Waldemar Klingelhoefer

It is to be doubted that one could find at a casual reading table of a public library as many educated persons as were gathered in the defendants dock of the Einsatzgruppen Trial in Nuremberg. We have seen that among the men captaining the various extermination units were lawyers, a university professor, an architect and an ex-minister. The list also included a graduate economist, a dental physician, a business man, a government clerk and an expert on art. The roll was further embellished by the attention-arresting name of Heinz Hermann Schubert, who traced his ancestry back to kinship with the venerated composer of the Unfinished Symphony.

In this prodigious collection of human beings there was even a professional opera singer, S.S.-Major Waldemar Klingelhoefer, whose death-mask face could have allowed him to sing the part of Mephistopheles in Faust without make-up. The aria he sang in the Palace of Justice at Nuremberg, however, was hardly a melodious one. For two and a half years, Major Klingelhoefer had travelled martially with Einsatzgruppe B as this highly efficient slaying organisation chanted its dirge of blood through Smolensk, Brest-Ltowsk and other parts of Western Russia.. During this period the Gruppe killed tens of thousands of Jews, gypsies and "asocials."

Although Klingelhoefer did his part in upholding the vigour of the Führer-Order under whose banner he marched and slew, he testified that he really felt an "inner reaction" against the order. What was the nature of this "inner reaction"? The episode of Tatarsk, a city one day's journey from Smolensk, answers the question. He testified that when he learned that thirty Jews had left the ghetto in Tatarsk and had returned to their homes without permission, he ordered them shot. The gasp of hurt amazement which shot through the courtroom at this cold-blooded recital of killing people for the most natural act in the world of going home seemed to stir Klingelhoefer into offering more convincing explanation. He hastily added that before ordering the death of the thirty men he made an investigation and found that these men, through the intervention of three women, had given assistance to partisans. He was asked if he knew as a fact that the Jews had co-operated with the partisans. He replied that the men had had "mental contact" with partisans. I inquired if he meant by this that there had been no physical contact with the partisans.

He acknowledged that there had been no such contact. "Not physically but mentally, you Honour."

"Mentally, yes. And the only contact they had was through these three women?"

"Yes, through these three women."

"All right. So, therefore, the only evidence you had upon which to kill these thirty Jews was that they had mentally communicated with the partisans and they were in their homes mentally determined to resist you. That's the evidence you had, isn't it?"'

That indeed was the evidence. And on this "evidence" he shot not only the thirty Jews but the three women as well. However, it must be said in his behalf that he did accord the women chivalrous courtesies. He said: "I gave the N.C.O. the directive to separate these three women from the men to be shot, and to carry out the execution in an orderly manner. I asked the N.C.O. to have them blindfolded, and that the women should be shot blindfolded."

He added a special concession. He had the women buried in a separate grave.

Of course, it is obvious that there was no justification whatsoever in law for this execution and that the victims were killed only because they were Jews. Under vigorous cross-examination by the Chief Prosecutor Ferencz, Klingelhoefer finally conceded as much:

"Then whether he did or whether he did not violate the directives he was killed. If he stayed in the ghetto and if he left the ghetto he was killed. If he contacted the partisans he was killed. If he did not contact the partisans he was killed. No matter what a Jew did he was killed, is that correct?" "Yes."

Klingelhoefer was the man who led the expedition to obtain fur coats, an event already briefly mentioned. In describing this venture Klingelhoefer said that the Jews from whom he got the fur coats were arrested by order of Hauptsturmführer Egon Noack, but that "the executions proper were carried out by Noack under my supervision." He said further that "it could be assumed that the Jews, owing to their good living conditions which they had in the U.S.S.R., possessed winter clothing; in fact, so much of it that a seizure for the purposes of the occupation forces would not matter to them very much."

In that statement he was undoubtedly correct because it could not matter "very much" to the Jews who were killed what was to happen later to their winter clothing.

Despite Klingelhoefer's alleged "inner reaction" against the Führer-Order he served in the Einsatzgruppen for thirty months, making no effort to be relieved of his assignment.

"You never told Naumann that you wanted to get out of Einsatz headquarters, did you?"

"No, because there would not have been much point in it. He would not have released me."

"How do you know he would not have released you?"

"I know that he would not release me. I knew that quite well, because I was a special expert speaking Russian perfectly and knowing the conditions. Therefore he could not do without me."

A measure of Klingelhoefer's credibility can be gathered from the following occurrence. Prior to the trial he had been interrogated by an Allied investigator, Mr. Wartenberg, and his replies had been reduced to writing. The transcript of that interrogation contained no reference to the three women he admitted at the trial he had killed. I inquired if Mr. Wartenberg hadn't asked him if he had killed women and children. He said that Mr. Wartenberg did ask him the question and that he told Wartenberg he did not kill women and children "on principle". He said he remembered this well because he had in his mind the "picture of the two hundred women and children" he had led back into the ghetto.

He spoke of this with some bravado. I asked: "Did you remember the picture of the three women standing before these ten men out in the woods, ready to go to their Creator, with their graves dug close by? Did you remember that picture?"

He coloured slightly and then, recovering self-assurance, explained that at the time of the interrogation he was excited. In addition, he said, he was depressed over the fact that Germany had lost the war. His testimony on this point is interesting.

"Would you have been very happy if the Reich had succeeded in its aims of the conquest of Europe?"

"Your Honour, I don't know whether the aims of the Reich were to make conquest of Europe. I don't know that. But, of course, I would have been happy if Germany had won the war. That is quite natural."

"You would have been happy if Germany had won the war, even at the expense of its present condition - two million Germans killed, the nation in utter ruins, and all of Europe devastated. You would have been still happy if Germany had won the war?"


"Would you?"

"Yes, well, that is quite natural. That is a matter of course."

Musmanno, Michael A., Justice. The Eichmann Kommandos. London: Peter Davies. 1961. pp. 204 - 208

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Electric Zen
Ken Lewis
June 14, 1998
Rev. 1.0