As a result of this lesson, students will:
Key Glossary Terms:
The following glossary terms are used in Lesson 9.
Lecture: “The ‘Final Solution’” (45 minutes)
Reading: Reading 9A, “Outline: The ‘Final Solution’”
NOTE TO TEACHER: The lecture in Lesson 7 detailed the events leading toward the “Final Solution.” This lecture continues with the “Final Solution.”
The “Final Solution" was the annihilation of the Jews. It began to take form with the invasion of Poland in 1939 and the institution of ghettos in 1940. Its last stage began in June 1941, when Germany broke the Nazi-Soviet Pact and invaded the Soviet Union, establishing six death camps in Poland. (see map)
Einsatzgruppen: These four SS units, ranging in size from 500 to 1,000 men, were special mobile units established by a secret decree from Hitler in March 1941, when plans were being made for the invasion of the Soviet Union. These were elite, hand-picked soldiers. They were well-educated and tested beforehand to screen out vicious killers.
Gas Vans: Each time, about 40 to 50 Jews were herded from their towns and villages, told they were being taken to do work and then forced into sealed vans. As a truck drove off pulling the van, the carbon monoxide from the exhaust was funneled back into the van. With rare exception, all those in the van were killed by the fumes.
Mass Shootings: The Einsatzgruppen rounded up Jews, made them dig mass graves and shot them so they would fall into the graves they had dug.
Results of the Secret Directive and the Einsatzgruppen: By November 1942, when their special tasks stopped, 1.4 million Jews had been murdered along with thousands of Gypsies, Communist officials and partisan fighters.
NOTE TO TEACER: It was at this point that the Nazi leaders, especially, Himmler, decided that a different method was needed to capitalize on the “golden opportunity” to kill all the Jews of Europe. Sending the killers to the victims, while it had been successful in killing almost one and one-half million people, was finally proving counterproductive. The planners and technicians decided then to send the victims to the killers. The plans for killing centers or death camps evolved from the experience of the Einsatzgruppen.
The Decisive Order: Just after the invasion of the Soviet Union, Hitler ordered the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”
“I hereby charge you with making all necessary preparations with regard to organizational and financial matters for bringing about a complete solution to the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe. Wherever other government agencies are involved, they are to cooperate with you.”
The Perpetrators: Perpetrators refers to those who participated in the process of destruction that was the “Final Solution.”
Bureaucrats: A bureaucrat is an official who adheres to rules and regulations.
Civil servants, lawyers, accountants, SS officers, businessmen and others, each using his own expertise, developed plans to help carry out different aspects of the “Final Solution.” This included devising techniques for removing, relocating, concentrating (ghettoizing) and then killing Jews.
Each bureaucrat had a specific task and did not follow the process beyond his prescribed duty. For example,
The aim of the efficiency experts and bureaucrats was to get the victims to the killers as quickly as possible and with the least number of difficulties.
The camps were designed by architects and built by technicians, plumbers, construction engineers and other civilians who placed bids with the SS to see who would get the government contracts.
The most difficult manual labor was done by concentration camp prisoners, usually Poles or Germans, and later, Jews.
Steps toward Extermination: The technicians, administrators, efficiency experts and others devised step-by-step plans for the annihilation of the Jews.
Registration: Jews in the ghettos were required to register with Jewish Councils so that population records could be kept.
Deportation: As the quotas and timetables for death were set by German officials, the Jewish Councils were ordered to have large numbers of Jews report at specific times to the railroad stations in each ghetto.
No Jews knew about the death camps. In 1942, many Germans were also unaware of the program of murder the bureaucrats had devised.
Railroads: The German National Railways were the key to the success or failure of the “Final Solution.” Without proper transportation, carefully organized and regulated, the deportation of millions of people would have been impossible.
Scheduling: In the middle of the war, the scheduling of trains was critical. Priorities had to be assigned; troop trains and war equipment had to receive top priority and were given first access to the rails.
This meant that signalmen and other railway officials at those stations had to make arrangements for each train.
Trained bureaucrats, often men with college degrees in engineering or physics, carefully plotted formulas for the speeds of trains and scheduled them - without the use of computers.
An estimated 100,000 railroad employees were involved in the scheduling and transporting of more than four million Jews to death camps.
Cost: The German National Railways charged for every passenger over age four.
Sometimes the Jewish Councils were charged for the train costs. At other times, Jews were told to bring money to the train stations to pay for their journey.
Railroad officials kept a count of the numbers of Jews herded onto the cattle cars so the railway company could charge the SS the correct fee.
The SS was given excursion or group rates by the official state travel agency (the MITTEL-EUROPAEISCHE REISEBUERO or Middle-Europe Travel Bureau), which continued to handle tourist groups going to beaches in France or Greece while sending Jews to gas chambers in Poland.
All such “special trains”—the vacation trains as well as the death ones—received excursion rates and were directed by the same bureaucrats. Children under ten, on vacation trains or death trains, rode half-fare and children under four rode for free.
Deception was maintained at every step. The “Final Solution” was to be kept a state secret. Those among the German bureaucracy and SS who knew about the death camps were sworn to secrecy upon penalty of death. Yet, eventually, news of the train transports and Auschwitz, many knew that the camps were places where Jews were mistreated, poorly fed, worked to exhaustion and killed. The scope of the atrocities and death, however, was not even imagined—not by Jews, Poles or most Germans.
Business as Usual: almost all the railroad workers were aware of the “cargo” and destinations of the death trains. Yet, each focused solely on the narrow task of his job.
Millions of law-abiding citizens, concerned with their careers and the lives of their families, continued their routine jobs. Many of those jobs and those citizens were now in the service of the destruction process, the murder of the Jews of Europe. Business as usual made the Holocaust possible.
Assign Reading 9B “Background to Auschwitz” Have students:
Assign Reading 9C, “Daily Log” and 9D, “Calorie Tally”
Distribute a copy of Reading 9C, the “Daily Log”, or have students follow the same format in constructing their own daily log. Have students record their activities: waking, washing, going to the bathroom, eating, working, relaxing, etc., by following the instructions at the top of the log. Students should also list the foods they consumed, and use Reading 9D, “Calorie Tally,” to calculate the number of calories consumed. This assignment is due at the beginning of Lesson 11.
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