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The Westermann Report

Last Update 7 August 2005






DEPORTATIONS FROM KOLOMYJA

7./Pol.24
Lemberg (Lwow), 14 September 1942
To: Commander of the Order Police in the district of Galicia, Lemberg
Subject: Jewish Resettlement

After carrying out Jewish resettlement actions on 3 and 5 September in Skole, Stryj and Chodorow, for which Captain of the Schutzpolizei Kröpelin was in charge of the Order Police involved and which has already been reported in detail, the 7th Company of the 24th Police Regiment arrived as ordered in Kolomyja on the evening of 6 September. I immediately contacted Kriminalkommissar and SS-Obersturmführer Leitmeritz, head of the branch office of the Security Police in Kolomyja, and First Lieutenant Hertel of the Schutzpolizei station in Kolomyja.

Contrary to the experience in Stryj, the action planned for 7 September in Kolomyja was well prepared and made easy for all units involved. The Jews had been informed by the above-mentioned agencies and the Labour office to gather at the collection point of the Labour Office for registration on 7 September at 5:30 a.m. Some 5,300 Jews were actually assembled there at the appointed time. With all the manpower of my company, I sealed the Jewish quarter and searched thoroughly, whereby some 600 additional Jews were hunted down.

The loading of the transport train was completed about 7:00 p.m. After the Security Police released some 1,000 from the total rounded up, 4,769 Jews were resettled. Each car of the transport was loaded with 100 Jews. The great heat prevailing that day made the entire action very difficult and greatly impeded the transport.
After the regular nailing up and sealing of all cars, the transport train got underway to Belzec about 9:00 p.m. with a guard of one officer and nine men. With the coming of deep darkness in the night, many Jews escaped by squeezing through air holes after removing the barbed wire. While the guard was able to shoot many of them immediately, most of the escaping Jews were eliminated that night or the next day by the railroad guard or other police units.
This transport was delivered in Belzec without noteworthy incident, although given the length of the train and the deep darkness, the guard had proved to be too weak, as the commander of the transport guard from 6th Company of Police Regiment 24, who returned directly to Stanislau (Stanislawow), was able to report to me in person on 11 September.

On 8 September, some 300 Jews old and weak, ill, frail, and no longer transportable were executed. According to the order of 4 September, of which I was first informed on 6 September, concerning use of ammunition, 90% of those executed were shot with carbines and rifles. Only in exceptional cases were pistols used.

On 8 and 10 September, actions in Kuty, Kosow, Horodenka, Zaplatow, and Sniatyn (?) were carried out. Some 1,500 Jews had to be driven on foot marches 50 kms from Kuty or 35 kms from Kosow to Kolomyja, where they were kept overnight in the courtyard of the Security Police prison with other Jews brought together from the region. Other than the Jews rounded up in Horodenka and Sniatyn, who had already been loaded onto ten cars at each location by the Security Police, another 30 cars were loaded in Kolomyja. The total number sent to Belzec on the resettlement train of 10 September amounted to 8,205.

In the actions in the area around Kolomyja on 8 and 10 September, some 400 Jews had to be eliminated by shooting for the well-known reasons. In the great roundup of Jews to be resettled by 10 September in Kolomyja, the Security Police loaded all Jews into the 30 available train cars despite the objections I expressed. Given the great heat prevailing on those days and the strain on the Jews from the long foot marches or from waiting for days without being given any provisions worth noting, the excessively great overloading of most of the cars with 180 to 200 Jews was catastrophic in a way that had tremendously adverse effects on the transport.

How densely the ten cars each in Horodenka and Sniatyn were loaded with Jews by the Security Police is beyond my knowledge. In any case, both transports arrived in Kolomyja with completely inadequate guard, so that the barbed wire closing the air holes was almost entirely removed. As quickly as possible I had this train moved out of the train station in Kolomyja and coupled with the 30 cars standing on a side track far from the station. The Jewish Police (Ordnungsdienst) and members of the train station construction crew from Kolomyja were employed until the onset of darkness to close up all the insufficiently sealed cars in the usual regulation manner. A commando of one officer and fifteen men under the leadership of Captain Witzmann was assigned to guard the parked resettlement train of 50 cars until departure and to prevent any escape attempt. Given the already described strains on the Jews, the negative effect of the heat, and the great overloading of most of the cars, the Jews attempted time and again to break out of the parked train cars, as darkness had already set in toward 7:30 p.m. At 7:50 p.m. the guard commando of the resettlement train, with nine men under Corporal Jäcklein, arrived at the side track. Breakout attempts from the parked train could not be prevented in the darkness, nor could escaping Jews be shot in flight. In all train cars the Jews had completely undressed because of the heat.

As the train left Kolomyja on schedule at 8:50 p.m., the guard took up their stations. The guard commando, as initially stipulated by me, was divided into five men in a passenger car at the front and five men in a passenger car at the end of the train. On account of the length of the train and its total load of 8,205 Jews, this distribution proved to be unsuitable. Next time Corporal Jäcklein will arrange a distribution of guards along the entire train.
Throughout the entire trip the policemen had to remain in the cabooses, in order to be able to counter the escape attempts of the Jews. Shortly into the journey the Jews attempted to break through the sides and even through the ceilings of certain train cars. They were partially successful in perpetrating this scheme, so that already five stations before Stanislau, Corporal Jäcklein had to ask the stationmaster in Stanislau by telephone to lay out nails and boards in order to seal the damaged cars as required by orders and to request the station guard to watch the train. As the train entered Stanislau, the train station workers and the station guards were present to carry out the necessary repairs and in addition take over guarding the train.

The work took one and one-half hours. When the train subsequently resumed its journey, it was discovered at the next stop some stations later that once again large holes had been broken by the Jews in some of the train cars and that for the most part the barbed wire fastened on the outside of the ventilation windows had been torn off. In one train car the Jews had even been working with hammer and saw. Upon interrogation they explained that the Security Police had left these tools with them, because they could make good use of them at their next work place. Corporal Jäcklein made the Jews hand over the tools. During the further journey, at every station stop, help was needed to nail up the train, because otherwise the rest of the trip would not have been at all possible. At 11:15 a.m. the train reached Lemberg.
Because no relief for the escort commando arrived, the escort commando J. (Jäcklein) had to continue guarding the train until Belzec. After a brief halt at the Lemberg train station, the train continued to the suburban station of Kleparow, where nine train cars marked with the letter "L" and destined for the labour camp, were turned over to SS-Obersturmführer Schulze and unloaded. SS-Obersturmführer Schulze then had some additional 1,000 Jews loaded.
About 1:30 p.m. the transport departed for Belzec.

With the change of engine in Lemberg, such an old engine was hooked up that further travel was possible only with continuous interruptions. The slow journey was time and again used by the strongest Jews to press themselves through the holes they had forced open and to seek their safety in flight, because in jumping from the slow-moving train they were scarcely injured. Despite the repeated requests to the engineer to go faster, this was not possible, so that the frequent stops on open stretches became increasingly unpleasant.

Shortly beyond Lemberg the commando had already shot off the ammunition they had with them and also used up a further 200 rounds that they had received from army soldiers, so that for the rest of the journey they had to resort to stones while the train was moving and to fixed bayonets when the train was stopped.

The ever greater panic spreading among the Jews due to the great heat, overloading of the train cars, and stink of dead bodies when unloading the train cars some 2,000 (200 ? *) Jews were found dead in the train made the transport almost unworkable. At 6:45 p.m. the transport arrived in Belzec, and around 7.30 p.m. was turned over by Corporal Jäcklein to the SS-Obersturmführer and head of the camp there. Until the unloading of the transport around 10:00 p.m., J. had to remain in the camp, while the escort commando was used to guard the train cars parked outside the camp. Because of the special circumstances described, the number of Jews who escaped from this transport cannot be specified. Nonetheless, it can be assumed that at least two-thirds of the escaping Jews were shot or rendered harmless in some other way.

In the actions themselves for the period of 7-10 September 1942, no special incidents occurred. The cooperation between the Security Police and the Order Police units involved was good and without friction.


(signed) Westermann
Reserve Lieutenant of the Schutzpolizei
And Company Commander

* A retyped version of Westermann's report shows the number "200" instead.
Schutzpolizei Zugwachtmeister Josef Jäcklein's report of 14.9.1942 confirms that the real number is 2000.

Source:
Browning, Christopher R. Ordinary Men Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, HarperPerennial, New York, 1993

Hilberg, Raul. Sonderzüge nach Auschwitz, Ullstein GmbH, Berlin, 1987