Did the Generals know?

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
Ship of Fools
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Post by Ship of Fools » 27 Jul 2007 20:02

Sorry, is this supposed to constitute some kind of proof? A man who was not involved in the project was a Soviet spy. "It is no secret that...". I guess we can with equal certainty construct an argument that all these transcripts are the result of an ingenious use of aspiring English Literature graduate students on a creative writing course. It is after all no secret that these courses were run in wartime London, and we know that Evelyn Waugh was in the Army at the time.


There is an adage in the field I work in: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". However British intelligence was infiltrated is simply a historical fact.

I had to confess I never considered the possibility of Evelyn Waugh's involvement as I thought he was stationed in the Balkans mostly. Nevertheless the extremely long monologue of Werner Bruns does seem a little bit like out of Black Mischief
http://www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/docs/Bruns/CSDICb.html

This was to serve as clothing for our suffering population - and then a little further on they had to undress and, 500 m in front of the wood, strip completely; they were only permitted to keep on a chemise or knickers. They were all women and small two year-old children. Then all those cynical remarks! If only I had seen those tommy-gunners, who were relieved every hour - because of over-exertion, carry out their task with distaste, but no, nasty remarks like: "Here comes a Jewish beauty!" I can still see it all in my memory: a pretty woman in a flame-coloured chemise. Talk about keeping the race pure: at RIGA they first slept with them and then shot them to prevent them from talking.


I wonder if this served as inspiration for Spielberg's famous little girl in the red dress. Or if there is some cultural motif that both were unconsciously drawing on?

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Post by steve248 » 27 Jul 2007 20:33

1) From the information available the audio recordings were on metal wire; in the hot desert, some of the recording devices were placed in tent poles.
2) The interrogation of POWs was the duty of Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centres (CSDIC) - part of military intelligence as MI 19; the staff were from British armed forces inc in the latter stages of the war both commissioned and non-commissioned German and Austrian Jews and non-Jews.
3) Distribution of the reports varied; in the early stages maybe 6-7-8 copies, by 1944 sometimes 70 copies. Recipients were across the intelligence agencies (inc US from 1943) and various branches of the military establishment.
4) The "atrocity" topics are usually an aside to the conversations; the interrogators made no effort to stimulate discussions about them. In a sense most of the "atrocity" topics are hearsay and only rarely a real witness to the event. Boasting of knowledge is more typical.
5) I believe the only eavesdropping that turned into a Nuremberg witness appearance was Wehrmacht Generalmajor Walter Bruns who was heard on 25 April 1945 discussing his observation of the Nov 1941 mass execution of Jews from the Riga ghetto in a nearby forest; Bruns was captured on 8 April 1945, just 17 days before and obviously prayed on his mind. Incidentally this report had 56 copies for the War Office and 9 copies for (British) Naval intelligence; the first page of this eavesdropping report can be found on page 98 of "U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis" publ by US National Archives, 2004 - a second revised edition has since been published and still widely available. I don't think it is very expensive. The reproduction shows the typical report used throughout the war.

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Post by David Thompson » 27 Jul 2007 21:24

Ship of Fools -- You wrote:
There is an adage in the field I work in: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence".

No, and it's not evidence of presence either. An absence of evidence means there isn't any. Consequently, there's no factual basis for an inference, as in your statement:
We would also have to be certain that the famous infiltration of communist leaning and Soviet friendly intelligence personal at this time, which was to blow up so splendidly in the 1950s and 1960s, was not having an early, as yet unrecognised, effect.

Where a speculation is itself uncertain and unsupported by any evidence, there's no reason to try to disprove it at all, much less disprove it to a certainty.

The issue here is whether the transcripts are reliable for historical purposes. In this case, there are no factual indications that anyone involved in the eavesdropping program was a Soviet agent. There's no factual indication that any of the documents were actually distorted -- by communist spies or anybody else. No one has suggested any practical or functional reason to explain why the hypothetical Soviet "moles," if indeed there were any, would go to the trouble of deliberately altering or fabricating such conversations.

This leaves us with official and contemporaneous records of the British government, compiled for internal use and not for publication, of intercepted conversations between captured German officers. Without any evidence to indicate that there's something wrong with them, they're presumptively reliable. Of course, if someone comes up with evidence to rebut the presumption of reliability, the issue can always be revisited.

steve248
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Post by steve248 » 28 Jul 2007 07:35

"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" can be coupled with "Wanting to believe is not the same as knowing".

What was it Donald Rumsfeld said about "we don't know what we don't know". Sums up intelligence work succinctly.

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Hitler's Generals: Proof they knew about the Holocaust

Post by Potsdamerplatz » 06 Aug 2007 22:51

The Genocide Generals: secret recordings explode the myth they knew nothing about the Holocaust

During the latter half of World War II, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) undertook a massive clandestine operation of which the full, extraordinary details are only now coming to light.

Between 1942 and 1945, a section of SIS - known as MI19 - secretly recorded no fewer than 64,427 conversations between captured German generals and other senior officers, all without their knowledge or even suspicion. The 167 most significant of these are about to be published for the first time.

Together, they provide us with a goldmine of information about what the German High Command privately thought of the war, Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and each other.

They also explode the post-war claim of the Wehrmacht that they did not know what the SS were doing to the Jews, Slavs, mentally disabled and others among what they termed "untermensch" (sub-humans).

The Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (CSDIC) was based in Trent Park, a magnificent estate once owned by the Sassoon family, near Cockfosters in North London. It was here that German senior officers were brought for internment once they were captured.

Then a huge top-secret operation swung into play, involving several hundred recording technicians, stenographers, transcribers and interpreters, not to mention stool-pigeons and agents provocateurs whose job it was to stimulate conversations between German generals, brigadiers and colonels.

A number of ruses were employed to encourage the Germans to speak to one another in one of the 12 rooms in the common areas of the house that were wired for sound. Luftwaffe commanders were mixed with Wehrmacht generals; newspapers and radios were used to pass on snippets of news from the front. Occasionally, Lord Aberfaldy - a CSDIC agent posing as a welfare officer -would simply bring up subjects that might provoke debate once he had left the room.

The astonishing success of the operation can be measured in the sheer number - and the extreme candour - of the conversations that ensued. To read the transcripts today is to be reminded of some of the worst horrors of World War II.

Of course, British Intelligence wanted above all to discover operational secrets by eavesdropping on their captives recognising that this method might yield results that direct, face-to-face interrogations would not. But they also heard evidence of sustained mass atrocities, especially on the Eastern Front.

Attempts to suggest that genocide was solely the responsibility of the SS and Nazi fanatics, and not widespread across the whole Wehrmacht, completely collapse before the evidence of these recordings.

Although most of the generals at Trent Park were captured in North Africa, Italy and France, it is clear they knew perfectly well what was happening throughout the Third Reich and its occupied territories.

Between 1939 and 1945, no fewer than 10,191 German and 567 Italian prisoners passed through Trent Park and its two related POW listening centres. Some of the conversations, originally recorded on gramophone discs, are only half a page in length; the longest is 22 pages.

Even General Dietrich von Choltitz - who has had the reputation of being a "good" German ever since he refused to carry out Hitler's orders to destroy Paris - is implicated by these transcripts of killing Jews in the Crimea in 1941 and 1942.

None of the generals had the slightest idea that they were being listened to. And it is only now that we can read verbatim what they actually said to one another, giving us an intimate glimpse into the mind of the German High Command as it dawned on them that they were likely to lose the war.

Several of these officers wrote to Churchill towards the end of the war, offering a "renewal" of Germany "in the spirit of Western Christianity", but the transcripts expose their hypocrisy.

Another example of this was their criticism of Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus for surrendering Stalingrad - for if they themselves had not all surrendered, they would not have been at Trent Park.

Some of the generals were genuine anti-Nazis, and were delighted when one of their number, Count Claus von Stauffenberg, attempted to assassinate Hitler on July 20, 1944, because they believed that his glorious failure would save the honour of the Wehrmacht officer corps.

The contempt that von Choltitz had for the arch-Nazi General Reinecke, who had helped condemn Stauffenberg after the plot was discovered, is palpable: "Such a common commercial traveller, such a vulgar horrible fellow!"

Yet these unguarded, seemingly-private conversations do not protect the honour of the German officer corps, since it is obvious that almost all of them knew of the Holocaust, right to the top of the High Command.

General von Thoma, who commanded a panzer division in Russia before being captured at El Alamein, told the pro-Nazi General Ludwig Cruwell in January 1943: "I am actually ashamed to be an officer."

He related how he had spoken to the Army Chief of Staff, General Franz Halder, about the atrocities, only to be told: "That's a political matter, that's nothing to do with me."

So he put his protests in writing to Army Commander-in-Chief General Walther von Brauchitsch, who said: "Do you want me to take it further? If you want me to take it further, anything might happen."

Thoma said of those who believed the Fuhrer was ignorant of what was happening: "Of course, he knows all about it. Secretly, he's delighted. Of course, people can't make a row - they would simply be arrested and beaten if they did."

The kind of things that were happening to Poles, Russians and especially Jews were common currency in the 'private' conversations at Trent Park.

In December 1944, Generalleutnant Heinrich Kittel, commander of 462 Volksgrenadier division, told Generalmajor Paul von Felbert, commandant of Feldkommandantur 560: "The things I've experienced! In Latvia, near Dvinsk, there were mass executions of Jews carried out by the SS."

"There were about 15 SS men and perhaps 60 Latvians, known to be the most brutal people in the world. I was lying in bed one Sunday morning when I kept hearing two salvos followed by small-arms fire."

On investigating, Kittel found "men, women and children - they were counted off and stripped naked. The executioners first laid all the clothes in one pile. Then 20 women had to take up their position - naked - on the edge of the trench. They were shot and fell down into it."

"How was it done?" asked Felbert.

"They faced the trench," Kittel replied. "And then 20 Latvians came up behind and simply fired once through the back of their heads, and they fell down forwards into the trench like ninepins."

Kittel gave an order forbidding such executions from taking place "outside, where people can look on. If you shoot people in the wood or somewhere where no one can see," he told the SS men, "that's your own affair. But I absolutely forbid another day's shooting here. We draw our drinking water from deep springs; we're getting nothing but corpse water there."

"What did they do to the children?" asked Felbert. Kittel - who sounded "very excited" at this point, according to the transcriber - answered: "They seized three-year-old children by the hair, held them up and shot them with a pistol and then threw them in. I saw that for myself. One could watch it."

Another general, Generalleutnant Hans Schaeffer, commander of the 244 Infantry division, asked Kittel: "Did they weep? Have the people any idea what's in store for them?"

"They know perfectly well," replied Kittel. "They are apathetic. I'm not sensitive myself, but such things turn my stomach."

Later on, however, Kittel mused: "If one were to destroy all the Jews of the world simultaneously, there wouldn't remain a single accuser," and "Those Jews are the pest of the east!"

"What happened to the young, pretty girls?" asked Felbert, when the subject turned to concentration camps. "Were they formed into a harem?"

"I didn't bother about that," Kittel answered. "I only found that they did become more reasonable. The women question is a very shady chapter. You've no idea what mean and stupid things are done."

In another conversation later that same day, Kittel told Schaefer about Auschwitz: "In Upper Silesia, they simply slaughtered the people systematically. They were gassed in a big hall. There's the greatest secrecy about all those things."

Later still, he said: "I'm going to hold my tongue about what I do know of these things." He little suspected that his every word was being recorded, transcribed and translated.

The following February, Generalmajor Johannes Bruhn, Commander of the 533 Volksgrenadier Division, discussed the Holocaust with Felbert, saying: "I must assume, after all I have read about the Fuhrer, that he knew all about it."

"Of course he knew all about it," replied Felbert. "He's the man who is responsible. He even discussed it with Himmler."

"Yes," said Bruhn. "That man doesn't care a hoot if your relatives are annihilated."

"That man doesn't care a damn," agreed Felbert.

The following month, Bruhn - one of the few generals to emerge with credit from these conversations - said he believed that Germany did not deserve victory any longer, "after the amount of human blood we've shed knowingly and as a result of our delusions and blood lust. We've deserved our fate."

In reply, Generalleutnant Fritz von Broich said: "We shot women as if they had been cattle. There was a large quarry where 10,000 men, women and children were shot. They were still lying in the quarry. We drove out on purpose to see it. It was the most bestial thing I ever saw."

It was then that General von Choltitz, the "saviour" of Paris, spoke of the time he was in the Crimea and was told by the CO of the airfield from where he was flying: "Good Lord, I'm not supposed to tell, but they've been shooting Jews here for days now." Choltitz estimated that 36,000 Jews from Sebastapol alone were shot.

"Let me tell you," General Count Edwin von Rothkirch und Trach told General Bernhard Ramcke on March 13, 1945, "the gassings are by no means the worst."

"What happened?" asked Ramke. "To start with, people dug their own graves, then the firing squad arrived with tommy-guns and shot them down. Many of them weren't dead, and a layer of earth was shovelled in between. They had packers there who packed the bodies in, because they fell in too soon. The SS did that."

"I knew an SS leader there quite well, and he said: 'Would you like to photograph a shooting? They are always shot in the morning - but if you like, we still have some and we can shoot them in the afternoon sometime.'"

Three days later, at Trent Park, Colonel Dr Friedrich Von der Heydte told Colonel Eberhard Wildermuth about the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia: "Half a million people have been put to death there for certain. I know that all the Jews from Bavaria were taken there. Yet the camp never became over-crowded. They gassed mental defectives, too."

"Yes, I know," replied Wildermuth. "I got to know that for a fact in the case of Nuremberg - my brother is a doctor at an institution there. The people knew where they were being taken."

"We must uphold the principle of only having carried out orders," suggested Generalleutnant Ferdinand Heim. "We must stick to that principle if we are to create a more or less effective defence."

As the war progressed, the Trent Park internees divided between Nazis and anti-Nazis. Some of the Nazis' fanaticism was undimmed by the way the war was going.

"What do I care about Good Friday?" asked Generalmajor Wilhelm Ullersperger, who had been captured during the Ardennes offensive in the last days of 1944. "Because a filthy Jew was hanged umpteen years ago?"

Generalmajor Walther Bruns recalled the attitude of the members of the firing squad who killed thousands of Jews in Riga: "All those cynical remarks! If only I had seen those tommy-gunners, who were relieved every hour because of over-exertion, carry out their task with distaste, but not with nasty remarks like: 'Here comes a Jewish beauty!'

"I can still see it all in my memory - a pretty woman in a flame-coloured chemise. Talk about keeping the race pure. At Riga, they first slept with them and then shot them to prevent them from talking."

Meanwhile, Colonel Erwin Josting of the Luftwaffe recalled an Austrian friend being asked by a lieutenant: "Would you like to watch? An amusing show is going on down here; umpteen Jews are being killed off."

Josting continued: "The barn was full of women and children. Petrol was poured over them and they were burned alive. You can't imagine what their screams were like."

After the publication of this extraordinary, horrific but compelling collection of secretly-recorded conversations, the alibi of the German High Command - that they did not know what the SS were up to, and anyhow they were, as Heim put it, "only carrying out orders" - is shown to be demonstrably false.

To make it all the more powerful, the evidence for this comes not from the prosecution, or from "victors' justice" as it is sometimes accused of being.

Instead, out of their own mouths, they are condemned before the bar of history.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/f ... ge_id=1879

More information on this will be available soon in a book called "Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts Of Secret Conversations 1942-45", edited by Sonke Neitzel with an introduction by Ian Kershaw. Published in August 2007.

If these recordings are genuine then many of the leading German Generals who professed ignorance of the atrocities being committed in Poland and Russia are exposed as liars.

Best regards.

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 06 Aug 2007 23:25

A comment -- now superfluous -- by Penn44 on the fact that we had a pre-existing thread on this topic and Potsdamerplatz's reply that he had been away from the forum for awhile, were deleted following the merging of two threads -- DT

Potsdamerplatz
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Post by Potsdamerplatz » 06 Aug 2007 23:31

Ahf wrote:Interesting photo at the link, too. Anyone want to hazard a guess of the names of the generals?


Dieter Zinke has identified all the officers in the photograph from the original Daily Mail artictle. The photograph was apparently taken at the Berghof on 4th April 1944:

viewtopic.php?t=68701

If you contact the Daily Mail newspaper you can also purchase a high-quality print of the photograph. :)

Best regards.

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Post by Andreas » 23 Nov 2007 19:26

The English language edition has now been published under the title Tapping Hitler's Generals

There is a very interesting article about the launch of the book at Trent Park in the FAZ - unfortunately only in German. Book Launch

All the best

Andreas

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Post by Andreas » 14 Dec 2007 10:47

In an article by Gerhard Weinberg on Hitler's decision to attack the SU (IfZ Vierteljahreshefte Vol. I No.4 1958 p.301ff), I came across the orientation order issued by AOK 18 (General von Küchler, later Fieldmarshal and GOC AG North) from 22 Juli 1940, when his AOK took over command in the east. The relevant part is the second paragraph, quoted here in full (translation by me). It appears that this order was passed down the chain of command:

Ich bitte ferner dahin zu wirken, dass sich jeder Soldat der Armee, besonders der Offizier, der Kritik an dem im Generalgouvernement durchgeführten Volkstumskampf, z.B. Behandlung der polnischen Minderheiten, der Juden und kirchlichen Dinge enthält. Der an der Ostgrenze seit Jahrhunderten tobende Volkstumskampf bedarf zur endgültigen völkischen Lösung einmaliger scharf durchgreifender Massnahmen.
gez. von Küchler


Nuremberg Document NOKW-1531 (copy from the files of Commander rear area AOK 18 = Korück 18?) Can be compared with the orientation order Generalkommando XVII. AK, Korpsbefehl Nr. 1, 23 July 1940, Nuremberg Document NOKW-3437.

Translation: I would furthermore like to see effected that each soldier of the Army, especially the officer, does abstain from criticism of the ethnic struggle conducted in the Generalgouvernement, for example the treatment of polish minorities, Jews, and ecclesiastical things. The ethnic struggle that has been raging for centuries on the eastern border requires for a final ethnic solution one-time, severe crackdown measures.
Signed: von Küchler


All the best

Andreas

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Post by Andreas » 14 Dec 2007 12:59

Further evidence of what was known can be found in the letters of Generalmajor Helmuth Stieff (executed 8 August 44 - see also viewtopic.php?t=24180 for bio details on him), excerpts of which were published in IfZ Vierteljahreshefte Vol. 2 (1954) No.3. His letter from 21 September 39 refers to events that were reported to him by others there (he was Head of Gruppe III Operationsabteilung, Generalstab des Heeres at the time):

[...]Dazu kommt noch all das Unglaubliche was dort am Rande passiert und wo wir mit verschränkten Armen zusehen müssen! Die blühendste Phantasie einer Greuelpropaganda ist arm gegen die Dinge die eine organisierte Mörder-, Räuber- und Plündererbande unter angeblich höchster Duldung dort verbricht. Da kann man nicht mehr von "berechtigter Empörung über an Volksdeutschen begangene Verbrechen sprechen" sprechen. Diese Ausrottung ganzer Geschlechter mit Frauen und Kindern ist nur von einem Untermenschentum möglich das den Namen Deutsch nicht mehr verdient.
Ich schäme mich ein Deutscher zu sein! Diese Minderheit, die durch Morden, Plündern und Sengen den deutschen Namen besudelt, wird das Unglück des deutschen Volkes werden wenn wir ihnen nicht bald das Handwerk legen. Denn solche Dinge, wie mir von kompetentester Seite an Ort u. Stelle geschildert und bewiesen wurden, müssen die rächende Nemesis wachrufen.[...]


My translation: Additionally there is all the unbelievable happening on the fringe there which we have to look at without interfering. The most creative fantasy of horror propaganda is poor compared to the crimes that an organised gang of murderers, robbers, and looters commits there under alleged tolerance by the highest instances. One can no longer talk about "justified outrage about the crimes committed on ethnic Germans". This extinction of whole peoples/extended families with women and children is only possible to be committed by a subhumanity that does no longer deserve the name German.
I am ashamed to be German! This minority, which drags the German name into the filth by murder, looting, and burning, will be the misfortune of the whole German people, if we do not stop them soon. Because the things that were reported and proven to me by the most competent side, must wake up the vengeful nemesis.


All the best

Andreas

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Re: Did the Generals know?

Post by Frankfurter » 16 Jan 2009 21:46

I´m surprised the discussion of this topic has ended shortly after the English translation has been published. I would have thought that it would have really started then ...

Anyway, I´ve read that book already twice. I judge it as one of the most interesting of the 100+ books on the Third Reich and WWII I read over the years.
Why? First, because its the only source I know where direct, uncensored words of a large group of military leaders of the Wehrmacht is reported, largely without the stupid apologetic rubbish found in many individual biographies. Second, as it gives some insight in not only who these men were and what they did, but in many cases also how their personality was, judged by their comrades and by the British.
While many reviews of this book say that surprisingly many generals knew about the holocaust at least in parts, I must say I´more surprised so many obviously didnt. Some of these may have lied to look "clean" in the eyes of their comradess, but still, quite a lot apparently were not aware that the German war crimes did extremely exceed the "normal" extent to be expected during a largescale war.

What I will probably never understand is why not one of the Generals who did know or even saw large scale crimes, and were disgusted, and that alraedy years before they were captured, why not ONE of those quit his job. Not that I mean active resistence, but just say "I cant give my best to serve the worst". Generals had more ways to quit than normal soldiers or "little" officers, even if it would have meant to loose everything which looked like a career. Quite a number came from from well-off families, so that they couldnt have feared too much from that side. Why did they ALL fight on when they knew that the better they fought, the more they protected the SS killing squads? This question the book cant answer. No book can so far.

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Re: Did the Generals know?

Post by steve248 » 17 Jan 2009 13:08

The problem faced by all authors is that once you completed your research, written and published your book, you move on to something else. Sönke Neitzel will have moved on. The problem faced by Neitzel is that his book could have been twice the length but come up with the same conclusions. The examples he used are representative of the material he chose to use.

I happen to know from other researchers that the son of General von Choltitz - who has a website glorifying his father - went to the UK National Archives in Kew to examine the reported bugging reports where his father expressed knowledge of the holocaust. In addition, he paid for a criminal forensics investigator to accompany him and examine the physical documents so they could be declared forgeries... I have not heard anything to justify the predetermined and expected results so like anyone who examines the reports, they will find them all produced in exactly the same way.

There is another article using the bugged reports published in "Holocaust & Genocide Studies", Vol. 22 No. 1 Spring 2008:
Stephen Tyas, "Allied Intelligence Agencies and the Holocaust: Information Acquired from German Prisoners of War".

A US PhD candidate will shortly be writing her thesis on these bugged reports so maybe even more of them will be used and quoted.

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Re: Did the Generals know?

Post by WhiteFox » 18 Jul 2011 16:40

Ship of Fools wrote:
The admiral recalls a remark by an SS colleague in a camp: 'Greiser told me: "Do you know that the coffee you're drinking cost me 32,000 Jewish women?!"' Utke asks: 'Where did they go?' The transcript continues: 'Engel: Where? To the incinerators probably (Laughs)'.
Does anyone have an idea of what the SS colleague meant by "the coffee...cost me 32,000 Jewish women?" Is he amortizing his pay per person killed, or is there something else going on?

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