Himmler's "Special Mission from the Fuehrer"

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Himmler's "Special Mission from the Fuehrer"

Post by David Thompson » 15 Oct 2004 21:50

Readers following the various discussions on "the primary mission of the Einsatzgruppen" may find this document picques their curiosity:

"Directive by Himmler, 21 May 1941, Concerning Assignment of Higher SS and Police Leaders in the Army Group Rear Area", in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 10: United States of America v. Wilhelm von Leeb, et al. (Case 12: 'The High Command Case'). US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1951. pp. 1242-1244.
Translation of Document NOKW-2079, Prosecution Exhibit 848.

[Cover of File Containing Himmler Directive], [Handwritten] Commanding General of the Security Troops South, Ia, Supplementary Volume 51, 6/9/19423 4/1943, Started--19..Concluded--19..[Stamp] 39502/55.

II 52: Copy of a copy, [Handwritten] 140 a,
[Handwritten] Original with war diary in Berlin.
Berlin
21 May 1941

The Reich Leader SS,
Diary No. 114/41
Top Secret,
40 copies--38th copy,
11 copies, Control/No. 10.

Subject: Special mission of the Fuehrer.

In agreement with the Commander in Chief of the Army, I have provided for Higher SS and Police Leaders for the sphere of political administration for the execution of the special orders given to me by the Fuehrer.

For the duration of the commitment of the Higher SS and Police Leaders in the army group rear area, I am laying down the following instructions with the assent of the Commander in Chief of the Army:

1. The Higher SS and Police Leader, with his commanding staff, is subordinated as far as marching orders, rations, and quarters are concerned to the commander of the respective army group rear area. The SS and Police troops and special task forces of the Security Police are subordinated to the Higher SS and Police Leader for executing the missions assigned by me directly.

The Higher SS and Police Leader is to inform the commander of the army group rear area from time to time concerning the missions assigned to him by me.

The commander of the army group rear area is empowered to give the Higher SS and Police Leader instructions which are necessary to avoid disturbing operations and missions of the army. They take precedence over all other instructions.

2. The SS and Police forces committed are subordinated to the commander of the army group rear area as far as marching orders, rations, and quarters are concerned. All legal and disciplinary affairs will be handled under their own competence. Insofar as the radio and signal equipment of the SS and Police units is not sufficient for transmission of orders and communications, the commander of the army group rear area, as far as duty permits, will make available the corresponding communications media of the army.

3. The missions of the SS and Police forces committed under the Higher SS and Police Leaders in the army group rear area are:

a. Referring to the SP (SD) [Security Police (Security Service)]: The missions of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos of the Security Police (Security Service) are already determined through the communication of the High Command of the Army dated 26 March 1941.

b. Regarding the regular police: The troops of the regular police committed, with the exception of the 9 motorized police battalions tactically subordinated to the commanders of the Security Divisions, fulfill their missions according to my basic instructions.

Insofar as the fulfillment of these missions allows it, the commander of the army group rear area can employ the troops of the regular police for military missions in agreement with the Higher SS and Police Leader.

4. The troops of the Waffen SS have, in general, similar missions to the troops of the regular police, and special missions which they will receive from me from time to time.

5. The commander of the army group rear area has disposition over all SS and Police troops in case of an urgent combat commitment in his own competency of command.

The Reich Leader SS,
Signed: H. Himmler
Certified:
Signed signature
SS Hauptsturmfuehrer
Certified true copy:
Signed signature,
Captain.
Last edited by David Thompson on 16 Oct 2004 00:11, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by walterkaschner » 15 Oct 2004 23:50

Thanks for the above, David. Do you have the text of the March 21, 1941 document referred to in Paragraph 3 a. ? Or has it been previously posted and I missed it?

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by David Thompson » 16 Oct 2004 00:20

Walter -- I have not been able to locate a copy of that document in either the Einsatzgruppen trial, the High Command trial, or the documents I put together for the "Nazi occupation policies for the USSR" thread. I'm still looking, though, since I share your interest.

Field Marshal Keitel spoke of Himmler's "special mission" in a 13 March 1941 order. The full order can be seen as the second document posted on the "Nazi occupation policies for the USSR thread ("Document 447-PS [translation]", in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume III: US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1947. pp. 409-413) at:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 54&start=0
b. In the area of operations, the Reichsfuehrer SS is, on behalf of the Fuehrer, entrusted with special tasks for the preparation of the political administration, tasks which result from the struggle which has to be carried out between two opposing political systems. Within the realm of these tasks, the Reichsfuehrer SS shall act independently and under his own responsibility. The executive power invested in the Supreme Commander of the Army (OKH) and in agencies determined by him shall not be affected by this. It is the responsibility of the Reichsfuehrer SS that through the execution of his tasks military operations shall not be disturbed. Details shall be arranged directly through the OKH with the Reichsfuehrer SS. (emphasis added)
There is a later Army order, dated 28 April 1941, which has survived and which is the first post on "The German Army and the Einsatzgruppen" thread at:

http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=61804

That order opens with this paragraph:
The execution of special Security Police missions outside the unit makes the commitment of special detachments of the Security Police (Security Service) in the operational area necessary (emphasis added).
It goes on to very generally describe the scope of the mission of the Einsatzgruppen as:
b. In the army group rear area: Discovering and combating endeavors inimical to the state and Reich, insofar as they are not incorporated in the enemy armed forces, as well as generally informing the commanders of the army group rear areas about the political situation (emphasis added).
This paragraph, with its vague wording, does not explicitly describe anything which might be termed a "special mission for the Fuehrer," since "combating endeavors inimical to the state and Reich" had been the assignment of the Sipo and SD since the war began, if not earlier. See, for example, the descriptions given in these documents:

The meaning and tasks of the Gestapo (1936)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=61758
Tasks and Means of a Political Police
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=61759
Ten Years -- Security Police and SD (1943)
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=61402

To find any mention of that "special mission from the Fuehrer," it is necessary to look at the order more closely. The order has this provision:
Collaboration between the Sonderkommandos and the military commanding authorities in the Army Rear Area (to la). The special detachments of the Security Police (Security Service) carry out their missions upon their own authority. They are subordinate to the armies as far as marching orders, rations, and quarters are concerned. Disciplinary and legal subordination under the Chief of the Security Police and Security Service is not influenced by this. They receive their technical instructions from the Chief of the Security Police and Security Service, and if occasion should arise are subordinated to restrictive orders of the armies with reference to their activity. (See No. la.) (emphasis added)

and this:
Within the scope of their mission and upon their own responsibility the Sonderkommandos are empowered to take executive measures concerning the civilian population. They are required hereby to cooperate with intelligence most closely. Measures which could have an effect on the operations, require the approval of the Commander in Chief of the Army (emphasis added).
and this:
The Einsatzgruppen and/or Kommandos are empowered to take executive measures concerning the civilian population within the scope of their missions, upon their own responsibility (emphasis added).
Last edited by David Thompson on 16 Oct 2004 05:51, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by walterkaschner » 16 Oct 2004 05:49

Thanks David.

I am familiar with the posts on the latter thread, and think the ensemble of Einsatzgruppen reports convincingly demonstrates that one of the principle tasks of the Einsatzgruppen was simply to kill Jews, as such. It is tantalizing to speculate that the March 26, 1941 document may have listed their missions in order of priority.

On the other hand, perhaps the issue as to their primary mission, although of possible academic interest to the historians among us, is of little consequence from a judgemental point of view - whether killing of Jews ranked first, second or even third in order of priority, or whether or not its ranking changed over time - it seems tolerably clear that it was a mission, in and of itself, and separate and apart from (although in some instances incidental to) the other murderous assignments the Einsatzgruppen were given.

Best regards, Kaschner

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Post by David Thompson » 16 Oct 2004 06:06

Walter -- I agree with your assessment of the tasks of the Einsatzgruppen. Since your last post, I have done multiple word searches in the Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression series, with no trace of the 26 Mar 1941 Army order (I'm editing my old post to insert this detail; it's now 2:24 AM here).

For more on this "Special mission of the Fuehrer" mystery, readers might find these threads of interest:

Einsatzgruppe affidavit of Walther Schellenberg
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=60792

Einsatzgruppe 20 Nov 1945 affidavit of Otto Ohlendorf
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=60121

Himmler, Heydrich and the Fuehrer Order
http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=24139

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Post by Helly Angel » 16 Oct 2004 17:41

Accord Holocaust Timeline from historyplace:

March 26, 1941 - The German Army High Command gives approval to RSHA and Heydrich on the tasks of SS murder squads (Einsatzgruppen) in occupied Poland.

But I can´t found the text of the memo.

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Post by michael mills » 19 Oct 2004 00:11

There is really no mystery about the "special tasks" assigned to the Einsatzgruppen des CdSPuSD, or about the "executive measures concerning the civilian population" that they were to carry out.

Those tasks involved the identification and "Sonderbehandlung" (= summary execution without judicial process) of defined groups considered "inimical to the state and Reich".

One of those defined groups was "Jews in high State and Party positions".

The defined groups to be summarily executed are listed in written orders issued by Heydrich before the start of the invasion of the Soviet Union, orders that are preserved and can be found printed in may books.

It is noteworthy that Keitel mentions two main tasks of the Einsatzgruppen:

1. Discovering and combatting endeavours by the civilian population inimical to the state and Reich (the executive function); and

2. Generally informing the commanders of the army group rear areas about the political situation (the intelligence function).

Both functions seem to have equal weight.

Although, as Kaschner wrote, it is the criminal activities of the Einsatzgruppen and other German security forces that are of interest from the judgemental point of view, the issue of the primary mission of those forces is not simply of academic interest. It goes to the very heart of what was the underlying German Government policy in regard to the invasion of the Soviet Union, and what was the essential purpose that it was trying to achieve.

In that regard, the question of whether the criminal activities were the focus of the mission of the German security forces, or whether they were to some degree incidental, arising from the development of the miltary campaign, is crucial.

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Post by walterkaschner » 21 Oct 2004 06:25

Michael Mills wrote:
Although, as Kaschner wrote, it is the criminal activities of the Einsatzgruppen and other German security forces that are of interest from the judgemental point of view, the issue of the primary mission of those forces is not simply of academic interest. It goes to the very heart of what was the underlying German Government policy in regard to the invasion of the Soviet Union, and what was the essential purpose that it was trying to achieve.
Well, on the one hand, I do in truth find it hard to believe that the "essential purpose" of Operation Barbarrossa was the extermination of the Russian Jews and the furtherance of an intended Holocaust. In my opinion, the invasion of the Soviet Union had a congerie of purposes in the mind of its perpetrator, the principal one of which was probably his long articulated lust for "Lebensraum." And this was probably mixed in with a fervent desire to demonstrate the innate superiority of the Nordic- Germanic race over the Slavs, as well as a detestation of "Bolshevism" and an intention to physically remove its presence from then existing German borders. And I would gladly be willing to concede that the elimination of Jewery from the face of Europe was probably not even a major factor in Hitler's decision, although clearly an incidental by-product of it.

But to speak in terms of the "German Government policy" seems to me to fatally misconstrue the fundamental nature of Hitler's rule. In Nazi Germany there was no "Government Policy" in the traditional sense of the term.

There was no viable parliamentary function; in 1933 the Reichstag had voted to emasculate itself with the Enabling Act and met ever so rarely thereafter, primarily for the purposes of propaganda and cheering Hitler on. It never debated anything; its only speaker was Hitler, and , as one wag described its 876 deputies, it was the "the world's best-paid male-voiced choir."

The Nazi "Cabinet" never seriously functioned as such, and as best I recall never even met as such after 1938. The hard fact is that the "German Government" consisted of Adolf Hitler, the Führer, at its head, who ruled by sole fiat in a rather distracted, lazy and ofttimes hazy kind of way, but with some basic and elementary priciples (e.g. Lebensraum, extermination of Jews, elimination of Bolshevism) laid down in speeches and writings over the years - and a host of ambitious and competitive underlings, each trying to outdo the other in carrying out what they perceived - and often rightly so - to be the Führer's will, even before Hitler had formally articulated it in the given instant

So IMHO a search for what was the "German Government's policy" in the invasion of the Soviet Union, in relation to the tasks of the Einsatzgruppen, is pretty much a bootless enterprise. The Einsatzgruppen were given a variety of tasks, one of which was, it seems to me clearly, but if not clearly at least deemed so by the Einsatzgruppen themselves, to kill Jews as such . To my mind it can not be seriously argued but that that the murder of Jews - first men, regardless of their position in the Soviet bureaucracy or Communist affiliation - and later - Jewish women and children as well, was an appointed (albeit perhaps on occasion self-appointed, but with assurance that it had the approval of higher authority) task of the Einsatzgruppen and other types of Order Police and security forces.

Such being in my mind the unquestionable case, it seems to me obvious that these activities reflect the "policy" of the "German Government", which most favorably construed was to encourage, or at least allow, the desires of the Führer to be construed as calling for the elimination of all Jews, if not from the face of Europe, then at least from the conquered areas of the Soviet Union.

So with all sincere respect for Michael Mills, I still feel that the issue of whether killing Jews was a "primary", "secondary", "terciary" or "incidental" mission of the Einsatzgruppen is of little more than academic interest. It was a mission in and of itself, among, but separate and apart from, other missions of a murderous nature, and clearly a reflection of governmental "policy", as such was determined under the Third Reich.

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by David Thompson » 24 Oct 2004 21:09

So what was the "special mission for the Fuehrer"?

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Post by WalterS » 24 Oct 2004 21:52

Michael Mills wrote:
Those tasks involved the identification and "Sonderbehandlung" (= summary execution without judicial process) of defined groups considered "inimical to the state and Reich".
This is code for mass murder. In Nazi-speak, "Bolsheviks," "Jews," and "enemies" were used interchangeably. What Mr. Mills is really saying, without saying it, is that the EG grabbed people who were presumed to be "enemies" and murdered them. He likes to wrap these facts in euphemisms such as "executive action" and "inimical to the state" but the fact remains that EG were mass murderers, pure and simple.

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Post by David Thompson » 24 Oct 2004 22:43

WalterS -- You said:
What Mr. Mills is really saying, without saying it, is that the EG grabbed people who were presumed to be "enemies" and murdered them.

I don't often agree with Michael Mills, but don't you think that his characterization of "summary execution without judicial process" pretty much gets the idea across as far as "sonderbehandlung" is concerned?

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Post by michael mills » 24 Oct 2004 23:53

Concerning the meaning of "Sonderbehandlung" as an item of the bureaucratic vocabulary of the German security forces, here is a quote from the book "Lesson From History" (documents assembled by Dr Karel Fremund and Dr vaclav Kral, Orbis, Prague, 1962):

Note 14, page 164:
On being interrogated before the National Court, K H Frank answered a question concerning the meaning of the term Sonderbehandlung as follows: "Sonderbehandlung means to execute those persons without any sentence by a court on the basis of factual findings by the State Police".
Of course, "Sonderbehandlung" can have the general meaning of any sort of special treatment. Whether the word is being used in the general sense or in the specialised sense as defined by Frank can usually be deduced from the context.

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Post by walterkaschner » 25 Oct 2004 02:13

David Thompson asked:
So what was the "special mission for the Fuehrer"?
Given the nature of "governance" in the Third Reich and Hitler's clear preference for oral rather than written orders, I doubt that we shall ever have an incontrovertably documented answer to that question.

My best guess is that the "special mission" in general terms consisted of the overall responsibility of carrying out Hitler's decisions (not yet, however, definitely formulated) with regard to the ultimate fate of the Jews, and, with regard to the prospective invasion of the Soviet Union,coupled with the specific authority and responsibility for the organization and execution of "pacification measures" in areas behind the front lines of combat in the Soviet Union - measures to be consonant with the concept of a racial war conducted with ruthlesss and pitiless severity against Judeo-Slavic-Bolshevism, and which were embraced within the broader mission of executing Hitler's overall policy concerning the Jews.

I think that the bestowal of the "special mission" on Himmler, in the context and in advance of the invasion of the Soviet Union, was an attempt to avoid the confusion which arose soon after the invasion of Poland as to the respective lines of responsibility of the Wehrmacht and of the SS over the pacification of the conquered territories, which had led to much criticism and unrest in certain elements of the Army, reflected in complaints by Generals Blaskowitz and Ulex, and which occasioned Hitler to sever the SS from Wehrmacht jurisdiction and to relieve the Wehrmacht of administrative responsibility for occupied Poland in October, 1939.

I seems to me reasonable to assume that Hitler trusted Himmler far more than he trusted the Wehrmacht to "work toward the Führer" (as Ian Kershaw puts it) and to properly interpret Hitler's intentions as to the populace of the Soviet Union, and ulimately as to the fate of the European Jews, and to ruthlessly put them into action.

The May 21, 1941 memo was designed to define with essential clarity the lines of jurisdiction between the Wehrmacht and the forces under Himmler's direct command. The specific missions of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos had been described in a previous memo of 26 March (which we have no copy of), and were not further identified here. I would agree with Michael Mills that they were two-fold : to execute without judicial process certain groups deemed inimical to the State and Reich; and to gather intelligence. But from the reports from the Eisatz groups themselves, it appears tolerably clear that a great deal of discretion was left, at least initially, to their local or regional commands to identify the individuals comprising the groups destined for outright murder. From one group to another, the number of Jews (seemingly almost always identified as such and distinguished from other groups) varied significantly, which I do not believe can be explained simply by density of the local Jewish population.

So I do not believe that Himmler's special mission from the Führer specifically singled out the Russsian Jews from other groups deemed inimical to the Reich for elimination, although I do believe that Himmler was allowed great discretion, which he passed on to his local and regional subordinates, to treat the Jews as they saw fit.

Nor do I believe that the special mission - at that point of time - encompassed the murder of the entire Jewish population of the occupied territories of the Soviet Union, and certainly not the murder of all of the Jews of occupied Europe. I agree with Christopher Browning that those decisions came much later. See his Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers (Cambridge University Press, 2000, paperback ed.) at 20-25, and Chapter 2 passim. But I am not convinced by Browning's reasoning that the latter decisions were made in Octber 1941, as against the date of mid-December 1941 argued for by Christian Gerlach (see ibid at 26-57, in which Browning presents a fair and balanced exposition of both sides of the argument.) [The latter issue might well form a fertile subject for a separate thread.]

I guess the above is simply a long-winded way of saying I don't know the answer and can only speculate!

Regards, Kaschner

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Post by WalterS » 25 Oct 2004 04:09

David Thompson wrote
I don't often agree with Michael Mills, but don't you think that his characterization of "summary execution without judicial process" pretty much gets the idea across as far as "sonderbehandlung" is concerned?
Hi, David. Sure it does, in a sterile, bureaucratic, euphemistic way. I think, however, that "grabbing people and murdering them" puts it far more effectively.

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Post by David Thompson » 29 Oct 2004 07:44

Another possible reference, from Letter From Himmler to Defendant Berger, 28 July 1942, informing Berger that the Occupied Territories will be purged of Jews, and advising Berger of a forthcoming memorandum by Lammers", in Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 13: United States of America v. Ernst von Weizsaecker, et al. (Case 11: 'Ministries Case'). US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1952. pp. 240-241.
Translation of Document No-626 [Photographic reproduction of this document appears in Appendix A, Volume XIV.], Prosecution Exhibit 2378.

The Reich Leader SS,
1279/42.
Reval,
28 July 1942.
Top Secret. 1 Copy.

Dear Berger:

Concerning your file notes:

1. I urgently request that no ordinance regarding the definition of the word "Jew" be issued. We are only tying our own hands by establishing these foolish definitions. The occupied territories will be purged of Jews. The Fuehrer has charged me with the execution of this very difficult order. No one can release me from this responsibility in any case. Hence, I strongly resent all interference. You will receive the memorandum of Lammers in a short time.

2. What is the idea of this marital law? I want it to be submitted to me. I can already say that I am of the opinion that alliances [Verbindungen] of Germans with local women cannot for the present be regulated by law. They should be prohibited by law altogether. Exceptions for Estonia and Latvia would have to be sent to central authorities there and decided individually according to racial considerations. In a year's time the knowledge gained by practical experience can be expressed in legal form.

That is the way to govern and not otherwise.

Heil Hitler!
Yours,
[Initials] H. H. [Heinrich Himmler].

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