Bruno Kittel (born 1922 in Austria) was a Nazi official who oversaw the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943 and became known for his cynical cruelty. He disappeared after the war.
Before the war
Kittel graduated from a theater school. He was an actor and a singer. He played saxophone and piano; on Sundays he played for Vilnius Radio. He joined the SS and reached the rank of Oberscharführer. Before the appointment to Vilnius, he worked on the "Jewish question" in France and Riga.
He was brought to Vilnius in June 1943. Effectively, he replaced Martin Weiss and Franz Murer. He supervised the massacre of Jews in Kena and Bezdonys on 8–9 July: while Kittel addressed the Jews gathered inside a large building and promised them better food and security for good work, Lithuanian collaborators cordoned off the building and, once the speech was over, they set the building on fire and shot anyone who tried to escape. About 240 Jews were killed in Kena and 300–350 in Bezdonys. In Bezdonys, he offered a cigarette to a Jewish barber who had just given him a shave and asked him if he needed a light. The barber replied yes and Kittel gave him the light by shooting him. That was the signal to start the massacre.
When Yitzhak Wittenberg, a leader of the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (FPO), escaped from the custody of the Jewish ghetto police, Kittel issued an ultimatum stating that if Wittenberg did not surrender, the whole ghetto would be liquidated. Wittenberg turned himself in and was found dead (possibly due to a suicide by cyanide) on July 16. On 24 July, a group of 21 FPO members, the so-called Leon Group, left the ghetto. Nine men were killed in a German ambush. The Germans retaliated by executing 32 relatives of the nine men on 27 July and liquidating a labor camp in Naujoji Vilnia on 28 July. Kittel further announced that collective punishments would be imposed in order to prevent such escapes: The Germans would execute the family members and even the neighbors of anyone who escaped.
The order to liquidate the ghetto was given by Rudolf Neugebauer, the commander of Einsatzkommando 3. Kittel supervised the liquidation of the ghetto on 23–23 September 1943. The remaining Jews were transported to the Klooga concentration camp in Estonia (about 2,000 men), the Kaiserwald concentration camp in Latvia (about 1,400–1,700 young women), and the others were transported to extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz (about 5,000–7,000 people who were unfit for work). During the liquidation of the ghetto, Kittel ordered that a piano be brought to a yard. He continued to play it with his left hand while he shot a Jewish boy who begged for mercy with his right hand.
After the liquidation of the Vilnius Ghetto
After the liquidation of the ghetto, Kittel visited the remaining labor camps and terrorized their inmates. On 15 October, he inspected Kailis forced labor camp and deported 30 Jews for execution in Ponary. In late 1943, Germans arrested a couple that escaped from the HKP 562 forced labor camp. Kittel organized a public hanging of the couple and their daughter, but the noose tore. He then personally shot the man and the woman; another Gestapo man shot the child. In December, Kittel demanded the location of Salk Dessler, deputy of Jacob Gens who escaped the ghetto. Dessler was betrayed by a former Jewish policeman and arrested with about 30 other Jews; most of them were executed. On 27 March 1944, Kittel was in Kovno Ghetto participating in the Kinderaktion, a roundup of about 1,700 children and the elderly. Kittel also interrogated Jewish policemen on their assistance to Jewish partisans and selected 33 of them for execution at the Ninth Fort.
- "Bruno Kittel (1922 – untergetaucht 1945)". Gedenkorte Europa (in German). Studienkreises Deutscher Widerstand 1933-1945. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
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