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1940: Machinery of Hatred
 pg. 193 
The Nazis adapted buses for use in their "euthanasia" program, the goal of which was to exterminate the physically and mentally unfit. The buses were rigged to pump carbon monoxide from the engines into the passenger compartments, where the victims suffocated. The gassing of the victims provided the perpetrators with a distance from their crimes that other methods lacked. The euthanasia program served as a model for the death camps of Eastern Europe, to which many of the program's personnel were transferred. Protests from the Roman Catholic Church temporarily halted the murder of the handicapped.
Photo: SYddeutscher Verlag Bilderdienst
Philip Bouhler, chief of Hitler's Chancellery, headed the so-called "euthanasia" program. Soon after the invasion of Poland began, Hitler authorized Bouhler and Dr. Karl Brandt to administer the program. Bouhler, in turn, appointed Viktor Brack to create an organization that would be responsible for administering "mercy" killings to the mentally and physically disabled. This administrative unit became known as T-4.
Photo: Berlin Document Center / United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Photo Archive
Rudolf Höss

In May 1940 Rudolf Höss became commandant of the Auschwitz, Poland, concentration camp. During three years there, as Auschwitz was "upgraded" to extermination-camp status, he directed the murders of more than a million people, and was responsible for the deaths of an additional half-million through starvation and disease.

Höss performed his duties so efficiently, his superiors commended him as a "true pioneer in his field." Yet, he insisted he "never personally hated the Jews." He attempted to rationalize his monstrous crimes on grounds that Jews were "enemies of the German people," and claimed his sense of duty compelled him to unquestioningly carry out Hitler's orders.

His devout Catholic parents hoped their son would become a priest. Instead, he enlisted in the Army during World War I, then joined a right-wing paramilitary organization. An accomplice in a 1923 political assassination, he served five years in prison. Höss joined the SS in 1934. He was praised for his work at the Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, and was subsequently given charge of Auschwitz.

Höss helped perfect the mass-execution process, devising more efficient gassing techniques. He didn't like the long hours, however, and lamented that he couldn't play more often with his children. Arrested in 1946, Höss was tried and executed at Auschwitz in April 1947.

 April 8-11, 1940: Soviet troops massacre 26,000 Polish officers in Katyn Forest near Smolensk, Russia. Many Jews are among the victims.
 April 22, 1940: SS official Odilo Globocnik announces a plan to increase the use of Jewish forced labor and to establish separate work camps for Jewish men and women.
 April 23, 1940: Captive Jews at Stutthof, Poland, are forced to leap into open latrines; many are drowned or beaten to death.
 April 27, 1940: British Foreign Office official H. F. Downie argues that the Jews are "enemies just as the Germans are, but in a more insidious way," and that "our two sets of enemies [Nazis and Jews] are linked together by secret and evil bonds."
 April 30, 1940: The Jewish ghetto in Lódz, Poland, is sealed off from the rest of the city.
 May 1940: Polish and Baltic-area Jews begin to escape to Jerusalem and across the Soviet Union to Japan, the Dutch East Indies, Australia, Canada, and the United States. In all, only a few thousand Jews from the region manage to escape.
1940: Machinery of Hatred
 pg. 193 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.