The Holocaust: Biographies


Figure 1.--

We have begun to collect biographies of the people involved in the Holocaust. This includes pepetrators, victims, and heros. The perpetrators included both planners and those who carried out the instructions given them with varying drgrees of commitment. The planners were a small numbers. The primary planners were: Eichmann, Göring, Heydrich, Himmler, and Hitler. Those who actually carried out the Holicaust were a much lrger number. This included both the killers and those who to a varying degree made the killing posible or facilitated it. And there were manu ehi bnefitted from the Holocaust and who participated as well those who did not participate, but who had no real quams about what was being done to the Jews. Then there was the vast number of victims. There are believed to be about 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust. About half of European Jews suyrvived., most in countries not occupied by the NAZIs or those wjho managed to reach unoccupied areas. A tragically small number survived to tell their exoerirnces. Less well understood is tht the Jews were just the grouo mist reviled by the NAZIs. Other groups were targeted in the Holocaust such as the Gypsies. And there were other groups such as Slavs and Blacks that only the defeat of the NAZIs prevented a horific fate. The smallest group were the heroes, the people who dis what they could to save the Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. Many heros did not survice the Holocaust as helping Jews coukd result in death sentences.

Backe, Herbert (1896-1947)

Herbert Backe in the Ministry of Food (REEUL) is generally seen as the author of the NAZI Hunger Plan which is sometimes referred to as the Backe Plan. He was powerul force in the Ministry even before he was finally appointed Minister (May 1942). Hitler appears to have more confidence in Backe than the original minister, Daree. Many of the NAZI war criminals are very well known. The Hunger Plan which may have killed 4-5 million people, mostly Soviets, was one of the great crimes of the War. It was one element of Generalplan Ost that was actually implemented. Despite conceptulizing and implementing on of the great crikes of history, ouside historians spcializing in NAZI history, Backe is virtually unknown. Backe was born in Georgia, at the time a Tsarist province. With the outbreak of World War I, Tsarist officias interned him as an enemny alien. He managed to escape and get to Grmany duruing the Russian Civil War. He was at the time of World War II one of aising tier of young second level professionals in the NAZI Party. He was an advocate of invading and deindustrialing the Soviet Union. He wanted to demolish Soviet industry and eliminate the Soviet industrial work force. He thought that the Soviet Union should be turned back to an agricultural economy focused on produing what for western Europe. This coincided with Hitler's idea in Mein Kampf. There was no idea of taking comntrol of Soviet industry which ws substantial, bur rather retuning the East to an area of peasant agriculture. Backe was critical of Stalin's agriultural policy, wich was to seize control of it through collectivization and use the agricultural harvest to finance industriliztion. As a result, Soviet grain exports were only a fraction of Tsarist levels. This made Germany dependent of trans-Atlantuc grain (American, Argentine, and Canadian). Backe wanted to end this dependence by sezing control of Soviet grain production. In Backe's view this would create a continent Grossraumwirtschaft and an efficuent division of labor, an industrialized Western Europe and a peasant-based agricultural eastern Europe. This mean eliminating the uneeded urban population of the Soviet Union. Staatssekretär Backe took the lead role in this matter.

Churchill, Winston

Both Prime Mimister Churchill and resident Roosevelt have been accused of inaction on the Holocaust. Clearly not anyone did enough, but it is not accurate that Churchill did nothing, nr it is it clear just what Britain could have done to prevent the Holocaust. Until the War, Churchill was out of government, And like Roosevelt, Churchill was an early critic of Hitler and the NAZIS, een before Hitkr seized power. He was also a critic of Prime Minidter Baldwin's and Chanberlain's policy of appeasement amd limited defense spending. And Churchill took the side of the Jews as the NAZIs began to persecute them. He supported a boycott of German goods. He wrote in 1937 that a boycott was 'a perfectly legitimate use of their influence throughout the world to bring pressure, economic and financial, to bear upon the governments which persecute them'. Churchill was appointed Prime Minister as the Germans launched their Wester offensive (1940). He advicated allowing more Jewish refugees into Palestine. He told the Colonial Office that the government had 'to be guided by sentiments of humanity towards those fleeing from the cruellest forms of persecution'. He ordered the Colonial ffice nit to deport illegal refugees intercepted off Palestine to Mauritius. [Gilbert]

Eichmann, Adolf (1906-62)

SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Karl Adolf Eichmann was head of the Department for Jewish Affairs in the Gestapo (1941). Eichmann joined the Austrian NAZI Party before the NAZIs even seized power in Germany (1932). He subsequently joined the German SS before the Anschlus. His first assignment as an SS corporal was at the new Dachau concentration camp (1934). He also joined the SD, te SS Secirity Offivce, in the sme year. Here he attracted the attention of the top SS leaders, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. They soon put him to work on Jewish issies (1935). He began investigating possible solutions to the 'Jewish question'. Killing was not the primary sollution at first. He was dispached to Palestine to discuss thepossibility of large scale emigration to the Middle East. Hemet with Arab leaders which the Germans were trying to cultivate as apossivble allies aginst the British and French. British authorities sent him packing. After the Ansschluss, Himmler sent Eichmann to Vienna to promote Jewish emigration (March 1938). For this purpose and to efficently steal Jewish property, he established the Zentralstelle fuer juedische Auswanderung (Center for Jewish Emigration). Eichmann's work was so impressive that the SS sent up similar offices Prague (seized by the Germans in atch 93) and Berlin. Eichmann returned to Berlin from Vienna and was given the directorship of Jewish Affairs and Evacuation (Section IV B4) in the SD Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Office--RSHA). It was not Eichmann who made the decesion to kill the Jews, but it was Eichmann who was given the job of efficently cnducting the killing and to steal as much Jewish property as possible. To accomplish tihs goal, Eichmann after the killing had already begun, albeit in a chaotic and public fashion, organized the Wannsee Conference (January 1942). Himmler at this point was given the cetral responsibility for the deportation of European Jews to the death camps. He mastermind the efficent mangement of the logistics that sent some 3 million Jews to the death camps. He played an especially important role in the destructio of Hungarian Jews. After the NAZI surrender, Eichmann was arrested but not recognized and detained in an American internment camp. He managed to escape and reach Argentina which was willing to admit NAZI war criminals. He established a new life under the name of Ricardo Klement and lived there for 10 years. The Israeli Mossad founf him and abducted him him (1960). The Israelis put him on a public trial. The Iraeli court sentenced him to death. He was executed in Ramleh Prison (1962).

Frank, Hans (1900-46)

Hans Frank was born in Karlsruley (1900). He joined the German Army during World War I after reaching conscription age (1917). After the War like other young men with right-wing politics, he joined the Freikorps. He thus participated in the suppression of the Communist uprising in Munich. Soon afterwads he joined te NAZI Party. He was with Hitler in the Beer Hall Putsch (1924) Like Hitler he was not severely punished and studied law. He then became a legal adviser to Adolf Hitler and the NAZI Party. NAZI Party fortunes changed with the Depression (1929). Frank was one of the many NAZI deputies elected (1930). After Hitler was appointed Chancellor, he appointed Frank Minister of Justice in Bavaria (1933). Frank oversaw the brutal NAZI occupation of Poland. It is unclear why Hitlr chose him for the job, but his virulent anti-Semitism is certainly one of the reasons. After the War He denied responsibility for the mass killings of Jews. He did, unlike some other NAZI leaders express remorse for what he did in Poland. Many including his son Niklas doubt his sincerity.

Globocnik, Odilo (1904-45)

Odilo Globocnik was born in Trieste while it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1904). His parents ware Austrian–Slovenes. Such intermarriage was quite common in the cosmopolitan, multi-national Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was a Habsburg cavalry officer who became a senior postal official. His mother was born in Hungary. Globocnik did have grandmothers with German names. The family moved from Trieste (Italy) to Klagenfurt (Austria) after World War I. Sources vary as to just when they moved. As a young man he apparently sought work as a stone mason. He joined the Austrian NAZI Party (1931). He joined the SS (1934). His less than steller German credentials are interesting as the SS at first was very strict asbout membership, requiring geneological background searches. His pro-Nazi activities in Austria resulted in prison terms. Some believe he helped kill Jewish jeweller Norbert Futterweit (June 1933). Actual evidence is limited.) is open to speculation (Futterweit was killed in a Nazi bomb attempt in Wien). Globocnik helped form NAZI Party cells in the provinces. He was appointed provincial party leader in Kärnten (Carinthia) in recognition of his work (1936). He played an important role in the Anschluss (March 1938). Hitler gave him personal instructions at the Reichskanzlei (Reich's Chancellery) in Berlin. He thus received the key assignment as Gauleiter of Vienna (May 28). His performance as Gauleiter outraged even his SS superiors, not because of vicious attacks on Jews, but because he was athief. He was respnsible for financial irregularities such as setting up personsal accounts for funds extorted or sdtolen from Jews. He was also charged with mismanaging Party funds. He was removed (January 1939). In recognition of his contributions, however, he was not tried and sentenced. SS Reichführer Himmler not only pardoned him, but after the invasion and occupation of Poland appointed him SS- und Polizeiführer (SSPF) für den Distrikt Lublin (November 9, 1939) and promoted him from SS-Oberführer to SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor. He was thus responsible for SS and police matters in Lublin. Lublin was in Frank's General Government, but Himmler and Frank disagreed on many matters, thus there was tension between Globocnik and Frank. (This was often the case and reflected jurisdictional disputes between the NAZI Party and its gauleiters and Himmler's SS. Hitler to Himmler's frustration often supported the gauleiters who were for themost part old Party comrads.) Globocnik moved himself into a posh villa on Wieniawska Street in Lublin and by extoring and srtealing Jewish and Polish property lived a luxrious lifestyle. He was the mnost powerful man in the region, a region for rich Himmler had great plans. Globocnik soon surrounded himself with a several fellow Austrians who had worked with him in Carinthia. Killing Jews was, however, not one of the issues on which they disagreed. After the laubch of Barbarossa, Himmler appointed Globocnik as his "Plenipotentiary for the Construction of SS- and Police bases in the former Soviet areas" (July 1941). His base commanders were: Georg Michalsen (Riga), Kurt Classen (Bialystok and Minsk), Hermann Höfle (Mogilew), Richard Thomalla (Starakonstantinow, Zwiahel and Kiev). Hermann Dolp was also prominent in the construction of these bases at Minsk and Mogilew. Himmler also gave Globocnik orders to proceed with what would become Operation Reinhard. The five SS officers appointed as base commanders would play leading roles in Operation Reinhard.

Goebbels, Josef (1897-1945)

Hitler came to appreciate Josef Goebbels' talents from an early point despite his small stature and disability. He orderd Goebbels to Berlin which of all Geran cities was seen as a hot bed of left-wing politics. Some rferred to it as 'Red Berlin'. Goebbels assignment to orgabizw a NAZI presence in the German capital (1926). Even after the NAZI seizure of power and his appointment as Propganda Minister, he continued to be the Berlin Gauliter (1933). He immedately established NAZI control over artitic expression and began expelling Jews from any involvement in German meia and culture. He ordered Jewish writers, journalists, artists, musicians, actors and others fired. He used his total control of the news media to propagate NAZI ideology and especially anti-Semitism. He helped convince many Germans that the Jews had to be expelled from Germany. The ati-Semitism he spread was amajor factr in mking the Holocaust possible. And it was not just words. He lkyed a central role in Kristallnacht, using his position as Berlin Gauleter to order 'spontaneous' demonstrations. During the War he oversaw the deportation of Berlin's Jews. It is unclear to wht extent he had a persinal antipthy toward Jews as opposed toward Jews a opposed to using anti-Semitism to cement his reltionship with Hitler.

Göring, Herman (1893-1946)

Herman Göring was the son of a senior army officer. He himself joined the army (1913). When war broke out the next year, Göring was serving in the infantry. After a few months active duty, he was hospitalized, diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis of the knees. When released from the hospital he joined the German Army Air Service. His first dury was as an air observer, but he became a fighter pilot, shooting down his first Allied airplane November 16, 1915). When Manfred von Richthofen, the legendary Red Baron, was shot down Göring was appointed to lead the JG 1 squadron--the famed Flying Circus. Göring By the end of the war chalked up 22 victories and was awarded both the Iron Cross and the Pour le Merite (the highly coveted Blue Max) for bravery. Service as fighter pilots was the most dangerous assignment of the war. Most pilots were killed within a few weeks. To fly for 3 years meant that Göring was both very good and very lucky. He received considerable publicity and thus was well known in Germany after the War. He worked for a while in Holand as a pilot for the Fokker company. While in Holand he became acquainted with and married his wife--Baroness Karen von Fock-Kantzow. Göring returned to Germany (1923) and after attending a NAZI Party rally, became very impressed with Adolf Hitler. He soon became one og Hilter;s cloesest supporters. He was instrumental in Hitler's seizure of power (1933) and in the Night of the Long Knives (1934) which eliminated any threat to Hitler's ;eadership within the NAZI Party. Because of their close assciation and Göring's background as a World War I pilot, Hitler gave him the task of building the new German air force (1935). He was spectacularly successful and the new Lufwaffe played a prominent role in early NAZI successes, most prominetly at Munich (1938). Göring basked in the glory. Hitler made him his deputy and legal heir. Göring became richthrough various activities, including investments in aircraft companies. The Luftwaffe when war broke out (1939) played key roles in the initial NAZI victories: Poland (1939), Norway (1940), and France (1940). His pledge to destroy the British at Dunkirk was his first major failure. This was followed by the Luftwaffee's defeat in the Nattle of Britain (1940). This seriously affected his relationship with Hitler. The Luftwaffe performed brilisntly in the opening phase of Barbarossa (1941), but the Eastern Front was too large to exert the decisive impact that it played in the West. Attempting to regain his lost influence, Göring pledged to supply the Stalingrad pocket without any consulation with his staff (1942). Hitler used this to refuse pleas from Wehrmacht geneals to order a breakout. The Luftwaffe airlift proved a disaster and ednded any creditibility and influence Göring had with Hitler. The expanding Allied stategic bombing campaign even widenened the breach.

Heydrich, Heydrich (1904-42)

T he 20th Century saw its shares of historical villans. Reinhard Heydrich has to be close to the top of the list. Reinhard Heydrich saw himself as a military man. He was, however, cashiered by the Navy. He was disdainful pf politics. H looked on the NAZIs which by 1930 had become the largest party in Germany, with particular disdain. The NAZI Brown shirts (SA) had given the NAZI Party a reputation of bar-room brawlers, looked down on my many educated Germans. Under his wife influence, however, his attitude began to change. Then a friend who was also a NAZI suggested that he apply for an impotant position that had become available, the director of security. Heydrich joined the NAZI Party (June 1931). Heydrich's friend told him told him that the opening was in the SS--a very different group than the SA. Himmler put Heydrich in charge of the SS security sevice--the SD. His assignment was to prevent spying from the opposition and collect useful information on the NAZI's political foes. He was also assigned to find disent within the Part. He soon was also collecting useful information on party members and allies as well. He began compiling this information by hand on index cards. At first he did this work himself. The NAZIs were not yet in power and resources were limited. He had no staff and even had to borrow a typewritter for his own use. White Hitler worked to seize power, Heydrich labored builduing the SD. Heydrich, is today known to the world as "The Hangman". He is considered by most to be the architect of the Holocaust. Adolf Eichmann is often seen as the director of the Holocaust. Eichmannwas in fact was primarily the administrator working on logistical problems. It is Heydrich more than any other single individual who planned the Holocaust and set the machinery of industrial killing in motion. Only his assasination by British agents prevented him from seeing it through to fruition. And he would have been central to plans being prepared for the Slavs. He was beginning plans for an ethnic cleaning operation in Czechoslovakia aimed at deporting the Czechs. Heydrich at the time of his death was the third most powerful individual in NAZI Germany and in all liklihood if he had lived and the NAZIs had won the War would have been the second Führer.

Himmler, Heinrich (1900-45)

SS Reichführer Himmler represents the true embodiment of evil in the 20th century. He grew up in a middleclass German family. His father was the headmaster at a gymnasium (academically selective seconadry school). He could be extremely cruel to the boys in psychological ways. One boy remembers how he and his brother were expelled by being pubically humiliated before the class when their farher could not pay the school fees. His father had an interest in romanticised German history which hr passed on to his son. Heireich and his brothes were outfitted in dresses and sailor suits as boys. Heinrich was not a brilliant student, but did very well because he was extremely diligent. He was dissapointed in World War I becaue he did not complete officer cadet training before the War ended. One biograpger mainatins that although he was strongly anti-semmetic that the Holocaust was forced on him by Hitler from above and Heydrich from below.

Hitler, Adolf (1889-1945)

Adolf Hitler is arguably the most evil individual in modern history. The tendency today is to view Adolf Hitler as both evil and mad. Evil he was, mad he was not. Adolf Hitler was a sewred and resourceful politician who constantly out maneuered his opponents as he rose to power in Germany. After seizing power in Germany he became enormously popular through a combination of dynamic action, charisma, control of the media, and brutal supression of the opposition. He brought many Germans just what he had promissed, jobs, national prestige, and the return of German territory lost in the Versailles Treaty. His success and dynamism also made him greatly admired throughout Europe where many began to question the benefits of democratic government. Had Hitler not launvched World War II he today would be seen as the greatest chancellor of Germany by many Germans. Ironically it was a war that Hitler coveted. He saw war as the greatest of all human endevors and benfeficial for the human species. And it was war that would brring about dissaster for Hitler and the German people who supported him.

Höss, Rudolf (1900-47)

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss was born in Baden-Baden in southwest Germany (1900). He trained for the priesthood. His father's unexpected death and the outbreak of World War I changed his plans. He joined the German army at a young age (1916). He was wounded three times and was twice awarded the Iron Cross. After the War he joined the East Prussian Free Corps (Freikorps) (1920). He was involved in suppression of disturbances in Latvia and in quelling worker demonstrations in the Ruhr. Still involved with the Freikorps, he met Adolf Hitler (1922). He was deeply moved by Hitler. He not only joined the NAZI Party, but renounced his affiliation with the Catholic Church. When France and Belgium entered and occupied the Upper Rhine region (1923), Höss was involved in the assassination of Freikorpsman Walter Kadow. He was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released as part of the general amnesty (1928). Höss joined the SS (1933). He was was assigned to the Dachau Concentration Camp. Himmler appointed him adjutant of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp (1938). He was thge josen to be the Kommandant of the new Auschwitz Concentrtin Camp which was created as a work camp (early 1940). Himmler met with Höss and told him that Hitler had given orders for the final solution of the Jewish question and that "I have chosen the Auschwitz camp for this purpose." (May 1941) Höss converted a small part of Auschwitz for that purpose--the BirkenauVernichtungslager. Höss oversaw the constructin of gas chambers and crematoria which had the capcity to kill some 2,000 people in an hour. Höss despite the horrors he was perpetrating wrote poetry about the 'beauty' of Auschwitz.

Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier, Lili

The album was found by Lili Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier, a Hungarian Jews and Auschwitz survivor. Lili was was deported with her family after the Germans invaded Hungary to Auschwitz (late-May 1944). The family lived in Bilke a small town near Berehovo in Transcarpathian Rus. Today it is Bil'ki in Ukraine. Her father was a cattle dealer. Jewsin the area were forcd into a ghetto. The Germans in late-May told the Jews that they were being sent to a resettlement camp and ordered to gather a few posssions. They were transported in closed box cars to Auschwitz-Birkenau. They arrived in Birenau (May 26, 1944). This happend to be a day that SS photographers photographed the arrival of the transports and the unloading and selection process on the Birkenau rail ramp. Lili was 17 years old when she arrivd. Thefamily like the others ws divided by the by the guards and ramp workers. She describes how "three brothers went to the left with my father and the two youngest went to the right with my mother." She continues, "Me, they selected out. I looked like I would work. I ran back to my mother. The guard noticed me and ran back He beat names. He stabbed me in the arm with a bayonet. I never saw my parents again." Lililater testified against the guard in a 1964 trial in a German court in Frankfurt. And she still bears the scar of the bayonet wound. Lili managed to survive Auschwitz and subsequent forced labor in Morchenstern, a Gross-Rosen subcamp. She was ultimately transfered to Dora-Mittelbau where she was liberated. She discovered the album containing these photographs in a drawer of a bedside table in an abandoned SS barracks used as aheathy facitity for displaced persons. She was recovering from typhus. Lili first noticed a photograph of her rabbi but then also discovered a photo of herself, many of her neighbors, and relatives. One of the most poignent photographs is one of Lili's younger broters, Yisrael and Zelig, looking frightened and bewildered. She never saw any of her family again. She brought the album with her when she immigrated to the United States. It was all she had of her family. The album may have belonged to Richard Baer, the commandant of Auschwitz at the time the Hungarian Jews arrived, but also the commander of Dora-Mittelbau, where Lili discovered the album. Lili kept the album and showed it to interested parties. The album's existen was known or some time. A few of the original pictures, presumably those given by Lili Jacob-Zelmanovic Meier,who discovered the album, to survivors who had identified relatives in the photographs, have been removed. One such photograph has been returned and donated to Yad Vashem. Lilibrought it as part ofher testimony at the Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt (1960s). Finally NAZI-hunter Serge Klarsfeld visited her (1980) and convinced her to donate the album to Yad Vashem in Israel. The Album is now archived there.

Roosevelt, Franklin

American President Frnklin Roosevelt has been criticized for inaction on the Holocaust. That isessentially the case. Less clear is precisely what the President could have done to save European Jews. President Roosevelt was highly critical of Adolf Hitler and the NAZIs from the earliest point of his presidency. He was elected before Hitler was appointed Chancellor and took office about a month after Hitler became Chancellor. There is little the President could do at the time to resist Hitler's seizure of power or creation of a police state in Germany. Even if he had wanted to intervene as Hitler began to move toward war, the Pesident faced a powerful Isolation Movement determined to prevent American involvement in European affairs. Critics point out that one action that the President could have taken was to propose legislation to Congress to allow increased Jewish immigration, providing a refuge for those fleeing NAZI persecution. Jewish immigration before the War could not be increased without Congressional apporival. The Congress was not in mood to increase immigration quotas given the high rate of unemoloyment. And any majoreffort by the President would have opened him to criticim from Lindburg and other Islationists who were chrging that the Jews were attempting to drag America into anther European War. The fight with the Isolkatnsts was a close one and a vital one. Americaentered the War unprepared, but the President was not only able to begin preparations and aid to the Allies. After the War began it is not clear just what was known and what could be done. There were reports reaching London and Washington, but confirming such reports during war is a very difficult thing. We now know what the NAZIs did, but it was such a horendous undertaking that few believed that these reports were accurate. After the German defeat of the French Army and the massive victories against the Red Army at the onset of Barbarossa, doomd the Jews in NAZI hands. There is no way te Holocaust could have been prevented. The Allies were barely able to prevent a German invasion of Britain and and victory in the East. It is a fair criticism that the Allies did not publicize what was known. Actual action, however, was impossible. The Allies did not gain air suerority over the Reich until Spring 1944 and by that time most of the killing was done. The Hungarian Jews ere the only large Jewish population left intact. Here there is some room for criticism, although the possibility of America's capabilities are commonly over stated. What is indisputable is that at the time of World War II there were abourt 12 million Jews in Euroe and North Africa and the Middle East. Hit;er and the NAZIs killed half of those Jews, but half survived. They were saved by the Allied victory in the War. AndPresident Roosevelt lyed a key role in that victory.

Sources

Gilbert, Martin. 'Churchill and the Holocaust' BBC History internet page (Fevruary 17, 2011).






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Created: 10:05 PM 6/27/2012
Last updated: 12:10 AM 7/11/2014