The Camp of the German Jews in Minsk

Two months before his death, Heydrich had flown to Minsk to deliver in person a stern reprimand to Wilhelm Kube, the Generalkommissar for White Russia based at Minsk. For, in his preliminary inspection of the 7,000 Jews who had been deported in November 1941 from Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Bremen, Berlin, and Vienna to the Minsk camp for German Jews, (1) Kube had noticed, to his great consternation, that two of the young women prisoners from Germany had fully Aryan features. He had also become absolutely incensed when he learned from the Jewish elder, Dr. Frank, that among the deportees were men with military decorations from the First World War. (2) Gauleiter Kube, on of the earliest members of the Nazi party and a confirmed anti-Semite, suddenly felt obliged to protect his Jews who, he realized, belonged "to our cultural milieu," Kube therefore promptly files a complaint with Reinhard Heydrich, in which he stated that "during the evacuation of Jews from the Reich, the guidelines on who was to evacuated had not been properly observed," and he attached a list of names. Thus it came about that on 2 March 1942, Generalkommissar Kube withheld his German Jews from a mass shooting which was conducted in Minsk under the supervision of Sturmbannführer Dr. Eduard Strauch, at which 3,412 Jews were killed. This unheard-of-behavior by Kube in turn provoked a formal complaint from the SS. (3)

On 1 March 1942, an action against the Russian ghetto in Minsk was to take place....To conceal the action, the elder of the Jews was told that five thousand Jews were being resettled. (4) The counsil of elders was to select and organize the required numbers. Each Jew was allowed two kilograms of luggage. The actual intentions of the Security Police were evidently disclosed by the Generalkommissariat....As a result of this betrayal, none of the Jews presented themselves at the appointed time. There was no choice but to round them up by force. Resistance ensued, and the deployed units had to use firearms.

Having removed his office Jews from the camp for GermanJews twenty-four hours before the action on 2 March, and in the process managing to frustrate the liquidation of the ocupants of the Minsk ghetto on that same day, Kube had to endure the wrath of Heydrich upon the latter's visit to Minsk, shortly after the sucessful completion of the stymied liquidation. "I regret," Kube read in a letter from Heydrich, written on 21 March, "having to furnish this kind of justification, six and a half years after the decree of the Nuremberg Laws"; (5) and in a writtencomplaint submitted by the SS against Kube, we find the telling remark of the complainant, Dr. Strauch, Commander of the SD in White Russia: "Generalkommissar Kube appears to have promised to the German Jews, who before my time were delivered to the ghetto five thousand strong, that life and health would remain theirs." (6) Nothing of the kind had been foreseen in the quidlines drawn up at Wannsee, and Heydrich demanded of Strauch the complete liquidation of all the Jews still alive in the Minsk region. Thus, on 28 and 29 July 1942, the Russian and German ghetto in Minsk was reduced from 19,000 to 8,794 inhabitants. (7)

The complaint registered by the SS, the harshest reprimand by Heydrich, and Heydrich's death on 4 June in Prague together achieved Kube's required unconditional obedience in the execution of orders given for the Final Solution. On 31 July a submissive Kube, evidently concerned about his position, wrote to his friend, the Reichskommissar Ostland, Hinrich Loshe, in Riga:

Following lengthy talks with the SS-Brigadeführer Zenner and the extraordinarily diligent head of the SD, SS-Obersturmbannführer Dr. Strauch, in the last twn weeks inWhite Russia we have liquidated roughly 55,000 Jews....In the city of Minsk about 10,000 Jews were liquidated on 28 and 29 July. Of these, 6,500 were Russian Jews, predominatly women, children, and the aged; the rest were Jews unfit for labor, mainly from Vienna, Brünn, Bremen, and Berlin. The latter had been sent to Minsk last year in accordance with the Führer's orders....In Minsk proper there are 2,600 Jews from Germany left. (8)

Reichskommissar Lohse commented on Kube's report on 7 August, during a conference chaired by Göring in the headquarters for the Four Year Plan: "Only a few Jews are still alive. Tens of thousands were eliminated." (9) Kube himself survived the last "resettlement" in Minskby only a week. On 22 September he was killed by a bomb which had been planted under his bed by an agent of the partisans, his maid. For Himmler, who had expressed his dissatisfaction with the SS critic Kube to the latter's highest superior, the Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories Rosenberg, Kube's assassination meant one less problem to solve. (10)

(1) Karl Löwenstein, "Minsk", supplement to the weekly paper Das Parlament, 7 November 1956.

(2) Cf. Adolf Eichmann to the leader of seventeen State Police offices and to the inspectors of the Security Police and SD in Vienna, Prague, Danzig, Belin, 17 April 1942, (secret):

re: evacuation of the Jews
re: FS-decree of 20 November 1941, B. Nr. Roem. 4B4 2963/41G
Concerning evacuation of Jews to Minsk and Riga.
Referring to the above-mentioned FS-decree, please be informed that Jews in possession of the decoration for combat injuries are likewise not to be evacuated to the East (Bundesarchiv, Koblenz)

This directive resulted from the fact that convoys to Riga andMinsk in November 1941 included Jews with war decorations.

(3) Helmut Heiber, "Aud den Akten des Gauleiters Kube," Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 4 (1956): 87.

(4) Karl Löwenstein, who was relocated to Theresienstadt on 13 May 1942 from the camp for German Jews in Minsk, was told by the SS that twenty-five thousand Russian Jews had been executed. It seems likely, however, that exaggerated figures like this were given verbally by the SS for the purpose of terrorizing the surviving Jews, The official figure is bad enough.

(5) Heiber, "Aus den Akten des Gauleiters Kube," 67.

(6) Ibid., 90.

(7) PS-3428, IMT XII, 67 and Case XI, transcript 142.

(8) Israel State Archives 1098.

(9) Minutes of the discussion, IMT, Document 170, USSR.

(10) Heinz Höhne, Der Orden unter Totenkopf (Munich, 1976), 342.

Fleming, Gerald. Hitler and the Final Solution. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1987. pp. 116 - 119

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Electric Zen
Ken Lewis
May 20, 1998
Rev. 1.0