Adolf Eichmann and Aktion Reinhardt

Doc 7 Hofle decode

Höfle Decode to Heim regarding Einsatz Reinhardt intercepted by Bletchley Park- January 1943  

1. Eichmann Interrogated

The first part of this page deals with the interrogation of Adolf Eichmann, by Avner Less, a captain in the Israeli police, in May 1960:

Adolf Eichmann admitted during the interrogation with Less, that during a meeting with Reinhard Heydrich, he was informed that the “The Führer has ordered physical extermination of the Jews”. Heydrich ordered Eichmann to pay a visit to see Odilo Globocnik, the Higher SS and Police Leader in Lublin. Heydrich confirmed that the Fuhrer has already given him instructions, and he wanted Eichmann to check on progress. Heydrich thought Globocnik was using Russian anti-tank trenches for exterminating the Jews. Eichmann went to Lublin, and located the headquarters of SS Police Commander and reported to Gruppenführer Globocnik. Eichmann added that Globocnik sent for a certain Sturmbannführer Höfle, who was on the Aktion Reinhardt  staff.

Eichmann and Höfle went from Lublin to Belzec. Eichmann described the site: there were patches of woods, sort of, and the road passed through – a Polish highway. On the right side of the road there was an ordinary house, that’s where the men who worked there lived. A captain of the regular police (Ordnungspolizei) welcomed us. This was Christian Wirth.  A few workmen were still there. Wirth took off his jacket, and rolled up his sleeves, he joined in the work. They were building little wooden shacks, two, maybe three of them, they looked like two or three room cottages. Höfle told Wirth to explain the installation to Eichmann, which he did. Wirth had a vulgar, uncultivated voice. With a dialect from the south-western corner of Germany, and he told me he had made everything airtight. It seems they were going to hook up a Russian submarine engine and pipe the exhaust into the houses and the Jews inside would be gassed.

Eichmann was unsure whether it was Belzec or Treblinka, but it was Belzec, and it was probably in the beginning of 1942 when the gas chambers were finished, awaiting the arrival of the first transports to the camp. His visit to Belzec was connected with the beginning of the deportations of the Czech Jews from Theresienstadt and mass deportations of the Jews from Slovakia to the Lublin district. Between March and June 1942 the Jews from the Czech and  Slovakian regions were deported to transit ghettos in Izbica, Zamość, Rejowiec, Chelm, Piaski, Lubartow, Miedzyrzec Podlaski, Deblin and Opole Lubelskie, the concentration camp at Lublin (Majdanek) and directly to the Sobibor death camp. The total number deported was 14,000 Czech Jews and 39,889 Slovakian Jews. 6900 Czech Jews and 9700 Slovakian Jews were murdered in the Belzec death camp.

The second Aktion Reinhardt camp Eichmann visited was the death camp at Treblinka.

Eichmann explained he received orders to pay another visit to Globocnik. He  went to see Globocnik in Treblinka, The installations were in operation, and he had to report to Muller. Eichmann expected to see a wooden house on the right side of the road and a few more wooden houses on the left, that’s what he remembered. Instead, again with the same Sturmbannführer Höfle, he arrived at the camp with a railroad station with a sign saying Treblinka, looking exactly like a German railroad station- anywhere in Germany – a replica, with signboards, etc. Eichmann said he hung back as far as he could, didn’t push closer to see it all. He saw a footbridge enclosed in barbed wire and over that footbridge a file of naked Jews was being driven into a big house to be gassed. Eichmann admitted that after the Wannsee Conference, Heydrich instructed Eichmann to give further written evidence to Globocnik, regarding the killing of more Jews, as part of the ‘Final Solution ‘. 

2. Eichmann in Lublin

Jacob Frank, a Jewish native of Lublin, was the SS-designated supervisor of the tailoring department of the 7 Lipowa Street labour camp in Lublin. Frank recalled a 1942 inspection of the Lipowa St labour camp that involved Adolf Eichmann, who was escorted by Globocnik, Maubach, Mohwinkel, Schramm, Klein, Hantke, and the Standartenführer von Alvensleben.

3. Eichmann at Belzec and Treblinka

Eichmann admitted that he visited Belzec and Treblinka, during his trial, but not Sobibor, which was at odds with the testimony of Moshe Bahir, whose original name was Shkalek, a former prisoner at Sobibor, who stated that he saw Eichmann at Sobibor in July 1942 and in February 1943 when RFSS Heinrich Himmler visited the death camp.

4. German Police Decodes & Related Activity

In a message dated 24 August 1942 from Globocnik to Rolf Gunther ( Eichmann’s deputy in RSHA IV B4) about the evacuation of the Rumanian Jews, all deportation trains should be directed to Trawniki, from where further distribution would take place.

A conference was held at the Ministry of Transport in Berlin on September 26 and 28 1942, to discuss the transportation requirements for the deportation of an additional 600,000 Jews from the General Gouvernement and the expulsion of 200,000 Jews from Rumania to Belzec.

The conference was attended by Eichmann or Rolf Gunther, Steir of the General Direction of the Ostbahn (GEDOB), and headed by Klem of the Ministry of Transport.

The following was decided

Evacuation of the Polish Jews

Urgent transports as proposed by the Chief of the Security Police and SD

2 trains daily from the Warsaw District to Treblinka

1 train daily from the Radom District to Treblinka

1 train daily from the Cracow District to Belzec

1 train daily from the Lvov District to Belzec

These transports will be carried out with the 200 freight cars already made available for this purpose by order of the Directorate of the German railways in Cracow, as far as this is possible.

Upon completion of the repair of the Lublin – Chelm line, about November 1942, the other urgent transports will also be carried out.

These are :

1 train daily from the Radom District to Sobibor

1 train daily from the north Lublin District to Belzec

1 train daily from the central Lublin district to Sobibor

In so far as this is practicable and the required number of freight cars are available. With the reduction of the transports of potatoes, it is expected that it will be possible for the special train service to be able to place at the disposal of the Directorate of the German railway in Cracow the necessary freight cars. Thus the train transportation required will be available in accordance with the above proposals and the plan completed this year.

The deportation of the Rumanian Jews to Belzec did not materialise, due to a number of factors, such as internal squabbles within the Rumanian administration, a protest submitted by the United States, to the Rumanian government in September 1942, and various efforts by Jewish leaders within Rumania.

But in fact, during that time the Rumanian administration organised its own “Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Many Rumanian Jews were murdered during the pogroms in Rumania (for example in Iassi and Bucharest) or thousands of them were transferred to Transistria in Ukraine and they were killed in the camps and ghettos there. In Transistria the Rumanians killed about 87.000 Rumanian Jews. The pogroms and mass murder in Rumania stopped only in 1944.

One of the most important messages intercepted by the British was the year end report on Aktion Reinhardt, sent by Höfle, marked Geheime Reichssache, (Reich State Secret) to Adolf Eichmann on 11 January 1943. This was only partially intercepted, the second message to SS-Obersturmbannführer Heim, BdS Krakau, was probably identical, and whilst coded shows the number of people deported to Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka.

Sources :

Jochen von Lang, Eichmann Interrogated, published by Da Capo Press 1999

Joe Poprzeczny, Hitler’s Man in the East, published by McFarland  & Company, Jefferson and London 2004

 Y Arad, Belzec , Sobibor and Treblinka, published by Indianna University Press 1987

Bundesarchiv in Ludwigsburg, II-208 AR 643/71, Documents of the investigations against Karl Streibel and others, Vol. IV.

Janina Kielbon: Migracje ludnosci w dystrykcie lubelskim w latach 1939-1944 (Migrations of the population in the Lublin District in the Years 1939-1944). Lublin 1995.

www. Nizkor project – Adolf Eichmann Trial Transcripts

Höfle – Heim intercepted police decode: National Archives Kew HW16/.32

© Holocaust Historical Society 2014