Deciding who shall kill the children.

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Excerpted from the book: “The Good Old Days”  The Holocaust as seen by its Perpetrators and Bystanders

1 SS-Obersturmführer. First lieutenant of the SS

2 Paul Blobel (August 13, 1894 – June 7, 1951) was a German Nazi war criminal. SS-Standartenführer (Colonel).  During the German invasion of the Soviet Union, he commanded Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C  that was active in Ukraine. Following Wehrmacht troops into Ukraine, the Einsatzgruppen would be responsible for liquidating political and racial undesirables; that would include the 90 plus Jewish children describe above in SS-Oberstrumfuhrer August Häfner telling. Blobel was also responsible for the Babi Yar massacre at Kiev.

3 The Waffen-SS ( Armed SS) was created as the armed wing of the Nazi Party’s Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squadron”), and gradually developed into a multi-national military force of Nazi Germany. 

4 Feldkommandant: a local military command responsible for the administration of the territory it occupied.

5 The Wehrmacht:  (Defence Force)— from German: wehren, to defend and Macht, power, force. Was the unified armed forces of Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the army), the navy and the air force.

ON THE KILLING OF THE CHILDREN AS TOLD BY SS-OBERSTRUMFUHRER1 AUGUST HÄFNER … Then Blobel2 ordered me to have the children executed. I asked him, “By whom should the shooting be carried out?” He answered, “By the Wafffen-SS3.” I raised an objection, “They are all young men. How are you going to answer to them if you make them shoot small children?” To this he said, “Use your men.” I then said, “How can they do that? They have small children as well.” This tug of war lasted about ten minutes … I suggested that the Ukrainian militia of the Feldkommandant4 should shoot the children. There were no objections from either side to this suggestion … I went out to the woods alone. The Wehrmacht5 had already dug a grave. The children were brought along in a tractor. I had nothing to do with the technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing round trembling. The children were taken from the tractor. They were lined up along the top of the grave and shot so they fell into the grave. The wailing was indescribable. I shall never forget the scene throughout my life. I find it hard to bear. I particularly remember a small fair-haired girl who took me by the hand. She too was shot later … The grave was near some woods. It was not near the rifle range. The execution must have taken place in the afternoon about 3pm or 4pm. It took place after the discussions at the Feldkommandanten … Many children were hit four or five times before they died.

Poets, would you, could you get your poetry up for them. An agony unknown to you, born years before your first laugh, first tear. Would you, could you touch, feel them, wrap your poetry around them. Not asking much, asking burning craters, marathons, deep sea dives.

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The only way the child pictured above survived the Warsaw ghetto was to be given to an Aryan household outside of the Warsaw ghetto for care. Otherwise her father and/or her were taken for deportation to be gassed. The father might have avoided the gas chamber spared for slave labor but his daughter will go her death.

A situation sometimes arises where parents have the option of going with their child to the gas chamber or to choose to live another day by working in or outside the ghetto leaving their child to be herded off in a freight car with other children, the elderly, ultimately to be gassed to death.

Starving children sitting on the pavement in the Warsaw ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

Starving children: Warsaw ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

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A starving child lying on the sidewalk: Warsaw Ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

A starving child: Warsaw Ghetto: Yad Vashem Photo archives.

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dead baby, Warsaw ghetto

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Childcare in the Ghetto

Childcare in the ghetto requires a unique set of skills and is a risky business. All infants and children are doomed to death by the nazi dictate: kill every Jewish child not old enough to be put to labor. Parents had to be aggressive negotiators, have contacts outside the ghetto and have a hidden cache of jewelry, diamonds, bracelets or cash; not an easy task, their captives picked then dry. Parents had to locate an Aryan household outside of the ghetto, first to trust them, then to bribe and convince them to care for and raise their child; a monumental endeavor, dangerous, not always successful. Sometimes the Aryan would take the money, the jewelry, whatever; then refuse to take the child or turn the child and parents over to the police.

Most Jews within the Warsaw ghetto did not have the wherewithal, the goods to negotiate. The majority of parents, children, humans, people, souls, Jews shared their starvation to the cruel end. The death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto, between deportations to extermination camps, Großaktion Warschau, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the subsequent razing of the ghetto, is estimated to be at least 300,000.

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There were a few Polish citizens who risked their life to save the children, no compensation needed. Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who served in the Polish underground saved 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw ghetto, providing them false documents, and sheltering them in individual and group children’s home outside the ghetto. The Nazis eventually discovered her activities, tortured her, and sentenced her to death, but she managed to evade execution and survive the war.

Irena Sandler

Irena Sandler