IN THE Public Record Office in London (PRO) are now housed the records of the former Police section at Bletchley Park, where British codebreakers had begun reading the German SS and police messages even before WWII.
The police section amassed thousands of intercepts of police units on the eastern front, police headquarters in Germany, and concentration camp commandants reporting to Berlin.
It is worth noting, as the late Professor Sir Frank Hinsley the official historian points out, that nowhere in these myriads of (top secret, enciphered) messages is there any reference to gas chambers or gassings. 'The returns from Auschwitz, the largest of the camps with 20,000 prisoners, mentioned illness as the main cause of death, but included references to shootings and hangings. There were no references in the decrypts to gassing.' [Hinsley et al., British Intelligence in the Second World War: Its Influence on Strategy and Operations, Cambridge, 1979 - 84, 3 vols., vol. ii, appendix, page 673.]
See too the Dec 1, 1941 intercepts posted elsewhere here.
November 16, 1996
From Dr John P. Fox
Sir, Professor Richard Breitman's achievement in winkling out of The United States Government of the transcripts of the telegraphic reports of The Nazi Einsatzgruppen killer squads in Russia in 1941 (report, "Britain knew Jews were being killed 'before Auschwitz' ") is to be applauded.
However, it should be recalled that in 1981 Professor F. H. Hinsley revealed that the British intelligence Enigma decrypts of German telegraphic traffic also included German police and security reports of their mass killing of Jew's in Russia and the Ukraine in the autumn of 1941.
Summaries of those decrypts were submitted to Winston Churchill on a regular basis and these were eventually made available for public inspection at the Public Record Office, Kew, in November 1993. Three years ago my efforts to have transcripts of the decrypts themselves made available at Kew proved abortive.
In view of Professor Breitman's success in Washington, and of the nonsense that this makes of Britain's unwillingness or inability to release the British holdings of these documents, I have now written to the Prime Minister asking for their release.
WHAT IS surprising is that although every minute detail of SS and concentration camp operations is mirrored in these thousands of messages, preserved either in the original German, or in English translation (and sometimes in both) there is no reference whatever to mass killing operations by gas or any other method in the camps.
Every other conceivable detail is however reflected in the signals, including a signal to Auschwitz commandant S.S. Sturmbannführer Rudolf Höss in September 1942 regretting that rubber truncheons are 'unobtainable in Breslau.'
[GC&CS German Police report No. 41, 1942, Oct 5,
1942 (PRO file HW.16/6, part ii).]
Bletchley Park historians recalled the German code
weaknesses and security lapses, always the same addresses at
the beginning, e.g. 'An den Befehlshaber der
Ordnungspolizei in Frankfurt am Main' which 'made the
cryptographer's life a happy one.' Indications of internal
disintegration in Germany were disappointingly few.
Interception of low-frequency traffic was much easier in
France. On the evening of May 9, 1940 there was
decoded the urgent German summons to prevent a high official
from crossing into Holland; this was the only hint of GELB
from this source. Work did not then resume until August
1940 at BP. Berlin began to jump on security breaches,
like messages exceeding the maximum permitted 180 letters
and easy standard cribs, like a daily report on the rise and
fall of the Elbe. For the BARBAROSSA traffic a separate key
and new frequencies were instituted; in August 1941 two sets
of keys in the East were introduced for each day. Even so
they got 30 to 100 decodes a day, with forty staff working
on the task.
'The danger of decipherment by the enemy of wireless messages is great. For this reason only such matters are to be transmitted by wireless as can be considered open [groups missed]. Confidential or Secret, but not information which is containing State secrets, calls for especially secret treatment. Into this category fall exact figures of executions (these are to be sent by Courier) '
The scale of these executions was 'a clear indication of
the utter ruthlessness of the Germans in Russia.' The
GC&CS report adds,
'The anxiety may have been increased by a speech by the Prime Minister drawing the attention of the world to this carnage. In any case the German authorities evidently demanded more drastic steps still, and these culminated in a complete change of cypher in mid-September. Double transposition [a straightforward system, and relatively simple to break] was dropped (never to appear to again) and Double Playfair took its place.'
The result was the reverse of what the Germans had
intended, because if they had retained Double Transposition
with still further splitting up of keys it would soon have
put BP out of business, Double Playfair quickly proved to be
a most breakable cypher, and it became the exception to fail
to break a day. From the spring of 1942 the Russians began
providing high quality raw intercepts; in return BP provided
decrypts and daily keys until December -- they say -- when
liaison unfortunately broke down and nothing more was
received. Throughout the winter of 1942 German police
traffic was one of the few sources providing information
from the eastern front, but in November the German police,
nervous again about security, introduced their next major
cypher alteration. By February 1943 however the section was
again up to four to five hundred decodes a week. BP now had
five hundred people, including those at the 'Y' stations
dedicated to this task, working on the Police codes. Things
got easy in July 1944 when the Police Flying Squadron in
Poland sent in a standard daily report. But on September 1,
1944, the Germans introduced the new raster cypher, the best
hand-cypher they had ever devised; the time-lag now
increased from twenty-four hours to a week or more. 'The
content of the messages was, naturally, of increasing
interest and provides as a whole a singular picture of the
last days of the Nazi reigime and of its individual leaders.
For this reason cryptographic work was continued long after
VE-day (no police-keys were ever captured) ' [GC&CS,
'History of the German Police Section, 1939--45' in PRO file
'A report from the Berditschew Korosten area mentions that the Russians are still retiring and burning the villages. Prisoners taken number 47, Jews shot 1246, losses nil.'
Churchill rings the '1,246' in red
ink. [PRO file HW.1/40]
'On 26/9 arrangements were being made for a 3 or 4 day visit by Himmler to the Southern Area of the Russian front. Places to be visited were Shitomir, Berditschew (where the dwellings etc. of the German colonies were the attraction. Dept Note .: It will be remembered that the Russians were reported to have removed the German population to Siberia.) Thence to Kiew, if possible to Uman, then Krivoi-Rog, Nikolaiew and possibly Cherson. He was accompanied by his fleet of cars including his wireless car. 'On 13/9 the 3 officers commanding on the North, Centre and South Russian Front were reminded that the danger of their messages being decoded was great. Among other secret matters that should not be sent by wireless was the number of executions carried out.'
signed, de G/11.10.41. [[Nigel] de
G[rey], 'German Police,' Oct 11, 1941, in PRO file
HW.1/135.] Churchill lined both the latter sentences in
'A touch of somewhat macabre humour emerges from the warning recently issued to Senior Officers that executions were not to be reported by W/T. The order has been variously interpreted -- some report "Action according to the usages or war", while others report that so many partisans are "dead" -- as distinct from "shot".'
He later added that 'There has been noted a pretty
consistent demand for Anti-typhoid lymph in the eastern
areas for the inoculation of Police units. It is difficult
to know whether these demands in any way exceed the normal,
given the conditions occasioned by war.' [GC&CS
German Police Section, [Nigel] de G[rey],
'German Police, Oct 17, 1941 (PRO file HW.1/148).]
No. 386, Oct 14, 1941, p 3 has itinerary of Himmler, Oct 2 to 5, 1941: Kiev, Nikolaev, Berditschew, Krivoi Rog.
No. 446, Nov 14, 1941: has Himmler to Jeckeln, HSSuPf Russland Süd, "Bitte mit aufgefundenem Verminungsplan der Stadt Kiew nach Kowno zu Reichskommissar Koch zu kommen. Sturmbannführer Dörner erwartet Sie dort in meinem Auftrag zur Besprechung mit Reichskommissar Koch. Gezeichnet H. Himmler."
No. 411, Oct 29, 1941: message of Oct 11,1941, HSSuPf Nord reports that heute in Russland angebaute Kautschukpflanzen mit Samen sichergestellt wurden, suggests transferring same to Kräutergarten KZ Dachau.
No. 490, Dec 13, 1491: decodes of Nov 13, 1941. Item 10, SS Oberabschnitt Nordsee, Hamburg 13, Firma Tesch Stabenow, Hamburg 1, Betr Brief Vom 5. Nov. "Erbitte Sofort Nachricht wann Zyklonversand erfolgt ist, und wann mit Teilversand von Tegas, Athyleno. D und Trito gerechnet werden kann, damit Dr Tesch, der in Riga Ausbildung ...; [corrupt groups ]... sämtliche ... sind sehr nötig. Dr Tesch bittet seine Post hierher zu senden. Leitender Arzt, bei Höherem SS und Pol.führer Riga."
[The above of course bears out what Tesch testified to as to his reason for being in Riga]
Item 32 in same Report, SPÖ de SPK1, Nr 35, 2200 ... Dessauer Werke für Zyklon und Chemische Zyklon, Dessau. Abholung von bereitgestellten 700 kg DNO [one word in brackets heavily inked out] durch Flugzeug nur an Königsberg möglich. Habe Armeeintendanten 15 Vorgeschlagen, Zyklontransport durch Lkw. nach Königsberg zu veranlassen. Falls dies nicht möglich, soll er durch Fs. mitteilen, in welche Königsberg-Adresse Zyklon per Bahnexpress vorzunehmen ist., Erbitte Benachrichtigung über erfolgte Erledigung an: Höherer SS und Pol Führer Ostland, Riga."
(on page 3) reads,
"OEJ de DSQ SSD DSQ Nr 3 1930 2 Tle 175 71 SPK1 3742
SS Obergruppenführer Jeckeln, Höherer SS und Pol.führer Ostland, Riga. Der Rf SS bittet Sie am 4.12.41 zu einer Besprechung zu ihm. Ich bitte um Angabe, wann Sie hier eintreffen, bezw. mit welchem Verkehrsmittel Sie kommen (wegen Abholung).
Gez. Grothmann, SS Hauptsturmführer und Adjutant."
Immediately following Item 25 reads:
"OEJ de DSQ DSAQ Nr 4 1930 2 Tle 177 75 DSPK1 3742
An Höheren SS und Pol. Führer Ostland, Riga.
Die in das Gebiet Ostland ausgesiedelten Juden sind nur nach den von mir bezw, [sic] vom Reichssicherheitshauptamt in meinem Auftrage gegebenen Richtlinien zu behandeln. Eigenmächtigkeiten und Zuwiederhandlungen [sic] würde ich bestrafen. Gez. H. Himmler."
No. 467, Nov 30, 1941. Decodes of traffic of Nov 20, 1941.
Item 2 is from Bremen to 0800, 3 Tle, "Befehlshaber der Orpo und SS, Riga. betrifft Judenevakuierung. Transportzug DO 56 hat am 18.11.41 Bremen in Richtung Minsk mit 971 Juden verlassen. Begleitkdo. Schupo Bremen; Transportführer, Pol.mstr Bockhorn, ist im Besitz von 2 Namenslisten und 48,700 Rm. in Kass-kreditscheinen. Juden sind mit Lebensmittel und Gerät gut ausgerüstet. Stapo Bremen."
Nov 15: "... SS Obergruppenführer Jeckeln von Kiew nach Riga versetzt..."
No. 515, Dec 25, 1941, traffic dated Nov 17, 1941:
"SPK de DQB SSD Berlin Nr 44 2300 3 Tle 173 169 177 SPK1
Befehlshaber der Sipo Dr Lange in Riga.
Betreffs Evakuierung von Juden. 17.11.41 um 1825 Uhr hat Transportzug Nr D O 26 Berlin in Richtung Kauen mit 944 Juden verlassen. Transport begleitet von 2 Stapo und 15 Pol.beamte. Transportführer Kriminaloberassessor Exner, der 2-facher Transportliste mit hat. Transport beigefügt an Verpflegung: 3000 Kg. Brot, 2700 Kg. Mehl, 200 Kg. Erbsen, 200 Kg. Nährmittel, 300 Kg. Hefeflocken, 18 Flaschen Suppenwürze. . . . [continued in Berlin Nr 45]."
Item 36: "SPK1 de SPÖ SSD Berlin Nr 45 2300 2 Tle 107 103 SPK1 410 .... 52,5 Kg. Suppenpaste, 100 Pakete .... corrupt groups .... 50 Kg. Salz, 1.... corrupt groups .... 1 ..... corrupt groups ...... und 47,200 Rm. in Reichskreditkassenscheinen. Stapoleitstelle Berlin, IV D 1."
No. 511, Dec 24, 1941, traffic dated Dec 1, 1941:
Item 2: "DQH de SPK SSD SPK1 Nr 1 0915 2 Tle 107 83 DQHJ 152
SS Führungshauptamt, Berlin. Benötige mit nächster Flugkuriergelegenheit 10 finnische Militär Pistolen mit je 2 Trommel Magazinen. Durchführung von Sonderaktionen. Erbitte ft. Antwort. Höherer SS und Pol.führer Russland Nord."
CX/MSS/1071/T6. On June 9, 1942 'Most Secret,
Chefsache, Nur durch Offizier' this order was sent by
OKW WFSt Qu Abt. K to Pz Armee Afrika ):
According to reports to hand there are said to be numerous German political refugees with the Free French units in Africa. The Führer has ordered that the severest measures are to be taken against those concerned. They are therefore to be mercilessly wiped out in battle, and in cases where they escape being killed in battle, a military sentence is to be pronounced immediately by the nearest German officer and they are to be shot out of hand, unless they have to be temporarily retained for Intelligence purposes. This order must not be forwarded in writing. Commanding officers are to be told verbally.
During early 1943 the intercepts were found to contain with greater frequency the word Sonderbehandlung, special treatment, which was evidently a thinly veiled reference to the termination of Germany's enemies. [Re Sonderbehandlung.] In one such message on January 17, 1943 the chief of police in Kiev reported laconically, 'So far 853 screened and 614 special-treated.' (GC&CS German Police Section intercept GPD1238I/2/4 Jan 18, 1943: BdS Kiew und Befehlststelle Sipo und SD, Owritsch, to Berlin, Jan 17, 1943 (PRO file HW.16/11).] A month later a report to the same police chief in Kiev after completion of the anti-partisan sweep HORNUNG listed the body count as
'(a) enemy dead eighty-two, (b) suspects and special-treated 1,124.'
(GC&CS German Police Section intercept: Bericht
an HSSuPf Kiew, Gesamtergebnis Unternehmen Hornung ,
1943 (PRO file HW.16/11).]
'Eighty British prisoners (Häftlinge) suitable for employment as 'Capos' are required for the concentration camp at Auschwitz (Schlesien).'
ACT commented that 'Capos' appear to be overseers or
foremen selected from among the prisoners themselves. (A
signal timed June 23, 1942]. (PRO file
"Tell the gentlemen," says Himmler, "that I shall not stand for any special pleading or explanations of exceptional cases and the like. Moreover, not another soldier shall enter Weissruthenien; mastery of the situation will be gained there too. Do everything to carry things through vigorously with the forces at your disposal."
( July 7, 1942 ). (PRO file HW.1/761).
SS Gruf. Müller to Auschwitz September 10,
1942 , betr Vollzug von Standgerichturteilen. 'Das
von Standgericht Emburg ausgesprochene Todesurteil gegen
Walzendreher Eugen Biren, geboren 6.4.14, ist durch
Erschiessen zu vollziehen.'
The PRO file HW.16/11, Extracts from
Decodes, German Police Section contains flimsy
original typed copies in German of intercepted signals from
ten concentration camps to Amt D III (Glücks) and from
eastern front police units e.g. Sonderkommando
Bragin, engaged in Bandenbekämpfung, with
typical entries relating to such operations, weapons found,
Banditen, Cetniks, hostages shot, etc., executions of
'83 aus politischem Sektor' ; a series of
reports of prisoners including individually named Jews (e.g.
Hermann Israel Dingfelder) being shot August - September
1942 bei Fluchtversuch aus dem Lager
Flossenbürg. Also a report dated December 1,
1942 from Buchenwald to Amt D III, betr Meldung
der Todesfällen von Häftlingen, im November
1942, listing those of naturliche
Todesursache , 134 altogether, including 4 Jews (gez.
'Subject: Flossenbürg concentration camp. Flossenbürg has fallen into the enemy's hands. In other cases the enemy has turned part of the prisoners (many of them armed) loose on the civilian population.
(Glücks to Martin, Apr 16; intercept CX/MSS/C.476
sent by Hut 3 to CSS, Inglis, et al., Apr 19, 1945 (PRO file
and other such items, all very indeterminate about actual
goings-on (as only hearsay).