Chapter 48: The Guardian of Paradise

Le Paradis - the Paradise - was the name of the French village where a company of the SS-Totenkopfdivision on May 27, 1940 clashed with units of the Second Royal Norfolk Regiment which defended the bridgehead at Dunkirk. The German unit had got its name from the fact that it consisted of people who normally served as concentration camp personnel. About one hundred British soldiers had entrenched themselves in and around a farm, and their sharpshooters killed and wounded several SS-soldiers before they ran out of ammunition. Relying on the Haag Convention of Warfare, they signalled for surrender; they hoisted the white flag and marched out unarmed, with their hands over their heads.

The German company commander ordered them up against a wall, in front of which two heavy machine-guns had been mounted, and then he orded to open fire; the dead comrades were to be revenged. Afterwards the SS-soldiers with fixed bayonets checked that all Englishmen were dead, and they stabbbed or shot those who still moved.

Nobody would have known anything about this massacre if two British privates had not succeeded in pretending to be dead, and afterwards surrendered to a regular army unit, to whom they told of their experience of that ruthless fanaticism which characterized the SS at war.

Heinrich Himmler visited Le Paradis on May 31, 1940, and he had only one complaint: that the dead SS-soldiers had not been buried immediately. But the superior of the company commander stood up for his subordinate and explained that it had not been possible for them to bury their dead because, immediately after the massacre, they had been exposed to a violent attack.

The SS-Totenkopf-regiment was commanded by Theodor Eicke, who before the outbreak of war had been leader of the concentration camp at Dachau, and the regiment had at that time an extremely independent relationship with the Army Command, to which it in principle was subject. When the army wished to investigate the accounts from the two British prisoners of war, Himmler - with Hitler's support - immediately had the case closed.

The brutal conduct was a means of convincing the Führer that he could employ such fanatical soldiers as his executioners.

The recognition of a special Waffen-SS as an independant military formation beside the three traditional armed forces - the army, the navy, and the air force - had been on its way since the beginning of the war. The establishment of a proper Waffen-SS was apparently not an occurrence which attracted any special attention as it happened in the middle of the campaign in France, and despite the fact that the Army Command jealously guarded its rights as the only legitimate arm of the Reich.

As early as November 1938, their brutal conduct had induced Himmler to talk of developing the semi-military Verfügungstruppe into a "complete army corps" - and from November 1939, the SS internally started to use the designation Waffen-SS for the units which were in active service at the front, as opposed to the SS- and SD-units which served in the mopping-up operations behind the front.

During the campaign in Poland the brutal conduct of Heydrich's special units led to intense frictions between Himmler and the Army Command, frictions which had culminated in the Army Command's prohibition against using them in the campaigns against the North and the West. SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler participated in the campaign in France as a regular army unit, while the other military SS-unit, SS-Totenkopf-Regiment, as we have seen, demonstrated its unique interpretation of the Haag Convention's rules about the treatment of prisoners of war at Le Paradis.

The designation Waffen-SS for the members of the SS which served at the front was used officially for the first time in an order in March, 1940. It might be seen as an expression of the ongoing militarization of German society - a militarization which naturally also took place inside the SS-state, the state within the state.

There are certain indications that June 1, 1940 - the day of Hitler's visits to Langemarck and La Montagne - was also made the day of the formal approval; maybe not exactly on that day, but probably a few days later, and in that case the backdating would be another stressing of the importance which the Führer attributed to the visit to La Montagne. Anyhow, nobody found out that Hitler again had stolen a march on his fellow-players and opponents, because he intuitively used the chaotic events of war to camouflage his future strategy.

Members of the SS - Hitler's state within the state - had sworn their personal oath to the Führer and therefore felt a very special obligation to go to war as a body. The SS-units could be seen as a sort of "political soldiers", who by their mere presence would strengthen the loyalty of the army towards the Führer. It was well-known that he did not have much confidence in the Army Command, neither in times of peace nor in times of war - quite the contrary.

Therefore it was Heinrich Himmler whom Adolf Hitler summoned privately in the evening of June 22, 1940, in Wolfsschlucht.

The Führer had received final confirmation that Providence had called upon him to accomplish a task of messianic character. It had happened when he at 6:50 P.M. received the message that France had signed the cease-fire agreement in the salon car in Compiègne. An hour later he had the signed document in his hands and could once again see with his own eyes that "Providence" had fulfilled its part of their agreement. Now it was his turn to act: the road lay open for the inception of the systematic elimination of the Jews of Europe.

The meeting took place behind closed doors, probably in the Führer's private rooms, and neither Hitler nor Himmler ever put anything in writing about what happened that evening. It was not really necessary, for the oral order of the Führer was not of a kind to be misunderstood: during a coming campaign against Jewish-Bolshevik Russia, SS-units should exterminate the many millions of Russian Jews, sheltered by the war - just as had been done to Jews and Poles the year before.

At the same time Himmler, together with Heydrich, should set to work on how the extermination of the European Jews in areas controlled or influenced by Germany could be carried out. The strategy in this case should be that the Jews were to be used to the utmost as slave labourers. Whenever they began to cause the Reich expense, they were to be killed. Those who survived the forced labour should be killed as well, because otherwise they could became the foundation of a new, stronger, and therefore more dangerous Jewry. As the Jews gradually disappeared, their forced labour should be taken over by Slav "subhumans": the next phase in the endeavours to create a millenial Third Reich.

The extermination should be carried out region by region, starting with the Jews in Occupied Poland, because they constituted the largest problem. After that the Jewish populations of the rest of Europe should be slowly but safely weeded out, eliminated along the same lines as the Polish Jews. The ongoing Madagascar Project would provide a suitable cover for this process, as it would offer the best opportunities to register the Jews outside Germany.

Heinrich Himmler was shocked, because he considered it "un-Germanic" to kill off entire nations. On November 11, 1941, he told his masseur, Felix Kersten, about the proceedings which according to Himmler had taken place just after the conclusion of the campaign in France:

When Hitler explained what he wanted to do, I answered, without thinking of what I said, and by sheer egoism:

"My Führer, I and my SS will be ready to die for you, but don't lay this task on me!"

The Führer had been furious at Himmler's resistance, had flown at him and had seized him by the throat:

"Everything that you are, you owe to me, and now you refuse to obey me! You have joined the traitors!"

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler became very much afraid, but - as he told Kersten - he had also become very disconsolate, for the accusation of treason was the worst thing that Hitler could charge him with. He asserted that he had begged the Führer to let go of the accusation of not living up to his motto of blind obedience:

"My Führer, forgive me. I will do anything - absolutely anything - that you command me to do - and more. But you must never, never say that I belong to the traitors."

But Hitler's fit of rage had continued. He stamped on the floor and screamed:

"The war draws towards its conclusion, and I have given my word that there will not be one single Jew left on earth when the war is over. We must act firmly and determined. We must act fast and I am not at all sure that you are equal to this task."

It was like a diabolical version of the scene in Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed: "My Father! If this cup cannot pass, and I must drink it, thy will be done." And Heinrich Himmler, who had started to draw up the new National Socialist religion, followed the command of his Führer. He contacted Heydrich in Berlin and briefed him on the task, while the Führer lingered at Napoleon's grave. Heydrich promised to take the necessary steps, and the very next day he wrote to the Foreign Office: he was to be in command of any project dealing with the Jewish question.

The consciousness of having delegated the responsibility for the "un-Germanic" task to Heydrich helped Himmler to repress its existence. Instead he threw himself on the more positive work in connection with the Germanization of the newly acquired land in Eastern Europe. He drew up a new memorandum which contained the proposal that the area should be occupied by German and Nordic peasants, as History had shown that otherwise it would never become a "safe" area. He thought of providing lands for his SS veterans, as they would then be able to constitute a well-trained reserve in case of an attack from the Soviet Union. The rest of the native population should be used in connection with construction works, but they were to be gradually driven away - perhaps one-eighth would be left in villages and towns to take care of the work that was deemed to be beneath the dignity of the German race. The rest of the population, some seven million Poles, were to be deported to Occupied Poland, which already acted as the "garbage can" of the Reich.

On June 30, 1940, the Führer approved Himmler's new draft, which in contrast to his plan of the preceeding month did not mention the Jews at all. Even though Himmler had been entrusted with the formal responsibility, the real responsibility lay with Reinhard Heydrich. Himmler therefore asked him to prepare a report on the experiences gathered by the efforts of the SS-units during the campaign in Poland, as these could form the basis of the strategy for the coming war of extermination against the Jewish-Bolshevist enemy.

The report was ready as early as July 2, 1940, and it stressed the problematic relationship with the army in future efforts.

According to Heydrich, the army would "indeed make use of police experts, but not in SS-uniform and not under the leadership of SS-leaders, but [it would] solely bring the men to effort as Geheime Feldpolizei." Or to put it in another way: the army would

itself engage in political and police cases, put down directives for them and consequently treat them according to its different conception of Jews, masons, marxists and church matters.

Heydrich fully regretted this circumstance, but in this way he also offered Himmler an opportunity to spin off the unpleasant task. Himmler later told Kersten how he some days later - probably on July 8, 1940, when he had a conversation with Hitler in Berlin - convinced the Führer that the time was not ripe for a systematic extermination of the Jews of Europe. Such a comprehensive project could not be kept secret, and it would undoubtedly damage the morale of the army.

Added to this, Himmler doubted whether his Waffen-SS had the necessary resources to carry through the enormous task. He must have more time to make the neccessary preparations. He must have more men, their ideological schooling must be much more intensive, etc. Lastly it was necessary to reinforce the propaganda effort, so that the German people would at least accept what was going to happen.

Himmler had, however, a proposition ready which would solve the problem vis-à-vis the army. The Führer must make it clear to the Army Command that the attack on the Soviet Union was not a war that should be fought along the lines of the Haag Convention. If this was understood, it would start a process of self-enforcing brutalization of the soldier - and thus facilitate army acceptance of systematic genocide.

He also asked the Führer to see to it that the Army Command realized that Heydrich's special units in no way were placed under its orders, but that they were solely responsible to Hitler himself.

Himmler's argument that day was characterized by his usual petit bourgeois solidity, and they were immediately accepted by Hitler; the Reichsführer-SS no longer refused the task, he submitted practical problems and concrete propositions for their solution. The Führer was satisfied and he held out a prospect of a reward which would tie him to the accomplishment of the task: it would be him and his SS which, once the Führer had passed away, should take care of the most important relic of his religion, the foundation myth itself - in the shape of the mortal remains of Hitler himself.

Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler would become Wächter des Paradieses - The Guardian of Paradise.

The recognition of the different factors which contributed to the provocation of PTSD also sped up the development of a proper crisis psychology and of therapeutic techniques for adjusting to the consequences of such a mental disorder in e.g. victims of torture - and in those perpetrating the torture.

University-educated historians traditionally hold back from individual-psychological explanations when they analyse the course of historical events, but on the other hand, they are not alone in using such methods. Neither are they alone in creating Society's historical consciousness.

It is very suggestive, in this connection, that Thomas Mann used a bargain with the Devil as explanatory model for his literary description of - and reckoning with - Nazism in Doktor Faustus from 1947. The book is about an ambitious artist, Adrian Leverkühn, who strikes a bargain with the Devil in order to acquire extraordinary creative powers as a composer. Thomas Mann's novel cannot of course be used as a source for Adolf Hitler's story, but certainly it is an illustration of the significance of bargains with the Devil in the cultural consciousness of Germany at that time.

This clarification was in the course of June followed by a progression of other juridical initiatives. The sudden activity in the policy-making towards the Jews made a member of the government exclaim that "a remarkable change" had taken place in the relations between the Reich and its Jews.

Adolf Hitler as early as June 21, 1940 started to issue a veritable flood of directions to his nearest subordinates about their tasks in the new Europe. As the one responsible for the economy, Hermann Göring was commissioned to be in charge of the economic reorganization that was later named Europäische Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft (European Economic Community (!)). Göring at once set his ministry to work on the development of an economic strategy for the Festung Europa in the event of a British naval blockade. The plans were, however, equally concerned with the long-term exploitation of the countries which were occupied by or allied with Germany. The chairman of the association of German economists noted on July 24, 1940, very much to the point, that the task really was to turn Economics into a "military science," and in connection with the war to "forge the tools to prepare for the realization of the greater European economical Raum."

Felix Kersten was Himmler's physician-in-ordinary, and he was probably the person who was nearest to him. After the war he published his memoirs, the reliability of which has been a moot point, partly because huge inaccuracies can be demonstrated in relation to other, documentary sources, partly because of his overstating his own rôle. The memoirs are - in Yehuda Bauer's words - primarily "testimony of a self-representation," although he concludes:

Many of his documents (e.g. the notes which are now in the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich) are probably not even from the war years. On the other hand, many of his comments can be supported by other documents and accounts. Thus it becomes evident that his memoirs, even though he constantly overrates his own rôle, in the last analysis answers to reality. When you deduct the imaginative embellishments, you encounter a truthful core. Kersten's book is too important a source to leave out of the account.

It must therefore, as a matter of form, be stressed that the dating of Hitler's order is not based on Kersten's words about an order "immediately after the conclusion of the campaign in France," but on an over-all interpretation, which takes its basis in the production history of the film Der ewige Jude.

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