BBC The Nazis A Warning From History (1997) s01e05 Episode Script

Part 5

For 13 months between July 1942 and August 1943, trains ran through the Polish countryside along this siding, disgorging thousands of men, women and children in this clearing.
This used to be the SS barracks.
This, the undressing room.
And this, the route to the gas chambers, known by the Nazis as the path to heaven.
This killing factory, one of six the Nazis built in Poland, is near a tiny hamlet whose name is still infamous today - Treblinka.
How could it happen? How could such places ever come to exist? (BELL CLANGS) The Warsaw Ghetto.
In 1940, the Nazis imprisoned Polish Jews in ghettos like this.
A temporary measure, whilst they decided what the Jews' fate should be.
The Nazis brutally persecuted the Jews.
They thought them racially inferior, but dangerous.
They believed a world-wide Jewish conspiracy would destroy Germany, that Jews were carriers of Bolshevism.
As a result, there had been Nazi rhetoric saying that all Jews should be destroyed.
But even as late as 1940, there was still no Nazi plan systematically to exterminate the Jews.
Up to now, the emphasis in Nazi planning had been on expulsion.
The most bizarre plan was that proposed in June 1940 by an official in the German Foreign Office, Franz Rademacher, to resettle the Jews on a tropical island under German police control.
"France must make Madagascar available for the solution of the Jewish question.
" The Madagascar plan came to nothing.
By the time these pictures were taken in the spring of 1941, Hitler had decided on a radical action that was to alter the course of the war and change Nazi policy towards the Jews.
Hitler had decided, as the fulfilment of his great ideological dream, to invade the Soviet Union.
The German Operation Barbarossa began on June 22nd, 1941.
(GERMAN MARTIAL SONG) Since the 1920s, the Nazis had been ideologically opposed to Communism.
To them, this was not just a normal war.
This was a crusade.
Unlike the conflict in the West, German soldiers knew that the war in the East was to be fought without rules.
As they entered Soviet-held territory, the Germans encountered hundreds of thousands of Eastern Jews.
Nazi propaganda made it plain what the German public should think of them.
Hitler intended to colonise the captured territory and settle Germans there.
Special killing squads - Einsatzgruppen - were now ordered the cleanse the area of undesirables.
In charge of the Einsatzgruppen was one of Hitler's most ruthless subordinates, Reinhard Heydrich, 37-year-old head of the security police.
He issued this directive immediately after the invasion of the Soviet Union.
"The following are to be executed.
All officials of the Comintern.
"Officials of senior and middle rank "and extremists in the party, the central committee and the district committees.
"The people's commissars, all Jews in the service of the party and the state.
"No steps are to be taken to interfere with any purges "by anti-Communist or anti-Jewish elements in the occupied territories.
"On the contrary, these are to be secretly encouraged.
" Heydrich was a cold, desk-bound murderer who prided himself on being a man of culture.
Heydrich was a talented musician, and held weekend parties for his friends in the SS castle of Wewelsburg.
Heydrich and his boss, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, would organise this quantum leap forward for Hitler - the murder of Communists and Jews as the German army advanced eastward.
Hitler said the Jews were behind Communism.
The crusade in the East was to attempt to crush both.
Under Heydrich's command were four Einsatzgruppen, or killing squads, each with between 600 and 1,000 men.
Each was led by an educated German.
Einsatzgruppe A was led by Walther Stahlecker.
He held a doctorate in law.
Einsatzgruppe B was led by Arthur Nebe, head of the German criminal police.
Einsatzgruppe C was led by Otto Rasch.
He held two academic doctorates, one in law and one in political science, so he was known as Doctor Doctor Rasch.
Einsatzgruppe D was led by Otto Ohlendorf, a gifted economist, the most intellectual of the Einsatzgruppen leaders.
Bloodiest of them all was Stahlecker's Einsatzgruppe A, which operated in the Baltic states.
Einsatzgruppe A followed the German army into Lithuania in the early days of the invasion.
Lithuanians were a staunchly Catholic people, but Stalin's Communists had invaded their country and oppressed their traditions and their beliefs.
So when the Germans reached Kaunas, Lithuania's second city, they were welcomed as liberators.
Throughout Lithuania, symbols of Communism were destroyed.
And not just symbols.
To Lithuanian nationalists, as to Nazis, Communism was linked to Judaism.
In Kaunas, locals rounded up Jewish men, particularly those they believed had Communist sympathies.
They turned on them here, in an act of revenge of the type Heydrich asked the Einsatzgruppen to encourage.
A German army photographer witnessed what happened.
Once all the Jews had been bludgeoned to death, one of the killers climbed on top of the bodies with his accordion.
(ACCORDION MUSIC) But the Nazis played the major role in organising the rounding up of those Heydrich had called to be executed.
In the Baltic states, Einsatzgruppe A took Heydrich's directive as a minimum, and soon began to arrest not just Jewish leaders, but all young Jewish men.
They were taken out of the towns and shot.
That August, less than two months after the German invasion, Himmler visited Minsk, one of a series of morale-boosting visits he paid to the Einsatzgruppen, the police and other SS units in the East.
A crucial part of Himmler's itinerary was not filmed for this propaganda newsreel.
It is mentioned in his appointment book, recently discovered in the Moscow State Archive.
The entry for 15th August, 1941, during Himmler's visit to Minsk, reads, "Vormittags - before lunch.
"Attend execution of Jews and partisans just outside Minsk.
" Among those attending the execution was Lieutenant Frentz, a German cameraman.
Himmler witnessed a similar Einsatzgruppen execution to this, filmed in the sand dunes of Liepaja in Latvia in 1941.
Himmler now announced an extension of the cleansing in the East.
As the Nazis thought that every single Jew was a supporter of Bolshevism, they now said that every single Jew was a military threat.
So women and children in the newly conquered territories were to be killed.
Himmler later tried to justify the killing of Jewish children by saying that the Nazis could not allow a generation of avengers to grow up, as they'd cause problems in the future.
But Himmler was worried about his killers.
Arthur Nebe, commander of Einsatzgruppe B, told him that the psychological effect of murdering at such close quarters was clearly affecting some of his men.
So Himmler pressed on with experiments to find a more humane method of killing.
Humane for executioners, not victims.
The Nazis experimented with gas as a means of killing, and filmed some of their experiments.
Whilst gassing experiments continued, the shooting carried on in the East.
The Einsatzgruppen meticulously recorded their killings.
In that summer of 1941, their records show the murders drastically increasing, coinciding with a massive increase in the number of police units sent to the East.
The killing squads based in Kaunas in Lithuania had killed 4,400 Jews in July 1941.
In August, they killed more than 38,000.
Including women and children.
Stahlecker, the commander of Einsatzgruppe A, boasted that "new possibilities in the East "allow a complete clearing up of the Jewish question".
In the Lithuanian village of Butrimonys, the consequences of this extension in killing were felt on September 9th, 1941.
Before the arrival of the Germans, Jews here had been tolerated by Lithuanians, though many villagers had envied the Jews their supposed wealth.
Now, with the prospect of theft and plunder, some locals were happy to respond to the German order to march the remaining Jews along this road out of the town.
Riva Losanskaya and her mother escaped.
The remaining Jews were driven off the road towards where this thicket of trees now grows.
Here, in scenes repeated throughout the Einsatzgruppen area of operation, the Jews were ordered to undress.
Villagers had come to watch, some out of curiosity, others out of greed.
The killing was carried out by Lithuanian collaborators, under German orders.
The suffering is recorded in the Einsatzgruppen killing book as 9th September, 1941, Butrimonys.
67 Jewish men, 370 Jewish women, 303 Jewish children.
A total of 740 Jews killed.
The same day in nearby Alytus, the killing book records 1,279 Jews murdered.
The next day in Merkine, And in Varena, 831.
In the Baltic states, more than 80% of the killing squads were made up of locals acting under German Einsatzgruppen orders.
Men like Petras Zelionka.
After the war ended, the Soviets sent Petras Zelionka to a Siberian gulag.
His former comrades, against whom he gave evidence, were executed.
That autumn of 1941, whilst Zelionka and his comrades carried on killing, Hitler directed the war in the East from here at the Wolf's Lair, his headquarters in a forest near Rastenburg in East Prussia.
Hitler's talk was of annihilation.
In 1941, he said that Leningrad should vanish from the surface of the Earth.
In this atmosphere of blood lust and destruction, he was also privately expressing his undying hatred of the Jews.
That race of criminals has on its conscience the two million dead of world war One, and now, already, hundreds of thousands more.
To his staff at headquarters, Hitler talked of taking revenge against the Jews.
But even before America entered the war, Hitler showed no mercy to Jews in the East.
Now he was about to show no mercy to Jews in the rest of the Nazi empire.
In September 1941, two new measures showed that German Jews were under increased threat.
Hitler agreed to an order which said that German Jews must wear a yellow star.
And a secret order from Himmler said that Hitler had authorised that, beginning that autumn, all Jews from Germany, Austria and the occupied Czech lands should be transported east.
350 miles to the west of Hitler's headquarters, Berliners relaxed by the capital's lakes.
So far, they had heard only good news from the war in the East.
But that autumn there was one new sign that showed that life was changing, at least for some of the population.
Now the Jews were marked.
There's nothing to say.
It's bad.
It's bad you are signed.
You have a sign on you.
Nobody would have thinked that I am a Jew.
But this We had to wear it.
The hate grew up.
We felt it.
The Germans always said, "The Jews are not Germans.
" And I said, "I am a German "of Jewish faith.
" And, for them, I am not a German.
But I am a German.
As autumn turned to winter in 1941, and the war bogged down in the mud of the East, the Nazis knew there would be no easy victory over the Soviet Union.
There was a new enemy to contend with.
After Germany's ally Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December, Germany declared war on the United States.
Hitler had a series of meetings with Nazi leaders that December to discuss the consequences of all this for the Nazi cause.
The fate of the Jews was also discussed.
A new piece of evidence from Himmler's appointment diary shows that on the 18th of December, 1941, Hitler met with Himmler and the topic was the Judenfrage, the Jewish question.
The entry is written in Himmler's own hand.
Himmler writes cryptically alongside, "to be exterminated as partisans.
" We can't know exactly what this means.
It's likely that it's camouflage language to justify the murder of the Jews in the East to the German Army.
But the diary entry clearly links Hitler with the killings.
In January 1942, a conference was called here at the Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin.
By now, Hitler had authorised that all Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe should be deported to their deaths, and the meeting here was called to work out the details.
The discussion was chaired by Reinhard Heydrich.
He had been asked to compile a plan for the final solution to the Jewish problem.
The minutes were taken by Heydrich's specialist in Jewish matters, Adolf Eichmann.
The minutes are deliberately euphemistic and talk of the "evacuation" of the Jews.
But this was code for "extermination".
Hans Frank, the Nazi who ran part of occupied Poland, told his senior officials what the Wannsee conference was really about.
what will happen to the Jews? Do you imagine they will be settled in the East? People said to us in Berlin, "why should we go to all this trouble? Liquidate them.
" Now deportations were occurring all over Germany.
The forced eviction of Jews in Dresden was filmed by an amateur cameraman.
This was the final act in a series of persecutions which the Jews of Germany had suffered.
First they had been denied Reich citizenship, then the right to a state education, then they had had their property confiscated.
Now the Jews were told they were to be sent east, to work camps.
More Jews were deported from Berlin than any other German city - 55,000 - many of them from the freight station here at Putlitzstrasse.
We were trucked there.
The truck was empty.
Andthe people were conducted immediately inside the car.
And then in the moment they went in, they had the package of four slices of bread .
given from the community, from the Jewish community.
It was an atmosphere of fear.
An atmosphere of big fear.
There were babies.
There were little children.
And they cried.
And the mothers said, "Behave well.
"Don't cry.
" We couldn't think.
We couldn'tthink.
(NARRATOR) There were Germans who helped Jews.
Some even hid them.
Most acted as Erwin Massuthe did as he saw the deportations at Putlitzstrasse across the street.
The fate of these Jews was supposed to be a secret.
Just how big a secret, switchboard operator Alfons Schultz learnt when a colleague overheard a conversation at the Führer's HQ in May 1942.
Hitler wanted the Jews annihilated, and he wanted it kept a secret.
But it couldn't be kept secret from everybody.
As the train carrying Günther Ruschin travelled east, he learnt his intended fate from an unexpected source.
At Frankfurt Oder, the train stopped at the station.
And then we shouted, "Please, "give us some water.
"We are thirsty.
" And we heard crying back, "You damn Jews.
"Didn't they kill you yet?" The workers at the station in Frankfurt.
If they knew Because they told, "Didn't they kill you yet?" The population must have known it, or must have imagined what will happen, or what they are doing us.
Nazi propagandists didn't want the public to dwell on the possible fate of the Jews.
In the winter of 1942, as the Jewish deportations continued, this was the image of Germany that Goebbels preferred to sell to the public.
(CHOIR SINGS) It's impossible to tell how many Germans knew what was happening to the Jews.
The same month this propaganda film was shown in cinemas, December 1942, a Nazi intelligence report records disquiet among some Germans in the south.
"One of the strongest causes of unease "among those attached to the Church and in the rural population "is based on news from Russia in which extermination of Jews is spoken about.
"The news leaves great anxiety, care "and worry in those sections of the population.
"According to opinion in the rural population, it's not at all certain that we will win the war, "and if the Jews return to Germany they will extract dreadful revenge upon us.
" By the time this secret report was written at the end of 1942, the Nazis' successful experiments with gas had led to the creation of extermination centres at Auschwitz/Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor, Majdanek and Treblinka.
It wasn't just German Jews who were sent to the new camps.
Now that the Nazis had developed an efficient means to kill the Jews, they wanted to eliminate them everywhere, from Holland to Greece, and France to Poland.
Other groups the Nazis considered a threat were also to suffer, most prominently Europe's gypsies.
Trains converged on Nazi-occupied Poland and its extermination centres.
This film shows Jews from Bulgarian occupied territory being transported to Treblinka.
In this remote spot, about three quarters of a million people were murdered, though we can never know exactly how many died.
Because a handful managed to escape, we can know what the camp looked like.
This drawing was done by one of the escapees, Samuel Willenberg.
It shows how sophisticated the Nazi killing machine had become since the early days of the Einsatzgruppen shootings in the East.
Treblinka station was designed to look normal, with train timetables and a waiting room.
New arrivals would be driven through to the undressing barracks.
They were told it was a hygiene stop.
and they must take a shower to be disinfected before continuing their onward journey.
A connecting path led from the undressing barracks through two high fences to the gas chambers.
If any of the arrivals said they were sick, the Nazis directed them to the hospital.
Samuel Willenberg is one of fewer than 70 known survivors from Treblinka.
More than 99% of those who arrived here were murdered, the vast majority within three hours of arriving.
The Nazis didn't just kill.
They stole.
Once the victims had been murdered, their clothes and valuables were sorted and the plunder sent back to Germany.
In 1943, their murderous work completed, the Nazis tried to eliminate all trace of the camp, but not because they were ashamed.
That same year, 1943, Himmler spoke to his SS colleagues about the extermination of the Jews.
we know what it means when 100 corpses are piled together, when 500 are piled together, or 1,000.
To have endured this and, at the same time - ignoring moments of weakness - to have remained decent, this is what has made us tough.
It is a glorious chapter in our history, which has not, and may never, be written.
But the crimes of the Nazis would be discovered, because they were losing the war.
In the East, the Nazis saw the enemy they feared the most, the Russians,
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