German Efficiency in the Final Solution
Summer, 1941. Heinrich Himmler, Leader of the SS, Gestapo, and all other police forces in the Third Reich, wrote a Letter to Rudolf Hoess, commander of Auschwitz. It stated, : The Fuhrer has ordered that the Jewish question be solved once and for all and that we, the SS, are to implement that order(1).” What was the Final Solution, and how did the Germans manage such a task? The Final Solution to the Jewish question was simple, The European Jews in countries under German occupation or Sympathetic to Germany would be shipped by train to death camps in or near the government general of Poland. Basically, the systematic herding, killing, and disposal of the Jewish population.
As we have learned, the third Reich had a very chaotic hierarchy and was inefficient at carrying out long term goals. This was not the case for the Final Solution. Hitler ordered the death of roughly 11 million people, the estimated Jewish population in Europe by Reinhard Heydrich at the Wansee Conference. He gave this task to one of his most loyal and effective followers, Heinrich Himmler. Himmler then took two of his best men to operate the eradication: Reinhard Heydrich, head of Administration, and Adolf Eichmann, head of Jewish affairs (2).
they established six Major locations for death camps based on their railroad accessibility and by their population isolation. These camps were, Auschwitz, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Treblinka. Concentration camps were built throughout Germany, France, Poland, Austria, and Yugoslavia. Jewish populations would be rounded up in Nazi controlled areas and sent to camps. Then two doctors would asses the population and put them in two groups, Fit for labor and not fit for labor. Those that were fit for labor would be worked to death, The remainder would be liquidated. by default, all children and elderly would be killed. the Process of Collection of Jews was explained by Heydrich, “In course of the practical implementation of the final solution Europe is to be combed through from west to east(3).”
The priority of the Camps were to kill specific Jews depending on their areas. The first to be killed were from the Polish ghettos, the second group were from the west, and the third group was from the east. The actual process is explained by Hoess, “it took from 3 to 15 minutes to kill the people in the death chamber depending on climatic conditions. We knew when the people were dead because the screaming stopped. We usually waited about one half hour before we opened the doors and removed the bodies. after the bodies were removed our special commandos took off the rings and extracted the gold from the teeth of the corpses(4).”
The head of the camps were actually proud of their work. Rudolf Hoess was astonished that during a trip to Treblinka that the camp was able to kill 80,000 Jews in only 6 months. The camp itself had 10 gas Chambers that would be filled with Carbon monoxide or Hydrogen cyanide. The Full process would take roughly one hour. Each gas chamber could hold roughly 200 people. Hoess maximized efficiency by expanding the chambers to fit 2,000 people. This would raise production by 10 times(5).
By the end of the final solution, 6 million Jews had been killed, 3 million by the camps. In just four years, the third Reich killed over half the Jewish population in Europe.
- Heinrich Himmler quoted in Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A history, Pearson, 2005. page 263.
- Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A history, Pearson, 2005. page 263
- Reinhard Heydrich quoted in Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A history, Pearson, 2005. page 264
- Rudolf Hoess quoted in Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A history, Pearson, 2005. page 267
- Rudolf Hoess quoted in Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A history, Pearson, 2005. page 263