BRITISH INTELLIGENCE SERVICE:
Decoded radio messages from the General Government.
Prior to the German attack against Poland on 1 September 1939 the Polish intelligence service for several years had decoded some German military radio messages transmitted after encryption by the Abwehr’s Enigma machine. In July 1939, because of concerns about German military intentions, Polish intelligence handed over to the British and French intelligence services the secrets of their capability – a Polish manufactured replica Enigma machine.1 This paved the way for British intelligence to begin regular decoding of German secret radio traffic throughout the Second World War. The decoded radio messages involving German Order Police and Security Police discussed here began to be declassified in the UK during 1997.2
These radio messages cover the entire range of organizations controlled by the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. A word of caution, the messages themselves are like the pieces of thousands of jigsaw puzzles thrown into the air at one time, and individual pieces plucked out: like the pieces so gathered, there is little continuity among the messages. Therefore these radio messages are simply individual pieces from several different larger pictures involving the extermination operations against the Jews in the General Government and activities of the SS and Police Leader in Lublin, SS General Odilo Globocnik.
These messages chart Globocnik’s November 1939 relations with the Nazi civil authorities; in 1940 the resettlement of Volksdeutsche from Volhynia to the Lublin area, where Globocnik’s obvious promise of early completion to Himmler proved empty and he had to ask the Reichsführer-SS for an extension. This was slapped down by Rudolf Brandt, an aide of the Reichsführer, as being impossible at this late stage.3 October 1940 finds the first mention of Adolf Eichmann with Globocnik, over the transfer of Poles from Litzmannstadt to Lublin and nearby Lubartow.4 There is then a lull in radio messages involving Globocnik until July 1941.
On 17 July 1941, Reichsführer-SS Himmler appointed Globocnik as his Plenipotentiary for the Construction of SS and Police bases in the newly occupied Eastern areas (Der Beauftragte des Reichsführers-SS für die Errichtung der SS- und Polizeistützpunkte im neuen Ostraum) of the Soviet Union.5 Between July 1941 and April 1942, there was much intercepted radio traffic to/from Globocnik and his Base commanders (“der SS- und Polizeistützpunkte”): in Riga (SS-Obersturmführer Georg Michalsen), Bialystok then Minsk (SS-Untersturmführer Kurt Claassen), Mogilew (SS-Hauptsturmführer Hermann Höfle) and Starakonstantinow then Zwiahel and finally Kiew (SS-Obersturmführer Richard Thomalla). SS-Sturmbannführer Dolp also played a part in these constructions, especially in Minsk and Mogilew, during October to December 1941. These five SS officers in the coming year would play another important role in Einsatz Reinhard, once Globocnik was relieved of his construction tasks in Russia on 27 March 1942.6
During May 1942, Globocnik’s forces were involved in fighting partisans in his area and Globocnik informed HSSPF Krueger in Krakow (Cracow) on 1 May 1942, that he had instigated urgently a first degree Alarm condition.7 On 12 May 1942, Globocnik warned his neighbour, SSPF Brest (SS Brigadeführer Wappenhans), that a large police action would shortly be taking place in the area Wlodawa-Hrubieszow-Bug river, bordering the SSPF Brest area.8
On 13 June 1942, Globocnik received a radio message from the office of SS-Gruppenführer Grawitz, the Reichsarzt-SS and Police, in answer to his radio message of the previous day.9 Grawitz has passed the original message to the SS-Sanitätsamt in Berlin. Globocnik may have been asking Grawitz whether a Hygiene Insitut of the Waffen-SS (Hygiene Institut der Waffen-SS) for the General Government could be established in Lublin, possibly in preference to Krakow (Cracow).
On 22 and 24 August 1942 respectively, WVHA (signed Liebehenschel) requested the commandants of KL Auschwitz (Höß) and KL Buchenwald (Pister) to attend a meeting on 28 August at RSHA Berlin (Kurfürstenstraße 116) with SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann.10 The possibility exists that other KL commandants were also invited (a reflection on the amount of radio traffic British intelligence could intercept). In a message dated 24 August 1942 from Globocnik to SS-Sturmbannführer Rolf Günther of the RSHA (Eichmann’s deputy in RSHA IV B4) about the evacuation of the Rumanian Jews (Evakuierung von Juden aus Rumänien), all deportation trains should be directed to Trawniki from where further distribution would take place.11 This message indicates early planning between Eichmann and Globocnik for future plans as another conference of RSHA IV B4 officials at the Reich Ministry of Transport to discuss logistics for the evacuation of Rumanian Jews to the General Government did not take place until 26-28 September 1942,12 a month later.
September 1942 provided a number of messages. SS-Untersturmführer Johann Oppermann from the administration of SSPF Lublin was travelling in Holland, presumably buying supplies. He was directed by Globocnik to the August Harms Company in Hamburg and ordered to buy two excavators (Eimerbagger)13 for earthmoving. The question that springs to mind is what a SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Polizei would want with earthmoving equipment, perhaps the answer lies in digging mass graves. A less sinister need may have been digging drainage ditches and embankment strengthening around local Volksdeutsche settlements for which Globocnik was also responsible. Incidentally, the August Harms Company still exists and their website illustrates a wide range of earthmoving equipment.
The name Belzec makes an appearance on 12 September 1942 as the destination of a worker-transport train from Lublin via Debica to Belzec. The message possibly indicates Polish workers being brought in rather than Jews and the route of the train involved is puzzling. The same message also mentions materials and equipment being brought from Warsaw to Lublin on uncovered railway wagons. No forced labour projects in the Belzec area are known for this period and why Globocnik should rebuke the railway authorities (GEDOB) in the name of the Reichsführer-SS over these arrangements is not fully explained.14
September also saw the first mention of “Aktion Reinhard” in a partially intercepted radio message. WVHA granted KL Auschwitz permission for a vehicle to travel to Litzmannstadt and inspect the “Aktion Reinhard” research station for field-ovens.15 With SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel presently at Chelmno, near Litzmannstadt, testing the burning of corpses on pyres was the reason for the journey. This journey possibly also indicates an expansion of the phrase “Aktion Reinhard” outside the General Government.
In October 1942, the commandant of KL Auschwitz, Höß, advises Eichmann (message copied to Liebehenschel at WVHA) on Jewish deportation trains from “polo-czech-niederländischen” areas to Auschwitz. Höß draws Eichmann’s attention to the need of the Dutch deportation trains not to stop at Kosel (now Kozle) and proceed directly to Auschwitz.16 At all costs Höß wanted to avoid trains being stopped by forces of SS-Brigadeführer Albrecht Schmelt, responsible for the employment of foreign workers in Katowicze (Kattowitz) with its growing coal and steel industries, and the removal of able-bodied workers in preference to employment at Auschwitz. Schmelt, at the instigation of Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and Munitions, was being urged to compete with SS organizations for workers, and taking able-bodied Jews from deportation trains soured relations with KL Auschwitz.
WVHA (signed Maurer) also requested information from KL Auschwitz on 22 October 1942 about the current repair situation of watches, pens and other goods from “Aktion Reinhardt” being carried out there. The repair-workshops were to have been transferred to Berlin, but for the time being will remain at KL Auschwitz.17
The next radio message to be intercepted about “Aktion Reinhard” occurs in January 1943. Two partially intercepted messages exist, of which one is a fragment, but there can be little doubt that the two messages would have been more or less identical in their content. On 11 January 1943 at 10.00 a.m. a radio message marked “Geheime Reichssache” from SS-Sturmbannführer Höfle in Lublin addressed to SS-Obersturmbannführer Eichmann at RSHA Berlin was partially intercepted. At 10.05 a.m. Höfle sent a second message also marked “Geheime Reichssache” to SS-Obersturmbannführer Heim of the BdS office in Krakow; Heim was the deputy BdS under SS-Oberführer Dr Eberhard Schöngarth. The radio message to Heim is a 14 day report (for the 14 days prior to 31 December 1942) for “Einsatz Reinhart” and a year-end report, quoting a series of numbers against a series of letters. The author believes these figures provide an accurate reflection of the number of victims of the “Einsatz Reinhart” program to the end of 1942:
Letter and 14 day report year-end report
Camp i.d. to 31.12.1942 1942 total
L – Lublin 12761 24733
B – Belzec 0 434508
S – Sobibor 515 101370
T – Treblinka 10335 713555*
total: 23611 1274166
(* even radio operators and decoding people are fallible; in the decode itself the number is 71355, however this does not give proper addition, 713555 was the correct number.)
These radio messages are crucial in our understanding of the number of victims to the end of 1942 and indicate how the Reinhard camps were operating in this period. The total 1942 killing figure of 1,274,166 victims agrees completely with the same figure quoted in the so-called Korherr Report to Reichsführer-SS Himmler of 23 March 1943, where this exact number of victims “passed…through the camps in the General Government”. Peter Witte together with the author have written fully on these two messages elsewhere.18
In May 1943, Globocnik and Dr Horn, his Business Manager (Geschäftsführer) from Ostindustrie, another SS enterprise in the Lublin area and responsible to Globocnik, were seeking an appointment with WVHA-Chief, SS-Obergruppenführer Pohl19 in Berlin; in the first days of June 1943 Globocnik was back in Berlin for meetings with Eichmann and separately with SS-Gruppenführer August Frank of the WVHA (Department Head, Amtsgruppe A, Truppenverwaltung).20
Globocnik and Eichmann were together again, this time in Lublin. On 7 July 1943, Globocnik asks Eichmann to bring with him a “pass” for “Wilhelm Caesar Toebbens” when he visits on 9 July 1943.21 Some future program was discussed when they met as only two weeks later, on 21 July 1943, Globocnik advised Eichmann that the agreed date of 1 September 1943 for completion would now be difficult to meet and fresh instructions were needed. There are strong indications that their 9 July meeting concerned the final liquidation of the Bialystok Ghetto. At the end of July, or early August 1943, Globocnik visited the KdS Bialystok to discuss a date to begin the ghetto liquidation operation.
Globocnik was promoted SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei on 13 September 1943 and a week later transferred to Italy. SS-Gruppenführer Jakob Sporrenberg took over as SSPF Lublin. At 11.15 a.m. on 15 October 1943, the new SSPF Lublin advised his neighbour SSPF in Luzk, SS Brigadeführer Wilhelm Günther, that some 700 Jews had broken out of the Sobibor camp and would be escaping in his direction. Counter-measures should be undertaken.22 In fact at this time Sobibor held 700 Jews but not all of them fled, some remained in the camp and were later shot by returning SS forces. By the end of October 1943, “SS Durchgangslager Sobibor” was receiving unused ammunition from HSSPF Russland-Mitte for recycling into new munitions.23
Although Globocnik was well ensconced in his new position as HSSPF Adriatische Küstenland in Trieste, Italy, his Lublin duties persisted. It appears likely Globocnik was back in Berlin during early December 1943 for meetings together with his former administrative officials, SS-Sturmbannführer Wippern and SS-Hauptsturmführer Horn, presumably with the WVHA about continuing financial problems with Aktion Reinhard balance sheets. The financial problems persisted as Globocnik was still attempting a ‘final reckoning’ in late March 1944 with the cashier of Aktion Reinhard, SS-Oberscharführer Rzepa.24
The last Lublin message available reveals the escape of 20 or so “bearers of secrets” (Geheimnisträger) from an unspecified camp in the Lublin district during the night of 24 February 1944. These unfortunates had managed to remove their shackles, dig a tunnel stretching beyond the camp perimeter, and so escape. The KdS Lublin, Kripo expert, sought information on their capture.25 There appears no published information about these “bearers of secrets” and what they were doing in Lublin.
I mentioned at the beginning that the decoded messages were mixed up pieces from many jigsaws. In the larger picture these messages indicate regular contacts and meetings between Globocnik and Eichmann, in Berlin and Lublin; and separately, Eichmann with Höß in Berlin. Globocnik kept Eichmann informed of the progress of Aktion Reinhard and the radio message from 11 January 1943 was a 14 day report, therefore previous 14 day period reports were undoubtedly sent to Eichmann. These messages from Lublin with their references to Aktion Reinhard add to our knowledge of events, at the time British Intelligence had little idea they already referred to the murder of over one million Jews.
In the Appendix, copies of all the decoded SSPF Lublin material illustrating its activities.
1. Stephen Budiansky, Battle of Wits. The Complete Story of Codebreaking in World War II, (London: Viking, 2000), p. 94.
2. Although decoded wartime radio messages from the German Navy and Army had been declassified in the UK some years previously, the decoded material used here was not declassified until 1997.
3. Public Record Office (cited as PRO hereafter), Kew, UK: HW 16/5.
4. PRO: HW 16/30.
5. Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941/42, edited by Peter Witte, Michael Wildt,
Martina Voigt, Dieter Pohl, Peter Klein, Christian Gerlach, Christoph Dieckmann and
Andrej Angrick, (Hamburg: Christians, 1999); see also PRO: HW 16/32 (ZIP/GPD 347
message 1, transmitted 5 September 1941, where Globocnik uses his new title.
6. Berlin Document Center, SS-Officer file, Odilo Globocnik.
7. PRO: HW 16/17 (ZIP/GPDD 19, message 3/4, transmitted 1 May 1942).
8. PRO: HW 16/54 (PRIT.292 transmitted 12 May 1942).
9. PRO: HW 16/19 (ZIP/GPDD 124, message 36/37, transmitted 13 June 1942). It does not appear likely that this was involved with Grawitz seeking dental gold “of Jewish origin”, see exchange of correspondence from Grawitz with SSPF Warsaw and Lublin, and Himmler’s aide Rudolf Brandt during April-July 1942, Nuremberg documents NO-3163 to NO-3166.
10. PRO: HW 16/21 (ZIP/GPDD 213b, message 38/39, transmitted 22 August 1942; and
ZIP/GPDD 215b, messages 55/56 and 64/65, transmitted 24 August 1942). A report on the 28 August 1942 meeting was prepared by SS-Untersturmführer Ahnert of BdS France deputizing for his chief, Heinz Röthke, the Jewish expert stationed in Paris. Ahnert writes from the impact of the meeting for deportations from France, but he does confirm the presence of Höszlig; at the meeting, see Robert M W Kempner, Eichmann und Komplizen (Zürich, Stuttgart, Wien: Europa Verlag, 1961), pp 220-222.
11. PRO: HW 16/21 (ZIP/GPDD 215a, message 47/48, transmitted 24 August 1942). Discussions at this level about the intended deportation of 200,000 Rumanian Jews to begin later in 1942 are completely new and pre-empt the Eichmann conference to plan this operation. Surely, the distribution of the Rumanian Jews at Trawniki mentioned in this radio message, indicates that not all the Rumanian Jews were to be killed on arrival, but some used in forced labour. The majority would be killed at Belzec.
12. Dokumente über Methoden der Judenverfolgung im Ausland, submitted by United Restitution Organization in Frankfurt am Main (1959), pp 75-76, includes the protocol from the meeting held in Berlin, 26-28 September 1942. The protocol documents the desired deportations in concert with the Rumanian railway authorities, unfortunately for Eichmann, at the last minute the Rumanian railway representatives failed to attend. The deportations of Rumanian Jewry never took place.
13. PRO: HW 16/21 (ZIP/GPDD 226a, message 54/55, transmitted 4 September 1942).
14. PRO: HW 16/21 (ZIP/GPDD 234a, message 32/34, transmitted 12 September 1942).
A likely explanation for this rather strange message may involve the aftermath of a high-speed train crash. On 8 September 1942 a Jewish deportation train via Lviv (Lwow) to Belzec travelling at speed on the single-track railway line crashed into a civilian train carrying German civilians and military personnel travelling in the opposite direction. The crash occurred at Hrebenne, 14km south east of Belzec. There was heavy loss of life and carnage. These Polish workers and the equipment may have been needed to clear the crash site and restore the railway line. (Information courtesy of Mike Tegenza, Lublin.)
15. PRO: HW 16/21 (ZIP/GPDD 237b, message 42/43, transmitted 15 September 1942).
With so many documents and records destroyed by Security Police and SS offices towards the end of the war, a copy of this particular message has been found in the KZ Auschwitz Museum Archiv: APMO, Höß-Prozess, Bd. 12, Bl. 168 and Bd. 38, Bl. 114, Anlage 59. I am grateful to Peter Witte for this example that shows quite clearly the authenticity of the British Intelligence wartime decodes and reliability of the text itself.
In his memoirs, Höß recalls visiting “Culmhof” with SS-Untersturmführer Franz Hößler (Birkenau Schutzhaftlagerführer) and SS-Obersturmführer Walter Dejaco (Bauleitung, KL Auschwitz) to inspect how Blobel was burning bodies using wood and petrol residues, see Kommandant in Auschwitz, edited by Martin Broszat (Munich: DTV, 1981, 2nd edition), pp 161-162. A report of Dejaco confirms the visit to Litzmannstadt on 17 September 1942 (NO-4467).
16. PRO: HW 16/21 (ZIP/GPDD 259b, message 1/4, transmitted 7 October 1942).
17 PRO: HW 16/21 (ZIP/GPDD 274b, message 35/36, transmitted 22 October 1942).
18. PRO: HW 16/23 (ZIP/GPDD 355a, messages 12 and 13/15, transmitted 11 January 1943. For the Korherr Report of 23 March 1943, see BAB, NS 19/1570 (covering letter, Nuremberg document NO-5195, the report is NO-5194). A full documentation of these two decode messages, Peter Witte and Stephen Tyas, “A New Document on the Deportation and Murder of Jews during ‘Einsatz Reinhardt’ 1942,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 15:3 (2001) pp. 468-486.
19. PRO: HW 16/25 (ZIP/GPDD 473d, message 10/11, transmitted 8 May 1943).
20. PRO: HW 16/25 (ZIP/GPDD 498a, messages 15 and 16, transmitted 2 June 1943).
The meeting with August Frank may have been in Frank’s position as WVHA deputy chief.
21. PRO: HW 16/26 (ZIP/GPDD 533a, message 11, transmitted 7 July 1943; and ZIP/GPDD 547a, message 23, transmitted 21 July 1943). It is highly likely that “Wilhelm Caesar Toebbens” was in fact W. C. [Walter Caspar] Toebbens and Globocnik was simply ensuring that “W. C. Toebbens” was properly identified using the German phonetic language. Another question arises, why would Toebbens need a “Pass” unless he was being taken to visit a death camp. The only death camp still in operation in the Lublin area was Sobibor.
22. PRO: HW 16/38 (ZIP/GPD 1956 CC-HH, message DD 12, transmitted 15 October 1943 at 1115h).
23. PRO: HW 16/39 (ZIP/GPD 2041 DD-FF, message DD 14, transmitted 27 October 1943.
24. PRO: HW 16/39 (ZIP/GPD 2187 EE-HH, message HH 4, transmitted 5 December 1943); and HW 16/40 (ZIP/GPD 2509 transmitted 17 March 1944). On 5 January 1944 Globocnik wrote from Trieste to Reichsführer-SS Himmler, enclosing the preliminary financial balance sheet for Aktion Reinhard covering the period 1 April 1942-15 December 1943, indicating an operating profit of 178,745,960.59 Reichsmark (Nuremberg document PS-4024).
25. PRO: HW 16/69 (PEARL/ZIP/AT 669 transmitted 27 February 1944).