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Hans Gewecke

Film | Accession Number: 1996.166 | RG Number: RG-60.5027 | Film ID: 3298, 3299, 3300, 3301, 3302, 3303, 3304, 3305, 3306, 3307, 3308, 3309, 3311, 3313

Lanzmann used a false name and filmed this interview with a hidden camera. See his description of filming Gewecke in his memoir The Patagonian Hare, published 2009 by Farrar Strauss and Giroux, pages 456-457. Gewecke was the Gebietskommissar of Siauliai, Lithuania. In 1971 he was convicted and sentenced to four and a half years in prison for participation in the execution of a Jewish baker for smuggling. Gewecke is evasive about when he arrived in Siauliai, stating that the killing actions there took place "before my time." He claims that he was not a crass anti-Semite and provides as proof the fact that he didn't pursue a legal case when the dog of a Jewish woman bit his wife. He talks about his postwar trial and stresses that the court did not find him to be a perpetrator but rather an administrator.

FILM ID 3298 -- Camera Rolls #1A,1B,2A,2B -- 01:00:14 to 01:32:28
Roll 1A Gewecke sits behind a table in front of a window with Lanzmann and Corinna Coulmas (Lanzmann's interpreter) to his left. Gewecke holds his written responses to the six questions asked by "Dr. Sorel" in his letter and begins to read them out loud. Lanzmann asks Gewecke to begin instead with some biographical information. Gewecke says he arrived in Siauliai, Lithuania as Gebietskommissar on approximately 10 July 1941. Before this he was an NSDAP Kreisleiter in Schleswig-Holstein and a delegate to the Reichstag since 1933. He became an NSDAP party member in 1928, when he was 22 years old. He was sent to Lithuania by Alfred Rosenberg on the recommendation of his Gauleiter, Hinrich Lohse.

Roll 1B 01:11:31 Gewecke mentions Adrian von Renteln, Generalkommissar for Lithuania. Lanzmann asks if Gewecke was happy to be assigned to the East and Gewecke describes himself as a convinced National Socialist, an admirer of Rosenberg and loyal to Lohse. When Lohse died, Gewecke gave the eulogy at his funeral. He shows Lanzmann a letter from Lohse's wife in which she thanks him for the eulogy.

Roll 2A 01:16:09 Gewecke makes reference to an educational institution (Hohe Schule) that educated party members (Ordensjunker) in the NSDAP worldview. These Ordensjunker were then dispatched to help administer the occupied areas, including Lithuania.

Roll 2B 01:22:40 Gewecke's duties included arranging for quarters for the occupying authorities, as well as ghettoizing the Jews of Siauliai. He says that Rosenberg was against a "terroristische Politik" toward the Jews but that Gewecke, Lohse, and Rosenberg were all convinced that the Jews must be ghettoized as they had been before the war. Lanzmann contradicts him on this point but moves on to ask about the structure of the ghetto. Gewecke puts the number of Jews at around 5,000. Lanzmann asks about Gewecke's worldview regarding the Jews, as a committed National Socialist. Gewecke answers that he wants to provide two examples. He tells Lanzmann that he objected to the installation of Der Stuermer kiosks in his home district of Lauenburg. He says he found the crudely antisemitic magazine offensive and counterproductive to the Nazi cause.

FILM ID 3299 -- Camera Rolls #3A,3B,4A,4B -- 02:00:11 to 02:34:23
Roll 3A Closer view of Gewecke. There are several black spots on the image that remain for the rest of the interview. Gewecke could not forbid the Stuermer kiosks, but told Lohse that they should be removed. There was testimony at his trial that confirmed his objection to the Stuermer kiosks. The second point that Gewecke makes in response to Lanzmann's original question about his attitude toward the Jews consists of a story of how his wife was bitten by a dog owned by a Jewish woman, but he did not pursue the matter. He also says that there was no destruction on Kristallnacht in his district (or just in Moelln?) and that the owner of a Jewish business was allowed to emigrate after the Aryanization of his business. He says he does not have more proof for his "tolerance" because there were very few Jews in Moelln. Returning to the original question, Lanzmann asks whether Gewecke was an antisemite or not. Gewecke says he did not exercise his power over the few Jews in Moelln and that he was not a crass antisemite. If he had been he would have risen higher in the power structure.

Roll 3B 02:11:29 Gewecke says that he was an antisemite in the sense that he approved of the NSDAP's platform but that he would never have joined the Party if the platform had explicitly included the destruction of the Jews (Endloesung). As reason for why he joined the Party, he provides more of his biography. He lived in Duesseldorf during the French occupation after World War I, which made him a staunch nationalist and led him to join the NSDAP.

Roll 4A 02:17:29 Lanzmann and Gewecke's daughter exchange some words in French. Gewecke says that he would never have joined the NSDAP if he had known that the end result would be the destruction of the Jews and that if he had been another type of man he would have allowed the killing of the Jews of Siauliai. Lanzmann points out that Hitler talks about extermination (Ausrottung) in Mein Kampf. Gewecke makes a distinction between the NSDAP platform and Mein Kampf, saying that when he joined the NSDAP he knew nothing of Mein Kampf. He says that the Madagascar plan was foiled by the British and the French, and that emigration to Palestine was foiled by the British. If the Madagascar Plan had succeeded it would have been a "peaceful final solution." He says that the Party platform called quite clearly for the exclusion of the Jews from the economy, politics and culture and that at the time in Germany many positions in these areas were held by Jews, because they were so clever and competent. Gewecke says he reads (read also at the time?) books by Werfel, Molnar, and other authors whose books were burned.

Roll 4B 02:23:59 Gewecke continues to talk about why he supported Hitler and the NSDAP. He says many who sit in Bonn today also supported Hitler and that if Hitler had not taken power the KPD would have done so. Lanzmann asks Gewecke whether he believed then and now that the Jews were a danger to Germany. Gewecke says that he thought, along with the Party, that the Jews contributed to the spiritual decomposition of German culture. Lanzmann says that the expulsion of the Jews [from German life] lay at the heart of the Nazi program. Gewecke's wife interjects that Gewecke always told her that the Jews had declared war on Hitler (referring to the January 30, 1939 speech). Gewecke makes reference to a book by Hoggan (The Forced War), which claims that "International Jewry" did declare war on Hitler and that the January 30, 1939 speech to the Reichstag was Hitler's response. (David Hoggan was a Holocaust denier). Lanzmann says that the question is not so simple, perhaps the Jews were simply defending themselves. Gewecke says that despite the debate over the question (he mentions a historian called Diewalt - sp?), he thinks that Hitler was aware of the plan to eliminate the Jews.

FILM ID 3300 -- Camera Rolls #5A,5B,6B -- 03:00:11 to 03:38:33
Roll 5A Gewecke says again that he believes Hitler was aware of the plan to exterminate the Jews, then repeats that he and Rosenberg took a tolerant, non-violent approach toward the Jews, although they were ghettoized, as had been ordered from above. However, it was reported to him that Jews who lived in the larger area were liquidated by the SD. He says again that Rosenberg condemned the destruction of the Jews and that he thinks Himmler was the one responsible. Gewecke says that when he arrived in Siauliai on approximately 10 July the Einsatzgruppen units were already there. He talks about his experience as a Gebietskommissar, referring to the German Wehrmacht as the liberator of the population from the Soviets and says that he himself was greeted as a liberator. No video or audio from 03:11:47 to 03:16:36. Video but no sound until 03:16:57. Gewecke goes on at length about how the German civilian administration respected the autonomy and culture of the local population, then turns to the partisans. Lanzmann attempts to return the focus to the Einsatzgruppen, asking how the actions of the Einsatzgruppen could be compatible with the establishment of the occupation administration, which Gewecke described as defense of the population. Gewecke says that the Einsatzgruppen had already moved through by the time he arrived in Siauliai.

Roll 5B 03:21:46 Lanzmann asks Gewecke to describe [Karl] Jaeger, head of Einsatzkommando 3 and author of the 1941 Jaeger Report about the extermination of the Lithuanian Jews. After first saying that he knew him, Gewecke says he did not have any relationship with Jaeger, nor with almost anyone in the SS. Lanzmann points out that there were killings and deportations in Siauliai as well, but Gewecke says they occurred before his time. He says there could have been only isolated killing actions in Siauliai before his arrival because when he arrived there were 5,000 Jews there. He says there were two ghettos in Siauliai. Gewecke mentions the leather factory, which was overseen by the Reichskommissar, then says he does not know how many Jews were killed before his arrival in Siauliai. Lanzmann points out that the Einsatzgruppen arrived with the Wehrmacht and began killing Jews immediately and starts to say that this was only two weeks before Gewecke's arrival (?).

Roll 6B 03:27:53 Gewecke says that it's remarkable that all of these 5,000 Jews in the Siauliai ghetto survived. He and Lanzmann mention several factories in the area that might have contributed to the survival of the Jews, then Gewecke says that he discovered from Lithuanian collaborators with whom he worked that some within the Lithuanian population hated the Jews and that he assumes that the "famous pogrom" (the Lietukis Garage pogrom) must have been carried out with the collaboration of Einsatzkomando 3. He talks about the killings of Lithuanian Jews committed by Einsatzkommando Tilsit and his wife points out that he was a witness in the 1958 trial in Ulm against ten of these perpetrators. He gives the history of the Ulm trial and Lanzmann makes notes. Lanzmann changes the subject back to the Lietukis Garage pogrom in Kovno but when Gewecke mentions Joachim Hamann, Karl Jaeger's deputy, he asks Gewecke to describe his meeting with Hamann.

FILM ID 3301 -- Camera Rolls #7A,7C -- 04:00:11 to 04:18:40
Roll 7A Lanzmann and Gewecke both appear in the frame at first. Lanzmann looks through documents. Gewecke gives a physical description of how Hamann appeared when he came to see him, then says that Hamann informed him that the Jews in Siauliai were to be liquidated the following day. Gewecke claims that he called his colleague Schultz to be present and then told Hamann that if the SD started killing the Jews he would order the police (Ordnungspolizei) to shoot at the SD. Lanzmann asks whether this was possible. Gewecke says that he was taking a great risk by making this threat and says that Schultz testified to this exchange at the Ulm trial and at Gewecke's trial. He comes back to the question Lanzmann asked, whether he would have or could have carried out his threat against the SD, but the discussion is cut off.

Roll 7C 04:09:51 Lanzmann frames the conflict between the SS and the civil administration in terms of those who wanted to destroy the Jews and those who wanted to make use of Jewish labor. No video or audio from 04:11:21 to 04:12:13. No audio until 04:12:47. Gewecke insists that his objection to the destruction of the Jews was based not just on their usefulness as workers but also on humanitarian grounds. He says he could have offered to let Jaeger kill only those Jews who were not capable of work, but he did not make such an offer.

FILM ID 3302 -- Camera Rolls #8A,8B,8C -- 05:00:11 to 05:18:13
Roll 8A-8B Gewecke continues to make the point that he could have offered to give Hamann all of those Jews who were not capable of work, as other Gebietskommissars did, and that he "rescued" the Jews on humanitarian grounds. He mentions specifically the actions of Erren, the Gebietskommissar from Slonim, among others. Lanzman says that his struggle against the actions of the SD were hopeless, because he knew that the end goal was destruction. His wife, off camera at first, says she was shocked that after Gewecke "rescued" the Jews of Siauliai, "international Jewry" then tried to have him hanged after the war. Lanzmann says he finds this astonishing because he has read a book by a Jewish historian in which Siauliai is mentioned as a special case because so many Jews survived. Gewecke's wife says that they endured an almost year-long trial, "only because one Jew was hanged." They begin to discuss the hanging of the Jewish baker for which Gewecke was tried, but Lanzmann cuts off the discussion to return to the question of the priority of killing the Jews versus preserving useable labor.

Roll 8C 05:13:12 Lanzmann says he is very interested in the struggle between Himmler, who wanted without question to destroy the Jews, and the men who wanted to save Jews because of their usefulness. Again, Gewecke stresses his humanitarian reasons for "saving" the Jews and quotes from witnesses at his trial.

FILM ID 3303 -- Camera Rolls #9A,9B -- 06:00:11 to 06:17:08
Roll 9A Lanzmann asks Gewecke to describe the ghetto. They discuss the structure of the ghetto administration, which was divided between the Gebietskommissar and the SD. Gewecke talks about the Judenrat. He says that he did not have much to do with them but that they were not afraid to come to him and that he offered Mendel, the head of the Judenrat, a place to sit and sat down with him when he came to his office. Audio but no video from 06:04:23 to 06:05:53. Gewecke continues to detail how amazing it was that he offered Mendel a place at the table and sat with him rather than leaving him standing.

Roll 9B 06:08:33 They discuss rations in the ghetto, which Gewecke says were half those received by the Lithuanian population. Lanzmann asks whether people died from starvation and Gewecke says that he is not sure, but thinks it possible that this happened. He says he did not visit the ghetto often but concedes that the conditions there were inhuman. Gewecke reads from a letter he wrote to Lohse in September, 1941, objecting to Jaeger's attempts to confiscate all gold and silver from the Jews.

FILM ID 3304 -- Camera Rolls #10A,10B -- 07:00:11 to 07:17:39
Roll 10A In response to a question from Lanzmann, Gewecke says that the Jewish property that Jaeger wanted to confiscate consisted of gold, jewelry, and furs.

Roll 10B 07:06:41 Image breaks up for the first few seconds. Lanzmann asks Gewecke what he means in the letter that he wrote to Lohse when he speaks of an "orderly seizure" of Jewish goods and Gewecke replies that he meant a legal seizure. He says that he sent goods confiscated from the Jews on to the Reichskommissar in Riga. Lanzmann asks Gewecke about the prohibition on Jewish pregnancies in the ghetto. Gewecke says he knew of the regulation but did not concern himself with enforcing it. He lists other restrictions and rules that Jews were required to follow. He says the Judenrat had authority over the Jewish police and for the Jews. The SD told him that if the smuggling of food did not stop they would liquidate Jews.

FILM ID 3305 -- Camera Rolls #11A,11B -- 08:00:11 to 08:17:57
Roll 11A Gewecke describes the work details that were dispatched from the ghetto to the airport. He quotes from Jewish witnesses at his trial that he never took harsh measures against these forced laborers. Lanzmann asks Gewecke about the yellow work passes in Vilna that determined whether Jews lived or died and he mentions the executions in Ponary. Gewecke denies that the yellow passes existed in Siauliai. Gewecke and his wife laugh as he tells about a Jew with whom Gewecke worked who greeted him with a Hitler salute. Lanzmann asks whether there was a possibility of resistance by the Jews and why the Jews were so passive even in the face of certain death.

Roll 11B 08:12:15 Gewecke says he cannot say because he never saw such things himself, but he has heard that the Jews were very stoic as they went to their deaths. Lanzmann suggests that they were weak and Gewecke says they were certainly physically weak, living on half rations. He then says that the forced laborers from the Siauliai ghetto received better treatment and were in better shape. Gewecke's wife says that the Jews did not live badly. Lanzmann defines the three periods of the ghetto and asks about the Kinderaktion of November 1943. Gewecke says this action, which happened overnight and about which he had no prior knowledge, caused a great sensation.

FILM ID 3306 -- Camera Rolls #12A,12B,12C(13A) -- 09:00:11 to 09:22:56
Roll 12A Some problems with image and sound in the beginning of the roll. Gewecke says that the Kinderaktion came like a bolt from the blue and if he had possessed foreknowledge of it he would fought it with his police force. Bbut then says he had no force of his own but that he had installed the head of the police in his position (?). He again mentions his confrontation with Hamann and speaks at length about the administration of police powers in Lithuania. Lanzmann asks Gewecke to talk about what the concept of "the East" meant to him at the time and means to him now. Lanzmann uses the word Ost, which Gewecke corrects to Ostland, meaning specifically the occupied Baltic territories and some other Eastern territories.

Roll 12B 09:11:54 Gewecke refers to Hitler's explanation of the need for Lebensraum in Mein Kampf and also mentions a book by Hans Grimm. He says that Rosenberg also concerned himself with this idea and that Lebensraum was only available in the East. He quotes Rosenberg about the Bolshevist threat.

Roll 12C (13A) 09:17:28 Lanzmann quotes Heydrich from the Wannsee Conference about the deportation of Jews from West to East. Gewecke says that the Reichsbahn used hundreds of trains to accomplish this. Lanzmann asks Gewecke why the Jews were transported East to be killed, rather than being killed where they were and Gewecke says it was because of the air war with England.

FILM ID 3307 -- Camera Rolls #13B,13C -- 10:00:11 to 10:12:31
Gewecke and Lanzmann discuss the fact that Wilhelm Kube protested strongly against the destruction of the German Jews in Minsk, although he was in agreement with the liquidation of the eastern Jews. They move on to the subject of the Madagascar Plan. Lanzmann points out that Gewecke said he was in favor of the Madagascar Plan and he asks Gewecke what he thinks about the "bitter irony" that the Germans wanted to get rid of their Jews but then found themselves with a huge territory full of Jews. Gewecke consults a book written by Rosenberg and says that Lanzmann must know more about the subject than he does. Lanzmann says that he is trying to understand how the idea for the final solution came about. Sound is intermittent for the last minute or so.

FILM ID 3308 -- Camera Rolls #14A,14B -- 11:00:11 to 11:18:48
Roll 14A Gewecke raises a glass in a toast, no sound. Lanzmann asks Gewecke what he thinks of Germany today, whether it has changed. Gewecke does not think much of the proposals for European unity (referring to the European Economic Community?). He says that Hitler also did some good for the German people. Lanzmann asks him what he thinks of the Jews today, and of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but Gewecke doesn't answer. Lanzmann asks Gewecke whether he thinks the Jews have changed. Gewecke says he would not visit Israel for fear of legal peril.

Roll 14B 11:10:48 Gewecke says that at his trial he was not convicted as the person who ordered the hanging, but rather as an administrator. One of the witnesses perjured himself and his lawyer considered having him arrested but said instead, "he will have a heart attack and one dead Jew is enough." He says that a Jew who worked for the SD testified that he was present at the hanging but in fact he was not there. He says his was a "political trial." He says he was in jail for 1 ½ years pending his trial.

FILM ID 3309 -- Camera Rolls #15A,15B -- 12:00:11 to 12:17:39
Roll 15A Gewecke says that some Jewish witnesses testified on his behalf at his trial and that in some ways he received a fair trial. Gewecke and his wife say that they were persecuted by the SD for Gewecke's confrontation with Hamann. Gewecke talks about the end of the war and says that the SD took his wife and family, whom he had evacuated earlier, into protective custody. They were freed with the assistance of Reichskommissar Erich Koch.

Roll 15B 12:11:48 They continue to discuss the end of the war. Gewecke says he knew the war was lost but did not want to say it, for fear of being charged by [Roland] Freisler. They discuss Freisler briefly. Gewecke says he never betrayed his oath and Lanzmann asks him what he thinks of the 20th of July plotters. He answers that he considers many of them traitors, and that he considers Canaris a traitor as well.

FILM ID 3310 -- Int. Camion Gewecke Stier (Stier Camera Roll #1) -- 14:00:10 to 14:07:12
Mute color shots of two technicians in the van that received the video feed from the hidden camera interview. The technicians watch the image, listen to the sound, and make adjustments. CU on the black and white image. The man being interviewed is Stier.

FILM ID 3311 -- Int. Camion Gewecke Stier (Gewecke Camera Rolls #3,3A,0,2) -- 15:00:11 to 15:20:01
Shots of the technicians in the van. This time the image is definitely Gewecke.

FILM ID 3312 -- Int. Camion Gewecke Stier (Stier Camera Roll #7) -- 16:00:11 to 16:08:06
Continuation of the scene in the van. One of the technicians adjusts an antenna. Again, the image shows Stier.

FILM ID 3313 -- Camera Rolls #16,19,20,21,8,9,4 -- 13:00:11 to 13:16:25
Mute CUs of Gewecke and his wife and daughter. His wife touches her face nervously. CU of a photograph of men in uniform with a child. LS of a picturesque town by a river (Moelln?). Mute shots of Gewecke eating. Gewecke, Lanzmann, and Corinna on camera.

Event:  Late Spring or Early Summer 1979
Production:  1985
Moelln, Germany
Created by Claude Lanzmann during the filming of "Shoah," used by permission of USHMM and Yad Vashem
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:02:33
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