I repeated the hypothetical situation: "So that you would listen to the speech and then you would look at him under a microscope, and after this big look, if you thought he might have done something, then you would have him shot. That is what we understand by your answer?"
And to this he answered with a categorical "Yes".
Steimle commanded Sonderkommando 7a, of Einsatzgruppe B, from September 1941 to February 1942, operating in Western Russia between the river Dnieper and the Volga. He admitted that his Kommando carried out between one hundred and one hundred and fifty executions but said that the people executed were partisans, "persons suspected of being partisans", and Russian soldiers who "disregarded our order to give themselves up". He said that Nebe, who was chief of Einsatzgruppe B, had complained that Steimle's Kommando when "fighting Jews so far had not been shooting women and children", and insisted that they had to be "shot likewise".
But Steimle refused to shoot women without a trial or an investigation, he said. And in this connection he told of three girls he had arrested - one a school teacher, another a school inspector; he did not remember the occupation of the third. He related that he seized these girls because "they were about to form a partisan group". He assured us that he investigated the case and then shot the girls. Whether any investigation actually occurred could only depend on Steimle's testimony. He gave no details as to the method of investigation so that it would seem that his inquiry as to whether the girls"were about" to form a partisan group was no more extensive than the one he gave in the hypothetical case as to how he would determine who was an "active Communist". He admitted that he personally commanded the firing squad which ended the lives of the three girls, and assured the Court that the execution was performed in a very humane manner because he saw to it that "three or four men shot at one woman".
Steimle's whole attitude on executions can probably be gathered from the replies he made to questions put to him by Chief Prosecutor Ferencz: "Approximately how many people would you say were killed in September in Velikki Luki?"
"That I cannot say. I have no idea."
"Was it more than one hundred? Was it less than one hundred?"
"I don't know."
Finally, almost jadedly, he said: "I think it must have been less than one hundred."
"Well, you say now that you know that in September you shot people in Velikki Luki and you have no idea of how many people it was. You must remember shooting people."
"I was only in Velikki Luki once or at the most twice."
It was perhaps rather unfair of Mr. Ferencz to expect a man whose business was killing to recall just how many people he had slain in Velikki Luki when he had been there only once or twice. It would be like asking a shoe salesman how many shoes he sold in Oshkosh during a certain month when he had been there but once or twice.
May 26, 1998