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Christian Wirth (November 24, 1885 - May 26, 1944) was a senior German police and SS officer during the program to exterminate the Jewish people of occupied Poland during World War II, known as Operation Reinhard. He was a top aide of Odilo Globocnik, the overall director of Operation Reinhard, and his responsibility was scaling up the T-4 Euthanasia Program, in which disabled people had been murdered by gassing or lethal injection, by developing extermination camps for the purpose of mass murder. He was killed by Yugoslav partisans near Fiume.

Contents

Career

Wirth was the chief of the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) in Stuttgart before being transferred to head the T-4 program. As the head of the Kripo he obtained results through the use of force. In one case, a suspect who was known to be responsible for a crime but who would not confess was left alone for a time with Wirth; not only did Wirth get a full confession to this crime, he also obtained confessions to six others.

Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Sobibór and Treblinka death camps, described him in a 1971 interview:

He was a gross and florid man. … When he spoke about the necessity of this euthanasia operation, he wasn't speaking in humane or scientific terms, the way Dr. Werner at T-4 had described it to me. He laughed. He spoke of 'doing away with useless mouths', and that 'sentimental slobber' about such people made him 'puke'.[1]

In August 1941 Wirth was transferred out of T-4 and in September was sent to Chelmno to start gassing Jews and Gypsies there. By late March 1942, gassing of Jews and Gypsies was conducted daily at Chełmno, in gas vans. After the T-4 Euthanasia program was terminated due to an outcry by the church, Nazi Germany came up with the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question": extermination.

The first phase of the "Final Solution" was Aktion Reinhard, headed by Odilo Globocnik. The first out of three Aktion Reinhard extermination camps was Belzec. Since Wirth had previous experience in killing with gas in the forced euthanasia program, Globocnik appointed him as the commandant of Belzec. On August 1, 1942, Globocnik appointed him to the post of Inspector of Reinhard camps.

During the construction of Sobibor, the second Reinhard death camp, Wirth visited the incomplete site, and conducted an experimental gassing of 25 Jewish slave-labourers. He liked to carry a whip, and he used it on both Jewish victims and guards. When the last and most efficient Reinhard death camp, Treblinka, was set up, Wirth took a direct role in reorganizing it when the first commandant, Dr. Irmfried Eberl, was replaced by Stangl. Later he was involved in Aktion Erntefest (Operation Harvest Festival), the single-day murder of 18,000 remaining Arbeitsjuden (Jewish forced laborers) at Majdanek in November 1943.

After Aktion Reinhard (in which 1.4 million Jews and thousands of Gypsies were murdered) was terminated, Wirth was sent to Trieste in Italy with other former Reinhard staff. Wirth's role was to oversee the San Sabba concentration camp as well as to combat partisans over the border in occupied Yugoslavia.

Allegedly to remove potential future witnesses, their superiors assigned former death camp SS staff to the most dangerous job they could find: anti-partisan combat. While in prison in 1971, Stangl stated in an interview, "We were an embarrassment to our [superiors]. They wanted to find ways and means to 'incinerate' us."[2] Wirth was killed in May 1944 by the partisans while travelling in an open topped car.

Sources

  • Bresheeth, Hood and Jansz, The Holocaust for Beginners, Icon Books, 1994, ISBN 1-874166-16-1
  • Lucy Dawidowicz, The War Against the Jews, Penguin, 1990, ISBN 0-14-013463-8
  • Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust, Fontana, 1990, ISBN 0-00-637194-9
  • Gitta Sereny, The German Trauma, Penguin, 2000, ISBN 0-7139-9456-8

References

  1. ^ Sereny, Gitta, Into That Darkness: from Mercy Killing to Mass Murder, a study of Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka (1974, second edition 1995) page 54 in the Dutch version of the book
  2. ^ Sereny, Gitta. Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience. Vintage, 1983.

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