nuremberg military tribunal




Otto Ohlendorf

The evidence in this case could reveal not one but two Otto Ohlendorfs. There is the Ohlendorf represented as the student, lecturer, administrator, sociologist, scientific analyst, and humanitarian. This Ohlendorf was born on a farm, studied law and political science at the Universities of Leipzig and Goettingen, practiced as a barrister at the courts of Alfeld-Leine and Hildesheim, became deputy section chief in the Institute for Applied Economic Science in Berlin, and in 1936 became Economic Consultant in the SD. On behalf of this Ohlendorf, defense counsel has submitted several hundred pages of affidavits which speak of Ohlendorf 's efforts to make the SD purely a fact-gathering organization, of his opposition to totalitarian and dictatorial tendencies in the cultural life of Germany, of his defense of the middle classes, and of his many clashes with Himmler, the SS Chief, and Mueller, the Chief of the Gestapo. One of these affidavits declares:

"Ohlendorf did not see superior and inferior races in various peoples´┐Ż.He considered race only as a symbolic notion. The individual nations to him were not superior or inferior, but different. The domination of one people with its principles of life over the other he considered, therefore, wrong and directed against the laws of life. For him, the goal to be desired was a system among peoples by which every nation could develop according to its own nature, potentialities and abilities. Folk, in his view, also was not dependent on a state organization."

On the other hand, we have the description of an SS General Ohlendorf who led Einsatzgruppe D into the Crimea on a race-extermination expedition. That Otto Ohlendorf is described by that same Ohlendorf. If the humanitarian and the Einsatz leader are merged into one person it could be assumed that we are here dealing with a character such as the described by Robert Louis Stevenson in his "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." As interesting as it would be to dwell on this possible dual nature, the Tribunal can only make its adjudication on the Ohlendorf who, by his own word, headed


an organization which, according to its own reports, killed 90,000 people.

The Tribunal finds as a fact from the reports, records, documents and testimony in this case that Einsatzgruppe D did kill 90,000 persons in violation of the laws and customs of war, of general International Law, and of Control Council Law No. 10.

Whatever offenses Ohlendorf may have to answer for, he will never need to plead guilty to evasiveness on the witness stand, which indeed cannot be said of all the defendants. With a forthrightness which one could well wish were in another field of activity, Otto Ohlendorf related how he received the Fuehrer-Order and how he executed it. He never denied the facts of killings and only seeks exculpation on the basis of the legal argument that he was acting under Superior Orders. Further, that, as he saw the situation, Germany was compelled to attack Russia as a defensive measure and that the security of the Army, to which his group was attached, called for the operations which he unhesitatingly admits. All these defenses have been treated in the General Opinion and need not be repeated here.

In addition to Ohlendorf's direct testimony in this present trial, he voluntarily appeared as a witness in the International Military Tribunal trial and there described under oath the entire einsatz program of extermination. With but a minor exception he confirmed in this trial the testimony presented before the IMT. Thus, that testimony, by reference, is incorporated into the record of the instant trial and forms further evidence in support of the findings reached in this judgment. Even outside the court room Ohlendorf admitted untrammeledly the activities of the Einsatzgruppe under his charge. In at least four affidavits he related how his command functioned. He told of the area covered by his Einsatzgruppe, the division of his group into smaller units, the manner and methods of execution, the collection of the valuables of the victims, and the writing and submitting of reports to Berlin.


The record of Otto Ohlendorf, the Chief of Department III of the RSHA and the Chief of the Einsatzgruppe D, is complete.

The record and analysis of the Otto Ohlendorf who was born in the country and showed great promise in the field of learning, purposeful living and sociological advancement, will need to be made elsewhere. Unfortunately it cannot form part of this judgment which can only dispose of the charges of criminality presented in the indictment. Those charges against Otto Ohlendorf have been proved before this Tribunal beyond a reasonable doubt. The Tribunal accordingly finds Otto Ohlendorf guilty under Counts I and II of the indictment.

It has been argued by Dr. Aschenauer that Ohlendorf was not a member of a criminal organization as determined by the International Military Tribunal decision and Control Council Law No. 10. In support of this argument it is asserted that Ohlendorf was ordered to Russia as an employee of the Reich Group Commerce. It is impossible that Ohlendorf, as the leader of Einsatzgruppe D, should have been functioning as a member of the Reich Group Commerce. He headed Office III of RSHA before he went to Russia, and he headed it when he returned.

The Tribunal finds that the defendant was a member of the criminal organizations SS and SD under the conditions defined by the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal and is, therefore, guilty under Count III of the Indictment.


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. 131 - 133 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
April 3, 1998
Rev. 1.1