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The Einsatzgruppen: Heydrich's Instructions to Einsatzgruppen Chiefs

(September 21, 1939)

The Chief of the Security Police Berlin: September 21, 1939 SECRET  To: Chiefs of all Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police Subject: Jewish question in the occupied territory 
I refer to the conference held in Berlin today and once more point out that the planned overall measures (i.e., the final aim) are to be kept strictly secret.

Distinction must be made between:

(1) The final aim (which will require extended periods of time), and
(2) The stages leading to the fulfillment of this final aim (which will be carried out in short terms).
The planned measures demand the most thorough preparation in their technical as well as economic aspects.

It is obvious that the tasks that lie ahead cannot be laid down in full detail from here. The instructions and guidelines below will at the same time serve the purpose of urging the chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen to give the matter their practical thought.


For the time being, the first prerequisite for the final aim is the concentration of the Jews from the countryside into the larger cities. This is to be carried out with all speed.

In doing so, distinction must be made:

(1) between the areas of Danzig and West Prussia, Posen, Eastern Upper Silesia, and
(2) the rest of the occupied territories. (1)
As far as possible, the area mentioned (in item 1) is to be cleared of Jews; at least the aim should be to establish only a few cities of concentration.
In the areas mentioned in item 2, as few concentration points as possible are to be set up, so as to facilitate subsequent measures.

In this conjunction, it is to be borne in mind that only cities which are rail junctions, or at least are located along railroad lines are to be designated as concentration points.

On principal, Jewish communities of fewer than 500 persons are to be dissolved and to be transferred to the nearest city of concentration.

This decree does not apply to the area of Einsatzgruppe 1, which is situated east of krakow and is bounded roughly by Polanico, Jaroslaw, the new line of demarcation, and the former Slovak-Polish border. Within this area, only an improvised census of Jews is to be carried out. Furthermore, Councils of Jewish Elders, as discussed below, are to be set up.


Councils of Jewish Elders [Jüdishe Ältestenräte]

(1) In each Jewish community, a Council of Jewish Elders is to be set up, to be composed, as far as possible, of the remaining influential personalities and rabbis. The council is to comprise up to 24 male Jews (depending on the size of the Jewish community).

The council is to be made fully responsible, in the literal sense of the word, for the exact punctual execution of all directives issued or yet to be issued.

(2) In case of sabotage of such instructions, the councils are to be warned of the severest measures.

(3) The Jewish councils are to take an improvised census of the Jews in their local areas - broken down if possible by sex (age groups): a) up to 16 years of age, b) from 16 to 20 years of age, and c) over, as well as by principal occupation groups - and are to report the results in the shortest possible time.

(4) The Councils of Elders are to be informed of the dates and deadlines for departure, departure facilities, and finally departure routes. They are then to be made personally responsible for the departure of the Jews from the countryside.

The reason to be given for the concentration of the Jews into the cities is that Jews have most influentially participated in guerrilla attacks and plundering actions.

(5) The Councils of Elders in the cities of concentration are to be made responsible for appropriately housing the Jews moving in from the countryside.

For general reasons of security, the concentration of Jews in the cities will probably necessitate orders altogether barring Jews from certain sections of cities, or, for example, forbidding them to leave the ghetto (2)or go out after a designated evening hour, etc. However, economic necessities are always to be considered in this connection.

(6) The Councils of Elders are also to be made responsible for appropriate provisioning of the Jews during the transport to the cities.

No objections are to be voiced in the event that migrating Jews take their movable possessions with them, to the extent that this is technically possible.

(7) Jews who do not comply with the order to move into the cities are to be allowed a short additional period of grace where circumstances warrant. They are to be warned of strictest punishment if they should fail to comply with this latter deadline.


On principal, all necessary measures are always to be taken in closest accord and cooperation with the German civil administration agencies and locally competent military authorities.

In carrying them out, care must be taken that the economic security of the occupies territories not be impaired.

(1) Above all, the needs of the army must be considered.

For example, for the time being it will hardly be possible to avoid leaving behind some Jew traders here and there, who in the absence of other possibilities simply must stay for the sake of supplying the troops. In such cases, however, prompt Aryanization of these enterprises is to be sought and the emigration of the Jews is to be completed later, in accord with the locally competent German administrative authorities.

(2) For the preservation of German economic interests in the occupied territories, it is obvious that Jewish-owned essential or war industries and enterprises, as well as those important for the Four Year Plan, must be kept up for the time being.

In these cases also, prompt Aryanization is to be sought, and the emigration of the Jews is to be completed later.

(3) Finally, the food situation in the occupied territories must be taken into consideration. For instance, as far as possible, real estate owned by Jewish settlers is to be provisionally entrusted to the care of neighboring German or even Polish farmers, to be worked by them together with their own, so as to assure harvesting of the crops still in the fields or renewed cultivation. With regard to this important question, contact is to be made with the agricultural expert of the Chief of the Civil Administration.

(4) In all cases in which the interests of the Security Police on one hand and those of the German Civil Administration on the other hand cannot be reconciled, I am to be informed in the fastest way before the particular measures in question are to be carried out, and my decision is to be awaited.


The chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen will report to me continuously on the following matters:

(1) Numerical survey of the Jews present in their territories (broken down as indicated above, if possible). The numbers of Jews who are being evacuated from the countryside and of those who are already in the cities are to be reported separately.

(2) Names of the cities which have been designated as concentration points.

(3) Deadlines set for the Jews to migrate to the cities.

(4) Survey of all Jewish-owned essential or war industries and enterprises, as well as those important for the Four Year Plan, within their areas.

If possible, the following should be specified:

a. Kind of enterprise (also statement on possible conversion into enterprises that are truly essential or war related, or important for the Four Year Plan);

b. Which of these enterprises need to be Aryanized most promptly (in order to forestall any kind of loss)?

What kind of Aryanization is suggested? German or Poles? (This decision depends on the importance of the enterprise.)

c. How large is the number of Jews working in these enterprises (including leading positions)?

Can the enterprise simply be kept up after the removal of the Jews, or will such continued operation require assignment of German or Polish workers? On what scale?
Insofar as Polish workers have to be introduced, care should be taken that they are mainly brought in from the former German provinces, so as to begin the weeding out of the Polish element there. These questions can be carried out only through involvement and participation of the German labor offices which have been set up.


For the attainment of the goals set, I expect total deployment of all forces of the Security Police and the Security Service.

The chiefs of neighboring Einsatzgruppen are to establish contact with each other immediately so that the territories concerned will be covered completely.


The High Command of the Army, the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan (Attention: Secretary of State Neumann), the Reich Ministries of the Interior (Attention: Secretary of State Stuckart), for Food and for Economy (Attention: Secretary of State Landfried), as well as the Chiefs of Civil Administration of the Occupied Territory have all received copies of this decree.

//Signed// Heydrich

(1) The areas of Danzig, West Prussia, Posen, and Eastern Upper Silesia were to be incorporated into Germany, whereas the rest of the occupied territory of Poland would comprise the Generalgouvernment.

(2) This appears to be the earliest reference to the German plan to establish ghetto's in which to confine the Jews.

Sources: Dawidowicz, Lucy S. A Holocaust Reader. West Orange: Behrman. 1976, pp. 59-64 and Electric Zen: An Einsatzgruppen Electronic Repository