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2. Early Life of Wippern
3. Responsibilities in Lublin
6. After the War
Georg Wippern was one of the major perpetrators of the systematic looting of the property of Aktion Reinhard's victims. However, despite its important role in the economic aspect of the operation, and its close relations with Odilo Globocnik (the SSPF of Lublin), Wippern is absent from the general history of the Holocaust. Like Ernst Lerch and to some degree Odilo Globocnik, the presence and activities of Georg Wippern in Lublin were not perceived and understood until recently.
On the one hand because the investigations on Aktion Reinhard did not actually begin until the end of the 1940s (some instructions lasted for years) and the most obscure members of the operation had, thanks to their anonymity, reintegrated the society. On the other hand, because of the initial secrecy surrounding the operation, and the administrative post of Wippern away from the extermination centers themselves, resulted in an almost total lack of testimony and documentation.
Early Life of Wippern
Wippern was born May 26, 1909, in Hildesheim (Lower Saxony), and his Nazi record confirmed his NSDAP inscription in 1933, and his entry into the SS the same year (No. 118.449). Although more detailed information must be archived at the Zentrale Stelle in Ludwigsburg, we also do not have precise and easily accessible information on its activities or curriculum within the S.S. in the years before World War II.
Responsibilities in Lublin
What were his official responsibilities in Poland? A description of Wippern's operation is described in the report of SS-Sturmbannfuhrer Albert Franke-Gricksch on a tour of Poland with his superior Max von Herff in May 1943:
"From Trawniki we traveled back to Lublin to inspect the special enterprise Reinhard. This branch has had the task of realizing all mobile Jewish property in the Gouvernement Poland. It is astonishing what immense fortunes the Jews have collected in their ghetto and even ragged and vermin infested dirty little Jews who look like beggars, carry with them, when you strip their clothes off them, foreign currency, pieces of gold, diamonds and other valuables. We wandered through the cellars of this 'special enterprise' and we were reminded of the fairy tales of the Arabian Nights.
Whole boxes full of genuine pearls, cases full of diamonds, a basket full of pieces of gold and many quarts of silver coins, beside jewelry of every kind. In order to carry out a better realization of all these valuables, the gold and silver are melted into bars. We inspected the melting process in the garden of the house. There is a small foundry where gold and silver are melted and then formed into bars and then delivered to the German National Bank on certain days. 'Special enterprise' Reinhard has so far delivered 2,500 kilos of gold, 20,000 kilos of silver and six and a half kilos of platinum, 60,000 Reichsmarks in currency, 800,000 dollars in money and 144,000 dollars in gold.
The huge quantity of diamonds and pearls can hardly be evaluated. The best proof of the repercussions this enterprise has on the international market is the quotations on the Swiss Stock Exchange and the effects on the international market in diamonds and brilliants. The prices have all gone down and Switzerland could not absorb any more diamonds, because our enterprise has swamped the market.
In this respect alone, the 'special enterprise' Reinhard gives us the means for our political struggle and would have a decisive effect on the world market. Apart from other valuables there are 60,000 watches, most of them double -- cased watches of high value, very often decorated with diamonds, 800,000 wrist watches and a huge quantity of other small valuables from tobacco and cigarette cases and gold fountain pens and silver bracelets, etc. In special workshops all these treasures are sorted out and examined by specially trained Jews, jewelers, bank clerks and goldsmiths. If necessary the diamonds are broken out in order to separate them and use the metal in a different way.
The wrist watches will be repaired, if necessary and will be handed out to front-line troops. When one goes through the cellar of this special branch it appears like a secret treasure and you get a very different idea of all the things for which people have sacrificed their lives and forgotten, through them the real issues. You get the right distance from these false values and, even if our eye is delighted by the shine of thousands of brilliants, some of them the size of a pea, for which the old world has paid hundreds of thousands , one recognizes a people which saw its whole existence in the heaping up of such treasures. It is a pleasure to see with what indifference the Oberscharfuhrer registers these valuables as if they were bits of coal or other things of everyday life. The real values of our life which carry us as human beings and as a nation become very clear and more precious still."
Georg Wippern was the administrator of the 'special enterprise' to loot and steal from the Jewish prisoners. As Wippern explained in the 1960s to the Landesjustizverwaltungen Commission in Ludwigsburg: "As Sturmbannfuhrer and Standortverwaltung, I was head of the administrative garrison of Lublin. In this capacity, I was in charge of the Waffen-SS units of Distrikt Lublin in general, for the administration of the troops as well as that of the troops in transit; articles of clothing, housing, and expenses. I was under the authority of the WVHA [SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt / Central Economic Office of the SS] of the Waffen-SS in Berlin. In 1942, I do not remember the date, I went to the SSPF Odilo Globocnik because new missions had been added, such as the Economic Community of the Settlers of Zamosc, and the task of representing the Reichsfuhrer-SS for implementation of SS and Polizei bastions in the New East Territories governed by Globocnik. In addition, I was appointed head of the administration of various companies of Distrikt Lublin. In all these establishments, I only held administrative functions."
This testimony is categorically false. According to Max Chichotski, a senior S.S. official in Lublin, the Aktion Reinhard commanders of Odilo Globocnik included: Hermann Kintrup, Ernst Lerch, Fritz Magill, Johannes Mueller, and George Wippern. The sorting depot at the Lublin Old Airfield Camp at Chelmska Street was used as the central clearing depot for the substantial quantities of clothing from the Jewish victims of the Nazi death camps. This was administered by Wippern.
This is further evidenced by what took place in May, 1942: Reichsleiter Dr. Hans Frank, Governor General of Poland, on an official visit to Lublin, went personally to the bedside of Georg Wippern. At the time, Wippern was hospitalized due to a serious injury -- the nature and circumstances of which we do not know. The fact that one Sturmbannfuhrer-SS among many others receives the visit of the Governor-General of Poland in person seems rather unusual. This visit can only mean one thing: Hans Frank considered Wippern important enough to make the trip. Did Frank come because of financial ties between him (or his services) and Wippern, Globocnik's accomplice? Although substantial funds seem to have, for a time, passed between Lublin and Krakow via an obscure Standartenfuhrer-SS Schellin, we will probably never know. That same month of May 1942, while Wippern recovered from his wound, the convoys of deportees towards the extermination camp of Belzec (in function since March 17, 1942) were momentarily interrupted in order to carry out the transformations of the camp (enlargement, new gas chambers, etc.).
In 1967, before a commission of inquiry, Georg Wippern reveals: "During the spring of 1942, I received the order of Oswald Pohl, head of the WVHA in Berlin, to supervise and sort the jewels, the securities, the foreign currencies , and all other currencies confiscated from the Jews, and to ensure their correct delivery." So at some point between March and June 1942 -- therefore almost certainly before Hans Frank's visit to the hospital -- Obergruppenfuhrer-SS Oswald Pohl commissioned Georg Wippern to take over the management of the stolen wealth of murdered Jews.
In early July, a reinforcement of T4 personnel was sent to the extermination center of Belzec, just in time to resume the work from July 15th. But this T4 men's Sonderkommando were civilians who were inexperienced militarily speaking. They were sent to Trawniki training camp for two weeks before joining the S.S. units responsible for the extermination. In Belzec, during the first camp period, most staff members wore their civilian clothes. On Himmler's orders, Globocnik commissioned the Standartenfuhrer-SS and Standortverwaltung Georg Wippern to provide Waffen-SS uniforms to all new recruits.
On August 1, 1942 a new post was created to oversee all operations (Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka). The Kriminalkommissar / Hauptsturfuhrer-S.S. Christian Wirth, who is the only one able to take the lead, is dispatched, accompanied by his second in command, Josef Oberhauser, to Globocnik's headquarters, as Inspector of the SS-Sonderkommandos Aktion Reinhard. Georg Wippern, meanwhile, is quick to receive this instruction: It is advisable to "get to work and do everything that Wirth will ask without discussion and without fuss."
After the war, Wippern maintained that he knew nothing about the source of the riches he manipulated until the order of Oswald Pohl. According to him, he then tried to refuse the mission, but without success. Wippern's sorting and processing unit was known as Abteilung Reinhard and Abteilung Iva. Two senior SS-men were assigned to Wippern's staff: Unterscharfuhrer Willi Eicholz and Unterscharfuhrer Karl Dorl. As for the sorting and storage of goods, it was provided by a Sonderkommando of about 20-30 closely supervised Jewish workers. The Jewish workforce were involved in the sorting and storing of the high value possessions removed from hundreds and thousands of Jewish families.
Four other assistants -- banking experts -- included the Obersturmfuhrer-S.S. George Huber from Romania, the Oberscharfuhrers-S.S. Johannes Teichelmann and Alois Rzepa, and the Untersturmfuhrer-SS Alexander Pflanzer.
Rudolf Reder, Holocaust survivor who escaped Belzec death camp, described the process at Belzec for transferring the valuables:
"Valuables, money and dollars were taken out of the storehouse each day. The SS-men collected it themselves and put it into suitcases which workers carried to Belzec to the headquarters. A Gestapo officer went first, with Jewish workers carrying the suitcases.
It was not far, only a twenty minute walk to the Belzec station. The camp in Belzec, that is, the torture chamber in Belzec, was under this headquarters. Jews working in administration said that the whole shipment of gold, valuables and money was sent to Lublin, where the main headquarters was, with authority over the Belzec headquarters."
Georg Wippern was perfectly aware of the extermination camps. How could it be otherwise? Did he go there? It seems so. According to the research of Michael Tregenza (the world expert on Christian Wirth), in December 1942, Wippern sent his chief accountant, Unterscharfuhrer-SS Wilhelm Schwartzkopf to Belzec to meet with the new commander (successor and friend from Wirth), Gottlieb Hering . But, when he arrived, Hering told him "We do not need weasels here."
Schwartzkopf then settled, for two weeks, in the village of Belzec and awaited an authorization to enter the facility. During this interval, Georg Wippern appeared in person at Belzec on several occasions, but left again almost immediately. Has Wippern witnessed a gassing? Anything is possible. Still in 1942 (exact dates unknown), Georg Wippern also went Majdanek camp several times -- under what exact circumstances, we do not. After his trip to Majdanek, he reportedly became nervous, depressed, taciturn, and his complexion turned pale. His wife noted that he had nightmares very frequently -- proof of Wippern's culpability in the mass murders of three million plus Jews.
Around the end of December 1942 (after Wippern's many visits to Belzec), Christian Wirth set up his "Kommandantur" on Chelmska Street, in a small two-story villa on the edge of the abandoned Lublin aerodrome, and close to the Warsaw-Lublin-Lvow railway line. His second in command, Josef Oberhauser, and Hauptcharfuehrer-SS Willi Hausler, and two secretaries, move in with him. It is here, in three sheds on the ground of the disused aerodrome, that the phenomenal quantities of clothes, goods, and values, stolen to the victims of Aktion Reinhard were temporarily stored. Two thousand detainees (mostly women) are forced to triage. The clothes are sorted by sex -- those of the children are sorted separately. Then, the clothes were sorted again to separate the underwear from the outer garments, and the various types of shoes. Gold, watches, diamonds, pearls, silver (metal), etc. are sorted in crates specifically designed and annotated for this purpose. At the end of the day, the cases were brought to the Kommandantur. In 1963, at his trial for his murderous activities in Belzec, Josef Oberhauser recalls: "The jewels and valuables from each death camp were delivered to the SS-Verwaltungsamt, whose leader was the Sturmbannfuhrer-SS Georg Wippern. Personally, I had nothing to do with all that."
The Wippern "Special Deposit" was located in a large building at 27 Chopin Strasse, near the center of Lublin. Once delivered, the goods and valuables were sorted by the small Sonderkommando and then stored on huge shelves. The accumulated jewels and wealth were then delivered to the WVHA in Berlin and from there to the Reichsbank. The jewels, gold or silver, are melted into ingots (unless their design and / or mark represent an additional value). The local currency (Polish Zloty) seized was transferred by Wippern's services to the Lublin Emissionsbank and thence to the Reichsbank.
In June 1943, due to growing suspicions of "irregularities" in the SS financial section of Lublin, the Governor General Hans Frank, a lawyer by training, ordered the Obersturmbannfuhrer-SS Josef Vogt (or Vogts) to go to account books. During his check, Vogt falls on an "R" account containing a huge amount of money. Vogt turns to Wippern and demands explanations. But Wippern opposes him that it is a secret which he is not entitled to reveal. All that Vogt will obtain is the admission that the sums involved have been confiscated from the Jews; Wippern even goes to show him some of his stock.
Before leaving Lublin, Vogt goes to Globocnik and complains bitterly that the account statements "R" are not up to date, and that he himself, Globocnik, does not hold the proper certificates identifying the owners of the property seized. Back in Berlin, Vogt reports to Hans Frank, Oswald Pohl of WVHA, and to Knebel, representative of the Supreme Audit Court ... Strange situation that this one, where the Nazi system fights itself by legal way inside a confidential operation sponsored by the KdF, gnawed by corruption, murder, and power struggles. In any case, and as was to be expected, Frank's and Vogt's efforts resulted in nothing.
Around the end of August or the beginning of September 1943, Odilo Globocnik was promoted to HSSPF (Hoherer SS and Polizeifuhrer) Küstenland , and transferred with his entire team to the annexed territory of Trieste, as part of the OZAK. The Aktion Reinhard camps have been closed. Officially the Polish ghettos are "Judenrein"; the remaining Jewish detainees still in the labor camps will be exterminated two months later, on 3 November 1943.
After the War
After the war, Georg Wippern took up small public positions in Germany (as a lower-grade civil servant), and often moved with his family: Saarbrucken, Hanover, Aachen, Bad Durkheim, Homburg (Jagersburg) and Bonn. These frequent trips seem to indicate Wippern's awareness of to the growing interest of the German authorities in Nazi crimes -- especially during and after Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem. His children did not know anything about his activities in Lublin, any more than his neighbors and friends who viewed him as an educated and well-educated man, but suffering from a kind of internal fracture.
Spotted in the early 1960s by West German investigators from Bonn working jointly with the Zentrale Stelle Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg, Georg Wippern was questioned several times, but never tried. In the absence of additional evidence, he remains, in any case, the typical example of "the office assassin."
Georg Wippern died quietly in Bonn in 1993, taking his secrets with him.
1) Tregenza, Michael: "Christian Wirth: Inspector of the SS-Sonderkommandos Aktion Reinhardt " in "Zeszyty Majdanka" Pantwowe Muzeum na Majdanka, Lublin 1993.
2) Tregenza, Michael. Unpublished report.
3) TAL / ZStL, Belzec Case: Statement of George Wippern, 21 September 1967.
4) Poprzeczny, Joseph. Odilo Globocnik; Hitler's man in the East - Mc Farland & Co., 2004.
5) ZStl [Zentrale Stelle Ludwigsburg], File No. 147 Js 7/72, vol. 73: Verfahren gegen Dr. Ludwig Hahn, Testimony of August Miete , 23 April 1964, Dusseldorf, 14110-14119; Klee, 'Von der' T4 'zur Judenvernichtung'.
6) Arad, Yitzhak. Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka; Operation Reinhard Death Camps - Indiana University Press, 1987.
7) Marszalek, Josef. Majdanek - Interpress 1986.
8) Holocaust Historical Society
11) Public Office Records (PRO-Kew)