David M. Miller's Jan. 11 letter regarding Operation Reinhard said that the Dec. 27 news story "U.S. Sets Record for Action on Ex-Nazis" incorrectly identified the operation's primary purpose as the murder of Jews in German-occupied Poland. In fact, that story was correct.

The SS general tasked with implementing Operation Reinhard laid out four purposes for the operation in his January 1944 concluding report to SS Commander in Chief Heinrich Himmler:

* The "resettlement" (euphemism for murder) of Jews living in the so-called Government General (occupied Poland).

* The use of Jewish laborers incarcerated in camps in occupied Poland.

* The seizure and evaluation of property taken from Jews before killing them.

* The identification and seizure of Jewish-owned property in occupied Poland left behind after the owners' deportation.

While the operation was named for assassinated Nazi Security Police Chief Reinhard Heydrich, it was not planned after his death, as the letter writer claimed. SS leaders took the first steps to implement Operation Reinhard during the fall of 1941, six to eight months before Reinhard Heydrich's death.

The Wannsee Conference, chaired by Reinhard Heydrich on Jan. 20, 1942, was not convened to decide whether to kill Polish Jews or European Jews but to inform high officials of the German civilian government, the Nazi Party, the German foreign ministry and the German civilian occupation authorities in Poland and the Soviet Union of decisions already made and of the leading role of the SS in implementing those decisions.


Senior Historian

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum