Martin Weiss (21 February 1903 – 1984)was a Nazi official and de facto commander of the Vilna Ghetto and a Holocaust perpetrator. He was also the commander of the notorious Nazi-sponsored Ypatingasis būrys killing squad, which was largely responsible for the Ponary massacre where approximately 100,000 people were shot.
The Vilna Ghetto was a World War II Jewish ghetto established and operated by Nazi Germany in the city of Vilnius in the territory of Nazi-administered Reichskommissariat Ostland.
Ypatingasis būrys or Special SD and German Security Police Squad (Lithuanian: Vokiečių Saugumo policijos ir SD ypatingasis būrys, Polish: Specjalny Oddział SD i Niemieckiej Policji Bezpieczeństwa, also colloquially strzelcy ponarscy was a Lithuanian killing squad also called the "Lithuanian equivalent of Sonderkommando", operating in the Vilnius Region. The unit, primarily composed of Lithuanian volunteers, was formed by the German occupational government and was subordinate to Einsatzkommando 9 and later to Sicherheitsdienst and Sicherheitspolizei.
The Ponary massacre or Paneriai massacre was the mass murder of up to 100,000 people, mostly Jews, by German SD and SS and their Lithuanian collaborators, including Ypatingasis būrys killing squads, during World War II and the Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ostland. The murders took place between July 1941 and August 1944 near the railway station at Ponary, a suburb of today's Vilnius, Lithuania. Some 70,000 Jews were murdered at Ponary, along with up to 20,000 Poles, and 8,000 Russian POWs, most of them from nearby Vilna (Vilnius), and its newly-formed Vilna Ghetto.
He was born to a well-to-do Protestant family in Karlsruhe. Weiss followed his father's steps and received education in plumbing and heating installation. He was an apprentice in his father's shop.In 1923–1927 Weiss lived in South America, helping his brother to establish a farm. After his father's death in 1928, Weiss took over the family business. Two years later he got married. Weiss and his wife had three children.
Karlsruhe is the second-largest city of the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg after its capital of Stuttgart, and its 309,999 (2016) inhabitants make it the 21st largest city of Germany. On the right bank of the Rhine, the city lies near the French-German border, between the Mannheim/Ludwigshafen conurbation to the north, and the Strasbourg/Kehl conurbation to the south. It is the largest city of Baden, a region named after Hohenbaden Castle in the city of Baden-Baden. Karlsruhe is also the largest city in the South Franconian dialect area, the only other larger city in that area being Heilbronn. The city is the seat of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), as well as of the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) and the Public Prosecutor General of the Federal Court of Justice.
He was not particularly interested in politics and joined Reiter SS, a branch of Schutzstaffel (SS) that focused on horsemanship and equestrianism, in 1934.In 1937, he also joined the National Socialist German Workers Party. When Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht. Because of his SS membership, he was placed in a Waffen-SS mechanical supply unit, with which he took part in the Battle of France. In August 1940, he returned to his hometown and resumed the family business.
The Schutzstaffel was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) in Nazi Germany, and later throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II. It began with a small guard unit known as the Saal-Schutz made up of NSDAP volunteers to provide security for party meetings in Munich. In 1925, Heinrich Himmler joined the unit, which had by then been reformed and given its final name. Under his direction (1929–45) it grew from a small paramilitary formation to one of the most powerful organizations in Nazi Germany. From 1929 until the regime's collapse in 1945, the SS was the foremost agency of security, surveillance, and terror within Germany and German-occupied Europe.
Equestrianism, more often known as horse riding or horseback riding, refers to the skill and sport of riding, driving, steeplechasing or vaulting with horses. This broad description includes the use of horses for practical working purposes, transportation, recreational activities, artistic or cultural exercises, and competitive sport.
The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer (army), the Kriegsmarine (navy) and the Luftwaffe. The designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the previously used term Reichswehr, and was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted.
In spring 1941, he was drafted again and assigned to Einsatzkommando 3, part of the Einsatzgruppe stationed in Bad Düben.In October 1941, he was assigned to work in the Office of the Commander of Security Police ( Sicherheitsdienst or SD) and Security Police ( Sicherheitspolizei or Sipo) in Vilnius, then part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland. Weiss held this position until July 1944. He was responsible for all aspects of the repression against the Jewish population of Vilnius, which is estimated to have been around 50,000 during the Holocaust. Despite his low rank of technical sergeant (SS-Hauptscharführer ), he was in charge of the Vilna Ghetto and nearby Lukiškės Prison, as well as commanded the Ypatingasis būrys killing squad responsible for the Ponary massacre until 1943. he personally supervised 13 to 15 executions at the site. In July 1943, Weiss became chief of the Gestapo prison in Vilnius.
During World War II, the Nazi German Einsatzkommandos were a sub-group of five Einsatzgruppen mobile killing squads – up to 3,000 men total – usually composed of 500–1,000 functionaries of the SS and Gestapo, whose mission was to exterminate Jews, Polish intellectuals, Romani, homosexuals, communists and the NKVD collaborators in the captured territories often far behind the advancing German front. After the outbreak of war with the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, the Red Army began to retreat so rapidly that the large Einsatzgruppen had to be split into dozens of smaller commandos (Einsatzkommandos), responsible for systematically killing Jews and, among others, alleged Soviet partisans behind the Wehrmacht lines. After the war several Einsatzkommando officers were tried, in the Einsatzgruppen trial, convicted of war crimes and hanged.
Bad Düben, until 1948 Düben is a town in the district of Nordsachsen in the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated at the southern end of the Düben Heath Nature Park, between the rivers Elbe and Mulde, which runs through the city center.
Sicherheitsdienst, full title Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, or SD, was the intelligence agency of the SS and the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany. Originating in 1931, the organization was the first Nazi intelligence organization to be established and was considered a sister organization with the Gestapo through integration of SS members and operational procedures. Between 1933 and 1939, the SD was administered as an independent SS office, after which it was transferred to the authority of the Reich Main Security Office, as one of its seven departments/offices. Its first director, Reinhard Heydrich, intended for the SD to bring every single individual within the Third Reich's reach under "continuous supervision".
Weiss was noted by the inmates of the ghetto for his merciless cruelty and frequent beatings. In one instance he shot a man on the spot for trying to bring a few potatoes and a bit of fish through the ghetto gates. There are reports of other German soldiers willing to pardon a Jew, but being afraid to do so knowing that Weiss would certainly not approve such an action.Because of his cruel and capricious conduct in sending Jews of the ghetto to the killing grounds at Ponary, Weiss was known in the ghetto by the paradoxical nickname "Weiss, das Schwarz" or "White, the Black".
Weiss was arrested in May 1949. In February 1950, a court in Würzburg found him guilty of war crimes and sentenced him to life imprisonment. In 1970, his sentence was suspended and revoked in 1977.
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia, northern Bavaria, Germany. Located on the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk of Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is East Franconian.
Paneriai is a neighborhood of Vilnius, situated about 10 kilometres away from the city center. It is the largest elderate in the Vilnius city municipality. It is located on low forested hills, on the Vilnius-Warsaw road. Paneriai was the site of the Ponary massacre, a mass killing of as many as 100,000 people from Vilnius and nearby towns and villages during World War II.
Karl Plagge was a German engineer who rescued Jews during the Holocaust in Lithuania by issuing work permits to non-essential workers. A partially disabled veteran of World War I, Plagge studied engineering, and joined the Nazi Party in 1931 in hopes of helping Germany rebuild from the economic collapse caused by the draconian terms of the Treaty of Versailles. After being dismissed from a position of lecturer for being unwilling to teach racism, and his opposition to Nazi racist policies, he stopped participating in party activities in 1935, and left the party when the war broke out.
HKP 562 was the site of a Nazi forced labor camp for Jews in Vilnius, Lithuania, during the Holocaust.
The Lithuanian Security Police (LSP), also known as Saugumas, was a local police force that operated in German-occupied Lithuania from 1941 to 1944, in collaboration with the occupational authorities. Collaborating with the Nazi Sipo and SD, the unit was directly subordinate to the German Kripo. The LSP took part in perpetrating the Holocaust in Lithuania, persecuting Polish resistance and communist underground.
The so-called Jäger Report, also Jaeger Report was written on 1 December 1941 by Karl Jäger, commander of Einsatzkommando 3, a killing unit of Einsatzgruppe A which was attached to Army Group North during the Operation Barbarossa. It is the most detailed and precise surviving chronicle of the activities of one individual Einsatzkommando, and a key record documenting the Holocaust in Lithuania as well as in Latvia and Belarus.
Anton Schmid was an Austrian recruit in the Wehrmacht who saved Jews during the Holocaust in Lithuania. A devout but apolitical Roman Catholic and an electrician by profession, Schmid was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I and later into the Wehrmacht during World War II. Put in charge of an office to return stranded German soldiers to their units in late August 1941, he began to help Jews after being approached by two pleading for his intercession. Schmid hid Jews in his apartment, obtained work permits to save Jews from the Ponary massacre, transferred Jews in Wehrmacht trucks to safer locations, and aided the Vilna Ghetto underground. It is estimated that he saved as many as 300 Jews before his arrest in January 1942. He was executed on 13 April.
The Kaunas pogrom was a massacre of Jews living in Kaunas, Lithuania that took place on June 25–29, 1941 – the first days of the Operation Barbarossa and of Nazi occupation of Lithuania. The most infamous incident occurred in the Lietūkis garage, where several dozen Jewish men were publicly tortured and executed on June 27, most of them killed by a single club-wielding assailant nicknamed the "Death Dealer." After June, systematic executions took place at various forts of the Kaunas Fortress, especially the Seventh and Ninth Fort.
The Holocaust in German occupied Lithuania resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian (Litvaks) and Polish Jews, living in Generalbezirk Litauen of Reichskommissariat Ostland within the Nazi-controlled Lithuanian SSR. Out of approximately 208,000–210,000 Jews, an estimated 190,000–195,000 were murdered before the end of World War II, most between June and December 1941. More than 95% of Lithuania's Jewish population was massacred over the three-year German occupation — a more complete destruction than befell any other country affected by the Holocaust. Historians attribute this to the massive collaboration in the genocide by the non-Jewish local paramilitaries, though the reasons for this collaboration are still debated. The Holocaust resulted in the largest-ever loss of life in so short a period of time in the history of Lithuania.
Lithuanian partisans is a generic term used during World War II by Nazi officials and quoted in books by modern historians to describe Lithuanian collaborators with the Nazis during the first months of the occupation of Lithuania by Nazi Germany. Lithuanian partisans, mostly fighters against retreating Soviet forces during the June Uprising, were later organized into various auxiliary units by German Nazis. Several of the numerous units assisted and actively participated in mass executions of the Lithuanian Jews mostly in June–August 1941.
The Holocaust in Latvia refers to the war crimes committed by Nazi Germany and collaborators victimizing Jews during the occupation of Latvia.
RollkommandoHamann was a small mobile unit that committed mass murders of Lithuanian Jews in the countryside in July–October 1941, with an estimated death toll of at least 60,000 Jews. The unit was also responsible for many murders in Latvia from July through August, 1941. At the end of 1941 the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry was effectively accomplished by Hamann's unit in the countryside, by the Ypatingasis būrys in the Ponary massacre, and by the Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas in the Ninth Fort in Kaunas. In about six months an estimated 80% of all Lithuanian Jews were killed. The remaining few were spared for use as a labor force and concentrated in urban ghettos, mainly the Vilna and Kaunas Ghettos.
The Šiauliai or Shavli Ghetto was a Jewish ghetto established in July 1941 by Nazi Germany in the city of Šiauliai in Nazi-occupied Lithuania during the Holocaust. The ghetto comprised two areas – one in the Kaukazas suburb and one on Trakai Street. Both were liquidated by July 1944, and their inhabitants were killed or transferred to Nazi concentration camps. In 1939, one quarter of the population of Šiauliai was Jewish, about 8,000 persons. By the end of World War II, only about 500 Jews of the city had survived.
Rachel Margolis was a Holocaust survivor, biologist and Holocaust historian.
Švenčionys or Svintsyan Ghetto was a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Švenčionys. It operated from July 1941 to April 1943. At its peak, the ghetto housed some 1,500 prisoners. It was located in what today is a city park; the location is marked by a wooden menorah carved by Juozapas Jakštas.
Jacob Gens was the head of the Vilnius Ghetto government. Originally from a merchant family, he joined the Lithuanian Army shortly after the independence of Lithuania, rising to the rank of captain while also securing a college degree in law and economics. He married a non-Jew and worked at several jobs, including as a teacher, accountant, and an administrator.
Bruno Kittel was a Nazi official who oversaw the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943 and became known for his cynical cruelty. He disappeared after the war.
Kailis forced labor camp was a Nazi labor camp for Jews in Vilnius during World War II. It was based on a pre-war fur and leather factory and mostly produced winter clothing for the German military. At its peak, after the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto in September 1943, the camp housed about 1,500 Jews. The camp was liquidated and its workers executed at Ponary on 3 July 1944, just ten days before Red Army captured the city.