NMT Einsatzgruppe testimony of Walter Haensch

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NMT Einsatzgruppe testimony of Walter Haensch

Post by David Thompson » 21 Sep 2004 06:11

SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Dr. jur. Walter Haensch commanded Special Command 4b (Sonderkommando 4b) on the Russian front between Mar and July of 1942. On trial for his life, this is his testimony given before an American military tribunal at Nuernberg on Haensch's war-time duties in an Einsatzgruppe, taken from Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10. Vol. 4: United States of America v. Otto Ohlendorf, et. al. (Case 9: 'Einsatzgruppen Case'). US Government Printing Office, District of Columbia: 1950, pp. 313-322:

EXTRACTS FROM THE TESTIMONY OF DEFENDANT HAENSCH*

DIRECT EXAMINATION


* * * * * * * * * *

DR. RIEDIGER (counsel for defendant Haensch) : Did you, in the course of the war, try to get a position of a leader of an Einsatzkommando?

DEFENDANT HAENSCH: I never tried to get the position of a leader of an Einsatzkommando.

Q. When did you come to know that you were intended to be leader of the Sonderkommando 4b, and how did you hear it?

A. As far as I remember it was the end of January or the middle of January 1942, that I heard of it. I remember that exactly because in November or December my mother was dangerously ill. At that time, and in the first days of January, I went to see her and I stayed with her far about a fortnight in Hirschfelde. When I came back from my visit to her, the chief of office I — it was Streckenbach at that time — told me over the telephone that I had been appointed leader of a Sonderkommando in the East.

Q. Was that in accordance with your own wish?

A. No. It was not, and, above all, it was not in accordance with my wish at that particular moment. At that time I had again been making special efforts to leave my work.

PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: Did you ever get a job which pleased you. Every job you mentioned so far made you very unhappy. Now, you joined the NSDAP, quite willingly, enthusiastically — you wanted to serve this ideology — yet every job you got made you unhappy. Now, can you tell us one job you got because of your association with the NSDAP which left you tranquil, and at peace with your mind, and with the world?

DEFENDANT HAENSCH: Mr. President, I never obtained any position in connection with my membership in the NSDAP.

Q. Well, did you ever have any job in your life — let us make it broad — did you ever have any job which you liked? Now, tell us that!

A. Yes.

Q. Now, what job was that? That will be very interesting.

A. Well, first, I was greatly stimulated and satisfied with the administrative work I did in Doebeln ; and I was particularly satisfied and, in spite of the serious situation, I was happy in the position which later on I obtained in the administration with the Reich
__________
* Complete testimony is recorded in mimeographed transcript. 2, 3, 4 Dec. 1947, pp. 3225-3323, 3365-3423.

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delegation in Denmark. And that, too, was a purely administrative —

Q. Give us the year. Now, in Doebeln, when were you there?

A. I was in Doebeln in 1935.

Q. For how long?

A. I was there from February to July.

Q. From February to July 1935, in Doebeln.

A. Yes. In 1935, your Honor.

Q. All right. And then when were you in Denmark?

A. That was in 1943.

Q. How long?

A. Until the end of the war.

Q. 1943 to 1945?

A. Yes.

Q. Well, then, those were two periods in your life — five months in 1935, and two years, from 1943 to 1945, that you were happy with your work?

A. Yes.

PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: All right. Proceed, Dr. Riediger.

DR. RIEDIGER: When you were informed about your appointment, what steps did you take, and what did you know at the time about the functions of the Einsatzkommandos?

DEFENDANT HAENSCH: Until that time I knew nothing beyond the fact that formations of the Security Police and of the SD were with the troops in the East and — as I saw it — they were used as military units. As for details about their functions and their task, I knew nothing of those.

Q. Did you know the reports of the Reich Security Main Office or the Einsatzkommandos during the time that you were working for the RSHA?

A. No, I didn't. Those reports on the vents and those reports from the East I didn't know; as I gather from the documents here the various sections of Office I didn't receive those reports.

Q. Did anybody in Berlin inform you about the purpose of the Einsatzgruppen and, if so, who?

A. After I had been informed over the telephone by Streckenbach that I was to be sent to a Kommando in the East, I immediately asked him for an interview. Once again I must mention briefly that at that time the order to go to the East was in no way opportune, for in the meantime I had tried to be requested by another unit to go to the front, as I had come to realize that that was an opportunity for getting out of the Reich Security Main Office. The only possibility, in fact, was if another agency asked for me which was strong enough to support such a request. At that time, in December 1941, among other things, I called on

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my co-defendant Six, and asked him to let me know as soon as he heard of anything to the effect that some other agency needed an administrative official. In the same way friends of mine were making attempts, through other means, to help me find a way of getting out of the RSHA.

To clarify this point as to why I was not feeling happy, and as to why I think I could not have felt happy in my work, perhaps I may make the following statement: I believe every law graduate who works as a district attorney had more freedom of action and more scope for initiative than I had; for the work of an expert on disciplinary matters of the RSHA was that of an investigator without any authority to make decisions.

Q. You have testified that you had discussed the matter with Streckenbach, and I am now asking you what he told you about the work that you would have to do with the Sonderkommando 4b. Now what was it that Streckenbach told you?

A. During our short discussion when I called on him, Streckenbach told me that the task of a Kommando involved authority at the front and it was to protect fighting troops in the front area. It was then mentioned and it was repeated later by Heydrich that the Kommando was part of the army, and that I myself would always have to have my headquarters at the place where the army had its headquarters. The work of a Kommando as such, so he told me, was based on decrees and orders received from the army to the Einsatzgruppe and that those orders had to be obeyed, and that I was to see to it that that was done. As such orders were new to me, I asked Streckenbach in the course of our talk for further information. Above all, I asked him whether he wanted me to take this position as a permanent position. I had a vague reason for that question, because I suspected that perhaps they wanted to send me to the East for good to get rid of me. Streckenbach told me about the dangerous elements which threatened the German troops in the East from the partisans. He said it was the task of the Kommando to deal with such saboteurs, and obstructionists, and partisans jointly with the army. Streckenbach pointed out to me that the executive work of the Kommando was in the hands of experts, that is to say, experts trained of the men of the Secret State Police [Gestapo] and of the Criminal Police. At the express instructions of Heydrich he drew attention to the fact that I was to stay in the East for a short time, at the utmost three months; that, therefore, I was to leave things as they had been, and that I was to handle them as they had been handled up to then. Streckenbach also drew my attention to the fact that, in particular, in cases of executive decisions I was to rely on the investigations of the experts who had the necessary

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experience in the East. In connection with my work as to disciplinary matters, Streckenbach also pointed out to me that in the East, in the fight against illegal elements and the fight against saboteurs and obstructionists, formal court proceedings such as we were accustomed to carrying out in the homeland, in the police courts, or other courts, didn't exist, but that through a decree by the highest military authority, that is, by the OKW [Supreme Command of the Armed Forces], matters in the East were settled in a different way; that the chief of the executive department of the Kommandos and the army commander proceeded in accordance with these decrees and the decrees by the highest military authorities. So far as I recall that is what Streckenbach told me when I had my first talk with him, and during that talk I asked him for information, and he particularly impressed on me that close contact had to be maintained with the army authorities in question.

Q. Did you not discuss with Streckenbach the question of going somewhere else at the front, and why?

A. That was at a later time. I talked to Streckenbach again, and the second time I went to see him it was very different. After our first talk, I heard the next day that the Chief of Einsatzgruppe C was Thomas. There had been a considerable amount of tension between Thomas and myself before. He used to be senior section chief [Oberabschnittsfuehrer] — I think it was in Wiesbaden, anyhow, it was somewhere in the West — and he often interfered in disciplinary matters, which had arisen in my office — anyway there had been a certain unpleasantness. I approached Streckenbach openly when I heard that Thomas was the chief, saying that I didn't like it and if it would not be possible to use me in some other Einsatzgruppe. Streckenbach said no, that it could not be done, and it was then that he told me that Sonderkommando 4b had been destined for me by Heydrich. There had been special reasons. On the one hand the assignment in the East was only to last for a short time, and it was to serve the purposes of acquainting myself with conditions in the East; Streckenbach said that as I had so far only dealt with disciplinary matters, and as I was to stay there only a short time things should be left as they were. In the case of Sonderkommando 4b it was easy to regulate because in this Kommando a higher official had already been chief of the executive department.

Q. When was it that you left for the East to join the Sonderkommando 4b?

A. So far as I remember I left for the East during the last days of February 1942. It was either on the last day of February, or the day before the last day.

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Q. Prior to your departure, did you tally only with Streckenbach, or also with Heydrich, or any of the other gentlemen, and if so, what were you told about your job?

A. Well, it was Streckenbach alone who at the end of January told me I was to go to the East, and he added that my written marching orders would be sent to me later. For the moment I was to continue in my old job. My predecessor was on leave, and during this time at Heydrich's request, he was to return to the Kommando. I only got an opportunity to talk to Heydrich when I reported my departure to him, and that was when I received my marching orders and, so far as I remember, it was only a week or ten days before I left that I received my marching orders.

Q. Now, I was interested in hearing what Heydrich told you about your work in Sonderkommando 4b?

A. In essence, Heydrich told me the same that Streckenbach had already told me. He emphasized the fact that I was to deal with the job of front security; that it was the army which was in command, and that orders and decrees from the army to the Einsatzgruppe had to be obeyed; that those orders and decrees had to be carried out exactly, and at that point, Heydrich made particular reference to the activities of bands of organized resistance, and he mentioned the dangers which threatened the German troops. In his usual brief manner he told me very explicitly that the life of every German soldier needed special protection, and that I was always to remain conscious of the fact that in such a situation the lives of fathers of German families and the lives of the German men were at stake. He also told me — I cannot at the moment fully recall how — but he drew my attention to the wartime laws, he told me about the laws which I would get from the army, and that the orders would have to be obeyed. He told me he did not want to receive any complaint. "If you do not obey orders," be said, "I need not tell you that as you are an expert on disciplinary matters, you, just like every soldier at the front, are subject to the laws of war, and that any delay or any dereliction of duty is subject to heavy penalty." That is substantially what Heydrich told me.

Q. And did you go anywhere to report your departure?

A. Yes. I just remember it. Heydrich said that in the executive institution of the Kommandos I was not to make any change; I was to rely, in that connection, on the opinions of experienced officials. "Anyway," he said "Go and see Mueller about that." I had never had anything to do with Mueller before and ordinarily there would have been no reasons to report my departure to him. I did go to see Mueller who received me just by the door which led from the anteroom to his office. He just spoke a few brief words to

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me. He was rather rude. I thought that he didn't like the idea that an expert in disciplinary matters was sent up there for he made a remark to the effect that it was his officials, men who had been trained by him, who worked out there, and they were all men who had the necessary expert knowledge.

* * * * * * * * * *
EXAMINATION

PRESIDING JUDGE MUSMANNO: Now, Witness, as I recollect what you stated, you were instructed by Stahlecker and later by Heydrich that you were to go into Russia and that you were to fight saboteurs, partisans, and obstructionists, and that you were also to offer protection to the German army. Did that constitute — briefly put, of course — your mission in Russia?

DEFENDANT HAENSCH: Your Honor, the mission which was given to me by Streckenbach and by Heydrich was an assignment at the front for the security of the front. That is to say, to guard the rear of the German troops immediately in the front area from elements which endangered the security of the individual German soldier and the front area.

Q. What was said to you about Jews, gypsies, and Communist functionaries?

A. Your Honor, Jews and gypsies Streckenbach and Heydrich never mentioned to me. These words never came up on this occasion. The details of the assignment were not given.

Q. What was said to you by Streckenbach and Heydrich regarding Jews, Communist functionaries, and gypsies?

A. If I may repeat this, your Honor, Jews and gypsies were never mentioned. The word was never mentioned even.

Q. In this whole conversation with these two men the word "Jews" was never mentioned?

A. No. It was not mentioned.

Q. Did they not say that Jews were active Communists and in offering security to the army it was necessary to be on guard against the Jews?

A. No, your Honor, this was never mentioned. If I may repeat, the individual persons or elements who might endanger the security of the troops were never mentioned at all by Streckenbach in any way, nor did Heydrich do so, but I was told that corresponding orders existed with the army, and that the mission of the Kommando was already fixed. That was during the second discussion with Streckenbach.

Q. Did you know that Jews were active Communists; did you know that from other sources?

A. No, your Honor. If I am to answer this question now, at the time it was never mentioned, there was no discussion

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Q. I asked you if you knew from other sources that the Jews in eastern Russia, or in western Russia, and eastern Europe, were very active Communists, did you know that from other sources?

A. No. I cannot say that in this form. At the time, as I said, it was never mentioned, and I would like to say this, every Russian citizen who was a Bolshevist was inclined and suitable to be specially radical in the action against —

Q. Was anything said to you about the Fuehrer Order which called for a liquidation —

A. No.

Q. Well, I didn't finish the sentence, but you apparently know what I am referring to. What was the Fuehrer Order? You answered before I finished the question, so, therefore, you are familiar with it. Now, what was the Fuehrer Order? Tell me.

A. Well, your Honor, I want to say the following.

Q. Tell me what the Fuehrer Order was.

A. Well, the Fuehrer Order, as I heard of it here and got to know it here, says that Jews — I don't remember the exact wording now but it was mentioned here — that Jews, and gypsies, and dangerous elements were to be killed.

Q. And when did you first learn of the Fuehrer Order?

A. I heard about the Fuehrer Order — about the existence of the Fuehrer Order — for the first time here from Mr. Wartenberg.* The question was never put to me whether I knew the Fuehrer Order, but Mr. Wartenberg told me the fact that the Fuehrer Order existed.

Q. And when was that?

A. That was during an interrogation. It must have been the last interrogation, I believe on 23 July.

Q. 1947?

A. 1947, yes.

Q. So that although the order was issued in June 1941 or perhaps even in May, but at any rate in that period, 6 years went by before you learned of it, is that right?

A. Yes, your Honor. That is right.

Q. In your conversation with Thomas, was nothing said about the order to liquidate Jews?

A. No. Nothing was mentioned. Q. How long were you in Russia?

A. I was in Russia actually 7 to 8 weeks altogether. From the middle of March until about the middle of July I was in Russia, but there were interruptions.
__________
* Member of prosecution staff who conducted interrogations in this case.

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Q. And, during all this time, did you have conversations with your sub-Kommando leaders?

A. Your Honor, I can only say that not even once was I told anything about the existence of such a Fuehrer Order.

Q. Did you have conversations with your sub-Kommando leaders? That was the question.

A. Yes.

Q. And did you discuss with them what had to be done?

A. Well, your Honor, the tasks were currently discussed. Perhaps I may —

Q. Now, please answer the question. Did you discuss with your sub-Kommando leaders what you had to do?

A. Well, I for my part —

Q. Yes or no?

A. Of course, we talked

Q. Very well.

A. About —

Q. That is all. Now you have answered the question. When you arrived in Russia were you told about the orders which were pending, and which had been executed by your predecessor in the course of his duties?

A. No. Nothing was mentioned. As orders I merely got to know those which the army had issued concerning the civilian population.

Q. You told us that in Berlin you were instructed that you would go to Russia and there would find detailed orders. Did you say that?

A. Yes. I said that decrees and orders by the army existed, yes.

Q. Well, now, your Kommando had been in existence prior to your arrival there?

A. Yes.

Q. And who was the previous Kommando leader?

A. My predecessor was Major [Sturmbannfuehrer] Braune.

Q. Braune? Did you talk with him when you arrived?

A. Yes. I talked to him.

Q. And did he tell you about the orders which he had received and which he was putting into effect?

A. No. He merely pointed out to me, in the general conversation, the general orders and decrees from the army high command

Q. Well then, he did talk to you about the orders which he was called upon to execute?

A. Your Honor, I misunderstood you then. We did not talk about the detailed orders, about each individual decree by the army high command, but we merely discussed the general affairs. He told me in broad outline that certain decrees and orders from the army

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existed for the civilian population which had been publicly announced, and these orders were in the hands of the chief of the executive department.

Q. Well, he told you about the orders which he was called upon to put into effect, didn't he?

A. I would like to say, your Honor, what was the mission of the Kommando from the time when I took over the Kommando.

Q. Now, you please answer the question? It is not a difficult question, and I don't see why you wont answer it. I merely ask you, did you talk with your predecessor Braune, and did you discuss with him the orders which he, Braune, had been executing prior to your arrival?

A. No.

Q. Did he tell you about the orders which he was going to turn over to you to put into effect?

A. Braune did not have to turn over orders or decrees to me, and he did not do it in fact. He merely told me and showed me how the front area was and the present situation in the front area, and apart from that he introduced me immediately to the army high command and to the liaison officer who was appointed for this. The situation I saw was this, that —

Q. Just a moment now, did he not say to you, "Now, Haensch, I am turning over the Kommando to you, I have been here so long and this is what we have done. I have here certain orders and I turn them over to you to put into effect." Did he say anything like that?

A. No, your Honor, not in that form.

Q., Now, tell me — but very briefly, briefly please, just what he told you to do? Keep in mind, here is a man who is in charge of an organization and he turns it over to his successor who has just arrived. Now, what did he tell you, briefly?

A. Braune told me that the front area had to be guarded and the Kommando had to look after this task, in particular to guard it against partisans and newly infiltrating elements who constantly increased in the front area and were becoming very active there and —

Q. All right. Now, that's one item, to cover the front line area and to guard against elements infiltrating through; one, all right. Two, what's the next thing he told you to do?

A. This was the mission of the Kommando. He emphasized particularly that it was the work in the Kommando, was running smoothly and according to schedule; in this I could rely on the executive officials and beyond that, I should and could turn to the liaison officers of the army who had been in good relationship with him and his predecessor, and to whom —

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Q. He did not mention Jews at all?

A. No.

Q. Did the word "Jew" ever fall from his lips in his conversations with you?

A. Your Honor, I don't know now but I can't imagine — the idea of measures against Jews —

Q. Now, just a moment please, Witness. Witness, now you must answer questions, not make a speech each time something is directed to you. Did the word "Jew" ever fall from the lips of Werner Braune when he discussed with you what were your duties as his successor?

A. I don't know, your Honor. I cannot remember, that —

Q. Did it or did it not?

A. No. I can't remember.

Q. No. All right. Did the word "Jew" issue from the lips of Streckenbach when he instructed you as to what you were to do in Russia?

A. No.

Q. Did Heydrich ever mention the word "Jew" to you in his conversation with you?

A. No. With no word.

Q. From February to July, when you were in Russia, did anyone ever mention the word "Jew" to you?

A. Yes.

Q. Who?

A. Well, I am just thinking that it was mentioned during discussions which I had, for example

Q. Not for example. I want to know who mentioned the word "Jew" to you.

A. I could name Thomas himself. When Thomas came on an inspection visit.

Q. All right.

A. When Thomas came on an inspection.

Q. Yes, and what did Thomas say about Jews?

A. When Thomas came on an inspection visit he asked whether in the territory any Jewish artisans existed as there was a great lack of craftsmen in the Ukraine altogether, and in the Ukrainian territory the Jews mostly did the skilled labor.

Q. And what did Thomas ask about the Jews? Did he ask you to get some Jewish workers for him?

A. This was not necessary, your Honor, because he did not know that in our territory, that in the territory under the Kommando such Jewish craftsmen did not exist.

Q. Well, he mentioned Jewish skilled labor. Did he ask you to get some for him, or did he tell you that there was a great lack

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of them? In what connection did he talk about this Jewish skilled labor?

A. That is what I wanted to mention before. In this connection he said craftsmen were urgently required for work essential for the war and in Dnepropetrovsk large workshops were being set up for which craftsmen were particularly required who were to be used there to do work essential for the war, in particular tailors —

Q. But now please restrict it to the Jews. Please don't ramble all over the place. What did he say that he wanted about the Jews?

A. He mentioned this in connection with these workshops and said if Jewish craftsmen existed in this territory they were to be assigned to these jobs.

Q. Yes. Then he asked you to gather whatever Jewish craftsmen you could and send them to these plants; is that what he told you ?

A. Yes, your Honor, but this not only concerned Jewish craftsmen but it was like this —

Q. Now, just a moment. Did he tell you, "I want you to get some Jewish craftsmen or as many craftsmen as you can, but where they are Jews you are not to liquidate them, in spite of the fact that there is a Fuehrer order out to the effect that the Jews are to be liquidated." Did he tell you that?

A. Your Honor, liquidation of Jews was never mentioned at all, and I cannot say anything else. I already said this to Mr. Wartenberg, that for the first time I heard about this fact was here and may I add one thing now? The following happened during my time in the territory of Sonderkommando 4b. I know that quite a number of Jews, and as far as I remember there must have been more than a hundred, were used as horsecart drivers for the army. From the rear they brought up new vehicles to the front; that must have been in April or May

Q. All right. That's enough. You told us that you know that a hundred Jews were used as drivers for the army .It isn't necessary to go into so much detail.

* * * * * * * * * *


Here is a biographical sketch of the defendant:

Haensch (Hänsch), Dr. jur. Walter (3.1.1904-?) [SS-Obersturmbannführer und Regierungsrat] -- NSDAP: 537265 (joined 7 Jun 1931); SS: 272573 (joined 1 Aug 1935); chief, Reich Security Main Office Department I D-2 (SS Disciplinary Matters) (on 1 Jan 1941); chief, Reich Security Main Office Department I D (Penal Affairs); commander, Special Command 4b (Sonderkommando 4b) Mar-Jul 1942; {arrested and put on trial by an American military tribunal at Nuremberg on charges of ordering and participating in mass shootings of Jewish civilians in the Soviet Union (the "Einsatzgruppe case"); convicted and sentenced to death by hanging 10 Apr 1948 (NYT 11 Apr 1948:9:1); sentence commuted 31 Jan 1951 to 15 years imprisonment by US High Commissioner for Germany John J. McCloy, on recommendation of the Clemency Board (NYT 1 Feb 1951:1:2); released 1955 (Holo Ency 1792-1793; Field Men p. 64).}
In passing the death sentence on Haensch, the American military tribunal rendered this judgment:
"SS-Lieutenant Colonel Walter Haensch studied law at the Leipzig University, trained as Referendar in various cities and passed his final State Law Examination in December 1934. He took a position with the town administration of Doebeln in February 1935 and in the Fall of that year entered the SD. In the early part of 1942 Haensch was assigned to Sonderkommando 4b as its leader. It is the contention of the Prosecution that his authority over this unit began on January 16, 1942. The defendant asserts on the contrary that although it is true he was ordered to this post in January, he did not arrive at the site of the kommando until March l5, 1942.

In support of this asserted delayed inauguration of his einsatz service, the defendant presented evidence to show that he was in Berlin on February 7, 1942 for some dental work, that on February 20, 1942 he opened up a bank account, on February 21, 1942 he posed for some pictures and on another date attended a birthday party, all in Berlin.

A great deal of time was devoted at the trial to the presentation of evidence both for and against the alibi contended for by the defendant. The question of alibi, however, remains moot, in view of the fact that even if the Tribunal assumed that the defendant did not arrive in Russia until March l5, 1942, the date asserted by him as the beginning of his active service with the Sonderkommando, this assumption would not exculpate him. The record proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Sonderkommando 4b, under the leadership of the defendant Haensch, was active in War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity, even subsequent to March l5, 1942.

On April 3, 1943, Sonderkommando 4b arrested 50 hostages and killed one-half of them. The identification of Haensch's unit in this mass execution is established by the following:

(1) Report No.188, dated April 1, 1942 (NO-594l) shows that Sonderkommando 4b had an active unit operating in Zhitomir.

(2} Report No. 189, dated April 3, 1942 (NO-3238) states:
"Locations and communications as reported in Situation Report 188, dated 1 April l942, remain unchanged."

This proves that Sonderkommando 4b was still at Zhitomir so that it was bound to be the unit responsible for the incident described in the report as follows:
"Zhitomir-- 50 hostages from Gayssen and vicinity were arrested in the course of the investigation and half of them were shot."

(3) Report No. 190, dated April 8, 1942 (N0-3359) confirms the responsibility of Sonderkommando 4b for the events of April 3 by declaring that units of Sonderkommando 4b were still stationed at Zhitomir. Report No. 189, above indicated, carries also another item under "Einsatzgruppe C":
"From 28 March up to and inclusive 31 March a total of 434 persons were subjected to 'special measures' (executed).

The figure breaks down as follows:
33 political officials
48 saboteurs and plunderers
-179-352 Jews and 1 insane."

This item is quoted not as conclusively proving that Sonderkommando 4b was responsible for the 434 executions, but for the purpose of demonstrating that Einsatzgruppe C (and, therefore, its integral units, including Sonderkommando 4b) was at the time actively engaged in the carrying out of the extermination program.

Haensch was involved in still further executions following March l5. Report No. 6, dated June 5, l942 (NO-5l87) shows that Sonderkommando 4b, under the leadership of Haensch, was located at Gorlovka. The same report carries this item:
"Several large-scale actions against partisans and Communists were carried out in the district of the Gorlovka Command in late April -- early May 1942. 727 out of 1,038 persons arrested were given special treatment. Among them there were 461 partisans, members of destruction battalions, saboteurs, looters and some Communist activists and NKVD agents."

The conclusion is inescapable that Haensch's organization is responsible for the various executions mentioned herein.

The defendant endeavored at the trial testifyingly to absent himself from Gorlovka at the time of the executions, but his evidence in this respect was vacillating and entirely inconclusive. He admitted that officials under his command participated in the action. Whether he personally was present in the actual physical arresting and shooting of the victims is of no consequence legally. A high ranking officer who plans an operation or participates in the planning and has control over officers taking part in the movement certainly cannot escape responsibility for the action by absenting himself the day of execution of the plan. Haensch was not only responsible for the sonderkommando during the operation, but he admits having been informed on the results thereof.

It is urged by defense Counsel in behalf of Haensch that:
"In addition, nothing happened during the course of these operations which could be regarded as a crime. The containing of partisans, members of the Destruction Battalions, saboteurs, and looters is an action permissible according to International Law. I believe I do not have to touch upon this matter further. The report also shows that those persons apprehended were not killed indiscriminately but that only some 75 percent were actually affected by the so-called 'special treatment'. In other words, the cases were all investigated."

The report clearly states that the actions were taken against partisans and Communists. Membership in any political party is, not a capital offense according to the Rules of War and International law. And executions for membership in a general political party can only be murder. It is asserted that all the cases were investigated. The report says nothing about investigation and, in any event, there is no evidence in the record that the investigations, if held, conformed to the accepted trial requirements, recognized by the Rules of War and International Law insofar as they appertain to civilians. Whatever defense exists to the charges contained in this item depends entirely on the defendant's word. Can he be believed?

He asserted that during the entire time he served in Russia he never heard of the execution of Jews as Jews. Only three or four weeks prior to his alleged assumption of command over Sonderkommando 4b, the kommando killed l,224 Jews. He professed to know nothing about this massacre. He was asked:

"You have now stated that you have no reason to doubt the correctness of those reports. Therefore, if l,224 Jews were shot by your organization before you took over, does it not seem strange to you that in all the time that you were with the very men who conducted these executions, that not a word was ever said about so extraordinary a phenomenon as the execution of l,224 human beings because they were Jews?"

His only reply was that no one talked about these killings or any killings at all, and that he did not learn that Jews were executed for racial reasons until he arrived in Nuremberg five years later! The witness stated that before he took over command of Sonderkommando 4b he was told by Mueller, Chief of the Gestapo and Thomas, Chief of Einsatzgruppe C, that the executive activities of Sonderkommando 4b were to remain unchanged. He was asked whether he carried out these directives of Mueller and Thomas and he replied in the affirmative. Report No. 24, dated July 16, 1941, discloses the killing of 180 Jews and the burning of Jewish homes by Sonderkommando 4b. Report No. 88, dated September 19, 1941, spoke of the execution of 435 Jews as well as 28 saboteurs and 56 officials and agents of the NKVD. Report No. 94, dated September 25, 1941, contained an item on the execution of 290 Jews. Report No. 111, dated October l2, 1941, declared that 125 Jews had been liquidated. Report No.132, dated November 12, 1941, reported 161 Jews killed. Report No. l35, dated November 19, 1941, reported 562 Jews liquidated. Report No. 143, dated December 8, l94l, described the killing of not only 137 Jews, but also 599 "mentally deficients". Report No. 173, dated February 25, 1942, revealed the killing of 649 political officials and 139 Jews. Report No. 177, dated March 6, 1942, chronicled the execution of 1,224 Jews.

If, as Haensch stated, he continued to carry out the executive policy of Sonderkommando 4b as it existed prior to his arrival in Russia, and the above enumeration indicates quite clearly what that policy was, this can only mean that he continued with the execution of the Fuehrer-Order. The Tribunal rejects completely the defendant's statement that he did not know of the execution of Jews. In the face of what appears in the record the Tribunal also refuses to accept as fact the statement of the defendant that he was only personally aware of four executions involving in all sixty deaths.

On July 21, 1947 he wrote out by hand a 25-page statement on his einsatz service. Over eight pages (which is over one-third of the entire statement) were devoted to a discussion on executions and his, the defendant's, manner of conducting them. On page 22 he said:
"I was requested to make statements concerning the number of executions, which in my estimation were carried out by the kommando according to orders during my time as leader of the Sonderkommando 4b. To this I must state the following: In the absence of records I am no longer able to give such information. An estimated number would lack any basis of fact. For this reason and those reasons stated above, I cannot give such an estimate."

This statement that he was unable even to estimate the number of executions performed by the kommando during the time he was its Chief is practically conclusive, if words have any meaning, that the number was a very large one. There is additional reason for this conclusion, in spite of his mentioning specifically three, or four executions. His long eight-page description of executions is written in a manner and style which, reveals irrefutably that mass killings formed a regular routine to him and were not unusual events. A few sentences taken from this volunteered statement are quite illuminating on this point:
"The executions were effected by shooting from the nearest sure-aim distance. That distance, as I recall it, was not more than 8 - 10 paces. The assumption that the shootings were effected 'by revolver' does not correspond with the facts. I have already explained that during my interrogation of the 14/7/47."

"I must once again energetically repudiate the assumption that the shootings were carried out in a mean manner, e.g., in the form of mass shootings by machine gun bursts from a considerable distance or by shooting in the neck or in an otherwise lowdown, manner."

"After quiet reflection I am bound to state that I cannot say exactly which of the two weapons was used in the individual cases. The Sonderkommando 4b was equipped partly with sub-machine guns -- I believe predominantly with these -- and partly with rifles."
"Moral sufferings for the victims as well as for the members of the execution command were to be avoided as far as possible. Thus great, care was to be taken that a person waiting to be executed would not be eye witness to a preceding shooting, and that the corpses of people shot would be removed before a further execution took place."

"I myself watched a few executions. Where possible this was done in a manner so as to surprise the execution command by my sudden appearance. During this I saw nothing which indicated that the considerations enumerated were being disregarded."

"Occasionally officers or authorized persons also attended the executions as representatives or deputies of their appropriate offices."

"I still remember that the absolutely necessary insuring of instantaneous death without previous mere wounding was brought up during those discussions, and that it was emphasized to aim at the head as a sure guarantee for instantaneous death."

"I recall that the executions were effected from one side of the hill or the access to the groove, and that the corpses, after the conclusion of each execution, were carried to a grave prepared on the other side."

"As far as I remember in the executions which I attended, one to three persons were led to the place of execution at intervals and shot together."

"In those executions which I attended, death was instantaneous. Immediately after the execution the leader and the medical orderly went to the dead and personally satisfied themselves that they were really dead. I do not recall either ever having heard a cry of pain."

"As to the composition of the execution command, the rule existed that under no circumstances so-called 'shooting kommandos' were formed, that is to say, that for the different executions not always the same men were to be used. The leader of each execution command varied his choice of men according to these directives and assigned them on the day before the execution."
These harrowing details, announced with the insouciance of an expert with long experience, belies the defendant's assertion on the witness stand that his kommando conducted only four executions with a maximum of sixty deaths.

As above indicated, the defendant claimed that every executee was given the benefit of a hearing, but no evidence was adduced to indicate the character of the charges brought against the arrestees except the general statement that they were partisans, saboteurs, looters or Communist activists. Nor was there any evidence that these persons received a trial.

Furthermore, the large number of victims and the haste with which they were executed would demonstrate, considering the time element, the impossibility of trials for all of them. As a matter of fact the defendant testified that Streckenbach pointed out to him that in the East there would be no "formal court proceedings such as we were accustomed to carrying out in the Homeland in the Police Courts, or another court". And on the contrary, he was instructed that the procedure was to follow the decree of the highest political authorities and it is a matter of record that all einsatz units had received the Fuehrer decree. The Fuehrer-Order, of course, provided for no trial whatsoever. The Tribunal is convinced that the civilians shot by Sonderkommando 4b under Haensch's leadership did not receive the trial intended by the Rules of War and International Law. The credible evidence shows, further, that if there were any proceedings they were entirely of an ephemeral nature. The defendant testified that he was thoroughly familiar with the cases of the sixty persons executed by his kommando:
"Yes, I knew exactly about the individual cases -- that is to say, the decision in both these executions in the Gorlovka district. I also knew about the other executions and I was able to convince myself that these were only cases which occurred in accordance with law and order, and where the people concerned were actually proven violators against the laws of war and against security of the people."

Later he said that sub-kommando leaders could make independent decisions, but when he was asked:
"Would you have been able to reverse the decision of the sub-kommando leader if you would have been of the opinion that the execution of a certain individual was not justified?"
he replied:
"Yes, without any trouble. If I had become convinced that something was not quite in order, I certainly would have been able to do that."
It developed then that the sixty who were executed by his kommando were killed under his orders:
"Q. There were sixty people killed under your orders?
A. Yes."
He was now asked whether he investigated these sixty cases before he pronounced the death sentence.
"Q. Now, how many of these sixty cases did you investigate yourself, or reviewed the evidence on?
A. The evidence? I only looked through the evidence and made a final decision for about twenty-five cases, and seven that --
Q. All right.
A. (continuing) came thereafter.
Q. That is thirty-two that you investigated yourself?
A. Yes.
Q. So that means that twenty-eight went to their deaths under your orders without your having reviewed the evidence?
A. No.
Q. Sixty were killed under your orders?
A. Yes.
Q. Thirty-two you investigated?
A. Yes."

In spite of this very definite pronouncement, the defendant later went on to say that he investigated the sixty cases. The defendant's manner of testifying, his shifting and evasive attitude while discussing this subject, convince the Tribunal that he did not tell the entire truth about the sixty alleged investigations. The defendant stated that some of the killings had been ordered by the Army, but that he reviewed those cases also. It developed, however, that no written report was made so that it is not clear, if he had no personal knowledge of the facts and received no written report, how he could review the cases. His explanation, which is obviously no explanation, follows:
"...these cases of executions which I was questioned on in Barvenkova became known to me when by accident I happened to the place, and the corresponding report about the respective orders of the Army units were given to me for information. Today, I cannot state exactly, from memory or with certainty, that the subcommander received this order from the military officer, who had the right to give this order, and he was also told the crime itself which had been committed by the defendants. I considered this type of handling not correct, and I expressed my opinion to this effect at the AOK, namely, that in my opinion the Army when it conducted the investigation and made the decision itself should carry out the execution by its own kommandos."

Much of the defendant's testimony, even if believable, does not exculpate him. Much is simpIy not worthy of belief. For instance, when he says that Streckenbach, who was the man responsible for the announcement of the Fuehrer-Order in Pretzsch, said nothing to him about this, momentous program as he was about to depart for the East, Haensch utters an obvious falsehood. When he says that in his conversation with Heydrich, Heydrich was silent about the Fuehrer-Order, he declares what is incredible. And even more incredible is his statement that the very Chief of the Einsatzgruppe, under whom he was to operate, remained mute on the subject of the Order of the head of the State, the very Order which brought the Einsatzgruppen into being. And then one can only dismiss as fantastic the declaration of the defendant that his predecessor who had admittedly executed thousands of Jews under the Fuehrer-Order, and whose program Haensch was to continue, said nothing to Haensch about that program. And when Haensch boldly uttered that the first time he ever had any inkling of the Fuehrer-Order was when he arrived in Nuremberg six years later, he entered into a category of incredulousness which defies characterization. The guilt of the defendant in the commission of War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity has been clearly and conclusively established. From all the evidence in the case the Tribunal finds the defendant guilty under Counts I and II of the Indictment.

The Tribunal also finds that the defendant was a member of the criminal organizations SS and SD under the conditions defined by the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal and is, therefore, guilty under Count III of the Indictment." (Musmanno, Michael A., U.S.N.R, Military Tribunal II, Case 9: Opinion and Judgment of the Tribunal. Nuremberg: Palace of Justice, pp. 178-188 (original mimeographed copy), http://www.einsatzgruppenarchives.com/t ... ensch.html ).}

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