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wrote from Canberra, Australia, on August 20, 2000
Lohse's Remarks at a Göring Conference
I HAVE recently read Nuremberg Document 170-USSR, found on pages 384-427 of Volume XXIX of the Trial of the Major War Criminals ("Blue Series").
This document is the verbatim record of a conference of Reich Commissioners and representatives of the military commanders for the Occupied Territories, held on 6 August 1942 under the chairmanship of Göring. The purpose of the conference was to set the quotas of foodstuffs to be delivered to Germany from the occupied areas.
One of the participants in the conference was Fritz Reinhardt, State Secretary for the Reich Ministry for Nutrition, after whom "Aktion Reinhardt" may have been named (that at least is the opinion of Robert Köhl in his book on the Reichskommissariat für die Festigung deutschen Volkstums).
The impetus for the conference was provided by the worsening food situation in Germany. As Göring stated right at the outset (p, 385):
"Gestern haben die Gauleiter sich hier ausgesprochen. Wenn auch Ton und Gebaren verschieden sein mögen. so klang doch bei allen Gauleitern gleich klar heraus: das deutsche Volk hat zu wenig zu essen".
Göring went on to lay down the principle that the German people was to be fed if necessary at the expense of the conquered peoples. He stated:
"Der Führer hat wiederholt ausgesprochen, und ich habe es ihm nachgesprochen: wenn gehungert wird, dann hungert nicht der Deutsche, sondern andere, wenn gehungert werden muß".
Göring's discussions with the various participants in the conference followed a single pattern; Göring would ask an official how much his territory could deliver, the official would protest that his territory could deliver no more, to which Göring would respond that the local population must go without in order to meet the quota for delivery to Germany.
The part of the record of the conference that most interested me occurs on page 402. It is an exchange between Göring and the Reichskommissar Ostland, Lohse, and it reads as follows:
The intriguing element in the above passage is Lohse's throw-away reference to the fact that most of the Jews in his territory are dead, and several tens of thousands are gone, in the midst of a complaint about the reduced rations imposed on the Latvians. Why did he throw in that particular piece of information? As you will be aware, most of the remaining Jews of Riga had been exterminated in two massacres on 30 November and 8 December 1941.
The most likely answer is that Lohse saw the extermination of most of the Jews in his territory as a measure that had reduced the pressure on food resources, making more available for delivery to the Reich, which is of course what the conference was all about. He seems to be making a complaint: the local demand for food has been substantially reduced by killing some tens of thousands of Jews, but still the rations of the Latvians have been cut to 15% below the German level. Göring cuts off the complaint rather abruptly.
It needs to be remembered that in July 1941, when Lohse first took up his position as Reichskommissar Ostland, he issued guidelines for the treatment of the local Jews which laid down that food resources for Jews should be kept to a minimum, and that they should be given only what was not needed for the rest of the population. Now the Jews, being mostly dead, did not need any food at all, but still more was to be screwed out of his bailiwick.
I consider that Lohse's comments give an insight into the driving force behind the mass killing of Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories. The aim was to free up food resources by killing off part of the local population. The anti-Semitic ideology of National Socialism determined that, given that aim, it would be primarily the Jews who would be killed, rather than some other part of the population. But it was not the anti-Semitic ideology that mandated the killing. Rather, it was the food shortage caused by the war situation, and the need to ensure that the German people would not suffer from that shortage, that created the imperative that a part of the conquered population should die, whether by active killing or simply by being left to starve.
Replies and comments to the above on this website:
David Irving wrote to Mills on Sunday, August 20, 2000
YES, I have that transcript August 6, 1942 on microfilm and read it twenty years or so ago and used it in my Göring biography. Lohse doesn't say the Jews are dead, he says, "the Jews are gone." (weg: left, gone away). And notice that one page of the transcript (at least on my microfilm copy) immediately preceding that is missing. Why!?
Concerning a possible missing page, the way the document is printed in Vol. XXXIX of the Blue Series does show a page break between Goering's question "Beliefern Sie ausserdem Wehrmachtteile" and Lohse's answer "Darauf kann ich auch antworten". However, no indication of a missing page is given by any of the conventional means, such as a note to that effect or a line of dots.
The only indication that a page may be missing is in the page numbering. The page break referred to above indicates the start of page 145, but the preceding page break indicates the start of page 143. This could indicate that either - there is a missing page 144, or - the pages in the original were misnumbered, with the page numbered 145 following immediately on page 143.
It appears that the editors of this document may have assumed the latter case, and that is why they have not drawn the reader's attention to a missing page 144. Their assumption may be justified, as there is no obvious lacuna in the flow of the text from page 143 to page 145; Goering asks a question, and Lohse appears to answer it. Admittedly, Lohse's answer is somewhat tangential to what Goering actually asked.
On the other hand, it may well be that an original page 144 is missing. If so, it must fortuitously have commenced with Lohse's answer to Goering's question at the end of page 143, and ended with another question by Goering, to which Lohse's words at the beginning of page 145 are the answer. If that is the case, then I think we can have a stab at reconstructing Goering's question. Lohse's answer is that only a small part of the Jews are still living, and the Latvians are receiving 15% less than Germans. Goering must have asked something along the lines of how much food are the Jews and Latvians of Riga consuming, and whether their rations can be reduced to make more available for shipment to Germany. Lohse's answer is that only a small part of the Jews are alive, ie implying that they are not consuming very much at all, and the Latvians are already consuming 15% less than Germans, at Goering's instruction. I doubt that the missing page would have contained an enquiry about what had happened to the Jews of Riga, since that was immediately relevant to the purposes of the conference.
As to the interpretation of Lohse's word "weg", it seems to me that he implicitly divides the Jews of Riga (or perhaps of the entire Ostland) into two groups, a minority that is still living, and a group of some tens of thousands that is "weg". It is reasonable to assume that the second group is no longer living, and hence "weg" means dead in this case.
An alternative interpretation is that Lohse is talking about only one group of Jews, the group that is still living, and that those Jews are "weg", ie they have been removed from Riga. That seems to me less likely, since at the time of the conference there were still quite a few Jews in the Riga area, both in the Riga Ghetto itself and in camps such as Jungfernhof . These consisted of a small number of surviving Latvian Jews, plus German Jews deported to Riga at the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942. A relatively large number of these survived until 1944, when they were evacuated to Germany by ship.
. . . that might well have been one of the motives for moving to the liquidation of the Jewish population of the Generalgouvernement. I recall that in the book "Final Solution" by Goetz Aly, there was some data on net grain exports from the Generalgouvernement to Germany. These statistics showed that in fiscal 1940-41 there was a net flow from Germany to the Generalgouvernement, in fiscal 1941-42 there was a marginal net flow from Germany, while in fiscal 1942-43 there was a net flow into Germany sufficient to provide for the needs of over one million persons. Aly himself relates this reversal in the flow of grain exports to the liquidation of the Jewish population in the Generalgouvernement.
With regard to the massacres of Jews in the Soviet Union in 1941, most historians that I have read divide them into an intitial phase, when it was predominantly the Jewish intelligentsia and Jewish men of military age who were killed, with the women, children and older men being ghettoised, and a second phase, when many of the ghettos were liquidated and their inhabitants killed in large-scale shooting actions. It may be that in the first phase, the German security forces justified the killings on the basis of security considerations, without the motive of reducing the number of consumers. But considerations of food supply may well have played a role in the transition to the second phase, given that by this time the German Blitzkrieg had slowed, and it was increasingly clear that the fighting would continue through the winter and into the following spring, during which time food shortages were inevitable. I should point out that not all the ghettos were immediately liquidated; many survived into 1943, and the residual ghetto at Vileyka lasted until 1944, just before it was taken by the advancing Red Army.
The German historian Peter Longerich provides a detailed analysis of the transition to the second phase in his magnum opus "Politik der Vernichtung". He specifically relates the second phase to a plan to reduce the population of the occupied Soviet areas by 30 million, which was outlined by the German State Secretary for Nutrition, Herbert Backe, shortly before the commencement of the attack on the Soviet Union. This decimation plan was directly related to the procurement of the food supply for the German population. Backe's theory was that since the beginning of the century Russia had ceased to be a net food exporter due to a population increase of 30 million since that time, the additional population in the food-deficit areas of North Russia consuming the surplus of South Russia. Therefore, if the population could be reduced to its former level, primarily by eliminating non-food-producers such as town-dwellers, the surplus would again become available for export to Germany.
Longerich sees the second phase of the massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union as simply the initial phase of Backe's more general decimation plan, brought forward by Himmler due to the faltering German offensive. It follows logically that if the intensification of the massacres of Jews was part of a plan designed to make food available to German consumers by eliminating competing Soviet consumers, then those massacres were likewise motivated by considerations related to ensuring the German food supply.
Since Jews were not generally food producers, their elimination would not adversely affect food production and supply. One peculiar incident in the Einsatzgruppen campaign illustrates that point. At one point, Einsatzgruppe D came across some Kolkhozy where the entire staff, including the farm workers, were Jews. Noneplussed, Ohlendorf did not have them killed immediately, but sought advice from Himmler as to what to do with them. Obviously there must have been a conflict between the imperative to destroy "parasitical" populations such as the Jews and the imperative to preserve the food-producing population. Himmler's orders were to destroy these Jewish kolkhozniki.
I of course agree with your interpretation that Lohse's words mean that the thousands of Jews who were "weg" were those who were no longer living.
THERE is no doubt from the original microfilm of the document, on which I relied, that the one page is missing.
David Irving responded to Mills on Thursday, August 24, 2000:
The page is definitely missing. I worked from the original document on microfilm, not the printed volume. The same kinds of problems occur when you look at the originals of Himmler's famous speeches (Posen, etc.): you find pages missing or retyped by different hands, even repaginated! (I am not suggesting anything, just pointing to a fact that most historians seem to miss).