23 June 2011

Up close and personal at the Final Solution in Rome

Among the mass of documents concerning the Final Solution which were made available to the general public are cable exchanges decoded by the Allies which took place between German SS officials in Rome and their superiors in Berlin. They recount the atmosphere in Rome in the days following the seizure of the city by German troops in September 1943. For anyone doing research on wartime plunder, these cables provide an important contextual matrix for understanding relations—often tense—between the SS and the Fascists, especially their police, the militia and the Carabinieri.

11 October 1943—Ernst Kaltenbrunner, chief of the RSHA [Berlin] to Herbert Kappler, Head of he German Police and Security Services in Rome

“It is precisely the immediate and thorough eradication of the Jews in Italy which is the special interest of the present internal political situation and the general security in Italy. To postpone the expulsion of the Jews until the Carabinieri and the Italian Army officers have been removed can no more be considered than the idea mentioned of calling up the Jews in Italy for what would probably be very improductive labour under responsible direction by Italian authorities. The longer the delay, the more the Jews who are doubtless reckoning on evacuation measures have an opportunity by moving to the houses of pro-Jewish Italians of disappearing completely… Italy [has been] instructed … to proceed with the evacuation of the Jews without further delay.”

16 October 1943—From Kappler to Berlin

“Action against Jews started and finished today in accordance with a plan worked out as well as possible by the office. All available forces of the Sicherheitspolizei and the Ordnungspolizei employed. Participation of Italian police was not possible in view of unreliability in this respect, as only possible by individual arrests in quick succession inside the 26 action districts. To cordon off whole blocks of streets, in view both of Rome’s character as an open city and of the insufficient number of German police, 365 in all, not practicable. In spite of this 1259 persons were arrested in Jewish homes and taken to assembly camp(s) of the military school here in the course of the action which lasted from 0530 to 1400 hours. After the release of those of mixed blood, of foreigners including a Vatican citizen, of the families in mixed marriages including the Jewish partner, and of the Aryan servants and lodgers, there remain 1002 Jews to be detained. Transportation on Monday 18/10 at 0900. Escort by 30 men of the Ordnungspolizei. Attitude of Italian population was one of… passive resistance, which in a large number of individual cases has developed into active assistance. In one case, for example, the police were met at a house-door by a Fascist, with an identity document and in a black shirt, he having undoubtedly taken over the Jewish house only an hour before and alleged it to be his own… ..part of the population did not make an appearance during the action, but only the broad masses, who in individual cases even attempted to keep single policemen back from the Jews…”

17 October 1943—Amt III Referent of the RSHA [Rome] to Berlin

“Population excited and angry after the action against the Jews. Sympathy is the uppermost feeling among the lower classes, especially because women and children were taken… Growing indignation, especially against the German police. Fascists regret that the Jewish question has not been solved by Fascism…”

20 October 1943—Dr. Jur. Willhelm Harster, SS Brigadeführer to Berlin

“Transport of Jews from Rome left Rome on 18th at 0900 hours with transport No. X70469 and is traveling via Arnoldstein to Auschwitz…”