nuremberg military tribunal




Waldemar von Radetzky

Von Radetzky was born in Moscow, attended school at Riga and joined the Latvian Army in 1932. After discharge in 1933 he worked with an import firm until November 1939 and then moved to German-occupied Posen, being employed from November 1939 until January 1940 at the Advisory Office for Immigrants and from January 1940 until May 1941 at the Office of Repatriation of Ethnic Germans. In May 1941 he was assigned for emergency service with the RSHA and then transferred to Pretzcsh as an interpreter to the newly formed Sonderkommando

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4a. He traveled with the sonderkommando to Hrubgoschow and from there to Ludzk where he was assigned to a teilkommando of the same organization. In December 1941, he took leave and reported back to Sonderkommando 4a in Charkow in March 1942. He remained with this unit until December 1942 and, at the same time, acted as liaison officer between the einsatzkommando and German and Hungarian army units. In January 1943, the area under the jurisdiction of the 2nd Army was subordinated to the area of the Einsatzgruppe and the defendant's reports and activities were controlled by Einsatzgruppe B. In the winter of 1943 he returned to Berlin.

The defendant stated in his pre-trial affidavit that, during the time he served with Sonderkommando 4a, he was officially informed that the kommando participated in a number of executions in the areas assigned.

The documentation in this case substantiates the statement that such executions did occur. At the trial the defendant claimed that executions were entirely beyond his sphere of activities, and his job was simply to make reports. One could well believe, if one were to accept as fact the statements of the various defendants who functioned in the so-called Department III that these kommandos were engaged in a scientific expedition studying the flora and fauna of the land through which they travelled, obtaining data on agriculture and economy, but in some way or other avoiding all contact with the grim enterprise to which the units were committed. It is not known what binders these defendants wore that they could be in the very midst of the carnage caused by their own associates and yet remain entirely unaffected thereby. Again we come to the question of credibility. The witness was asked whether, in making a report on the economy of the country he would indicate that the labor supply had been affected because of the executions of Jews. He replied in the negative and the following ensued.

" Q. Making a report on the economy you would naturally have to talk about labor and, if a great number of those constituting the labor element were executed, that would affect seriously the

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economy of the country on which you were reporting, and you would need to include that in your reports, would you not?

A. The situation which we found was that the entire economy had been ruined and had to be built up. There was no shop in which you could buy anything.

Q. The economy wasn't helped by shooting off further labor supply, was it?

A. No.

Q. Did you report this in your reports?

A. I may say the following.

Q. Did you make this statement in your reports, that, because Jews were being killed and thereby the labor market being affected adversely, that the economy was made worse? Did you report that?

A. As far as I remember I reported about the fact that the Jews in the Ukraine constituted an essential part of trade.

Q. And did you report that Jews were being decimated?

A. No.

Q. You didn't put in any report that Jews were being killed and this affected the economy of the Ukraine?

A. No, in this shape I did not report about it. I only reported about the fact that the Jews were an important economic potential, but I did not report to the effect as you mention it.

Q. .....You say that you did include in your report the statement that the Jews constituted an important economic potential. Did you then add that this important economic potential was rapidly disappearing because of the executions?

A. No, I did not report that.

Q. And yet you want to tell the Tribunal seriously that you made a report on the economy of the Ukraine?

A. Yes."

In his pre-trial affidavit the defendant stated that he had been employed as an interpreter. He amplified later that he was drafted into the einsatz organization because of his ability in languages. His witness Kraege confirmed this. Yet, at the trial, von Radetzky denied acting in the job for which apparently

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he was best adapted. It can only be assumed that he made this denial because, by admitting the translating functions, he would be admitting that he knew of executions which followed certain investigations. Asked how it was that he was able to side-step his job of interpreter he replied that his work day was filled up with his job of expert in the SD department.

" Q. Well, how did you become an expert in Department III? You had not had SD training?

A. No, I did not have that, I said --

Q. Well then, how did you become an expert so quickly?

A. I was appointed for this because of my training in economics and my knowledge of languages.

Q. Well, now, we come back to languages again. If you were appointed because of your linguistic accomplishments, and your commanding officer needed an interpreter why wouldn't he naturally turn to you who was already known to be a good translator and interpreter?

A. There were other interpreters in the kommando, and the Commander used these interpreters.

Q. Then you were not used as an interpreter?

A. I was never used as an interpreter by the Commander. I was never used in interrogations as interpreter either. "

Von Radetzky could have had also other reasons for denying he was an interpreter. Report No. 156, commenting on the activities of a teilkommando of Sonderkommando 4a at Lubny, stated that -

"On the 18 October 1941 the teilkommando of SK 4a at Lubny took over the evaluation of the NKVD files."

and thus

" was possible, with the aid of the files acquired, to arrest a considerable number of NKVD agents and several leading Communists. 34 agents and Communists and 73 Jews were shot."

Report No. 37 states:

"In Zhitomir itself, Gruppenstab and Vorauskommando 4a in cooperation have, up to date, shot all in all, approximately 400 Jews, Communists and informants for the NKVD."

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Since the proof that certain individuals had been informers of the NKVD could only be established through the medium of the interpreter and documents would point to von Radetzky as that interpreter since he admitted being with this advance kommando.

Other reports also show the need for an interpreter.

Report No. 24 - IIA/81, NO-2938
Report No. 187 - IIIC/34, NO-3237
Report No. 111 - IIA/45, NO-3155

Report No. 111 would indicate another reason why von Radetzky would deny his interpreter's role:

"On 26 September, the Security Police took up its activities in Kiev. That day, 7 interrogation-kommandos of Einsatzkommando 4a started their work in the civilian prisoner camp, in the prisoner of war camp, in the Jewish camp, and in the city itself. Thus, among other things in the camp for civilian prisoners and prisoners of war, 10 political commissars were found and interrogated in detail. Conforming to the old Communist tactics these guys denied all political activity. Only when confronted with trustworthy witnesses, five Commissars admitted the position they had held, but did not make any statements beyond this. They were shot on 27 September." (Emphasis supplied)

The defendant testified that, in his capacity as liaison officer, he obtained supplies for the kommando. When asked what supplies were involved he replied: "Food and fuel." He was then asked about ammunition. He replied that he did not remember. It was then put to him:

"Witness, you either remember or you don't remember. If you remember food and fuel, you can remember whether you ordered ammunition or not. Did you order ammunition?"

and he now replied with a definite "No." He was then asked why it was that he at first said he could not remember if he had ever obtained ammunition for his kommando:

"Q. Do you remember now very definitely that you did not order ammunition?

A. Yes.


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Q. Do you say now definitely that you did not order ammunition?

A. I am certain that I would remember if ever I had obtained ammunition for the kommando."

The defendant Blobel, commander of Sonderkommando 4a, said in his pre-trial affidavit that, during his absence, von Radetzky took over. Blobel repudiated this statement on the witness stand, but he also denied that von Radetzky could ever have been even a teilkommando or vorkommando leader. But the documentary evidence clearly establishes that von Radetzky was active as a sub-kommando leader.

In fact, von Radetzky explained that all those who had officer rank in his kommando could qualify as leaders and, to that extent, he also was " a leader of the kommando."

On September 10, 1941, a plan was reached between the officers of Sonderkommando 4a and rear army HQ "to liquidate the Jews of Zhitomir completely and radically."

Questioned about this meeting, the defendant testified that he was not present at it but that he had been ordered to negotiate with the field command about the furnishing of vehicles. He stated that he was of the impression that the Jews were to be resettled in Rowno. It is difficult to believe that the defendant did not know what "resettlement" meant in Einsatzgruppen circles.

The Prosecution contends that von Radetzky was in charge of Sonderkommando 4a during Blobel's absence. Although there is evidence that Blobel was often absent because of illness, the Tribunal cannot find beyond a reasonable doubt that, during those absences, von Radetzky took over the kommando.

Report No. 14 tells of a reprisal operation carried out at Ludzk by a sub-unit of Sonderkommando 4a. Gustav Kraege stated in an affidavit that von Radetzky was one of the officers of this sub-unit. Von Radetzky stated he was present in Ludzk during the time of this execution but denied having been commander of this unit, although he stated he was the highest ranking officer in the sub-kommando. When Kraege appeared in court as a witness he sought

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to repudiate his statement about ascribing the chiefship of the sub-kommando to von Radetzky but he did admit that, at the time he was actually in Ludzk, he believed that von Radetzky was commanding, since Rafetzky gave him his direct orders.

Although von Radetzky endeavored throughout the trial to deny knowledge of the extermination of the Jews he finally admitted this knowledge.

The Tribunal finds that it is established beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew that Jews were executed by Sonderkommando 4a because they were Jews, and it finds further that von Radetzky took a consenting part in these executions.

The Tribunal further finds, in contradistinction to the defendant's statement, that he did at times command a sub-kommando.

The defendant maintained that he entered the einsatz service involuntarily and remained in it against his will, submitting that on eleven different occasions he endeavored to be relieved from this service. It must be remarked, however, that whether he became a member of the einsatz forces voluntarily or involuntarily, he did his work zestfully. It can be said in mitigation that, according to his testimony, he did on occasion endeavor to assist potential victims of the Fuehrer-Order and in one particular instance issued passes which allowed some persons to escape from the camp in which they were being held. Nonetheless, the Tribunal is convinced that the evidence establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that von Radetzky took a consenting part in War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity and, therefore, finds him guilty under Counts I and II of the Indictment.

Insofar as Count III is concerned, much evidence was introduced on behalf of the defendant to show that he did not enter the SS or SD organizations voluntarily, but was drafted. It is not sufficient, however, in order to absolve oneself from the charge of membership in a criminal organization to show that one entered its ranks involuntarily. Attention is directed to that part of the International Military Tribunal Decision which sats that it

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charges with criminal membership in the SS those persons who became or remained members of the organization with knowledge that it was being used for criminal purposes, "or who were personally implicated as members of the organization in the commission of such crimes." The decision excludes those who were drafted into membership by the State in such as way as to give them no choice in the matter but adds that this exception does not apply to those who committed the acts declared criminal by Article 6 of the Charter. Thus, the question whether von Radetzky entered the SS voluntarily or involuntarily becomes moot in view of the finding of the Tribunal that he is guilty under Counts I and II of the Indictment, thereby proving conclusively his personal implication in the acts established as criminal by the Charter. The same finding holds true with regard to the defendant's membership in the SD.

The Tribunal finds, from all the evidence in this case, 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. 210 - 217 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
July 13, 1998
Rev. 1.1