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Lecture 5

HI364 Lecture 5: HI364 Lesson 5 The Death Camps

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Eva Plach

HI364 Lesson 5: The Death Camps The Peak Years of Killing 1942-1943 Start of 1942: 75% of Jews who would be killed are still alive Start of 1943: 75% of Jews who would be killed are dead Why Gas and Death Camps? Final Solution • Related to the question of the timing of the Final Solution • Why this specific decision is made to use gassing and to establish facilities at specifically purpose- built death camps • Gassing is used at death camps – represents the moment that the Nazis have decided on a European-wide policy of genocide • No longer regionally-contained solution • Strategy is definitely meant to take in Jews from all of Europe Practicality & speed & cost • Gassing is a solution preferred over EGN in Soviet Union (shooting) • More practical to kill large numbers • Faster • To kill the numbers that need to be killed • Also ultimately cheaper • Seen as impractical to use the methods in western Europe that had worked in eastern Europe (Soviet Union) o Difference license in the occupied Soviet Union that the Nazis hadn’t exercised in terms of what they could do to the populations that they knew wouldn’t work west of the Soviet Union Manpower • Gassing takes less manpower • EGN takes a lot of human resources; gassing takes less human resources • I.e. Treblinka: o Warsaw Jews and others o Bureaucracy: 30 Germans + 120 Ukrainian guards + 800 Jewish prisoners forced to work (usually crematorium) = 1 million dead o Relatively small number of people for the huge amount of deaths Gas already tested • Method that had already been tried by the Nazis earlier • T4 program (1930s) – handicapped people, sterilization, next steps of that o Euthanasia program where certain individuals were targeted for gassing o Ends up killing about 700,000 people o Isn’t completely abandoned in August 1941, but is scaled down, but less centralized and formalized o After that point, all those who had participated in T4 program become available for different kind of work o Over 450 Nazis who were key employees of the Final Solution in the assorted death camps, 92 of whom have passed through the T4 program o Breeding ground for the experience for the job of the Final Solution Chelmno Lodz • Death camp in an old castle • First gassings • Lodz city nearby o Big Polish Jewish German population in late 19 century 3 mobile gas vans • T4 program and Soviet POWs • Using carbon monoxide gas generated by diesel engines of the gas vans (Wirth) • Method used in T4 program – asphyxiation • 90 people are put in the back of the van, sealed, van is driven around, people asphyxiation • Early experiments at Chelmno on Soviet POWs are then used on Jews at the end of 1941 o Site of the first gassings of Jews from Lodz ghetto • Total 145,000 people killed using gas van method of extermination • Developed through T4 program by Wirth New Asphyxiation Agent: Zyklon B Insecticide/fumigant • More effective than carbon monoxide from the vans • Used in different facilities/camps/barracks in order to kill insects that carry diseases • Also understood that if the Zyklon B crystals were vaporized, they’d produce toxic fumes that would lead to more effective, efficient, asphyxiation • Better method than vans Distance between killers and victims • Created a greater distance between killers and the victims (as opposed to gas vans) • Some gas chambers could still pump in carbon monoxide I.G. Farben • German company • In post-war period 1947 brought up for charges in subsequent Nuremberg trials • Leading directors are charged with knowingly selling Zyklon B to be used to kill humans Auschwitz & Majdanek • Becomes the asphyxiating agent that’s used at Majdanek (also uses carbon monoxide) and at Auschwitz Death Camps 6 camps in total • Auschwitz, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, Belzec • Difference between extermination camps and other kinds of camps • 9,000 other camps in Europe from 1930s-end of war o Big, small, have variety of different purposes • Only 6 camps designed specifically to exterminate people o People die everywhere, but only those 6 were meant specifically for extermination Operation Reinhard 1.7 million GG Jews • Contains huge Jewish population • First targets because there are so many of them concentrated in a small territory and also because they’re the easiest targets • Long been ghettoized, located in the east • Goal is to make this territory free of Jews • Project of eliminating the Jews of the GG are given the name Operation Reinhard o Named after the killing of Reinhard Heydrich summer 1942 o Tribute to him for the good work he’s done – to commemorate him Odilo Globocnik • Oversees the project of establishing the death camps that will consume the Jews of the GG • SS Commander of the Lublin region • 1904-1945 • He is charged with figuring out the logistics of building these camps that will be designed specific for the killing of Jews from GG Belzec • March 1942 to spring 1943 • 434,508 Sobibor • April 1942 to October 1943 • 180,000 Treblinka • July 1942 to October 1943 • +800,000 • Stangl commandant from August 1942 • Closed down after Jews from GG have been killed (function has been served) The Process of Killing Role of ghettos • Jews are registered, grouped, dispossessed of property, weakened, diseased, sick, exhausted • Ghettos serve as the place from which Jews make their final trip to the death camps • Departure point Aktion (Aktionen) Notice of deportation • Process of rounding up Jews and shipping them to camps • Jews get a notice of deportation • Told that there’s labour to be done somewhere in the east that the Jews are being resettled to • People must prepare themselves to leave from where they are • Sometimes they’re told that the place they’re going to will be better Registration of assets • Have archives now of all these registrations and assets • Property, apartments, businesses, bank accounts, etc. Property left behind • Told they could barely pack for the journey • Public auctions are held for the property that’s left behind by Jews • Sold to Germans at incredibly low prices Umschlagplatz • Famous assembly point • Where train came to pick up Jews in Warsaw and take them to Treblinka The Trains Charges • Charged for their train journey • Either as individuals or as a whole community • Kids have reduced price, children under 4 are free o Feel like a normal tr
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