Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
The Holocaust – Economic Exploitation
The extermination of the Polish Jews began at the moment of invasion.
According to Hitler’s plans, the Jews of Poland were to be quickly exterminated, and then their property and possessions were to be exploited for the good of the Reich.
But conditions soon necessitated the injection of a new element into the plan – the exploitation of Jewish labour.
The SS did not despair at being thwarted from their final goal. Not only did they rent out Jews to industry and to the military, but they conceived of a plan to exploit Jewish labour themselves so the SS could become economically independent of both state and party.
Besides using Jewish labour in SS industries, they exploited Jewish property and possessions. That far sighted enterprise enabled the SS to become a state within a state, industrially and economically, as well as politically and militarily.
Himmler entrusted the development of the SS industry to Amstgruppe W of the WVHA, which was headed by fanatical Nazis, like Oswald Pohl, who had transformed themselves into ruthless businessmen.
First the Jews of Poland were deported from the large ghettos where they had been concentrated – second the majority were killed – third the labour of the remaining Jews was utilised for private and SS industries and fourth , Jewish labour was used to exploit Jewish personal property.
And the two major centres for the exploitation of that labour were Majdanek and Auschwitz.. It was Majdanek and its sub –camp at the Old Airfield that received the bulk of the Jewish possessions within Poland.
Every watch, gold fountain pen and pair of shoes represented a dead man, women or child – and monetary profit for the SS.
On 26 September 1942 SS General Frank issued basic instructions to the WVHA agents in Majdanek and Auschwitz on the utilisation of property resulting from the resettlement of the Jewish population.
Frank informed the agents that Jewish property in the future would be referred to as “goods, originating from thefts, receipts of stolen goods and hoarded goods”.
He divided the goods into categories and clarified the final disposition of each category.
From all clothing Frank ordered that the Jewish Star must be removed.
Prior to December 1943 the WVHA collected primarily at Majdanek / Lublin Old Airfield personal property of Jews in the Lublin area alone valued at more than 180 million Reichmarks- or at the exchange rate of 2.5 $72 million. That figure included foreign currency of forty-eight countries, with $1 million in US money.
The list numbered 262,711 articles of considerable value and the Lublin area loot included 2000 freight cars of clothes, linens and rags.
Much of the money went into a revolving account used to finance SS economic enterprises.
An extremely detailed and comprehensive report covering the assets and achievements of Operation Reinhard – the murder programme of Polish Jews, was submitted to Himmler by Odilo Globocnik the SSPF Lublin in November 1943 and this is shown on other pages
This document will show just how much the destruction of the Jewish race realised for the Nazis.
Hitlers Death Camp by Konnilyn Feig – published by Holmes and Meier New York 1981.
US National Archives.
Copyright SJ – H.E.A.R.T 2007