Wilhelm Kube

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Wilhelm Kube
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-2007-0821-500, Wilhelm Kube.jpg
Generalkommissar Wilhelm Kube
Personal details
Born (1887-11-13)13 November 1887
Glogau, German Empire
Died 22 September 1943(1943-09-22) (aged 55)
Minsk, Belarus
Military service
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Flag of the Schutzstaffel.svg Schutzstaffel
Rank SS-Generalkommissar

Wilhelm Kube (13 November 1887 – 22 September 1943) was a German politician and Nazi official. He was an important figure in the German Christian movement during the early years of Nazi rule. During the war he became a senior official in the occupying government of the Soviet Union, achieving the rank of Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien (Belarus). He was assassinated in Minsk in 1943, triggering brutal reprisals against the citizens of Minsk. He was known as an extreme anti-semite, he is known to say about Jews ”What plague and syphilis are to humanity, are Jews to the white race." [1][1]

However, Kube behaved towards Jews in a relatively mild way during his charge in Minsk, by trying—unsuccessfully—to protect German Jews, whom he felt as culturally closer, from extermination.[2]

Early life[edit]

Kube was born in Glogau (today's Głogów), Prussian Silesia, and studied history, economics and theology. He was active in the Völkisch movement as a student, and was an early member of the Nazi Party. In 1924 he was one of the first group of Nazi members elected to the Weimar Republic Reichstag. In 1928 he was appointed Gauleiter of Brandenburg and speaker of the tiny Nazi party fraction (6 seats) in the Prussian Landtag (Prussian state legislature).

Nazification of Christianity[edit]

Kube remained an active Christian despite being a zealous Nazi, and in 1932 he organised the list of candidates of the Faith Movement of the German Christians for the ordinary election of presbyters and synodals within the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union on 13 November that year. The German Christians then gained about a third of all seats in presbyteries and synods. Kube was elected as one of the presbyters of the congregation of Gethsemane Church in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg. The presbyters elected him from their midst as synodal into the competent deanery synod (German: Kreissynode; Berlin then comprised 11 deaneries altogether), and these synodals again elected him a member of deanery synodal board (German: Kreissynodalvorstand). When in 1933 the Nazis came to power he remained active in the German Christian movement which sought to "Nazify" the 28 Protestant church bodies in Germany.[3] For 23 July 1933 Hitler ordered an unconstitutional, premature re-election of all presbyters and synodals, with the German Christians now gaining 70–80% of the seats, so Kube could then further advance as head of the Berlin synod of the old-Prussian Church. Following the German conquest of Poland in 1939 his Nazi party domain was extended to include Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia and Reichsgau Wartheland.

Denunciation of Buch[edit]

In 1936 it was claimed in an anonymous letter that Party Judge Walter Buch, the father-in-law of Martin Bormann, was married to a half-Jew. In the course of a Gestapo investigation it came to light that the letter had been written by Kube, whom Buch had investigated owing to concerns over his private life and his leadership style in the Gau. Buch saw to it that Kube was removed from all his posts. Only on Hitler's orders was he allowed to remain a Gauleiter, albeit without a Gau.

SS career[edit]

Kube joined the SS in 1934 and attained the rank of Rottenführer (Private First Class). In 1940 he served for a period at the concentration camp at Dachau[citation needed]. In July 1941, in the wake of the German occupation of the western parts of the Soviet Union, he was appointed Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien (now known as Belarus), with his headquarters in Minsk. In this role Kube oversaw the extermination of the large Jewish population of this area. He was nevertheless outraged by the Slutsk Affair in October 1941, when "Einsatzgruppen" (death squads) of the SS massacred Jews without the authorization from the local Nazi civil administration and Security SS authorities. Non-Jewish local Belarusians were also killed, creating great resentment among the population. Kube wrote in protest to his supervisor and Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler:

House in Minsk where Kube was assassinated

The town was a picture of horror during the action. With indescribable brutality on the part of both the German police officers and particularly the Lithuanian partisans, the Jewish people, but also among them Belarusians, were taken out of their dwellings and herded together. Everywhere in the town shots were to be heard and in different streets the corpses of shot Jews accumulated. The Belarusians were in greatest distress to free themselves from the encirclement.

The letter concluded:

I am submitting this report in duplicate so that one copy may be forwarded to the Reich Minister. Peace and order cannot be maintained in Belarus with methods of that sort. To bury seriously wounded people alive who worked their way out of their graves again is such a base and filthy act that the incidents as such should be reported to the Fuehrer and Reichsmarschall.[4]

Despite these misgivings, Kube participated in an atrocity on 2 March 1942 in the Minsk ghetto. During a search of the ghetto by German and Belarusian policeman a group of children were seized and thrown into pits of deep sand to die.

At that moment, several SS officers, among them Wilhelm Kube, arrived, whereupon Kube, immaculate in his uniform, threw handfuls of sweets to the shrieking children. All the children perished in the sand.[5]

Kube's contradictory attitude towards Jews is shown in his behaviour towards German Jews deported to Minsk. He was particularly incensed by the presence among the deportees of men decorated during World War I. These Jews who he regarded as belonging "to our cultural milieu," prompted Kube to file a complaint with Reinhard Heydrich, in which he stated that "during the evacuation of Jews from the Reich, the guidelines on who was to evacuated had not been properly observed," and he attached a list of names. In the very episode of the 2 March 1942 massacre, Generalkommissar Kube withheld his German Jews from a mass shooting which was conducted in Minsk under the supervision of Sturmbannführer Dr. Eduard Strauch, at which 3,412 Jews were killed, an unheard-of-behavior that provoked a formal complaint from the SS according to which "Generalkommissar Kube appears to have promised to the German Jews, who before my time were delivered to the ghetto five thousand strong, that life and health would remain theirs".

As a consequence, Heydrich flew to Minsk to deliver Kube a reprimand, after which he felt compelled to comply with extermination actions. On 31 July he wrote to his friend, the Reichskommissar for the Ostland, Hinrich Loshe, in Riga:

Following lengthy talks with the SS-Brigadeführer Zenner and the extraordinarily diligent head of the SD, SS-Obersturmbannführer Dr. Strauch, in the last two weeks in White Russia we have liquidated roughly 55,000 Jews....In the city of Minsk about 10,000 Jews were liquidated on 28 and 29 July. Of these, 6,500 were Russian Jews, predominatly women, children, and the aged; the rest were Jews unfit for labor, mainly from Vienna, Brünn, Bremen, and Berlin. The latter had been sent to Minsk last year in accordance with the Führer's orders....In Minsk proper there are 2,600 Jews from Germany left.[6]

Assassination[edit]

Yelena Mazanik, who assassinated Wilhelm Kube by placing a time bomb in his bed.

At 1:20am on 22 September 1943 Kube was assassinated in his Minsk apartment as per Operation Blow-up. His death was caused by a time bomb hidden in his mattress.

According to one version of the plot, the bomb was placed by Soviet partisan Yelena Mazanik (1914–1996), a Belarusian woman who had managed to find employment in Kube's household as a maid in order to assassinate him. Alternatively, the explosives were set up by Lev Liberman from the Minsk ghetto, who was also employed in the household. In total 12 groups have received an order from Moscow to assassinate Kube.[7] The bomb went off forty minutes early, purportedly due to higher air temperature than that during bomb testing.[8]

In retaliation, the SS killed more than 1,000 male citizens of Minsk. Despite this, SS leader Heinrich Himmler reportedly said the assassination was a "blessing," since Kube did not support some of the harsh measures mandated by the SS.[9]

Mazanik escaped the reprisals, and continued to fight with the partisans. She was later awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. After the war she went on to become deputy director of the Fundamental Library of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ ""What plague and syphilis are to humanity, are Jews to the white race." in Finnish "Sitä mitä rutto ja syfilis ovat ihmiskunnalle, ovat juutalaiset valkoiselle rodulle."". www.nazi-lauck-nsdapao.com. Retrieved 2016-05-08. 
  2. ^ Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 116–119.
  3. ^ Biographical information from Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich (Fischer Verlag 2005), 346
  4. ^ Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression: Volume III (Office of United States Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of Axis Criminality OCCPAC). Washington, D.C.: USGPO. 1946. pp.783–789 accessed January 2008.
  5. ^ Gilbert, M: "The Holocaust", page 297. Fontana/Collins, 1987.
  6. ^ Fleming, Gerald. "The Camp of the German Jews in Minsk". nizkor.org. Retrieved 14 May 2016.  Quoted from Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley: University of California Press 1987), 116 – 119.
  7. ^ Ioffe, Emanuil. "800 дней воли и борьбы". sb.by. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Captain Vasiliy Tsvetkov. "A Bomb for Gauleiter". De Bello. Retrieved 2012-12-24. 
  9. ^ Reidlinger 1960 p.157 as quoted in Turonek 1989 p.118.
  10. ^ "Women at War Could Do Anything". Rianovosti. 2005-03-16. Retrieved 2012-12-24.