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[ 263 ] 16 The Fate of the Rescuerschapter sixteen The evil that men do lives after them; / The good is oft interred with their bones. —William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar While the Rebbe was conducting his activities in the United States, Bloch had a dramatically different experience during World War II. To give the reader a better understanding of the war on the Russian front and the effort it took to roll Germany back, defeat Hitler, and liberate the death camps, here I provide a detailed description of Bloch’s life from 1943 to 1945. An understanding of his fate, as well as that of Canaris and Wohlthat to some extent, gives one a better feel for how complex Nazi Germany was and how varied the wartime experiences of the participants could be. In addition, this chapter examines what ultimately happened to the Germans who helped rescue the Rebbe. If the Rebbe never alluded to his rescue, neither did Bloch. Indeed, since he was in the secret service, he had been trained never to discuss his work—not even with his wife.1 Had he survived the war, Bloch might have been more open. After rescuing Rebbe Joseph Isaac Schneersohn and his entourage, he returned to his industrial espionage work, and in late 1940 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel.2 He commanded more than forty officers and staff members. Bloch dined on occasion with industrialists such as Gustav Krupp von Bohlen and Max Schlenker; he enjoyed the confidence of important executives, including those of the giant IG-Farben cartel, which produced thousands of products for the Third Reich (among them Zyklon B) and built a big factory at Auschwitz (using slave labor and literally working them to death). Bloch provided the military with information about the industrial capabilities of various countries, and his corporate contacts helped him place spies abroad. His [ 264 ] chapter sixteen job brought him into regular contact with both Canaris and Wohlthat. Early in 1941 he was ordered to assess the industrial capacities of the British Empire, the United States, and the Soviet Union—no small task. For his accomplishments in the Abwehr, Bloch was awarded the War Merit Cross Second and First Class with Swords.3 Bloch was so highly skilled and respected that in 1941 Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau wanted him to join his staff and advise Army Group South on economic matters, but the request was denied.4 For a staunch Nazi like Reichnenau to request a half-Jew for such a critical job seems incredible. Obviously, he was familiar with Bloch’s work and valued his expertise, which overrode his status as a Mischling. Bloch served in the Abwehr until his petition to be sent to the Russian front as a battalion commander was granted in April 1943, and he was posted to the area around Kiev.5 The army had denied Bloch’s earlier requests for a combat command because of his age. His personnel file states no reason for the official change of heart, but several Abwehr officers were sent to the front at this time. One can assume that in the spring of 1943, as the Wehrmacht prepared for the battle of Kursk—the largest tank battle in history, with thousands of tanks on both sides—combat officers were in greater demand than industrial spies. Also, the Gestapo began investigating the Abwehr for antigovernment activities in April 1943 and arrested several of its members. Canaris himself came under suspicion, and his secret service ceased to function effectively. One of its alleged crimes was smuggling Jewish refugees out of Germany. Perhaps Bloch saw the handwriting on the wall and decided to get out of a situation that could turn dangerous for him.6 During the battle of Kursk, Bloch commanded troops in the rear, keeping the lines of communication and supply open for the soldiers at the front and for the combating partisans. After the disastrous defeat at Stalingrad during the winter of 1942–1943, Hitler had focused on a new offensive at Kursk. He hoped to regain the initiative and straighten his defensive lines in the east. By 5 July 1943, the day the battle began, the Germans had deployed 2,700 tanks, 2,500 planes, and almost 1 million men against Kursk, “the largest concentration of force against such a con- fined area yet seen on the Eastern Front.” The Russians countered with more than 3,300 tanks, 2,650 planes, and close to...


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