"The Einsatzgruppen Case"


Case No. 9

B. Opening Statement for the Defendant Blobel *

DR. HEIM: May it please your Honor, before I occupy myself with the facts as presented by the prosecution as far as it concerns the defendant Blobel, may I ask permission to present a few ideas of a general character, for which there is reason in this trial, paradoxical as this may sound at first. I shall mainly limit myself to reproducing such ideas as originate from the pen of non-German authors and which sine ira et studio endeavor to solve the difficult task of prying into the depths and abysses

Tr. pp. 382-441. 6 OeWber 1947.
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of the psychic characteristics of the German people. This survey may be a small contribution to the effort to explain the situation which shows that the defendants, and among them also Blobel, were not "the cruel henchmen whose terror will be engraved in the darkest pages of the history of humanity" according to the prosecution's assertion. The intention of my statements is to bring out a part of the "underlying total connections of our time." (Mitscherlich and Mielke, The Dictate of the Contempt of Humanity [Das Diktat der Menschenverachtung].)

In this respect I may also state that it is far from me to dispute or to whitewash any crimes whim were ordered or executed under the National Socialist regime, but at the same time I would like to point out that, during the war, crimes were not only perpetrated by the members of the Axis but also by those of their military opponents.

In my statements I would like to introduce you into the delicate sphere where there are opposed on one side loyalty and absolute obedience - in the National Socialist state an equivalent to life and freedom - and personal guilt and atonement on the other side.

War with its far-reaching, rapid, and destructive weapons has not become any more humane. It is to be regretted that the Second World War has shown a retrogressive development in respect to the protection of the civilian population. This we were made to feel to a not too small extent in our own country too. The apocalyptic horsemen have for many years haunted Germany too, and they left behind their ineradicable traces. Many German towns with a culture of almost a thousand years have perished under a hail of bombs and it will not be possible to restore them, and in them innocent women, children, and old people lost their lives. It is unfortunate that especially when for years it had been systematically fostered by utilizing all possible means of propaganda, hatred has resulted in wild orgies of cruelty. "War has always promoted such outbreaks * * *." (Schenk, Letter from a Swiss to a German Student in "Europa vor der deutschen Frage" (Europe faces the German Problem) ). It is further said in this volume that it is deemed the highest ethics in Germany Completely to renounce one's own individuality and to recognize solely the state as one's conscience above which there is no higher binding authority". And Schenk states also the causes which exist for it according to his idea, by declaring,

"It results from the specifically Prussian military education, from a conception of duty and from the ability to subordinate oneself, which for a century have been developed theoretically and practically in Germany * * *."

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"The Frenchman" as he goes on to state - and I want to add to it - the American and the British - "ill never understand that there are people who acknowledge an authority over them which may prescribe to them how to behave". This in itself, a regrettable and frightening character trait, to give one's individuality up completely and only to be a small wheel in the set-up of a clockwork, has become the theme of a critical essay by Robert d'Harcourt "The mental perspectives of the Germans (Die geistigen Perspektiven des Deutschen)" There it says,

"Resistance-this word means something disreputable to the Germans * * *. They have superstitious veneration for legal forms, which also reaches into the ranks of the opposition* * *. In the presence of power, in the presence of an order issued by the authorities, the power of judgment in the Germans becomes befogged. The ability to evaluate properly is suspended in the actual sense of the word. The only reaction to a given order is its acceptance and its execution * * *."

A further important contribution to the comprehension of the problem, how it was possible that decent and blameless people, according to the statements of the prosecution, could so diligently and punctually serve the National Socialist annihilation ma- chinery, is given in the statement contained in the abovementioned essay by d'Harcourt,

"There is no other nation that in its whole make-up is more removed from any public affairs than the Germans. That the German is a family father in the first instance and in the second instance a citizen * * *."

His desire for secure living conditions for himself and for his family predestinate him exactly to function in the prescribed sense in the authoritative state. And this state utilized the endlessly docile, yielding disposition of a nation to which the security of the family meant more than the duty of the citizen who is conscious of his responsibility, to form it at will and to its own purposes.

On such a soil only the actions could grow which have brought Blobel as well as the other defendants into the dock. Under 8 (C) to (J) the indictment charges the defendant Blobel with the murder of nearly 60,000 people.

Up to the present presentation of evidence by the prosecution, the latter seems to consider the case as a simple case of murder, in which on the one hand there is the perpetrator and on the other hand there is the known number of people executed. But it is not quite as simple as the prosecution seems to think, even if the actual facts are apparently sufficiently proved by documents.

My task as defense counsel commands me here to point to

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another essential factor. The submitted documentary material to which the prosecution had access is definitely incriminating. However, it is so much easier for the Court to fulfill its difficult and responsible task of finding the objective truth, the more fully the material will be at its disposal-the exonerating material as well as that which implicates the defendants. The documentary material which was found amounts to the immeasurable, and that which was made available to the defense is only an infinitesimal part of it and besides exclusively the material which indicts the defendants. The war in the East was specially characterized by atrocities and cruelties on both sides, but the material which would show the other side also in its true light and would thus give a full picture of the situation in the East is not accessible to the defense. But that this material was collected by German agencies to give testimony in future times, most of these defendants will be able to confirm * * *.

Evidence for the defendant Blobel will show that the reports of the Reich Main Security Office submitted by the prosecution are incomplete and unreliable and that they can only be fragmentary documents of questionable value in view of the insufficiency of the organization used and of their manifest tendency towards exaggeration. I shall prove in detail that the alleged figures do not correspond to the facts, as is shown by comparing the individual reports. Especially, I shall prove that Blobel cannot be rendered responsible for the reported, "large-scale actions" and "reprisals", because these were partly measures ordered by other agencies-Higher SS and Police Chief, chief of the Einsatzgruppe) town commander-and carried out by other units, and partly such executions, as were ordered by the Commanding General of the 6th Army, Field Marshal von Reichenau, as collective measures sanctioned by international law - reprisals - on the occasion of crimes, attacks in disregard of the customs of war, acts of sabotage against the fighting or occupying troops, and were carried out by police units and Ukrainian militia.

Evidence will further show that Blobel is not responsible for carrying out a considerable number of executions, since he was in the hospital for a considerable time and also for other reasons was not fit for duty during the time in question - end of June 1941 till January 1942 - because he had fallen ill of Volhynian fever and because of a head injury; for these reasons a deputy took over his command.

The splitting up of Sonderkommando 4a into several subdetachments, which dealt independently with the security tasks assigned to them in the areas of the front-line divisions, resulted

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in Blobel having no influence on the reported events and he was informed of them only subsequently or perhaps not at all, because the subdetachments reported immediately to the Einsatzgruppe through 6th Army.

Besides, nobody will want to assert in earnest that a detachment of altogether 52 men, from which number we have to deduct office personnel, mess personnel, interrogation staff and drivers, can attain the number of executions alleged by the prosecution. This is simply impossible. Evidence will show that the chief of an Einsatzkommando or Sonderkommando had no power of command over units of the regular police [Ordnungs-Polizeil, the Waffen SS, the Wehrmacht and the Ukrainian militia. Furthermore I shall prove, that, as far as parts of Sonderkommando 4a took part in executions, they were used by Blobel in consequence of orders received by him as chief of the Sonderkommando from the Einsatzgruppe or from 6th Army. Blobel had no occasion to consider the carrying out of the executions criminal and to examine whether these orders were in conformity with international law, because the Russian enemy hardly knew the concept of international law, had not signed international conventions concerning warfare, and did not in the least intend to comply with the customs of war. In this conception Blobel was of necessity strengthened by what he had experienced and seen, especially of atrocities committed on German soldiers. I shall prove what may perhaps appear incredible, namely, that the executions of women and children as carried out by Sonderkommando 4a were by no means contrary to international law, since the Russians in their carefully organized and all-embracing partisan warfare, which was contrary to international law, ruthlessly employed also women and children for these purposes. Apart from all that, it has already been mentioned that in Germany, too, the war did not spare women and children, and in this respect the prevailing rules of warfare have destroyed the doctrine of reprisals. I may point out in this connection that the Anglo-American conception of warfare - in contrast to the one prevailing on the European continent - sticks to the traditional concept of war, which regards every person resident in enemy territory as an enemy alien.

Though the principles involved in the subject "order" have already been discussed by somebody else, I want to refer in this connection to Himmler's speech at Poznan in October 1943 in order to underline what has already been said at the beginning. His statements as to loyalty and obedience left no doubt as to

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what an SS leader had to expect in the event of noncompliance with orders. Himmler stated, among other things -

"I to lay down one directive. Should you ever know of a man who is disloyal to the Fuehrer or to the Reich, be it only in his thoughts, you have to see to it that this man is excluded from the order and we shall see to it that he loses his life * * *. I want to make a clear and unambiguous state- ment. It goes without saying that the little man has to obey * I *. Even more it goes without saying that all high SS chiefs are a model of unconditional obedience * * *. But orders must be sacred. If generals obey, the armies obey automatically * * *. The only commissar we have must be our own conscience, devotion to duty, loyalty, and obedience * * *."

Under Frederick the Second of Prussia, Colonel von der Marwitz could refuse obedience in spite of his oath of allegiance, because the carrying out of an order of the king would have meant for him a conflict with morality and conscience. Marwitz' tomb bears the characteristic inscription, "He saw Frederick's heroic epoch and fought with him in all his wars. He chose disgrace, where obedience brought no honor." In Adolf Hitler's Germany, men who refused obedience were either put in a concentration camp or shot dead, regardless of person and rank, as is proved above all by the measures against the participants in the events of the 20 July 1944.*

In reality there was no chance to make a choice in accordance with the moral law; this applies also to the defendant Blobel. For either he had to carry out the order or if he refused to do so, he would lose his liberty, or he would even have been shot dead by a summary court martial. In addition the National Socialist regime during the war introduced the truly devilish device of family liability, in order to eliminate the last remnant of a will to disturb the machinery of its system. The fear to endanger even the closest relatives made the internally reluctant man abandon every better motion of his conscience. But the legal conclusion to be drawn from this situation must be that the defendant was in a genuine emergency, at least in a presumptive emergency. But this is a justifying reason according to the general principles of penal law. Even if the defendant Blobel, like so many other Germans, who have remained decent at heart, should be reproached with cowardice and egoistic self- preservation, the short statement may be sufficient, that this may not establish any punishable form of participation.

At the end of the opening speech of the prosecution, reference

* Abortive attempt to assassinate Hitler and overthrow his government.

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is made to the provision of the German Military Code, that the participant in the execution of an illegal order renders himself liable to punishment; to this we may object that the authoritarian state would have declared that every kind of resistance against the crime is in itself a crime. In addition terrorist and tendentious sentences did the rest to spread the conviction that any sort of resistance was condemned to failure and therefore meant only a useless and consequently senseless sacriflee.

As to the order given by the Reich Security Main Office to Blobel in 1943 to open the mass graves in the East and to destroy the corpses completely, no argument for the defendant is needed in this respect. It cannot be understood why the burning or the destruction of corpses is supposed to be a criminal act, no matter why and by whom the executions were carried out.

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Trials of War Criminals Before the Nurenberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10, Volume IV, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 82 - 88

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Electric Zen
Ken Lewis
October 20, 1998
Rev. 1.0