Author Topic: Revealed: How SS overlord Heinrich Himmler developed the Final Solution .....  (Read 134 times)


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Revealed: How SS overlord Heinrich Himmler developed the Final Solution after feeling 'sympathy' for Nazi troops ordered to shoot dead 33,000 Jews at 1941 Babi Yar massacre and thinking: 'there must be another way to do this'

    Massacre took place in 1941 at Babi Yar, a ravine on the edge of Ukrainian capital
    33,771 Jews were shot there by German soldiers over the course of just two days
     SS leader Heinrich Himmler witnessed the killings
    Historian James Holland said he felt sympathy for soldiers doing the shootings
    His experience led him to think there 'had to be a better way of doing this'
    Mr Holland added that it 'directly' led to the Final Solution
    From 1942, millions of Jews were murdered in a network of death camps

By Harry Howard, History Correspondent For Mailonline

Published: 17:06, 23 June 2022 | Updated: 17:13, 23 June 2022

The Final Solution was developed after Heinrich Himmler witnessed the horror of the Babi Yar massacre of more than 33,000 Jews and decided 'there has got to be another way of doing this', historian James Holland said.

Babi Yar, a ravine on the edge of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, became infamous after 33,771 men, women and children were shot there over the course of just two days in September 1941.  At that point, the Nazis were three months into Operation Barbarossa their ultimately doomed attempt to invade and conquer the Soviet Union.  Only ten of the estimated 700 people that took part in the killings at Babi Yar were ever convicted of a crime.  Speaking to MailOnline at the Chalke Valley History Festival, which is sponsored by the Daily Mail, Mr Holland said the path to the Final Solution the name given by the Nazis to the murder of nearly six million Jews in a network of death camps from 1942 began at Babi Yar.  Nazi troops carried out the massacre in Ukraine after branding the local Jewish population 'terrorists'.

Mr Holland said SS leader Himmler, who was 'quite squeamish', 'did not like seeing all these people being shot'.

'He had no sympathy at all for the Jews, what he had was sympathy for the poor blighters who had to carry out these executions,' he said.

'How inhumane is that? He was one of the maddest. There is nothing good that you can say about Himmler. He is just an appalling person.'

He went away and said "we can't do this, we can't have our men expected to do this. There has got to be another way of doing this". And the other way of doing it was the death camps and gassing them.'

Although the mass killings of Jews began in 1941, it was not until the Wannsee Conference in Berlin that mass exterminations began in death camps such as Auschwitz-Birkenau.  The full name of the horrific plan was the Final Solution to the Jewish Question, with killings continuing until Nazi Germany's defeat in Europe in May 1945.  At Auschwitz alone, around 1.1million people were murdered in the camp's gas chambers.

There were further killings at camps including Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor.

Mr Holland, who is an expert in the Second World War, added that the Final Solution was a 'direct consequence' of what he witnessed at Babi Yar.  'The way the Nazis justified this to themselves was that this was a terrible thing they had to do. This was the burden of their generation,' he said.

'And it was awful thing to do but otherwise the Aryans would be consumed by the Bolshevik Jewish conspiracy, the global conspiracy, and this was a matter of life and death.'

In March, the site of the massacre, which now hosts a memorial park, was bombed by Russian forces during their attempt to destroy a TV station nearby.  Last year, the memorial centre dedicated to the Babi Yar killings identified 160 people it considered guilty of the murders.  Along with their names, new information about the killers including biographies and testimony was made public.  One participant, Viktor Trill, who was a sergeant in the SS paramilitary group, described how he leapt down into the pits to kill any who survived the initial shooting.  He said that he shot between '150 and 250 Jews', and chillingly added that they were 'resigned to their fate like lambs'.

The Nazis' concentration and extermination camps: The factories of death used to slaughter millions

Auschwitz-Birkenau, near the town of Oswiecim, in what was then occupied Poland

Auschwitz-Birkenau was a concentration and extermination camp used by the Nazis during World War Two.  The camp, which was located in Nazi-occupied Poland, was made up of three main sites.  Auschwitz I, the original concentration camp, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a combined concentration and extermination camp and Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labour camp, with a further 45 satellite sites.

Auschwitz was an extermination camp used by the Nazis in Poland to murder more than 1.1 million Jews

Birkenau became a major part of the Nazis' 'Final Solution', where they sought to rid Europe of Jews.  An estimated 1.3 million people were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, of whom at least 1.1 million died around 90 percent of which were Jews.  Since 1947, it has operated as Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which in 1979 was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

Treblinka, near a village of the same name, outside Warsaw in Nazi-occupied Poland

Unlike at other camps, where some Jews were assigned to forced labor before being killed, nearly all Jews brought to Treblinka were immediately gassed to death.  Only a select few mostly young, strong men, were spared from immediate death and assigned to maintenance work instead.  The death toll at Treblinka was second only to Auschwitz. In just 15 months of operation between July 1942 and October 1943 between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were murdered in its gas chambers.  Exterminations stopped at the camp after an uprising which saw around 200 prisoners escape. Around half of them were killed shortly afterwards, but 70 are known to have survived until the end of the war.

Belzec, near the station of the same name in Nazi-occupied Poland

Belzec operated from March 1942 until the end of June 1943. It was built specifically as an extermination camp as part of Operation Reinhard.  Polish, German, Ukrainian and Austrian Jews were all killed there. In total, around 600,000 people were murdered.  The camp was dismantled in 1943 and the site was disguised as a fake farm. 

Sobibor, near the village of the same name in Nazi-occupied Poland

Sobibor was named after its closest train station, at which Jews disembarked from extremely crowded carriages, unsure of their fate.  Jews from Poland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the Soviet Union were killed in three gas chambers fed by the deadly fumes of a large petrol engine taken from a tank.   An estimated 200,000 people were killed in the camp. Some estimations put the figure at 250,000.  This would place Sobibor as the fourth worst extermination camp in terms of number of deaths after Belzec, Treblinka and Auschwitz.   The camp was located about 50 miles from the provincial Polish capital of Brest-on-the-Bug. Its official German name was SS-Sonderkommando Sobibor.  Prisoners launched a heroic escape on October 14 1943 in which 600 men, women and children succeeded in crossing the camp's perimeter fence.  Of those, only 50 managed to evade capture. It is unclear how many crossed into allied territory.

Chelmno (also known as Kulmhof), in Nazi-occupied Poland

Chelmno was the first of Nazi Germany's camps built specifically for extermination.  It operated from December 1941 until April 1943 and then again from June 1944 until January 1945.  Between 152,000 and 200,000 people, nearly all of whom were Jews, were killed there. 

Majdanek (also known simply as Lublin), built on outskirts of city of Lublin in Nazi-occupied Poland

Majdanek was initially intended for forced labour but was converted into an extermination camp in 1942.  It had seven gas chambers as well as wooden gallows where some victims were hanged.  In total, it is believed that as many as 130,000 people were killed there.