Harald Turner (8 Oct. 1891 – 9 March 1947), SS Gruppenführer, was SS commander in German-occupied Serbia during the war. Because he was trying to come to an agreement with the Serbs to gain their support for the German occupational policy, he was considered as too soft on the Serbs. As a result, the anti-Serbian hardliner August Meyzner was appointed as head of the local SS units in early 1942, which seriously undermined Turner’s position. After the war, Turner was extradited to communist Yugoslavia, put on a show trial, sentenced to death and executed.
In the context of the Holocaust, the only item of relevance is a letter Turner is said to have written on 11 April 1942 and addressed to SS General Karl Wolff, who was chief of Himmler’s personal staff. This letter has several very peculiar features, some of which are:
- It is written on letter-size paper (8.5″×11″), which did and still does not exist in Europe. It is an exclusively U.S.-American (and Canadian) paper format.
- The letter’s contents make no sense. Turner talks in cryptic terms about some foiled Wehrmacht intrigue centered around him yet directed against Himmler and the SS in general and in fact against the entire German “corps of tenured civil servants” (Beamtenschaft) – but no such grand Wehrmacht conspiracy is known to historians, nor does it make any sense to encompass all of Germany’s tenured civil servants.
- Turner speaks of Jewish officers held as PoWs, who might find out about their Jewish relatives having been killed in Serbia, which then could somehow affect the well-being of German PoWs in Canada. First, there were no “Jewish officers” held in German PoW camps. Next, if any of the officers in German PoW camps were Jews, they surely did not have Serbian relatives in Serbian camps which Turner, according to this letter, was about to kill with “delousing vans.” Finally, it is utterly incomprehensible what the few German PoWs in Canada had to do with any of this.
- The letter is riddled with very bad German, to the point of being almost incomprehensible, and its punctuation is erratic. Turner had a PhD in law and wrote very good German with proper punctuation, as other genuine letters show. Hence, this letter was not written or dictated by him.
- Some of the very bad German expressions sound just fine when translated literally into English. The peculiar remark about German PoWs in Canada allegedly affected by this makes sense only from the perspective of some Canadian, which fits the spelling of this country’s name in this letter: Canada instead of the German way: Kanada.
- The writer of this letter faked a “rune SS” by superimposing a set of double slashes on a dash and adding another set of double slashes a three-quarter line lower: . This has never been seen in any document. As other letters written by Turner show, he had at his disposal a typewriter with proper SS runes. But even if not, then a simple double-SS was perfectly acceptable. Somebody clearly tried to fake something here.
The orthodoxy insists that this letter identifies the term “delousing” as a euphemism or “code word” for homicidal gassings, so that here the expression “delousing van” really meant “gas van.” However, no other wartime document uses the term “delousing van” as a reference to a homicidal gas van. Furthermore, Turner was not only soft on the Serbs, but also on the Jews, as is shown by his attempt to prevent the execution of 1,500 male Jews as hostages. The letter analyzed here gives the opposite impression, however, and is therefore not just out of style but also out of character.
(For more details, see Alvarez 2023, pp. 89-94, 345-348.)