Now this is well and good, but their case would be immeasurably stronger if they presented a concrete version of the events as the believers have. Then the two narratives could perhaps be compared, the evidence for each weighed, and eventually the strongest might win out.
For the purposes of this discussion, I don't care care about specifically where in the east the Jews were resettled, the names or identifiers new towns or camps that were built to house them, or the preexisting ones they were moved into. Rather to begin, a simple question may suffice: "Why were the Jews moved out of the ghettos at all?"
A believer might answer their version of the question - "why were the Jews moved out of the ghettos and murdered" - thusly:
It is acknowledged by all, that the Nazis sought to separate (uproot, whatever word you want to use) the Jews from European society. Not just their own, they extended tremendous pressure on their allies to do so. One can only take them at their word that they viewed the Jews as carriers of some kind of pestilence, actual disease in many cases, but also a spiritual kind of pestilence. The Nazis blamed the Jews for the degeneracy they thought had overtaken society during the modern age.
Yet by separating the Jews from society, first by depriving them of work opportunities, later by physically displacing them into segregated ghettos, the Nazis became in essence guardians. The Jews became utterly reliant on them for their physical survival, which soon caused much consternation as conditions in the ghettos rapidly deteriorated. Some Jews in the ghettos at this time were employed by the Germans in assisting war production, but many were not. Cut off from their livelihoods, these Jews could hardly afford food. What wealth they did possess (most of it had already been expropriated) was rapidly dwindling, and without Nazi "charity", things could not go on much longer.
Meanwhile the war was rapidly intensifying for the Germans, marked by the invasion of the USSR. Contrary to the common view, after a few good weeks the Germans began to realize they were in over their heads. The historian David Stahel has written like 3 or 4 excellent books just about the first few months of the war. It is his view the war was essentially lost at some point in July, 1941. Among the Germans he notes a growing sense of "dejection and melancholy" in early August.
Here he quotes from the transcript of a phone conversation between generals Halder and Bock. Interestingly enough Halder had proclaimed the Soviets defeated just a few weeks prior.
Positional warfare was indeed a fearful term for the Germans. Going back hundreds of years the success of their armies had been contingent on fighting short, quick wars. When this didn't happen, most conspicuously during WW1 with the failure of the Schlieffen Plan, the Germans were in big trouble. Their country, with its limited resources, could not hope for much success in a war of attrition, and this was exactly what the Allies wanted, both in 1914 and 1941.Bock: In this case I don’t know any more how I can move the Army Group forward. Today is the beginning of positional warfare! The units to be given up can only be moved in a partly finished condition owing to their incomplete refitting. I must make you aware that after the loss of this corps an attack by Strauss’s army, except for the special action toward Velikie Luki, is no longer possible. The offensive intention of the Ninth Army
Halder: In my opinion this goes for the Second Army too.
Bock: Please inform the commander in chief of the army [Brauchitsch] that with this order any thought of an offensive posture by the Ninth Army, and as a result probably by the whole Army Group, ceases to exist. It is also to be borne in mind that going over to a defensive position is not possible given the current position. The existing line is not adequate for a lengthy defence. I have the intention to inform the Führer’s chief adjutant [Schmundt] of the same thing.
Halder: I don’t know myself what I should do. I am utterly desperate and will try to save what there is to save.
Concurrent with the Germans' fading hopes of a quick resolution to the conflict, this period also saw an increase in the scope of activities by the Einsatzgruppen, which began execution of Jews as part of "partisan reprisals". Their justification was that the Jews were vital saboteurs and organizers in the partisan movement. Thus, by killing some number of Jewish men, women, children, elders, they were disincentivizing other Jews from moving against them. Even staunch revisionists do not deny this was happening, they merely contest the numbers.
I doubt most revisionists will have significant disagreements with anything I've said thus far. But with the dawn of 1942, they begin to doubt the official narrative. Here the Jews were deported from the ghettos, everyone agrees this happened. Able-bodied Jews (as well as Soviet POWs) were brought to labor camps, something the Germans had been strangely averse to previously. But there were many Jews who, owing to deplorable conditions in the ghettos (food was scarce and disease was rampant, Warsaw ghetto is said to have contained 400k Jews in 1.3 square miles), could not be counted on much for labor. And there were the very young of course, and the elderly.
What did the Nazis do with all these people? Believers maintain they were killed. Why? Not for the mere reason they were Jewish - because of the unique ideological, economic, and political constraints the Nazis were operating under.
Let us consider some possibilities - moving them to the east would require either the creation of new towns or camps for them settle in, or they could move into preexisting habitations. Though not ghettos, because again, the ghettos were all liquidated right? Perhaps they could have been settled outside of densely populated urban areas. But this would have made it next to impossible to ensure their separation from the native populations, the whole reason they were put into the ghettos in the first place. So too, one way or another, these non-productive Jews could hardly be expected to survive given they were in no shape for work, so they would have be continued to be taken care of - by their guardians, their benefactors. Yes, the Nazis would actually have to expend valuable manpower taking care of these nominally useless Jews, feeding them food which could instead go to the army or the home front.
(fun tidbit: the wehrmacht was never very mechanized so most soldiers had to essentially walk across Russia carrying heavy equipment - quite calorically intensive)
All this during the most crucial period of the war.
It was a war unlike any other. The Nazi leaders knew losing to a man like Stalin would no doubt mean their own heads, they could hardly expect to get off with a simple slap of the wrist like Kaiser Wilhelm. Thus it is reasonable to say they were willing to do anything to win. Enter the Hunger Plan.
From the verbatim meeting notes of the team responsible for logistical planning for the invasion:
This plan was only partially implemented, but its effects were dire. An interesting communication from 50th Army Corps:1.) The war can only be continued if the entire Wehrmacht is fed from Russia in the third year of the war.
2.) If we take what we need out of the country, there can be no doubt that tens of millions of people will die of starvation.
Deliberate starvation is technically nothing new in warfare. During WW1 the British blockade is said to have caused 736,000 German deaths from starvation. But these were occupied lands, completely at the mercy of the Germans, and most civilians did not or were incapable of resisting them. Such ruthless policies doubtless did much to further animosity against the Germans from these occupied lands that otherwise may have welcomed them. After all many in the Ukraine and Belarus felt like they were under the yolk of another ruthless power, Russian Bolshevism. The Germans were no doubt aware of this, but they staved them anyway. Overall 7-9 million Soviets are said to have died of hunger during WW2, of which 6-7 million were in German occupied lands. I'm not sure if this figure includes the 2 million Soviet POWS who are said to have died by early 1942.the population’s situation has deteriorated to such an extent that it is intolerable for the troops’ morale to continually have to see such misery. For example,women and children come to the troops’ local headquarters and beg for food. They suggest that they would rather be shot immediately than be abandoned to an excruciating death by starvation.
Is this also genocide?
That is a question perhaps beyond the purview of this topic, almost a philosophical one. Is there a fundamental difference between starving many millions to death or murdering them in cold blood?
A more salient question for revisionists: why would the Nazis value Jewish lives at least as much as Ukrainian and Belorussian ones? After all they let these people serve in their army, apparently there were Ukranians on the beaches at Normandy.
As for the precise method by which the Jews are said to have been murdered, why wouldn't an industrial society figure out an industrial method of murder? Simply shooting people seems somewhat provincial, or medieval. Is poison gas really less humane? Certainly it would be for the German soldiers, who were the ones that really mattered. We cannot expect all these people to have been psychopaths. Among the Einsatzgruppen apparently many were under enormous stress from having to kill defenseless people, Jews or no, or even be present for it.
From the book, the Good Old Days:
andI still dimly recall our detachment executing fifteen to twenty Jews,
including women and four or five children aged between six and
nine months, on the march from Kiev to Poltava. ... I can no longer
describe the execution area today. I think that I also had to do some
of the shooting, but I know for sure that I did not have to shoot any
children. I still remember today one of the men saying that the
children hung on to life like the adults. He must have shot children.
Thus the invention of the camps, and most importantly the Sonderkommandos - Jews who led their compatriots to their deaths and disposed of the bodies. Can it be denied there is not a truly an inhuman rationality to this? And of course the contained environment of the camps makes killing in secret much easier. Killing unarmed, defenseless people is never a good look. Word got out about the apparent gassings anyway, but at the time there was healthy skepticism about what was really happening.After the first wave of shootings it emerged that the men, particularly the officers, could not cope with the demands made on them.
Many abandoned themselves to alcohol, many suffered nervous breakdowns and psychological illnesses; for example we had suicides and there were cases where some men cracked up and shot wildly around them and completely lost control. When this happened Himmler issued an order stating that any man who no longer felt able to take the psychological stresses should report to his superior officer.
So to conclude I return to the question first posed, ""Why were the Jews moved out of the ghettos at all?" There was no final solution available to them of course. The Nazis' original plans for permanent settlement were bringing them to Madagascar or west of the Urals. But these places were inaccessible at the time, though perhaps many party stalwarts hoped the war could be won by 1943. Then final resettlement in Siberia would certainly be possible. So why move them now, with the war still in doubt, to areas Germans planned to colonize no less. It all seems a bit hasty. Also if many Jews were being deported from the ghettos to labor camps, the ghettos would be half empty, and thus could be easily consolidated. But this never happened. The ghettos were all liquidated. No one disputes this. That I know of.
So it seems obvious, at least to me, that the Nazis wanted to move the Jews out of the ghettos so they could do something to them that they didn't want people to see.
I look forward to your guys' views on this.
Most of the quotes here can be found in the book: NAZI POLICY ON THE EASTERN FRONT, 1941