|Jewish resistance under the Nazi rule|
Jewish resistance under the Nazi rule took various forms of organized underground activities conducted against German occupation regimes in Europe by Jews during World War II. According to historian Yehuda Bauer, Jewish resistance was defined as actions that were taken against all laws and actions acted by Germans.The term is particularly connected with the Holocaust and includes a multitude of different social responses by those oppressed, as well as both passive and armed resistance conducted by Jews themselves.
Due to military strength of Nazi Germany and its allies, as well as the administrative system of ghettoization and the hostility of various sections of the civilian population, few Jews were able to effectively resist the Final Solution militarily. Nevertheless, there are many cases of attempts at resistance in one form or another including over a hundred armed Jewish uprisings.Historiographically, the study of Jewish resistance to German rule is considered an important aspect of the study of the Holocaust.
This section contains too many or overly lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (December 2018)
The historian Julian Jackson argued that there were three discrete forms of Jewish resistance in the course of his study of the German occupation of France:
"One can distinguish three categories of Jewish resistance: first, individual French Jews in the general Resistance; secondly, specifically Jewish organizations in the general Resistance; thirdly, Resistance organizations (not necessarily comprising Jews alone) with specifically Jewish objectives."
In his book The Holocaust: The Jewish Tragedy, Martin Gilbert defines Jewish resistance more widely:
"In every ghetto, in every deportation train, in every labor camp, even in the death camps, the will to resist was strong, and took many forms. Fighting with the few weapons that would be found, individual acts of defiance and protest, the courage of obtaining food and water under the threat of death, the superiority of refusing to allow the Germans their final wish to gloat over panic and despair.
Even passivity was a form of resistance. To die with dignity was a form of resistance. To resist the demoralizing, brutalizing force of evil, to refuse to be reduced to the level of animals, to live through the torment, to outlive the tormentors, these too were acts of resistance. Merely to give a witness of these events in testimony was, in the end, a contribution to victory. Simply to survive was a victory of the human spirit."
This view is supported by Yehuda Bauer, who wrote that resistance to the Nazis comprised not only physical opposition, but any activity that gave the Jewish people dignity and humanity despite the humiliating and inhumane conditions. Bauer disputes the popular view that most Jews went to their deaths passively—"like sheep to the slaughter". He argues that, given the conditions in which the Jews of Eastern Europe had to live under and endure, what is surprising is not how little resistance there was, but rather how much resistance was present.[ citation needed ]
In 1940, the Warsaw ghetto was cut off from its access to Polish underground newspapers, and the only newspaper allowed to be imported into the confines of the ghetto was the General Government propaganda organ Gazeta Żydowska . As a result, from roughly May 1940 to October 1941, the Jews of the ghetto published their own underground newspapers, offering hopeful news about the war and prospects for the future. The most prominent of these were published by the Jewish Socialist party and the Zionist Labor Movement. These two groups formed an alliance but they had no arms. These papers lamented the carnage of war, but for the most part did not encourage armed resistance.
Jews mainly used unarmed resistance in Eastern Europe; for instance, young Jews smuggled food or secretly took people into the forests in Sobibór and Treblinka death camps, whereas in Western Europe, they used armed resistance. [ citation needed ]Between April and May 1943, Jewish men and women of the Warsaw Ghetto took up arms and rebelled against the Nazis after it became clear that the Germans were deporting remaining Ghetto inhabitants to the Treblinka extermination camp. Warsaw Jews of the Jewish Combat Organization and the Jewish Military Union fought the Germans with a handful of small arms and Molotov cocktails, as Polish resistance attacked from the outside in support. After fierce fighting, vastly superior German forces pacified the Warsaw Ghetto and either murdered or deported all of the remaining inhabitants to the Nazi killing centers. The Germans claimed that they lost 18 dead and 85 wounded, though this figure has been disputed, with resistance leader Marek Edelman estimating 300 German casualties. Some 13,000 Jews were killed, and 56,885 were deported to concentration camps. There are two main reasons why Jews failed to resist when they were leaving the ghettos: Nazis' powerful army and also, it was difficult for Jews to get armed resistance because they needed others' support and because they lacked the ability to get arms when they were in ghettos.
There were many other major and minor ghetto uprisings, however most were not successful. Some of the ghetto uprisings include the Białystok Ghetto Uprising and the Częstochowa Ghetto Uprising.
There were major resistance efforts in three of the extermination camps.
There were a number of Jewish partisan groups operating in many countries, especially Poland. The most notable of the groups is the Bielski partisans, whom the movie Defiance portrays, and the Parczew partisans in the forests near Lublin, Poland. Hundreds of Jews escaped the ghettoes and joined the Partisan resistance groups.
Belgian resistance to the treatment of Jews crystallised between August–September 1942, following the passing of legislation regarding wearing yellow badges and the start of the deportations.When deportations began, Jewish partisans destroyed records of Jews compiled by the AJB. The first organization specifically devoted to hiding Jews, the Comité de Défense des Juifs (CDJ-JVD), was formed in the summer of 1942. The CDJ, a left-wing organization, may have saved up to 4,000 children and 10,000 adults by finding them safe hiding places. It produced two Yiddish language underground newspapers, Unzer Wort ("Our Word", with a Labour-Zionist stance) and Unzer Kamf ("Our Fight", with a Communist one). The CDJ was only one of dozens of organised resistance groups that provided support to hidden Jews. Other groups and individual resistance members were responsible for finding hiding places and providing food and forged papers. Many Jews in hiding went on to join organised resistance groups. Groups from left wing backgrounds, like the Front de l'Indépendance (FI-OF), were particularly popular with Belgian Jews. The Communist-inspired Partisans Armés (PA) had a particularly large Jewish section in Brussels.
The resistance was responsible for the assassination of Robert Holzinger, the head of the deportation program, in 1942.Holzinger, an active collaborator, was an Austrian Jew selected by the Germans for the role. The assassination led to a change in leadership of the AJB. Five Jewish leaders, including the head of the AJB, were arrested and interned in Breendonk, but were released after public outcry. A sixth was deported directly to Auschwitz.
The Belgian resistance was unusually well informed on the fate of the deported Jews. In August 1942 (two months after the start of the Belgian deportations), the underground newspaper De Vrijschutter reported that "They [the deported Jews] are being killed in groups by gas, and others are killed by salvos of machinegun fire."
In early 1943, the Front de l'Indépendance sent Victor Martin, an academic economist at the Catholic University of Louvain, to gather information on the fate of deported Belgian Jews using the cover of his research post at the University of Cologne.Martin visited Auschwitz and witnessed the crematoria. Arrested by the Germans, he escaped, and was able to report his findings to the CDJ in May 1943.
Despite amounting to only 1% of the French population, Jews comprised about 15-20% of the French Resistance.Some of the Jewish resistance members were refugees from Germany, Poland and other central European states.
Although the majority of the French and foreign Jews involved in the French Resistance participated in the general Resistance movements, some Jews also set up their own armed resistance movement: the Armée Juive (Jewish Army), a Zionist organization, which at its height, numbered some 2,000 fighters. Operating throughout France, it smuggled hundreds of Jews to Spain and Switzerland, launched attacks against occupying German forces, and targeted Nazi informants and Gestapo agents. Armee Juive participated in the general French uprising of August 1944, fighting in Paris, Lyon, and Toulouse.
Jewish resistance within Germany itself during the Nazi era took a variety of forms, from sabotage and disruptions to providing intelligence to Allied forces, distributing anti-Nazi propaganda, as well as participating in attempts to assist Jewish emigration out of Nazi-controlled territories. It has been argued that, for Jews during the Holocaust, given the intent of the Nazi regime to exterminate Jews, survival itself constituted an act considered a form of resistance.Jewish participation in the German resistance was largely confined to the underground activities of left-wing Zionist groups such as Werkleute, Hashomer Hatzair and Habonim, and the German Social Democrats, Communists, and independent left-wing groups such as the New Beginning. Much of the non-left wing and non-Jewish opposition to Hitler in Germany (i.e., conservative and religious forces), although often opposed to the Nazi plans for extermination of German and European Jewry, in many instances itself harbored anti-Jewish sentiments.
A celebrated case involved the arrest and execution of Helmut Hirsch, a Jewish architectural student originally from Stuttgart, in connection with a plot to bomb Nazi Party headquarters in Nuremberg. Hirsch became involved in the Black Front, a breakaway faction from the Nazi Party led by Otto Strasser. After being captured by the Gestapo in December 1936, Hirsch confessed to planning to murder Julius Streicher, a leading Nazi official and editor of the virulently anti-Semitic Der Stürmer newspaper, on behalf of Strasser and the Black Front. Hirsch was sentenced to death on March 8, 1937, and on June 4 was beheaded with an axe.
Perhaps the most significant Jewish resistance group within Germany for which records survive was the Berlin-based Baum Group (Baum-Gruppe), which was active from 1937 to 1942. Largely young Jewish women and men, the group disseminated anti-Nazi leaflets, and organized semi-public demonstrations. Its most notable action was the bombing of an anti-Soviet exhibit organized by Joseph Goebbels in Berlin's Lustgarten. The action resulted in mass arrests, executions, and reprisals against German Jews. Because of the reprisals it provoked, the bombing led to debate within opposition circles similar to those that took place elsewhere where the Jewish resistance was active—taking action and risking murderous reprisals vs. being non-confrontational with the hopes of maximizing survival.
In the Netherlands, the only pre-war group that immediately started resistance against the German occupation was the communist party. During the first two war years, it was by far the biggest resistance organization, much bigger than all other organizations put together. A major act of resistance was the organisation of the February strike in 1941, in protest against anti-Jewish measures. In this resistance, many Jews participated. About 1,000 Dutch Jews took part in resisting the Germans, and of those, 500 perished in doing so. In 1988, a monument to their memory was unveiled by the then mayor of Amsterdam, Ed van Thijn.
Among the first Jewish resisters was the German fugitive Ernst Cahn, owner of an ice cream parlor. Together with his partner, Kohn, he had an ammonia gas cylinder installed in the parlor to stave off attacks from the militant arm of the fascist NSB, the so-called "Weerafdeling"("WA"). One day in February 1941 the German police forced their entrance into the parlor, and were gassed. Later, Cahn was caught and on March 3, 1941 he became the first civilian to be executed by a Nazi firing squad in the Netherlands.[ citation needed ]
Benny Bluhm, a boxer, organized Jewish fighting parties consisting of members of his boxing school to resist attacks. One of these brawls led to the death of a WA-member, H. Koot, and subsequently the Germans ordered the first Dutch razzia (police raid) of Jews as a reprisal. That in turn led to the Februaristaking, the February Strike. Bluhm's group was the only Jewish group resisting the Germans in the Netherlands and the first active group of resistance fighters in the Netherlands. Bluhm survived the war, and strove for a monument for the Jewish resisters that came about two years after his death in 1986.
Numerous Jews participated in resisting the Germans. The Jewish director of the assembly center in the "Hollandsche Schouwburg", a former theatre, Walter Süskind, was instrumental in smuggling children out of his centre. He was aided by his assistant Jacques van de Kar and the director of the nearby crèche, Mrs Pimentel.
Within the underground communist party, a militant group was formed: de Nederlandse Volksmilitie (NVM, Dutch Peoples Militia). The leader was Sally (Samuel) Dormits, who had military experience from guerrilla warfare in Brazil and participation in the Spanish Civil War. This organisation was formed in The Hague but became mainly located in Rotterdam. It counted about 200 mainly Jewish participants. They made several bomb attacks on German troop trains and arson attacks on cinemas, which were forbidden for Jews. Dormits was caught after stealing a handbag off a woman in order to obtain an identification card for his Jewish girlfriend, who also participated in the resistance. Dormits committed suicide in the police station by shooting himself through the head. From a cash ticket of a shop the police found the hiding place of Dormits and discovered bombs, arson material, illegal papers, reports about resistance actions and a list of participants. The Gestapo was warned immediately and that day two hundred people were arrested, followed by many more connected people in Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam. The Dutch police participated in torturing the Jewish communists. After a trial more than 20 were shot to death; most of the others died in concentration camps or were gassed in Auschwitz. Only a few survived.
The British Army trained 37 Jewish volunteers from Mandate Palestine to parachute into Europe in an attempt to organize resistance. The most famous member of this group was Hannah Szenes. She was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assist in the rescue of Hungarian Jews about to be deported to the German death camp at Auschwitz.Szenes was arrested at the Hungarian border, then imprisoned and tortured, but refused to reveal details of her mission. She was eventually tried and executed by firing squad. She is regarded as a national heroine in Israel.
The British government formed in July 1944 the Jewish Brigade, which comprised more than 5,000 Jewish volunteers from Palestine, organized into three infantry regiments, an artillery regiment, and supporting units. They were attached to the British Eighth Army in Italy from November 1944, taking part to the spring 1945 "final offensive" on that front. After the end of the war in Europe the Brigade was moved to Belgium and the Netherlands in July 1945. As well as participating in combat operations against German forces, the brigade assisted and protected Holocaust survivors.
The Special Interrogation Group was a British Army commando unit comprising German-speaking Jewish volunteers from Palestine. It carried out commando and sabotage raids behind Axis lines during the Western Desert Campaign, and gathered military intelligence by stopping and questioning German transports while dressed as German military police. They also assisted other British forces. Following the disastrous failure of Operation Agreement, a series of ground and amphibious operations carried out by British, Rhodesian and New Zealand forces on German and Italian-held Tobruk in September 1942, the survivors were transferred to the Royal Pioneer Corps.
In the aftermath of the war, Holocaust survivors led by former members of Jewish resistance groups banded together. Calling themselves Nokmim (Hebrew for "avengers"), they tracked down and executed former Nazis who took part in the Holocaust. They killed an unknown number of Nazis, and their efforts are believed to have continued into the 1950s. The Nazis were often kidnapped and killed by hanging or strangulation, others were killed by hit-and-run attacks, and a former high-ranking Gestapo officer died when kerosene was injected into his bloodstream while he was in hospital awaiting an operation. It is possible that some of the most successful Nokmim were veterans of the Jewish Brigade, who had access to military intelligence, transport, and the right to freely travel across Europe.
Nokmim also travelled to places such as Latin America, Canada, and Spain to track down and kill Nazis who had settled there. In one instance, they are believed to have confronted Aleksander Laak, responsible for killing 8,500 Jews at Jägala concentration camp, at his suburban Winnipeg home, and after telling him that they intended to kill him, allowed him to commit suicide.
In 1946, the Nokmim carried out a mass poisoning attack against former SS members imprisoned at Stalag 13, lacing their bread rations with arsenic at the bakery which supplied it. Approximately 1,200 prisoners fell ill, but no deaths were reported. The U.S. Army mustered its medical resources to treat the poisoned prisoners. Nokmin responses ranged from viewing this mass assassination attempt as a failure to claiming that the Allies covered up the fact that there had been deaths.
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The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of all the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Europe during World War II. It was established by the German authorities in November 1940; within the new General Government territory of German-occupied Poland. At its height as many as 460,000 Jews were imprisoned there, in an area of 3.4 km2 (1.3 sq mi), with an average of 9.2 persons per room, barely subsisting on meager food rations. From the Warsaw Ghetto, Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps and mass-killing centers. In the summer of 1942 at least 254,000 Ghetto residents were sent to the Treblinka extermination camp during Großaktion Warschau under the guise of "resettlement in the East" over the course of the summer. The ghetto was demolished by the Germans in May 1943 after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprisings which had temporarily halted the deportations. The total death toll among the Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto is estimated to be at least 300,000 killed by bullet or gas, combined with 92,000 victims of rampant hunger and hunger-related diseases, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and the casualties of the final destruction of the Ghetto.
Treblinka was an extermination camp, built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II. It was located in a forest north-east of Warsaw, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) south of the Treblinka train station in what is now the Masovian Voivodeship. The camp operated between 23 July 1942 and 19 October 1943 as part of Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Final Solution. During this time, it is estimated that between 700,000 and 900,000 Jews were killed in its gas chambers, along with 2,000 Romani people. More Jews were killed at Treblinka than at any other Nazi extermination camp apart from Auschwitz.
Mordechai Anielewicz was the leader of the Jewish Fighting Organization, which led the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising; the largest Jewish insurrection during the Second World War, which inspired further rebellions in both ghettos and extermination camps. His character was engraved as a symbol of courage and sacrifice, and to this day his image represents Jewish resistance during the Holocaust. He was very brave of a man because he knew the outcome of him and many others, and didn't flee when he had the chance because he wanted to free his people.
The ghetto uprisings during World War II were a series of armed revolts against the regime of Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1943 in the newly established Jewish ghettos across Nazi-occupied Europe. Following the German and Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, Polish Jews were targeted from the outset. Within months inside occupied Poland, the Germans created hundreds of ghettos in which they forced the Jews to live. The new ghettos were part of the German official policy of removing Jews from public life with the aim of economic exploitation. The combination of excess numbers of inmates, unsanitary conditions and lack of food resulted in a high death rate among them. In most cities the Jewish underground resistance movements developed almost instantly, although ghettoization had severely limited their access to resources.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was the 1943 act of Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto in German-occupied Poland during World War II to oppose Nazi Germany's final effort to transport the remaining ghetto population to Majdanek and Treblinka concentration camps. After the Grossaktion Warsaw of summer 1942, in which more than a quarter of a million Jews were deported from the ghetto to Treblinka and murdered, the remaining Jews began to build bunkers and smuggle weapons and explosives into the ghetto. The left-wing Jewish Combat Organization (ŻOB) and right-wing Jewish Military Union (ŻZW) formed and began to train. A small resistance effort to another roundup in January 1943 was partially successful and spurred the Polish groups to support the Jews in earnest.
The Białystok Ghetto uprising was an insurrection in the Jewish Białystok Ghetto against the Nazi German occupation authorities during World War II. The uprising was launched on the night of August 16, 1943 and was the second-largest ghetto uprising organized in Nazi-occupied Poland after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April–May 1943. It was led by the Anti-Fascist Military Organisation, a branch of the Warsaw Anti-Fascist Bloc.
Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg was a German SS functionary during the Nazi era. He served in World War I and then after Germany had formally surrendered in the Freikorps Oberland and the Steirischer Heimatschutz. He served as SS and Police Leader of the Warsaw area in German-occupied Poland from 1941 until 1943 during World War II.
The history of the Jews during World War II is almost synonymous with the persecution of Jews and murder of unprecedented scale in modern times in political Europe inclusive of European North Africa. The massive scale of the Holocaust which happened during World War II greatly affected the Jewish people and world public opinion, which only understood the dimensions of the Final Solution after the war. The genocide, known as HaShoah in Hebrew, aimed at the elimination of the Jewish people on the European continent. It was a broadly organized operation led by Nazi Germany, in which approximately six million Jews were murdered methodically and with horrifying cruelty. Although the Holocaust was organized by the highest levels of the Nazi German government, the vast majority of Jews murdered were not German, but were instead residents of countries invaded by the Nazis after 1938. Of the approximately 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, approximately 160,000 to 180,000 were German Jews. During the Holocaust in occupied Poland, more than one million Jews were murdered in gas chambers of the Auschwitz concentration camp alone. The murder of the Jews of Europe affected Jewish communities in Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Channel Islands, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, and Ukraine.
The Polish resistance movement in World War II, with the Polish Home Army at its forefront, was the largest underground resistance movement in all of occupied Europe, covering both German and Soviet zones of occupation. The Polish resistance is most notable for disrupting German supply lines to the Eastern Front, providing military intelligence to the British, and for saving more Jewish lives in the Holocaust than any other Western Allied organization or government. It was a part of the Polish Underground State.
The Holocaust in Poland was part of the European-wide Holocaust and took place within the September 1, 1939, boundaries of Poland, which ceased to exist as a territorial entity after the German and Soviet invasion of Poland. The Holocaust in Poland was marked by the construction of death camps by Nazi Germany, German use of gas vans, and mass shootings by German troops and their Ukrainian and Lithuanian auxiliaries.
Jewish partisans were fighters in irregular military groups participating in the Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.
The Holocaust, also known as the Shoah, was the World War II genocide of the European Jews. Between 1941 and 1945, across German-occupied Europe, Nazi Germany and its collaborators systematically murdered some six million Jews, around two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population. The murders were carried out in pogroms and mass shootings; by a policy of extermination through work in concentration camps; and in gas chambers and gas vans in German extermination camps, chiefly Auschwitz, Bełżec, Chełmno, Majdanek, Sobibór, and Treblinka in occupied Poland.
In three cases, entire countries resisted the deportation of their Jewish population during the Holocaust. In other countries, notable individuals or communities created resistance during the Holocaust which helped the Jews escape some concentration camps.
Leon Feldhendler was a Polish resistance fighter known for his role in organizing the 1943 prisoner uprising at the Sobibor extermination camp together with Alexander Pechersky. Prior to his deportation to Sobibor, Feldhendler had been head of the Judenrat in his village of Żółkiewka, Lublin Voivodeship, in German-occupied Poland.
The Grossaktion or Gross-Aktion Warsaw was the Nazi code name for the deportation and mass murder of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto beginning 22 July 1942. During the Grossaktion Jews were terrorized in daily round-ups, marched through the ghetto, and assembled at the Umschlagplatz station square for what was called in the Nazi euphemistic jargon "resettlement to the East". From there, they were sent aboard overcrowded Holocaust trains to the extermination camp in Treblinka.
The Minsk Ghetto was created soon after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It was one of the largest in Belorussian SSR, and the largest in the German-occupied territory of the Soviet Union. It housed close to 100,000 Jews, most of whom perished in The Holocaust.
The Będzin Ghetto was a World War II ghetto set up by Nazi Germany for the Polish Jews in the town of Będzin in occupied south-western Poland. The formation of the 'Jewish Quarter' was pronounced by the German authorities in July 1940. Over 20,000 local Jews from Będzin, along with additional 10,000 Jews expelled from neighbouring communities, were forced to subsist there until the end of the Ghetto history during the Holocaust. Most of the able-bodied poor were forced to work in German military factories before being transported aboard Holocaust trains to the nearby concentration camp at Auschwitz where they were exterminated. The last major deportation of the ghetto inmates by the German SS – men, women and children – between 1 and 3 August 1943 was marked by the ghetto uprising by members of the Jewish Combat Organization.
Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland were established during World War II in hundreds of locations across occupied Poland. Most Jewish ghettos had been created by Nazi Germany between October 1939 and July 1942 in order to confine and segregate Poland's Jewish population of about 3.5 million for the purpose of persecution, terror, and exploitation. In smaller towns, ghettos often served as staging points for Jewish slave-labor and mass deportation actions, while in the urban centers they resembled walled-off prison-islands described by some historians as little more than instruments of "slow, passive murder", with dead bodies littering the streets.
Berek Lajcher was a Jewish physician and social activist from Wyszków before the Holocaust in Poland, remembered for his leadership in the prisoner uprising at Treblinka extermination camp. More than 800,000 Jews, as well as unknown numbers of Romani people, were murdered at Treblinka in the course of Operation Reinhard in World War II.
Frumka Płotnicka was a Polish resistance fighter during World War II; activist of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ŻOB) and member of the Labour Zionist organization Dror. She was one of the organizers of self-defence in the Warsaw Ghetto, and participant in the military preparations for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Following the liquidation of the Ghetto, Płotnicka relocated to the Dąbrowa Basin in southern Poland. On the advice of Mordechai Anielewicz, Płotnicka organized a local chapter of ŻOB in Będzin with the active participation of Józef and Bolesław Kożuch as well as Cwi (Tzvi) Brandes, and soon thereafter witnessed the murderous liquidation of both Sosnowiec and Będzin Ghettos by the German authorities.