Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
David Hebden is puzzled about the figures contained in a recently discovered British decode about the Operation Reinhard camps, Tuesday, September 30, 2003
Doubts about the famous GC&CS Belzec "decode"
Dated January 11th 1943, the document purportedly gives figures for arrivals at the Einsatz Reinhardt camps, for the last two weeks of 1942 and the whole of 1942, respectively.
However, according to the following article by Robin O'Neil, an expert on Belzec:
Deportations to Belzec were discontinued in mid-December, 1942, but already over two thirds of the projected resettlement had been accomplished. The reason for the discontinuation of the Belzec transports was mainly due to the breakdown in the transport system which caused the suspension of all transports to "AR" camps between 15 December, 1942, and 15 January 1943. Despite urgent pleas from the HSSPF F. W. Krüger to Himmler, and his intervention with the rail authorities, it was of no avail. After 15 January, 1943, resettlement transports continued, but Belzec remained closed and de-commissioning commenced. See Hilberg, The Destruction, vol. 2, 492.
Which raises the obvious question: if no trains were running to the Reinhardt camps during the last two weeks of December, why does the Hofle telegram put the arrivals for Treblinka at 10,300, for Sobibor at 500, and for Majdanek at 12,700?
Either Hilberg/O'Neil are mistaken or the fortnightly totals cannot refer to the final two weeks of December (perhaps, the first two weeks?!). The third possibility, that the telegram is a forgery, we reject as unthinkable.
Other letters by David Hebden on this website:
ANOTHER correspondent, A.H. in Poland comments (Tuesday, September 30, 2003): "A large number of deportees to the camps indicated were moved not by train but by other means. This explains the figure for Sobibor and Majdanek. The figure for Treblinka on the other hand does seem a little high given local conditions in the last two weeks of December 1942. If there is anything suspicious it is the fact that Treblinka is not referred to as T2 as it is in every other document I have seen."
David Hebden adds (Monday, October 6, 2003):
It has been drawn to our attention that Peter and Tyas Stephen Witte address the issue in their article "A New Document on the Deportation and Murder of Jews during "Einsatz Reinhardt" 1942" (Holocaust and Genocide Studies, vol. 15, no. 3, Winter 2001, pp. 472-473, 481-482.)
As for Lublin, we have pointed out the possibility of trains from the Bialystok region or, more likely, from smaller forced labor camps not too far from Lublin itself. As for Treblinka, Christian Gerlach has already provided evidence that at least three trains went from the disctrict of Bialystok to Treblinka. A transport from the collection camp Kielbasin is documented, starting on December 14, 1942 and arriving on December 15 at Treblinka, allegedly carrying 7,000 Jews to their death. If their arrival at Treblinka actually took place a day or two later (entirely possible as the date is an estimate), the deportation would fit into the "fortnightly report" of the document. On December 17, 1942, a train left Treblinka via Bialystok to Grodno, presumably to return fully laden again. According to survivor testimony, the last train from Kielbasin left for Treblinka on December 20. 21
Whereas Treblinka murdered 10,335 victims in the second half of December 1942, for Sobibor only 515 are recorded. These Sobibor Jews must be identical with those ascertained by Scheffler, who listed one deportation to Sobibor from Staw on December 22, 1942. 22 Details on this deportation emerge from the reports of survivors. 23 It has to be stated that the number 515 accords well with the sources.
19. Zugpaar is a German railroad term for one train (not two as the term might suggest) which returns from its destination to the station where it started.
20. Secret radio telegram Krueger to Himmler. December 5, 1942. BAB, NS 19/2655, fol. 69; printed in: Longerich, Ermordung, doc. 83, pp. 221-22; excerpted in English in: Arad, Belzec, p. 133.
21. Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde. Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1999), p. 727, n. 1217.
22. Scheffler in Rueckerl, NS-Vernichtungslager, p. 156; see also Grabitz, ed. Tater und Gehilfen des Endloesungswahns, p. 232.
23. Arnold Hindls was selected in Sobibor for the forced labor camp Staw Nowosiolski, where the trip of about 600 people to Sobibor on foot or in horse-drawn carts started on December 20, 1942. according to this report, many Jews succeeded in escaping from the march at first; about half of these were eventually shot. Only twelve returned to Nowosiolki and went into hiding. See Hindls, Einer kehrte zurueck: Bericht eines Deportierten. Veroeffentlich des Leo Baeck Instituts (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1965), pp. 58, 66-69. According to Sobibor survivor Zelda Metz, three men and sixteen young girls from this deportation were selected for work in the extermination camp. See testimony of Zelda Metz, 1945, first publ. in Dokumenty Zbrodni i Meczenstwa (Cracow, 1945); quoted from Miriam Novitch, ed., Sobibor. Martyrdom and Revolt (New York: Holocaust Library, 1980), pp. 130-31. Another two survivors of Sobibor, Regina Zielinski and Esther Raab, also gave testimonies on this deportation at various German trials.
It must be remarked that their arguments are, if not conclusive, rather compelling. Unlike Mr. A.H (above), our problem lies not with Treblinka, but with Majdanek ("KL Lublin"). The evidence that homicidal gas chambers existed in this camp is, in our opinion, incredibly slight.
Additionally, there is no way that the limited cremation facilities at that time could have coped with the disposal of thousands of bodies in such a short period. Which would leave the possibility that the victims were shot en masse and buried or burnt on open pyres. All in a camp, located on the outskirts of the city of Lublin, whose goings-on were well known to the Polish resistance movement.
The confirmation of the involvement of Majdanek in the Operation Reinhardt deportations, which represents the true importance of this decode, serves only to deepen the mystery of what happened to the Jews of Poland.
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David Irving comments
I am worried about that telegram, very worried. You say the possibility of forgery is unthinkable, and I would like to agree, but cannot dismiss it entirely.
Some key Holocaust documents are forged, or they were only selectively copied at Nuremberg.
This particular item is certainly one of a kind: I cannot think of any other decodes that give such global statistics in such a handy form, and in a manner so easily identifiable by experts on the "Reinhardt camps."
How handy that Adolf Eichmann himself is one of the parties ("for the attention of ..."). I have examined the original decode, as you know, and I spotted at once what other authors did not, or kept quiet about, that it has been inserted in the bound volume at a later date, and its first page accidentally placed at the end - not an easy thing to spot in such a muddled heap of single-spaced decodes typed on rice-paper, but there is no doubt that the "trailing" page 1 is in fact the page 1 that is missing at the front, so to speak. Now, how did that happen, to this of all documents? It is a rare occurrence indeed in these volumes of decodes.