuhrer _Blumenreuter. I personally never shot anybody or beat anybody.
Owing to the mass intakes, the number of prisoners fit to work grew immensely. My protests to the RHSA to slow down the transports, which means to send fewer transports, was rejected every time. The reason given was the Reichsfuhrer SS had given an order to speed up extermination and every SS Fuhrer hampering same will be called to account.
Owing to the immense over- populating of existing barracks and owing to the inadequate hygienic installations, epidemic diseases like spotted fever, typhus, scarlet fever and diphtheria, broke out from time to time, especially in the camp Birkenau.
Doctors came under the camp commandant from a military point of view. As far as medical decisions went, they had their own routine and came under the Chef des Sanitatswesens desWVHauptamtes Standartenfuhrer Dr. Lolling, who again came under Reichsarzt Dr Gravitz.
In one respect the above mentioned rule has been broken – local Gestapo leaders were given orders by RHSA to get in touch with me. Prisoners which were kept in concentration camps for the Gestapo and who have not been sentenced out of political reasons were allowed to be removed by any other means.
I received the names of the persons, personally, from the leader of the Gestapo and I passed them on again to the respective doctor for finishing off. This, usually was an injection of petrol. The doctor had orders to write an ordinary death certificate. Regarding the reason of the deaths, he could put any illness.
During the time as Commandant we made the following experiments:
Professor Clauberg, chief of the Women’s Hospital, Konigshutte, in Upper Silesia, made sterilisation experiments. This was done as follows. He got in contact with the doctor of the women’s camp to find him suitable persons.
They were put in a special ward of the hospital. Under a special x-ray screen he gave them a syringe with a special liquid, which went through the womb into the ovary. This liquid, as he said, definitely blocked the ovary and caused an inflammation. After a few weeks he gave them another injection which could tell him that the ovary was definitely blocked.
These experiments were made by order of the Reichsfuhrer SS.
-Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss
*** **Höss states June 1941 but this probably should read 1942.
**** **Wolzek – unknown location, probably Sobibor in the Lublin district.
*** Treblinka was not built in the spring of 1942 – visit probably took place in September 1942
**** From July 42 – by December 1942 Treblinka murdered 713,555 Jews – Hofle Telegram.
At the end of March 1947, Höss was sentenced to death by a Polish military tribunal.
The execution was carried out on 7 April 1947, next to the house inside the Auschwitz camp, where he had lived with his wife and five children, and where he had sent millions of innocent men, women and children to their deaths.
Theodor Eicke was born in Hudingen Alsace- Lorraine on 17 October 1892, the son of a station-master. He was discharged from the Imperial army after reaching the rank of sub-paymaster and being decorated with the Iron Cross (Second Class).
Eicke joined the police administration in Thuringia after qualifying as an inspector in 1920, he was briefly employed by the security police and the criminal police and by the police administration in Ludwigshafen on the Rhine.
He lost various jobs because of his anti-republican political activities, but in 1923 he was hired as a commercial executive by I.G. Farben (Ludwigshafen), also looking after their anti-espionage service.
Eicke joined the Nazi Party and the SA on 1 December 1928 and was transferred to the SS on 20 August 1930 where he was quickly promoted. Appointed SS-Standartenfuhrer on 15 November 1931, he was put in charge of the SS regiment in the Rhine-Palatinate.
Sentenced to two years’ penal servitude in March 1932 for political bomb attacks, he fled to Italy on Himmler’s instructions, returning to Germany in mid-February 1933.
The aggressive, restless Eicke soon clashed, however, with the Gauleiter of the Rhine- Palatinate, Josef Burckel, who declared him a “dangerous lunatic,” ordering his detention at the Psychiatric Clinic in Wurzburg on 21 March 1933.
Eicke was struck off the SS rolls, but reconfirmed in his old rank on 26 June 1933 and promptly appointed by Himmler as the new commandant of the Dachau concentration camp.
In May 1934 he was entrusted by the SS leader with the take-over of the concentration camps by the SS and with their re-organisation. On 4 July 1934 Eicke was appointed as _Inspekteur der Konzentrationslager und SS- Wachverbande _and a week later he was promoted to SS-Gruppenfuhrer.
The brutal, energetic Eicke had earned his promotion by his important role in suppressing the so-called Rohm putsch; it was Eicke who personally executed the SA chief in his cell at Stadelheim prison, in Munich on 1 July 1934.
In his new role Eicke proved to be a dedicated servant of Himmler and Heydrich, replacing the policemen who acted as guards at Dachau, by SS Death’s Head formations, the toughest and most ruthless troops that the Nazis possessed.
Under Eicke’s regime no pity was to be shown for “enemies of the state” and prisoners were treated with maximum severity. Eicke laid down exact instructions on corporal punishment, beatings, solitary confinement and shooting of offenders who were considered as “agitators,” mutineers or refractory elements who refused to obey instructions regarding working details.
Eicke’s writing paper bore the maxim “Only one thing matters – the command given,” and he warned his SS guard of severe penalties for any trace of softness. Eicke saw his task in terms of establishing a military discipline in accordance with SS ideals of “loyalty, bravery and devotion to duty,” telling his concentration camp commanders in 1939 “that they must be ready to carry out even the hardest and most difficult of orders without hesitation.”
On 14 November 1939 he was appointed Commander of the first SS-Totenkopf Division which he constituted in Dachau and took over the organisation and employment of the SS Death’s Head Formation which saw active service in Poland.
The Totenkopf division took part in the French campaign, first in northern France, at Arras, La Bassee –channel, Bethune, Bailleul, Loire, Lyon and Charente. Subsequent to the Armistice, it served as part of the occupation forces in France until April / May 1941.
Several attempts were made by reinforced assault squads to recover the remains of their commander, they finally succeeded. after losing several men. Eicke was given an elaborate funeral at one of the cemeteries of the Division near Orelka.
In a manner reminiscent of the funeral rites performed by the ancient Germans upon the death of their tribesmen or kings, Theodor Eicke, or “Papa Eicke” as his troops called him, was laid to rest.
Later, when the Germans were forced to withdraw, officers from the divisional staff together, with
a few selected men, exhumed Eicke’s corpse and brought it by truck to Kiev.
The Axis powers invaded Yugoslavia on 6 April 1941. Vladko Ma?ek, the leader of the Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) which was the most influential party in Croatia at the time, rejected offers by the Nazi Germany to lead the new government. On 10 April the most senior home-based Ustaša, Slavko Kvaternik, took control of the police in Zagreb and in a radio broadcast that day proclaimed the formation of the Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH).
The new Independent State of Croatia" was established as a pro-Nazi government. It was dedicated to a clerical-fascist ideology influenced both by Nazism and extreme Roman Catholic fanaticism. On coming to power, the Ustaša Party dictatorship in Croatia quickly commenced on a systematic policy of racial extermination of all Serbs, Jews and Gypsies living within its borders.
The NDH was ruled by Ante Pavelic under the title Poglavnik, or "Headman". Pavelic served as leader of the Independent State of Croatia, a puppet state of the Axis Powers, throughout the four years of its existence, but since the Ustaše did not have a capable army or administration necessary to control the territory, the Germans and the Italians split the NDH into two zones of influence, one in the southwest controlled by the Italians (with Paveli? as Headman), and the other in the northeast controlled by the Germans.
Paveli? first met with Adolf Hitler on June 6, 1941. Mile Budak, then a minister in Paveli?'s government, publicly proclaimed the violent racial policy of the state on 22 July 1941. The Ustaša's organization was a typically fascist organization and its military strength was an instrument for the implementation of the Ustaša's Nazi ideology.
The first "Legal order for the defense of the people and the state" dated April 17, 1941 ordered the death penalty for "infringement of the honor and vital interests of the Croatian people and the survival of the Independent State of Croatia". It was soon followed by the "Legal order of races" and the "Legal order of the protection of Aryan blood and the honor of the Croatian people" dated April 30, 1941, as well as the "Order of the creation and definition of the racial-political committee" dated June 4, 1941.
The enforcement of these legal acts was done not only through normal courts but also new out-of-order courts as well as mobile court-martials with extended jurisdictions.
The NDH Ustaša terror was also aimed at the Serbian Orthodox Church. Three Orthodox bishops and most of the Orthodox priests were murdered by the end of 1941 in the cruelest of manners. During the war, 450 Orthodox churches were demolished. Mass conversions were forced upon Serb villagers but the exact number of Serbs forcibly converted to Catholicism has never been established.
One Orthodox Serb from Oku?ani reported:
"The new government told me that I’d have to convert to Roman Catholicism if I wanted to keep my job. I refused and was fired in July 1941. I moved my family to the nearby town of Oku?ani where I managed to find work. But in Oku?ani I was arrested, once by the Germans and once by the Croatian fascists. Both of those times I was released. Now I’ve been arrested yet again by the Croatian fascists. My crime—being a Serb."
The Ustaša army (Ustaška vojnica) was organized by Slavko Kvaternik, and it was made up of Ustaša units (filled out with volunteers) under the direction of the Central Ustaša Headquarters, of special police units (redarstvo) and the Home Guard (domobrani), and in August of 1941 the Ustaša Secret Service was formed by Ustaša Security Service Kommando Eugen Dido Kvaternik who also oversaw the concentration camp system throughout the sphere of Ustaša control.
In the early stages of the Ustaša rule there were no legal regulations about sending people to concentration camps or the length of sentences. Such things were decided by Paveli?'s emissaries, district prefects, deputy prefects, camp supervisors and other Ustaša commanders. Such practices remained even later, and when the regulations were finally passed, no one actually obeyed them.
The first camps in the NDH were founded on the island of Pag at the place called Slano, on Mount Velebit near Gospi? at a place called Jadovno, and in Bosnia at Kruš?ica near Travnik. Besides Jasenovac, the larger camps were:
Jasenovac was established in August, 1941 and was dismantled in April, 1945. The creation and management of the camp complex were given to Department III of the Croatian Security Police (Ustashka Nadzorna Sluzba; UNS) which was headed by Vjekoslav Maks Luburic, who commanded the Jasenovac camp.
The camp spread out over 210 square kilometers, along the Sava River from Stara Gradiska in the east to the village Krap1je in the west, and from Strug in the north to the line between Draksenic to Bistrica in the south.
The choice of the wider region of Jasenovac for such a monstrous camp was made for several reasons. One of them was certainly the suitable geographic position. The Zagreb-Belgrade railway was in the vicinity and was important for the transport of the prisoners. The terrain was surrounded by the rivers Sava, Una and Velika Struga, in the middle of the swampy Lonjsko poije area, so that escape from the camp was almost impossible.
On the other side of the Sava, the Gradina region was hardly accessible and often flooded by the river, uninhabited and far from all witnesses. It was the ideal place for hiding mass murders.
Jasenovac became the largest and most important concentration camp (sabirni logor) and extermination camp complex in the Nezavisna Hrvatska Drzava (NDH), Independent State of Croatia, during World War II. The Jasenovac concentration camp complex would be crucial in the systematic and planned genocide of the Orthodox Serbs of the Srpska Vojna Krajina and of Bosnia-Hercegovina by the Croats and Bosnian Muslims.
Other concentration camps were established in Sisak, Stara Gradiska, Djakovo, Lepoglava, Loborgrad. In all, there would be 22 concentration camps in the NDH, almost half of which were commanded by Roman Catholic Croatian priests.
The first transports brought Serbs and Jews to the nearby village of Krapje, which was 7 miles west of Jasenovac. At this site, the prisoners were forced to build the camp that was called Jasenovac Camp No. 1. A second camp was built after the increase in the number of prisoners called Camp No.2.
Camp No.3 was built near the Ciglara brick factory, Ozren Bacic & Company, at the mouth of the Lonja and downstream from Jasenovac. Camp No.4 was built in Jasenovac itself near the former leather factory. The camp at the nearby town of Stara Gradiska is referred to as Camp No.5.
The maximum capacity of all the camps was 7,000 prisoners but usually only 4,000 prisoners were there at any one time.
Jasenovac was in fact a system or complex of concentration and extermination camps occupying a surface of 130 square miles, set up under decree-law, No. 1528-2101-Z-1941, on September 25,1941, legally authorizing the creation of 'assembly or work camps for undesirable and dangerous persons.
The Ustaše interned mostly Serbs in Jasenovac. Other victims included Jews, Bosniaks,Gypsies, and opponents of the Ustaša regime. Most of the Jews were murdered there until August 1942, when they started being deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Jews were sent to Jasenovac from all parts of Croatia after being gathered in Zagreb, and from Bosnia and Herzegovina after being gathered in Sarajevo.
Some came directly from other cities and smaller towns. On their arrival most were killed at execution sites near the camp: Granik, Gradina, and other places. Those kept alive were mostly skilled at needed professions and trades (doctors, pharmacists, electricians, shoemakers, goldsmiths, and so on) and were employed in services and workshops at Jasenovac.
The living conditions in the camp were extremely severe: a meager diet, deplorable accommodations, a particularly cruel regime, and cruel behavior by the Ustaše guards. The conditions improved only for short periods during visits by delegations, such as the press delegation that visited in February 1942 and a Red Cross delegation in June 1944.
Following the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, where the 'Final Solution to the Jewish Problem' was formulated, the Germans proposed through SS Sturmbannfuehrer Hans Helm that the Croats transfer Jewish prisoners to German camps in the east.
Kvaternik, agreed that the NDH would arrest the Jews, take them to railheads, and pay the Germans 30 Reich marks per person for the cost of transport to the extermination camps in the east. The Germans agreed that the property of the Jews would go to the Croat government.
SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Franz Abromeit was sent to supervise the deportations to Auschwitz. From August 13-20,1942, 5,500 Jews from the NDH were transpoted to Aushwitz on five trains from the Croat concentration camps at Tenje and Loborgrad and from Zagreb and Sarajevo.
Reichsfuehrer-SS Heinrich Himmler was on a state visit to Zagreb in May,1943 when two trains on May 5 and 10 trasported 1,150 Jews to Auschwitz.
Wholesale murder of the prisoners was also carried out in the forest near the Krapje Camp, near the „Versaj“ Camp and „Uštica“ Camp on the whole left bank of the Sava, downriver from Jasenovac to Jablanac and Mlaka. Furthermore, within the complex of Camp III there was also a crematorium which was actually an oven for baking bricks, that the Ustaša converted for the use burning the bodies of their victims.
The crematorium became known as "Picili's Funaceo" after the designer of the oven conversion plan, Hinko Picili.
In addition to the horrendous conditions in the Jasenovac camps, the guards also cruelly tortured, terrorized, and murdered prisoners at will. Here the most varied forms of torture were used: finger and toe nails were pulled out with metal instruments, eyes were dug out with specially constructed hooks, people were blinded by having needles stuck in their eyes, flesh was cut and then salted.
People were also flayed, had their noses, ears and tongues cut off with wire cutters, and had awls stuck in their hearts. Daughters were raped in front of their mothers, sons were tortured in front of their fathers.
The prisoners and all those who ended up in Jasenovac had their throats cut by the Ustaša with specially designed knives, or they were killed with axes, mallets and hammers; they were also shot, or they were hung from trees or light poles. Some were burned alive in hot furnaces, boiled in cauldrons, or drowned in the River Sava.
The acts of violence and depravity commited in Jasenovac were so brutal that General von Horstenau, Hitler's representative in Zagreb, wrote:
_ "The Ustaša camps in the NDH are the "Epitome of horror"!_
Stara Gradiska was the most notorious camp in the Jasenovac complex besides the main camp (Ciglana), mainly due to the crimes which were committed against women and children.
Camp staff, Antun Vrban, Nada Luburic, Maja Buzdon, Jozo Stojcic, and especially the commandant and former-friar Miroslav Filipovic-Majstorovic, were notorious both in Jasenovac and Stara Gradiska, for killing scores of inmates with his bare hands, women and children included.
In in cellar 3 at Stara Gradiska, (known as the "Gagro Hotel"), starved inmates were first tortured and then slowly strangled to death by wire.
**In the Dinko Sakic trial, witness Ivo Senjanovic recalled how people were locked there without food or water: **
"The people were gradually dying. It was horrible to hear them cry for help."
The treatment of inmates was so horrific that on the night of August 29, 1942, bets were made among the prison guards as to who could liquidate the largest number of inmates. One of the guards, Petar Brzica reportedly cut the throats of 1,360 prisoners with a butcher knife. A gold watch, a silver service, a roasted suckling pig, and wine were among his rewards.
The type of knife used for cutting prisoners' throats became known as srbosjek translated as the "Serb-cutter". Because of his expertise with the sbosjek, Petar Brzica was dubbed "King of the Cut-throats".
It is estimated that close to 600,000 (depending on who's statistics you agree with), mostly Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, were murdered at Jasenovac.
The number of Jewish victims was between twenty and twenty-five thousand, most of whom were murdered there up to August 1942, when deportation of the Croatian Jews to Auschwitz for extermination began.
Statistics for Romani victims are difficult to assess, as there are no firm estimates of their number in prewar Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The best estimates calculate the number of Romani victims at about 26,000, of whom between 8,000 and 15,000 perished in Jasenovac.
There are only loose estimates for the number of Croats murdered by the Ustaša. This group included political and religious opponents of the regime, both Catholic and Muslim. Between 5,000 and 12,000 Croats are believed to have died in Jasenovac.
In early April 1945, the partisans were fighting nearby Jasenovac and its subcamps, so the Ustase began eliminating traces of the camp, killing some of the inmates and transporting others to Lepoglava and from there to Jasenovac I.
The ultimate liquidation of the Camp was begun on April 20, when the last large group of women and children was executed. On April 22, 1945, under the leadership of Ante Vukotic, about 600 people armed with bricks, poles, hammers and other things, broke down the doors, shattered windows and ran out of the building. About 470 people were sick and unable to fight barehanded with the armed Ustaša, so they did not take part in the rebellion.
The 150 meter long path to the east gate of the camp was covered by the crossfire of the Ustaša machine guns, and many prisoners were killed there. A large number of them was killed on the wires of the camp. A hundred prisoners managed to break through the broken gate of the camp. Only 80 prisoners survived while 520 of them died in the first assault. The remaining 470 within the camp were later killed by the Ustaša.
Yugoslav Army forces entered the Stara Gradiska camp on April 23, and Jasenovac on May 2, 1945. Before leaving the camp, the Ustaša killed the remaining prisoners, blasted and destroyed the buildings, guard-houses, torture rooms, the "Picili Furnace" and the other structures. Upon entering the camp, the liberators found only ruins, soot, smoke, and dead bodies.
During the following months of 1945, the grounds of Jasenovac were thoroughly destroyed by forced laborers, composed of 200 to 600 Domobran soldiers captured by the Partisans, thereby making the area a labor camp. They leveled the camp to the ground and among other things dismantled a two-kilometer long, four-meter high wall that surrounded it.
The National Committee of Croatia for the investigation of the crimes of the occupation forces and their collaborators stated in its report of November 15, 1945 that 500,000-600,000 people were killed at Jasenovac.
The Holocaust was a movement full of very important people. Whether fighting for or against the Holocaust, the following individuals all played a major role in the actions that took place during this horrific event in Europe.
Adolf Hitler - Adolf Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria. Growing up, Hitler yearned to become an artist and had hoped to go to school in Vienna to perfect his artistic talents. He was not admitted, however, and therefore went and joined the German army during World War I. This failure in the artistic realm of society led Adolf craving for success, and he would soon find it in the Nazi party.
Hitler was probably the most famous and important individual as he not only founded the Nazi party, but also was able to retain power within that party until he committed suicide in 1945. Although Hitler, a fascist, was almost killed several times before he was able to implement his plans to exterminate the Jews, he was able to survive and, with luck, lead his Nazi Party forward. As a leader, Hitler wished to become a dominant in figure in the world and wanted to lead the Nazi party to world dominance. He attempted to gain power via a revolution in 1923, but that failed. However, he was later essentially handed power through democratic means. His policies while in control of Germany included extermination of Jews while holding down Communism and democracy.
During his life, Hitler accomplished many of the goals that he had written in his book, Mien Kampf. Mein Kampf, in English, means "My Struggle." And, struggle he did, as his enemies were beating his troops. As World War II came to a close and Hitler saw Germany was going to lose the war, Hitler could not take bear to watch his dreams turn to nightmares. Hitler took his life on April 30, 1945.
Heinrich Himmler - Himmler was probably the second most powerful Nazi force in Germany, right behind Adolf Hitler. He was the chief of police during the Nazi's reign in power and the head man of the Schutzstaffel, also known as the SS. He was a harsh and cruel man who was dedicated to destroying the Jews, as was evident in his statements such as: "We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us. Altogether, however, we can say that we have fulfilled this most difficult duty for the love of our people. And our spirit, our soul, our character has not suffered injury from it."
Joseph Goebbels - Goebbels was Adolf Hitler's second best man, right behind Heinrich Himmler. Goebbels, born in 1898, grew up to be a master of mass psychology, a skill that became an important aspect to the Nazis in their quest for power. He was excellent in making the citizens believe the same ideology that his party had adopted through his many mechanisms of persuasion. During his life span, he was appointed the Reich Propaganda Director and the Minister of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda. Goebbels also did well in keeping up the soldier's morale during World War II.
Adolf Eichmann - Eichmann was, for the most part, like the other Adolf, Adolf Hitler. Although not as powerful as Hitler, this SS Lieutenant Colonel for the German army was just as enthusiastic about destroying the 10.3 million Jews in Europe. Eichmann implemented the system of transporting prisoners to concentration camps as well as the method of efficient slaughter of Jews that the Nazi Party continued frivolously until the party's desiccation.
Rudolf Hess - Hess was a loyal supporter of Hitler from the start. Hess was a party supporter who was later rewarded for his service by being named as Reichsminister. He was also in charge of Hitler's day-to-day schedule and, perhaps most important in his life, would be famous for writing Hitler's dictations down while they were both imprisoned. These writing would later be compiled into Hitler's book, Mein Kampf.
Hermann Goring - This Nazi leader was the second in command for the Nazi party during its rise to power in Europe. He was also commander in chief of the Luftwaff, the German air force. He held many more prominent positions during his life including Reichsmarshall and held responsibilities to manage the economy for a four-year span. Unfortunately for Goring, Albert Speer and Goebbels soon began to take a lot of his power.
* Albert Speer - Speer was one of the Nazi Party's most dedicated workers and was one of Hitler's top aids. Many believe that because of Speer, the war lasted an extra year that, in turn, allowed for the killing of more Jews. Hundreds of thousands more Jews lost their lives due to Speer. He later accepted the fact that what he had done was not right, noting that he knew nothing about the "Final Solution" Hitler proposed. He was the only one of the accused who plead guilty at the Nuremberg trials following World War II for committing war crimes. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Speer was released in 1966 and died in 1981.
Reinhard Heydrich - Heydrich was a top bureaucrat within the Nazi party. He was a key member of the group that came together to discuss the final solution of Jews in 1942. He was a cunning individual who brought up a plan to fake a Polish attack on Gleiwitz that would allow Hitler to send his troops into Poland. Also, Heydrich organized a killing squad that killed over one million Soviet and Polish Jews. He was hated by many and was bombed, shot, and killed by two Czech citizens.
Oskar Schindler - So you have seen or heard of Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" but really don't know who Schindler is, right? Well, Schindler did all in his power to help to save the Jews that were being oppressed and sent off to Nazi concentration camps. Schindler called Jews "my children." Although arrested twice for his cunning plans to save Jews that were in danger, he never gave up. He continued to risk his life and his own freedom for those Jews, all while paying for them to live by buying them food, clothing, and a shelter in which to live. Schindler was a good man to many and a lifesaver to many more.
Raoul Wallenberg - As a Swedish diplomat, Wallenberg attempted to help save the Jews from the fate that Eichmann had arranged. At a dinner in Budapest, Hungary, Wallenberg tried to persuade Eichmann to cease his policy of the destruction of Jews. World War II was almost at an end, and Wallenberg asked that the killing be stopped, as it was inevitable that the Nazi Party would lose. Eichmann declined to stop exterminating Jews, but Wallenberg would not stop defending them. In 1944, he went back to Budapest to save the lives of thousands of Jews. He was able to obtain a Swedish passport for some 20,000 Jews.
Neville Chamberlain - English Prime Minister during part of the Holocaust movement. He believed Hitler would conform over time and, after meeting with Hitler, concluded that all would be fine in the end and that the persecution of Jews would not amount to a major movement. His gullibility gave false hope to millions of Jews.
Winton Churchill - Took the Prime Minister position in England in 1940, immediately following the reign of Neville Chamberlain. Churchill was more realistic and noticed the colossal threat Hitler posed on Western Europe as well as the rest of the world.
American Presidents - Two American presidents had to deal with the happenings of the Holocaust movement as well as World War II in Europe that was a direct result of Hitler's yearnings. Those two, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, each had tough decisions. Roosevelt had the task of deciding when and where should America join the war against the Holocaust. He then faced many more tough decisions during his time in office. Just before the war ended, however, he unexpectedly passed away and Harry Truman came into office. Truman was responsible for ending the war with the atomic bomb. Although Franklin Roosevelt was in office for a majority of the period in which the Holocaust and the World War that occurred as a result of the Holocaust was going on, both ended up playing a large role in making decisions as to what was best for the U.S. and the world regarding the Holocaust.
In conclusion, many people, whether it be for or against this Holocaust movement, fought for what they believed. Luckily for Jews as well as the rest of the world, countries such as England and the United States as well as individuals including Wallenberg and Schindler stepped up to help their cause.
Goebbels earned a Ph.D. from Heidelberg University in 1921, writing his doctoral thesis on 18th century romantic drama; he then went on to work as a journalist and later a bank clerk and caller on the stock exchange. He also wrote novels and plays, but they were rejected by publishers. Goebbels came into contact with the Nazi Party in 1923 during the Frenchoccupation of the Ruhr and became a member in 1924. He was appointed Gauleiter (regional party leader) of Berlin. In this position, he put his propaganda skills to full use, combating the local socialist and communist parties with the help of Nazi papers and the paramilitary Stormtroopers, aka, Brownshirts, SA. By 1928, he had risen in the party ranks to become one of its most prominent members.
Goebbels rose to power in 1933 along with Hitler and the Nazi Party and he was appointed Propaganda Minister. One of his first acts was the burning of books rejected by the Nazis. He exerted totalitarian control over the media, arts and information in Germany.
From the beginning of his tenure, Goebbels organized attacks on German Jews, commencing with the one-day boycott of Jewish businessmen, doctors, and lawyers on April 1, 1933.His attacks on the Jewish population culminated in the Kristallnacht assault of 1938, an open and unrestrained pogrom unleashed by the Nazis all across Germany, in which scores ofsynagogues were burned and hundreds of Jews were assaulted and murdered. Further, he produced a series of anti-Semitic films (most notably Jud Suss). Goebbels used modernpropaganda techniques to psychologically prepare the German people for aggressive warfare.
During World War II, Goebbels increased his power and influence through shifting alliances with other Nazi leaders. By late 1943, the tide of the war was turning against the Axis powers, but this only spurred Goebbels to intensify the propaganda by urging the Germans to accept the idea of total war and mobilization. Goebbels remained with Hitler in Berlin to the end; just hours after Hitler's suicide, Goebbels and his wife Magda killed their six young children and then committed suicide.
Goebbels was born in Rheydt, an industrial town south of Mönchengladbach on the edge of theRuhr district. His family were Catholics; his father was a factory clerk, his mother originally a farmhand. Goebbels had four siblings: Hans (1893–1947), Konrad (1895–1949), Elisabeth (1901–1915) and Maria (born 1910, later married to the German filmmaker Max W. Kimmich). He was educated at a Christian Gymnasium, where he completed his Abitur (university entrance examination) in 1916. He had a deformed right leg, the result either of club foot orosteomyelitis. William L. Shirer, who worked in Berlin as a journalist in the 1930s and was acquainted with Goebbels, wrote in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960) that the deformity was from a childhood attack of osteomyelitis and a failed operation to correct it. Goebbels wore a metal brace and special shoe because of his shortened leg, but nevertheless walked with a limp. He was rejected for military service in World War I, which he bitterly resented. He later sometimes misrepresented himself as a war veteran and his disability as a war wound. He did act as an "office soldier" from June to October 1917 in Rheydt's "Patriotic Help Unit".
After completing his doctorate in 1921, Goebbels worked as a journalist and tried for several years to become a published author. He wrote a semi-autobiographical novel, Michael, two verse plays, and quantities of romantic poetry. In these works, he revealed the psychological damage his physical limitations (having a clubbed foot, and, in a lesser sense being so far from the Aryan ideal, he had brown eyes and dark brown hair and stood at just 5'5) had caused. "The very name of the hero, Michael, to whom he gave many autobiographical features, suggests the way his self-identification was pointing: a figure of light, radiant, tall, unconquerable," and above all "'To be a soldier! To stand sentinel! One ought always to be a soldier,' wrote Michael-Goebbels." Goebbels found another form of compensation in the pursuit of women, a lifelong compulsion he indulged "with extraordinary vigor and a surprising degree of success." His diaries reveal a long succession of affairs, before and after his marriage before a Protestant pastor in 1931 to Magda Quandt, with whom he had six children.
Goebbels was embittered by the frustration of his literary career; his novel did not find a publisher until 1929 and his plays were never staged. He found an outlet for his desire to write in his diaries, which he began in 1923 and continued for the rest of his life. He later worked as a bank clerk and a caller on the stock exchange. During this period, he read avidly and formed his political views. Major influences wereFriedrich Nietzsche, Oswald Spengler and, most importantly, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the British-born German writer who was one of the founders of "scientific" anti-Semitism, and whose book The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899) was one of the standard works of the extreme right in Germany. Goebbels spent the winter of 1919–20 in Munich, where he witnessed and admired the violent nationalistreaction against the attempted communist revolution in Bavaria. His first political hero was Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley, the man who assassinated the Bavarian prime minister Kurt Eisner. Hitler was in Munich at the same time and entered politics as a result of similar experiences.
The culture of the German extreme right was violent and anti-intellectual, which posed a challenge to the physically frail University graduate.Joachim Fest writes:
This was the source of his hatred of the intellect, which was a form of self-hatred, his longing to degrade himself, to submerge himself in the ranks of the masses, which ran curiously parallel with his ambition and his tormenting need to distinguish himself. He was incessantly tortured by the fear of being regarded as a ‘bourgeois intellectual’… It always seemed as if he were offering blind devotion (to Nazism) to make up for his lack of all those characteristics of the racial elite which nature had denied him.
Like others who were later prominent in the Third Reich, Goebbels came into contact with the Nazi Party in 1923, during the campaign of resistance to the French occupation of the Ruhr. Hitler’s imprisonment following the failed November 1923 "Beer Hall Putsch" left the party temporarily leaderless, and when the 27-year-old Goebbels joined the party in late 1924 the most important influence on his political development was Gregor Strasser, who became Nazi organizer in northern Germany in March 1924. Strasser ("the most able of the leading Nazis" of this period) took the "socialist" component of National Socialism far more seriously than did Hitler and other members of the Bavarian leadership of the party.
Goebbels, German Federal Archive photo
"National and socialist! What goes first, and what comes afterwards?" Goebbels asked rhetorically in a debate with Theodor Vahlen, Gauleiter (regional party head) of Pomerania, in the Rhineland party newspaper National-sozialistische Briefe (National-Socialist Letters), of which he was editor, in mid-1925. "With us in the west, there can be no doubt. First socialist redemption, then comes national liberation like a whirlwind… Hitler stands between both opinions, but he is on his way to coming over to us completely." Goebbels, with his journalistic skills, thus soon became a key ally of Strasser in his struggle with the Bavarians over the party program. The conflict was not, so they thought, with Hitler, but with his lieutenants, Rudolf Hess, Julius Streicher and Hermann Esser, who, they said, were mismanaging the party in Hitler’s absence. In 1925, Goebbels published an open letter to "my friends of the left," urging unity between socialists and Nazis against the capitalists. "You and I," he wrote, "we are fighting one another although we are not really enemies."
In February 1926, Hitler, having finished working on Mein Kampf, made a sudden return to party affairs and soon disabused the northerners of any illusions about where he stood. He summoned about 60 _gauleiters_and other activists, including Goebbels, to a meeting at Bamberg, in Streicher’s Gau of Franconia, where he gave a two-hour speech repudiating the political program of the "socialist" wing of the party. For Hitler, the real enemy of the German people was always the Jews, not the capitalists. Goebbels was bitterly disillusioned. "I feel devastated," he wrote. "What sort of Hitler? A reactionary?" He was horrified by Hitler’s characterization of socialism as "a Jewish creation", his declaration that the Soviet Union must be destroyed, and his assertion that private property would not be expropriated by a Nazi government. "I no longer fully believe in Hitler. That’s the terrible thing: my inner support has been taken away."
Hitler, however, recognized Goebbels’ talents. In April, he brought Goebbels to Munich, sending his own car to meet him at the railway station, and gave him a long private audience. Hitler berated Goebbels over his support for the "socialist" line, but offered to "wipe the slate clean" if Goebbels would now accept his leadership. Goebbels capitulated completely, offering Hitler his total loyalty – a pledge that was clearly sincere, and that he adhered to until the end of his life. "I love him ... He has thought through everything," Goebbels wrote. "Such a sparkling mind can be my leader. I bow to the greater one, the political genius". Later he wrote: "Adolf Hitler, I love you because you are both great and simple at the same time. What one calls a genius." Fest writes:
From this point on he submitted himself, his whole existence, to his attachment to the person of the Führer, consciously eliminating all inhibitions springing from intellect, free will and self-respect. Since this submission was an act less of faith than of insight, it stood firm through all vicissitudes to the end. ‘He who forsakes the Führer withers away,’ he would later write.
Propagandist in Berlin
In October 1926, Hitler rewarded Goebbels for his new loyalty by making him the party "Gauleiter" for the Berlin section of the National Socialists. Goebbels was then able to use the new position to indulge his literary aspirations in the German capital, which he perceived to be a stronghold of the socialists and communists. Here, Goebbels discovered his talent as a propagandist, writing such tracts as 1926's The Second Revolution and Lenin or Hitler.
Here, he was also able to indulge his heretofore latent taste for violence, if only vicariously through the actions of the street fighters under his command. History, he said, "is made in the street," and he was determined to challenge the dominant parties of the left – the Social Democrats and Communists – in the streets of Berlin. Working with the local S.A. (stormtrooper) leaders, he deliberately provoked beer-hall battles and street brawls, frequently involving firearms. "Beware, you dogs," he wrote to his former "friends of the left": "When the Devil is loose in me you will not curb him again." When the inevitable deaths occurred, he exploited them for the maximum effect, turning the street fighter Horst Wessel, who was killed at his home by enemy political activists, into a martyr and hero.
In Berlin, Goebbels was able to give full expression to his genius for propaganda, as editor of the Berlin Nazi newspaper Der Angriff (The Attack) and as the author of a steady stream of Nazi posters and handbills. "He rose within a few months to be the city’s most feared agitator." His propaganda techniques were totally cynical: "That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result," he wrote. "It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success."
Among his favorite targets were socialist leaders such as Hermann Müller and Carl Severing, and the Jewish Berlin Police President,Bernhard Weiß (1880–1951), whom he subjected to a relentless campaign of Jew-baiting in the hope of provoking a crackdown he could then exploit. The Social Democrat city government obliged in 1927 with an eight-month ban on the party, which Goebbels exploited to the limit. When a friend criticized him for denigrating Weiss, a man with an exemplary military record, "he explained cynically that he wasn’t in the least interested in Weiss, only in the propaganda effect."
Goebbels also discovered a talent for oratory, and was soon second in the Nazi movement only to Hitler as a public speaker. Where Hitler’s style was hoarse and passionate, Goebbels’ was cool, sarcastic and often humorous: he was a master of biting invective and insinuation, although he could whip himself into a rhetorical frenzy if the occasion demanded. Unlike Hitler, however, he retained a cynical detachment from his own rhetoric. He openly acknowledged that he was exploiting the lowest instincts of the German people – racism, xenophobia, class envy and insecurity. He could, he said, play the popular will like a piano, leading the masses wherever he wanted them to go. "He drove his listeners into ecstasy, making them stand up, sing songs, raise their arms, repeat oaths – and he did it, not through the passionate inspiration of the moment, but as the result of sober psychological calculation."
Goebbels' words and actions made little impact on the political loyalties of Berlin. At the 1928 _Reichstag_elections, the Nazis polled less than 2% of the vote in Berlin compared with 33% for the Social Democrats and 25% for the Communists. At this election Goebbels was one of the 10 Nazis elected to the Reichstag, which brought him a salary of 750 Reichsmarks a month and immunity from prosecution. Even when the impact of the Great Depression led to an enormous surge in support for the Nazis across Germany, Berlin resisted the party’s appeal more than any other part of Germany: at its peak in 1932, the Nazi Party polled 28% in Berlin to the combined left’s 55%. But his outstanding talents, and the obvious fact that he stood high in Hitler’s regard, earned Goebbels the grudging respect of the anti-intellectual brawlers of the Nazi movement, who called him "our little doctor" with a mixture of affection and amusement. By 1928, still aged only 31, he was acknowledged to be one of the inner circle of Nazi leaders. "The S.A. would have let itself be hacked to bits for him," wrote Horst Wessel in 1929.
The Great Depression led to a new resurgence of "left" sentiment in some sections of the Nazi Party, led by Gregor Strasser’s brother Otto, who argued that the party ought to be competing with the Communists for the loyalties of the unemployed and the industrial workers by promising to expropriate the capitalists. Hitler, whose dislike of working class militancy reflected his social origins in the small-town lower middle class, was thoroughly opposed to this line. He recognized that the growth in Nazi support at the 1930 elections had mainly come from the middle class and from farmers, and he was now busy building bridges to the upper middle classes and to German business. In April 1930, he fired Strasser as head of the Nazi Party national propaganda apparatus and appointed Goebbels to replace him, giving him control of the party’s national newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter (People’s Observer), as well as other Nazi papers across the country. Goebbels, although he continued to show "leftish" tendencies in some of his actions (such as co-operating with the Communists in supporting the Berlin transport workers' strike in November 1932), was totally loyal to Hitler in his struggle with the Strassers, which culminated in Otto’s expulsion from the party in July 1930.
Despite his revolutionary rhetoric, Goebbels’ most important contribution to the Nazi cause between 1930 and 1933 was as the organizer of successive election campaigns: The Reichstag elections of September 1930, July and November 1932 and March 1933, and Hitler’s presidential campaign of March–April 1932. He proved to be an organizer of genius, choreographing Hitler’s dramatic airplane tours of Germany and pioneering the use of radio and cinema for electoral campaigning. The Nazi Party’s use of torchlight parades, brass bands, massed choirs, and similar techniques caught the imagination of many voters, particularly young people. "His propaganda headquarters in Munich sent out a constant stream of directives to local and regional party sections, often providing fresh slogans and fresh material for the campaign." Although the spectacular rise in the Nazi vote in 1930 and July 1932 was caused mainly by the effects of the Depression, Goebbels as party campaign manager was naturally given much of the credit.
When Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933, Goebbels was initially given no office: the coalition cabinet Hitler headed contained only a minority of Nazis as part of the deal he had negotiated with President Paul von Hindenburg and theconservative parties. However, as the propaganda head of the ruling party, a party with no great respect for the law, he immediately behaved as though he were in power. He commandeered the state radio to produce a live broadcast of the torchlight parade that celebrated Hitler’s assumption of office. On 13 March, Goebbels had his reward for his part in bringing the Nazis to power by being appointed Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Volksaufklärung und Propaganda), with a seat in the Cabinet.
The role of the new ministry, which took over palatial accommodation in the 18th-century Leopold Palace on Wilhelmstrasse, just across from Hitler’s offices in the Reich Chancellery, was to centralize Nazi control of all aspects of German cultural and intellectual life, particularly the press, radio and the visual and performing arts. On 1 May, Goebbels organised the massive demonstrations and parades to mark the "Day of National Labor," which preceded the Nazi takeover and destruction of the German trade union movement. By 3 May, he was able to boast in his diary: "We are the masters of Germany." On 10 May, he supervised an even more symbolic event in the establishment of Nazi cultural power: the burning of up to 20,000 books by Jewish or anti-Nazi authors in the Opernplatz next to the university.
The hegemonic ambitions of the Propaganda Ministry were shown by the divisions Goebbels soon established: press, radio, film, theater, music, literature, and publishing. In each of these, a_Reichskammer_ (Reich Chamber) was established, co-opting leading figures from the field (usually not known Nazis) to head each Chamber, and requiring them to supervise the purge of Jews, socialists and liberals, as well as practitioners of "degenerate" art forms such as abstract art andatonal music. The respected composer Richard Strauss, for example, became head of the_Reich_ Music Chamber. Goebbels’ orders were backed by the threat of force. The many prominent Jews in the arts and the mass media emigrated in large numbers rather than risk the fists of the SA and the gates of the concentration camp, as did many socialists and liberals. Some non-Jewish anti-Nazis with good connections or international reputations survived until the mid-1930s, but most were forced out sooner or later.
Control of the arts and media was not just a matter of personnel. Soon the content of every newspaper, book, novel, play, film, broadcast and concert, from the level of nationally-known publishers and orchestras to local newspapers and village choirs, was subject to supervision by the Propaganda Ministry, although a process of self-censorship was soon effectively operating in all these fields, leaving the Ministry in Berlin free to concentrate on the most politically sensitive areas such as major newspapers and the state radio. No author could publish, no painter could exhibit, no singer could broadcast, no critic could criticize, unless they were a member of the appropriate Reich Chamber, and membership was conditional on good behavior. Goebbels could bribe as well as threaten: he secured a large budget for his Ministry, with which he was able to offer generous salaries and subsidies to those in the arts who co-operated with him. Most artists, theaters, and orchestras—after struggling to survive the Depression—found these inducements hard to refuse.
As one of the most highly educated members of the Nazi leadership, and the one with the most authentic pretensions to high culture, Goebbels was sensitive to charges that he was dragging German culture down to the level of mere propaganda. He responded by saying that the purpose of both art and propaganda was to bring about a spiritual mobilization of the German people.
Goebbels insisted that German high culture must be allowed to carry on, both for reasons of international prestige and to win the loyalty of the upper middle classes, who valued art forms such as opera and the symphony. He thus became to some extent the protector of the arts as well as their regulator. In this, he had the support of Hitler, a passionate devotee of Richard Wagner. But Goebbels always had to bow to Hitler’s views. Hitler loathed modernism of all kinds, and Goebbels (whose own tastes were sympathetic to modernism) was forced to acquiesce in imposing very traditionalist forms on the artistic and musical worlds. The music of Paul Hindemith, for example, was banned simply because Hitler did not like it.
Goebbels also resisted the complete Nazification of the arts because he knew that the masses must be allowed some respite from slogans and propaganda. He ensured that film studios such as UFA at Babelsberg near Berlin continued to produce a stream of comedies and light romances, which drew mass audiences to the cinema where they would also watch propaganda newsreels and Nazi epics. His abuse of his position as Propaganda Minister and the reputation that built up around his use of the casting couch was well known. Many actresses wrote later of how Goebbels had tried to lure them to his home. He acquired the nickname "Bock von Babelsberg" lit: "Babelsberg Stud". He resisted considerable pressure to ban all foreign films – helped by the fact that Hitler sometimes watched foreign films. For the same reason, Goebbels worked to bring culture to the masses – promoting the sale of cheap radios, organizing free concerts in factories, staging art exhibitions in small towns and establishing mobile cinemas to bring the movies to every village. All of this served short-term propaganda ends, but also served to reconcile the German people, particularly the working class, to the regime.
In October 1941 Goebbels organized the "Weimarer Dichtertreffen" (Weimar Convention of Poets) inviting collaborating writers from all of Europe. Under Goebbels auspices the participating members (e.g. Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and Robert Brasillach) founded the "Europäische Schriftstellervereinigung" (European Writers' League), officially in March 1942. Hans Carossa was president, Giovanni Papini vice president.
Goebbels and the Jews
Despite the enormous power of the Propaganda Ministry over German cultural life, Goebbels’ status began to decline once the Nazi regime was firmly established in power. This was because the real business of the Nazi regime was preparation for war, and although propaganda was a part of this, it was not the primary objective. By the mid-1930s, Hitler’s most powerful subordinates were Hermann Göring, as head of the Four Year Plan for crash rearmament, and Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and police apparatus. Once the internal enemies of the Nazi Party were destroyed, as they effectively were by 1935, Goebbels’ propaganda efforts began to lose their point, and without an enemy to fight, his rhetoric began to sound hollow and unconvincing.
As a man of education and culture, Goebbels had once mocked the "primitive" anti-Semitism of Nazis such as Julius Streicher. But as Joachim Fest observes: "Goebbels [found] in the increasingly unrestrained practice of anti-Semitism by the state new possibilities into which he threw himself with all the zeal of an ambitious man worried by a constant diminution of his power." Fest also suggests a psychological motive: "A man who conformed so little to the National Socialist image of the elite ... may have had his reason, in the struggles for power at Hitler’s court, for offering keen anti-Semitism as a counterweight to his failure to conform to a type." Whatever his motives, Goebbels took every opportunity to attack the Jews. From 1933 onwards, he was bracketed with Streicher among the regime’s most virulent anti-Semites."Some people think," he told a Berlin rally in June 1935, "that we haven’t noticed how the Jews are trying once again to spread themselves over all our streets. The Jews ought to please observe the laws of hospitality and not behave as if they were the same as us."
The sarcastic "humor" of Goebbels’ speeches did not conceal the reality of his threat to the Jews. In his capacity as Gauleiter of Berlin, and thus as de facto ruler of the capital (although there was still officially an Oberbürgermeister and city council), Goebbels maintained constant pressure on the city’s large Jewish community, forcing them out of business and professional life and placing obstacles in the way of their being able to live normal lives, such as banning them from public transport and city facilities. There was some respite during 1936, while Berlin hosted the Olympic Games, but from 1937 the intensity of his anti-Semitic words and actions began to increase again. "The Jews must get out of Germany, indeed out of Europe altogether," he wrote in his diary in November 1937. "That will take some time, but it must and will happen." By mid-1938 Goebbels was investigating the possibility of requiring all Jews to wear an identifying mark and of confining them to a ghetto, but these were ideas whose time had not yet come. "Aim – drive the Jews out of Berlin," he wrote in his diary in June 1938, "and without any sentimentality."
In November 1938, Goebbels got the chance to take decisive action against the Jews for which he had been waiting when a Jewish youth,Herschel Grynszpan, shot a German diplomat in Paris, Ernst vom Rath, in revenge for the deportation of his family to Poland and the persecution of German Jews generally. On 9 November, the evening vom Rath died of his wounds, Goebbels was at the Bürgerbräu Keller in Munich with Hitler, celebrating the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch with a large crowd of veteran Nazis. Goebbels told Hitler that "spontaneous" anti-Jewish violence had already broken out in German cities, although in fact this was not true: this was a clear case of Goebbels manipulating Hitler for his own ends. When Hitler said he approved of what was happening, Goebbels took this as authorization to organize a massive, nationwide pogrom against the Jews. He wrote in his diary:
[Hitler] decides: demonstrations should be allowed to continue. The police should be withdrawn. For once the Jews should get the feel of popular anger ... I immediately gave the necessary instructions to the police and the Party. Then I briefly spoke in that vein to the Party leadership. Stormy applause. All are instantly at the phones. Now people will act.
The result of Goebbels’ incitement was Kristallnacht, the "Night of Broken Glass," during which the S.A. and Nazi Party went on a rampage of anti-Jewish violence and destruction, killing at least 90 and maybe as many as 200 people, destroying over a thousand synagogues and hundreds of Jewish businesses and homes, and dragging some 30,000 Jews off to concentration camps, where at least another thousand died before the remainder were released after several months of brutal treatment. The longer-term effect was to drive 80,000 Jews to emigrate, most leaving behind all their property in their desperation to escape. Foreign opinion reacted with horror, bringing to a sudden end the climate of appeasement of Nazi Germany in the western democracies. Goebbels’ pogrom thus moved Germany significantly closer to war, at a time when rearmament was still far from complete. Göring and some other Nazi leaders were furious at Goebbels’ actions, about which they had not been consulted. Goebbels, however, was delighted. "As was to be expected, the entire nation is in uproar," he wrote. "This is one dead man who is costing the Jews dear. Our darling Jews will think twice in future before gunning down German diplomats." In 1942 Goebbels was involved in the deportation of Berlin's Jews.
Man of power
These events were well-timed from the point of view of Goebbels’ relations with Hitler. In 1937, he had begun an intense affair with the Czechactress Lída Baarová, causing the break-up of her marriage. When Magda Goebbels learned of this affair in October 1938, she complained to Hitler, a conservative in sexual matters who was fond of Magda and the Goebbels' young children. He ordered Goebbels to break off his affair, whereupon Goebbels offered his resignation, which Hitler refused. On 15 October, Goebbels attempted suicide. A furious Hitler then ordered Himmler to remove Baarová from Germany, and she was deported to Czechoslovakia, from where she later left for Italy. These events damaged Goebbels’ standing with Hitler, and his zeal in furthering Hitler’s anti-Semitic agenda was in part an effort to restore his reputation. The Baarová affair, however, did nothing to dampen Goebbels' enthusiasm for womanizing. As late as 1943, the Hitler Youthleader Artur Axmann was ingratiating himself with Goebbels by procuring young women for him.
Goebbels' villa on Bogensee, 2008 condition
Goebbels, like all the Nazi leaders, could not afford to defy Hitler’s will in matters of this kind. By 1938, they had all become wealthy men, but their wealth was dependent on Hitler’s continuing goodwill and willingness to turn a blind eye to their corruption. Until the Nazis came to power, Goebbels had been a relatively poor man, and his main income was the salary of 750 Reichsmarks a month he had gained by election to the Reichstag in 1928. By 1936, although he was not nearly as corrupt as some other senior Nazis, such as Göring and Robert Ley, Goebbels was earning 300,000 Reichsmarks a year in "fees" for writing in his own newspaper, Der Angriff (The Attack), as well as his ministerial salary and many other sources of income. These payments were in effect bribes from the papers’ publisher Max Amann. He owned a villa on Schwanenwerder island and another at Bogensee near Wandlitz in Brandenburg, which he spent 2.3 million _Reichsmarks_refurbishing. The tax office, as it did for all the Nazi leaders, gave him generous exemptions.
Whatever the loss of real power suffered by Goebbels during the middle years of the Nazi regime, he remained one of Hitler’s intimates. Since his offices were close to the Chancellery, he was a frequent guest for lunch, during which he became adept at listening to Hitler’s monologues and agreeing with his opinions. In the months leading up to the war, his influence began to increase again. He ranked along with Joachim von Ribbentrop, Göring, Himmler, and Martin Bormann as the senior Nazi with the most access to Hitler, which in an autocratic regime meant access to power. The fact that Hitler was fond of Magda Goebbels and the children also gave Goebbels entrée to Hitler’s inner circle. The Goebbels family regularly visited Hitler’s Bavarian mountain retreat, the Berghof. But he was not kept directly informed of military and diplomatic developments, relying on second-hand accounts to hear what Hitler was doing.
Goebbels at war
In the years 1936 to 1939, Hitler, while professing his desire for peace, led Germany firmly and deliberately towards a confrontation.Goebbels was one of the most enthusiastic proponents of aggressively pursuing Germany's territorial claims sooner rather than later, along with Himmler and Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop. He saw it as his job to make the German people accept this and if possible welcome it. At the time of the Sudetenland crisis in 1938, Goebbels was well aware that the great majority of Germans did not want a war, and used every propaganda resource at his disposal to overcome what he called this "war psychosis," by whipping up sympathy for the Sudeten Germansand hatred of the Czechs. After the western powers acceded to Hitler's demands concerning Czechoslovakia in 1938, Goebbels soon redirected his propaganda machine against Poland. From May onwards, he orchestrated a "hate campaign" against Poland, fabricating stories about atrocities against ethnic Germans in Danzig and other cities. Even so, he was unable to persuade the majority of Germans to welcome the prospect of war.
Once war began in September 1939, Goebbels began a steady process of extending his influence over domestic policy. After 1940, Hitler made few public appearances, and even his broadcasts became less frequent, so Goebbels increasingly became the face and the voice of the Nazi regime for the German people. With Hitler preoccupied with the war, Himmler focusing on the "final solution to the Jewish question" in eastern Europe, and with Hermann Göring’s position declining with the failure of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), Goebbels sensed a power vacuum in domestic policy and moved to fill it. Since civilian morale was his responsibility, he increasingly concerned himself with matters such as wages, rationing and housing, which affected morale and therefore productivity. He came to see the lethargic and demoralized Göring, still Germany’s economic supremo as head of the Four Year Plan Ministry, as his main enemy. To undermine Göring, he forged an alliance with Himmler, although the SS chief remained wary of him. A more useful ally was Albert Speer, a Hitler favorite who was appointed Armaments Minister in February 1942. Goebbels and Speer worked through 1942 to persuade Hitler to dismiss Göring as economic head and allow the domestic economy to be run by a revived Cabinet headed by themselves.
However, in February 1943, the crushing German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad produced a crisis in the regime. Goebbels was forced to ally himself with Göring to thwart a bid for power by Bormann, head of the Nazi Party Chancellery and Secretary to the Führer. Bormann exploited the disaster at Stalingrad, and his daily access to Hitler, to persuade him to create a three-man junta representing the State, the Army, and the Party, represented respectively by Hans Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of theOKW (armed forces high command), and Bormann, who controlled the Party and access to the Führer. This Committee of Three would exercise dictatorial powers over the home front. Goebbels, Speer, Göring and Himmler all saw this proposal as a power grab by Bormann and a threat to their power, and combined to block it.
However, their alliance was shaky at best. This was mainly because during this period Himmler was still cooperating with Bormann to gain more power at the expense of Göring and most of the traditional Reich administration; Göring's loss of power had resulted in an overindulgence in the trappings of power and his strained relations with Goebbels made it difficult for a unified coalition to be formed, despite the attempts of Speer and Göring's Luftwaffe deputy Field Marshal Erhard Milch, to reconcile the two Party comrades.
Goebbels instead tried to persuade Hitler to appoint Göring as head of the government. His proposal had a certain logic, as Göring – despite the failures of the Luftwaffe and his own corruption – was still very popular among the German people, whose morale was waning since Hitler barely appeared in public since the defeat at Stalingrad. However, this proposal was increasingly unworkable given Göring’s increasing incapacity and, more importantly, Hitler’s increasing contempt for him due to his blaming of Göring for Germany's defeats. This was a measure by Hitler designed to deflect criticism from himself.
The result was that nothing was done – the Committee of Three declined into irrelevance due to the loss of power by Keitel and Lammers and the ascension of Bormann and the situation continued to drift, with administrative chaos increasingly undermining the war effort. The ultimate responsibility for this lay with Hitler, as Goebbels well knew, referring in his diary to a "crisis of leadership," but Goebbels was too much under Hitler’s spell ever to challenge his power.
Sports Palace speech
Goebbels launched a new offensive to place himself at the center of policy-making. On 18 February, he delivered a passionate "Total War Speech" at the Sports Palace in Berlin. Goebbels demanded from his audience a commitment to "total war," the complete mobilization of the German economy and German society for the war effort. To motivate the German people to continue the struggle, he cited three theses as the basis of this argument:
Danger was a motivating force. Germany had to act quickly and decisively, or it would be too late.
Goebbels concluded that "Two thousand years of Western history are in danger," and he blamed Germany's failures on the Jews.
Goebbels hoped in this way to persuade Hitler to give him and his ally Speer control of domestic policy for a program of total commitment to arms production and full labor conscription, including women. But Hitler, supported by Göring, resisted these demands, which he feared would weaken civilian morale and lead to a repetition of the debacle of 1918, when the German army had been undermined (in Hitler's view) by a collapse of the home front. Nor was Hitler willing to allow Goebbels or anyone else to usurp his own power as the ultimate source of all decisions. Goebbels privately lamented "a complete lack of direction in German domestic policy," but of course he could not directly criticize Hitler or go against his wishes.
Heinrich Himmler, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, preferred that the matter not be discussed in public. Despite this, in an editorial in his newspaper "Das Reich" in November 1941 Goebbels quoted Hitler’s 1939 "prophecy" that the Jews would be the loser in the coming world war. Now, he said, Hitler’s prophecy was coming true: "Jewry," he said, "is now suffering the gradual process of annihilation which it intended for us ... It now perishes according to its own precept of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’!"
In 1939, in a speech to the Reichstag, Hitler had said:
If international finance Jewry in and outside Europe should succeed in thrusting the nations once again into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshevisation of the earth and with it the victory of Jewry, but the destruction of the Jewish race in Europe.
The view of most historians is that the decision to proceed with the extermination of the Jews was taken at some point in late 1941, and Goebbels’ comments make it clear that he knew in general terms, if not in detail, what was planned.
The decision in principle to deport the German and Austrian Jews to unspecified destinations "in the east" was made in September. Goebbels immediately pressed for the Berlin Jews to be deported first. He traveled to Hitler’s headquarters on the eastern front, meeting both Hitler andReinhard Heydrich to lobby for his demands. He got the assurances he wanted: "The Führer is of the opinion," he wrote, "that the Jews eventually have to be removed from the whole of Germany. The first cities to be made Jew-free are Berlin, Vienna and Prague. Berlin is first in the queue, and I have the hope that we’ll succeed in the course of this year."
Deportations of Berlin Jews to the ?ód? ghetto began in October, but transport and other difficulties made the process much slower than Goebbels desired. His November article in Das Reich was part of his campaign to have the pace of deportation accelerated.
With regard to the Jewish Question, the Führer is determined to make a clean sweep of it. He prophesied that, if they brought about another world war, they would experience their annihilation. That was no empty talk. The world war is here [this was the week Germany declared war on the United States]. The annihilation of Jewry must be the necessary consequence. The question is to be viewed without any sentimentality. We’re not there to have sympathy with the Jews, but only sympathy with our own German people. If the German people has again now sacrificed around 160,000 dead in the eastern campaign, the originators of this bloody conflict will have to pay for it with their lives.
During 1942, Goebbels continued to press for the "final solution to the Jewish question" to be carried forward as quickly as possible now that Germany had occupied a huge swathe of Soviet territory into which all the Jews of German-controlled Europe could be deported. There they could be worked into extinction in accordance with the plan agreed on at the Wannsee Conference convened by Heydrich in January. It was a constant annoyance to Goebbels that, at a time when Germany was fighting for its life on the eastern front, there were still 40,000 Jews in Berlin. They should be "carted off to Russia," he wrote in his diary. "It would be best to kill them altogether." Although the Propaganda Ministry was not invited to the Wannsee Conference, Goebbels knew by March what had been decided there. He wrote:
The Jews are now being deported to the east. A fairly barbaric procedure, not to be described in any greater detail, is being used here, and not much more remains of the Jews themselves. In general, it can probably be established that 60 percent of them must be liquidated, while only 40 percent can be put to work […] A judgment is being carried out on the Jews which is barbaric, but fully deserved.
Plenipotentiary for Total War 9 March 1945: Goebbels awards a 16 year old Hitler Youth, Willi Hübner, the Iron Cross for his actions in the ongoing Battle for Berlin
Goebbels struggled in 1943 and 1944 to rally the German people behind a regime that faced increasingly obvious military defeat. The German people’s faith in Hitler was shaken by the disaster at Stalingrad, and never fully recovered. During 1943, as the Soviet armies advanced towards the borders of the Reich, the western Allies developed the ability to launch devastating air raids on most German cities, including Berlin. At the same time, there were increasingly critical shortages of food, raw materials, fuel and housing. Goebbels and Speer were among the few Nazi leaders who were under no illusions about Germany’s dire situation. Their solution was to seize control of the home front from the indecisive Hitler and the incompetent Göring. This was the agenda of Goebbels’s "total war" speech of February 1943. But they were thwarted by their inability to challenge Hitler, who could neither make decisions himself nor trust anyone else to do so.
After Stalingrad, Hitler increasingly withdrew from public view, almost never appearing in public and rarely even broadcasting. By July, Goebbels was lamenting that Hitler had cut himself off from the people – it was noted, for example, that he never visited the bomb-ravaged cities of the Ruhr. "One can’t neglect the people too long," he wrote. "They are the heart of our war effort." Goebbels himself became the public voice of the Nazi regime, both in his regular broadcasts and his weekly editorials in Das Reich. As Joachim Fest notes, Goebbels seemed to take a grim pleasure in the destruction of Germany’s cities by the Allied bombing offensive: "It was, as one of his colleagues confirmed, almost a happy day for him when famous buildings were destroyed, because at such time he put into his speeches that ecstatic hatred which aroused the fanaticism of the tiring workers and spurred them to fresh efforts."
In public, Goebbels remained confident of German victory: "We live at the most critical period in the history of the Occident," he wrote in Das Reich in February 1943. "Any weakening of the spiritual and military defensive strength of our continent in its struggle with eastern Bolshevism brings with it the danger of a rapidly nearing decline in its will to resist ... Our soldiers in the East will do their part. They will stop the storm from the steppes, and ultimately break it. They fight under unimaginable conditions. But they are fighting a good fight. They are fighting not only for our own security, but also for Europe's future."
Goebbels remained preoccupied with the annihilation of the Jews, which was now reaching its climax in the extermination camps of eastern Poland. As in 1942, he was more outspoken about what was happening than Himmler would have liked: "Our state’s security requires that we take whatever measures seem necessary to protect the German community from [the Jewish] threat," he wrote in May. "That leads to some difficult decisions, but they are unavoidable if we are to deal with the threat… None of the Führer's prophetic words has come so inevitably true as his prediction that if Jewry succeeded in provoking a second world war, the result would be not the destruction of the Aryan race, but rather the wiping out of the Jewish race. This process is of vast importance."
Following the Allied invasion of Italy and the fall of Benito Mussolini in September, he and Joachim von Ribbentrop raised with Hitler the possibility of secretly approaching Joseph Stalin and negotiating a separate peace behind the backs of the western Allies. Hitler, surprisingly, did not reject the idea of a separate peace with either side, but he told Goebbels that he should not negotiate from a position of weakness. A great German victory must occur before any negotiations should be undertaken, he reasoned. The German defeat at Kursk in July had, however, ended any possibility of this. Goebbels knew by this stage that the war was lost
As Germany’s military and economic situation grew steadily worse during 1944, Goebbels renewed his push, in alliance with Speer, to wrest control of the home front away from Göring. In July, following the Allied landings in France and the huge Soviet advances in Belarus, Hitler finally agreed to grant both of them increased powers. Speer took control of all economic and production matters away from Göring, and Goebbels took the title ReichPlenipotentiary for Total War (Reichsbevollmächtigter für den totalen Kriegseinsatz an der Heimatfront). At the same time, Himmler took over the Interior Ministry.
This trio – Goebbels, Himmler and Speer – became the real center of German government in the last year of the war, although Bormann used his privileged access to Hitler to thwart them when he could. In this Bormann was very successful, as the Party Gauleiters gained more and more powers, becoming Reich Defense Commissars (Reichsverteidigungskommissare) in their respective districts and overseeing all civilian administration. The fact that Himmler was Interior Minister only increased the power of Bormann, as the Gauleiters feared that Himmler, who was General Plenipotentiary for the Administration of the Reich, would curb their power and set up his higher SS and police leaders as their replacement.
Goebbels saw Himmler as a potential ally against Bormann and in 1944 is supposed to have voiced the opinion that if the Reichsführer SSwas granted control over the Wehrmacht and he, Goebbels, granted control over the domestic politics, the war would soon be ended in a victorious manner. However, the inability of Himmler to persuade Hitler to cease his support of Bormann, the defection of SS generals such as_Obergruppenführer_ Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the Chief of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt and his powerful subordinate GruppenführerHeinrich Müller, the head of the Gestapo, to Bormann, soon persuaded Goebbels to align himself with the Secretary to the Führer at the end of 1944, thus accepting his subordinate position.
When elements of the army leadership tried to assassinate Hitler in the July 20 plot shortly thereafter, it was this trio that rallied the resistance to the plotters. It was Goebbels, besieged in his Berlin apartment with Speer and secretary Wilfred von Oven beside him but with his phone lines intact, who brought Otto Ernst Remer, the wavering commander of the Berlin garrison, to the phone to speak to Hitler in East Prussia, thus demonstrating that the Führer was alive and that the garrison should oppose the attempted coup.
Goebbels promised Hitler that he could raise a million new soldiers by means of a reorganisation of the Army, transferring personnel from the Navy and Luftwaffe, and purging the bloated Reich Ministries, which satraps like Göring had hitherto protected. As it turned out, the inertia of the state bureaucracy was too great even for the energetic Goebbels to overcome. Bormann and his puppet Lammers, keen to retain their control over the Party and State administrations respectively, placed endless obstacles in Goebbels’s way. Another problem was that although Speer and Goebbels were allies, their agendas in fact conflicted: Speer wanted absolute priority in the allocation of labor to be given to arms production, while Goebbels sought to press every able-bodied male into the army. Speer, allied with Fritz Sauckel, the General Plenipotentiary for the Employment of Labor from 1942, generally won these battles.
By July 1944, it was in any case too late for Goebbels and Speer’s internal coup to make any real difference to the outcome of the war. The combined economic and military power of the western Allies and the Soviet Union, now fully mobilized, was simply too great for Germany to overcome. A crucial economic indicator, the ratio of steel output, was running at 4.5:1 against Germany. The final blow was the loss of theRomanian oil fields as the Soviet Army advanced through the Balkans in September. This, combined with the U.S. air campaign against Germany’s synthetic oil production, finally broke the back of the German economy and thus its capacity for further resistance. By this time, the best Goebbels could do to reassure the German people that victory was still possible was to make vague promises that "miracle weapons" such as the Me 262 jet airplane, the Type XXI U-boat, and the V-2 rocket could somehow retrieve the military situation.
Defeat and death
In the last months of the war, Goebbels’ speeches and articles took on an increasingly apocalyptic tone:
"Rarely in history has a brave people struggling for its life faced such terrible tests as the German people have in this war," he wrote towards the end. "The misery that results for us all, the never ending chain of sorrows, fears, and spiritual torture does not need to be described in detail. We are bearing a heavy fate because we are fighting for a good cause, and are called to bravely endure the battle to achieve greatness."
By the beginning of 1945, with the Soviets on the Oder and the Western Allies preparing to cross the Rhine, Goebbels could no longer disguise the fact that defeat was inevitable. He knew what that would mean for himself: "For us," he had written in 1943, "we have burnt our bridges. We cannot go back, but neither do we want to go back. We are forced to extremes and therefore resolved to proceed to extremes." In his diaries, he expressed the belief that German diplomacy should find a way to exploit the emerging tensions between Stalin and the West, but he proclaimed foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, whom Hitler would not abandon, incapable of such a feat.
When other Nazi leaders urged Hitler to leave Berlin and establish a new center of resistance in the National Redoubt in Bavaria, Goebbels opposed this, arguing for a last stand in the ruins of the Reich capital.
By this time, Goebbels had gained the position he had wanted so long – at the side of Hitler, albeit only because of his subservience to Bormann, who was the Führer's de facto deputy. Göring was utterly discredited, though Hitler refused to dismiss him until 25 April. Himmler, whose appointment as commander of Army Group Vistula had led to disaster on the Oder, was also in disgrace, and Hitler rightly suspected that he was secretly trying to negotiate with the western Allies. Only Goebbels and Bormann remained totally loyal to Hitler.Goebbels knew how to play on Hitler's fantasies, encouraging him to see the hand of providence in the death of United StatesPresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April. On 22 April, largely as a result of Goebbels' influence, Hitler announced that he would not leave Berlin, but would stay and fight, and if necessary die, in defence of the capital.
On 23 April, Goebbels made the following proclamation to the people of Berlin:
I call on you to fight for your city. Fight with everything you have got, for the sake of your wives and your children, your mothers and your parents. Your arms are defending everything we have ever held dear, and all the generations that will come after us. Be proud and courageous! Be inventive and cunning! Your Gauleiter is amongst you. He and his colleagues will remain in your midst. His wife and children are here as well. He, who once captured the city with 200 men, will now use every means to galvanize the defense of the capital. The battle for Berlin must become the signal for the whole nation to rise up in battle ..."
Unlike many other leading Nazis at this juncture, Goebbels proved to have strong convictions, moving himself and his family into the_Vorbunker_, that was connected to the lower Führerbunker under the Reich Chancellery gardens in central Berlin. He told Vice-AdmiralHans-Erich Voss that he would not entertain the idea of either surrender or escape: "I was the Reich Minister of Propaganda and led the fiercest activity against the Soviet Union, for which they would never pardon me," Voss quoted him as saying. "He couldn't escape also because he was Berlin's Defence Commissioner and he considered it would be disgraceful for him to abandon his post," Voss added.
On 30 April, with the Soviets advancing to within a few hundred meters of the bunker, Hitler dictated his last will and testament. Goebbels was one of four witnesses. Not long after completing it, Hitler shot himself. Of Hitler's death, Goebbels commented: "The heart of Germany has ceased to beat. The Führer is dead."
In his last will and testament, Hitler named no successor as Führer or leader of the Nazi Party. Instead, Hitler appointed Goebbels Reich Chancellor; Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who was at Flensburg near the Danish border, Reich President; and Martin Bormann, Hitler's long-time chief of staff, Party Minister. Goebbels knew that this was an empty title. Even if he was willing and able to escape Berlin and reach the north, it was unlikely that Dönitz, whose only concern was to negotiate a settlement with the western Allies that would save Germany from Soviet occupation, would want such a notorious figure as Goebbels heading his government.
As it was, Goebbels had no intention of trying to escape. Voss later recounted: "When Goebbels learned that Hitler had committed suicide, he was very depressed and said: 'It is a great pity that such a man is not with us any longer. But there is nothing to be done. For us, everything is lost now and the only way left for us is the one which Hitler chose. I shall follow his example'."
On 1 May, within hours of Hitler's suicide on 30 April, Goebbels completed his sole official act as Chancellor of Germany (Reichskanzler). He dictated a letter and ordered German General Hans Krebs, under a white flag, to meet with General Vasily Chuikov and to deliver his letter. Chuikov, as commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, commanded the Soviet forces in central Berlin. Goebbels' letter informed Chuikov of Hitler's death and requested a ceasefire, hinting that the establishment of a National Socialist government hostile to Western plutocracywould be beneficial to the Soviet Union, as the betrayal of Himmler and Göring indicated that otherwise anti-Soviet National Socialist elements might align themselves with the West. When this was rejected, Goebbels decided that further efforts were futile. Shortly afterward he dictated a postscript to Hitler's testament:
The Führer has given orders for me, in case of a breakdown of defense of the Capital of the Reich, to leave Berlin and to participate as a leading member in a government appointed by him. For the first time in my life, I must categorically refuse to obey a command of the Führer. My wife and my children agree with this refusal. In any other case, I would feel myself ... a dishonorable renegade and vile scoundrel for my entire further life, who would lose the esteem of himself along with the esteem of his people, both of which would have to form the requirement for further duty of my person in designing the future of the German Nation and the German Reich.
Later on 1 May, Vice-Admiral Hans-Erich Voss saw Goebbels for the last time: "Before the breakout [from the bunker] began, about ten generals and officers, including myself, went down individually to Goebbels's shelter to say goodbye. While saying goodbye I asked Goebbels to join us. But he replied: 'The captain must not leave his sinking ship. I have thought about it all and decided to stay here. I have nowhere to go because with little children I will not be able to make it'."
The Goebbels family. In background center is Goebbels' stepson Harald Quandt.
At 8 pm on the evening of 1 May, Goebbels arranged for an SS dentist, Helmut Kunz, to kill his six children by injecting them with morphine and then, when they were unconscious, crushing an ampule of cyanide in each of their mouths. According to Kunz's testimony, he gave the children morphine injections but it was Magda Goebbels and Stumpfegger, Hitler's personal doctor, who then administered the cyanide. Shortly afterward, Goebbels and his wife went up to the garden of the Chancellery, where they killed themselves. The details of their suicides are uncertain. After the war, Rear-Admiral Michael Musmanno, a U.S. naval officer and judge, published an account apparently based on eye-witness testimony: "At about 8:15 pm, Goebbels arose from the table, put on his hat, coat and gloves and, taking his wife's arm, went upstairs to the garden." They were followed by Goebbels's adjutant, SS-HauptsturmführerGünther Schwägermann. "While Schwägermann was preparing the petrol, he heard a shot. Goebbels had shot himself and his wife took poison. Schwägermann ordered one of the soldiers to shoot Goebbels again because he was unable to do it himself." One SS officer later said they each took cyanide and were shot by an SS trooper. An early report said they were machine-gunned to death at their own request. According to another account, Goebbels shot his wife and then himself. This version is portrayed in the movie Downfall.
The bodies of Goebbels and his wife were then burned in a shell crater, but owing to the lack of petrol the burning was only partly effective, and their bodies were easily identifiable. A few days later, Voss was brought back to the bunker by the Soviets to identify the partly burned bodies of Joseph and Magda Goebbels and the bodies of their children. "Vice-Admiral Voss, being asked how he identified the people as Goebbels, his wife and children, explained that he recognized the burnt body of the man as former Reichsminister Goebbels by the following signs: the shape of the head, the line of the mouth, the metal brace that Goebbels had on his right leg, his gold NSDAP badge and the burnt remains of his party uniform." The remains of the Goebbels family were repeatedly buried and exhumed, along with the remains of Hitler, Eva Braun, General Hans Krebs and Hitler's dogs. The last burial had been at the SMERSH facility in Magdeburg on 21 February 1946. In 1970, KGB director Yuri Andropov authorised an operation to destroy the remains. On 4 April 1970, a Soviet KGB team with detailed burial charts secretly exhumed five wooden boxes. The remains from the boxes were thoroughly burned and crushed, after which the ashes were thrown into the Biederitz river, a tributary of the nearby Elbe.
Joachim Fest writes: "What he seemed to fear more than anything else was a death devoid of dramatic effects. To the end he was what he had always been: the propagandist for himself. Whatever he thought or did was always based on this one agonizing wish for self-exaltation, and this same object was served by the murder of his children ... They were the last victims of an egomania extending beyond the grave. However, this deed, too, failed to make him the figure of tragic destiny he had hoped to become; it merely gave his end a touch of repulsive irony
Born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, March 19, 1905 – September 1, 1981) was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office. As "the Nazi who said sorry", he accepted responsibility at the Nuremberg trials and in his memoirs for crimes of the Nazi regime. His level of involvement in the persecution of the Jews and his level of knowledge of the Holocaust remain matters of dispute.
Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931, launching him on a political and governmental career which lasted fourteen years. His architectural skills made him increasingly prominent within the Party and he became a member of Hitler's inner circle. Hitler commissioned him to design and construct a number of structures, including the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld stadium in Nuremberg where Party rallies were held. Speer also made plans to reconstruct Berlin on a grand scale, with huge buildings, wide boulevards, and a reorganized transportation system.
As Hitler's Minister of Armaments and War Production, Speer was so successful that Germany's war production continued to increase despite massive and devastating Alliedbombing. After the war, he was tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the Nazi regime, principally for the use of forced labor. He served his full sentence, most of it at Spandau Prison in West Berlin.
Following his release from Spandau in 1966, Speer published two bestselling autobiographical works, Inside the Third Reich and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, detailing his often close personal relationship with Hitler, and providing readers and historians with a unique perspective on the workings of the Nazi regime. He later wrote a third book, Infiltration, about the SS. Speer died of natural causes in 1981 while on a visit to London, England.
Speer was born in Mannheim, into a wealthy middle class family. He was the second of three sons of Albert and Luise Speer. In 1918, the family moved permanently to their summer home, Schloss-Wolfsbrunnenweg, in Heidelberg. According to Henry T. King, deputy prosecutor at Nürnberg who later wrote a book about Speer, "Love and warmth were lacking in the household of Speer's youth." Speer was active in sports, taking up skiing and mountaineering. Speer's Heidelberg school offered rugby football, unusual for Germany, and Speer was a participant. He wanted to become a mathematician, but his father said if Speer chose this occupation he would "lead a life without money, without a position, and without a future". Instead, Speer followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and studied architecture.
Speer began his architectural studies at the University of Karlsruhe instead of a more highly acclaimed institution because the hyperinflationcrisis of 1923 limited his parents' income. In 1924 when the crisis had abated, he transferred to the "much more reputable" Technical University of Munich. In 1925 he transferred again, this time to the Technical University of Berlin where he studied under Heinrich Tessenow, whom Speer greatly admired. After passing his exams in 1927, Speer became Tessenow's assistant, a high honor for a man of 22. As such, Speer taught some of Tessenow's classes while continuing his own postgraduate studies. In Munich, and continuing in Berlin, Speer began a close friendship, ultimately spanning over 50 years, with Rudolf Wolters, who also studied under Tessenow.
In mid-1922, Speer began courting Margarete (Margret) Weber (1905–1987). The relationship was frowned upon by Speer's class-conscious mother, who felt that the Webers were socially inferior (Weber's father was a successful craftsman who employed 50 workers). Despite this opposition, the two married in Berlin on August 28, 1928; seven years were to elapse before Margarete Speer was invited to stay at her in-laws' home.
Nazi architect Joining the Nazis (1930–1934) Speer in 1933
Speer stated he was apolitical when he was a young man, and that he attended a Berlin Nazi rally in December 1930 at the urging of some of his students. He was surprised to find Hitler dressed in a neat blue suit, rather than the brown uniform seen on Nazi Party posters, and was greatly impressed, not only with Hitler's proposals, but also with the man himself. Several weeks later he attended another rally: this one was presided over by Joseph Goebbels. Speer was disturbed by the way Goebbels whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Despite this unease, Speer could not shake the impression Hitler had made on him. On March 1, 1931, he applied to join the Nazi Party and became member number 474,481.
Speer's first Nazi Party position was as head of the Party's motorist association for the Berlin suburb of Wannsee; he was the only Nazi in the town with a car. Speer reported to the Party's leader for the West End of Berlin, Karl Hanke, who hired Speer—without fee—to redecorate a villa he had just rented. Hanke was enthusiastic about the resulting work.
In 1931, Speer surrendered his position as Tessenow's assistant because of pay cuts and moved to Mannheim, hoping to use his father's connections to get commissions. He had little success, and his father gave him a job as manager of the elder Speer's properties. In July 1932, the Speers visited Berlin to help out the Party prior to the Reichstagelections. While they were there, Hanke recommended the young architect to Goebbels to help renovate the Party's Berlin headquarters. Speer, who had been about to leave with his wife for a vacation in East Prussia, agreed to do the work. When the commission was completed, Speer returned to Mannheim and remained there as Hitler took office in January 1933.
After the Nazis took control, Hanke recalled Speer to Berlin. Goebbels, the new Propaganda Minister, commissioned Speer to renovate his Ministry's building on Wilhelmplatz. Speer also designed the 1933 May Day commemoration in Berlin. In Inside the Third Reich, he wrote that, on seeing the original design for the Berlin rally on Hanke's desk, he remarked that the site would resemble a Schützenfest – a rifle club meet. Hanke, now Goebbels' State Secretary, challenged him to create a better design. As Speer learned later, Hitler was enthusiastic about Speer's design (which used giant flags), though Goebbels took credit for it. Tessenow was dismissive: "Do you think you have created something? It's showy, that's all."
The organizers of the 1933 Nürnberg Nazi Party rally asked Speer to submit designs for the rally, bringing him into contact with Hitler for the first time. Neither the organizers nor Rudolf Hess were willing to decide whether to approve the plans, and Hess sent Speer to Hitler's Munich apartment to seek his approval. When Speer entered, the new Chancellor was busy cleaning a pistol, which he briefly laid aside to cast a short, interested glance at the plans, approving them without even looking at the young architect. This work won Speer his first national post, as Nazi Party "Commissioner for the Artistic and Technical Presentation of Party Rallies and Demonstrations".
Speer's next major assignment was as liaison to the Berlin building trades for Paul Troost's renovation of the Chancellery. As Chancellor, Hitler had a residence in the building and came by every day to be briefed by Speer and the building supervisor on the progress of the renovations. After one of these briefings, Hitler invited Speer to lunch, to the architect's great excitement. Hitler evinced considerable interest in Speer during the luncheon, and later told Speer that he had been looking for a young architect capable of carrying out his architectural dreams for the new Germany. Speer quickly became part of Hitler's inner circle; he was expected to call on Hitler in the morning for a walk or chat, to provide consultation on architectural matters, and to discuss Hitler's ideas. Most days he was invited to dinner.
The two men found much in common: Hitler spoke of Speer as a "kindred spirit" for whom he had always maintained "the warmest human feelings". The young, ambitious architect was dazzled by his rapid rise and close proximity to Hitler, which guaranteed him a flood of commissions from the government and from the highest ranks of the Party. Speer testified at Nürnberg, "I belonged to a circle which consisted of other artists and his personal staff. If Hitler had had any friends at all, I certainly would have been one of his close friends."
When Troost died on January 21, 1934, Speer effectively replaced him as the Party's chief architect. Hitler appointed Speer as head of the Chief Office for Construction, which placed him nominally on Hess's staff.
One of Speer's first commissions after Troost's death was the Zeppelinfeld stadium—the Nürnbergparade grounds seen in Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda masterpiece Triumph of the Will. This huge work was capable of holding 340,000 people. The tribune was influenced by the Pergamon Altarin Anatolia, but was magnified to an enormous scale. Speer insisted that as many events as possible be held at night, both to give greater prominence to his lighting effects and to hide the individual Nazis, many of whom were overweight. Speer surrounded the site with 130 anti-aircraftsearchlights. This created the effect of a "cathedral of light" or, as it was called by British Ambassador Sir Neville Henderson, a "cathedral of ice". Speer described this as his most beautiful work, and as the only one that stood the test of time.
Nürnberg was to be the site of many more official Nazi buildings, most of which were never built; for example, the German Stadium would have accommodated 400,000 spectators, while an even larger rally ground would have held half a million Nazis. While planning these structures, Speer invented the concept of "ruin value": that major buildings should be constructed in such a way that they would leave aesthetically pleasing ruins for thousands of years into the future. Such ruins would be a testament to the greatness of the Third Reich, just as ancient Greek or Roman ruins were symbols of the greatness of those civilizations. Hitler enthusiastically embraced this concept, and ordered that all the Reich's important buildings be constructed in accord with it.
Speer's German pavilion (left) facing the Soviet pavilion (right), 1937 World's Fair, Paris
Speer could not avoid seeing the brutal excesses of the Nazi regime. Shortly after Hitler consolidated power in the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler ordered Speer to take workmen and go to the building housing the offices of Vice-ChancellorFranz von Papen to begin its conversion into a security headquarters, even though it was still occupied by von Papen's officials. Speer and his group entered the building, to be confronted with a pool of blood, apparently from the body ofHerbert von Bose, von Papen's secretary, who had been killed there. Speer related that the sight had no effect on him, other than to cause him to avoid that room.
When Hitler deprecated Werner March's design for the Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Summer Olympics as too modern, Speer modified the plans by adding a stone exterior. Speer designed the German Pavilion for the 1937 international exposition in Paris. The German and Soviet pavilion sites were opposite each other. On learning (through a clandestine look at the Soviet plans) that the Soviet design included two colossal figures seemingly about to overrun the German site, Speer modified his design to include a cubic mass which would check their advance, with a huge eagle on top looking down on the Soviet figures. Both pavilions were awarded gold medals for their designs. Speer would also receive, fromHitler Youth Leader and later fellow Spandau prisoner Baldur von Schirach, the Golden Hitler Youth Honor Badge with oak leaves.
The proposed huge Volkshalle for the new Berlin, as seen through the massive triumphal arch Speer envisaged.
In 1937, Hitler appointed Speer as General Building Inspector for the Reich Capital with the rank of undersecretary of state in the Reich government. The position carried with it extraordinary powers over the Berlin city government and made Speer answerable to Hitler alone. It also made Speer a member of the Reichstag, though the body by then had little effective power. Hitler ordered Speer to make plans to rebuild Berlin. The plans centered on a three-mile long grand boulevard running from north to south, which Speer called the Prachtstrasse, or Street of Magnificence; he also referred to it as the "North-South Axis". At the north end of the boulevard, Speer planned to build the Volkshalle, a huge assembly hall with a dome which would have been over 700 feet (210 m) high, with floor space for 180,000 people. At the southern end of the avenue would be a huge triumphal arch; it would be almost 400 feet (120 m) high, and able to fit the Arc de Triomphe inside its opening. The outbreak of World War II in 1939 led to the postponement, and eventual abandonment, of these plans. Part of the land for the boulevard was to be obtained by consolidating Berlin's railway system. Speer hired Wolters as part of his design team, with special responsibility for the Prachtstrasse. When Speer's father saw the model for the new Berlin, he said to his son, "You've all gone completely insane."
Marble Gallery of the New Reich Chancellery
In January 1938, Hitler asked Speer to build a new Reich Chancellery on the same site as the existing structure, and said he needed it for urgent foreign policy reasons no later than his next New Year's reception for diplomats on January 10, 1939. This was a huge undertaking, especially since the existing Chancellery was in full operation. After consultation with his assistants, Speer agreed. Although the site could not be cleared until April, Speer was successful in building the large, impressive structure in nine months. The structure included the "Marble Gallery": at 146 metres long, almost twice as long as the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. Speer employed thousands of workers in two shifts. Hitler, who had remained away from the project, was overwhelmed when Speer turned it over, fully furnished, two days early. In appreciation for the architect's work on the Chancellery, Hitler awarded Speer the Nazi Golden Party Badge.Tessenow was less impressed, suggesting to Speer that he should have taken nine years over the project. The second Chancellery was damaged by the Battle of Berlin in 1945 and was eventually dismantled by the Soviets, its stone used for a war memorial.
During the Chancellery project, the pogrom of Kristallnacht took place. Speer would make no mention of it in the first draft of Inside the Third Reich, and it was only on the urgent advice of his publisher that he added a mention of seeing the ruins of the Central Synagogue in Berlin from his car.
Speer was under significant psychological pressure during this period of his life. He would later remember:
Soon after Hitler had given me the first large architectural commissions, I began to suffer from anxiety in long tunnels, in airplanes, or in small rooms. My heart would begin to race, I would become breathless, the diaphragm would seem to grow heavy, and I would get the impression that my blood pressure was rising tremendously ... Anxiety amidst all my freedom and power!
Wartime architect (1939–1942) Hitler visits Paris in 1940 with Speer (left) and sculptor Arno Breker
Speer supported the German invasion of Poland and subsequent war, though he recognized that it would lead to the postponement, at the least, of his architectural dreams. In his later years, Speer, talking with his biographer-to-be Gitta Sereny, explained how he felt in 1939: "Of course I was perfectly aware that [Hitler] sought world domination ... [A]t that time I asked for nothing better. That was the whole point of my buildings. They would have looked grotesque if Hitler had sat still in Germany. All I wanted was for this great man to dominate the globe."
Speer placed his department at the disposal of the Wehrmacht. When Hitler remonstrated, and said it was not for Speer to decide how his workers should be used, Speer simply ignored him. Among Speer's innovations were quick-reaction squads to construct roads or clear away debris; before long, these units would be used to clear bomb sites. As the war progressed, initially to great German success, Speer continued preliminary work on the Berlin and Nürnberg plans, at Hitler's insistence, but failed to convince him of the need to suspend peacetime construction projects. Speer also oversaw the construction of buildings for the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe, and developed a considerable organization to deal with this work.
In 1940, Joseph Stalin proposed that Speer pay a visit to Moscow. Stalin had been particularly impressed by Speer's work in Paris, and wished to meet the "Architect of the Reich". Hitler, alternating between amusement and anger, did not allow Speer to go, fearing that Stalin would put Speer in a "rat hole" until a new Moscow arose. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Speer came to doubt, despite Hitler's reassurances, that his projects for Berlin would ever be completed.
Minister of Armaments Appointment and increasing power
On February 8, 1942, Minister of Armaments Fritz Todt died in a plane crash shortly after taking off from Hitler's eastern headquarters atRastenburg. Speer, who had arrived in Rastenburg the previous evening, had accepted Todt's offer to fly with him to Berlin, but had canceled some hours before takeoff (Speer stated in his memoirs that the cancellation was because of exhaustion from travel and a late-night meeting with Hitler). Later that day, Hitler appointed Speer as Todt's successor to all of his posts. In Inside the Third Reich, Speer recounts his meeting with Hitler and his reluctance to take ministerial office, only doing so because Hitler commanded it. Speer also states that Hermann Göring raced to Hitler's headquarters on hearing of Todt's death, hoping to claim Todt's powers. Hitler instead presented Göring with the fait accompli of Speer's appointment.
At the time of Speer's accession to the office, the German economy, unlike the British one, was not fully geared for war production. Consumer goods were still being produced at nearly as high a level as during peacetime. No fewer than five "Supreme Authorities" had jurisdiction over armament production—one of which, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, had declared in November 1941 that conditions did not permit an increase in armament production. Few women were employed in the factories, which were running only one shift. One evening soon after his appointment, Speer went to visit a Berlin armament factory; he found no one on the premises.
Speer travelling by plane
Speer overcame these difficulties by centralizing power over the war economy in himself. Factories were given autonomy, or as Speer put it, "self-responsibility", and each factory concentrated on a single product. Backed by Hitler's strong support (the dictator stated, "Speer, I'll sign anything that comes from you"), he divided the armament field according to weapon system, with experts rather than civil servants overseeing each department. No department head could be older than 55—anyone older being susceptible to "routine and arrogance"—and no deputy older than 40. Over these departments was a central planning committee headed by Speer, which took increasing responsibility for war production, and as time went by, for the German economy itself. According to the minutes of a conference at Wehrmacht High Command in March 1942, "It is only Speer's word that counts nowadays. He can interfere in all departments. Already he overrides all departments ... On the whole, Speer's attitude is to the point." Goebbels would note in his diary in June 1943, "Speer is still tops with the Führer. He is truly a genius with organization." Speer was so successful in his position that by late 1943, he was widely regarded among the Nazi elite as a possible successor to Hitler.
While Speer had tremendous power, he was of course subordinate to Hitler. Nazi officials sometimes went around Speer by seeking direct orders from the dictator. When Speer ordered peacetime building work suspended, the Gauleiters (Nazi Party district leaders) obtained an exemption for their pet projects. When Speer sought the appointment of Hanke as a labor czar to optimize the use of German labor, Hitler, under the influence of Martin Bormann, instead appointed Fritz Sauckel. Rather than increasing female labor and taking other steps to better organize German labor, as Speer favored, Sauckel advocated importing labor from the occupied nations – and did so, obtaining workers for (among other things) Speer's armament factories, using the most brutal methods.
On December 10, 1943, Speer visited the underground MittelwerkV-2 rocket factory that used concentration camp labor. Shocked by the conditions there (5.7 percent of the work force died that month), and to ensure the workers were in good enough shape to perform the labor, Speer ordered improved conditions for the workers and the construction of the above-ground Dora camp. In spite of these changes, half of the workers at Mittelwerk eventually died. Speer later commented, "[t]he conditions for these prisoners were in fact barbarous, and a sense of profound involvement and personal guilt seizes me whenever I think of them."
Speer (right, with arms folded and swastika armband) looks on with Field Marshal Erhard Milch (left) during weapons testing.
By 1943, the Allies had gained air superiority over Germany, and bombings of German cities and industry had become commonplace. However, the Allies in their strategic bombing campaign did not concentrate on industry, and Speer, with his improvisational skill, was able to overcome bombing losses. In spite of these losses, German production of tanks more than doubled in 1943, production of planes increased by 80 percent, and production time for _Kriegsmarine'_s submarines was reduced from one year to two months. Production would continue to increase until the second half of 1944, by which time enough equipment to supply 270 army divisions was being produced—although the _Wehrmacht_had only 150 divisions in the field.
In January 1944, Speer fell ill with complications from an inflamed knee, and was away from the office for three months. During his absence, his political rivals (mainly Göring, and Martin Bormann), attempted to have some of his powers permanently transferred to them. According to Speer, SS chiefHeinrich Himmler tried to have him physically isolated by having Himmler's personal physician Karl Gebhardt treat him, though his "care" did not improve his health. Speer's wife and friends managed to have his case transferred to his friend Dr. Karl Brandt, and he slowly recovered. In April, Speer's rivals for power succeeded in having him deprived of responsibility for construction, and Speer promptly sent Hitler a bitter letter, concluding with an offer of his resignation. Judging Speer indispensable to the war effort, Field Marshal Erhard Milch persuaded Hitler to try to get his minister to reconsider. Hitler sent Milch to Speer with a message not addressing the dispute but instead stating that he still regarded Speer as highly as ever. According to Milch, upon hearing the message, Speer burst out, "The Führer can kiss my ass!" After a lengthy argument, Milch persuaded Speer to withdraw his offer of resignation, on the condition his powers were restored. On April 23, 1944, Speer went to see Hitler who agreed that "everything [will] stay as it was, [Speer will] remain the head of all German construction". According to Speer, while he was successful in this debate, Hitler had also won, "because he wanted and needed me back in his corner, and he got me".
Fall of the Reich Reichsminister Speer rests on a doorstep
Speer's name was included on the list of members of a post-Hitler government drawn up by the conspirators behind the July 1944 assassination plot to kill Hitler. The list had a question mark and the annotation "to be won over" by his name, which likely saved him from the extensive purges that followed the scheme's failure.
By February 1945, Speer, who had long concluded that the war was lost, was working to supply areas about to be occupied with food and materials to get them through the hard times ahead. On March 19, 1945, Hitler issued his Nero Decree, ordering a scorched earth policy in both Germany and the occupied territories. Hitler's order, by its terms, deprived Speer of any power to interfere with the decree, and Speer went to confront Hitler, telling him the war was lost. Hitler gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his position, and when the two met the following day, Speer answered, "I stand unconditionally behind you." However, he demanded the exclusive power to implement the Nero Decree, and Hitler signed an order to that effect. Using this order, Speer worked to persuade generals and Gauleiters to evade the Nero Decree and avoid needless sacrifice of personnel and destruction of industry that would be needed after the war.
Speer managed to reach a relatively safe area near Hamburg as the Nazi regime finally collapsed, but decided on a final, risky visit to Berlin to see Hitler one more time. Speer stated at Nuremberg, "I felt that it was my duty not to run away like a coward, but to stand up to him again." Speer visited the Führerbunker on April 22. Hitler seemed calm and somewhat distracted, and the two had a long, disjointed conversation in which the dictator defended his actions and informed Speer of his intent to commit suicide and have his body burned. In the published edition of Inside the Third Reich, Speer relates that he confessed to Hitler that he had defied the Nero Decree, but then assured Hitler of his personal loyalty, bringing tears to the dictator's eyes. Speer biographer Gitta Sereny argued, "Psychologically, it is possible that this is the way he remembered the occasion, because it was how he would have liked to behave, and the way he would have liked Hitler to react. But the fact is that none of it happened; our witness to this is Speer himself." Sereny goes on to note that Speer's original draft of his memoirs lacks the confession and Hitler's tearful reaction, and contains an explicit denial that any confession or emotional exchange took place, as had been alleged in a French magazine article.
The following morning, Speer left the Führerbunker, with Hitler curtly bidding him farewell. Speer toured the damaged Chancellery one last time before leaving Berlin to return to Hamburg. On April 29, the day before his suicide, Hitler prepared his final political testament. That document specified that Speer was to be replaced by his subordinate, Karl-Otto Saur.
After Hitler's death, Speer offered his services to the so-called Flensburg Government, headed by Hitler's successor, Karl Dönitz, and took a significant role in that short-lived regime. On May 15, the Americans arrived and asked Speer if he would be willing to provide information on the effects of the air war. Speer agreed, and over the next several days, provided information on a broad range of subjects. On May 23, two weeks after the surrender of German troops, the Allies arrested the members of the Flensburg Government and brought Nazi Germany to a formal end.
Speer was taken to several internment centers for Nazi officials and interrogated. In September 1945, he was told that he would be tried for war crimes, and several days later, he was taken to Nuremberg and incarcerated there. Speer was indicted on all four possible counts: first, participating in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of crime against peace, second, planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace, third, war crimes, and lastly, crimes against humanity.
The Nuremberg defendants listen to the proceedings (Speer, top seated row, fifth from right)
U.S. Supreme CourtJusticeRobert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, alleged, "Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation." Speer's attorney, Dr. Hans Flächsner, presented Speer as an artist thrust into political life, who had always remained a non-ideologue and who had been promised by Hitler that he could return to architecture after the war. During his testimony, Speer accepted responsibility for the Nazi regime's actions:
In political life, there is a responsibility for a man's own sector. For that he is of course fully responsible. But beyond that there is a collective responsibility when he has been one of the leaders. Who else is to be held responsible for the course of events, if not the closest associates around the Chief of State?
An observer at the trial, journalist and author William L. Shirer, wrote that, compared to his codefendants, Speer “made the most straightforward impression of all and ... during the long trial spoke honestly and with no attempt to shirk his responsibility and his guilt”. Speer also testified that he had planned to kill Hitler in early 1945 by dropping a canister of poison gas into the bunker's air intake. He said his efforts were frustrated by a high wall that had been built around the air intake. Speer stated his motive was despair at realizing that Hitler intended to take the German people down with him. Speer's supposed assassination plan subsequently met with some skepticism, with Speer's architectural rival Hermann Giesler sneering, "the second most powerful man in the state did not have a ladder."
Speer was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, though he was acquitted on the other two counts. On October 1, 1946, he was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment. While three of the eight judges (two Soviet and one American) initially advocated the death penalty for Speer, the other judges did not, and a compromise sentence was reached "after two days' discussion and some rather bitter horse-trading".
The court's judgment stated that:
... in the closing stages of the war [Speer] was one of the few men who had the courage to tell Hitler that the war was lost and to take steps to prevent the senseless destruction of production facilities, both in occupied territories and in Germany. He carried out his opposition to Hitler's scorched earth program ... by deliberately sabotaging it at considerable personal risk.
Twelve of the defendants were sentenced to death (including Bormann, in absentia) and three acquitted; only seven of the defendants were sentenced to imprisonment. They remained in the cells at Nuremberg as the Allies debated where, and under what conditions, they should be incarcerated
On July 18, 1947, Speer and his six fellow prisoners, all former high officials of the Nazi regime, were flown from Nuremberg to Berlin under heavy guard. The prisoners were taken to Spandau Prison in the British Sector of what would become West Berlin, where they would be designated by number, with Speer given Number Five. Initially, the prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for all but half an hour a day, and were not permitted to address each other or their guards. As time passed, the strict regimen was relaxed, especially during the three months in four that the three Western powers were in control; the four occupying powers took overall control on a monthly rotation. Speer considered himself an outcast among his fellow prisoners for his acceptance of responsibility at Nuremberg.
Speer made a deliberate effort to make as productive a use of his time as possible. He wrote, "I am obsessed with the idea of using this time of confinement for writing a book of major importance ... That could mean transforming prison cell into scholar's den." The prisoners were forbidden to write memoirs, and mail was severely limited and censored. However, as a result of an offer from a sympathetic orderly, Speer was able to have his writings, which eventually amounted to 20,000 sheets, sent to Wolters. By 1954, Speer had completed his memoirs, which became the basis of Inside the Third Reich, and which Wolters arranged to have transcribed onto 1,100 typewritten pages. He was also able to send letters and financial instructions, and to obtain writing paper and letters from the outside. His many letters to his children, all secretly transmitted, eventually formed the basis for Spandau: The Secret Diaries.
With the draft memoir complete and clandestinely transmitted, Speer sought a new project. He found one while taking his daily exercise, walking in circles around the prison yard. Measuring the path's distance carefully, Speer set out to walk the distance from Berlin to Heidelberg. He then expanded his idea into a worldwide journey, visualizing the places he was "traveling" through while walking the path around the prison yard. Speer ordered guidebooks and other materials about the nations through which he imagined he was passing, so as to envisage as accurate a picture as possible. Meticulously calculating every meter traveled, and mapping distances to the real-world geography, he began in northern Germany, passed through Asia by a southern route before entering Siberia, then crossed the Bering Straitand continued southwards, finally ending his sentence 35 kilometers south of Guadalajara, Mexico.
Speer devoted much of his time and energy to reading. Though the prisoners brought some books with them in their personal property, Spandau Prison had no library so books were sent from Spandau's municipal library. From 1952 the prisoners were also able to order books from the Berlin central library in Wilmersdorf. Speer was a voracious reader and he completed well over 500 books in the first three years at Spandau alone. He read classic novels, travelogues, books on ancient Egypt, and biographies of such figures as Lucas Cranach,Friedrich Preller, and Genghis Khan. Speer took to the prison garden for enjoyment and work, at first to do something constructive while afflicted with writer's block. He was allowed to build an ambitious garden, transforming what he initially described as a "wilderness" into what the American commander at Spandau described as "Speer's Garden of Eden".
Speer's supporters maintained a continual call for his release. Among those who pledged support for Speer's sentence to be commuted wereCharles de Gaulle, U.S. diplomat George Ball, former U.S. High Commissioner John J. McCloy, and former Nuremberg prosecutor Hartley Shawcross. Willy Brandt was a strong advocate of Speer's, supporting his release, sending flowers to his daughteron the day of his release, and putting an end to the de-Nazification proceedings against Speer, which could have caused his property to be confiscated. A reduced sentence required the consent of all four of the occupying powers, and the Soviets adamantly opposed any such proposal. Speer served his full sentence, and was released on the stroke of midnight as October 1, 1966 began.
Release and later life Entrance to the Speer property on Wolfsbrunnenweg, Heidelberg, as seen in 2010 The grave in Heidelberg
Speer's release from prison was a worldwide media event, as reporters and photographers crowded both the street outside Spandau and the lobby of the Berlin hotel where Speer spent his first hours of freedom in over 20 years. However, Speer said little, reserving most comments for a major interview published in Der Spiegel in November 1966, in which he again took personal responsibility for crimes of the Nazi regime.Abandoning plans to return to architecture (two proposed partners died shortly before his release), he revised his Spandau writings into two autobiographical books, and later researched and published a third work, about Himmler and the SS. His books, most notably Inside the Third Reich (in German,Erinnerungen, or Reminiscences) and Spandau: The Secret Diaries, provide a unique and personal look into the personalities of the Nazi era, and have become much valued by historians. Speer was aided in shaping the works by Joachim Fest and Wolf Jobst Siedler from the publishing house Ullstein.However, Speer found himself unable to re-establish his relationship with his children, even with his sonAlbert, who had also become an architect. According to Speer's daughter Hilde, "One by one my sister and brothers gave up. There was no communication."
Following the publication of his bestselling books, Speer donated a considerable amount of money to Jewish charities. According to Siedler, these donations were as high as 80% of his royalties. Speer kept the donations anonymous, both for fear of rejection, and for fear of being called a hypocrite.
As early as 1953, when Wolters strongly objected to Speer referring to Hitler in the memoirs draft as a criminal, Speer had predicted that were the writings to be published, he would lose a "good many friends". This came to pass, as following the publication of Inside the Third Reich, close friends, such as Wolters and sculptor Arno Breker, distanced themselves from him. Hans Baur, Hitler's personal pilot, suggested, "Speer must have taken leave of his senses." Wolters wondered that Speer did not now "walk through life in a hair shirt, distributing his fortune among the victims of National Socialism, forswear all the vanities and pleasures of life and live on locusts and wild honey".
Speer made himself widely available to historians and other enquirers. He did an extensive, in-depth interview for the June 1971 issue of Playboy magazine, in which he stated, "If I didn't see it, then it was because I didn't want to see it." In October 1973, Speer made his first trip to Britain, flying to London under an assumed name to be interviewed on the BBC _Midweek_programme by Ludovic Kennedy. Upon arrival, he was detained for almost 8 hours at Heathrow Airport when British immigration authorities discovered his true identity. The Home Secretary, Robert Carr, allowed Speer into the country for 48 hours. While in London eight years later to participate in the BBC Newsnight programme, Speer suffered a stroke and died on September 1, 1981. Speer had formed a relationship with a German-born Englishwoman, and was with her at the time of his death.
Even to the end of his life, Speer continued to question his actions under Hitler. In his final book, Infiltration, he asks, "What would have happened if Hitler had asked me to make decisions that required the utmost hardness? ... How far would I have gone? ... If I had occupied a different position, to what extent would I have ordered atrocities if Hitler had told me to do so?" Speer leaves the questions unanswered.
Legacy and controversy
The view of Speer as an unpolitical "miracle man" is challenged by Yale historian Adam Tooze. In his 2006 book, The Wages of Destruction, Tooze, following Gitta Sereny, argues that Speer's ideological commitment to the Nazi cause was greater than he claimed. Tooze further contends that an insufficiently challenged Speer "mythology" (partly fostered by Speer himself through politically-motivated, tendentious use of statistics and other propaganda) had led many historians to assign Speer far more credit for the increases in armaments production than was warranted and give insufficient consideration to the "highly political" function of the so-called armaments miracle.
As General Building Inspector, Speer was responsible for the Central Department for Resettlement. From 1939 onwards, the Department used the Nuremberg Laws to evict Jewish tenants of non-Jewish landlords in Berlin, to make way for non-Jewish tenants displaced by redevelopment or bombing. Eventually, 75,000 Jews were displaced by these measures. Speer was aware of these activities, and inquired as to their progress. At least one original memo from Speer so inquiring still exists, as does the Chronicle of the Department's activities, kept by Wolters.
Following his release from Spandau, Speer presented to the German Federal Archives an edited version of the Chronicle, stripped by Wolters of any mention of the Jews. When David Irving discovered discrepancies between the edited Chronicle and other documents, Wolters explained the situation to Speer, who responded by suggesting to Wolters that the relevant pages of the original Chronicle should "cease to exist". Wolters did not destroy the Chronicle, and, as his friendship with Speer deteriorated, allowed access to the original Chronicle to doctoral student Matthias Schmidt (who, after obtaining his doctorate, developed his thesis into a book, Albert Speer: The End of a Myth). Speer considered Wolters' actions to be a "betrayal" and a "stab in the back". The original Chronicle reached the Archives in 1983, after both Speer and Wolters had died.
Knowledge of the Holocaust
Speer maintained at Nuremberg and in his memoirs that he had no knowledge of the Holocaust. In Inside the Third Reich, he wrote that in mid-1944, he was told by Hanke (by then Gauleiter of Lower Silesia) that the minister should never accept an invitation to inspect aconcentration camp in neighboring Upper Silesia, as "he had seen something there which he was not permitted to describe and moreover could not describe". Speer later concluded that Hanke must have been speaking of Auschwitz, and blamed himself for not inquiring further of Hanke or seeking information from Himmler or Hitler:
These seconds [when Hanke told Speer this, and Speer did not inquire] were uppermost in my mind when I stated to the international court at the Nuremberg Trial that, as an important member of the leadership of the Reich, I had to share the total responsibility for all that had happened. For from that moment on I was inescapably contaminated morally; from fear of discovering something which might have made me turn from my course, I had closed my eyes ... Because I failed at that time, I still feel, to this day, responsible for Auschwitz in a wholly personal sense.
Much of the controversy over Speer's knowledge of the Holocaust has centered on his presence at the Posen Conference on October 6, 1943, at which Himmler gave a speech detailing the ongoing Holocaust to Nazi leaders. Himmler said, "The grave decision had to be taken to cause this people to vanish from the earth ... In the lands we occupy, the Jewish question will be dealt with by the end of the year." Speer is mentioned several times in the speech, and Himmler seems to address him directly. In Inside the Third Reich, Speer mentions his own address to the officials (which took place earlier in the day) but does not mention Himmler's speech.
In 1971, American historian Erich Goldhagen published an article arguing that Speer was present for Himmler's speech. According to Fest in his biography of Speer, "Goldhagen's accusation certainly would have been more convincing" had he not placed supposed incriminating statements linking Speer with the Holocaust in quotation marks, attributed to Himmler, which were in fact invented by Goldhagen. In response, after considerable research in the German Federal Archives in Koblenz, Speer said he had left Posen around noon (long before Himmler's speech) in order to journey to Hitler's headquarters at Rastenburg. In Inside the Third Reich, published before the Goldhagen article, Speer recalled that on the evening after the conference, many Nazi officials were so drunk that they needed help boarding the special train which was to take them to a meeting with Hitler. One of his biographers, Dan van der Vat, suggests this necessarily implies he must have still been present at Posen then, and must have heard Himmler's speech. In response to Goldhagen's article, Speer had alleged that in writing Inside the Third Reich, he erred in reporting an incident that happened at another conference at Posen a year later, as happening in 1943.
In 2005, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that documents had surfaced indicating that Speer had approved the allocation of materials for the expansion of Auschwitz after two of his assistants toured the facility on a day when almost a thousand Jews were murdered. The documents supposedly bore annotations in Speer's own handwriting. Speer biographer Gitta Sereny stated that, due to his workload, Speer would not have been personally aware of such activities.
The debate over Speer's knowledge of, or complicity in, the Holocaust made him a symbol for people who were involved with the Nazi regime yet did not have (or claimed not to have had) an active part in the regime's atrocities. As film director Heinrich Breloer remarked, "[Speer created] a market for people who said, 'Believe me, I didn't know anything about [the Holocaust]. Just look at the Führer's friend, he didn't know about it either.'"
On January 17, 1945, during the Siege of Budapest by the Red Army, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and subsequently disappeared. He was later reported to have died on July 7, 1947 in Lubyanka prison in Moscow. The motives behind Wallenberg's arrest and imprisonment by the Soviets, along with questions surrounding the circumstances of his death and his possible ties to US intelligence, remain mysterious and are the subject of continued speculation.
Ludwig Müller, a Nazi sympathizer, and a candidate of Hitler, was elected to the position of Reich Bishop in 1933 as Hitler attempted to unite regional Protestant churches under Nazi control. Hitler did not practice separation of Church & State.
Although Hitler had problems with the Catholic Church and eventually wanted to replace Catholicism with his brand of Christianity, the very fact that Hitler wanted a united German Church proves that he supported Christianity.
Berlin, Germany, November 17, 1933.
This autographed portrait of Müller shows him wearing the NSDAP-Hoheitsabzeichen (Nazi Eagle party badge) and Feldschnalle (ribbons).
Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski or Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
(1 March 1899 – 8 March 1972), was a Nazi leader and a member of the SS, where he had the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer. Although he was involved in the killing of thousands of people in Poland and Russia, he was never charged with war crimes.
His parents were Otto Jan Józefat von Zelewski, a Roman Catholic, and his wife Elisabeth Eveline Schimansky, a Lutheran. His name when he was born was Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski. He later changed his last name to add "von dem Bach" in the 1930s. He removed "Zelewski" from his name in November 1941 because of its Polish sound.
He was born in Lauenburg, in Pomerania, in the old German Empire (now called L?bork, Poland), on 1 March 1899. His family did not have very much money during his childhood. His father was often out of work. When his father died on April 17, 1911, in Dortmund, he was employed as an insuranceclerk. His father's lack of success was partly because he was the brother of Emil von Zalewski, the leader of acolonialforce fighting in Tanzania. On August 17, 1891, he and his men were killed in the battle of Rugarto, described as being like a German Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. This death and defeat brought great shame to the family. Erich would later restore his family's position in the community.
Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski or Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (1 March 1899 – 8 March 1972), was a Nazi leader and a member of the SS, where he had the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer. Although he was involved in the killing of thousands of people in Poland and Russia, he was never charged with war crimes. Early life
His parents were Otto Jan Józefat von Zelewski, a Roman Catholic, and his wife Elisabeth Eveline Schimansky, a Lutheran. His name when he was born was Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski. He later changed his last name to add "von dem Bach" in the 1930s.[source?] He removed "Zelewski" from his name in November 1941 because of its Polish sound.[source?]
He was born in Lauenburg, in Pomerania, in the old German Empire (now called L?bork, Poland), on 1 March 1899. His family did not have very much money during his childhood. His father was often out of work. When his father died on April 17, 1911, in Dortmund, he was employed as an insuranceclerk. His father's lack of success was partly because he was the brother of Emil von Zalewski, the leader of acolonialforce fighting in Tanzania. On August 17, 1891, he and his men were killed in the battle of Rugarto, described as being like a German Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. This death and defeat brought great shame to the family. Erich would later restore his family's position in the community.
After his father's death, his uncle Oskar von Zalewski, a soldier, became very close to Erich and told Erich to become a soldier. In November 1914 Erich von Zalewski asked to join the Prussian army, and was one of the youngest soldiers and remained a soldier fighting for the army until the end of World War I. He was wounded twice, and was given the Cross of Honor (Ehrenkreuz) and then Iron Cross.
After the war, he stayed in the army and fought in the Silesian Uprisings, where he earned a reputation (what other people believe about a person) for courage. He was given more medals. In 1924, he joined Grenzschutz (borderguards). On October 23, 1925, he changed changed his last name to von dem Bach-Zalewski.
After the war started, units under his command took part in revenge and in the shooting of POWs during the September Campaign, but von dem Bach was not there in person. On 7 November 1939, the SS chief Heinrich Himmler asked him if he wanted the job of Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom in Silesia. His duty was to force people to leave and to take their property. By August 1940, his units had forced more than 20,000 ?ywiec families to leave their homes.
On 22 June 1941, von dem Bach-Zelewski became HSSPF in the Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Center); in July 1943, he became commander of the "Bandenkämpfverbände" ("Band-fighting Units"), that carried out the mass murder of 35,000 people in Riga and more than 200,000 inBelarus and eastern Poland. The government was going to make him the future HSSPF in Moscow; however, the Wehrmacht did not get into the city. Until 1943, von dem Bach-Zalewski was the HSSPF in command of "anti-partisan" units on the central front, a special command created by Adolf Hitler. Von dem Bach-Zalewski was the only HSSPF in the Soviet areas taken over by the Germans to have real authority over the police after Hans-Adolf Prützmann and Jockeln lost theirs to the civil government.
In February 1942, he was put into hospital, which he would later say was due to a nervous breakdown because of the ethnic cleansing in Belarus, and the genocide of the Jews. Radio signals overheard by British intelligence say, however, that his illness was physical. He went back to his job in July, with no reduction seen in his actions.
In 1944, von dem Bach-Zalewski took part in front line fighting in the Kovel area, but in March had to go to Germany for medical treatment.Himmler took over all his jobs.
On 2 August 1944, he took command of all soldiers fighting against the Warsaw Uprising as Korpsgruppe Bach. Units under his command killed about 200,000 people including more than 65,000 executions, and an unknown number of POWs. After more than two months of heavy fighting and the total destruction of Warsaw he then was able to control the city. For what he did in Warsaw, the Nazi Government gave him the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on September 30, 1944.
In 1951, von dem Bach-Zalewski said that he had helped Hermann Göring kill himself in 1946. To make people believe this he showed them the cyanide with serial numbers like the ones that were on the cyanide that Göring used. This was never proven. Today people who study history do not believe this happened.
Also in 1951, von dem Bach was told he would go to a work prison for ten years for the murder of people in the early 1930s; but he did not go until 1958, when he was found guilty of killing Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald, an SSofficer on the Night of the Long Knives and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. In 1961, he received an extra ten years where he had to stay in his home all the time for the murder of ten German Communists in the early 1930s. He never went to prison for crimes during the war even though he openly said he murdered Jews. He died in a Munich prison on 8 March 1972.
It has been said that Hitler really liked von dem Bach-Zalewski because he was very good at his job and said that von dem Bach was "so clever he can do anything, get around anything."
Ludwig Beck (29 June 1880 – 20 July 1944) was a German general. He worked for Adolf Hitler's resistance and was its leader. When the attempt to kill Hitler in his conference room failed Hitler escaped and Beck was shot and arrested.
He was one of the people who planned and made happen the Hunger Plan - a plan to starve to death tens of millions of Slavic people in order to make sure there was enough food available for the German people and military.
Hermann Göring, son of Ernst Heinrich Göring and Franziska Göring (born Tiefenbrunn), was born in Rosenheim, Bavaria. Göring's father was a judge. The German chancellorOtto von Bismarckmade Ernst Göring the first Reichskommissar (Governor-General) of South West Africa (today:Namibia), in 1885.
Hermann Göring had two brothers, Albert Göring and Karl Ernst Göring, and two sisters, Olga Therese Sophie Göring and Paula Elisabeth Rosa Göring.
He spent the first three years of his life at the home of a friend of his mother, because Göring's father was in Namibia. From 1901, he lived at his godfather Hermann von Epenstein's mansion. Hermann's mother had an affair (a romantic relationship with someone other than her husband) with von Epenstein. He attended the grammar schools in Fürth and Ansbach. In the games he played as a child, the story was always about war.
In 1940, he was made Reichsmarschall (Marshal of the Empire) by Adolf Hitler. In 1941, Göring ordered Heydrich to make a plan for the Holocaust. In 1942, he gave Fritz Sauckel the order to use the Russian population for industry-work. In 1943, Göring had an expensivebirthday party for his 50th birthday. On 20 April 1945, he left Hitler's birthday party and went toBerchtesgaden. He told Hitler that he had important things to do in south Germany. From Berchtesgaden, Göring sent a telegram to Hitler in Berlin. In the telegram Göring asked about taking over the affairs of state. Towards the end of the war, after the telegram, he started to talk with the Allies. Because of this, Hitler wanted to put Göring in prison. Göring then went to theAmericans.
On 29 April 1945 Hitler removed Göring from all his offices. He wrote this down in his testament.
After the war Detention report and mugshots of Hermann Göring
Göring surrendered in Bavaria on 9 May 1945. The Nuremberg Trials started on 20 November 1945. On 18 March 1946, Göring was questioned by the Allies. After this, he was imprisoned in Nuremberg. He was the third-highest-ranking Nazi official tried at Nuremberg. Only Reich President (former Großadmiral) Karl Dönitz and former Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess had higher ranks than Göring. The judges decided he was guilty. Because of this on 1 October 1946 the court reached a verdict that he was to be hanged. One day before he was to be hanged, he committed suicide by taking a tablet of cyanide. It is not known how Göring got the cyanide or how long he hid it but there was a claim that he was given it by an Americansoldier who was in love with a German woman who was in touch with him. It is not known if this is the truth.
Friedrich Wilhelm Karl was born on the 15 September 1911 in Frankfurt on Oder,Germany. He was one of the first people to join the SS (SS service number 101 983) and the NSDAP (party number 1591713). He was chosen to be an officer and sent to the SS officer school, the SS-Junkerschule at Bad Tölz, in 1934.
Friedrich Wilhelm Karl was born on the 15 September 1911 in Frankfurt on Oder,Germany. He was one of the first people to join the SS (SS service number 101 983) and the NSDAP (party number 1591713). He was chosen to be an officer and sent to the SS officer school, the SS-Junkerschule at Bad Tölz, in 1934.
Erich Johann Albert Raeder (24 April 1876 in Wandsbek - 6 November 1960 in Kiel) was a naval leader inGermany before and during the Second World War. He was made a "Großadmiral" (English: Grand Admiral, equivalent to Admiral of the Fleet) in 1939, which is the highest naval rank. In 1943 he was replaced by Karl Dönitz in his position as head of the German Navy.
Raeder was also one of the 24 charged at the Nuremberg Trials, and was sent to prison.
He was a close friend of Adolf Hitler. Goebbels stayed with Hitler in the Führerbunker until Hitler's suicide on 30 April 1945. After Hitler's death, Goebbels was chancellor of Germany for one day, before he and his wife Magda Goebbels were killed by an SSofficer, on Goebbels' orders. Just before she died, Magda killed their six children with poison.
Neurath served as Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia between 1939 and 1943. When he started to work for SS-ObergruppenführerReinhard Heydrich his authority became nominal. He was one of the 24 accused at the Nuremberg Trials. He was sentenced to 15 years in Spandau Prison. He was freed in 1954.
One of the most horrifying testimonies from the horrors of the Holocaust was left by a conscience-stricken SS officer, Kurt Gerstein, who visited the deathcamps Belzec and Treblinka in August 1942 and witnessed the mass gassing of Jewish men, women and children.
Gerstein was shocked by what he had seen. Yet, he realized that as a witness, his position was unique, and he was determined to expose what he knew to the world to stop the atrocities:_ "I was one of the handful of people who had seen every corner of the establishment, and certainly the only one to have visited it as an enemy of this gang of murderers ..." _
As he noted in his post-war testimony:
"I prayed with them and cried out to my God and theirs. How glad I should have been to go into the gas chambers with them! How gladly I should have died the same death as theirs! Then an SS officer in uniform would have been found in the gas chambers. People would have believed it was an accident and the story would have been buried and forgotten. But I could not do this yet. I felt I must not succumb to the temptation to die with these people. I now knew a great deal about these murders."
His report was one of the first and most important documents relating to the extermination of Jews in the death camps, including facts and events that Gerstein personally witnessed. After the war the basic facts of Gerstein's report were verified by SS Obersturmbannführer Dr. W. Pfannenstiel before the Land-Court of Darmstadt in the Federal Republic of Germany, on June 6, 1950.
Kurt Gerstein, born on August 11, 1905, of an old Prussian family, graduated as a mining engineer in 1931. He had close links to the Christian anti-Nazi Resistance and remained very active in the youth groups, especially the Federation of German Bible Circles until it was disbanded in 1934. He joined the Nazi party in 1933, but outspokenly critical of Nazi blasphemies, he was expelled from the party in 1936. In 1938, he was arrested by the Gestapo and sentenced to a term in a concentration camp to reappraise his premises. Later Gerstein reapplied to become a Nazi party member but was refused.
In 1940 he applied to the SS in order to infiltrate the Third Reich and gather information about the Nazis and their dark secrets, after being told by the Bishop of Stuttgart that mentally ill patients were being killed at the institutions Hadamar and Grafeneck. In the beginning of 1941, Kurt Gerstein's own sister-in-law, Bertha Ebeling, died mysteriously at Hadamar. Gerstein was shocked by her death and became determined to find out the truth about the numerous deaths at Hadamar and similar institutions.
No questions were asked about his past, and on March 10, 1941 he was admitted to the Waffen SS.
In 1942 Kurt Gerstein was appointed head of the Technical Disinfection Department of the Waffen SS, responsible for improving the efficiency of the gas chambers by procuring the highly toxic prussic acid Zyklon B. In the late summer of 1942 he was sent on a mission to introduce Zyclon B gassing into the Nazi death camps in Poland in place of gas engines.
Kurt Gerstein was deeply shaken by what he witnessed - he had but one desire: to gain an insight into the Nazi death machinery and shout it to the whole world. Eventually he risked his life to inform the Allies. He described how the Jews were forced to undress, the piles of shoes were allegedly 25 meters high, the women's hair was cut off, the naked Jews were driven between two barbed wire fences to the gas chambers. Kurt Gerstein desperately tried to alert the world about the atrocities:
"I see everything! The mothers, their babies at the breast, the little naked children, the men and women, naked. They enter into the death chamber, pushed by the leather whips of the SS. Pack well, that is what the captain ordered. Seven to eight hundred persons on twenty-five square meters. More than half are children ..."
A five-year-old girl dropped a necklace and a three-year-old boy picked it up as they passed into the chamber, where victims were crammed in so tightly they could not move. Men, women, children filed past in ghastly parade as a burly SS man promised in a loud, priestlike voice that nothing terrible was going to happen to them. _**"All you have to do is breathe in deeply. That strengthens the lungs. Inhaling is a means of preventing infectious diseases. It's a good method of disinfection." **_To those who timorously asked what their fate would be, the SS man gave more reassurance: the men would build roads and houses, the women would do housework or help in the kitchen.
When the doors closed, the diesel engine would not work but broke down while pumping its deadly carbon monoxide gas into the chamber. While mechanics worked to repair the diesel engine, the Jews had to await death, pressed body-to-body against one another. An SS officer, Wilhelm Pfannenstiel, looking through the glass peep hole in the door of the gas chamber, commented that the Jews were weeping **"as they do in the synagogue." **
Finally after two hours, it stuttered to life. _**"Up till then people were alive in these chambers .. another 25 minutes went by. True, many were now dead. After 28 minutes, only a few were still alive. At last after 32 minutes, everyone was dead. Finally, all were dead like pillars of basalt, still erect, not having any place to fall", **_Kurt Gerstein later wrote.
The outside doors to the gas chamber were opened and the bodies taken out.**"One could tell families even in death. They were still holding hands, stiffened in death so that it was difficult to tear them apart to clear the chamber for the next load," **Gerstein wrote.
Piles of the victims' glasses and shoes
Before the corpses of the Jews were tossed into large trenches, they were searched for valuables in the form of gold teeth or gems or gold hidden in the vagina or rectum. Gerstein was shown the processing of the dead:** "With gold to the left - without gold to the right .. Dentists hammered out gold teeth, bridges and crowns. In the midst of them stood Captain Wirth. Hew as in his element, and showing me a large can full of teeth, he said: "See for yourself the weight of that gold! It's only from yesterday and the day before. You can't imagine what we find every day - dollars, diamonds, gold. You'll see for yourself!"**
Kurt Gerstein forced himself to watch the final process. The bodies were flung into trenches, each some hundred yards long, conveniently located near the gas chambers. He was told that the bodies would swell from gas after a few days, raising the mound as much as six to ten feet. Once the swelling subsided, the bodies would be piled on railway ties covered with diesel oil and burned to cinders.
On the night of August 21-22, 1942, on his way back to Germany, Kurt Gerstein travelled by train from Warsaw to Berlin and accidently encountered the Secretary to the Swedish Legation in Berlin, Baron Göran von Otter.
Less than an hour from Warsaw, the train stopped in open country._ "We both got down to get a breath of air_," von Otter later recalled. "There were beads of sweat on his forehead. There were tears in his eyes. And his voice was hoarse when he said at once: I saw something awful yesterday - can I come and see you at the Legation?" Von Otter suggested that they talk on the train. Gerstein agreed. _"Is it the Jews?" _von Otter asked. _"Yes, it is,"_Gerstein replied. _"I saw more than ten thousand die today." _
In a feverish conversation lasting hours, Gerstein poured out the whole story, crying and smoking incessantly. He related all he had just seen to the Swedish diplomat and begged him to tell the Swedish government about the atrocities in the camps. He desperately urged von Otter to make it known to the Allies and the outside world.
Von Otter later described the encounter: _"_It was hard to get Gerstein to keep his voice down. We stood there together, all night, some six hours or maybe eight. And again and again, Gerstein kept on recalling what he had seen. He sobbed and hid his face in his hands. From the very beginning as Gerstein described the atrocities, weeping and broken hearted, I had no doubt as to the sincerity of his humanitarian intentions."
Göran von Otter filed a report to his own government, which found it, as did other neutrals, too bizarre for credibility, and it was never acted on. But Gerstein maintained contact with the Swedish embassy in Berlin and kept it informed of the extermination operations.
Gerstein continued to tell people what he had seen, anyone he felt would spread the word about the atrocities:
_"Taking my life in my hands every moment, I continued to inform hundreds of people of these horrible massacres. Among them were the Niemöller family; Dr. Hochstrasser, the press attaché at the Swiss Legation in Berlin; Dr. Winter, the coadjutor of the Catholic Bishop of Berlin - so that he could transmit my information to the Bishop and to the Pope; Dr. Dibelius, bishop of the Confessing Church, and many others. In this way, thousands of people were informed by me." _
Gerstein also urged members of the Dutch underground to broadcast his information by radio to Great Britain. But Kurt Gerstein was ignored - nothing happened. All were disinclined to believe his gruesome narrative of mass murder, it was rejected as atrocity propaganda. All his efforts to inform the church, the Allies and the opinion abroad proved futile as did his premise that, if the facts became known, the extermination of the Jews would be stopped.
As months continued to pass and still the Allies had done nothing to stop the extermination, Gerstein became increasingly frantic. He behaved in a desperate manner, risking his life every time he spoke of the death camps to persons he scarcely knew ..
Later during the war a despairing Gerstein risked his life destroying shipments of Zyklon B gas to be used for the extermination of thousands of Jewish people. The gas was buried on the pretext that it had been spoiled in transit.
On April 22, 1945, near the end of the war, Kurt Gerstein surrendered to the French, who arrested him as an alleged war criminal. They took him to the Cherche-Midi Military Prison on July 5, 1945. Twenty days later, Gerstein was found dead in his cell. Whether he committed suicide out of despair and guilt in not being able to stop the Holocaust or whether he was murdered by other SS officers in the prison remains a mystery.
Gerstein was buried in the Thiais cemetery under the name Gastein. But even that was temporary, for his grave was within a section of the cemetery that was razed in 1956.
In 1950, a final blow was given to Kurt Gerstein - a denazification court posthumously condemned him: "Taking into account the extenuating circumstances noted the court has not included the accused among the main criminals but has placed him among the 'tainted' .."
It was not until January 20, 1965 that Kurt Gerstein was cleared of all charges, by the Premier of Baden-Württemberg.
While in prison Gerstein turned over to a French intelligence team his detailed report on atrocities in Belzec and Treblinka. His date provided the Allies in later trials with their most detailed accounts of the Nazi murder mills, and it was used at Nuremberg. Kurt Gerstein' report became perhaps the most horrifying eyewitness account of the Holocaust - one handwritten French and two type-written German versions. _ - Louis Bülow_
From Notes Made by Kurt Gerstein, An Engineer Working for the SS, on the Extermination Camp At Belzec. Gerstein wrote down his evidence on May 26, 1945.
"In Lublin, SS Gruppenfuehrer Globocnik was waiting for us. He said: This is one of the most highly secret matter there are, perhaps the most secret. Anybody who speaks about it is shot dead immediately. Two talkative people died yesterday. Then he explained to us that, at the present moment - August 17, 1942 - there were the following installations:
1. Belzec, on the Lublin-Lvov road, in the sector of the Soviet Demarcation Line. Maximum per day: 15,000 persons (I saw it!).
2. Sobibor, I am not familiar with the exact situation, I did not visit it. 20,000 persons per day.
3. Treblinka, 120 km. NNE of Warsaw, 25,000 per day, saw it!
4. Majdanek, near Lublin, which I saw when it was being built.
Globocnik said: You will have very large quantities of clothes to disinfect, 10 or 20 times as much as the "Textiles Collection," which is only being carried out in order to camouflage the origin of the Jewish, Polish, Czech and other items of clothing. Your second job is to convert the gas-chambers, which have up to now been operated with exhaust gases from an old Diesel engine, to a more poisonous and quicker means, cyanide. But the Fuehrer and Himmler, who were here on August 15, the day before yesterday, that is, gave orders that I am myself to accompany all persons who visit the installations.
Professor Pfannenstiel replied, "But what does the Fuehrer say?" Then Globocnik, who is now Higher SS and Police Leader in Trieste on the Adriatic Coast, said: "The whole Aktion must be carried out much faster." Ministerial Director Dr. Herbert Lindner of the Ministry of the Interior suggested, "Would it not be better to incinerate the bodies instead of burying them? Another generation might perhaps think differently about this?" Then Globocnik, "But, Gentlemen, if we should ever be succeeded by so cowardly and weak a generation that it does not understand our work, which is so good and so necessary, then, Gentlemen, the whole of National Socialism will have been in vain. On the contrary, one should bury bronze plaques [with the bodies], on which is inscribed that it was we, we who had the courage to complete this gigantic task." Hitler said to this, "Well, my good Globocnik, you have said it, and that is my opinion, too."
The next day we moved on to Belzec. There is a separate little station with two platforms, at the foot of the hill of yellow standstone, due north of the Lublin-Lvov road and rail line. To the south of the station, near the main road, there are several office buildings with the inscription "Belzec Office of the _Waffen-_SS". Globocnik introduced me to SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Obermeyer from Pirmasens, who showed me the installations very much against his will.
There were no dead to be seen that day, but the stench in the whole area, even on the main road, was pestilent. Next to the small station there was a large barrack labeled "Dressing Room," with a window that said "Valuables," and also a hall with 100 "Barber's Chairs." Then there was a passage 150 m. long, in the open, enclosed with barbed wire on either side, and signs inscribed "To the Baths and Inhalation Installations." In front of us there was a house, the bathhouse, and to the right and left large concrete flower pots with geraniums or other flowers. After climbing a few steps there were three rooms each, on the right and on the left. They looked like garages, 4 by 5 m. and 1.90 m. high. At the back, out of sight, there were doors of wood. On the roof there was a Star of David made of copper. The front of the building bore a notice "Heckenholt Institution." That is all I saw that afternoon.
Next morning, a few minutes before 7 o'clock, I was told that the first train would arrive in 10 minutes. And in fact the first train from Lvov arrived a few minutes later. There were 45 carriages with 6,700 persons, of whom 1,450 were already dead on arrival. Through small openings closed with barbed wire one could see yellow, frightened children, men, and women.
The train stopped, and 200 Ukrainians, who were forced to perform this service, tore open the doors and chased the people from the carriages with whips. Then instructions were given through a large loudspeaker: The people are to take off all their clothes out of doors and a few of them in the barracks, including artificial limbs and glasses. Shoes must be tied in pairs with a little piece of string handed out by a small four-year-old Jewish boy. All valuables and money are to be handed in at the window marked "Valuables," without any document or receipt being given. The women and girls must then go to the barber, who cuts off their hair with one or two snips. The hair disappears into large potato sacks, "to make something special for the submarines, to seal them and so on," the duty SS_Unterscharfuehrer_ explained to me.
Then the march starts: Barbed wire to the right and left and two dozen Ukrainians with rifles at the rear. They came on, led by an exceptionally pretty girl. I myself was standing with Police Captain Wirth in front of the death chambers. Men, women, children, infants, people with amputated legs, all naked, completely naked, moved past us. In one corner there is a whimsical SS man who tells these poor people in an unctuous voice, "Nothing at all will happen to you. You must just breathe deeply, that strengthens the lungs; this inhalation is necessary because of the infectious diseases, it is good disinfection!"
When somebody asks what their fate will be, he explains that the men will of course have to work, building streets and houses. But the women will not have to work. If they want to, they can help in the house or the kitchen. A little glimmer of hope flickers once more in some of these poor people, enough to make them march unresisting into the death chambers.
But most of them understand what is happening; the smell reveals their fate! Then they climb up a little staircase and see the truth. Nursing mothers with an infant at the breast, naked; many children of all ages, naked. They hesitate, but they enter the death chambers, most of them silent, forced on by those behind them, who are driven by the whip lashes of the SS men.
A Jewish woman of about 40, with flaming eyes, calls down revenge for the blood of her children on the head of the murderers. Police Captain Wirth in person strikes her in the face 5 times with his whip, and she disappears into the gas chamber ..."