Opinion and Judgment, in 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. 411-587
The indictment filed in this case on 29 July 1947 charged the 24 defendants enumerated therein with crimes against humanity, war crimes, and membership in criminal organizations. The 24 defendants were made up of 6 SS generals, 5 SS colonels, 6 SS lieutenant colonels, 4 SS majors, and 3 SS junior officers. Since the filing of the indictment the number of the defendants has been reduced to 22. Defendant SS Major Emil Haussmann committed suicide on 31 July 1947, and defendant SS Brigadier General Otto Rasch was severed from the case on 2 May 1948 because of his inability to testify. Although it is assumed that Rasch's disease (paralysis agitans or Parkinsonism) will become progressively worse, his severance from these proceedings is not to be regarded as any adjudication on the question of guilt or innocence.
The acts charged in counts one and two of the indictment are identical in character, but the indictment draws the distinction between acts constituting offenses against civilian populations, including German nationals and nationals of other countries, and the same acts committed as violations of the laws and customs of war involving murder and ill-treatment of prisoners of war and civilian populations of countries under the occupation of Germany. Count three charges the defendants with membership in the SS, SD, and Gestapo, organizations declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal and paragraph I (d) of article II of Control Council Law No. 10.
Although the indictment accuses the defendants of the commission of atrocities, persecutions, exterminations, imprisonment, and other inhumane acts, the principle charge in this case is murder. However, as unequivocal as this charge is, questions have arisen which must be definitely resolved so that this decision may add its voice in the present solemn re-affirmation and sound development of international precepts binding upon nations and individuals alike, to the end that never again will humanity witness the sad and miserable spectacle it has beheld and suffered during these last years.
At the outset it must be acknowledged that the facts with which the Tribunal must deal in this opinion are so beyond the experience of normal man and the range of man-made phenomena that only the most complete judicial inquiry, and the most exhaustive trial, could verify and confirm them. Although the principle accusation is murder and, unhappily, man has been killing man ever since the days of Cain, the charge of purposeful homicide in this case reaches such fantastic proportions and surpasses such credible limits that believability must be bolstered with assurance a hundred times repeated.
The books have shown through the ages why man has slaughtered his brother. He has always had an excuse, criminal and ungodly though it may have been. He has killed to take his brother's property, his wife, his throne, his position; he has slain out of jealousy, revenge, passion, lust, and cannibalism. He has murdered as a monarch, a slave owner, a madman, a robber. But it was left to the twentieth century to produce so extraordinary a killing that even a new word had to be created to define it.
One of counsel has characterized this trial as the biggest murder trial in history. Certainly never before have 23 men been brought into court to answer to the charge of destroying over one million of their fellow human beings. There have been other trials imputing to administrators and officials responsibility for mass murder, but in this case the defendants are not simply accused of planning or directing wholesale killings through channels. They are not charged with sitting in an office hundreds and thousands of miles away from the slaughter. It is asserted with particularity that these men were in the field actively superintending, controlling, directing and taking an active part in the bloody harvest.
If what the prosecution maintains is true, we have here participation in a crime of such unprecedented brutality and of such inconceivable savagery that the mind rebels against its own thought image and the imagination staggers in the contemplation of a human degradation beyond the power of language to adequately portray. The crime did not exclude the immolation of women and children, heretofore regarded the special object of solicitude even on the part of an implacable and primitive foe.
The International Military Tribunal in its decision of 1 October 1946 declared that the Einsatzgruppen and the Security Police, to which the defendants belonged, were responsible for the murder of two million defenseless human beings, and the evidence presented in this case has in no way shaken this finding. No human mind can grasp the enormity of two million deaths because life, the supreme essence of consciousness and being, does not lend itself to material or even spiritual appraisement. It is so beyond finite comprehension that only its destruction offers an infinitesimal suggestion of its worth. The loss of any one person can only begin to be measured in the realization of his survivors that he is gone forever. The extermination, therefore, of two million human beings cannot be felt. 2 million is but a figure. The number of deaths resulting from the activities with which these defendants have been connected and which the prosecution has set at one million is but an abstract number. One cannot grasp the full cumulative terror of murder 1 million times repeated.
It is only when this grotesque total is broken down into units capable of mental assimilation that one can understand the monstrousness of the things we are in this trial contemplating. One must visualize not one million people but only ten persons -- men, women, and children, perhaps all of one family--falling before the executioner's guns. If one million is divided by ten, this scene must happen one hundred thousand times, and as one visualizes the repetitious horror, one begins to understand the meaning of the prosecution's words,"It is with sorrow and with hope that we here disclose the deliberate slaughter of more than a million innocent and defenseless men, women, and children."
All mankind can share that sorrow in the painful realization that such things could happen in an age supposedly civilized and mankind may also well cherish the hope that civilization will actually redeem itself, so that, by reflection, cleansing, and a real sanctification of the holiness of life, that nothing even faintly resembling such a thing may happen again.
Judicial opinions are often primarily prepared for the information and guidance of the legal profession, but the Nuernberg judgments are of interest to a much larger segment of the earth's population. It would not be too much to say that the entire world itself is concerned with the adjudications being handed down in Nuernberg. Thus it is not enough in these pronouncements to cite specific laws, sections, and paragraphs. The decisions must be understood in the light of the circumstances which brought them about. What is the exact nature of the facts on which the judgments are based? A tribunal may not avert its head from the ghastly deeds whose legal import it is called upon to adjudicate. What type of reasoning or lack of reasoning was it that brought about the events which are to be here related? What type of morality or lack of it was it that for years bathed the world in blood and tears? Why is it that Germany, whose rulers thought to make it the wealthiest and the most powerful nation of all time, an empire which would overshadow the Rome of Caesar--why is it that this Germany is now a shattered shell? Why is it that Europe, the cradle of modern civilization, is devastated and the whole world is out of joint?
These Nuernberg trials answer the question, and the Einsatzgruppen trial in particular makes no little contribution to that enlightenment.
When the German armies, without any declaration of war, crossed the Polish frontier and smashed into Russia, there moved with and behind them a unique organization known as the Einsatzgruppen. As an instrument of terror in the museum of horror, it would be difficult to find an entry to surpass the Einsatzgruppen in its blood-freezing potentialities. No writer of murder fiction, no dramatist steeped in macabre lore, can ever expect to conjure up from his imagination a plot which will shock sensibilities as much as will the stark drama of these sinister bands.
They came into being through an agreement between the RSHA (Reich Security Main Office), the OKW (Armed Forces High Command), and the OKH (Army High Command). The agreement specified that a representative of the chief of the security police and security service would be assigned to the respective army groups or armies, and that this official would have at his disposal mobile units in the form of an Einsatzgruppe, sub-divided into Einsatzkommandos and Sonderkommandos. The Kommandos in turn were divided into smaller groups known as Teilkommandos. Only for the purpose of comparison as to size and organization, an Einsatzgruppe could roughly be compared to an infantry battalion, an Einsatz or Sonderkommando to an infantry company, and a Teilkommando to a platoon.
These Einsatzgruppen, of which there were four (lettered A to D), were formed, equipped, and fully ready to march before the attack on Russia began. Einsatzgruppe A was led by Stahlecker and later the defendant Jost, operated from central Latvia, Lithuania, and Esthonia towards the East. Einsatzgruppe B, whose chief was Nebe, succeeded by the defendant Naumann, operated in the direction of Moscow in the area adjoining Einsatzgruppe A to the South. Einsatzgruppe C, led by Rasch and later Thomas, operated in the Ukraine, except for the part occupied by Einsatzgruppe D, which last organization, first under the defendant Ohlendorf and then Bierkamp, controlled the Ukraine south of a certain line, which area also included the Crimean peninsula. Later Einsatzgruppe D took over the Caucasus area.
These Einsatzgruppen, each comprising roughly from 800 to 1200 men, were formed under the leadership of Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police and SD. The officers were generally drawn from the Gestapo, SD, SS, and the criminal police. The men were recruited from the Waffen SS, the Gestapo, the Order Police, and locally recruited police. In the field, the Einsatzgruppen were authorized to ask for personnel assistance from the Wehrmacht which, upon request, invariably supplied the needed men.
At top secret meetings held in Pretzsch and Dueben, Saxony, in May 1941, the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando leaders were instructed by Heydrich, Chief of Security Police and SD, and Streckenbach, Chief of Personnel of RSHA, as to their mission, and they were introduced to the notorious Fuehrer Order around which this extraordinary case has risen. Under the guise of insuring the political security of the conquered territories, both in the occupational and rear areas of the Wehrmacht, the Einsatzgruppen were to liquidate ruthlessly all opposition to National Socialism--not only the opposition of the present, but that of the past and future as well. Whole categories of people were to be killed without truce, without investigation, without pity, tears, or remorse. Women were to be slain with the men, and the children also were to be executed because, otherwise, they would grow up to oppose National Socialism and might even nurture a desire to avenge themselves on the slayers of their parents. Later, in Berlin, Heydrich re-emphasized this point to some of the Einsatz leaders.
One of the principal categories was "Jews". No precise definition was furnished the Einsatz leaders as to those who fell within this fatal designation. Thus, when one of the Einsatzgruppen reached the Crimea, its leaders did not know what standards to apply in determining whether the Krimchaks they found there should be killed or not. Very little was known of these people, except that they had migrated into the Crimea from a southern Mediterranean country, and it was noted they spoke the Turkish language. It was rumored, however, that somewhere along the arterial line which ran back into the dim past some Jewish blood had entered the strain of these strange Krimchaks. If this were so, should they be regarded as Jews and should they be shot? An inquiry went off to Berlin. In due time the reply came back that the Krimchaks were Jews and should be shot. They were shot.
The Einsatzgruppen were, in addition, instructed to shoot gypsies. No explanation was offered as to why these unoffending people, who through the centuries have contributed their share of music and song, were to be hunted down like wild game. Colorful in garb and habit, they have amused, diverted, and baffled society with their wanderings, and occasionally annoyed with their indolence, but no one has condemned them as a mortal menace to organized society. That is, no one but National Socialism which, through Hitler, Himmler, and Heydrich ordered their liquidation. Accordingly, these simple, innocuous people were taken in trucks, perhaps in their own wagons, to the antitank ditches and there slaughtered with the Jews and the Krimchaks.
The insane also were to be killed. Not because they were a threat to the Reich, nor because someone may have believed they were formidable rivals of the Nazi chieftains. No more excuse was offered for sentencing the insane than was advanced for condemning the gypsies and the Krimchaks. However, there was a historical basis for the decrees against the insane. That is, a history going back two years. On 1 September 1939, Hitler had issued his euthanasia decree which ordered the killing of all insane and incurably ill people. It was demonstrated in other trials that this decree was made a convenient excuse for killing off those who were racially undesirable to the Nazis, and who were unable to work. These victims were grouped together under the title of "useless eaters". Since all invaded territories were expected to become Reich territory, the same policies which controlled in Germany itself were apparently introduced and put into effect in the occupied lands. But a very extensive interpretation was given to even this heartless decree. Insane asylums were often emptied and the inmates liquidated because the invaders desired to use the asylum buildings.
"Asiatic inferiors" was another category destined for liquidation. This kind of designation allowed a wide discretion in homicide. Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando leaders were authorized to take executive measures on their own responsibility. There was no one to dispute with them as to the people they branded "Asiatic inferiors". And even less was there a curb on homicidal operations when they were authorized to shoot "Asocial people, politically tainted persons, and racially and mentally inferior elements."
And then, all Communist functionaries were to be shot. Again it was never made quite clear how broad was this classification. Thus, in recapitulation, the Fuehrer Order, and throughout this opinion it will be so referred to, called for the summary killing of Jews, gypsies, insane people, Asiatic inferiors, Communist functionaries, and asocials.
Authenticity of Reports
The story of the Einsatzgruppen and the Einsatzkommandos is not something pieced together years after their crimson deeds were accomplished. The story was written as the events it narrates occurred, and it was authored by the doers of the deeds. It was written in the terse, exact language which military discipline requires, and which precision of reporting dictates.
The maintenance of an army in invaded territory and the planning of future operations demands cold factuality in reports, which requirement was rudimentary knowledge to all members of the German Armed Forces. Thus, every sub-kommando leader was instructed to inform his Kommando leader of developments and activities in his field of operations, every Kommando leader in turn accounted to the Einsatzgruppe leader, and the Einsatzgruppe leader by wireless and by mail reported to the RSHA in Berlin. These accounts were veiled in secrecy but they were not so covert that they did not come to the attention of the top-ranking military and political officials of the regime. In fact, at the capital, they were compiled, classified, mimeographed, and distributed to a selected list. These are the reports which have been submitted in evidence.
The case of the prosecution is founded entirely on these official accounts prepared by the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommando leaders. The Tribunal will quote rather copiously from these reports because only by the very language of the actual performers can a shocked world believe that these things could come to pass in the twentieth century. A few brief excerpts at the outset will reveal graphically the business of the Einsatzgruppen. A report on Einsatzgruppe B, dated 19 December 1941, speaks of an action in Mogilev and points out--"During the controls of the roads radiating from Mogilev, carried out with the aid of the constabulary, 135 persons, mostly Jews, were apprehended...127 persons were shot." (NO-2824.)
The report also declares:"In agreement with the commander, the transient camp in Mogilev was searched for Jews and officials. 126 persons were found and shot."
The same report advises that in Parichi near Bobruisk,"A special action was executed, during which 1013 Jews and Jewesses were shot."
In Rudnja:"835 Jews of both sexes were shot." (NO-2824.)
Sonderkommando 4a, operating in the town of Chernigov, reported that on 23 October 1941, 116 Jews were shot; on the following day, 144 were shot. (NO-2832.)
A Teilkommando of Sonderkommando 4a, operating in Poltava, reported as of 23 November 1941:"Altogether 1538 Jews were shot." (NO-3405.)
Einsatzgruppe D operating near Simferopol communicated:"During the period covered by the report 2010 people were shot." (NO-3235.)
An Einsatz unit, operating in the Ukraine, communicated that in Rakov:"1500 Jews were shot." (3876-PS.)
A report on activities in Minsk in March 1942 reads:"In the course of the greater action against Jews, 3412 Jews were shot." (NO-2662.)
Einsatzkommando 6, operating in Dnepropetrovsk, reported that on 13 October 1941:"Of the remaining 30000 approximately 10000 were shot." (NO-2832.)
A report dated 16 January 1942, accounting for the activities of Einsatzkommando 2, stated that in Riga on 30 November 1941:"10600 Jews were shot." (NO-3405.)
In time the authors of the reports apparently tired of the word "shot" so, within the narrow compass of expression allowed in a military report, some variety was added. A report originating in Latvia read:"The Higher SS and Police leader in Riga, SS Obergruppenfuehrer Jeckeln, has meanwhile embarked on a shooting action [Erschiessungsaktion] and on Sunday, the 30 November 1941, about 4000 Jews from the Riga ghetto and an evacuation transport from the Reich were disposed of." (NO-3257.)
And so that no one could be in doubt as to what was meant by "Disposed of", the word "killed" was added in parentheses.
A report originating from the Crimea stated laconically:"In the Crimea 1000 Jews and gypsies were executed." (NO-2662.)
A report of Einsatzgruppe B, in July 1941, relates that the Jews in Lithuania were placed in concentration camps for special treatment, and then the report explains:"This work was now begun and thus about 500 Jews, saboteurs among them, are liquidated daily." (NO-2937.)
A Kommando, operating in Lachoisk, reported:"A large-scale anti-Jewish action was carried out in the village of Lachoisk. In the course of this action 920 Jews were executed with the support of a Kommando of the SS Division 'Reich'. The village may now be described as 'free of Jews'." (NO-3143.)
Einsatzgruppe B, operating out of headquarters Smolensk, reported on one of its operations in October 1941:"In Mogilev the Jews tried also to sabotage their removal into the ghetto by migrating in masses. The Einsatzkommando No. 8, with the help of the ordinary police, blocked the roads leading out of the town and liquidated 113 Jews." (NO-160.)
This same organization also reported:"Two large-scale actions were carried out by the platoon in Krupka and Sholopaniche, 912 Jews being liquidated in the former and 822 in the latter place." (NO-160.)
The advance Kommando of Sonderkommando 4a, chronicling its activities of 4 October 1941 reported:"Altogether, 537 Jews (men, women, and adolescents) were apprehended and liquidated." (NO-3404.)
Eventually even the expressions "liquidate" and "execute ' became monotonous, so the report-writers broke another bond of literary restraint and began describing the murder of Jews with varying verbiage. One particularly favored phrase announced that so many Jews were "rendered harmless". Still another declared that so many Jews had been "got rid of." One more pronounced that a given number of Jews had been "done away with". However, it really mattered little what phraseology was employed. Once the word "Jew" appeared in a report, it was known that this invariably meant that he had been killed. Thus, when one particularly original report-writer wrote,It required no lucubration on the part of the RSHA officials in Berlin to comprehend that 5000 Jews had been killed at Nikolaev and 5000 had been killed at Kherson. (NO-3148.)"At present, the Jewish problem is being solved at Nikolaev and Kherson. About 5000 Jews were processed at either place."
Death was simple routine with these earthy organizations. In the Reich Security Main Office, Einsatzgruppen could well be synonymous with homicide. One report, after stating that certain towns were freed of Jews, ends up with the abundantly clear remark that"the remaining officials were appropriately treated." (NO-3137.)
Kommando leaders also frequently informed headquarters that certain groups had been "taken care of". (NO-3151.) When an Einsatzkommando "took care" of anybody only one person could be of service to the person taken care of, and that was the grave digger. "Special treatment" was still one more contemptuous characterization of the solemn act of death when, of course, it applied to others.
Then some report-writers airily recorded that certain areas "had been purged of Jews."
Finally, there was one term which was gentle and polite, discreet and definitive. It in no way called up the grim things connected with shooting defenseless human beings in the back of the neck, and then burying them, sometimes partially alive, into shallow graves. This piece of rhetoric proclaimed that in certain areas "the Jewish question was solved." And when that wording was used one knew finally and completely that the Jews in that particular territory had been removed from the land of the living.
Einsatzgruppe C, reporting on more than 51000 executions, declared:and then came the all-inclusive phrase, "Jews in general." (NO-3155.)"These were the motives for the executions carried out by the Kommandos--Political officials, looters and saboteurs, active Communists and political representatives, Jews who gained their release from prison camps by false statements, agents and informers of the NKVD, persons who, by false depositions and influencing witnesses, were instrumental in the deportation of ethnic Germans, Jewish sadism and revengefulness, undesirable elements, partisans, politruks, dangers of plague and epidemics, members of Russian bands, armed insurgents--provisioning of Russian bands, rebels and agitators, drifting juveniles;"
The summary cutting down of such groups as "drifting juveniles" and such vague generalizations as "undesirable elements" shows that there was no limit whatsoever to the sweep of the executioner's scythe. And the reference to individual categories of Jews is only macabre window dressing because under the phrase "Jews in general", all Jews were killed regardless of antecedents.
There were some Kommando leaders, however, who were a little more conscientious than the others. They refused to kill a Jew simply because he was a Jew. They demanded a reason before ordering out the firing squad. Thus, in White Ruthenia, a Kommando leader reported:The Kommando leader's conscience now having been satisfied, he went on in his report:"There has been frequent evidence of Jewish women displaying a particularly disobedient attitude.""For this reason, 28 Jewesses had to be shot at Krugloye and 337 in Mogilev." (NO-2656.)
At Tatarsk the Jews left the ghetto in which they had been collected and returned to their homes. The scrupulous Kommando leader here reported the serious offense committed by the Jews in taking up living in their own domiciles. He accordingly executed all the male Jews in the town as well as three Jewesses. (NO-2656.)
Further,"At Mogilev, too, the Jews tried to prevent their removal to a ghetto, 113 Jews were liquidated." (NO-2656.)
Operation Report No. 88, dated 19 September 1941, states that, on 1-2 September 1941, leaflets and pamphlets were distributed by Jews, but that "the perpetrators could not be found." With this declaration that the guilty ones could not be located, the leader of the execution unit involved tranquilized his moral scruples and, accordingly, as his report factually declares, he executed 1303 Jews, among them 875 Jewesses over 12 years of age. (NO-3149.)
Always very sensitive, the occupation forces found that the Jews in Monastyrshchina and Khislavichi displayed an "impudent and provocative attitude". The Kommando accordingly shot the existing Jewish Council and 20 other Jews. (NO-3143.)
In the vicinity of Ostrovo, the resident Jews, according to Report No. 124, dated 25 October 1941, had repeatedly shown hostile conduct and disobedience to "the German authorities". Thus, the current Kommando went into Ostrovo and shot 169 Jews. (NO-3160.)
In Marina-Gorka, the labor assigned to Jews was done, according to Report No. 124, dated 25 October 1941, "very reluctantly". Thus, 996 Jews and Jewesses were given "special treatment." (NO-3160.)
Report No. 108, dated 9 October 1941, advises that for the death of 21 German soldiers near Topola, 2100 Jews and gypsies were to be executed, thus a ratio of 100 to one. There is no pretense in the report that any of the 2100 slain were in the slightest way connected with the shooting of Germans. (NO-3156.)
An item in Operation Report No. 108, 9 October 1941, points out thatwere executed. (NO-3156.)"19 Jews who were under suspicion of having either been Communists or of having committed arson"
In Mogilev, the Jewish women were "extremely resistive" and not wearing the prescribed badge, so 28 of them were liquidated. (NO-3156.)
Report No. 73, dated 4 September 1941, acquaints the world with the fact that 733 civilians were exterminated in Minsk, the reason being that they "were absolutely inferior elements with a predominant mixture of Asiatic blood." The method of determining the inferiority of character and the predominance of Asiatic blood is not indicated. (NO-2844.)
The executioners were, however, not always without thought for the Jews. Sometimes apparently the liquidation took place for the benefit of the Jews themselves. Thus, Einsatzgruppe B reported in December 1941:"In Gorodok, the ghetto had to be evacuated because of the danger of an epidemic. 394 Jews were shot." (NO-2833.)
Einsatzgruppe C, reporting on conditions in Radomyshl, declared:"A supply of food for the Jews as well as for the children was impracticable. In consequence, there was an ever increasing danger of epidemics." (NO-3149.)
The situation was met bravely and chivalrously:"To put an end to these conditions 1107 Jewish adults were shot by the Kommando and 561 juveniles by the Ukrainian militia. Thereby, the Sonderkommando has taken care of a total of 11328 Jews till 6 September 1941." (NO-3149.)
Operational Report No. 92, dated 23 September 1941, related how scabies had broken out in the ghetto of Nevel.This treatment undoubtedly overcame the scabies. (NO-3143.)"In order to prevent further contagion, 640 Jews were liquidated and the houses burnt down."
The same report proclaims further that, in the town of Janowitschi, a contagious disease, accompanied by fever, broke out. It was feared that the disease might spread to the city and the rural population. To prevent this from happening, 1025 Jews were shot. The report closes proudly with the statement "This operation was carried out solely by a commander and 12 men." (NO-143)
As the Kommandos became more and more familiar with the therapeutic capabilities of their rifles, they turned to the field of preventive medicine. In October 1941, the Kommando leader in Vitebsk came to the conclusion that there was an "imminent danger of epidemics" in the town, and to forestall that this should come to pass, he shot 3000 Jews. (NO-3160.)
Mention had been made of the execution of the insane. The reports are dotted with references to the liquidation of inmates of mental institutions. It seems that the Kommandos, in addition to the executions carried out under their own orders, were ready to perform other killings on request. Einsatzgruppe C reports that a Teilkommando of Sonderkommando 4a, passing through Chernigov, was asked by the director of the mental asylum to liquidate 270 incurables. The Teilkommando obliged. (NO-2832.)
In Poltava, Sonderkommando 4b found that the insane asylum located there maintained a farm for the inmates. Since there was not enough full cream milk in the town to supply the three large German military hospitals there, the milk shortage was met by executing a part of the insane. The report on the subject explains:"A way out of this difficulty was found by deciding that the execution of 565 incurables should be carried out in the course of the next few days under the pretext that these patients were being removed to a better asylum in Kharkov." (NO-282.)
It was also stated:"The underwear, clothing, and other wearing apparel collected on this occasion have also been handed over mainly to the hospitals." (NO-2827.)
The grim casualness with which these executions were conducted comes to light in an item taken from a report made by the Russian Government (U.S.S.R.-41 [Trial of Major War Criminals, vol. VII, p. 510, Nuremberg, 1947.]) which reads:"On 22 August 1941, mental patients from the psychiatric hospital in Daugavpile approximately 700 adults and 60 children--were shot in the small town of Aglona. Among them were 20 healthy children who had been temporarily transferred to the building of the hospital from a children's home."
Report No. 47, dated 9 August 1941, after generally discussing conditions in the Ukraine, stated of the operations of Einsatzgruppe C,Under their meticulous taskmasters, the Jews were bound to be wrong no matter what they did. If they wore their badges they could expect maltreatment, since they were recognized as Jews; if they left them off, they were punished for not wearing them. If they remained in the wretched and overcrowded ghettos they suffered from hunger, if they left in order to obtain food they were "marauding"."Last but not least, systematic reprisals against marauders and Jews were carried out."
Operation Report No. 132, describing the activities of Einsatzkommando 5, declared that, between 13-19 October 1941, it had among others executed 21 people guilty of sabotage and looting, and 1847 Jews. It also reported the shooting of 300 insane Jews, which achievement, according to the report,"represented a particularly heavy burden for the members of Einsatzkommando 5 who were in charge of this operation". (NO-2830.)
Operation Report No. 194, detailing the activities of Einsatzkommando 8, states that, from 6-30 March 1942, this Kommando executed,"20 Russians for subversive Communist activities, sabotage, and membership of the NKVD, 5 Russians because of theft, burglary and embezzlements, 33 gypsies, 1551 Jews." (NO-3276.)
Einsatzkommando 5, for the period between 2-8 November 1941, killed, as Report No. 143 succinctly states,"15 political officials, 21 saboteurs and looters, 414 hostages, 10650 Jews." (NO-2827.)
Report No. 150, dated 2 January 1942, speaking of actions in the western Crimea, stated:"From 16 November 1941 thru 15 December 1941, 17645 Jews, 2504 Krimchaks, 824 gypsies, and 212 Communists and partisans have been shot." (NO-2834.)
The report also states, as if talking of cleaning out swamps:"Simferopol, Yevpatoriya, Alushta, Karasubazar, Kerch, and Feodosiya, and other districts of the Western Crimea have been cleaned of Jews."
One report complains that the Wehrmacht had failed to plan the executions and, consequently, many Jews escaped. This irritated the report-writer considerably. He stated:"Naturally, the systematic action of Einsatzkommando 5 suffered extremely by these planless excesses against the Jews in Uman. In particular, a large number of the Jews were now forewarned and escaped from the city. Besides the numerous Jews, many of the Ukrainian officials and activists still living in Uman were warned by the excesses, and only two co-workers of the NKVD were found and liquidated. The results of these excesses were cleaned up immediately by Einsatzkommando 5, after its arrival." (NO-3404.)
It will be noted that the word "excesses" is here used in its opposite sense, that is deficiency. Not as many persons were killed as should have been.
It also objected that people talked about these executions."Rumors about executions in other areas rendered action at Simferopol very difficult. Reports about actions against Jews gradually filter through from fleeing Jews, Russians, and also from unguarded talks of German soldiers." (NO-2834.)
In spite of these difficulties the operations were not entirely unsuccessful because this particular report sums up with,"Altogether, 75881 persons have been executed."
A report from the northern Crimea reads:"Between 1-15 February 1941, 1451 persons were executed, of which 920 were Jews, 468 Communists, 45 partisans, and 12 looters, saboteurs, asocials. Total up to now is 86632." (NO-3339.)
Einsatzgruppe D, giving an account of its activities from 1-15 October 1941, stated in Report No. 117,"The districts occupied by the Kommandos were cleaned out of Jews. 4091 Jews and 46 Communists were executed in the time the report covers, bringing the total up to 40699." (NO-3406.)
Coming back to Simferopol, in Report No. 153, dated 9 January 1942, we find:"The operational areas of the Teilkommandos, particularly in smaller villages, were purged of Jews. During the period covered by the report, 3176 Jews, 85 partisans, 12 looters, and 122 Communist officials were shot. Sum total: 79276. In Simferopol, apart from Jews also the Krimchak and gypsy question was solved." (NO-3258.)
An entry from Operational Situation Report No. 3, on the period 15-31 August 1941, states:"During a scrutiny of the civilian prison camp in Minsk, 615 persons were liquidated. All those executed were racially inferior elements." (NO-2653.)
Many more examples could be given from the reports but the above will suffice to indicate their tenor and scope and the attitude of those who participated in the events described therein. How did the action groups operate? As Kommando leaders entered a town, they immediately assembled what they called a Jewish Council of Elders made up of from 10 to 25 Jews, according to the size of the town. These Jews, usually the more prominent ones, and always including a rabbi, were instructed to register the Jewish population of the community for the purpose of resettlement. The registration completed, the Jews were ordered to appear at a given place, or vehicles went to their homes to collect them. Then they were transported into the woods and shot. The last step of the Kommando in closing the books in the whole transaction was to call on the Council of Elders, express appreciation for their cooperation, invite them to mount the truck standing outside, drive them out to the same spot in the woods, and shoot them, too. One report illustrates the procedure described."The Jews of the city were ordered to present themselves at a certain place and time for the purpose of numerical registration and housing in a camp. About 34000 reported, including women and children. After they had been made to give up their clothing and valuables, all were killed; this took several days." (NOKW-2129.)
Another report lauded the leader of Einsatzkommando 4b for his resourcefulness and skill in rounding up the intelligentsia of Vinnitsa."He called for the most prominent rabbi of the town ordering him to collect within 24 hours the whole of the Jewish intelligentsia and told him they would be required for certain registration work. When this first collection was insufficient in numbers, the intellectual Jews assembled were sent away again with the order to collect themselves more of the intellectual Jews and to appear with these the following day." (NO-2947.)
And then the report ends triumphantly on the note:"This method was repeated for a third time so that in this manner nearly the entire intelligentsia was got hold of and liquidated."
In Kiev a clever stratagem was employed to ensnare the Jews.
The word "clever" is taken from the report covering the action."The difficulties resulting from such a large scale action--in particular concerning the seizure--were overcome in Kiev by requesting the Jewish population through wall posters to move. Although only a participation of approximately 5000 to 6000 Jews had been expected at first, more than 30000 Jews arrived who, until the very moment of their execution, still believed in their resettlement, thanks to an extremely clever organization." (NO-3157.)
Practically every page of these reports runs with blood and is edged with a black border of misery and desolation. In every paragraph one feels the steel and flinty pen with which the report-writer cuts through the carnage described therein. Report No. 94 tells of Jews who, driven from their homes, were compelled to seek primitive existence in caves and abandoned huts. The rigors of the elements, lack of food, and adequate clothing inevitably produced serious illness. The report-writer chronicles:"The danger of epidemics has thus increased considerably, so that, for that reason alone, a thorough clean-up of the respective places became necessary." (NO-3146.); and then, he adds: "The insolence of the Jews has not yet diminished even now."
Thus, after evicting, starving, and shooting their victims the evictors still complained. The Jews were not even courteous to their executioners!
One of the defendants denied that there were any Jews in his territory. In this connection the prosecution introduced an interesting letter from one Jacob, master of field police to his commanding general. The letter, dated 21 June 1942, is very chatty and companionable, the writer sends birthday greetings to the addressee, talks about his horses, his girlfriend, and then casually about Jews.And then he becomes serious and determines to be hard with himself for the sake of his country."I don't know if you, General, have also seen in Poland such horrible figures of Jews. I thank the fate I saw this mongrel race like the man in the youngest days...
Now, of the 24000 Jews living here in Kamenets Podolsk we have only a disappearing percentage left. The little Jews [Juedlein] living in the districts [Rayons] also belong to our customers. We surge ahead without pinges of conscience, and then...the waves close and the world is at peace." (NO-5655.)"I thank you for your reprimand. You are right. We men of the new Germany have to be hard with ourselves. Even if it means a longer separation from our family. Now is the time to clean up with the war criminals, once and forever, to create for our descendants a more beautiful and eternal Germany. We don't sleep here. Every week 3-4 actions, one time gypsies, the other time Jews, partisans, and other rabble. It is very nice that we have now an SD unit [SD Aussenkommando] with which I can work excellently." (NO-5655.)
In another letter this officer becomes very sentimental and is sorry for himself that he is far away from home and thinks of his children,"One could weep sometimes. It is not good to be such a friend of children as I was." However, this does not prevent him from taking up lodging in a former children's asylum.
"I have a cozy apartment in a former children's asylum. One bedroom and a living room with all the accessories." (NO-2653.)
The Magnitude of the Enterprise
One million human corpses is a concept too bizarre and too fantastical for normal mental comprehension. As suggested before, the mention of one million deaths produces no shock at all commensurate with its enormity because to the average brain one million is more a symbol than a quantitative measure. However, if one reads through the reports of the Einsatzgruppen and observes the small numbers getting larger, climbing into ten thousand, tens of thousands, a hundred thousand and beyond, then one can at last believe that this actually happened--the cold-blooded, premeditated killing of one million human beings.
Operation Report 88, reporting on the activities of only one Kommando, states that up to 6 September 1941, this Kommando 4a"has taken care of a total of 11328 Jews."
Einsatzgruppe A, reporting its activities up to 15 October 1941, very casually declares,"In Latvia, up to now, 30000 Jews were executed in all." (L-180.)
Einsatzgruppe D, reporting on an operation near Kikerino, announces that the operational area has been"cleared of Jews. From 19 August 1941 to 25 September 1941, 8890 Jews and Communists were executed. Total number 13315." (NO-3148.)
This same Einsatzgruppe communicated from Nikolaev as of 5 November 1941, that total executions had reached the figure of 31767. (NO-3159.)
Reporting on one month's activities (October 1941), Einsatzgruppe B advised that"during the period of the report, the liquidations of 37180 people took place." (NO-2656.)
Einsatzgruppe C, reporting on its operations in Kiev as of 12 October 1941, declared that Sonderkommando 4a had now reached the total number of more than 51000 executions. (NO-3155.)
The Commissioner General for White Ruthenia reported with self-approbation on 10 August 1942:"During detailed consultations with the SS Brigadefuehrer Zenner and the extremely capable Chief of the SD, SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Dr. jur. Strauch, we found that we had liquidated approximately 55000 Jews in White Ruthenia during the last 10 weeks." (3428-PS.)
Speaking of another place, the commissioner general proclaimed--"In the Minsk-Land area the Jewry was completely exterminated." Then he complained that the army had been encroaching on the Einsatz prerogatives.
"The preparations for the liquidation of the Jews in the Glebokie area were completely disrupted by an arbitrary action by the Rear Army Area, which has already been reported to your office. In the Rear Army Area--I was not contacted, 10000 Jews were liquidated who were scheduled for extermination by us anyway." (3428-PS.)
However, the commissioner general quickly got over his resentment and went on with his narrative."In the city of Minsk, about 10000 Jews were liquidated on 28-29 July 1941, 6500 of whom were Russian Jews -- mainly old people, women, and children--the remainder consisted of Jews unfit for work, most of whom had been sent to Minsk from Vienna, Brno, Bremen, and Berlin in
November 1940, at the Fuehrer's orders. The Slutsk area was also ridded of several thousand Jews. The same applies to Novogrudok and Vileika."
In Baranovichi and Hancevichi he found that the killings had not been going as well as he desired. "Radical measures still remain to be taken." He explained, "In Baranovichi, about 10000 Jews are still living in the town alone." However, he would attend to that situation at once. He promised that 9000 of them would be "liquidated next month." (3428-PS.)
As of 15 October 1941, Einsatzgruppe A declared that the sum total of Jews executed in Lithuania was 71105. (L-180.)
As an appendix to the report, Einsatzgruppe A submitted the inventory of the people killed as a business house might submit a list of stock on hand.-Lithuania: 80311 (Jews); 860 (Communists); 81171 (Total).
-Latvia 30025 (Jews); 1843 (Communists); 31868 (Total).
-Estonia: 474 (Jews); 684 (Communists); 1158 (Total).
-White Ruthenia: 7620 (Jews); 7620 (Total).
-Total: 118430 (Jews); 3387 (Communists); 121817 (Total).
-To be added to these figures (L-180): "In Lithuania and Latvia Jews annihilated by pogroms: 5500; Jews, Communists, and partisans executed in old-Russian area: 2000; Lunatics executed 748; (Correct total--130065): 122455; Communists and Jews liquidated by State Police, and Security Service Tilsit during search actions: 5502; Total: 135567"
It would not take, and it did not take, many reapings of this character to reach the figure of one million.
Operational Report No. 190, speaking of the activities of Einsatzkommando D, announces quite matter-of-factly that, in the second half of March 1942, a total of 1501 people were executed, and then adds, perhaps boredly,"Total number shot up to date, 91678." (NO-3359.)
Descanting on the activities of Einsatzgruppe A, around Leningrad, Operation Report No. 150 declares: "There is no longer any Jewish civil population." (NO-2834.)
Activity and Situation Report No. 9, covering the period of January 1942, apprised Berlin --"In White Ruthenia the purge of Jews is in full swing. The number of Jews in the Territory handed over to the civil authorities up to now, amount to 139000. 33210 Jews were shot meanwhile by the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the SD." (876-PS.)
A special report prepared by Einsatzgruppe A, committed to the eastern territories, left nothing to conjecture as to the purpose of their organization."The systematic mopping up of the eastern territories embraced, in accordance with the basic orders, the complete removal, if possible, of Jewry. This goal has been substantially attained--with the exception of White Russia--as a result of the execution up to the present time, of 229052 Jews." (2273-PS.)
Referring specifically to Lithuania, the report carried the observation that many of the Jews used force against the officials and Lithuanian auxiliaries who performed these executions and that; before they were shot, they even abused Germany! (2273-PS.)
Describing operations in White Ruthenia, Einsatzgruppe A complained that it did not take over this area until a heavy frost had set in. The report points out this"made mass executions much more difficult." And then another difficulty, the report-writer emphasizes, is that the Jews "live widely scattered over the whole country. In view of the enormous distances, the bad condition of the roads, the shortage of vehicles and petrol, and the small forces of Security Police and SD, it needs the utmost effort in order to be able to carry out shootings."
The report-writer almost wistfully complains that the Jews were unreasonable in not coming themselves over these long distances to present themselves for shooting. In spite of all the difficulties, however, the report ends up wit,"Nevertheless, 41000 Jews have been shot up to now."
So inured had the executioners become to the business of death that in one report, where the question of setting up a ghetto was concerned, the report-writer communicated that in getting things started there would be "executions of a minor nature of 40 to 100 persons only."The report ends on the very casual note,Report No. 155, dated 14 January 1942, disclosed that in Audrini: "On 2 January 1941, at the order of Einsatzgruppe A of the Security Police and the Security Service, the village was completely burnt down after removal of all foodstuffs, etc., and all the villagers shot. 301 men were publicly shot in the market square of the neighboring town, Rezekne.""All these actions were carried out without incident." (NO-279.)
A town had been pillaged and destroyed and all its inhabitants massacred. In another village 301 people were herded into the public square and shot down mercilessly. But for the report-writer this mass violence did not even constitute an incident!
On two days alone (29-30 September 1941), Sonderkommando 4a, with the help of the group staff and two police units, slaughtered in Kiev, 33771 Jews. The money, valuables, underwear, and clothing of the murdered victims were turned over to the racial Germans and to the Nazi administration of the city. The report-writer who narrates the harrowing details of this appalling massacre ends up with the phrase,"The transaction was carried out without friction--" and then adds, as he was about to put away the typewriter, "No incidents occurred." (NO-140.)