The region of Galicia in eastern Poland and western Ukraine had been a multi ethnic melting pot for centuries. Jews had been an important part of the community since the middle ages, with an especially strong presence amongst skilled craftsmen. Even after the Nazis drove them into ghettoes it seemed that these skills might yet save many of them, as the Germans needed skilled workers for the wartime economy. Ultimately blind racial hatred overcame these considerations – and it was decided to murder the entire community.
So it was that an entire section of society, an industrious people who posed no conceivable threat to Germany or anyone else, were virtually annihilated. Personal accounts give us an idea of what ‘evacuation’ meant in human terms, an official Nazi document gives us a sense of the scale of the undertaking:
Higher SS and Police Leader East
SS Obergruppenfuhrer and General of the Police
Enclosed I forward the first copy of the final report on the Solution of the Jewish Question in the District of Galicia, and request that you may acknowledge it.
and Generalleutnant of Police
Solution of the Jewish Problem in the District of Galicia
Owing to the phrase “Galician Jew,” Galicia was probably the small corner on earth most known and most frequently mentioned in connection with the Jews. Here they lived in great, compact multitudes, forming a world of their own, from which the rest of world Jewry renewed its population continuously. Jews were to be met with in their hundreds of thousands in all parts of Galicia.
According to old statistics dating back to 1931, there were then about 502,000 Jews. This number is unlikely to have diminished in the period between 1931 and the summer of 1941. There are no precise figures for the number of Jews present when the German troops marched into Galicia. The figure of 350,000 was given by the Judenrate of Galicia for the end of the year 1941. That this figure was incorrect can be seen from the records concerning evacuation appended to this report. The city of Lvov alone housed about 160,000 Jews in the months of July-August 1941….
Our first measure was to identify every Jew by means of a white armlet with the blue Star of David. In accordance with a decree issued by the Governor General, the Interior Administration was responsible for the identifying and registration of the Jews, as well as setting up the Judenrate. Our task as police was first of all to fight effectively against the immense black market operated by the Jews all over the District. Energetic measures also had to be taken against idlers loafing around and against do-nothings.
The best means for this was the establishment of Forced Labor Camps by the SS and Police Leader.
… [the report describes the period up to 1943]
In the meantime further evacuation was carried out vigorously, with the result that by June 23, 1943, all Jewish quarters could be dissolved. Apart from the Jews in camps under the control of the SS and Police Leader, the District of Galicia is thus free of Jews (judenfrei).
Individual Jews occasionally picked up by the Order Police or the Gendarmerie were sent for special treatment. Altogether, 434,329 Jews had been evacuated up to June 27, 1943…. [This is followed by a list of 21 camps in which there were still 21,156 Jews.]
Together with the evacuation Aktionen Jewish property was collected. Valuables were secured and handed over to the Special Staff “Reinhard.” Apart from furniture and large quantities of textiles, etc., the following were confiscated and delivered to Special Staff “Reinhard”:
As of June 30, 1943:
25.580 kg. copper coins
53.190 ” nickel coins
97.581 ” gold coins
82.600 ” silver chains
6.640 ” chains, gold
4.326.780 ” broken silver
167.740 ” silver coins
18.490 ” iron coins
20.050 ” brass coins
20.952 ” wedding rings – gold
22.740 ” pearls
11.730 ” gold teeth – bridges
[the list continues…]
There were also other immense difficulties during the Aktionen as the Jews tried to avoid evacuation by all possible means. They not only tried to escape, and concealed themselves in the most improbable places, drainage canals, chimneys, even in sewage pits, etc. They barricaded themselves in catacombs of passages, in cellars made into bunkers, in holes in the earth, in cunningly contrived hiding places, in attics and sheds, inside furniture, etc.
As the number of Jews still remaining decreased their resistance became the greater. They used weapons of all types for their defense, and in particular those of Italian origin. The Jews bought these Italian weapons from Italian soldiers stationed in the district in exchange for large sums in zlotys….
Subterranean bunkers were discovered which had cleverly concealed entrances, some in the flats, and some out of doors. In most cases the entrance to the bunker was only just large enough for one person to slip through. The entrances to the bunkers were so well hidden that they could not be found if one did not know where to look….
Owing to increasingly grave reports of the growing arming of the Jews, the sharpest possible measures were taken for the elimination of Jewish banditry in all parts of the District of Galicia in the last two weeks of June 1943. Special measures were needed for the breaking up of the Jewish quarter in Lvov, where the bunkers described above had been installed. In order to avoid losses to German forces, brutal measures had to be taken from the outset; several houses were blown up or destroyed by fire. The astonishing result was that in place of the 12,000 Jews registered a total of 20,000 were caught….
For the full report see Jewish Virtual Library