|The old rice factory (La Risiera)
(adjacent to the San
Sabba crematorium ) in Trieste. )
(* On the San Sabba photograph,
traces of the crematorium built by
Erwin Lambert in the inner courtyard
can be seen to right of the tower.)
Although Italy may appear to be far removed from Lublin and the Reinhardt death camps, the HHE continued to direct their attention to the Jewish Question. With the downfall of Mussolini on July 25, 1943 and the surrender of his satrap Marshall Badoglio to the Allies, Germany quickly entered the fray by occupying northern Italy and disarming all military forces. In early September 1943, vast numbers of German administrators and security forces entered the areas of occupation, just as they had in Poland in 1939 and Soviet territory in1941 to maintain the status quo.
On September 25, 1943, the HHE were again quick off the mark, outflanking their civilian cohorts and immediately proceeding with anti-Jewish measures as a priority over all other economic and military objectives. The SS in Berlin continued pulling the strings, so to speak, by installing their most experienced and well- proven anti-Semite operators in high positions: Dr Otto Wächter, formally of Kraków and Governor of Galicia, was now chief of military administration, and Globocnik was installed as District Police Commander, accompanied by a full contingent of elite Reinhardt personnel.
Globocnik installed several regional offices with the central base in Trieste: R I (Fiume-Suak) under Hering, R II (in Undine) under Reichleitner, and R III under Stangl. Another unit, R IV, was based in Metre, which was outside the Adriatic Coastland region. Einsatz R, under Wirth's overall command, was responsible for all Jewish measures and Italian and Yugoslav partisans). A transit camp for Italian Jews and captured Italian and Yugoslav partisans was established in an abandoned rice mill ('La Risiera') in the San Sabba suburb of Trieste, which was operational from October 30, 1943 to April 30, 1944.
San Sabba was established solely as a transit camp for deporting the last few Italian Jews to the labor camps in Germany or direct to Auschwitz. While Wirth was in control, San Sabba remained the headquarters of the Einsatz R units under Dieter Allers right up until they withdrew across the border into Austria towards the end of the war.
Excess T4 personnel who had returned to Berlin after Reinhardt closed in Poland were hastily recalled on Christmas Eve 1943 to report directly to Wirth in Italy. All the old familiar faces from Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka were now ensconced together under the same proven police leadership. Wirth and Hering had not lost their touch or commitment to the Jewish Question. They introduced the necessary accoutrements for mass murder by establishing gas van facilities and crematoria. The 'R' staff continued to use the methods used in Poland: beating prisoners to death, torturing, and ordering young children to collect firewood to light the fires for their own cremation.
According to Italian court documentation, Globocnik's units murdered over 3,000 people in the San Sabba that included captured Italians, Yugoslav Partisans, and Jews. The records confirm that 22 deportation trains were organized in Trieste sending Jews and political prisoners to Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and Bergen-Belsen. As in Poland, the old and the sick were weeded out and shot before deportation. These actions only terminated when the war front was getting closer and defeat appeared imminent. Even so, the Jews in Trieste fared far better than in other districts.
Within this atmosphere and fear of possible retribution, the HHE may have considered a solution whereby these men could be placed in situations where their lives were more likely to be lost more quickly. Rumors abounded among the old Reinhardt garrisons as to how their fate would eventually be decided. Stangl explained, We were an embarrassment to the brass. They wanted to find ways to get rid of us. Wirth had confided in a similar tone to his men in Treblinka in August 1942, The Jews are here to be killed. The Ukrainians, after the job is done, will be killed too. What will happen to us we do not know. It could be that we, too, will die. Globocnik had also made known his feelings, I, too, am no longer in it with all my heart. However, I am so deeply implicated in the matter that I have no choice I must win, or perish with Hitler. The rumors continued among the men for many months and were often the subject for discussion in the mess. The men felt deeply uneasy, and they were proved right. Josef Oberhauser stated, in answer to the Prosecution Counsel at the Munich court on June 24, 1963:
It is right that the members of T4 cultivated the rumor that after the 'final victory', or at some time when the military situation justified it, at the wish of the highest leader of the NSDAP (Hitler), we were to be sent on a 'Strength Through Joy' voyage. The object of this pleasure trip was to gather all those with the unpleasant knowledge of the Jewish extermination operation and eliminate them. This rumor struck home and was naturally not good for morale. Wirth was interested enough to investigate the affair and to procure the certainty as to whether it was a rumor or an actual intention of the state leadership which had somehow leaked out.
Wirth had the opportunity to mention these fears when Blankenburg (KdF) came to see Globocnik. Without further ado, Wirth took hold of Blankenburg and reproached him with the rumor among the troops about the 'Strength Through Joy' voyage and demanded an explanation. I (Oberhauser) personally heard this conversation. I stood immediately next to Wirth. This stunned Blankenburg. He fumed a glaring red, exactly as if one had confronted a murderer who believed until now he was undetected. His psychological reaction was unusual. He was unable to say anything and when he had pulled himself together, he muttered that he would go immediately to Reich Leader Bouhler and Reich Leader Bormann to bring a stop to this at the highest levels. In fact, one had the impression that he was completely in the picture, and that it was not a rumor but a secret intention of the NS-leadership, which through some kind of indiscretion had leaked out.
We never heard anything more about this subject. It is possible that Blankenburg had been directed to undermine the morale of the troops, but the rumor was never scotched.
Franz Suchomel (SS-Scharführer Treblinka), who was no friend of Oberhauser, corroborates this rumor and although he thought it was unlikely, he says that anything was possible.
Stangl, who appears to have accepted the war's outcome, had slipped away to his native Austria, probably to mount a cover story for times gone by, but not before he had seen Wirth lying dead! In the Sereny interview, Stangl casually mentions seeing Wirth dead just before leaving Trieste: I saw him dead. They said partisans killed him but we thought his own men had taken care of him.
The assassinations of Reichleitner, Wirth and Schwarz by partisans are well documented in Ludwigsburg archives in Germany, and in the Ljubljana archives in Slovenia. There's a whole file at the Public Record Office on Globocnik's last days and suicide. Maj. Ken Hedley who, arrested Globocnik in the mountain chalet and received very interesting information from former SS-Stubaf. Ernst Lerch, who was sent by Globocnik with an SS unit to hunt down Wirth's killers. In the Tregenza collection in Lublin (TAL), a copy can be seen of the diary of Yugoslav partisan leader who arranged Wirth's assassination.
There were certainly a number of former concentration and death camp officers who either died in uncertain circumstances or just disappeared and were presumed dead. Among them were the deaths in suspicious circumstances of Hering, Globocnik, and Wilhelm Krüger (HSSPF Kraków).
Wirth, Schwarz and Reichleitner all found their final resting place in the German cemetery on the hilltop town of Costermano on the slopes of Monte Baldo, between the eastern shore of Lake Garda and Verona, where they still remain. Although their names have been removed from the book of memory and the register of war dead and on the gravestones, once a year, flowers are laid on the graves and unidentified visitors attend to pay homage. They have been observed giving the Nazi salute.
In Lublin, SS-Judge Konrad Morgan and SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Heinrich Wilhelm Weid from the SS-investigation squad of the RSHA, scented blood as the whole complexity of Reinhardt had now been fully exposed. Globocnik had read between the lines and immediately began a cover-up operation.
Hoess, a knowledgeable insider, considered the whole Reinhardt program in Lublin to be a center of corruption and theft which enriched everyone involved.
It was from his headquarters in Trieste that Globocnik confirmed in writing to Himmler (at the very time of the massacres occurring in Majdanek on November 4, 1943) that Reinhardt had been officially concluded on October 19, 1943, only five days after the revolt in Sobibor.
Globocnik's 38 -page document that makes up his final report for Reinhardt, confirms that the extermination of several million Jews from different European countries was a massive act of industrial killing. The report is divided into two separate sections with appendices, which contained a number of significant explanations and requests. The documents included details of the resettlement of Jews from the Lublin District, the retention of working Jews for manufacture and, furthermore, that he (Globocnik) had finally handed over the Jewish work camps to Oswald Pohl, who was in charge of all concentration camps. A specific schedule showed (minus Reich Marks) currency from 29 countries.
Himmler's reply to Globocnik on November 30,1943 was brief:
I acknowledge your letter of 11-4-43 and your report about the end of 'Operation Reinhardt.' In addition, I thank you for the attached files. I acknowledge your great and unique service in accomplishing 'Operation Reinhardt' for the glory of the whole German Nation. My thanks and appreciation.
There was no mention of Iron Crosses or Reinhardt accounts in Himmler's reply.
During Himmler's last visit to Lublin on February 12, 1943, he promoted Globocnik's Reinhardt leadership. All kinds of difficulties appear to have arisen regarding these promotions. Further promotions of this team was frustrated by the RSHA; some were later confirmed while others were rejected. Wirth's promotion to SS-Obersturmführer was rejected by the RSHA Personnel Department, as Wirth had not held the intermediary rank of SS- Hauptsturmführer. Hering had been promoted to Police Inspector of the Kriminalpolizei and recommended for promotion to the SS-aligned rank of SS-Hauptsturmführer, which was rejected, as he had never been a member of the Waffen SS. (Hering was later promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer after Himmler's intervention with the SS Main Personnal Office in Berlin). However, SS-Oberscharführer Josef Oberhauser, who was a bona-fide member of the SS, was promoted to SS-Untersturmführer in June 1943. The confusion continued when Globocnik tried to secure promotions for his police commandants, Reichleitner and Stangl, neither of whom held Orpo or SS ranks, and, as mere Kriminalsekretäre, were not qualified for the SS rank of Obersturmführer.
It is interesting to note in this exchange that Globocnik confirmed that Stangl was not SS at all, but was a police officer working under cover: Stangl is the best camp commander who was the most prominent individual in the whole action. While still in the Austrian police, he served as an undercover SS man. If Globocnik took this view about Stangl, and he should know, then the same view should apply to the majority of other personnel who were not SS; i.e., that they, too, were all working undercover, carrying out their duties in mass murder and, at the same time, by wearing the uniform of the SS, were also impersonators. However, they were entitled to wear SS-uniform for the duration of Reinhardt simply because that operation (in Trieste) was run by the SS. Karl Frenzel (former Scharführer at Sobibòr), who had previously been a carpenter in T4 where he progressed to Brenner'(burner of corpses) ,stated, 'I was not SS. There were only five SS. The rest were civilians in SS uniforms. Even Rudolf Hoess of Auschwitz referred to this group as Globocnik's collection of misfits and claimed that the men under him were out of control.
These anomalies were to pervade Reinhardt to the end. These men, of whatever status, expected that their commitment and success in their tasks should be rewarded with advancement. The fact that some did not have the military background for promotion was a continuing running sore for them. Globocnik entered the row directly with Himmler and in addition to the promotions controversy, requested Iron Crosses for his team for their outstanding performance during the Warsaw Ghetto destruction, but again there was no response. Himmler, probably reluctantly, and no doubt trying to distance himself from the corrupt side of Globocnik's Reinhardt activities, enforced the promotion issue but dallied on the issue of medals.
With Wirth and Reichleitner dead and Stangl having fled to Austria, Globocnik stuck it out until mid-May 1945. In the general retreat of German forces, Globocnik teamed up with other fleeing Reinhardt personnel: Gauleiter Friedrich Rainer, Ernst Lerch, Hermann Höfle, Georg Michalsen, and Karl Helletsberger.
Although Globocnik's unauthorized acts were named, they were not criticized, but excused and judged right, because they were successful.
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