Friday, 11 May 2012

The Holocaust. Getting to the bottom of things. (Part 2)

 Last week I went off on a rant about how difficult it was to find primary sources giving clues as to the details of the Nazi Holocaust. I mentioned that Peter Longerich's Holocaust, The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews had been recommended to me by Richard Evans.
 The book arrived a few days ago, and despite already being fairly preoccupied with my revision, I have read quite a bit of it. Evans described it as "The most thorough and reliable account" and that it "deserves to be in the library of anyone interested in the history of the greatest genocide in history", and I am already beginning to see why. Last week I mentioned David Irvings complaint of "inter-historian incest" which referred to how reliant other historians were on each others written works, and how few referred to the primary sources for their claims. Longerich's book has a refreshingly wide array of sources including countless Nazi reports.
 Perhaps in the coming months when I can be a little more active I will write a proper review. In the meantime, here is a snippet from Chapter 13:

Enforcing the Annihilation Police: Extending the Shootings to the Whole Jewish Population.


 In the area behind the mid-section of the front the SS Cavalry Brigade was responsible for bringing the murder campaign to a completely new level. (1) This brigade, composed of two former cavalry regiments, carried out an initial 'cleansing operation' in the Pripet Marshes between 29 July and 12 August under the leadership of Higher SS and Police Commander Russia Centre, Erich von dem Bach-Zewalski. For this operation the brigade received special 'guidelines for combing marsh areas using mounted units' that had been signed by Himmler himself: 'If the population as a whole is hostile, sub-standard in racial and human terms, or even, as is very often the case in marsh areas, made up of criminals who have settled there, then all those who are suspected of supporting partisans are to be shot, women and children are to be transported, cattle and provisions confiscated and secured. The villages are then to be burned to the ground.'(2)
 Shortly afterwards, on a visit to Baranowicze on July 30 at which he briefed Bach-Zewalski, Himmler toughened that order still further. He now ordered the shooting of all Jewish men and in addition demanded that violent measures were to be taken against women. He deliberately avoided making explicit a requirement to shoot women, as is indicated by a radio message from the 2nd Cavalry on 1 August: 'Explicit order from the Reichsführer SS. All Jews must be shot. Drive Jewish women into the marshes.'(3) There was a similarly brutal order given by the commander of the mounted unit of the 1st Cavalry Regiment on 1 August to his men, albeit one that was not wholly clear with regard to the treatment of women: "No male Jews are to be left behind, no families left over in the towns and villages."(4)

Longerich's notes:

1. The most detailed account is in Cüppers, Wegbreiter , 151 ff.; see also Büchler, 'Kommandostab' and Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, 555 ff.
2. KTB Commando Staff RFSS, 28 July 1941, published in Unsere Ehre, 220 ff.
3) BAM, RS 3-8/36; on the meeting with Himmler see also BAB, R 20/45b, Bach-Zelewski's diary, 31 July 1941.
4) BAM, RS 4/441, Divisional Order no.28.

For those of you who are interested, I've added a short video of Longerich describing his book.


  1. as you delve deeper into this, what are thoughts so far? do you reckon such an extreme and vulgar event happend?

  2. Oh it happened alright. The debate has only ever been about "how many died?" and"for what reason?".