nuremberg military tribunal




The Magnitude of the Enterprise

One million human corpses is a concept to 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 quantitive 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 September 6, 1941, this Kommando 4a "has taken care of a total of 11,328 Jews." (NO-3149)

Einsatzgruppe A, reporting its activities up to October 15, 1941, very casually declares: "In Latvia, up to now, 30,000 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 to 25 September 1941, 8,890 Jews and communists were executed. Total number 13,315." (NO-3148)

This same Einsatzgruppe communicated from Nikolajew as of November 5, 1941, that total executions had reached the figure of 31,767. (NO-3159)

Reporting on one month's activities (October 1941), Einsatzgruppe B advised that "during the period of the report, the liquidations of 37,180 people took place." (NO-2656)

Einsatzgruppe C, reporting on its operations in Kiew as of October 12, 1941, declared that Sonderkommando 4a had now reached the total number of more than 51,000 executions. (NO-3155)

The Commissioner General for White Ruthenia reported with self-approbation on October 10, 1942:

"During detailed consultations with the SS-Brigadefuehrer Zenner and the extremely capable Chief of the SD, SS Obersturbannfuefrer Dr. jur. Strauch, we found that we had liquidated

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approximately 55,000 Jews in White Ruthenia during the last 10 weeks. "


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, 10,000 Jews were liquidated who were scheduled for extermination by us anyway."


However, the Commissioner General quickly got over his resentment and went on with his narrative:

"In the city of Minsk, about 10,000 Jews were liquidated on 28 and 29 July, 6,500 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, Bruenn, Bremen and Berlin in November of the previous year, at the Fuehrer's orders. The Sluzk area was also ridded of several thousand Jews. The same applies to Nowogrodek and Wilejka."

In Baranowitschi and Hanzewitschi he found that the killings had not been going as well as he desired: "Radical measures still remain to be taken." He explained: " In Baranowitschi, about 10,000 Jews are still living in the town alone." However, he would attend to that situation at once. He promised that 9,000 of them would be "liquidated next month." (3428-PS)

As of October 15, 1941 Einsatzgruppe A declared that the sum total of Jews executed in Lithuania was 71,105. (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:

"Total Jews Communists Total
Lithuania 80,311 860 81,171
Latvia 30,025 1,845 31,868
Esthonia 474 684 1,158
White Ruthenia 7,620 --- 7,320
------- ------- ------
118,430 3,387 121,817

to be added to these figures:

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In Lithuania and Latvia Jews annihilated by pogroms 5,500
Jews, Communists and partisans executed in old-Russia area 2,000
Lunatics executed 748
[correct total 130,065] 122,455

Communists and Jews liquidated by State Pol. and Security Service Tilsit during
search actions


It would not take, and it did not take, many reapings of this character to reach a figure of one million.

Operation Report No. 190, speaking of the activities of Einsatzgruppe D, announces quite matter-of-factly that, in the second half of March 1942, a total of 1,501 people were executed, and then adds, perhaps boredly: "Total number shot up to date, 91,678." (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, amounts to 139,000. 32,210 Jews were shot meanwhile by the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the SD. "


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 229,052 Jews."


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 the operations in White Ruthenia, Einsatzgruppe A complained that it did not take over this area until a heavy frost

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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 who;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 with: "Nevertheless, 41,000 Jews have been shot up to now." (NO-2934)

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 50 to 100 persons only". (NO-2934)

Report No. 155, dated January 14, 1942, disclosed that in Audrini --

"On 2 January, at the order of Einsatzgruppe A of the Security Police and the Security Service, the village was completely burned down after removal of foodstuffs, etc., and all the villagers shot. 301 men were publicly shot in the market square of the neighboring town, Rossitten."

The report ends on the very casual note:

"All these actions were carried out without incident."


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 (September 29 and September 30, 1941) Sonderkommando 4a, with the help of the Gruppenstaff and two Police Units, slaughtered in Kiew 33,771 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

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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 is about to put away the typewriter:

"No incidents occurred."


The shooting of Jews eventually became a routine job and at times kommandos sought to avoid executions, not out of charity or sympathy, but because it meant just that much more work. The defendant Nosske testified to a caravan of from 6,000 to 7,000 Jews who had been driven across the Dnjester River by the Roumanians into territory occupied by the German forces, and whom he guided back across the river. When asked why these Jews had been expelled from Roumania, Nosske replied:

"I have no idea. I assume that the Roumanians wanted to get rid of them and sent then into the German territory so that we would have to shoot them, and we would have the trouble of shooting them. We didn't want to do that. We didn't want to do the work for the Roumanians, and we never did, nor at all other places where something similar happened. We refused it and, therefore, we sent them back."

One or two Defense Counsel have asserted that the number of deaths resulting from acts of the organizations to which the defendants belonged did not reach the total of one million. As a matter of fact, it went far beyond one million. As already indicated, the International Military Tribunal, after a trial lasting ten months, studying and analyzing figures and reports, declared:

"The RSHA played a leading part in the 'final solution' of the Jewish question by the extermination of the Jews. A special section, under the AMT IV of the RSHA was established to supervise this program. Under its direction, approximately six million Jews were murdered of which two million were killed by Einsatzgruppen and other units of the Security Police." (Emphasis supplied)

Ohlendorf, in testifying before the International Military Tribunal, declared that, according to the reports, his Einsatzgruppe killed 90,000 people. He also told of the methods he employed to prevent the exaggeration of figures. He did say that other Einsatzgruppen were not as careful as he was in presenting

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totals, but he presented no evidence to attack numbers presented by other Einsatzgruppen. Reference must also be made to the statement of the defendant Heinz Schubert who not only served as adjutant to Ohlendorf in the field from October 1941 to June 1942, but who continued in the same capacity of adjutant in the RSHA, Office Amt II B, for both Ohlendorf and Dr. Hams Emlich, until the end of 1944. If there was any question about the correctness of the figures, this is where the question would have been raised, but Schubert expressed no doubt nor did he say that these individuals who were momently informed in the statistics entertained the slightest doubt about them in any way.

Schubert showed very specifically the care which was taken to prepare the reports and to avoid errors:

"The Einsatzgruppe reported in two ways to the Reich Security Head Office. Once through radio, then in writing. The radio reports were kept strictly secret and, apart from Ohlendorf, his deputy Standartenfuefrer Willi Seibert and the head telegraphist Fritsche, nobody, with the exception of the radio personnel, was allowed to enter the radio station. This is the reason why only the above-mentioned persons had knowledge of the exact contents of these radio reports. The reports were dictated directly to Fritsche by Ohlendorf or Seibert. After the report had been sent off by Fritsche I received it for filing. In cases in which numbers of executions were reported a space was left open, so that I never knew the total amount of persons killed. The written reports were sent to Berlin by courier. These reports contained exact details and descriptions of the places, the course of the operations, losses, number of places destroyed and persons killed, arrest of agents, reports on interrogations, reports on the civilian sector, etc."


The defendant Blume testified that he completely dismissed the thought of ever filing a false report because he regarded that as unworthy of himself.

Then, the actual figures mentioned in the reports, staggering though they are, do by no means tell the entire story. Since the objective of the Einsatzgruppen was to exterminate all people falling in the categories announced in the Fuehrer-Order, the completion of the job in any given geographical area was often simply announced with the phrase: "There is no longer any Jewish

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population." Cities, towns and villages were combed by the kommandos and when all Jews in that particular community were killed, the report-writer laconically telegraphed or wrote to Berlin that the section in question was "freed of Jews." Sometimes the extermination area covered a whole country like Esthonia or a large territory like the Crimea. In determining the numbers killed in a designation of this character one needs merely to study the atlas and the census of the period in question. Sometimes the area set aside for an execution operation was arbitrarily set according to kommandos. Thus one finds in the reports such entries as: "The fields of activity of the kommandos is freed of all Jews."

And then there were the uncounted thousands who died a death premeditated by the Einsatz units without their having to do the killing. When Jews were herded into a few miserable houses which were fenced off and called a "ghetto", this was incarceration - but incarceration without a prison warden to bring them food. The reports made it abundantly clear that in these ghettos death was rampant, even before the Einsatz units began the killing off of the survivors. When, in a given instance, all male Jews and Jewesses over the age of 12 were executed, there remained, of course, all the children under 12. They were doomed to perish. Then there were those who were worked to death. All these fatalities are unmistakably chronicled in the Einsatz Reports, but do not show up in their statistics.

In addition, it must be noted that there were other vast numbers of victims of the Einsatzgruppen who did not fall under the executing rifles. In many cities, towns and provinces hundreds and thousands of fellow-citizens of those slain fled in order to avoid a similar fate. Through malnutrition, exposure, lack of medical attention and particularly, if one thinks of the aged and the very young, of exhaustion, most if not all of these refugees perished. These figures, of course, do not appear in the Einsatzgruppen Reports, but the criminal responsibility for their deaths falls upon the Fuehrer-Order program as much as the actual shooting deaths.

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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. 22 - 28 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
March 11, 1998
Rev. 1.1