The Prosecution contends that Eduard Strauch became commander of Einsatzkommando 2 on November 4, 1941. This is denied by the defendant who, in effect, claims he was never in charge of this kommando. The defendant explains that when an area passed into the hands of the Civilian Administration from the military the einsatz units ceased to exist and were replaced by:
(1) the chief commanders (Befehlshaber) of the Security Police and SD in the case of the Einsatzgruppen and
(2) the commandants (kommandeure) of the Security Police and SD in the case of the einsatzkommandos and the SD.
Defense Counsel claims these offices had no connection with the military at all, yet in seeking to make this point he gave the illustration of the Chief of Offices (Befehlshaber) of the SIPO and SD, Ostland with headquarters at Riga, the area of the Civilian Administration, maintaining his headquarters as Chief of Einsatzgruppen A in Krasnowlisk, within the Army area. By this very illustration, which was supposed to show the contrary, it is very clear how one could act in a civilian administrative capacity and be head of an einsatz unit at the same time.
An analysis of the records shows that Eduard Strauch took over the command of Einsatzkommando 2, Latvia, on November 4, 1941, and that in February 1942 he became commander of the Security Police and SD in White Ruthenia, situated at Minsk. From some time in July 1943 until he left Russia, he served as Intelligence Officer in an anti-Guerilla warfare unit.
Strauch's guilt has been established by numerous documents. Strauch seeks to deny that he cooperated with Jeckeln, Higher SS and Police Leader in the Jewish operation of November 30, 1941, because he had only 20 men under him. But it is an extraordinary coincidence indeed that one officer and exactly 20 men of Einsatzkommando 2 participated in that operation which resulted in the deaths of 10,600 Jews in Riga.
Report No. 186, dated March 27, 1942 shows Strauch was commander of the Security Police and the SS for White Ruthenia during this period. The report chronicled the death of 15,000 Jews in Tscherwen.
Report No. 183, dated March 20, 1942, states:
"In the period from 5 to the 28 February the main field office Wilajka shot 29 Jews, 4 Communists, 5 partisans, 5 public enemies, and 4 persons for sabotage. Another 16 persons were arrested."
The Commissioner General for White Ruthenia reported on July 31, 1943 to the Reich Commissar in Riga as follows:
"During detailed consultations with the SS-Brigadefuehrer Zenner and the extremely capable Chief of the SD, SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Dr. jur. Strauch, we found that we had liquidated approximately 55,000 Jews in White Ruthenia during the last 10 weeks. In the Minsk-Land area, the Jewry was completely exterminated, without endangering the allocation of labor in any way."
Strauch first attempted to deny the authenticity of this letter and then abandoned that position, claiming that Kube exaggerated the figures. The Tribunal is convinced that the letter is authentic, and that the statements contained therein represent the truth even if not accepting the absolute accuracy of the figures down to the last digit.
By his own words Strauch was an unrelenting and merciless oppressor of the Jews, and displayed considerable indignation when anyone sought to defend them. In a letter dated 25 July 1943, he related a plan whereby 5,000 Jews of the Minsk Ghetto were to be "resettled". The Jews, however, learned that the resettlement meant execution and Strauch bitterly attacked those responsible for this "treachery". He said:
"We had no choice but to herd the Jews together by force."
On July 20, 1943 he wrote a letter narrating how he had subjected 70 Jews to special treatment and expressing his resentment because complaint had arisen from the fact that he had had the gold fillings removed from the mouths of these Jews before they were killed.
Adolf Ruebe, a master sergeant in the SS, submitted an affidavit on Strauch which further emphasizes Strauch's guilt which is complete:
"About the middle of February 1943 the kommando of the KdS Minsk went to Sluzk, under the leadership of Obersturmbannfuehrer, Eduard Strauch. At about 6:00 o'clock in the morning the kommando was called together. A Hauptsturmfuehrer made a speech in which he told us that the Jewish Ghetto in Sluzk would be liquidated this day and that he expected the highest discipline from every member of the men assigned to carry out the shootings. Another group got the order to guard those who were supposed to be shot. The older people, including me, were supposed to be available at the entrance of the Ghetto. A man in the uniform of a political leader made a speech addressed to the Jews, informing them that they would be resettled. The Jews were then put on the trucks. As a ruse the individual trucks were given different destinations, such as OT (Organization Todt), Reichsbahn, etc. But, as a matter of fact, all the trucks headed straight towards the execution place which was some kilometers outside of Sluzk. There the mass graves had already been prepared. In the same vicinity there were mass graves which originated from a shooting of Jews in summer 1942. The Jews were taken into the ditches where they were murdered by separate shots from behind. At approximately 3 o'clock in the afternoon the executions were completed. Obersturmbannfuehrer Strauch and Brigadefuehrer von Gottberg were present at the executions."
In response to a question regarding the Jewish problem in White Ruthenia, Strauch replied that the Fuehrer-Order was valid in White Ruthenia, as everywhere else. He testified that he had a conference with Kube and that Kube told him Jews were needed and he could not do without these Jews, since they should be used in bringing in the harvest, working in an armament factory and doing other jobs. The defendant thereupon talked to Heydrich and was
directed to postpone the execution of the Fuehrer-Order until the harvest was brought in.
The defendant testified that, in February-May 1942, 7,000 Jews had been killed. When Strauch arrived, Kube asked him not to continue this system, and the defendant said that he could not begin to shoot Jews on the first day of his arrival.
Responding to a question as to the number of Jews executed during the defendant's time of service he replied:
"You mean my time? Oh yes, well, if I count those Jews who were later killed by Gottberg, when I was G-2, when I count them along with the others, then I would say 17,000."
He admitted that, to his own knowledge, a Jew had to be killed just because he was a Jew.
The defendant admitted that he saw probably 60 to 90 executions. Regarding the affair of Sluzk, he testified that the number executed there was about 1,200 and not 2,000 as mentioned in the Kube letter. He stated that he was present during part of the execution and witnessed about 200 being killed. He also saw about 200 women and children lining up to be shot.
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 conditions defined by the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal and is, therefore, guilty under Count III of the Indictment.
On the day of the arraignment on September 15, 1947, Eduard Strauch had an epileptic seizure which necessitated his being taken from the court room. He soon recovered from this seizure and apparently enjoyed normal health, although he remained in the prison-hospital for observation and rest.
On December 11, 1947, a medical board made up of three
physicians conducted an examination of the defendant and declared that it was their opinion that "the defendant's mental condition is such that he is aware of the charges against him in the Indictment." It was their opinion, further, that "the defendant is, at most times, physically and mentally able to understand questions put to him and to reply thereto with the full use of his mental faculties."
There is every indication that, up until a short time prior to the time Eduard Strauch was scheduled to appear in court, his mental behavior was normal. However, in the latter part of December 1947, it appears that he would give irrelevant answers to questions put to him by his attorney when he was consulted in the preparation of his case.
On January 13, 1948, he came into court as a voluntary witness, but once on the stand, proceeded to answer in a manner which, to the Tribunal, represented a conscious and deliberate intention to avoid direct and intelligent responses to the questions put to him.
On January 17, 1948, a medical board of two physicians examined him and concluded:
"That the defendant, Eduard Strauch, except for brief periods proceeding, 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 own defense."
The defendant then again came into court and, on January 19 and 20, testified in an intelligent fashion, giving conclusive evidence of a thorough awareness of the proceedings.
Lieutenant William Bedwell, medical officer and trained psychiatrist was present in court and reported to the Tribunal as follows:
"It is my opinion that the defendant, Herr Eduard Strauch, during the periods when I have observed him, including the court-sessions on the afternoon of 19 January 1948 and the morning of 20 January 1948, has been mentally competent and so free from mental defect, derangement or disease
as to be able to participate adequately in his own defense."
On February 2, 1948, Lieutenant Bedwell was asked on the witness stand:
"Lieutenant, do you think that, at any time when his answers were obviously irrelevant, the answers could be consonant with a conscious desire on the part of the defendant to appear to be, or make himself appear mentally incompetent?"
And he answered:
"I believe that they could be consonant with that desire."
After cross-examination by defense counsel, the following question was put to the psychiatrist:
"Do we understand from your statement, Doctor, that if the witness was not simulating, that then he was suffering from a disease that medical science up to this time has not yet discovered or recorded, so far as your cognizance of medical science is concerned?"
And his answer was:
"That is true."
Another observation on Strauch's mental competency is the fact that Counsel for Sandberger in his Final Plea to the Tribunal quoted from Strauch's testimony in confirmation of an objection supposed to have been made by Sandberger to the Fuehrer-Order.
It is to be noted further that, on February 9, 1948, Dr. Gick made the announcement in court that his client Strauch had no objection to his wife's being called for examination and cross-examination which fact would indicate that, even after he had testified in court, Strauch was still in full possession of his mental faculties.
From the complete history of the defendant's case the Tribunal concludes that any odd behavior demonstrated by the defendant in or out of court was consciously adopted.
The Tribunal further finds from the medical evidence and its own observations of the defendant in court that he was mentally competent to answer to the charges in 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. 198 - 203 (original mimeographed copy)
May 20, 1998