|Birth||13 November 1887, Głogów, Poland|
|Death||22 September 1943, Minsk, Belarus (aged 55 years)|
|Politics||Nazi Party, German National People's Party, German Völkisch Freedom Party, National Socialist Freedom Movement, German Conservative Party|
Wilhelm Kube (13 November 1887 – 22 September 1943) was a German politician and Nazi official. He was an important figure in the German Christian movement during the early years of Nazi rule. During the war he became a senior official in the occupying government of the Soviet Union, achieving the rank of Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien (Belarus). He was assassinated in Minsk in 1943, triggering brutal reprisals against the citizens of Minsk.
An extreme antisemite, he is known to have said about Jews: "What plague and syphilis are to humanity, are Jews to the white race." However, Kube behaved towards German Jews in a relatively mild way during his charge in Minsk, by trying—unsuccessfully—to protect German Jews, whom he felt as culturally closer, from extermination. As for Minsk, he planned to level the city and replace it with a German settlement, called Asgard.
Kube was born in Glogau (today's Głogów), Prussian Silesia, and studied history, economics and theology. In 1911 he received a Moses Mendelssohn Scholarship from the University of Berlin. Kube was active in the Völkisch movement as a student, and was an early member of the Nazi Party. In 1924 he was one of the first group of Nazi members elected to the Weimar Republic Reichstag. In 1928 he was appointed Gauleiter of Brandenburg (later reorganized as the Gau March of Brandenburg) and speaker of the tiny Nazi party fraction (6 seats) in the Prussian Landtag (Prussian state legislature).
Nazification of Christianity
Kube remained an active Christian as well as a zealous Nazi, and in 1932 he organised the list of candidates of the Faith Movement of the German Christians for the ordinary election of presbyters and synodals within the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union on 13 November that year. The German Christians then gained about a third of all seats in presbyteries and synods. Kube was elected as one of the presbyters of the congregation of Gethsemane Church in Berlin-Prenzlauer Berg. The presbyters elected him from their midst as synodal into the competent deanery synod (German: Kreissynode; Berlin then comprised 11 deaneries altogether), and these synodals again elected him a member of deanery synodal board (German: Kreissynodalvorstand). When in 1933 the Nazis came to power he remained active in the German Christian movement which sought to "Nazify" the 28 Protestant church bodies in Germany. For 23 July 1933 Hitler ordered an unconstitutional, premature re-election of all presbyters and synodals, with the German Christians now gaining 70–80% of the seats, so Kube could then further advance as head of the Berlin synod of the old-Prussian Church. Following the German conquest of Poland in 1939 his Nazi party domain was extended to include Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia and Reichsgau Wartheland.
Denunciation of Buch
In 1936 it was claimed in an anonymous letter that Party Judge Walter Buch, the father-in-law of Martin Bormann, was married to a half-Jew. In the course of a Gestapo investigation it came to light that the letter had been written by Kube, whom Buch had investigated owing to concerns over his private life and his leadership style in the Gau. Buch saw to it that Kube was removed from all his posts. Only on Hitler's orders was he allowed to remain a Gauleiter, albeit without a Gau.
Kube joined the SS in 1934 and attained the rank of Rottenführer (Private First Class). In 1940 he served for a period at the concentration camp at Dachau. In July 1941, in the wake of the German occupation of the western parts of the Soviet Union, he was appointed Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien (now known as Belarus), with his headquarters in Minsk. In this role Kube oversaw the extermination of the large Jewish population of this area. He was nevertheless outraged by the Slutsk Affair in October 1941, when SS Einsatzgruppen (death squads) massacred Jews without the authority of the local Nazi civil administration and Security SS authorities. Local non-Jewish Belarusians were also killed, creating great resentment among the population. Kube wrote in protest to his supervisor and Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler:
The town was a picture of horror during the action. With indescribable brutality on the part of both the German police officers and particularly the Lithuanian partisans, the Jewish people, but also among them Belarusians, were taken out of their dwellings and herded together. Everywhere in the town shots were to be heard and in different streets the corpses of shot Jews accumulated. The Belarusians were in greatest distress to free themselves from the encirclement.
The letter concluded:
I am submitting this report in duplicate so that one copy may be forwarded to the Reich Minister. Peace and order cannot be maintained in Belarus with methods of that sort. To bury seriously wounded people alive who worked their way out of their graves again is such a base and filthy act that the incidents as such should be reported to the Führer and Reichsmarschall.
Despite these misgivings, Kube participated in an atrocity on 2 March 1942 in the Minsk ghetto. During a search by German and Belarusian police, a group of children were seized and thrown into pits of deep sand to die.
At that moment, several SS officers, among them Wilhelm Kube, arrived, whereupon Kube, immaculate in his uniform, threw handfuls of sweets to the shrieking children. All the children perished in the sand.
Kube's contradictory attitude towards Jews is shown in his behaviour towards German Jews deported to Minsk. He was particularly incensed by the presence among the deportees of men decorated during World War I. These Jews who he regarded as belonging "to our cultural milieu" prompted Kube to file a complaint with Reinhard Heydrich, in which he stated that "during the evacuation of Jews from the Reich, the guidelines on who was to be evacuated had not been properly observed" and he attached a list of names. During the 2 March 1942 massacre, Generalkommissar Kube withheld German Jews from a mass shooting which was conducted in Minsk under the supervision of Sturmbannführer Eduard Strauch, at which 3,412 Jews were killed, an unprecedented act that provoked a formal complaint from the SS according to which "Generalkommissar Kube appears to have promised to the German Jews, who before my time were delivered to the ghetto five thousand strong, that life and health would remain theirs".
Heydrich flew to Minsk to deliver Kube a reprimand, after which he felt compelled to comply with extermination actions. On 31 July he wrote to his friend, the Reichskommissar for the Ostland, Hinrich Lohse, in Riga:
Following lengthy talks with the SS-Brigadeführer Zenner and the extraordinarily diligent head of the SD, SS-Obersturmbannführer Strauch, in the last two weeks in White Russia we have liquidated roughly 55,000 Jews....In the city of Minsk about 10,000 Jews were liquidated on 28 and 29 July. Of these, 6,500 were Russian Jews, predominantly women, children, and the aged; the rest were Jews unfit for labor, mainly from Vienna, Brünn, Bremen, and Berlin. The latter had been sent to Minsk last year in accordance with the Führer's orders....In Minsk proper there are 2,600 Jews from Germany left.
At 1:20 am on 22 September 1943, Kube was assassinated in his Minsk apartment by a time device hidden in his mattress in Operation Blow-Up. According to one version of the plot, the bomb was allegedly placed by Soviet partisan Yelena Mazanik (1914–1996), a Belarusian woman who was hired in Kube's household as a maid and was convinced to assassinate him later. Alternatively, the explosives were set up by Lev Liberman from the Minsk ghetto, who was also employed in the household. In total 12 groups received an order from Moscow to assassinate Kube.
The bomb went off forty minutes early, purportedly due to higher air temperature than that during bomb testing. In retaliation, the SS killed more than 1,000 men who were citizens of Minsk. Owing to Kube's antagonistic attitude to some SS anti-Jewish actions, Himmler felt that the dead man had been well on the way to booking himself a place in a concentration camp anyway, and reportedly described the assassination as a "blessing".
Mazanik escaped the reprisals and continued to fight with the partisans. She was later awarded the title Heroine of the Soviet Union. After the war she went on to become deputy director of the Fundamental Library of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.