nuremberg military tribunal




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 subkommando leader was instructed

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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 Einsatzgrupp 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, clasified, mimeographed and distrubuted 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 December 19, 1941, speaks of an action in Mogilew and points out:

"During the controls of the roads radiating from Mogilew, carried out with the aid of the constabulary, 135 persons, mostly Jews, were apprehended.....127 persons were shot."


The report also declares:

"In agreement with the commander, the transient camp in Mogilew was searched for Jews and officials. 126 persons were found and shot."

The same report advises that in Paritschi near Bobruisk,

"A special action was executed, during which 1,013 Jews and Jewesses were shot."

In Rudnja:

"835 Jews of both sexes were shot."

Sonderkommando 4a, operating in the town of Tschernigow, reported that on October 23, 1941, 116 Jews were shot; on the following day 144 were shot. (NO-2832)

A teilkommando of Sonderkommando 4a, operating in Poltawa, reported as of 23 November 1941:

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"Altogether 1,538 Jews were shot."
Einsatzgruppe D operating near Simferopol communicated:

"During the period covered by the report 2,010 people were shot."
An Einsatz unit, operating in the Ukraine, communicated that in Rakow:

"1,500 Jews were shot."
A report on activities in Minsk in March 1942 reads:

"In the course of the greater action against Jews, 3,412 Jews were shot."
Einsatzkommando 6, operating in Dnjepropetrwsk, reported that on October 13, 1941:

"Of the remaining 30,000 approximately 10,000 were shot."

A report dated 16 January 1942, accounting for the activities of Einsatzkommando 2. stated that in Riga on 30 November 1941:

"10,600 Jews were shot."


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 4,000 Jews from the Riga Ghetto and an evacuation transport from the Reich were disposed of."


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 1,000 Jews and Gypsies were executed."


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 amongst them, are liquidated daily."


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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'."


Einsatzgruppe B, operating out of headquarters Smolensk, reported on one of its operations in October:

"In Mogilew 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."


The same organization also reported:

"Two large-scale actions were carried out by the platoon in Krupka and Sholopanitsche, 912 Jews being liquidated in the former and 822 in the latter place."


The advance kommando of Sonderkommando 4a, chronicling its activities of October 4, 1941, reported:

"Altogether, 537 Jews (men, women, and adolescents) were apprehended and liquidated."


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 praseology was employed. Once the word "Jew" appeared in a report, it was known that this invariable meant that he had been killed. Thus, when one particularly original report-writer wrote, "At prsent, the Jewish problem is being solved at Nikolajew and Cherson. About 5,000 Jews were processed at either place", it required no lucubration on the part of the RSHA officials in Berlin to comprehend that 5,000 Jews had been killed at Nikolajew and 5,000 had been killed at Cherson. (NO-3148)

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Death was simple routine with these earthy organizations. In the Reich Security Main Office, Einsatzgruppen could well be synonmous with homocide. 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 polie, 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 51,000 executions declared:

"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, undesireable elements, partisans, politrucks, dangers of plague and epidemics, members of Russian bands, armed insurgents - provisioning of Russian bands, rebels and agitators, drifting juveniles, - "

and then came the all inclusive phrase:

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"Jews in general."


The summary cutting down of such groups as "drifting jeveniles" as such vague generaliztions 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 macbre 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 Ruthtnia, a kommando leader reported: "There has been frequent evidence of Jewish women displaying a particularly disobiedient attitude." The kommando leader's conscience now having been satisfied, he went on in his report:

"For this reason, 28 Jewesses had to be shot at Krugloje and 337 in Mogilew."


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


"At Mogilew, too, the Jews tried to prevent their removal to a ghetto, 113 Jews were liquidated."


Operation Report No. 88, dated September 19, 1941, states that, on September 1 and 2, 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 1,303 Jews, among them 875 Jewesses over 12 years of age. (NO-3149)

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Always very sensitive, the occupation forces found that the Jews in Monastyrschtschina and Choslawitschi displayed an "impudent and provocative attitude" The kommando accordingly shot the existing Jewish Council and 20 other Jews. (NO-3143)

In the vicinity of Ostrowo, the resident Jews, according to Report No. 124 dated October 25, 1941, had repeatedly shown hostile conduct and disobedience to "the German authorities". Thus, the current kommando went into Ostrowo and shot 169 Jews. (NO-3160)

In Marina-Gorka, the labor assigned to Jews as done, according to Report No. 124, dated October 25, 1941, "very reluctantly". Thus 996 Jews and Jewesses were given "special treatment." (NO-3160)

Report No. 108, dated October 9, 1941, advises that for the death of 21 German soldiers near Topola, 2,100 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 2,100 slain were in the slightest way connected with the shooting of Germans. (NO-3156)

An item in Operation Report No. 108, October 9, 1941, points out that "19 Jews who were under suspicion of having either been communists or of having committed arson" were executed. (NO-3156)

In Mogilew, the Jewish women were "extremely resistive" and not wearing the prescribed badge, so 28 of them were liquidated. (NO-3156)

Report No. 73, dated September 4, 1941, acquaints the world with the fact that 773 civilians were exterminated in Minsk, the reason being that they "were absolutely inferior elements with a predominate mixture of Asiatic blood". The method of determining the inferiority of character and 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 benifit of the Jews themselves. Thus, Einsatzgruppe B reported in December 1941:

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"In Gorodok, the Ghetto had to be evacuated because of the danger of an epidemic. 394 Jews were shot."


Einsatzgruppe C, reporting on conditions in Radomyschl, 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."


The situation was met bravely and chivalrously:

"To put an end to these conditions 1,107 Jewish adults were shot by the kommando and 561 juveniles by the Ukrainian militia. Thereby, the Sonderkommando has taken care of a total of 11,328 Jews till 6 September 1941."


Operational Report No. 92, dated September 23, 1941, related how scabies had broken out in the ghetto of Newl. "In order to prevent further contagion, 640 Jews were liquidated and the houses burnt down." This treatment undoubtedly overcame the scabies. (NO-3143)

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, 1,025 Jews were shot. The report closes proudly with the statement" "This operation was carried out solely by a commander and 12 men." (NO-3143)

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 of 1941, the kommando leader in Witebsk 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 3,000 Jews. (NO-3160)

Mention has 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

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that a teilkommando of Sonderkommando 4a, passing through Tschernigow, was asked by the director of the mental asylum to liquidate 270 incurables. The teilkommando obliged. (NO-2832)

In Poltawa, 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 hispitals 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 asylun in Charkow."


It was also stated:

"The underwear, clothing and other wearing aparel collected on this occasions have also been handed over to the hospitals."


The grim casualness with which these executions were conducted comes to light in an item taken from a report made by the Russian Government (USSR-41) which reades:

"On 22 August 1941, mental patients from the Psychiatric Hospital in Dunapilsk -- approximately 700 adults and 60 children -- were shot in the small town of Aglon. 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 August 9, 1941, after generally discussing conditions in the Ukraine, stated of the operations of Einsatzgruppe C: "Last but not least, systematic reprisals against marauders and Jews were carried out." 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."

Operation Report No. 132, describing the activities of

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Einsatzkommando 5, declared that, between October 13 and October 19, 1941, it had among others executed 21 people guilty of sabotage and looting, and 1,847 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 Einsatzgruppe 8, states that, from March 6 to March 30, 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,
1,551 Jews."


Einsatzkommando 5, for the period between November 2 and November 8, 1941, killed, as Report No. 143 succinctly states:

"15 political officials,
21 saboteurs and looters,
414 hostages,
10,650 Jews."


Report No. 150, dated January 2, 1942, speaking of actions in theWestern Crimea, stated:

"From 16 November thru 15 December 1941, 17,645 Jews, 2,504 Krimtscaks, 824 Gypsies, and 212 Communists and partisans have been shot."


The report also states, as if talking of cleaning out swamps:

"Simferopol, Jewpatoria, Aluschta, Karasubasar, Kertsch and Fedosia 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 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 Jewsin Ulman. In particular, a large number of the Jews were now forewarned and escaped from the city. Besides the numereous Jews, many of the Ukrainian officials and activists still living in Ulman, were warned by the excesses,"

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"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."


It will be noted that the word "excesses" is here used in its opposite sense, that is dediciency. 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."


In spite of these difficulties the operations were not entirely unsuccessful because this particular report sums up with: "Altogether, 75,881 persons have been executed."

Einsatzgruppe D, giving an account of its activities from October 1 to October 15, 1941, stated in Report No. 117:

"The districts occupied by the kommandos were cleaned out of Jews. 4,091 Jews and 46 Communists were executed in the time the report covers, bringing the total up to 40,699."


Coming back to Simferopol, in Report No. 153, dated January 9, 1942, we find:

"The operational areas of the teilkommandos, particularly in smaller villages, were purged of Jews. During the period covered by the report, 3,176 Jews, 85 partisans, 12 looters, and 122 Communist officials were shot. Sum Total: 79,276. In Simferopol, apart from Jews also the Krimtschak and Gypsy question was solved."


An entry from Operational Situation Report No. 3, on the period August 15 to August 31, 1941 states:

"During a scrutiny of the civilian prison camp in Minsk, 615 persons were liquidated. All those executed were racially inferior elements."


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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 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 wne 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 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 34,000 reported, including women and children, After they had been made to give up their clothing and valuables, all were killed; this took several days."


Another report lauded the leader of Einsatzkommando 4b for his resourcefulness and skill in rounding up the intelligentsia of Winnica:

"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 the first collection was insufficent 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."


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."

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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 5,000 to 6,000 Jews had been expected at first, more than 30,000 Jews arrived who, until the very moment of their execution, still believed in their resettlement, thanks to extremely clever organization."


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 therin. 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 illnesses. 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."


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 intriduced an interesting letter from one Jacob, Master of Field Police to his Commanding General. The letter, dated June 21, 1942, is very chatty andcompaionable, the writer sends his birthday greetings to the addressee, talks about his horses, his girl-friend, and then casually about the Jews:

"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.....

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Now, of the 24,000 Jews living here in Kamenets Podolsk we have only a disappearing percentage left. The little Jews (Juedein) living in the districts (Rayons) also belonged to our costumers. We surge ahead without pinges of conscience, and then.....the waves close and the world is at peace."


And then he became serious and determined to be hard with himself for the sake of his country:

"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 seperation from our family. Now is the time to clean up with war criminals, once and forever, to create for our decendants 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 a SD unit (SD Aussenkommando) with which I can work excellently."


In another letter this officer became 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 cosy apartment in a former children's asylum. One bedroom and a living-room with all the accessories."

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Musmanno, Michael A., U.S.N.R, Military Tribunal II, Case 9: Opinion and Judgment of the Tribunal. Nuremberg: Palace of Justice. 8 April 1948. pp. 8 - 21 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
March 1, 1998
Rev. 1.1
April 24, 2000