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HISB31H3 Chapter Notes -Raul Hilberg, Ordnungspolizei, Gestapo


Department
History
Course Code
HISB31H3
Professor
Neville Panthaki

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1. The Bureaucracy of Annihilation by Raul Hilberg
Hilberg emphasizes the administrative smoothness and impersonal quality of the killing operations
nearly every element of German society was involved
the Holocaust was a vast network of bureaucratic tasks: organizing financing, maintaining rail schedules, keeping statistical accounts
Hilberg says that much in destruction of Jews is familiar and even commonplace in context of contemporary institutions and practices
basically, the Jews were destroyed as a consequence of a multitude of acts performed by a phalanx of functionaries in public offices and
private enterprises, and many of these measures, taken one by one, turn out to be bureaucratic, embedded in habit, routine, and tradition
the machinery of destruction was the organized German society, its ministries, armed forces, party formations, and industry
in Nazi Germany every organization moved on a track of self-assertion
the apparatus was able to advance unerringly, because there was an inner logic to its measures
a decree defining the termJew”, expropriations of Jewish property, the physical separation and isolation of the victims, forced labour,
deportation, gassings—these were not random moves, instead, each was a stage in the development
neither the preliminary nor the concluding phases of the destruction process could be traversed without difficulties and complications
the Jewish communities had all been emancipated and they were tied to the Gentile population in countless relationships, from business
contacts, partnerships, leases, and employment contracts, to personal friendships and intermarriages
two large bureaucracies have remained obscure, even though they operated at very scene of death: German railroads and Order Police
in the chain of steps that led to the extinction of millions of Jewish victims, the Reichsbahn, as the German railways were known, carried
the Jews from many countries and regions of Europe to the death camps, which were situated on occupied Polish soil
of course, these transports were but a small portion of the Reichsbahn’s business
Germany depended on its railroads to carry soldiers and civilians, military cargo and industrial products, throughout the war
passenger concept was essential, in order that the Reichsbahn could collect the fare for each deported Jew in accordance with applicable
tariffs, and to preserve internal prerogatives and divisions of jurisdiction—the passenger specialist would remain in control
passenger trains were either regular, moving at hours stated in published schedules, or specials, assembled and dispatched upon demand
Jews were transported in special and the procurement and scheduling of such trains was a lengthy and involved procedure that had to be
administered at the regional level, particularly in the General Directorate East
one thinks of railroads as providing a service—what they produce is “place utility, and in this case they contributed their industriousness
and ingenuity to the possibility of annihilating people, by the thousands at a time, in places where gas chambers had been installed
the Order Police, like the Reichsbahn a major apparatus of the Third Reich, was also needed over a long period of time in a wide
geographic area, and its utility manifested itself in several stages of the destruction process, from concentration to killings
the Security Police, in which the Gestapo was the predominant element, could be regarded as a new institution, whereas the conventional
Order Police was old and established in Germany
Security Policespread out over a continent—were relatively few; Order Police were clearly more numerous
in most of the occupied countries, including France and the General Government of Poland, where German Order Police personnel served
only in units, an indigenous police force remained in place to carry out its own tasks and to assist the Germans in theirs
the sheer geographic expanse of the Order Police is in fact the principle clue to its function in destructive operations
to be sure, neither the railroads nor the Order Police fit ay preconceived notion of an ideological vanguard
for that very reason, however, their heavy participation in relentless acts of mass destruction should engage attention of people
the all-encompassing readiness for action of the diverse machinery of public and private agencies is one of the key phenomena of the
bureaucratic destruction process—it resulted, in the case of several professions, in complete reversals of time-honoured roles
an obvious example is furnished by the physicians who performed medical experiments in camps, or who, as public-health officials,
urged the creation of hermetically sealed ghettos for the ostensible purpose of preventing the spread of typhus from Jewish inhabitants to
the surrounding population, or who, as specialists in psychiatry, administered the euthanasia program, which was transformed in the
General Government into a network of camps to kill approximately 1.5 million Polish Jews
second illustration of such negation in planning by offices in occupied Poland, labelled “Population and Welfare”, of deportation of
ghetto Jews to death camps; third instance of goal transformation may be glimpsed in efforts of civil engineers or architects to construct
ultimate antithesis of shelter or home—concentration camp, especially installations designed for controlled, efficient mass annihilation
not surprisingly, a constant reliance on bureaucratic initiation eventually brought about the existence of experts accustomed to dealing
with Jewish matters in particular—many agencies had one or more of these specialists
occasionally, there were enthusiasts who were not constantly preoccupied with Jewish matters in the normal course of their activities, but
who would not relinquish an opportunity to go out of their way to leave their imprint on the annihilation process
viewing the makeup of the administrative machine as a whole, the conclusion is that there was very little prodding or purging of the
German bureaucracy—the Reichsbahn or the Order Police would hardly have been pressured in any case
even as the bureaucracy of annihilation consisted in large part of regular personnel in well-established agencies so the methods of
destruction were to a great extent the traditional means of administrative action
normal procedures were employed also in abnormal situations, as if extreme decisions were not being made, and there were no
discernible differences between everyday government functions and the Final Solution
the legal procedures and accounting routines were the essential tools of a decentralized apparatus that was attempting to preserve non-
Jewish rights at every turn and to balance the books at all times
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