nuremberg military tribunal




Martin Sandberger

SS-Colonel Martin Sandberger studies jurisprudence at the Universities of Munich, Freiburg, Cologne and Tuebingen. He worked as an assistant judge in the Inner Administration of Wuerttemberg and became a Government Councillor in 1937. In October 1939 he was chief of the Immigration Center and in June 1941 was appointed chief of Sonderkommando 1a of Einsatzgruppe A. He left for Esthonia on the 23rd day of that month. On December 3, 1941 he became Commander of the Security Police and SD for Esthonia. He returned to Germany in September 1943. During this long period

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of 26 months he had ample opportunity to be involved in the execution of the Fuehrer-Order which he originally heard in Pretzch and which was fully discussed again in Berlin before he left for the East.

Despite the defendant's protestations from the witness stand, it is evident from the documentary evidence and his own testimony, that he went along willingly with the execution of the Fuehrer-Order. Hardly had his kommando reached its first stopping place before it began its criminal work. Operational Report No. 15 reads:

"Group leader entered Riga with Einsatzkommando 1a and 2."

It then describes the destruction of synagogues, the liquidation of 400 Jews and the setting up of groups for the purpose of fomenting pogroms. Sandberger seeks to deny responsibility for the executions, although it has been demonstrated that not only was he in Riga at the time they occurred, but he actually had a conversation about them with the Einsatzgruppe Chief Stahlecker before he left Riga.

This same report shows that a teilkommando of Sandberger's unit, Einsatzkommando 1a, was assigned to an operation in Dorpat; and it is interesting to note that a subsequent report (No. 88, dated September 19, 1941) tells of an execution in Dorpat of 405 persons of whom 50 were Jews. This report closes with the significant statement:

"There are no more Jews in prison."

A report dated October 15, 1941 on executions in the Ostland included one item under Esthonia of 474 Jews and 684 Communists. The defendant also denies responsibility for these killings, placing the credit or blame for them on the German Field Police and Esthonian Home Guard. It is a fact, however, that the Esthonian Home Guard was under Sandberger's jurisdiction and control for specific operations, as evidenced by the same report:

"The arrest of all male Jews of over 16 years of age has been nearly finished. With the exception of the doctors and

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the elders of the Jews who were appointed by the special kommandos, they were executed by the Self-Protection Units under the control of the Special Detachment 1a. Jewesses in Pernau and Reval of the age groups from 16 to 60 who are fit for work were arrested and put to peat-cutting or other labor.

At present a camp is being constructed in Harku in which all Esthonian Jews are to be assembled, so that Esthonia will be free of Jews in a short while." (Emphasis supplied)

Report No. 17, dated July 9, 1941 carries the item:

"With the exception of one, all leading communist officials in Esthonia have now been seized and rendered harmless. The sum total of communists seized runs to about 14,500. Of these about 1,000 were shot and 5,377 put into concentration camps. 3,785 less guilty supporters were released.quot;

The defendant again admitted that his subkommando leader participated but argued responsibility for only a fraction of the "mentioned figure". He placed this "fraction" at 300 to 350 persons. In further attempted exculpation from responsibility for the numerous killings which admittedly occurred in the territory under his jurisdiction, Sandberger announced in court a system of investigations, appeal, review and re-review which involved eleven different people, one of whom was himself. The real difficulty about Sandberger's explanation is that it lacks not only support, documentary or otherwise, but it lacks credibility in itself. Sandberger's story would argue that these involved and elaborate pains were taken under the Nazi aegis to protect the lives of the very people, the supreme order under which they were operating had doomed to summary execution.

Sandberger leaves no doubt about the fact of his responsibility for at least 350 deaths in this instance:

"Q. The sum total of Communists seized runs to about 14,500; do you see that?

A, Yes, 14,500, yes.

Q. That means 1,000 were shot?

A. Yes, I get that from the document. Q. You know it. Did you know it? Do you remember it?

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A. The report must have been submitted to me.

Q. Then at one time, at least, you knew of it?

A. Yes.

Q. Were you in Esthonia then?

A. Yes, but they were not shot on my responsibility. I am only responsible for 350.

Q. You are responsible for 350?

A. That is my estimate."

On September 10, 1941, Sandberger promulgated a general order for the internment of Jews which resulted in the internment of 450 Jews in a concentration camp at Pleskau. He states he did this to protect the Jews, hoping that during the internment the Fuehrer-Order might be revoked or its rigorous provisions modified. The Jews were later executed. Sandberger claims that the execution took place without his knowledge and during his absence, but his own testimony convicts him:

"Q. You collected these men in the camps? A. Yes, I gave the order.

Q. You knew that at some future time they could expect nothing but death?

A. I was hoping that Hitler would withdraw the order or change it.

Q. You knew that the probability, bordering on certainty, was that they would be shot after being collected?

A. I knew that there was this possibility, yes.

Q. In fact, almost a certainty; isn't that right?

A. It was probable."

Later on in his testimony his responsibility for these deaths which, of course, constitutes murder, was even more definitely admitted:

"Q. You collected these Jews, according to the basic order, didn't you, the Hitler Order?

A. Yes.

Q. And then they were shot; they were shot; isn't that right?

A. Yes.

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Q. By members of your command?

A. From Esthonian men who were subordinated to my Sonderkommando leaders; that is also myself then.

Q. Then, in fact, they were shot by members under your command?

A. Yes.


Q. Then as a result of the Fuehrer-Order, these Jews were shot?

A. Yes."

Emphasis supplied

Sandberger's temporary absence, on the date of the execution, of course in no way affects his criminal responsibility for the deed.

Although Sandberger devoted a great deal of his time on the witness stand to denial, the one admission he did make was that executive measures in Esthonia were taken under his supervision. He stated the he objected to the Fuehrer-Order:

"I objected to the decree so strongly that at first I did not think it was possible that such an order was at all thinkable.....I could not imagine that I myself would be able to do this and, on the other hand, I believed I could not ask my men to do something which I could not do myself."

Yet he testified that he regarded the Order as legal, that Hitler was the highest legislative authority, and although the Fuhrer-Order offended his moral sense, it had to be obeyed. His moral sense apparently did not always prevail for the defendant betrayed himself into a note of justification of the Fuhrer-Order when he testified:

".....when we saw in this Baltic area to what a large extent the forces then in power there had deviated in the preceding years from the basic principles of law, we were doubtlessly influenced in the sense that any possible misgivings about the legality which one still might have had were removed by this."

That Sandberger willingly and enthusiastically went along with the Fuhrer-Order and other Nazi dictates is evidenced by

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the eulogistic remarks which appeared in the recommendation for his promotion:

".....He is distinguished by his great industry and better than average intensity in his work. From the professional point of view, S. has proved himself in the Reich as well as in his assignment in the East. S. is a versatile SS-Fuehrer, suitable for employment.

S. belongs to the Officers of the Leadership Service and has fulfilled the requirements of the promotion regulations up to the minimum age set by the RF-SS (36 years). Because of his political service and his efforts, which far exceed the average, the Chief of the Sipo and SD already supports his preferential promotion to SS-Standartenfuehrer." (Emphasis supplied)

From all the evidence in the case the Tribunal finds the defendant guilty under Counts I and II of the Indictment.

The Tribunal also finds 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. 159 - 164 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
June 7, 1998
Rev. 1.1