Nuremberg Trials




Employment as Labor Before Execution

At times, part of the Jewish population in a given community was temporarily spared, not for humanitarian reasons, but for economic purposes. Thus, a report from Esthonia specifies:

"The arrest of all male Jews of over 16 years of age has been nearly finished. With the exception of the doctors and the Elders of the Jews who were appointed by the Special Kommandos, they were executed by the Self-Protection Units under the control of the Special Detachment 1 a. Jewesses in Pernau and Reval of the age groups from 16 to 60 who are fit for work were arrested and put to peat-cutting or other labor."


In Lithuania, however, the executions went so fast that there was a great shortage of doctors for the non-Jewish population:

"More than 60% of the dentists were Jews; more than 50% of the other doctors as well. The disappearence of these brings about an extreme shortage of doctors which cannot be overcome from the Reich."


A report from the Ukraine in September 1941 recommends that the Jews be killed by working and not shooting:

"There is only one possibility which the German administration is the Generalgouvernement has neglected for a long time: Solution of the Jewish problem by extensive labor utilization of the Jews. This will result in a gradual liquidation of the Jewry -- a development, which corresponds to the economic conditions of the country."


In the cities of Latvia, German agencies used Jews as forced unpaid manpower, but there was always the danger that, despite these economic advantages to the Germans, the security police would shoot the working Jews. (NO-3146)

Einsatzgruppe C reports in September 1941:

"Difficulties have arisen, in so far as Jews are often the only skilled workers in certain trades. Thus, the only harness-makers and the only good tailors at Nowo-Ukrainka are Jews. At other places also only Jews can be employed for carpentry and locksmith work.

In order not to endanger reconstruction and the repair work also for the benifit of transient troop units, it has become necessary to exclude provisionally especially the older Jewish skilled workers from the executions."


In a certain part of the Ukraine, described as between Krivoi-Rog and Dnepropeteovsk, collective farms, known as Colchoses,

- 29 -

were found to be operated by Jews. They were described in the report as being of low intelligence but since they werre good workers the einsatz commander did not liquidate them. However, the report goes on to say that the einsatz commander was satisified with merely shooting the Jewish managers. (NO-3153)

The Nazi Commissioner-General for White Ruthenia, reporting in July 1942, expressed quite frankly his desire to strike down all Jews in one murderous stroke. However, he was willing to stay his arm temporarily until the requirements of the Wehrmacht should be satisfied:

"I myself and the SD would certainly much prefer that the Jewish population in the District General of White Ruthenia should be eliminated once and for all when the economic requirements of the Wehrmacht have fallen off. For the time being, the necessary requirements of the Wehrmacht who is the main employer of the Jewish population are still being considered."


Operation Report No. 11, dated July 3, 1941, also explains that in the Baltic region the Wehrmacht is not "for the time being" in a position to dispense with the manpower of the Jews still available and fit for work. (NO-4537)

It must not be assumed, however, that once being assigned to work the Jews were free from molestation. Einsatzgruppen B, reporting on affairs in Witebsk, declared:

"By appointed Jewish Council, so far about 3,000 Jews registered. Badges are being introduced. At present they are being employed with clearing rubble. For deterrent, 27 Jews, who had not come to work, were publicly shot in the streets."


One report-writer, describing conditions in Esthonia, complained that as the Germans advanced, the Esthonians arrested Jews but did not kill them. He shows the superior method of the Einsatzgruppe:

"Only by the Security Police and the SD were the Jews gradually executed as they became no longer required for work."


He then adds as an obvious deduction:

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"Today there are no longer any Jews in Esthonia."

Just as a heartless tradesman may work a superannuated horse until he has drained from its body the last ounce of utility, so did the action unit in Minsk dispose of the Jews:

"In Minsk itself -- exclusive of Reich Germans -- there are about 1,800 Jews living, whose shooting must be postponed in consideration of their being used as labor."


In White Ruthenia the kommando leaders were instructed on orders of Heydrich to suspend the killing of Jews until after they had brought in the harvest.

- 31 -

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. 29 - 31 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
March 12, 1998
Rev. 1.1