Otto Ohlendorf

ON SEPTEMBER 15, 1947, the day of arraignment, one of the most remarkable persons ever to go on trial in any country in any age stepped into the Nuremberg courtroom. Handsome, poised, suave and polite, he carried himself with the bearing of a person endowed with natural dignity and intellect, and, in the course of his testimony, he was to display the narrative talents of a professional raconteur. Forty years of age, slender and with delicate features and neatly combed dark-brown hair, he looked out at the world through penetrating blue-grey eyes. His voice was excellently modulated, his hands were wellshaped and carefully groomed, and he moved gracefully and self-confidently. The only blemish in the perfection of his personality was that he had killed ninety thousand people.

This disclosure, although not entirely incapable of producing some horror among even the most stout-hearted, did not detract from his distinctiveness; if anything, it added to it. Visitors, even before they got seated, craned their necks in the direction of the prisoners' dock, and, although warned by guards against pointing, invariably thrust an index finger in Otto Ohlendorf's direction, asking if he was the ninety-thousand murderer. Women crowded into the courtroom to marvel at him and some even sought to pass him notes offering encouragement and endearment.

Participants in and viewers of the international war crimes trials generally agreed that, next to Hermann Goering, Otto Ohlendorf stood out as the most compelling personality of all the defendants. With Hjalmar Schacht, the fabulous Nazi minister of finance, he achieved the highest IQ rating among the Nuremberg prisoners. Born in Hanover, a graduate of the Leipzig and Göttingen universities, a lecturer in political science, Ohlendorf early hitched his wagon to the Hitler star, and, by demonstrated ability in the Nazi Organisation, won rapid promotion. When the Einsatzgruppen Organisation was in the process of formation, he headed Department III of the R.S.H.A. In this capacity he often met with Eichmann and with Schellenberg, Heydrich's deputy, both of whom recommended him to Heydrich. Thus, at the age of thirty-four, with the rank of Major-General in the all-powerful Schutzstaffeln, popularly known as the Elite Guard or S.S., he took over the command of Einsatzgruppe D, which was to cover itself with glory and blood in the Crimea and other distant places in the East.

The electric sensation of absolute authority which accompanies military rank never deserted the young Major-General so that even in the courtroom Ohlendorf wore - as undoubtedly he would carry to his grave - the invisible epaulets before which so much of the world had once bowed and scraped in deference, homage and fear.

Even after the German forces had surrendered, but he was not yet a prisoner, he discussed with Himmler whether he should give himself up. This episode narrated by him in court on October 8, 1947, caused me to ask: "But when you say that on the ninth of May you were discussing whether you should go over to the Allies, this was like the mouse discussing whether he should go over to the cat. You had already surrendered."

But he did not regard himself as having surrendered since there was still an existing German government at Flensburg. Thus, standing on his dignity as an official of that government and as an officer of the S.S., he asked the Allies to arrest him. He had to ask three times.

"When was that? What date?"

"That was on the twenty-third of May."

"Then they favoured you by arresting you."

And, without a smile, he replied: "Yes, on the twenty-third of May."

As a defendant, Ohlendorf, like Goering, staged a performance which would have stirred theatre audiences on either side of the ocean. No detail of the trial escaped him. He sat intense over every controverted piece of evidence, grimaced when things went badly, smiled when the testimony pleased him, scolded his lawyer when he seemed lacking in aggressiveness, and uttered audible disgust when any of his fellow-defendants fumbled on the witness-stand. To the judges he was note worthily deferential. Each morning as he entered the dock he ceremoniously bowed to the bench, and each evening he smiled a benign auf Wiedersehen to the court attache's as he departed for his prison cell to sleep on his pallet, unhaunted, without doubt, by dreams of the multitudes he had slain.

He flickered not an eyelash as Prosecutor Peter Walton charged that Ohlendorf's unit "killed at an average rate of 340 per day", but that between November 16 and December 15, 1941, the average was increased to "700 human beings per day for the whole 30-day period"

On the witness-stand Ohlendorf, in justifying these killings, essayed varying roles of histrionic projection. At times he could have been a Hamlet, wrapped in deep thought and meditation, and at other times he slashed out boldly, a Macbeth staking all on daring and self-assurance of ultimate victory. Rhetorical sparks flew as he crossed and clashed blades with prosecution counsel, to the delight of his admiring co-defendants. Of the twenty-three accused men, Ohlendorf stood out as the Number One defendant, not only because of his end seat in the dock but mainly because of his undisputed intellectual superiority and cool-headedness. Only on one score did his brother defendants fear and distrust him. Ohlendorf was mathematically honest. And if they were to follow his example and admit the statistics on slayings, as Ohlendorf unflinchingly conceded he had put ninety-thousand to eternal rest, how could they expect exoneration?

With flung-back shoulders and the confident voice of the architect who might have superintended the construction of the Egyptian pyramids, Ohlendorf related from the witness-stand, occasionally interrupting his easy flow of language by sipping at a glass of water, how, at the head of Einsatzgruppe D, he followed the Nazi troops through Bessarabia and the Crimean peninsula, carrying out the genocidal orders of his lord and master, Adolf Hitler.

He did not like to do all this, he explained with the air of a conscientious parent who must discipline an unruly child. He said it was his duty. And then, pitching his voice in a self-pitying tone, he observed: "There is nothing worse for people spiritually than to have to shoot defenseless populations."

But his bold bid for commiseration and vindication rebounded from deaf ears so far as cross-examining Prosecutor James E. Heath was concerned. "There is nothing worse than to be shot either," Heath sardonically shot back, "when you are defenseless." Ohlendorf, however, was not to be outdone. "I can imagine worse things," he rasped, "for example, to starve." Heath rose from the prosecution table and confronted the defendant. With his headphones he seemed even taller than six feet. Ohlendorf, wearing the same type of gear, became a still more awesome figure in the heated exchange. The translated debate crackled into the headphones of every person in the courtroom, the questions and answers bouncing back and forth with the speed of tennis balls so that the listener became quite oblivious to the fact that the principals were shouting at each other in different languages.

Ohlendorf's victims were mainly Jews but he killed gypsies also. "On what basis did you kill gypsies?"" Heath inquired.

"It is the same as for the Jews," Ohlendorf replied.

Since the Nazis had proclaimed the, theory of a master race, Heath now put the whole ironic projection of that theory into a one-word question: ""Blood?"

Ohlendorf answered, "I think I can add up from my own knowledge of European history that the Jews actually during wars regularly carried on espionage service on both sides."

Heath looked up to me, as if to inquire whether the translating machinery was working properly, because he was asking about gypsies and Ohlendorf continued to talk about Jews. I directed Ohlendorf to the subject of Heath's questioning. With a disparaging gesture of his hand, Ohlendorf answered: ""There was no difference between gypsies and Jews. At the time the same order existed for the Jews. I added the explanation that it is known from European history that the Jews actually during all wars carried out espionage service on both sides."

I reminded the defendant again: "Well, now, what we are trying to do is to find out what you are going to say about the gypsies, but you still insist on going back to the Jews, and Mr Heath is questioning about gypsies. Is it also in European history that gypsies always participated in political strategy and campaigns?"

Ohlendorf was pleased to open up the history books. "The gypsies in particular. I want to draw your recollection to extensive descriptions of the Thirty-Year War by Ricardo, Huck and Schiller- "

Since the Thirty Years' War was fought in 1618-48, I could not help interrupting. " that is going back pretty far in order to justify the killing of gypsies in 1941, isn't it?""

This suggestion that he was giving a three-hundred- year motivation to his death-dealing enterprise did not ruffle the ex-S.S. Major-General. " added that as an explanation, as such motive might have had a part in this, to get at this decision."

What was the real purpose behind the killing of Jews and gypsies? Ohlendorf was almost annoyed at questions of this character. Why, it was a matter of self-defence, he explained in the tone of one who is wasting time explaining that the earth is round. The Jews posed a continuous danger for the German occupation troops. Moreover, they could some day attack Germany proper, and self-preservation dictated their destruction before they began an aggressive march on Berlin.

Heath was not impressed with this argument. Assume that the Jews in Bessarabia, the Crimea and the Ukraine could one day shoulder guns against the Germans, he said; assume that their wives could help them - but what about the Jewish children, the gypsy children? Heath thunders his question at Ohlendorf.

Ohlendorf imperturbably replies: "According to orders they were to be killed just like their parents."

Heath walks away from the witness-stand to control his anger at the casualness with which Ohlendorf speaks of killing children. Then, turning swiftly on his heel, he fires again at the defendant: "Will you explain to the Tribunal what conceivable threat to the security of the Wehrmacht [armed forces] a child constituted in your judgment?"

Ohlendorf is amazed that Heath still lingers on the subject. "I believe I cannot add anything to your previous question. I did not have to determine the danger but the order contained that all Jews including the children were considered to constitute a danger for the security of this area."*

[* The defendant Erwin Schulz also stated; "Jewish women and children were, if necessary, to be shot as well, in order to prevent acts of revenge."]

Heath's voice rises explosively. "Will you agree that there was absolutely no rational basis for killing children except genocide and the killing of races?"

The atmosphere of the courtroom fills with the dread of some anticipated horrible disclosure. One can adjust to the most terrible of scenes, but the purposeful murder of innocent children leaves all mankind unbearably hurt and terrified. Ohlendorf does not disappoint expectation and, as the audience listens in helpless shock, he coldly answers: ""I believe that it is very simple to explain if one starts from the fact that this order did not only try to achieve a [temporary] security but also a permanent security because for that reason the children were people who would grow up and surely, being the children of parents who had been killed, they would constitute a danger no smaller than that of the parents."

Heath stands still to let the shock spend itself and then launches into another subject. But the tautness of his features clearly reveals that he is still concerned about Ohlendorf's explanation that the children had to be killed because otherwise they would grow up to kill the murderers. It is perfect logic, pure Aristotle, but it is too perfect. There has to be a flaw somewhere, so Heath returns to the bewitchingly macabre subject:

"To come back to the question of murder and the children of the slaughtered in Russia. I think you have not yet answered my question. What conceivable threat to the Wehrmacht was offered by the children of gypsies and Jews, let's say under five years of age?"

Ohlendorf says he has already answered that query, and so for Heath's benefit I sum up Ohlendorf's explanation: "The witness has stated that the reason these children under five, under four, under three, down to conception I imagine, were killed is that they were a possible threat to Germany in the future years. That is his answer and he stands on it."

But Ohlendorf has not been entirely without heart. There was one feature about massacring the children which had grated on his tender sensibilities. Some of his men were married and had children. Ohlendorf had five of his own. As the executioners looked at the helpless tots framed within the sights of their rifles they often thought of their little boys and girls at home and sometimes aimed badly. Then, the Kommando or platoon leader had to go about with revolver or carbine, firing into the screaming and writhing creatures on the ground. This was all quite unmilitary. Then, also, many of the riflemen missed their targets when they had to kill women because they thought of wives, daughters, sisters and mothers far away.

Ohlendorf communicated with his friend Eichmann about this, and brought the matter to the attention of the Transportation Department (Amt 11) which finally provided gas vans for the sentimental assassins. These vehicles resembled family trailers. Painted windows adorned the sides, frescoed curtains seemed to flap in the breeze, the image of a flower-pot on the image of a window-sill added to the charming deception. The attractive-looking autocars rolled up to the groups of waiting mothers and offspring who were told that they were to be taken to their husbands and fathers. Ohlendorf described the procedure: "One could not see from the van what purpose it had, and the people were told that they were being moved, and therefore they entered without hesitation."

Thus, joyfully the women clambered aboard, holding by the hand or in their arms their babies, some laughing, some crying, but everyone excited over the trip which was to take them away from hardship and persecution, to begin life anew in another land by the side and under the protection of their strong menfolk who, they were told, had already gone ahead to prepare the happy way for them.

As soon as the unsuspecting pilgrims entered the vehicle, the doors slammed shut, automatically and hermetically. The driver tramped on the accelerator; monoxide gas streamed into the interior. The women screamed as their children toppled to the floor or succumbed in their arms, but before they could rescue them or breathe encouragement, the deadly vapour had entered their own lungs; and soon the moving van had become a travelling mortuary. By the time the van reached its destination; - a long deep ditch outside the town - all the occupants were dead. And here they joined the husbands and fathers who had already preceded them into the "new land" via the sub-machine guns and rifles of that astonishing Organisation, known as the Einsatzgruppen.

Ohlendorf was asked how long it would take to kill the occupants of the gas vans. The ex-general lifted his hand to his forehead as if trying to assist the machinery of recollection. It was a detail of which apparently he had never made a mental note. At last he lowered his hand and said, "As far as I remember, about ten minutes."

Sometimes there were more demands for the gas vans than Ohlendorf could supply but he was equal to every emergency. "If there were three requisitions we would send the two cars to the two Kommandos who had the largest number of prospects. But that was done in a very simple, business-like manner."

To the Einsatzgruppen, everything was quite business-like about these ghastly vehicles of death. Communications between the R.S.H.A. and Einsatzgruppen commanders in the field spoke of gas wagons with the casualness of correspondence on coal trucks. Nor, in keeping with the German passion for documentary immortality were records lacking on this awesome subject. In the innumerable filing cabinets of the R.S.H.A. appeared copies of letters, invoices, repair bills, etc., having to do with the gas vans. One letter from the Security Police and Security Service Ostland dated June 15, 1942, asked for the immediate shipment of one five-ton van and twenty gas hoses to take the place of some leaky ones in order that there might be no delay in the treatment of Jews ""in a special way".

In a letter, dated May 16, 1942, S.S.-Untersturmführer Becker made a practical recommendation with regard to the operation of the lethal device. He said that many of the drivers failed to apply the gas properly. "In order to come to an end as fast as possible, the driver presses the accelerator to the fullest extent. By doing that the persons to be executed suffer death from suffocation and not death by dozing off as planned. My directions have now proved that by correct adjustment of the levers death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully."

In practice, however, it was found that more than adjustment of levers was necessary. Instruction was needed. Accordingly a school was set up for the murder van drivers.

The vans themselves were constructed in Berlin and driven under their own power to the fields of action. It would be interesting to speculate on the thoughts of the drivers as they rolled through half of Europe, traversing city and country, climbing mountains and penetrating plains, travelling over a thousand miles with their gaseous guiluotines to kill women they had never seen and children they could never know.

While these ghastly vehicles provided an advantage in that they enabled the executioners to kill their victims without having to look them in the eye, they disappointed in another respect. When the execution was accomplished by shooting, the job was quickly finished, since the bodies fell into the already dug graves. But the gas vans presented the job of removing the corpses and burying them. Traces of the gas still remained and the mass of tumbled bodies produced a problem of its own. The executioners complained of headaches. As Becker worded the complaint in an official report, the unloading process inflicted "immense psychological injuries and damage to the health" of the unloaders.

Ohlendorf maintained a physician on his staff to treat these "psychological injuries" and to supervise the health of his men generally. Occasionally the physician was used as an expert to determine if the people in the gas vans were dead before burial, but this precaution was really unnecessary, Ohlendorf said, because he "had a look that the people died without any difficulties".

Ohlendorf informed the Tribunal that throughout his entire Nazi career he was motivated only by the highest of ideals and ethics. This caused Heath to inquire whether he regarded Hitler's order against the Jews and others as justified in the realm of morals. "Was it morally right, or was it morally wrong?"

Ohlendorf replied that it was not for him to pass on Hitler's intentions.

"I do not ask you for a judgment of Hitler's morals; I ask you for an expression of your own moral conception. The question is not whether Hitler was moral; but what, in your moral judgment, was the character of this order: Was it a moral order, or an immoral order?"

Dauntless and as sure of himself as a Prussian fieldmarshal on parade, Ohlendorf nevertheless perceived that a discussion on moral issues could make him appear something less than the Spartan, valorous executant of military orders which he said it was his duty to obey. Thus he repeated that it was not up to him to evaluate the moral quality of Hitlers actions. Heath insisted that the question be answered and appealed to the Tribunal. I turned to Ohlendorf: "When this order was given to you to go out to kill, you had to appraise it, instinctively. The soldier who goes into battle knows that he must kill, but he understands that it is a question of battle with an equally armed enemy. But you were going out to shoot down defenceless people. Now, didn't the question of the morality of that order enter your mind? Let us suppose that the order had been - and I don't mean any offence in this question - suppose the order had been that you kill your sister. Would you not have instinctively morally appraised that order as to whether it was right or wrong -morally, not politically or militarily -but as a matter of humanity, conscience, and justice?"

Ohlendorf moved slightly in the witness-chair. His eves roved about the courtroom; his hand opened and clenched convulsively. He was aware that a man who would kill his own sister made of himself something less than human. On the contrary, if he replied that he would refuse to execute such an order he would contradict his assertion that he had no choice in obeying his superior's command. Accordingly, he answered obliquely, "I am not in a position, your Honour, to isolate this occurrence from the others."

He sought a parallelism so as not to manifest alarm at the dilemma the question posed. He related how he saw many civilian Germans killed in Allied air raids and then declared. "I am not prepared, or in a position to give today a moral judgment about that order."

But Heath was not content to leave the subject dangling unresolved in mid-air. He pressed the question as to how Ohlendorf would respond to a direct order involving an obviously difficult assignment. "If you had received an order from Adolf Hitler to kill your own flesh and blood, would you have executed the order, or not?"

Ohlendorf parried the thrust. "I consider the question frivolous." But the question was far from frivolous for him. He actually had a sister, and two brothers, in addition to his five children.

Heath relentlessly pursued the query. "Then I understand you to say that if one person be involved in a killing order, a moral question arises, but if thousands of human beings are involved, you can see no moral questions; it is a matter of numbers?"

Ohlendorf's pale features went parchment-white as he retorted angrily: "Mr Prosecutor, I think you are the only one to understand my answer in this way, that it is not a matter of one single person, but from the point of departure events have happened in history which among other things have led to deeds committed in Russia, and such an historical process you want me to analyse in a moral way. I, however, refuse moral evaluation with good reasons as outlined, so far as my own conscience is concerned."

Heath continued and intensified the attack: "Suppose you found your sister in Soviet Russia, and your sister were included in that category of gypsies - not a Jewess but in a gypsy band - a and she was brought before you for slaughter because of her presence in the gypsy band; what would have been your action? She is there in the process of history, which you have described."

Ohlendorf fought for time as with flashing eyes he signalled to his attorney to intervene. Dr Aschenauer, tall, dark, and, in his long flowing black robe, looking somewhat like a Shakespearean actor, rose dramatically and, echoing his client's defiance, declaimed: "I object to this question and I ask that it not be admitted. This is no question for cross-examination."

The prosecution insisted on a reply. Ohlendorf with his expressive countenance urged his attorney not to abandon his protest. Aschenauer lifted his berobed arm in challenge, and turned to the bench. "I ask for a ruling of the Tribunal upon my objection."

I conferred with my colleagues and we decided the defendant should be required to answer.

I explained to Ohlendorf that the question was of course an extraordinary one and would not be tolerated in a trial other than one of this character where the defendant was confronted with the unprecedented charge of having murdered ninety thousand people. In those circumstances the question was relevant because his answer would throw a light on his reaction to the Führer-Order.

Ohlendorf was not convinced he should answer. I explained further that he admitted the Führer-Order called for execution of defenseless people. "You will admit that in normal times such a proposition would be incredible and intolerable, but you claim that the circumstances were not normal, and, therefore, what might be accepted only with terrified judgment ordinarily, was accepted at that time as a normal discharge of duty." In those circumstances I ruled that he should answer and I repeated Heath's question: "Suppose that in the discharge of this duty you had been confronted with the necessity of deciding whether to kill, among hundreds of unknown people, one whom you knew very well."

Ohlendorf reflected only for an instant and then, with a contemptuous glance at Heath, which seemed to say he was sweeping him aside, he announced to the world that under the circumstances described he would indeed shoot his sister: "If this demand would have been made to me under the same prerequisites, that is, within the framework of an order, which is absolutely necessary militarily, then I would have executed that order."

Although Ohlendorf would kill his sister if Hitler ordered him to do so, he explained that he had no different feeling with regard to shooting others. He bore animosity toward no one. "I never hated an opponent or any enemy, and I still do not do so today," he testified, as he lifted his eyes to the newspaper reporters in the press-box as if appealing to world opinion for confirmation of his moral scruples.

He killed Jews and gypsies because of their offences in history, current and past, but he did not hate them. In fact, he even suggested that he felt some antipathy to Hitler's order which required him to kill unarmed civilians. This prompted the question, "Could you not have, after a certain period of time, tried to evade this order by sickness?"

He stiffened in the witness-chair as if to emphasize the invisible epaulets on his shoulders. Was the presiding judge trying to insult him? "I would have betrayed my men if I had left this command:", he remarked rather icily. Solicitous about the welfare of his men, he would have had no assurance that, if he left, his successor would have manifested a similar solicitude. And, with a rising voice full of pride and moral justification, he added: "Despite everything, I considered this my duty and I shall consider it today as much more valuable than the cheap applause which I could have won if I had at that time betrayed my men by simulating illness."

Later on, under further examination, Ohlendorf admitted that even before the trial he could foresee that he would be asked why he did not hide behind a pretended incapacitation in order to avoid doing what he said he did not wish to do. Thus, he had prepared his answer. However, astute as he was, his sharp brain did not save him from a far more committal answer when he was not expecting an incriminating question. If he had really been conscientiously disturbed about killing defenceless people, there were other ways for him to avoid the murderous job without simulating illness. His Einsatzgruppe operated in an area within the jurisdiction of the Eleventh German Army, with which he was under orders to cooperate. It appears that the army commander did not have too high a regard for S.S. officers and, as a consequence, difficulties arose between him and Ohlendorf. Relating the story of those difficulties, Ohlendorf said: "I was called to the Chief of Staff, Colonel Woehler, and he received me by saying that if the collaboration between the army and myself would not improve, he would ask for my dismissal in Berlin."

As he finished this rather extended narrative, I asked him: "Were you so under the command of the army that a recommendation from this officer to Berlin could have worked the dismissal which he threatened?""

His unequivocal answer was: "Immediately, yes."

And here Ohlendorf exploded his whole defence of compulsion. If he had really recoiled before the prospect of ordering execution squads to shoot down innocent people, he could have simply declined to co-operate with the army and he would have been on his way home or to a different assignment. But this lofty-minded chief chose to be humiliated by the army rather than give up his coveted command of Einsatzgruppe D and its spectacular distinction of achieving ninety thousand murders. He was more interested in being held in high regard by his friend and patron, Adolf Eichmann, who occasionally visited him in the field, than he was concerned about the death of innocent human beings.

In addition to justifying infanticide on the basis of preventing future reprisals, Ohlendorf asserted that the Allied nations were not without blame in this respect since many German children had been killed in Allied air raids. To this argument, Heath retorted: "Do you attempt to draw a moral comparison between the bomber who drops bombs hoping that it will not kill children and yourself who shot children deliberately? Is that a fair moral comparison?"

Ohlendorf did not flinch from the question. "I cannot imagine that these planes which systematically covered a city that was a fortified city, square metre for square metre, with incendiaries and explosive bombs and again with phosphorus bombs, and this done from block to block, and then as I have seen it in Dresden likewise the squares where the civilian population had fled to - that these men could possibly hope not to kill ... civilian population and ... children."

Heath conceded the point. "I think there is truth in what you say, though I never saw it." But he emphasised that Ohlendorf had given only part of the grim picture. "Does it occur to you that when the German Wehrmacht drove into Poland without provocation and when you drove into Norway and when you drove into the Low Countries and when you crushed France and when you destroyed Belgrade, Yugoslavia, Greece -when you put Rumania, Bulgaria under your heel, and then attempted to destroy the Russian State, does it not occur to you that people resisting your tyranny stand on a higher moral level when they resort to the same horrible cruelties which you initiated in order to destroy your tyranny. Answer that please."

Ohlendorf did not hesitate to answer. "You will under- stand that I look at the events of the war which you referred to in a different way than you do." That was the crux of Ohlendorf's defence: he and the other S.S. men differed in their viewpoint from the rest of mankind. Ohlendorf refused to see that when war planes bomb a city within whose borders are located ammunition plants, factories, railroads and telegraph and wireless stations, the object is to wreck and destroy these facilities for the purpose of crippling the hostile military forces. Of course, in such an operation, it inevitably happens that non-military as well as military persons are killed. This is a grave but unavoidable corollary of battle action. But the civilians are not pin-pointed for extinction. The bomb is aimed at the railroad yards, and houses along the tracks are hit and many of their occupants killed. This is entirely different, in fact and in law, from an armed force marching up to these same railroad tracks, entering those abutting houses, dragging out the men, women and children of a particular race and shooting them.

Ohlendorf sneered that anyone who used the atom bomb should condemn him for killing helpless citizens. "The fact that individual men killed civilians face to face is looked upon as terrible and is pictured as specially gruesome because the order was clearly given to kill these people. I cannot morally evaluate A deed any better, a deed which makes it possible, by pushing a button, to kill a much larger number of civilians, men, women and children, even to hurt them for generations, than those deeds of individual people who for the same purpose, namely, to achieve the goal of the war, must shoot individual persons. I believe that the time will come to remove these moral differences in executions for the purposes of war. . . ."

There is no doubt that the invention of atomic and hydrogen bombs, as well as guided missiles, has added preoccupation and worry to the human race, but the atom bombs dropped in World War II were still not aimed at ethnic groups. Like any other type of aerial bomb, they were used to overcome military resistance and hasten surrender.

Thus, as grave a military action as is an air bombardment, whether it be by conventional or by atomic methods, the one and only purpose of the bombing is to effect the capitulation of the bombed nation. If the nation surrenders, the bombing ceases and the killing terminates. Moreover, a city may completely escape bombing by declaring itself an open city. But where Einsatzgruppen forces were involved, the situation was entirely different. Even if a nation in which Jews lived hauled down its flag, the Jews were still killed as individuals. No defendant asserted that a German victory over the Allies would have ended the Jewish liquidation programme.

Throughout the entire Einsatzgruppen trial the defence did not produce one item of evidence to show how the killing of Jews in any way subdued or abated the military strength of the enemy. It was not demonstrated how indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed human beings could shorten, or help in any way to win, the war for Germany. The annihilation of men, women and children branded as "inferior" had no bearing on the military issues at all.

For instance, Ohlendorf justified the killing of Jews in Russia on the basis that "the number of Jews in the general population in Russia, in relation to their number in the higher administration, was very, very small". He emphasised that in Crimea, "up to 90 per cent of the administrative and leading authoritative positions were occupied by Jews". Thus, "for us it was obvious that Jewry in Bolshevist Russia played a disproportionately important role". This was the identical argument advanced in Germany to strip Jews of citizenship and property and inflict a hundred other penalties which were not only illegal but barbaric. But Ohlendorf assuredly had no duty and certainly no right in Russia or elsewhere to equalise, by means of firing squads, the number of official positions between Jews and non-Jews, even if it were to be assumed - of which, of course, he had no precise knowledge - that his statistics were correct.

Many of the defendants said that they were told at Pretzsch and in Berlin that "the Jews" supported Bolshevism, and had to be killed on that account. But it was not proved that every Jew espoused Bolshevism, although, even if that were true, killing him for his political belief would still be murder. As the Einsatz forces stormed into cities, towns and villages, they carried no lists of Jews they were to slay. They could not even be sure who were Jews. Interpreters accompanied the Kommandos, but it was impossible for them to cope with the many languages and dialects they encountered. Thus, it cannot be doubted, considering the speed with which massacres were organised and accomplished, that countless non-Jews were killed with the Jews. Operational Situation Report U.S.S.R. No. 170, reporting as of February 18, 1942, stated that "the number of persons executed in Simferopol increased to almost 10,000 Jews, about 300 more than the number of Jews registered." (Author's italics.)

If one who was not actually a Jew was listed for extermination as a Jew, what chance did he have to establish his Aryan genealogy? Writing on this subject to the defendant S.S.-Lieutenant Colonel Eduard Strauch, Heydrich said:

Many of the Jews listed in your register are already known for continually trying to deny that they belong to the Jewish race by all possible and impossible reasons. It is, on the whole, in the nature of the matter that half-breeds of the first degree in particular try at every opportunity to deny that they are Jews.

You will agree that in the third year of the war there are matters of more importance for the war effort, and for the Security Police and the Security Service as well, than worrying about the wailing of Jews, making tedious investigations and preventing so many of my co-workers from other and much more important tasks.

Musmanno, Michael A., Justice. The Eichmann Kommandos. London: Peter Davies. 1961. pp. 93 - 113

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Electric Zen
Ken Lewis
June 21, 1998
Rev. 1.0