January 27, 2022

Lest We Forget

Mark Musser

On January 27, 1945, the Red Army took control of Auschwitz away from the Nazis, where more than one million Jewish victims were liquidated that comprised roughly 1/6 of all the murders committed during the Holocaust. Unlike the Operation Reinhard death camps of Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec, Majdankek, and Chelmo, which saw almost two million murders combined, Auschwitz functioned as both a concentration and a death camp. After the Operation Reinhard death camps had largely exterminated Polish Jewry by 1943, and since they had started to become a liability with the war effort swinging in favor of the Red Army, Auschwitz, located farther to the west, began killing more and more Jews as the war came to its final climax.

Less well known, most of the remaining prisoners at Auschwitz, together with many other concentration camp prisoners located throughout German occupied territories, were removed before the Soviets took control of the area. They were then forced to go on a brutal, winter death march to any number of other concentration camps located within Germany proper. The madness of this final march certainly contributed to the appalling conditions of the Nazi concentration camps witnessed by the Allies when they finally liberated them from German control in the early spring of 1945.

In the early years of the war, ghettoization, which hastened one million Jewish deaths alone, proved to be an economic, logistical, and medical nightmare for all involved - but the Nazis did it anyway. The shooting sprees of the Einsatzgruppen behind the Russian Front in the Baltics, Byelorussia, and Ukraine after Operation Barbarossa was unleashed claimed almost two million Jewish lives. However, it was an incredibly messy operation that required massive amounts of ammunition, not to mention manpower that could have been much better used on the front together with an untold number of deep grave pits that were dug out and then filled to the brim with dead bodies stacked like German cord wood - but the Nazis did it anyway.

As early as the summer of 1941, SS Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler informed camp commandant Rudolf Hoess that Auschwitz needed to start making plans to handle the imminent destruction of the Jews - which began using a more humane way of killing the Jews with gassing methods. In November 1941, Himmler was also in Mogilev, Byelorussia making very similar plans before the Battle of Moscow turned the tide in the East so that such plans had to be abandoned, which invariably meant Auschwitz would become more strategic as the war continued.

While the gassing methods became more widespread, its concentrated industrializati on created a gigantic problem with corpses. There are also records that show the SS was very concerned about how all of the dead bodies in various graves in the Auschwitz environs were poisoning local rivers and waterways. After they started to set fire to all the bodies in order to burn up the evidence of their great crimes, letters were written to air pollution administrators in Prussia asking how to handle smoke related to what they deemed to be the construction of heating plants.

In other words, in spite of all of the functional barriers, chaotic wartime exigencies, economic difficulties, massive population transfer and containment obstacles, devastating defeats on the great battlefields of World War II, among many other incredible snags and complications including environmental pollution, the Nazis still managed to murder six million Jews. All of this clearly demonstrates that the Nazi intention to kill the Jews was deep-seated and serious in spite of all of the unfavorable circumstances that stood in their way to implement the "Final Solution.”

The Jews were considered to dangerous to public health - viruses and bacterias. In the presence of Himmler, Hitler himself compared the Jews to a virus, saying: "The discovery of the Jewish virus is one of the greatest revolutions that have taken place in the world … we shall regain our health only by eliminating the Jew.”

Himmler also compared the Jews to lice, "As far as Anti-Semitism is concerned, it is exactly the same as with delousing. No question of Weltanschauung is involved in removing lice. It is a matter of cleanliness. . . . Soon we will be deloused."

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