Strauch was an interesting figure. On the day of the arraignment he provided drama for the audience and exciting copy for newspapermen. As Judge Dixon asked him: "Eduard Strauch, are you represented by counsel before this Tribunal?" he uttered a shriek and toppled to the floor in an epileptic seizure. He was taken out by court attendants. It apparently occurred to him later that he could use this temporary or periodic incapacitation as evidence of insanity. A medical board, however, examined him and reported "that the defendant, Eduard Strauch, except for brief periods preceding, during, and succeeding epileptic seizures, is capable of understanding the proceedings against him and of taking adequate part in the direction and presentation of his defence."
The resourcefulness which prompted him to feign mental unbalance had its prototype in the ingenuity which enabled him to devise clever methods whereby his Einsatzkommando 2, of Einsatzgruppe A, could kill over fifty thousand Jews in a matter of several months. So as to avoid the possibility of opposition from, or rioting among, his victims, he would loudly announce to the truck drivers, whose vehicles were filled with Jews, that they were to drive to varying destinations, thus conveying the impression to the passengers that they were to be taken to different places for resettlement. Previously, however, Strauch would have instructed the drivers to proceed to a single rendezvous - the mortuary ditch in the woods.
Anyone who so put his heart into his work could scarcely honestly say that he disliked it. One day he even invaded the office of his superior, the General Commissioner of White Ruthenia, seized seventy Jews and spirited them away for prompt execution. A grim commentary on this piece of business lies in the fact that Strauch almost got into trouble over it. The General Commissioner complained to headquarters, not because Strauch had killed seventy innocent human beings but because a subordinate had dared to come into his office and shoot "his" Jews without telling him about it!
Strauch said that whatever he did, he did for the "cause". Thus he resented the fact that there should have been criticism because, before the Jews were shot, he had their dental gold fillings removed. "I emphasized," he growled, "that I could not understand how German men could quarrel because of a few Jews. I was again and again faced with the fact that my men and I were reproached for barbarism and sadism, whereas I did nothing but my duty. Even the fact that expert physicians had removed in a proper way the gold fillings from the teeth of Jews who were designated for special treatment had been made the topic of conversation." The charge of sadism against this S.S.-chief could hardly be dismissed lightly. Two scars which slashed across the left cheek of his skull's face like stiletto tracings accentuated the sinister aspects of this born killer.
It would happen at an occasional execution that a brave prisoner would spit at his executioners as he was being led to his waiting grave. It was quite enjoyable then for a man like Strauch to spit back with a sub-machine gun, the fire bursting forth from a muzzle which never turned on its operator. What a satisfaction for the killer then to see the spitter falling headlong into a hole. And then the piling of the earth; the inordinate contentment of burying Hitler's enemy. This was victory, this was triumph, this is what the Führer asked for - called for in his speeches urging the S.S., the glorious S.S., on to greater victories and greater glories. Imbued with this kind of septic frenzy it was natural that Strauch would voice the observation that consideration for the Jews was "softness and humanitarian daydreaming," and that it was unthinkable that a German should listen to Mendelssohn's music; and that to hearken to Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman revealed a woeful ignorance of National Socialistic ideals.
In his attitude toward music composed by Jews, Strauch may have been inspired by an incident in the life of Adolf Eichmann who, when only a private in the S.S., beat up two Bavarians for playing Jewish phonograph records. This was another way in which Eichmann revealed to his S.S. superior, in the early days, his "expert knowledge on Jewish affairs."
When Strauch, with a palpably exaggerated dragging of feet, first propelled his way to the witness-stand, he responded to the questions with irrelevant answers and volunteered statements which gave clear evidence, even to a medically untrained ear, of an ordered disorder and a patterned absence of pattern, all undoubtedly aimed at achieving an adjudication of mental, and therefore, criminal irresponsibility. But one day he became so absorbed in the narrative of his exploits that he completely forgot his pose. His eyes gleamed with the remembered glory of his past Einsatz days and with obvious self-satisfaction he told of sixty to ninety executions he had personally attended, and recalled watching women and children lining up to be shot. Then, with a quick calculation, he stated that as nearly as he could remember the number of persons he had killed totalled seventeen thousand.
May 24, 1998