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The IMT Series (H.E.A.R.T Exclusive) "The beginning of the end"

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International Military Tribunal Series

Nuremberg War Crimes Trials

What follows are a number of documents translated into English for the International Military Tribunal which tried the leading members of the Nazi Third Reich after the German surrender.

We have selected a cross section of documents and affidavits in relation to the Holocaust but this is only a fraction of the documents produced for the trial, but it hopefully gives the reader a clear insight into one of the worst chapters of human history.

The beginning of the end


PS 3363

Letter From Heydrich To The Chiefs Of All Einsatzgruppen Concerning The “Jewish Question In The Occupied Territories” 21 September 1939

The Chief of the Security Police

Reinhard Heydrich
Reinhard Heydrich

PP(II) -288/39 Secret

Berlin 21 September 1939

Express Letter

To the Chiefs of All Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police

Re: The Jewish Question in the Occupied Territory

With reference to the conference which took place today in Berlin, I would like to point out once more that the total measures planned (i.e. the final aim) are to be kept strictly secret.

A distinction is to be made between,

1. The final aim (which will take some time), and

2. Sections of the carrying out of this aim (which can be carried out within a short space of time.)

The measures planned require the most thorough preparation both from the technical and the economic point of view.

It goes without saying that the tasks in this connection cannot be laid down in detail. The following instructions and directives simultaneously serve the purpose of urging the chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen to practical considerations.


The first necessity for the attaining of the final aim is the concentration of the country Jews in the big towns. This is to be carried out immediately.

A distinction is to be made (1) between the territories of Danzig and West Prussia, Posen, Eastern Upper Silesia and (2) the remaining occupied territories. As far as possible the territories enumerated under (1) are to be cleared of Jews, but the very least to be aimed at is the formation of very few “concentration” towns.

In the territories mentioned under (2) as few “concentration” points as possible are to be established in order to facilitate later measures. Care must be taken that only such towns be chosen as concentration points as are either railroad junctions or at least lie on a railway.

It is laid down on principle that Jewish communities of less than 500 persons are to be dissolved and to be sent to the nearest “concentration” town.

This decree does not concern the territory of Einsatzgruppe 1 which, lying east of Krakow, is bordered by Polanico, Jaroslav, the new demarcation line and the former Slovak- Polish frontier. Within this territory only a temporary census of Jews need be taken. The rest is to be done by the Jewish Council of Elders dealt with below.


Jewish Council of Elders

1. In every Jewish community a Jewish Council of Elders is to be set up which, as far as possible, is to be formed from persons in authority and rabbis who have remained behind. Up to 24 male Jews (according to the size of the Jewish community) are to form the Council of Elders.

It is to be made fully responsible, within the meaning of the word, for the exact and punctual carrying out of all instructions issued or to be issued.

Lodz Judenrat
The Judenrat (counsel of Elders) in the Lodz Ghetto

2.In the event of the sabotaging of such instructions, the strictest measures are to be announced to the Council.

3.The Jewish Councils are to undertake a temporary census of the Jews – if possible arranged according to sex (ages (a) up to 16 years, (b) from 16 to 20 years, and (c) over) and according to the principal professions – in their localities, and to report thereon within the shortest possible period.

4.The Council of Elders are to be advised of the days fixed and the appointed times of the evacuation, the possibilities of evacuation, and finally the evacuation routes. They are then to be made personally responsible for evacuation of the Jews from the country. The reason for the concentrating of Jews in the towns is to be that Jews have to a very great extent participated in franc-tireur attacks and pillage.

5.The Councils of Elders in the “concentration” towns are to be made responsible for the suitable accommodation of the Jews from the country. The concentration of the Jews in the towns will probably, in the interests of general security, call for certain regulations in these towns, e.g. that certain quarters of the town be altogether forbidden to the Jews; that in the interests of economic necessity, they be forbidden to leave the Ghetto, forbidden to go out after a certain hour in the evening etc.

6.The Council of Elders is to be made responsible for the suitable feeding of the Jews during their transportation to the towns. No objections are to be made if the departing Jews take their movable possessions with them, as far as this is technically possible.

7.Jews who do not comply with the order to move to the towns are, in certain cases to be given a short respite. They are to be advised of the most strict punishment if they do not comply with this time limit.


All necessary measures are, on principle, always to be taken in the closest agreement and co-operation with the German civil administration and the competent local military authorities.

When carrying out this action care is to be taken that the economic security of the occupied territories suffers no damage.

The needs of the army are to be the first consideration, e.g. it will hardly be possible, to begin with, to avoid leaving behind Jewish traders here and there who, for lack of other possibilities, must definitely remain behind for the provisioning of the troops. In such cases, however, the speedy Aryanisation of these industries is to be aimed at, in agreement with the competent local German administrative authorities, and the migration of the Jews completed.

It goes without saying that Jewish branches of industry and trade which are vital to the life of the community, the war effort, or the Four Year Plan must be maintained in order to safeguard economic interest in the occupied territories. In such cases, also, the quickest possible Aryanisation is to be aimed at and the migration of the Jews completed.

Finally, the food question in the occupied territories is to be taken into consideration. For example, if possible, land belonging to Jewish settlers is to be farmed with their own by the neighbouring German or Polish peasants, in an official capacity, so that the gathering in of the harvest still in the fields or the continued cultivation can be safeguarded. With regard to this important question, contact is to be made with agricultural expert consultants of the chief of civil administration.

In all cases where the interests of the security police on one hand and the German civil administration on the other are not in agreement, the individual measures in question are to be reported to me as quickly as possible before their execution and my decision awaited.


The chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen will report to me continually regarding the following circumstances:

1.Census of Jews in their districts (if possible in the above –mentioned groups). The numbers are to be divided into Jews who will be migrating from the country and those who are already in the towns.

Einsatzgruppen forcing Jews to dig their own graves
Einsatzgruppen forcing Jews to dig their own graves

2.Names of towns selected as “concentration” points.

3.The time limits set for the migration of the Jews to the towns.

4. Summary of all Jewish branches of industry and trade which are vital to the life of the community, the war effort, or the Four Year Plan.

If possible the following facts are to be established:

a. The type of undertaking (together with estimate of the possibility of the adaptation of the undertaking to one vital to the life of the community, the war effort, or the Four Year Plan)

b. Which of these undertakings it is most urgent to Aryanise (to avoid damage of any kind)? How is it proposed to effect the Aryanisation? Germans or Poles (this decision is dependent on the importance of the industry).


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The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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