Treblinka Perpetrators

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Hecht
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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Hecht » 24 Oct 2013 18:10

Thanks

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Stephanie625
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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Stephanie625 » 21 Mar 2014 22:21

Regarding Erwin Kainer....


We need more information here. Erwin Kainer committed suicide on October 30, 1942. The circumstances surrounding his death were a transfer to Treblinka's upper camp, where the murders and body disposal occurred. During the month of October, the newly arrived Kommandant Stangl began digging up the buried victims (tens of thousands of bodies), and burning them. It was a horrific sight that we cannot imagine, something that truly laid out the heinous crime of Treblinka in plain, visual terms.

"Fear of Wirth" is not enough of an explanation for suicide. "Fear of Wirth" implies that Kainer would have reason to fear. And what was this reason?

MY reason here is that I am involved in a project that concerns, at many points, SS psychology. One might ask, why do we care why Erwin Kainer killed himself? There can be no doubt that every single SS man was guilty of murder. Even if one worked in the lower camp, and did not shoot or abuse the workers he was charged with guarding on their various forced labor jobs, one would share in the general charge of facilitating murder and slave labor. By no means am I attempting to absolve Kainer or any other of the unforgivable. Only God can do that, and according to the Torah, He might not even be able to. Forgiveness can only come from the victims, making murder the only crime where repentance can never lead to forgiveness, only a cessation of being a murderer.

HOWEVER, for those of us curious about the SS, many questions arise. How could they do it? Did they know what they were getting themselves into, when accepting work at an Aktion Reinhardt camp? Did any object? What would have happened if they did object? My research indicates that the bulk of the SS at Treblinka were former T4 Euthanasia program staff; we can therefore safely assume that if they did NOT know, for security reasons, what Treblinka would be, they would have no objections in theory. The actual operation might raise objections, at least for what they themselves were willing to endure. I personally believe that these men had become so hardened, and were so ideologically dedicated, that it is unlikely guilt would be felt, and if it was, unlikely to be acknowledged or meditated on.

But Kainer, as far as I know, was not T4. My research indicates (and correct me please) that Kainer was a young guy fairly new to the SS, transferred from the tiny labor camp of Treblinka to the part of the camp where the murdering of transports was done, at a time of perhaps the greatest terror. I would like so much to have a little more info on this young man. The question burns anyone who wishes to understand SS psychology: did he object? Was he horrified, when confronted so effectively with his guilt? Did he want out?

Aktion Reinhardt was a world unto itself. Summary executions of staff happened often. SS men who objected were subject to "group correction", meaning bullying (which is too light of a word for the subject). Wirth had murdered staff before, as did other commanders. He vocally spoke of killing staff; he even objected to SS men who were not vigorous enough in their abuse of Jews. He authorized OTHER SS men to kill those who protested. We know that in other camps, and in the Einsatzgruppen, those who found themselves unable to murder (unless under an individual commander who was a zealot) could appeal for a transfer. In the case of Treblinka, this seemed difficult to obtain. These men knew things that the Nazi upper management didn't want to go public.

SO.... Wirth was a monster, but only to those SS men who went against the grain. Perhaps it is fair to Kainer to say "he shot himself in fear of Wirth" rather than, "he couldn't deal with what he saw, couldn't be a part of it anymore, and he believed he had no way out but death". But it is not enough for the historical and psychological record. It is time, 72 years after the suicide, to explore Kainer a little more, and find out what really happened.

So I, for one, will continue digging. And I implore the excellent and committed members of this excellent apolitical forum to do the same, in the knowledge that we do not seek to absolve Kainer, only to understand. When we say, Kainer killed himself for fear of Wirth, we must also add WHY he was in fear. History demands no less.

I hope I get some replies, from those curious, and especially those more knowledgeable then myself (which isn't very hard), as to this young man's motive for blowing his brains out at "work".

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Stephanie625 » 21 Mar 2014 22:32

On the punishment of reluctant SS men: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/belzec1/bel060.html

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Stephanie625 » 22 Mar 2014 01:59

And sorry if I went a little overboard with words. This case interests me very much. I think it is also important to study the effect Hitler's government had on the German people. The effects of tyranny, propaganda, and terror have on a nation are terrifying, as are the depths to which humanity will sink, probably most without even realizing it. I guess I'd like to find out if I ever can if Kainer or any other realized it, and why they didn't rebel...

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by David Thompson » 22 Mar 2014 12:35

An off-topic post from history1 was removed by the moderator - DT.

Stephanie625 -- You wrote:
MY reason here is that I am involved in a project that concerns, at many points, SS psychology. One might ask, why do we care why Erwin Kainer killed himself? There can be no doubt that every single SS man was guilty of murder. Even if one worked in the lower camp, and did not shoot or abuse the workers he was charged with guarding on their various forced labor jobs, one would share in the general charge of facilitating murder and slave labor.
Psychological speculations and posters' moral judgments are not something we're looking for here.

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Paul Lantos » 24 Mar 2014 05:03

Stephanie625 wrote:There can be no doubt that every single SS man was guilty of murder.
Otto Horn wasn't, and he worked in the burial detail in the gas chamber area. He brought food to the Jewish workers, was kind to them, and in the Treblinka Trials he was acquitted because the Jewish witnesses testified to this on his behalf.

People are more complex than this Schindler's List kind of simplification of the SS as plain old animals. Go read about Paul Groth at Sobibor -- a brutal horrible sadist until he fell in love with a Jewish girl in the camp -- and then he completely changed how he treated the prisoners.
Stephanie625 wrote:Forgiveness can only come from the victims, making murder the only crime where repentance can never lead to forgiveness, only a cessation of being a murderer.
What is cessation of being a murderer? A nanosecond after pulling a trigger one is no longer in the act of pulling it. And I should add that the victims of the Holocaust were not only those who died.
Stephanie625 wrote:My research indicates that the bulk of the SS at Treblinka were former T4 Euthanasia program staff.
One step removed -- many of the staff at Treblinka had previously been staff at Sobibor and Belzec AFTER having been T4 staff. By the time they got to Treblinka most of them weren't death camp "virgins".
Stephanie625 wrote:Aktion Reinhardt was a world unto itself. Summary executions of staff happened often... Wirth had murdered staff before, as did other commanders. He vocally spoke of killing staff; he even objected to SS men who were not vigorous enough in their abuse of Jews.
You previously supported this with a link to quotes by Josef Oberhauser who as the primary defendant in the Belzec Trial had a very good reason (strategically) to blame Wirth. More generally you SERIOUSLY need to take any testimony about Wirth by former SS men with a grain of salt. It was in their self-exculpatory interest to blame Wirth's sadism for the whole system!!!

He was one of the most horrible figures of the entire Holocaust, but part of that image exists because he was a convenient scapegoat for perpetrators facing trial. If you read the magisterial book about the AR camps by Arad you are not going to find much to support that the SS men worked under threat of death. Plus Wirth was much less visible in Treblinka (and Sobibor) than he had been in Belzec. And there simply isn't evidence that under Eberl or Stangl the SS faced execution.
Stephanie625 wrote:Wirth was a monster, but only to those SS men who went against the grain.
Everyone thought Wirth was a monster. Franz Stangl, who went WITH the grain as much as anyone in Aktion Reinhard, saw him as a monster. Franz Suchomel saw him as a monster.

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Stephanie625 » 28 Mar 2014 06:02

Psychological speculations and posters' moral judgments are not something we're looking for here.[/quote]

I disagree. As long as discussion is civil and on topic, I think it is very worthwhile to discuss perpetrator psychology. Part of the reason for doing so would be to facilitate understanding, which can often be somewhat attained in conversation. When the discussion concerns motivations, reactions, coping, etc. of Holocaust perpetrators, the main benefit is understanding ourselves, so that we can continue the never-ending human obligation to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. One of the shocking truths about the SS is that many of these men were considered quite ordinary, at least on the surface. As far as my own position, I was challenging the speculation that the young man killed himself out of fear of a superior. While I have seen that reason listed all over the place, I have not seen anyone provide solid proof that he was afraid, or if he was, why. It certainly seems relevant to me to explore SS men who went against the grain in one way or another, or who killed themselves.

As far as moral judgements, I was not aware I made one, other than to condemn Wirth. And for all I have read about him, I cannot see how I was wrong, unless perhaps I made the mistake of calling him monstrous, where I might have said, his actions were monstrous? I will attempt to phrase things in a less controversial way in the future.

Now I will read the rest.
Last edited by Stephanie625 on 28 Mar 2014 06:34, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Stephanie625 » 28 Mar 2014 06:28

Hello, Paul! Thank you for directing me to Otto Horn! At the bottom, I've posted a link to his testimony at the Ivan Demjanjuk trial. Please forgive me for the sloppy quoting, I don't usually use this function. I will try to make it as clear as possible.


""Otto Horn wasn't, and he worked in the burial detail in the gas chamber area. He brought food to the Jewish workers, was kind to them, and in the Treblinka Trials he was acquitted because the Jewish witnesses testified to this on his behalf.

People are more complex than this Schindler's List kind of simplification of the SS as plain old animals. Go read about Paul Groth at Sobibor -- a brutal horrible sadist until he fell in love with a Jewish girl in the camp -- and then he completely changed how he treated the prisoners.""

This is precisely the sort of case I would like to examine and discuss. Horn's actions demonstrate compassion, however, he did not stand against the systematic murder of innocent civilians. My question is "why". In my description of the Treblinka SS as murderers, the criteria I use is not only if one pulls the trigger or turns on the engine, but if one facilitates the murder. Therefore, by the job description, Horn and all other SS men are complicit in the Treblinka murders. Mr. Horn, I believe, admits this at the bottom of his testimony.

Your statement about human complexity, rather than black and white, is exactly what interests me: our shades of grey, and what that means for our humanity. As far as Paul Groth, I have heard a bit about his story, and only this: he was quite "severe" as a disciplinarian, as he was trained to be, but he did indeed fall in love with a Jewish prisoner. And what happened was he was sent away for a while, and while he was away, they killed her. I am quite surprised they didn't bring him up on charges, or worse. But here we have it again, shades of grey. He could be brutal to prisoners, yet could also find love with one. It is my understanding that German military discipline was extremely strict and physical. Perhaps this carried over into the SS guard mentality, in that it facilitated a mindstate that allowed one to be brutal without seeing oneself as cruel.



Stephanie625 wrote:Forgiveness can only come from the victims, making murder the only crime where repentance can never lead to forgiveness, only a cessation of being a murderer.
""What is cessation of being a murderer? A nanosecond after pulling a trigger one is no longer in the act of pulling it. And I should add that the victims of the Holocaust were not only those who died.""

Ah. What I mean is, one can decide to quit killing innocent people. But as far as forgiveness goes, how can one obtain it, when the very person who can grant the forgiveness is dead? As a writer, I am dealing with this in a character I am working on. He is repentant, but he doesn't know how to get forgiveness, because his victims are dead and he can do nothing at all to change it, or to make retribution. And of course there were more than Jewish victims. Victimization might also somewhat encompass those born in Germany immediately after WWI; children who were raised fully indoctrinated into Nazi ideology, and then served the regime by perpetrating violence on others, which they would not have done had they any other frame of mind. Are they victims? I believe they are. One can be a victim and victimize others simultaneously.

Stephanie625 wrote:My research indicates that the bulk of the SS at Treblinka were former T4 Euthanasia program staff.
One step removed -- many of the staff at Treblinka had previously been staff at Sobibor and Belzec AFTER having been T4 staff. By the time they got to Treblinka most of them weren't death camp "virgins".
Stephanie625 wrote:Aktion Reinhardt was a world unto itself. Summary executions of staff happened often... Wirth had murdered staff before, as did other commanders. He vocally spoke of killing staff; he even objected to SS men who were not vigorous enough in their abuse of Jews.
You previously supported this with a link to quotes by Josef Oberhauser who as the primary defendant in the Belzec Trial had a very good reason (strategically) to blame Wirth. More generally you SERIOUSLY need to take any testimony about Wirth by former SS men with a grain of salt. It was in their self-exculpatory interest to blame Wirth's sadism for the whole system!!!

He was one of the most horrible figures of the entire Holocaust, but part of that image exists because he was a convenient scapegoat for perpetrators facing trial. If you read the magisterial book about the AR camps by Arad you are not going to find much to support that the SS men worked under threat of death. Plus Wirth was much less visible in Treblinka (and Sobibor) than he had been in Belzec. And there simply isn't evidence that under Eberl or Stangl the SS faced execution.
Stephanie625 wrote:Wirth was a monster, but only to those SS men who went against the grain.
Everyone thought Wirth was a monster. Franz Stangl, who went WITH the grain as much as anyone in Aktion Reinhard, saw him as a monster. Franz Suchomel saw him as a monster.[/quote]

Well, he did work well with those who did as they were told. Of course, the after war finger pointing has to be seen for what it was. But the more I look into this, the more evidence I find that those who saw horror in their duty, and became reluctant or outspoken, were subject to abuse. We have evidence of commanders stating outright that SS men should be shot for not following their orders. What begs a closer look is the individual cases like Kainer where death occurred on duty. By no means am I excusing SS men for continuing on at Treblinka after having changes of heart, I am only saying that there is evidence of coercion. Certainly the T4 men knew what they were in for, but there are other men there, like Otto Horn, who didn't come from any sort of mass-murder background. Even those who did admit that Treblinka impacted them hard. Franz Suchomel testifies to sitting down and weeping when he arrived. And while we do need to take testimonies with a grain of salt, we cannot outright dismiss them.

http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org ... /horn.html

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by history1 » 28 Mar 2014 13:11

Stephanie625 wrote:[...]
As far as moral judgements, I was not aware I made one, other than to condemn Wirth. [...]
It was your claim "There can be no doubt that every single SS man was guilty of murder", AFAIK.
David quoted it in post #260

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Eddy Marz » 28 Mar 2014 14:04

Hello Stephanie;
I don't really think that SS testimonies regarding Wirth's bestial brutality towards his own personel need to be taken with a "grain of salt" or considered as a scapegoat technique. Testimonies are plentiful and corroborative, and not only based on Oberhauser's or Stangl's declarations.

- During Belzec's early phase, SS-Scharführer Erich Fuchs queried Wirth's order to install shower heads in the gas chambers. Wirth became wild and ordered two other SS-Scharführers Erwin Fichtner and Johann Niemann to shoot Fuchs on the spot. Fichtner and Niemann managed to persuade Wirth not to go through with it (Belzec Trial/AR-Z 252: against Josef Oberhauser et al. : Statement by Erich Fuchs).

- Kurt Gerstein reported that, during his August 1942 visit to Belzec, Wirth hit Hackenhold's ukrainian assistant '10 or 12 times across the face with his horsewhip' because the gas chamber motor wouldn't start (Gerstein Report - 1945).

- In Treblinka, Wirth ordered SS-Sharführer Erwin Kainer to supervise removal of a pile of corpses bathing in blood, vermin and excrements. Kainer was so shocked and panicked at the idea of Wirth's reaction in case of refusal that he shot himself in the head (Tregenza Archive Lublin, Franz Suchomel, Christian Wirth (private report), Altötting 1972).

- At the tarred-paper fabric located on Lublin's abandoned airfield, SS-Oberscharführer Erich Bauer was repelled at the sight of deportee workers picking up the tar with bare hands, some of them being burned to the 'visible bone'. Upset, Bauer complained to Wirth who, immediately, struck him across the face with his whip.
(Tregenza, Michael, « Belzec Death Camp »/Wiener Library Bulletin, vol. XXX, London 1977).

- In Trieste, during OZAK, Fraulein Irmgard Raabe, Wirth's secretary, refused to go on working with him because of his 'intolerable cruelty' (Statement by Irmgard Raabe, September 26, 1962 - 2087 AR-Z 252/59. Coblenz, Auss. Ludwigsburg).

And we could go on like this for quite a while, including multiple and similar testimonies during Wirth's T4 activity. Surely, they can't all be making it up ?

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Paul Lantos » 28 Mar 2014 15:39

Eddy Marz wrote:Hello Stephanie;
I don't really think that SS testimonies regarding Wirth's bestial brutality towards his own personel need to be taken with a "grain of salt" or considered as a scapegoat technique...

And we could go on like this for quite a while, including multiple and similar testimonies during Wirth's T4 activity. Surely, they can't all be making it up ?
I apologize if I didn't make myself clear, but I am pretty sure I did not communicate that Wirth's bestiality per se was in doubt. But the SS testimonies, especially when they were on trial, were absolutely self-serving, and their own bestiality (in many cases) was so extreme that it's hard to believe that they did their jobs under pain of death. Do you know who did their jobs under fear of death? The Jews. The survivors of Treblinka (in Sereny's book) made very clear that they did their absolute best to never be noticed. Never be faster, never be slower, never be seen. The Jews acted like those who act because they are afraid of death.

Is that how Kurt Franz acted? Is that how Gustav Wagner acted? Miete? Matthes? And the list goes on. I'm sure Wirth DID kill or threaten to kill the SS in the camp; of course that is not all that far removed from the Nazi society in general, in which fear of execution or at least getting sent off to Dachau was implicit in any sort of nonconformity with the state. I think it is much more likely that the SS (and moreover the Ukrainians) conformed and didn't protest because 1) they (rightly) assumed that the system would go on without them, 2) they wanted anything but getting sent off to fight against the Soviets (or back to a POW camp for the Ukrainians), and 3) they were "just Jews" after all... (i.e. Jews didn't really trigger their humanism).

So you really think the SS at three camps behaved as they did and carried out their jobs basically because of fear of death from Wirth? I doubt it, especially because he was very rarely in Treblinka or Sobibor except when they were replacing Eberl.

Everyone shoved responsibility uphill, especially when the people uphill were dead.

Stephanie: re Suchomel. He's someone who is valuable in the detail about the camps he provides. But I take him with a grain of salt as well. We basically have two extensive interviews with Suchomel and that's the extent of what we know of his involvement. We have Sereny's extensive interviews with him for "Into that Darkness", and we have Lanzmann's secret interview with him for "Shoah". He expresses this horror upon his arrival at Treblinka, he expresses all sorts of admiration for Jews. Yet he 1) was convicted in the Treblinka trial (and Arad points out that Jewish survivors pointed him out for his cruelty), Richard Glazar (Treblinka survivor) told Sereny that Suchomel would beat them, and in Shoah Suchomel comes off as a callous trumpeter of Nazi racial stereotypes (the interview was done in ~ 1977, shortly before Suchomel died).

So fine I'm sure he was shocked when he first saw Treblinka. But what other expression of horror or remorse do you get from him? Nothing but an attempt to craft an image of himself.

A lot of SS were "honest" in their disclosure of events -- Ohlendorff, Bauer, Hoess, Stangl, even Eichmann -- but there is almost never an ownership of responsibility or expression of regret. There is a whole lot of blaming the system or blaming orders, though.


Re: forgiveness and remorse -- Cite me a single example of an ex SS or ex Nazi who was truly remorseful. It's almost a moot point to talk about forgiveness -- to seek forgiveness you first need to acknowledge your own guilt, and guilt means more than "I did it but I was following orders". And I say again, the dead weren't the only victims of the Holocaust. How about apologizing to survivors who suffered deeply and lost their entire families? And I thought we have the concept of crimes against humanity now -- apologizing to all of humanity would seem appropriate. Also, there is no collective forgiveness. There is only individual forgiveness. What is the value of individual forgivenesss when this was a crime against a collective? Would a truly remorseful person who worked at a camp that killed 700,000 people really feel better because of one victim's forgiveness? And who even cares about forgiveness for the Nazis, individual or collectively? Why would this be important except to their own psychological processes?

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Eddy Marz » 28 Mar 2014 17:11

Hi Paul;
You are absolutely right, but maybe I didn't make myself clear either. I'm, of course, not trying to minimize nazi callousness in any way, and I'm perfectly aware of how 'useful' Christian Wirth must have been for AR personel on trial. Nevertheless, after years of reading on the subject (Arad, Hilberg, Sereny, Tregenza, O'Neil, Krausnick, Klee etc...), I'm under the impression that the death camps' closed 'universe' brought out the worst in practically everyone involved - Germans and Jews. We have multiple testimonies of violence (sometimes murder) and corruption from Jewish kapos (they also were fighting for their own survival) and multiple testimonies of SS cruelty and corruption. Nevertheless, nothing is just black and white. There are also authenticated and documented appeals from AR personel to be removed from the Aktion such as SS-Unterscharführer Heinrich Unverhau who, in November 1942 (or maybe end of October), after having recovered from typhus, asked to be transfered away from Belzec. The KdF proposed transfering him to T4 activities (officially stopped but still continuing). He refused and was sent back to Belzec where, on arrival, he was forced under insults by Wirth to parade before the personel. When Unverhau tried to justify himself, Wirth drew his gun and told him to 'belt up' before assigning him permanently to the gassing area.

Later, when Werner Blankenburg from KdF's Hauptamt II visited Treblinka, Franz Stangl also asked him for a transfer to a 'normal' polizei unit, which was also refused...

There are of course other examples.

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Paul Lantos » 28 Mar 2014 17:18

Hi Eddy, good info but this doesn't sound particularly different than the SS behavior in the ghettos or at execution sites in the USSR. And keep in mind that defection at the battle front truly and absolutely meant death, so one can certainly argue that the forced assignment was more absolute in the Wehrmacht than camps.

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Eddy Marz » 28 Mar 2014 17:27

Paul Lantos wrote: And keep in mind that defection at the battle front truly and absolutely meant death, so one can certainly argue that the forced assignment was more absolute in the Wehrmacht than camps.
Absolutely, but don't forget that Wirth was Inspector General for the AR camps, which meant of course administration, supplies, functioning etc., but also discipline. I don't think that we can really compare defection in the Wehrmacht to the terror climate in AR camps, nor do we have Wehrmacht officers comparable to Wirth, and in the context of a classified mass murder operation...

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Re: Treblinka Perpetrators

Post by Paul Lantos » 28 Mar 2014 17:34

Wirth was certainly unique. But also remember that not all AR camps were created equal. Most of the anecdotes about him are from Belzec where he was actually kommandant. He was not by any stretch the dominant personality at Treblinka or Sobibor, or even Belzec once Hering took over (and who seems to have been about as brutal).

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