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The testimony of Otto Ohlendorf, Einsatzgruppe D

COLONEL JOHN HARLAN AMEN (Associate Trial Counsel for the United States): May it please the Tribunal, I wish to call as a witness for the Prosecution, Mr. Otto Ohlendorf ...

[Witness Otto Ohlendorf took the stand]

THE PRESIDENT: Otto Ohlendorf, will you repeat this oath after me" "I swear by God the Almighty and Omniscient that I will speak the pure truth and will withhold and add nothing."

[The witness repeated the oath]

COL. AMEN: Will you try to speak slowly and pause between each question and answer.


COL. AMEN: Where were you born?

OHLENDORF: In Hohen-Egelsen.

COL. AMEN: How old are you?

OHLENDORF: Thirty-eight years old.

COL. AMEN: When, if ever, did you become a member of the National Socialist Party?


COL. AMEN: When, if ever, did you become a member of the SA?

OHLENDORF: For the first time in 1926.

COL. AMEN: When, if ever, did you become a member of the SS?

OHLENDORF: I must correct my answer to the previous question. I thought you were asking about my membership in the SS.

COL. AMEN: When did you become a member of the SA?

OHLENDORF: In the year 1925.

COL. AMEN: When, if ever, did you join the SD?


COL. AMEN: What was your last position in the SD?

OHLENDORF: Chief of Amt III in the RSHA....

COL. AMEN: Did you tell us for what period of time you continued as chief of Amt III?

OHLENDORF: I was part-time chief of Amt III from 1939 to 1945.

COL. AMEN: Turning now to the designation "Mobile Units" with the army shown in the lower right hand corner of the chaart, please explain to the Tribunal the significance of the terms "Einsatzgruppe" and "Einsatzkommando."

OHLENDORF: The concept "Einsatzgruppe" was established after an agreement between the chiefs of the RSHA, OKW, AND OKH, on the seperate use of Sipo units in the operational areas. The concept of "Einsatzgruppe" first appeared during the Polish campaign.

The agreement with the OKH and OKW however, was arrived at only before the beginning of the Russian campaign. This agreement specified that a representative of the chief of the Sipo and the SD would be assigned to the army groups, or armies, and that this official would have at his disposal mobile units of the Sipo and the SD in the form of an Einsatzgruppe, subdivided into Einsatzkommandos. The Einsatzkommandos would, on orders from the army group or army, be assigned to the individual army units as needed.

COL. AMEN: State, if you know, whether prior to the campaign against Soviet Russia, any agreement was entered into between the OKW, OKH, and RHSA?

OHLENDORF: Yes, the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos, as I have just described them, were used on the basis of a written agreement between the OKW, OKH, and RHSA.

COL. AMEN: How do you know that there was such a written agreement?

OHLENDORF: I was repeatedly present during the negotiations which Albrecht and Schellenberg conducted with the OKH and OKW; and I also had a written copy of this agreement which was the outcome of these negotiations, in my own hands when I took over the Einsatzgruppe.

COL. AMEN: Explain to the Tribunal who Schellenberg was. What position, if any, did he occupy?

OHLENDORF: Schellenberg was, at the end, chief of Amt VI in the RHSA; at the time when he was conducting as the representative of Heydrich, he nelonged to the Amt VI.

COL. AMEN: On approximately what date did these negotiations take place?

OHLENDORF: The negotiations lasted several weeks. The agreement must have been reached one or two weeks before the beginning of the campaign.

COL. AMEN: Did you yourself ever see a copy of this written agreement?


COL. AMEN: Did you ever have occasion to work with this written agreement?


COL. AMEN: On more than one occasion?

OHLENDORF: Yes; in all questions arising out of the relationship between the Einsatzgruppen and the army.

COL. AMEN: Do you know where the original or any copy of that agreement is located today?


COL. AMEN: To the best of your knowledge and recollection, please explain to the Tribunal the entire substance of this written agreement.

OHLENDORF: First of all, the agreement stated that Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos would be set up and used in the operational areas. This created a precedent, because until that time the army had, on its own responsibility, discharged the tasks which would now fall soley to the Sipo. The second was the regulations as to competence.

COL. AMEN: You're going too fast. What is it that you say the Einsatzkommandos did under the agreement?

OHLENDORF: I said this was the relationship between the army and the Einsatzgruppen and the Einsatzkommandos. The agreement specified that the army groups or armies would be responsible for the movement and the supply of Einsatzgruppen, but that instructions for their activities would come from the chief of Sipo and the SD.

COL. AMEN: Let us understand. It is correct that an Einsatz group was to be attached to each army group or army?

OHLENDORF: Every army group was to have an Einsatzgruppe attached to it. The army group in its turn would then attach the Einsatzkommandos to th armies of the army group.

COL. AMEN: And was the army command to determine the area within which the Einsatz group was to operate?

OHLENDORF: The operational area of the Einsatzgruppe was already determined by the fact that it was attached to a specific army group and therefore moved with it, whereas the operational areas of the Einsatzkommandos were fixed by the army group or army.

COL. AMEN: Did the agreement also provide that the army command was to direct the time during which they were to operate?

OHLENDORF: That was included under the heading "movement."

COL. AMEN: And, also, to direct any additional tasks that they were to operate?

OHLENDORF: Yes. Even though the chiefs of Sipo and SD had the right to issue instructions to them on their work, there existed a general agreement that the army was also entitled to issue orders to the Einsatzgruppen if the operational situation made it necessary.

COL. AMEN: What did the agreement provide with respect to the attachment of the Einsatz group command to this army command?

OHLENDORF: I can't remember whether anything specific was contained in the agreement about that. At any rate a liason man between the army command and the SD was appointed.

COL. AMEN: Do you recall any other provisions of this written agreement?

OHLENDORF: I believe I can state the main contents of that agreement.

COL. AMEN: What position did you occupy with respect to this agreement?

OHLENDORF: From June 1941 to the death of Heydrich in June 1942, I led Einsatzgruppe D, and was the representative of the chief of the Sipo and the SD with the 11th Army.

COL. AMEN: And when was Heydrich's death?

OHLENDORF: Heydrich was wounded at the end of May 1942, and died on 4 June 1942.

COL. AMEN: How much advance notice, if any, did you have of the campaign against Soviet Russia?

OHLENDORF: About four weeks.

COL. AMEN: How many Einsatz groups were there, and who were their respective leaders?

OHLENDORF: There were four Einsatzgruppen, Groups A, B, C, and D. Chief of Einsatzgruppe A was Stahlecker; chief of Einsatzgruppe B was Nebe; chief of Einsatzgruppe C, Dr. Rasche, and later, Dr. Thomas; chief of Einsatzgruppe D I myself, and later Bierkamp.

COL. AMEN: To which army was Group D attached?

OHLENDORF: Group D was not attached to any army group but was attached directly to the 11th Army.

COL. AMEN: Where did Group D operate?

OHLENDORF: Group D operated in the southern Ukraine.

COL. AMEN: Will you describe in more detail the nature and extent of the area in which Group D originally operated, naming the cities or territories?

OHLENDORF: The northernmost city was Cernauti; then southward through Mohilev-Podolsk, Yampol, then eastward Zuvalje, Czervind, Melitopol, Mariopol, Taganrog, Rostov, and the Crimea.

COL. AMEN: What was the ultimate objective of Group D?

OHLENDORF: Group D was held in reserve for the Caucasus, for an army group which was to operate in the Caucasus.

COL. AMEN: When did Grooup D commence to move into Soviet Russia?

OHLENDORF: Group D left Duegen on 21 June and reached Pietra Namsk in Romania in three days. There the first Einsatzkommandos were already being demanded by the army, and they immediatley set off for the destinations named by the army. The entire Einsatzgruppe was put into operation at the beginning of July.

COL. AMEN: You are referring to the 11th Army?


COL. AMEN: In what respects, if any, were the official duties of the Einsatz groups concerned with Jews and Communist commissars?

OHLENDORF: The instructions were that in the Russian operational areas of the Einsatzgruppen the Jews, as well as the Soviet political commissars, were to be liquidated.

COL. AMEN: And when you say "liquidated" do you mean "killed"?

OHLENDORF: Yes, I mean "killed".

COL. AMEN: Prior to the opening of the Soviet campaign, did you attend a conference at Pretz?

OHLENDORF: Yes, it was a conference at which the Einsatzgruppen and the Einsatzkommandos were informed of their tasks and were given the necessary orders.

COL. AMEN: Who was present at that conference?

OHLENDORF: The cjiefs of the Einsatzgruppen and the commanders of the Einsatzkommandos and Streckenbach of the RHSA who transmitted the orders of Heydrich and Himmler.

COL. AMEN: What were those orders?

OHLENDORF: Those were the general orders of the normal work of the Sipo and the SD, and in addition the liquidation order which I have already mentioned.

COL. AMEN: And that conference took place on approximately what date?

OHLENDORF: About three or four days before the mission.

COL. AMEN: So that before you commenced to march into Soviet Russia you received orders at this conference to exterminate the Jews and Communist functionaries in addition to the regular professional work of the Security Police and SD; is that correct?


COL. AMEN: Did you, personally, have any conversation with Himmler respecting any communication from Himmler to the chiefs of army groups and armies concerning this mission?

OHLENDORF: Yes. Himmler told me that before the beginning of the Russian campaign Hitler had spoken of this mission to a conference of the army groups and the army chiefs - no, not the army chiefs but the commanding generals - and had instructed the commanding generals to provide the necessary support.

COL. AMEN: So that you can testify that the chiefs of the army groups and the armies had been similarly informed of these orders for the liquidation of the Jews and Soviet functionaries?

OHLENDORF: I don't think it is quite correct to put it in that form. They had no orders for liquidation; the order for the liquidation was given to Himmler to carry out, but since this liquidation took place in the operational area of the army group or the armies, they had to be ordered to provide support. Moreover, without such instructions to the army, the activities of the Einsatzgruppen would not have been possible.

COL. AMEN: Did you have any other conversation with Himmler concerning this order?

OHLENDORF: Yes, in late summer of 1941 Himmler was in Nikolaiev. He assembled the leaders and men of the Einsatzkommanos, repeated to them the liquidation order, and pointed out that the leaders and men who were taking part in the liquidation bore no personal responsibility for the execution of this order. The responsibility was his, alone, and the Führer's.

COL. AMEN: And you yourself heard that said?


COL. AMEN: Do you know whether this mission of the Einsatz group was known to the army group commanders?

OHLENDORF: This order and the execution of these orders were known to the commanding general of the army.

COL. AMEN: How do you know that?

OHLENDORF: Through conferences with the army and through instructions that were given by the army on the execution of the order.

COL. AMEN: Was the mission of the Einsatz groups and the agreement between OKW, OKH, and RSHA known to the other leaders in the RSHA?

OHLENDORF: At least some of them knew it, since some of the leaders were also active in the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos in the course of time. Furthermore, the leaders who were dealing with the organization and legal aspects of the Einsatzgruppen also knew of it.

COL. AMEN: Most of the leaders came from the RSHA, did they not?

OHLENDORF: Which leaders?

COL. AMEN: Of the Einsatz groups?

OHLENDORF: No, one can't say that. The leaders of in the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos came from all over the Reich.

COL. AMEN: Do you know whether the mission and the agreement were known to Kaltenbrunner?

OHLENDORF: After his assumption of office Kaltenbrunner had to deal with these questions and consequently must have known details of the Einsatzgruppen which were offices of his.

COL. AMEN: Who was the commanding officer of the 11th Army?
OHLENDORF: At first, Riter von Schober; later Von Manstein.

COL. AMEN: Will you tell the Tribunal in what way or ways the command officer of the 11th Army directed or supervised Einsatz Group D in carrying out its liquidation activities?

OHLENDORF: An order from the 11th Army was sent to Nikolaiev that liquidations were to take place only at a distance of not less than two hundred kilometeres from the headquarters of the commanding general.

COL. AMEN: Do you recall any other occasions?

OHLENDORF: In Simferopol the army command requested the Einsatzkommandos in its area to hasten liquidations, because famine was threatening and there was a great housing shortage.

COL. AMEN: Do you know how many persons were liquidated by Einsatz Group D under your command?

OHLENDORF: In the year between June 1941 to June 1942 the Einsatzkommandos reported ninety thousand people liquidated.

COL. AMEN: Did that include men, women, and children?


COL. AMEN: On what do you base those figures?

OHLENDORF: On reports sent by the Einsatzkommandos to the Einsatzgruppen.

COL. AMEN: Were those reports submitted to you?


COL. AMEN: And you saw them and read them?

OHLENDORF: I beg your pardon?

COL. AMEN: And you saw and read those reports personally?


COL. AMEN: And it is on those reports that you base the figures you have given the Tribunal?


COL. AMEN: Do you know how those figures compare with the number of persons liquidated by other Einsatzgruppen?

OHLENDORF: The figures which I saw of other Einsatzgruppen are considerably larger.

COL. AMEN: That was due to what factor?

OHLENDORF: I believe that to a large extent the figures submitted by the other Einsatzgruppen were exaggerated.

COL. AMEN: Did you see reports of liquidations from the other Einsatz units from time to time?


COL. AMEN: And those reports showed liquidations exceeding those of Group D; is that correct?


COL. AMEN: Did you personally supervise mass executions of these individuals?

OHLENDORF: I was present at two mass executions for purposes of inspection.

COL. AMEN: Will you explain in detail to the Tribunal how an individual mass execution was carried out?

OHLENDORF: A local Einsatzkommando attempted to collect all the Jews in its area by registering them. This registration was performed by the jews themselves.

COL. AMEN: On what pretext, if any, were they rounded up?

OHLENDORF: On the pretext that they were to be resettled.

COL. AMEN: Will you continue?

OHLENDORF: After the registration the Jews were collected at one place; and from there they were later transported to the place of execution, which was, as a rule, an antitank ditch or a natural excavation. The executions were carried out in a military manner, bu firing squads under command.

COL. AMEN: In what way were they transported to the place of execution?

OHLENDORF: They were transported to the place of execution in trucks, always only as many as could be executed immediately. In this way it was attempted to keep the span of time from the moment in which the victims knew what was about to happen to them until the time of their actual execution as short as possible.

COL. AMEN: Was that your idea?


COL. AMEN: And after they were shot what was done with the bodies?

OHLENDORF: The bodies were buried in the antitank ditch or excavation.

COL. AMEN: What determination, if any, was made as to whether the persons were actually dead?

OHLENDORF: The unit leaders or the firing-squad commanders had orders to see to this and, if need be, finish them off themselves.

COL. AMEN: And who would do that?

OHLENDORF: Either the unit leader himself or somebody designated by him.

COL. AMEN: In what positions were the victims shot?

OHLENDORF: Standing or kneeling.

COL. AMEN: What was done with the personal property of the persons executed?

OHLENDORF: All valuables were confiscated at the time of the registration or the rounding up and handed over to the Finance Ministry, either through the RSHA or directly. At first the clothing was given to the population, but in the winter of 1941-42 it was collected and disposed of by the NSV.

COL. AMEN: All their personal property was registered at that time?

OHLENDORF: No, not all of it, only valuables were registered.

COL. AMEN: What happened to the garments which the victims were wearing when they went to the place of execution?

OHLENDORF: They were obliged to take off their outer garments immediately before the execution.

COL. AMEN: All of them?

OHLENDORF: The outer garments, yes.

COL. AMEN: How about the rest of the garments they were wearing?

OHLENDORF: The other garments remained on the bodies.

COL. AMEN: Was that true of not only your group but of the other Einsatz groups?

OHLENDORF: That was the order in my Einsatzgruppe. I don't know how it was done in other Einsatzgruppen.

COL. AMEN: In what way did they handle it.

OHLENDORF: Some of the unit leaders did not carry out liquidations in the military manner, but killed the victims singly by shooting them in the back of the neck.

COL. AMEN: And you objected to that procedure?

OHLENDORF: I was against that procedure, yes.

COL. AMEN: For what reason?

OHLENDORF: Because, both for the victims and for those who carried out the executions, itwas, psychologically, an immense burden to bear.

COL. AMEN: Now, what was done with the property collected from the Einsatzkommandos from these victims?

OHLENDORF: All valuables were sent to Berlin, to the RSHA or to the Reich Ministy of Finance. The articles which could not be used in the operational area, were disposed of there.

COL. AMEN: For exemple, what happened to gold and silver taken from the victims?

OHLENDORF: That was, as I have just said, turned over to Berlin, to the Reich Ministry of Finance.

COL. AMEN: How do you know that?

OHLENDORF: I can remember that it was actually handled in that way from Simferopol.

COL. AMEN: How about watches, for example, taken from the victims?

OHLENDORF: At the request of the army, watches were made available to the forces at the front.

COL. AMEN: Were all victims, including the men, women, and children executed in the same manner?

OHLENDORF: Until the spring of 1942, yes. Then an order came from Himmler that in the future women and children were to be killed only in gas vans.

COL. AMEN: How had women and children been killed previously?

OHLENDORF: In the same was as the men - by shooting.

COL. AMEN: What, if anything, was done about burying the victims after they had been executed?

OHLENDORF: The kommandos filled the graves to efface the signs of execution, and then labor units of the population leveled them.

COL. AMEN: Referring to the gas vans that you said you received in the spring of 1942, what order did you receive in respect to the use of these vans?

OHLENDORF: These vans were in the future to be used for killing of women and children.

COL. AMEN: Will you explain to the Tribunal the construction of these vans and their appearance?

OHLENDORF: The actual purpose of these vans could not be seen from the outside. They looked like closed trucks, and were so constructed that at the start of the motor, gas was conducted into the van causing death in ten to fifteen minutes.

COL. AMEN: Explain in detail just how one of these vans was used for an execution.

OHLENDORF: The vans were loaded with the victims and driven to the place of burial, which was usually the same as that used for the mass executions. The time needed for transportation was sufficient to insure the death of the victims.

COL. AMEN: How were the victims induced to enter the vans?

OHLENDORF: They were told that they were to be transported to another locality.

COL. AMEN: How was the gas turned on?

OHLENDORF: I am not familiar with technical details.

COL. AMEN: How long did it take to kill the victims ordinarily?

OHLENDORF: About ten to fifteen minutes; the victims were not conscious of what was happening to them.

COL. AMEN: How many people could be killed simultaneously?

OHLENDORF: About fifteen to twenty-five persons. The vans varied in size.

COL. AMEN: Did you revceive reports from those persons operating the vans from time to time?

OHLENDORF: I didn't understand the question.

COL. AMEN: Did you receive reports from those who were working on the vans?

OHLENDORF: I received the report that the Einsatzkommandos did not willingly use the vans.

COL. AMEN: Why not?

OHLENDORF: Because the burial of the victims was a great ordeal for the members of the Einsatzkommandos.

COL. AMEN: Now, will you tell the Tribunal who furnished these vans to the Einsatz groups?

OHLENDORF: The gas vans did not belong to the motor pool of the Einsatzgruppen but were assigned to the Einsatzgruppe as a special unit, headed by the man who had constructed the vans. The vans were assigned to the Einsatzgruppen by the RSHA.

COL. AMEN: Were the vans supplied to all of the different Einsatz groups?

OHLENDORF: I am not certain. I know only in the case of Einsatzgruppe D, and indirectly that Einsatzgruppe C also made use of these vans...

COL. AMEN: ...Referring to your previous testimony, will you explain to the Tribunal why you believe that the type of execution ordered by you, namely, military, was preferable to the shooting-in-the-neck procedure adopted by the other Einsatz groups?

OHLENDORF: On the one hand, the aim was that the individual leaders and men should be able to carry out the executions in a military manner acting on orders and should not have to make a decision of their own; it was, to all intents and purposes, an order which they were to carry out. On the other hand, it was known to me that through the emotional excitement of the executions ill treatment could not be avoided, since the victims discovered too soon that they were to be executed and could not therefore endure prolonged servous strain. And it seemed intolerable to me that individual leaders and men should in consequence be forced to kill a large number of people on their own decision.

COL. AMEN: In what manner did you determine which were the Jews to be executed?

OHLENDORF: That was not part of my task; but the identification of the Jews was carried out by the Jews themselves, since the registration was handled by a Jewish Council of Elders.

COL. AMEN: Did the amount of Jewish blood have anything to do with it?

OHLENDORF: I can't remember the details, but I believe that half-Jews were also considered as Jews.

COL. AMEN: What organization furnished most off the officer personnel of the Einsatz groups and Einsatzkommandos?

OHLENDORF: I did not understand the question.

COL. AMEN: What organization furnished most of the officer personnel of the Einsatz groups?

OHLENDORF: The officer personnel was furnished by the State Police, the Kripo, and, to a lesser extent by the SD.

COL. AMEN: Kripo?

OHLENDORF: Yes, the State Police, the Criminal Police and, to a lesser extent, the SD.

COL. AMEN: Were there any other sources of personnel?

OHLENDORF: Yes, most of the men by the Waffen SS and the Ordnungspolizie. The State Police and the Kripo furnished most of the experts and the troops were firnished by the Waffen SS and the Ordungspolzei.

COL. AMEN: How about the Waffen SS.

OHLENDORF: The Waffen SS and the Ordungspolzei were each supposed to supply the Einsatzgruppen with one company.

COL. AMEN: How about the Order Police.

OHLENDORF: The Ordnungspolzei also furnished the Einsatzgruppen with one company.

COL. AMEN: What was the size of Einsatz Group D and its operating area as compared with other Einsatz groups?

OHLENDORF: I estimate that Einsatzgruppen D was one-half or two-thirds as large as the other Einsatzgruppen. That changed in the course of time since some of the Einsatzgruppen were greatly enlarged.

COL. AMEN: May it please the Tribunal, relating to organizational matters which I think would clarify some of the evidence which has already been in part received by the Tribunal. But I don't want to take the time of the Tribunal unless they feel that they want any more such testimony. I thought perhaps if any members of the Tribunal had any questions they would ask the witness directly because he is the best informed on these organizational matters of anyone who will be presented in court...

THE PRESIDENT: Colonel Amen, the Tribunal does not think that it is necessary to go further into the organizational questions at this stage, but it is a matter that must be really decided by you because you know what nature of the evidence which you are considering is.

So far as the Tribunal is concerned, they are satified at the present stage to leave the matter where it stands, but there is one aspect of the witness's evidence which the Tribunal would like you to investigate, and that is whether the practices by which he has been speaking continued after 1942, and for how long.

COL. AMEN: [To the witness] Can you state whether the liquidation practices that you have described continued after 1942 and, if so, for how long a period oftime thereafter?

OHLENDORF: I don't think that the basic order was ever revoked. But I cannot remember the details - at least not with regard to Russia - which would enable me to make concrete statements on this subject. The retreat began very shortly thereafter, so that the operational region of the Einsatzgruppen became ever smaller. I do know, however, that other Einsatzgruppen with similiar orders had been envisaged for other areas.

COL. AMEN: Your personal knowledge extends up to what date?

OHLENDORF: I know that the liquidation of Jews was prohibited about six months before the end of the war. I also saw a document terminating the liquidation of Soviet commissary but I cannot recall a specific date.

COL. AMEN: Do you know whether in fact it was so terminated?

OHLENDORF: Yes, I believe so.

THE PRESIDENT: The Tribunal would like to know the number of men in your Einsatz group.

OHLENDORF: There were about five hundredmen in my Einsatzgruppe, excluding those who were added to the goup as assistants from the country itself...

COL. AMEN: May it please the Tribunal. The witness is now available to other counsel. I understand that Colonel Pokrovsky has some questions that he wished to ask on behalf of the Soviets.

COLONEL Y. V. POKROVSKY (Deputy Chief Prosecutor for the USSR): The testimony of the witness is important for the clarification of questions in a report on which the Soviet delegation is at present working. Therefore, with the permission of the Tribunal, I would like to put a number of questions to the witness.

[Turning to the witness]

Witness, you said that you were present twice at a mass executions. On whose orders were you an inspector at the executions?

OHLENDORF: I was present at the executions on my own iniative.

COL. POKROVSKY: But you said you attended as inspector.

OHLENDORF: I said that I attended for inspection purposes.

COL. POKROVSKY: On your own initiative?


COL. POKROVSKY: Did one of your chiefs always attend the executions for purposes of inspection?

OHLENDORF: Whenever possible I sent a member of the staff of the Einsatzgruppen towitness the executions but this was not always feasible since the Einsatzgruppen had to operate over great distances.

COL. POKROVSKY: Why was some person sent for purposes of inspection?

OHLENDORF: Would you please repeat the question?

COL. POKROVSKY: For what purpose was an inspector sent?

OHLENDORF: To determine whether or not my instructions regarding the manner of the execution were actually carried out.

COL. POKROVSKY: Am I to understand that the inspector was to make certain that the execution had actually been carried out?

OHLENDORF: No, it would not be correct to say that. He was to acertain whether the conditions which I had set for the execution were actually being carried out.

COL. POKROVSKY: What manner of conditions had you in mind?

OHLENDORF: One: exclusion of the public; two: military execution by a firing-squad; three: arrival of transports and carrying out of the liquidation in a smooth manner to avoid unnecessary excitment; four: supervision of the property to prevent looting. There may have been other details that I no longer remember. At any rate, all ill-treatment, whether pysical or mental, was to be prevented through these measures.

COL. POKROVSKY: You wished to make sure that what you considered to be an equitable distribution of this property was effected, or did you aspire to complete acquisition of the valuables?


COL. POKROVSKY: You spoke of ill-treatment. What did you mean by ill-treatment at the executions?

OHLENDORF: If, for instance, the manner in which the executions were carried out caused excitement and disobedience among the victims, so that the kommandos were forced to restore by means of violence.

COL. POKROVSKY: What do you mean by "restore order by means of violence"? What do you mean by supression of the excitement amongst the victims by means of violence?

OHLENDORF: If, as I have already said, in order to carry out the liquidation in an orderly fashion it was necessary, for example, to resort to beating.

COL. POKROVSKY: Was it absolutely necessary to beat the victims?

OHLENDORF: I myself never witnessed it, but I heard of it.
COL. POKROVSKY: From whom?

OHLENDORF: In conversations with members of other kommandos.

COL. POKROVSKY: You said that cars, autocars, were used for the executions?


COL. POKROVSKY: Do you know where, and with whose assistance, the inventor, Becker, was able to put his invention into practice?

OHLENDORF: I remember only that it was done through Amt II of the RSHA; but I can no longer say that with certainty.

COL. POKROVSKY: How many persons were executed in these cars?

OHLENDORF: I did not understand the question.

COL. POKROVSKY: How many persons were executed by means of these cars?

OHLENDORF: I cannot give precise figures, but the number was comparatively small - perhaps a few hundred.

COL. POKROVSKY: You said that mostly women and children were executed in these vans. For what reason?

OHLENDORF: That was a special order from Himmler to the effect that women and children were not to be exposed to the mental strain of the executions; and thus the men of the kommandos, mostly married men, should not be compelled to aim at women and children.

COL. POKROVSKY: Did anybody observe the behavior of the persons executed in these vans?

OHLENDORF: Yes, the doctor.

COL. POKROVSKY: Did you know that Becker had reported that death in these vans was particularly agonizing?

OHLENDORF: No. I learned of Becker's reports for the first time from the letter to Rauff, which was shown to me here. On the contrary, I know from the doctor's reports that the victims were not conscious of their impending death.

COL. POKROVSKY: Did any military units - I mean, army units - take part in these mass executions?

OHLENDORF: As a rule, no.

COL. POKROVSKY: And as an exception?

OHLENDORF: I think I remember that in Nikolaiev and in Simferopol a spectator from the Army High Command was present for a short time.

COL. POKROVSKY: For what purpose?

OHLENDORF: I don't know, probably to obtain information personally.

COL. POKROVSKY: Were military units assigned to carry out the executions in these towns?

OHLENDORF: Officially, the army did not assign any units for this pupose; the army as such was actually opposed to the liquidations.

COL. POKROVSKY: But in practice?

OHLENDORF: Individual units occasionally volunteered. However, at the moment I know of no such case among the army itself, but only among units attached to the army (Heeresgefolge).

COL. POKROVSKY: You were the man by whose orders people were sent to their death. Were Jews only handed over for execution by the Einsatzgruppe or were Communists - "Communist officials" you call them in your instructions - handed over for execution along with the Jews?

OHLENDORF: Yes, activists and political commissars. Mere membership in the Communist Party was not sufficient to persecute or kill a man.

COL. POKROVSKY: Were any special investigations made concerning the part played by persons in the Communist Party?

OHLENDORF: No, I said on the contrary that mere membership of the Communist Party was not, in itself, a determining factor in persecuting or executing a man; he had to have a special political function.

COL. POKROVSKY: Did you have any discussions on the murder vans sent from Berlin and on their use?

OHLENDORF: I did not understand the question.

COL. POKROVSKY: Had you occasion to discuss, with your chiefs and your collegues, the fact that motor vans had been sent to your own particular Einsatzgruppe from Berlin for carrying out the executions? Do you remember any such discussion?

OHLENDORF: I do not remember any specific discussion.

COL. POKROVSKY: Had you any information concerning the fact that members of the execution squad in charge of the executions were unwilling to use the vans?

OHLENDORF: I knew that the Einsatzkommandos were using the vans.

COL. POKROVSKY: No, I had something else in mind. I wanted to know whether you received reports that members of the execution squads were unwilling to use the vans and preferred other means of execution?

OHLENDORF: That they would rather kill by means of the gas vans than by shooting?

COL. POKROVSKY: On the contrary, that they preferred execution by shooting to killing by means of the gas vans.

OHLENDORF: You have already said the gas van...

COL. POKROVSKY: And why did they prefer execution by shooting to killing in the gas vans?

OHLENDORF: Because, as I have already said, in the opinion of the leader of the Einsatzkommandos, the unloading of the corpses was an unnecessary mental strain.

COL. POKROVSKY: What do you mean by "an unnecessary mental strain"?

OHLENDORF: As far as I can remember the conditions at that time - the picture presented by the corpses and probably because certain functions of the body had taken place leaving the corpses lying in filth.

COL. POKROVSKY: You mean to say that the sufferings endured prior to death were clearly visible on the victims? Did I understand you correctly?

OHLENDORF: I don't understand the question; do you mean during the killing in the van?


OHLENDORF: I can only repeat what the doctor told me, that the victims were not conscious of their death in the van.

COL. POKROVSKY: In that case, your reply to my previous question, that the unloading of the bodies made a very terrible impression on the members of the execution squad, becomesentirely incomprehensible.

OHLENDORF: And, as I said, the terrible impression created by the position of corpses themselves, and probably by the state of the vans which had probably been dirtied and so on.

COL. POKROVSKY: I have no further questions to put to this witness at the present stage of the trial...

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): In your testimony you said that the Einsatz group had the object of annihilating the Jews and the commissars, is that correct?


THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): And in what category did you consider the children? For what reason were the children massacred?

OHLENDORF: The order was that the Jewish population should be totally exterminated.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Including the children?


THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Were all the Jewish children murdered?


THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): But the children of those whom you considered as belonging to the catagory of commissars, were they also killed?

OHLENDORF: I am not aware that inquiries were ever made after the families of Soviet commmissars.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Did you send anywhere reports on the executions that the group carried out?

OHLENDORF: Reports on the executions were regularly submitted to the RSHA.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): No, did you personally send any reports on the annihilation of thousands of people which you effected? Did you personally submit any report?

OHLENDORF: The reports came from the Einsatzkommandos who carried out the actions, to the Einsatzgruppe and the Einsatzgruppe informed the RHSA.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Whom?

OHLENDORF: The reports went to the chief of Sipo personally.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Personally?

OHLENDORF: Yes, personally.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): What was the name of this police officer? Can you give his name?

OHLENDORF: At that time, Heydrich.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): After Heydrich?

OHLENDORF: I was no longer there then, but that was the standing order.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): I am asking you whether you continued to submit reports after Heydrich's death or not?

OHLENDORF: After Heydrich's death I was no longer in the Einsatz, but the reports were, of course, continued.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Do you know whether the reports continued to be submitted after Heydrich's death or not?


THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Yes?

OHLENDORF: No, the reports...

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): Was the order concerning the annihilation of the Soviet people in conformity with the policy of the German government or the Nazi Party or was it against it? Do you understand the question?

OHLENDORF: Yes. One must distinguish here: the order for the liquidation came from the Führer of the Reich, and it was to be carried out by the Reichführer SS Himmler.

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): But was it in conformity with the policy conducted by the Nazi Party and the German government, or was it in contradiction to it?

OHLENDORF: A policy amounts to a practice so that in this respect it was laid down by the Führer. If you were to ask whether this activity was in conformity with the idea of National Socialism, then I would say "no".

THE TRIBUNAL (Gen. Niktchenko): I am talking about the practice.

THE PRESIDENT: I understood you to say that objects of value were taken from the Jewish victims by the Jewish Council of Elders?


THE PRESIDENT: Did the Jewish Council of Elders settle who were to be killed?

OHLENDORF: That was done in various ways. As far as I remember, the Council of Elders was given the order to collect valuables at the same time.

THE PRESIDENT: So that the Jewish Council of Elders would not know whether or not they were to be killed?


THE PRESIDENT: Now, a question concerning you personally. From whom did you receive your orders for the liquidation of the Jews and so forth? And in what form?

OHLENDORF: My duty was not the task of liquidation, but I did head the staff which directed the Einsatzkommandos in the field, and the Einsatzkommandos themselves had already received this order in Berlin on the instructions of Streckenbach, Himmler, and Heydrich. This order was renewed by Himmler at Nikolaiev.

HERR BABEL: You personally were not concerned with the execution of these orders?

OHLENDORF: I led the Einsatzgruppe, and therefore I had the task of seeing how the Einsatzkommandos executed the orders received.

HERR BABEL: But did you have no scruples in regard to the execution of these orders?

OHLENDORF: Yes, of course.

HERR BABEL: And how is it that they were carried out regardless of these scruples?

OHLENDORF: Because to me it is inconceivable that a subordinate leader should not carry out orders given by the leaders of the state.

HERR BABEL: This is your opinion. But this must have been not only your point of view but also the point of view of the majority of the people involved. Didn't some of the men appointed to execute these orders ask you to be relieved of such tasks?

OHLENDORF: I cannot remember any one concrete case. I excluded some whom I did not consider emotionally suitable for executing these tasks and I sent some of them home.

HERR BABEL: Was the legality of the orders explained to those people under false pretenses?

OHLENDORF: I do not understand your question; since the order was issued by the superior authorities, the question of legality could not arise in the minds of these individuals, for they had sworn obedience to the people who had issued the orders.

HERR BABEL: Could any individual expect to succeed in evading the execution of these orders?

OHLENDORF: No, the result would have been a court martial with a corresponding sentence.

Berenbaum, Michael. Witness to the Holocaust. New York: HarperCollins. 1997. pp. 121 - 135

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Electric Zen
Ken Lewis
January 29, 1998
Rev. 1.0