Sunday, October 23, 2016



                                                            REINHARD HEYDRICH






On the 30th January 1942 a snowy Tuesday morning, Heydrich gathered fourteen senior Nazi civil servants,  party officials and high ranking SS officers in a former industrials villa on the shores of  Berlin's Lake Wannsee.
As Heydrich indicated in his invitation letter of late November 1941, the purpose of the meeting was to establish a common  position among the central authorities in regard to the final solution. Heydrich even referred to the 'eastward evacuation' of Jews from the Reich and the 'protectorate' as the reason why co-ordination with other central agencies of Nazi Germany



                                  Image result for Picture of Participants at the Wannsee Conference

   Heydrich's guests were important and, for the most part, well educated. Even (over half of them had a doctorate, mainly in law). Many of them were of equivalent status to Heydrich, although none had equivalent powers, the largest group around the table comprised the representatives of ministries for the Jewish question: Dr Wilhelm Stuckart (Interior) Dr. Roland Freisler (Justice), Erich Neumann (Four Year Plan), Friedrich Wilhelm Kritzinger (Reich Chancellery) and  Dr. Martin Luther (Foreign Ministry). The two representatives of the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Dr. Alfred Meyer and Dr. Georg Leibbrandt, fell into this category, but. together with Hans Frank's State Secretary in the General Government, Dr Josef Bühler, they formed  the second group, namely German agencies with responsibility for the civilian administration of occupied territories in the East. Then there  were the officials from the SS and party with special interest in the race question: Eberhard Klopfer (Party Chancellery) and Otto Hofmann )director of the SS Race and Settlement Office). In addition, Heydrich had instructed Heads from his own department to attend. The most senior of them was Heinrich Müller, head of the Gestapo, and. below him, Adolf Eichmann, Heydrich's Jewish expert. From the field there was Dr. Karl Eberhardt Schöngarth, head of the Security Police and SD in the General Government, and Dr. Rudolf Lange, the regional Security Chief in Latvia, where he had been responsible for the mass shooting of Jews in Riga at the end of November 1941

              The villa at 56–58 Am Großen Wannsee, where the Wannsee Conference was held; now a memorial and museum

    Heydrich opened the meeting by reminding his guests the Göring had entrusted him with the task of resolving the Jewish question in Europe; The purpose of the present meeting, he declared, was therefore only to establish clarity on fundamental questions and to co-ordinate a 'par-all guidelines of policies. What followed was directed against the representatives that of the General Government and the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories: Centralized control in the handling of the final solution would now, irrespective of geographical boundaries with  the SS.

Heydrich deliberately choose the words 'irrespective of geographically  boundaries' nor the General Governor,  Hans Frank, would unable to make decisions regarding  Jewish policies in their  respective fiefdoms. This was by no means uncontroversial. The matter of  whether the Jewish question be treated in 'a policing issue', thus falling falling into Heydrich's area of responsibility,, or a political issue, thereby remaining within Rosenberg's jurisdiction, remained highly contested. In the winter of 1941, Rosenberg had repeatedly tried to impose tighter control over SS representatives in the former Soviet Union causing Heydrich to insist in a letter to him of the 10th January 1942 that NS (National-Spozialistische) Jewish policies in the East were a policing matter outside Rosenberg's jurisdiction. 

 Heydrich's words were also aimed at Bühler, Hans Frank's deputy, whose relationship with Heydrich had been overshadowed by a conflict over executive competence in the General Government ever since the autumn of 1943. In the months and weeks before the Wannsee conference, Himmler and Heydrich had repeatedly clashed with civilian agencies in Poland over issues of competence in relation to Jewish matters.  In late November 1941, for example, Himmler's representative in the General Government complained to Heydrich that Frank wished to take control of the handling of the Jewish problem in the General Government himself,. Shortly after this meeting, Bühler was added to the list of invitees, presumable to settle the matter of competitiveness over Jewish policies once and for all.

[Bühler attended the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942 as the representative from the Governor-General's office. During this conference – which discussed the imposition of the 'Final Solution of the Jewish Question in the German Sphere of Influence in Europe' – Bühler stated to the other conference attendees the importance of solving 'the Jewish Question in the General Government as quickly as possible'.
After the war, Bühler testified on Frank's behalf at the Nuremberg Trials. He was later extradited to Poland and tried before the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland for crimes against humanity, sentenced to death and the forfeiture of all property on 10 July 1948, and executed in Kraków. His death was announced 22 August by Polish authorities and noted in the New Times the following day.sic]
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B02732, Krakau, Besprechung mit Dr. Joseph Bühler.jpg

                                                   Josef Bühler (middle) in May 1941

    After reasserting his unquestionable authority in all matters concerning the Jewish question, Heydrich recapitulated the previous stages and past achievements in the NS 5truggle against Jewry.  The principal aim since 1933 had been to remove the Jews from all section of German society and then from German soil. The only solution available at the time had been to accelerate Jewish emigration, a policy that had led to the erection of the Reich Central Office for Jewish Emigration. The disadvantage of the policy of emigration was clear to all those involved, but, in the absence of alternatives the policy was tolerated at least initially. With pride, Heydrich recalled that between January 1933 and 31 October 1941, a total of 537,000 Jews had been 'inducted to emigrate' from Germany, Austria and the Protectorate.
Since the outbreak of war with the Soviet Union, however, the situation had changed entirely. Emigration from Germany was no longer an option and had indeed forbidden altogether by Himmler in the autumn of 1941. Indeed, Heydrich suggested 'new possibilities in the East' offered 'a further possible solution'  which had already approved by Hitler: 'the evacuation of the Jews to the East'. The small-scale deportation from the Reich and the Protectorate to Lpdz, Minsk and Riga that had commenced in October 1941 had provided important  'practical experiences', winch would be of great significance for the coming final solution on the Jewish question. Unfortunately, he continued, regional discrepancies in the treatment of Jews persisted. Inconsistencies regarding the destination of the resettlement for agencies involved, struggled to adopt a coherent approach for the Jews to be deported from the Reich. These were the pressing problems that Heydrich hoped to solve at the Wannsee Conference.

Following his brief general introduction, Heydrich outlined the scale of the task that lay ahead of them. Roughly 11 million Jews  - including those living under German occupation, the Jews of neutral European  states such as Turkey, Ireland and Sweden and those living in states still at war with Germany such as Great Britain  - would be affected by the final solution. The figure, Heydrich added approvingly, was an estimate based on religious rather than on racial affiliation 'since some countries still do not have a definition of a Jew according to  racial principals. The full implementation of the final solution could thus occur only after a victorious conclusion of the war, but Heydrich was confident that Germany would soon be in a position to put sufficient pressure on the neutral countries to surrender the Jews to the NS-Regime (Nazis).


Resettlement of Jews to the Łódź Ghetto area. March 1940. Old Synagogue in the far background (no longer existing)

   Heydrich then informed hos guests of the fate he envisaged for those Jews already under German control: 'Under appropriate leadership the Jews should be put to work in the East in the context of the final solution. In large single sex labour columns, Jews fit for work will work their way towards constructing roads. Doubtless the large majority will be eliminated by natural causes '. Any final remnants that survive will no doubt consist of of the most resistant elements'. These elements should have to be dealt with appropriately in order to avoid, as the experience of history confirmed, the formation of the germ cell (Kernzelle) of a new Jewish revival [which is now Israel,sic] The fate of the millions of Jews deaned unable to work in the first place, most notable the elderly and the sick, was much more straightforward. It was so obvious that it did not even need to be discussed.
 Heydrich's reference to Jewish slave labour in the East has generated considerable debate among historians of the Holocaust. Spurred on by Eichmann's admission during his trial in Jerusalem, some scholars have argued that the the coded language and the Wannsee Conference ultimately concealed a coherent plan to murder systematically Jews in the German sphere of influence. Others,, however, have suggested that Heydrich's forced labour programme was not camouflage, but rather one of many elements making up his plan for the final solution. Since  the construction of the concentration camps in the Warthegau and in the General Government was only progressing slowly and as Jewish forced labour had great significance for the German war economy, the latter argument appears to be most plausible. 

Germany and the Protectorate , Heydrich said, would be cleared of Jews first. Only then would Europe be combed from west to east. The Jews would be brought to transit ghettos and then further east, although he conceded that Jews should not be removed from from essential enterprises in the wartime economy unless foreign replacement labour could be  provided. Even Heydrich could not ignore wartime economic needs at a time when Germany was confronted with manpower shortages at a dangerous scale. He attempted to balance recognition of current labour scarcities with a desire to eliminate all Jews, although his determination to kill all 'resilient' surviving Jewish labourers shows that he privileged ideology over economic concerns and military necessities.

Heydrich then identified some key prerequisites for the deportations. There had to be clarity about who was going to be transported. Jews over thirty-five and decorated war veterans would be sent to the 'old-aged ghetto' of Theresianstadt, primarily to achieve the numerous predictable intervention from German neighbours or friends on their behalf. In relation to other consideration, Heydrich remained notably vague about how he hoped to implement his murderous concept of deportation, extermination and  annihilation through labour. After emphasising once more that the speed of the deportations  could largely depend on the military  situation over the next few months, he suggested that concrete implementation plans would be discussed in a follow-up conference of middle-rank experts from the ministries and agencies involved in anti-Jewish policies. 


                                             Inside of the conference room

    Heydrich's position on the Jewish question was not entirely new.  As early 1941, he continued to assume that the comprehensive  question to the Jewish question would take place after the end of the war through a combination of forced labour and mass murder. more immediately, the systematically mass killing of Jews that had already began in the occupied part of the Soviet Union during the previous summer and be intensified and extended in occupied Poland.

Frank.s deputy, Bühler, accordingly suggested to Heydrich that the final solution would begin in the General Government since the transport problem does not play a significant role here and most of the Jews living in this area were already incapable of working anyway.The solution of the Jewish question would and could therefore begin as quickly as possible. The representative of the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, Meyer, also pleaded that certain preparatory measures in the context of the 'final solution', should be conducted immediately. Given the various types of solution possibilities (in other words, different means of mass murder) were discussed at Wannsee, Meyer's reference to to 'repertory  measures', can only have meant  one thing, the creation of further concentration camps based on the model of Belzec camp which was  already under construction.   Bühler and Meyer thus placed alternative on the table that rendered Heydrich's envisaged deportation programme largely superfluous . It was a surprising turn of events, but a proposal that Heydrich endorsed because it promised a speedy solution to the Jewish problem in the General Government, a territory with the largest concentration of Jews in German-occupied Europe. Himmler and Heydrich would take up Bühler's suggestion in the ensuing months and develop it further, as the focal point of the Europe-wide final solution shifted from the formerly Soviet territory to occupied Poland.

                              Image result for picture Jews crossing the Aryan Bridge in Lodz

                                   Jews crossing the Aryan Bridge in Lodz

   The remainder of the Wannsee Conference was devoted to a lengthy  discussion of whether half-Jews 'in privileged 'mixed marriages should be included in the final solution, an issue of high priority for Heydrich. Ever since the Nuremberg laws of 1935, SS racial experts had demanded further measures to address the alleged threat of racial decomposition of the German  Volk posed by the so-called Mischlinge or mixed breads. They had been bitterly disappointed by the second Nuremberg Law of 1935, the Law of Protection of German Blood, which treated as Jews only persons with three or four grandparents, thus allowing most people with two or fewer Jewish ancestors to be considered as Germans. Although Hitler favoured a more racial stance, he hesitated to impose laws that would antagonize the countless German relatives of the half-Jews in question. The compromise solution was a new legal category, the Mischling, defined by a disparate muddle of religious and racial criteria. Quarter-Jews were termed Mischlinge but were allowed to marry other Germans, although not other Mischlinge or Jews. Half-Jews were also considered Mischlinge unless they were members of a synagogue or had married a Jew, in which case they were considered full Jews (the so-called Geltungsjuden)

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    In 1941 party radicals renewed efforts to extend their definitional however, to remove the protected categories and have the Mischlinge legally classified with full Jews. Heydrich too, began to take a more active interest in the question, particularly once it became important to define which groups should be deported from the Reich, By the summer of 1941, he decided that the time had come to revise the protection of the Mischlinge and mount a frontal attack on the compromises established by the Nuremberg Laws.
   The numbers at stake was comparatively small. In 1939, there were 54,000 first-degree and around 43,000 second-degree Mischlinge in the Old Reich and Austria, including the Protectorate. Nevertheless, Heydrich spent considerable time outlining his own definition of the Mischlinge.
   First degree  Mischlinge or half Jews, he suggested, should be considered Jews, and consequently be deported, unless they were either married to 'persons of German blood' and the marriage had resulted in children or if they had received an exemption permit from a top Nazi authority. In return for having spared from transportation, the first degree Mischlinge would have to submit to voluntary  sterilization if he or she was to remain in the Reich. A second-degree Mischling or quarter Jew was to be considered a Jew if any of the following three criteria applied: if both parents were Mischlinge, if he or she had an exceptional poor racial appearance that distinguished him or her as a Jew, or if he or she feels and behaves like a Jew.

Image result for wikipedia image of 'Der ewige Jude German Poster

                                                                 German Poster for the film 'Der ewige Jude'
   Heydrich's proposal did not encounter much opposition from the other delegates. Stucker's only concern was that the proposed measures involved endless administrative work. He therefore suggested as am alternative, the complete sterilization of the Mischling population, a suggestion supported by the director of the Race and Settlement Office, Otto Hoffmann.
   As far as German Jews in mixed marriages were concerned, of which there were fewer the 20,000 at this point, Heydrich also suggested a radical solution: All fully Jewish partners of German spouses should be deported. The primary decision that remained was whether the Jewish partner should be evacuated to the East (that is, murdered) or, in view of the physiological impact of such measured on the German relatives, be sent to an old-aged ghetto. The only exception to this rule, Heydrich believed, should be cases where there were children deemed to be second degree Mischlinge.  In these cases the Jewish parent could stay for the foreseeable future.

                                                       Image result for picture inside lodz ghetto Jews having lunch     
                        Lodz ghetto, Jewish children having a meal


Once again, the purpose of Heydrich's suggestion seems to have been to assert SS's total definitional power in all aspects of the Jewish question. The Nuremberg Laws, though banning future unions between Jews and non-Jews, had little to say about existing mixed marriages. At the end of 1038 after consulting Hitler, Göring drew up guidelines distinguishing  between so-called privileged mixed marriages and others. The privileged marriages were those where the man was non-Jewish, with the exception of marriages where there were Jewishly educated children. At Wannsee, it was once again Stuckart who made radical suggestion for how to solve the issue of mixed marriages. He called for a straightforward legislative  act that would dissolve all existing mixed marriages, paving the way for the deportation of the Jewish spouses.

   No nonsenses on this issue was reached at Wannsee. but it was agreed that SS racial experts and other Nazi officials should discuss the fate of the Mischlinge and of Jews in mixed marriages at the mid-level conference  and meetings that would follow the Wannsee Conference in the summer and autumn 1942.
   After further request for future co-operation in carrying out  the final solution, Heydrich closed the meeting. All in all, it had lasted no longer than an hour and a half. If Heydrich had expected 'Considerable stumbling blocks and difficulties' prior to the meeting, he must have been pleasantly surprised by the amicable nature of the negotiations. According to Eichmann, Heydrich was visibly satisfied with the results of the meeting, and invited him and Müller to stay behind for a glass or two or three of cognac'.
   Heydrich's satisfaction was not unfounded. He had hoped to achieve three things at the gathering. First, he sought official endorsement from civil authorities of the deportation process, as well as of the extent of the planned comprehensive solution to the Jewish question. Secondly, he wanted to emphasize his sole responsibility for the solution of the Jewish question against all resistance from those civilian authorities, which, over the previous months, had sought to protect their waning influence from further incursions by the RSHA. Thirdly, he wanted to reach a consensus on the group of people that were to be deported. 

   At las two of these aims were fulfilled. Wannsee had ambiguously affirmed Heydrich's overall authority in relation to the final solution. The Ministry of Interior , the General Government, and the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories had all fallen into  line, and had even occasionally proposed more radical solution than Heydrich had initially deemed acceptable. The long-standing conflict with the civil authorities  in the General Government also seemed to be resolved. Reducing the number of Jews in the General Government, rather than dumping them on the region, was something on which Heydrich and Frank's representative at Wannsee could agree. Disputes would continue after January 1942, but the 'basic line', Heydrich confidently stated in a letter  he made this quite clear.                                                                                                              

                                           Jewish children, the Ghetto
                                          Jewish children inside Ghetto Litzmannstadt, 1940

  However, if Heydrich believed that he had carried the day on the Mischling question, he was soon to be disappointed. If, as originally planned, the Wannsee Conference had taken place after a successful capture of Moscow, it is not unlikely that his attempt to include the Mischlinge in the deportation would have succeeded. The  regime's racially radicalised at times of German military success, as the euphoria of victory tempted  an elated Hitler to dare ever more drastic policies. But there were no military success in the winter of 1941-42and, even the following months, the SS leadership found it difficult to push the line on the Mischlinge. During the mid-level follow-up meetings to Wannsee in 1942, Eichmann pressed for radical solutions along the lines of Suckeart's or Heydrich's suggestions. but such policies were never implemented. Both the Ministry of Propaganda and the Justice Ministry were concerned about the implantation of compulsory divorce. In October 1943, Justice Minister Otto Georg Thierack   and Himmler agreed not to deport Mischlinge for the duration of the war.  [After the Allies arrested him, Thierack committed suicide in Sennelager, Paderborn, by poisoning before he could be brought before the court at the Nuremberg Judges' Trial sic.]

Otto Thierack (on right) with the judge Roland Freisler at the end of August 1942

    Similar obstacles remained with respect to mixed marriages. The regime feared the effects on public morale if the partner of Aryan men and women were deported. When in the spring of 1943, for example, hundreds of non-Jewish women in Berlin publicly protested against the threatened deportation of their Jewish husbands, the Nazis backed off and released the men. These so-called Rosenstrasse protests in 1943 demonstrated that the regime was prepared to revise its policies when it encountered determined popular resistance.  For most part, however, Jews in privileged mixed marriages  would be saved. Only after the death of their Aryan husbands were some Jewish widows in formerly privileged marriages deported after 1943. Wannsee had thus failed to provide the decisive breakthrough on this issue for which Heydrich had hoped.
   Nor was Wannsee the moment at which fundamental decision was made to turn the already murderous anti-Jewish policies in the East into an all-encompassing genocide of all European Jews. Nobody at the conference, not even Heydrich, was able to make that decision without Hitler's explicit consent. The decision at Wannsee rather testified to the gradually increasing radicalism with which the central authorities of Nazi Germany viewed the Jewish question. Decisions that would turn 1942 into the most astounding year of murder in the Holocaust, indeed one of the most horrifying years of systematic mas killings in the history of mankind, were yet to follow.
   The day after the Wannsee Conference, Heydrich telephoned Himmler to inform him of the meeting's results, before boarding a plane that would bring him back to Prague, where, in his capacity as acting Reichs Protector of Bohemia and Moravia, he had spent the past three months installing a regime based on uncompromisingly terror.

                                             THE ROSENSTRASSE PROTEST - BERLIN 1943

Many people believe that it was impossible for the Germans to resist the Nazi dictatorship and the deportations of German Jews. However, a street protest in early 1943 indicates that resistance was possible, and indeed, successful.Until early 1943, Nazi officials exempted Jews married to Gentiles or "Aryans" from the so-called Final Solution. In late February of that year, however, during a mass arrest of the last Jews in Berlin, the Gestapo also arrested Jews in intermarriages. This was the most brutal chapter of the expulsion of Jews in Berlin. Without warning, the SS stormed into Berlin's factories and arrested any Jews still working there. Simultaneously, all throughout the Reich capital, the Gestapo arrested Jews from their homes. Anyone on the streets wearing the "Star of David" was also abruptly carted off with the other Jews to huge provisional Collecting Centers in central Berlin, in preparation for massive deportations to Auschwitz.

    The Gestapo called this action simply the "Schlußaktion der Berliner Juden" (Closing Berlin Jew Action). Hitler was offended that so many Jews still lived in Berlin, and the Nazi Party Director for Berlin, Joseph Goebbels, had promised to make Berlin "Judenfrei" (free of Jews) for the Führer's 54th birthday in April. This "Schlußaktion" was, indeed, the beginning of the end for about 8,000 of the 10,000 Berlin Jews arrested in its course. Many who left their houses for what they thought would be a "normal" day of work, without turning back for even a last glance or hug, were to end up shortly in the ovens of Auschwitz, never again to see home or family.

  About 2,000 of the arrested Jews who were related to Aryan Germans, however, experienced quite a different fate. They were locked up in a provisional collecting center at Rosenstraße 2-4, an administrative center of the Jewish Community in the heart of Berlin. The Aryan spouses of the interned Jews; who were mostly women, hurried alone or in pairs to the Rosenstraße, where they discovered a growing crowd of other women whose loved ones had also been kidnapped and imprisoned there. A protest broke out. The women who had gathered by the hundreds at the gate of the improvised detention center began to call out together in a chorus, "Give us our husbands back." They held their protest day and night for a week, as the crowd grew larger day by day.
     On different occasions the armed guards between the women and the building imprisoning their loved ones barked a command: "Clear the street or we'll shoot!" This sent the women scrambling pell-mell into the alleys and courtyards in the area. But within minutes they began streaming out again, inexorably drawn to their loved ones. Again and again they were scattered, and again and again they advanced, massed together, and called for their husbands, who heard them and took hope.


Part of the memorial "Block der Frauen" by Ingeborg Hunzinger, commemorating the protest
     The square, according to one witness, "was crammed with people, and the demanding, accusing cries of the women rose above the noise of the traffic like passionate avowals of a love strengthened by the bitterness of life." One woman described her feeling as a protester on the street as one of incredible solidarity with those sharing her fate. Normally people were afraid to show dissent, fearing denunciation, but on the street they knew they were among friends, because they were risking death together. A Gestapo man who no doubt would have heartlessly done his part to deport the Jews imprisoned in the Rosenstraße was so impressed by the people on the streets that, holding up his hands in a victory clasp of solidarity with a Jew about to be released, he pronounced proudly: "You will be released, your relatives protested for you. That is German loyalty."
     "One day the situation in front of the collecting center came to a head," a witness reported. "The SS trained machine guns on us: 'If you don't go now, we'll shoot.' But by now we couldn't care less. We screamed 'you murderers!' and everything else. We bellowed. We thought that now, at last, we would be shot. Behind the machine guns a man shouted something ;maybe he gave a command. I didn't hear it, it was drowned out. But then they cleared out and the only sound was silence. That was the day it was so cold that the tears froze on my face."
     The headquarters of the Jewish section of the Gestapo was just around the corner, within earshot of the protesters. A few salvos from a machine gun could have wiped the women off the square. But instead the Jews were released. Joseph Goebbels, in his role as the Nazi Party Director for Berlin, decided that the simplest way to end the protest was to release the Jews. Goebbels chose not to forcibly tear Jews from Aryans who clearly risked their lives to stay with their Jewish family members, and rationalized that he would deport the Jews later anyway. But the Jews remained. They survived the war in Berlin, registered officially with the police, working in officially authorized jobs, and officially receiving food rations.
     The implications of this protest are that mass, public and nonviolent acts of noncooperation by non-Jewish Germans on behalf of German Jews could have slowed or even stopped the Nazi genocide of German Jews.. Not many Jews were saved. Yet when the (non-Jewish) German populace protested nonviolently and en masse, the Nazis made concessions. When Germans protested for Jews, Jews were saved.
     Although there were a few men in attendance, this was a protest by women; women were really the origin and the core of the protest. Women, traditionally, have felt responsible for home and family; to the women who were protesting, their families were, in some sense, their careers; to lose their families was to lose everything meaningful for them.

     At the protest in the Rosenstraße there was a flickering of a tiny torch, which might have kindled the fire of general resistance if Germans had taken note of the women on the Rosenstraße and imitated their actions of mass civil disobedience. Perhaps they did not do so because they were used to thinking that neither women, nor nonviolent actions, could be politically powerful.

                                   EINSATZTRUPPEN ON THE EASTERN FRONT
On 22 June 1941, a historically unprecedented invasion army of 3 million German soldiers and more than 600,000 Italian, Hungarian and Finnish troops plunged into the Soviet Union on an extended battlefront of 1,500 kilometres.The speed of the Wehrmacht's advance was extraordinary. Within two days of launching the invasion, Army Group North had captured the Baltic cities of Grodmo, Vilnius and Kaunas. By the end of June, Low had fallen, too. Army Group Centre pushed eastwards, towards taking Smolensk in mid-July, while Army Group South drove deep into the southern Ukraine. By the autumn the Wehrmacht had captured more than 3 million Soviet soldiers, the vast majority of whom would perish in German POW camps due to starvation, typhus and other infectious diseases.
There was the Commissar Order of June 1941 , which followed directly on the Barbarossa decree. It was called Instructions on the Treatment of Political Commissars, as well as 'other radical elements, saboteurs, propagandists,snipers, assassins, demagogues etc.

The target group of people to be executed was deliberately kept vague, but was clear that the formulation 'all Jews in the service of the  communist party and state was merely a coded reference in order to kill a nebulously defined Jewish upper class . It would largely left to the commando  leaders themselves to decide, who precisely would be included in this class, an approach that was once more highly characteristic of Heydrich's leadership style, which called for initiative without specifying exact aims, and which would contribute significantly to the rapid escalation of mass murder over the following weeks.

[In 1942, terror campaigns against the German territorial administration, staffed by local "collaborators and traitors" was additionally emphasized. This resulted, however, in definite divisions within the local civilian population, with the beginning of the organisation of anti-partisan units with native personnel in 1942. By November 1942, Soviet partisan units in Belarus numbered about 47,000 person,sic]


German photo showing alleged partisans hanged by the Germans in January 1943

In practice, the Einsatzgruppen found most of the political candidates for liquidation had fled. The great majority of executions in the first five weeks of Barbarossa were therefore aimed at those who were immediately accessible – Jewish males, particularly those in leadership positions and members of the intelligentsia. But late July 1941, the killing escalated to include all Jewish men, women and children. If there had ever been any doubt about what Nazi policy was to be in the Soviet Union, during the course of a conversation Hitler had with Göring, Lammers, Rosenberg and Keitel on 16 July 1941, it was now made abundantly clear. Victory over the Soviet Union was imminent. To create a "Garden of Eden" in the east, "all necessary measures – shootings, resettlements, etc." would be undertaken. It was fortunate that the Russians had given the order for partisan warfare, for "it gives us the opportunity to exterminate anyone who is hostile to us." Hitler did not issue an explicit order (he rarely did), but the intention was obvious. Within a week of this speech, Himmler had more than quadrupled the number of SS men operating behind the advancing German army. At least a further 11 battalions of Order Police were assigned to the HSSPF. Local auxiliaries in Selbstschutz battalions were recruited; they numbered 33,000 by the end of 1941, 165,000 by June 1942, and 300,000 by January 1943.
If the task of killing Soviet Jewry with the 3,000 men of the Einsatzgruppen had been impossible, by the end of July 1941, the manpower had become available for the execution of the task. By the end of 1941 between 500,000 and 800,000 Jews had been murdered – an average of 2,700 - 4,200 per day. 

                            Ghetto in Grodno
Ghetto in Grodno - Jews flooding the gates of Ghetto One during relocation action, November 1941

Heydrich's  Einsatzgruppen followed the Army's rear grimly determined to excel in carrying out the orders. Although Heydrich was to be informed daily of their progress through daily incidents reports, he and Himmler quickly decided that they would monitor their work first-hand. Eight days after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, on June 30th, they travelled from Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia to Grodno  in the former  Soviet-occupied part of Poland and Augustowo in recently conquered Lithuania, home of the largest Jewish community of the Baltic States. In Grodno, Heydrich was dismayed to find that, not a single representative of the Security Police or the SD was on hand. He issued a reprimand and a warning to the commando leader in charge of the area, ordering him to show greater flexibility in tactical operations and to keep pace with military advance. The commander of the Einsatzgruppe  B, Arthur Nebe, responded with an apology. Although 'only ninety-six Jews were liquidated' in the first few days of the occupation of Grodno  and Lida, he assured Heydrich that he had given orders 'that this must be greatly increased'. 'The implementation of the necessary liquidation was guaranteed under all circumstances'.
Meanwhile in Augustowo Heydrich and Himmler caught up with the Einsatzkommando 'Tilsit' under the command of Hans Joachim Böhme. Over the previous week Böhme and his men had engaged in various shootings of civilians and had come to Augustowo in order to initiate further 'routine actions' in the rear of the quickly advancing Wehrmacht. Both Himmler and Heydrich approved of these mass shootings 'in their entirety. Encouraged by the endorsement of their superiors, the  Einsatzkommando 'Tisit' shot more than 300 civilians that day, most of them Jewish men between the ages of seventeen abd forty-five. By 18 July, Böhme's unit claimed to have murdered a total of 3,300 victims.
[ Hans Joachim Böhme, born in Magdeburg in 1909, joined the Nazi party and the SS in 1933. As head of Einsatzkommando Tilsit, Böhme commanded the murder operations carried out in the occupied Baltic regions between 1941-1942. On October-December 1943, Böhme was head of the Security Police in Zhitomir, and from May 1944 until January 1945 he headed the Security Police and SD in Lithuania. In 1958, Böhme was put on trial in Ulm, Germany, for taking part in murder operations. He was sentenced to fifteen years and died in prison in 1960.sic].
On 11 July Himmler and Heydrich returned to Germany to view the progress of the Einsatzgruppen's extermination campaign. Both could see for themselves that the murder squads had overcome their passivity for which they had been critized on 30 June, when they arrived, mass  shootings of civilians took place in Grodno, Oshmiany and Vilius. In between thedse visits, Heydrich found distraction and solace in  daily fencing exercises, preparing himself for the German National Fencing Championship in Bad Kreusnach in August 1941  [where he came fith.sic]

Enter Picture: Heydrich in Fencing Gear

Heydrich's inspection tour to Grodno and the subsequent radicalization  of pacification measures that followed it, was indicative of a more  general pattern. Throughout the first weeks of the war against Soviet Russia, Himmler and Heydrich and other senior SS-Officers frequently visited  their men in the field and their inspection tours usually preceded  or coincided with an increase in the number of atrocities. While there is no hard evidence that either of them called directly for killing of unarmed civilians irrespective of  age or gender, Himmler's and Heydrich's mere presence appears to have led to an upsurge in the mass murders of Jewish civilians of the formerly Soviet-occupied territories. By approving what had happened already by encouraging their men to show more initiative, they made a decisive contribution to the swift escalation of mass murder. Radicalism and imitative were sure to receive praise, a lesson that was quickly learned by  Einsatzgruppen  officers along the Eastern Front.

Enter Pidture

German photo showing alleged partisans hanged by the Germans in January 1943

The killings consequently intensified over the course of the summer . From late June towards, nearly all Einsatzcommandos as well as a range of German Police Battalions along the entire front line began to shoot indiscriminately Jewish men of military age, often in hundreds even thousands at a time. These executions took place under a variety of pretexts, ranging from retribution for atrocities committed by Soviet Secret Services (NKDV)  to the punishment of looters and the support in the activities of partisans.

Enter Pictue: Picture: 
Partisans attack village.jpg

Soviet partisans take on a burning village trying to drive away German punitive expedition
Theatre of operations

With memories of clashes between the SS and the Wehrmacht in the occupied Poland still fresh, Heydrich had been concerned that tension over the execution might re-emerge and instructed leaders of the advance units to show the necessary political sensitivity in carrying out their tasks. His fears proved to be unfounded. Co-operation with the Wehrmacht was 'exelent', the first activity report of the Einsatzgruppen noted.  Individual complaints continued to be submittedto Army Commanders, but no widespread outrage similar to that in Poland occured.  When in August 1941, partisan activities behind German lines increase, the vastly overstretched German front began to burgeon, the Wehrmacht's willingness to tolerate and participate in atrocities fourther  increased. Manpower shortages on a rapidily overextended front went hand in hand with growing fears of partisan warfare.The responce to thios dilemma was greater 'pre-emptive' violence against ptential as well as real enimies.

Enter Picture:

Partisans in the forest near Polotsk, Byelorussian SSR, September 1943.

    Mass murder, was NOT, however, restricted to the SS task force. In numerous newly occupied territories, the SS succeeded in  unleashing pogroms carried out by local populations. On 29 June, presentably in response to the horrific pogrom which took place in Kaunas in late June and which cost the lives of 3,000  Jews, Heydrich reminded the task force commanders that self-cleaning efforts of anti-Communists or anti- Jewish groups in the occupied Soviet territories are not to e hindered. On the contrary, they were actively encouraged and indeed without leaving  a trace of German involvement so that they look like spontaneous outbursts of anti-Jewish rage. In the areas occupied by the Red Army from 1939 onwards, there is evidence of anti-Jewish pogroms in at least sixty towns, particularly in Lithuania, Latvia and the western Ukraine. Although estimates of victims vary, at least 12,000 and possibly as many as 24,000 Jews fell victim to these pogroms.

Enter Picture:

Despite his eagerness to use pogroms as an indicator of local hatred towards Jewish-Bolsheviks, Heydrich was also aware of the dangers inherent in his policy. Given the complex mix of nationalistic, opportunistic and anti-Semitic motives at work, pogroms continued an element  of basic ingredients recommended by the RSHA - instigating pogroms and making use of local collaborators without officially sanctioning their auxiliary function - did not strike any commanders in the field as a recipe for efficient occupation policy. On 1 July, following an inquiry from the Seventh Army under General Car-Heinrich von Stülpnagel, Heydrich elaborated on his previous order regarding the , non-prevention of self-cleaning measures by anti-Communist and anti-Jewish circles', partly to prevent an uncontrollable mushrooming of violence by non-Germans and partly to avoid clashes with the Wehrmacht. Heydrich  called it 'self evident that the cleaning actions have to be directed primarily against Bolshevists and Jews'. Poles on the other hand, were to be exempted for the time being, as Heydrich believed to be sufficiently anti-Semitic to be 'of special important initiators of pogroms'. Their long-term fate was to be decided at a later stage.

 [General Carl Heinrich von Stülpnagel despite his serious wounds (he tried to commit suicide and blinded himself) was found guilty in the planning to assassinate Hitler by the People's Court and sentenced to death, to be executed by hanging in Berlin-Plötzensee by hang,sic.]

The fate of Bolshevik Commissars, by contrast, was straightforward: when captured, they were to be shot immediately, although Heydrich managed to convince the Wehrmacht that, whenever possible, they should be interrogated by the SD and Abwehr Officers before their execution. Their statements, usually given after sustained periods of torture, helped Heydrich to give a clearer picture of the organisational structure and operational methods of the NKVD.
   For Heydrich, the German attack against the Soviet Union thus marked the end of a highly unsatisfactory period of stagnation in terms of both idealogical fulfilment and carer problems. Between the invasion of Poland and the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, he had failed to advance the influence of the SD and the Security Police in the occupied territories of Western Europe. Simultaneously, both the Germanisation of Western Poland and the Jewish question remained unresolved. Operation Barbarossa offered him a potential exit strategy from this stalemate. 

Enter epicure: Heyfrich's Death Mask

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      reinhard heydrich pictures                   

wikipedia new zealand
Breitman, Richard. The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991.
Fleming, Gerald. Hitler and the Final Solution. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.
Gilbert, Martin. The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985.
Robert Gerwarth Hitler's Hangman
MacDonald, Callum. The Killing of Reinhard Heydrich. New York: The Free Press, 1989.
Toland, John. The Last 100 Days. New York: Random House, 1966.
The World Book Encyclopedia. "Heydrich, Reinhard". 1988 Edition.