Topic 4:  Mobile Killing Operations


The mobile killing operations of the Nazis did not begin with the invasion of Poland but with the application of Nazi racial doctrine to the German population itself.  The buses of the Gemeinnutzige Krankentransport (public patient transport) pictured here, known as the Gekrat, are parked at the Eichberg hospital near Wiesbaden. These grey buses (upper right) transported the patients from Eichberg to Hadamar, where they were put to death as part of the Nazi euthanasia program.  Institutes such as Hartheim (Austria) and Hadamar (Germany) provided the facilties for the Euthanasia program.  Seen in the upper left, the Hartheim Institute, one of six hospitals and nursing facilities in which the Nazi euthanasia program was carried out.  Hospitalized children and adults who became victims of the program were gassed, shot to death, or killed by lethal injection. Hartheim was established in May 1940. (See also the group portrait of the nursing staff in 1945 of the Hadamar Institute at the entrance to the main building.)

Predecessors: T4/Euthanasia

The entire Nazi Euthanasia Program was based on an idea that had been around since then end of  the 19th century. This was the idea of mercy killing. One other idea that the Nazi's used, was that of  "direct medical killing". This idea was based on the fact that an individual had a right to die and  that he placed this right in a doctor's hands at certain times in his life. When they were first discussed, in works such as Jost's, Das Recht auf den Tod (The Right to Death) and, Binding and Hoche's, Die Freigabe der Vernichtung lebensunwerten Lebens (The Permission to Destroy Life unworthy of Life). Historian Robert Jay Lifton calls the latter of these two works, "the crucial work". This can be argued, as the book was, "Carefully argued in the numbered-paragraph form of the traditional philosophic treatise..." The life unworthy of life, was taken many steps further by the Nazi's, to include, at first, mentally and physically debilitated persons, and finally, Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, etc... Binding was centered on the central idea of euthanasia, while Hoche focused more on the description of these persons as "empty shells of human beings..." Their ideas laid the groundwork for the perversion of the medical system that was to follow. In 1933, sterilization was declared to be not harsh enough for many criminals and mentally unstable persons. It was declared that they should be killed. Along with this speech and declaration, the Nazi's produced a number of propagandist films, such as, "The Inheritance", "Victim of the Past", and "I Accuse". These films, as designed to do, propelled the Volk into sympathy for euthanasia. The propaganda had worked so well, that by 1938, the state was receiving requests from parents and other relatives to permit the euthanasia of newborns and children with deformities. Soon, Prof. Werner Catel, was consulted by Hitler and later appointed head of the entire program It must also be noted here that during this time and in the following years, the medical community was slowly "weeded" out. Those doctors who were not Party members were "disposed of". Many were killed. As the two programs began to run at capacity, the Nazi doctors were the only doctors.
Children's Program
The children's euthanasia program began almost, ironically, at the request of the Volk. The began with the youngest newborns and worked their way up. Eventually, after the program was set up, from Hitler down to the actual physicians, an entire office was created. The Reichsusschuss zur wissenschaftlichen Erfassung von erb- und anlagebedingten schweren Leiden (Reich Committee for for the Scientific Registration of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Diseases) was set up to justify the program. They stated that all children, "under the age of three in whom any of the following serious hereditary diseases were suspected: idiocy and mongolism, microcephaly, hydrocephaly, malformations and paralysis, were to be registered." The cases would then be studied by a series of experts. Eventually, the study came down to a form in which the expert placed a (+) if the child was to live, a (-) if the child was to die, or a note explaining why further examination was needed. Later, these forms would be filled out arbitrarily, without even opening cas files. By the time it reached capacity, over thirty mental institutions had been turned into killing centers all over Germany, Poland, and Austria. The genius of the program, though, came in the structure of the program. Children were kept at the institutions for a few weeks before being killed. This gave outsiders, and parents, the impression that the child was being evaluated. After a few weeks, the child was given a tablet of luminal, or an injection of morphine-scopolamine. As the program went on, the scope of the program increased. At one institution, an area was set up for "Aryan-Jewish Half Breeds". It has been estimated that over 5,000 children were killed in this program. The program then began to include minor experimentation before children were killed. Dr. Hermann Pfannmuller starved a number of children to see the results. There are also accounts of electric shocks for bed wetting, and other punishments. The fact that the Nazi's convinced the German Volk to initiate the program themselves, is particularly interesting.
Adult Program
Hitler made euthanasia official policy in 1939. This gave the adult program the green light. The programs overlapped mainly in personnel, most notably, Dr. Pfanmueller. Again, a number of Nazi doctors were chosen from the medical community. In the adult program, however, most of the Nazi psychiatric community was included. This time, the Reich created the Reichsarbeits-gemeinschaft Heil- und Plegeanstalten (Reich Work Group of Sanatoriums and Nursing Homes). It was located at  Tiergarten 4, thus the code name for the project became "T4". Again, they gave criteria for registration. These included: Those who were only employable in simple mechanical work; those who had schizophrenia, epilepsy, senility, paralysis, feeblemindedness, chorea, and other neurological conditions; those who have been continually institutionalized for dive years; those in custody as criminally insane; those who are not German citizens and/or not of German blood. Again, a questionnaire was set up. The adult program, however, was rushed from the beginning. it was not uncommon for a doctor to have to fill out 1,500 questionnaire's in two weeks. Again the plus and minus signs were used. For final review, the questionnaire's were sent to a single expert. Again, the genius was in the setup. As patients were killed, a family would receive a set of three letters. The first would state a transfer because of "war purposes". The second letter stated arrival, and promised visiting hours and updates. The third letter, usually received about a week later, informed the family of the patient's death. In reality, the patient was usually killed within 24 hours of arrival. The adult program then saw the first use of the later infamous gas chamber. At capacity, there were six main killing centers. Hitler chose to use carbon monoxide as the gas. Later, in the camps, the gas would change to Zyklon-B. The crematoria were also first used here. Injections were observed to be too slow, and therefore, the gas chamber came into use. The SS even developed special stretchers that mechanically moved the corpses into the crematoria. Ironically, the doctors chosen for the killing programs were, many times, chosen for their inexperience, as they were more likely to follow along without questioning. The use of the gas chamber followed a simple procedure that took just under an hour. After the doors were sealed, the air was sucked out of the chamber as gas was siphoned in. Through a small window, the physician watched until all patients were dead. The room was then reventilated and the chamber was unsealed. the corpses were then moved and and the next group were sent in. At its height, 5,00 death certificates were falsified per day. The euthanasia programs paved the way, in all manners, to the death camps that were to follow.

Einsatzgruppen or "Special Action Squads"

Specially trained units of the S.S. followed the first wave of German army troops in the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). Their orders were to execute on the spot all Communists, Jews, and Gypsies. It is estimated that by the end of 1942, they had killed more than a million Soviet Jews. These victims were shot or loaded into enclosed trucks modified for the introduction of carbon monoxide to asphyxiate its victims. An additional 400,000 were killed by other S.S. units, anti-Semitic native civilians, police units, and the German army.

From the mid-1300's, Jews had begun to concentrate in a large strip of eastern European territory known as the "Pale of the Settlement." By 1900, there were, perhaps, as many as 7 million Jews living in this area bounded by Germany on the east, the Baltic sea on the north, the Black Sea on the south and the Dnieper River in Russia on the east. The Jewish population of Poland in 1939 was about 3.3 million with an additional 2.1 million in the occupied Russian provinces. There were also heavy concentrations of Jews in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to the north and Hungary and the Slavic states to the south.

Anti-Semitism had long been evident in Poland. Jews were not considered Poles and, as in Nazi Germany, were defined as a race. It appears that, until 1939, Poland saw its destiny as tied to Germany's and its policies toward Jews mirrored those of Germany -- forced emigration. This was all to change with the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The consequences of this invasion were disastrous for Poland as a nation and, especially for Poland's Jewish population.

Immediately following the invasion, Heinrich Himmler was appointed to take measures to strengthen German ethnicity in the occupied territories and to create lebensraum, or living space for German citizens. To this end, Himmler created special task forces within the SS, the Einsatzgruppen, and placed them under the command of Reinhard Heydrich. On September, 21, 1939, Heydrich instructed those under his command to observe a distinction between the "final aim," which would take some time and "the steps necessary for reaching it which can be applied more or less at once." The Einsatzgruppen became "mobile killing units" charged with liquidating all political enemies of the Reich. According to historian, Raul Hilberg, the mobile killing units murdered 1.4 million Jews between 1941 and the end of the war in 1945.

The Organization of the Einsatzgruppen

During the last years the world has learned much about this "state within the state" which was formed by the SS. Much about this new aristocracy of "blood and elite" need not be repeated here. The Einsatzgruppen were part of the SS. They were created at the direction of Hitler and Himmler by Heydrich the Chief of the Security Police and SD, who was Himmler's right hand man, and operated under the direct control of the RSHA, the Reich Security Main Office, one of the most important of the twelve main offices of the SS.

The Einsatzgruppen were formed in the spring of 1941. The sequence of events was as follows:  In anticipation of the assault on Russia, Hitler issued an order directing that the Security Police and the Security Service be called in to assist the army in breaking every means of resistance behind the fighting front. Thereafter, the Quartermaster General of the Army, General Wagner, representing Keitel, the Chief of the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht, met Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police and Security Service. These two men reached an agreement concerning the activation, commitment, command, and jurisdiction of units of the Security Police and SD within the framework of the army. The Einsatzgruppen were to function in the rear operational areas in administrative subordination to the field armies, in order to carry out these tasks as directed by Heydrich and Himmler.

The reason why decisions of the highest military and administrative level were necessary for the creation of such small units is shown by the character of their assignment. These "security measures" were defined according to the principles of the Security Police and the SD, the principles of Heydrich, the principles of unmitigated terror and murder. The actions of the Einsatzgruppen in the conquered territories will demonstrate the purpose for which they were organized.

In the beginning four such Einsatzgruppen were formed, each of which was attached to an army group. Einsatzgruppe A was attached to Army Group North, Einsatzgruppe B was attached to Army Group Center, Einsatzgruppe C was attached to Army Group South and Einsatzgruppe D was assigned to the 11th German Army which was to be nucleus for the formation of a fourth army group after it reached the Caucasus. The function of the Einsatzgruppen was here to insure the political security of the conquered territories both in the operational areas of the Wehrmacht and the rear areas which were not directly under civil administration. These two missions were made known at a mass meeting of the Einsatzgruppen personnel before the attack on Russia. At this meeting Heydrich, Chief of the SIP0 and SD, and Streckenbach, chief of the personnel office of the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) flatly stated that the task of the Einsatzgruppen would be accomplished by exterminating the opposition to National Socialism.

Nor were the commanders of the armed forces ignorant of the task of the Einsatzgruppen. Hitler himself instructed them that it was the mission of these special task forces to exterminate all Jews and political commissars in their assigned territories. The Einsatzgruppen were dependent upon the army commander for their billets, food, and transport; relations between armed forces and the Security Police and SD were close and almost cordial, and the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen reported again and again that the understanding of the army commanders for the task of the Einsatzgruppen made their operations considerably easier.

The normal strength of the Einsatzgruppen was from 500 to 800 men. The officer strength of the Einsatzgruppen was drawn from the SD, SS, Criminal Police (Kripo) and Gestapo. The enlisted forces were composed of the Waffen SS, the regular police, the Gestapo, and locally-recruited police. When occasion demanded, the Wehrmacht commanders would bolster the strength of the Einsatzgruppen with contingents of their own. The Einsatzgruppen were divided into Einsatzkommandos and Sonderkommandos. These subunits differed only in name. When a mission called for a very small task force, the Einsatz or Sonderkommandos was capable of further subdivision, called Teilkommando or splinter group.

The activity of the Einsatzgruppen was not limited to the civilian population alone, but reached into prisoner-of-war camps in total disregard of the rules of warfare. Soldiers were screened by Einsatzkommandos personnel in order to find and kill Jews and political commissars.

Shortly before the campaign against Russia, Hitler gave an explanation of the ideological background of this fight to the commanders in chief and the highest officers of the three branches of the armed forces. This war, he said, would not be an ordinary war, but a clash of conflicting ideologies. Special measures would have to be taken against political functionaries and commissars of the Soviet Army. Political activities and commissars were not to be treated as prisoners of war, but were to be segregated and turned over to special detachments of the SD which were to accompany the German troops. The carrying-out of this Hitler directive was described by the International Military Tribunal in its judgment that – "... There existed in the prisoner-of-war camps on the eastern front small screening teams (Einsatzkommandos), headed by lower ranking members of the Secret Police (Gestapo). These teams were assigned to the camp commanders and had the job of segregating the prisoners of war who were candidates for execution according to the orders that had been given, and to report them to the office of the Secret Police."*

When a general expressed concern that the morale of the average German soldier might suffer from the sight of these executions, the Chief of the Office IV of the RSHA assured him cynically that, in the future, this "special treatment"-the euphemistic expression for killing-would take place outside the camps so that the troops would not see them.

Detailed instructions were put into force that no political functionary, commissar, higher-ranking civil servant, leading personality of the economical field, member of the intelligentsia, or Jew, might escape extermination. These purposes were realized in actions we shall now describe.

Activities of the Einsatzgruppen

In May and June 1941, the assembling of Einsatz-gruppen personnel began, in conformity with the agreements between the Army High Command and the Reich Security Main Office. At first the Border Police School Barracks at Pretzsch in Saxony was designated as an assembly point, but because of the inadequacy of facilities, the neighboring villages of Dueben and Schmiedeberg were also designated as assembly points.

Since the majority of the personnel for the Einsatzgruppen came from military or police organizations, they already understood normal military duties. The course of training given them at the assembly points consisted of lectures and speeches on their new and special functions. After this orientation the Gruppen received their equipment, and were to be committed to action. Events were not long delayed which brought these organizations to their assigned tasks, and their missions were thoroughly understood from the highest-ranking leader of a Gruppe down to the lowest SS man.

On 22 June 1941, with no previous warning, Germany invaded Soviet Russia. The Einsatzgruppen, already alerted, fell in behind the marching columns of the Wehrmacht as an integral part of the machine constructed for swift and total war. Within a space of three days the training grounds in Saxony were empty and all Einsatzgruppen had entered upon the performance of their various missions.

The Wehrmacht rapidly overran vast territory in the early months of the invasion of the Soviet Union. By December 1941, the eastern front extended from Leningrad on the north to the Crimean Peninsula in the south. The Baltic States, White Ruthenia, and most of the Ukraine were in German hands. In this wide land the Einsatzgruppen moved behind the lines of combat. They were deployed from north to south in alphabetical order across the east of Europe.

The precise areas in which they did their work will become apparent as the proof is adduced. And it will be seen that they followed like methods in executing their common mission.

Identity of purpose and of top command were reflected in a common pattern of performance. Some victims were disposed of casually. Political functionaries were shot where found. Prisoners of war who fell in the category of opponents of National Socialism were handed by the Wehrmacht to the Einsatzgruppen and killed. (In the picture to the right, Jewish men are forced by Waffen-SS troops and SD officers to dig their own grave before being executed.  The picture was probable taken sometime in 1942.)

These swift methods were also applied in disposing of Jews, gypsies, and persons falling under that vague denomination "undesirables." But these latter classes of humans marked for slaughter were large-too large to be disposed of by casual assassination. Their very numbers demanded that they be killed en masse. Accordingly, we find plans and methods adapted to this necessity.

We must remember that the Einsatzgruppen were small forces of 500 to 800 men. Four of these small forces totaling not more than 3,000 men killed at least l,000,000 human beings in approximately two years' time. These figures enable us to make estimates which help considerably in understanding this case. They show that the four Einsatzgruppen averaged some 1,350 murders per day during a 2-year period; 1,350 human beings slaughtered on the average day, 7 days a week for more than 100 weeks. That is 337 murders per average day by each group of 500 to 800 men during the 2-year period. All these thousands of men, women, and children killed had first to be selected, brought together, held in restraint, and transported to a place of death. They had to be counted, stripped of possessions, shot, and buried. And burial did not end the job, for all of the pitiful possessions taken from the dead had to be salvaged, crated, and shipped to the Reich. Finally, books were kept to cover these transactions. Details of all these things had to be recorded and reported.

Upon entry into a given area and after establishing itself for an extermination operation, an Einsatz unit rounded up those elements of the population marked for slaughter. This was accomplished by special orders to report and by manhunts. It was followed by concentration of the victims under guard to be transported to a place for execution or at the abbatoir itself. In accomplishing roundups, a common deceit was widely practiced; those who were to die were told to report for "resettlement''-hope was held out to those who had none in fact, and who awaited certain death. The methods of extermination varied little. Mass shooting, the commonest means of slaughter, was described with classic simplicity by Herman Graebe, a German civilian, before the International Military Tribunal. Graebe was in charge of a building firm in the Ukraine: “I walked around the mound, and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was already 2/3 full. I estimated. that it contained about 1,000 people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps which were cut in the clay wall of the pit and clambered over the heads of the people lying there, to the place to which the SS man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or injured people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay before them. Blood was running from their necks. I was surprised that I was not ordered away, but I saw that there were two or three postmen in uniform nearby. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot. When I walked back around the mound, I noticed another truckload of people which had just arrived. This time it included sick and infirm persons. An old, very thin woman with terribly thin legs was undressed by others who were already naked, while two people held her up. The woman appeared to be paralyzed. The naked people carried the woman around the mound. I left with Moennikes and drove in my car back to Dubno. "On the morning of the next day, when I again visited the site, I saw about 30 naked people lying near the pit-about 30 to 50 meters away from it. Some of them were still alive; they looked straight in front of them with a fixed stare and seemed to notice neither the chilliness of the morning nor the workers of my firm who stood around. A girl of about 20 spoke to me and asked me to give her clothes, and help her escape. At that moment we heard a fast car approach and I noticed that it was an SS detail. I moved away to my site. Ten minutes later we heard shots from the vicinity of the pit. The Jews still alive had been ordered to throw the corpses into the pit; then they had themselves to lie down in this to be shot in the neck." (2992-PS, Pros. Ex. 33.)

Another form of extermination employed was asphyxiation by lethal gasses in enclosed trucks or vans. Here again the victims were induced to enter these death machines by the promise that they would be transported to other areas for resettlement. As the van left the leading area it was filled with deadly fumes. A few minutes later, when the van reached the disposal point, the corpses were unloaded into prepared excavations which became unmarked mass graves. These, then, were the usual methods used by the Einsatzgruppen. May I now briefly detail some of their activities.

Einsatzgruppe A
Einsatzgruppe A made a comprehensive report in October 1941 describing what it had been doing. The report gave the total of 121,817 persons killed. The commanding officer stated- "To our surprise it was not easy at first to set in motion an extensive pogrom against the Jews. Klimatis, the leader of the partisan unit mentioned above, who was used for this purpose primarily, succeeded in starting pogroms on the basis of advice given to him by a small Vorkommando operating in Kovno and in such a way that no German order or German instigation was noticed from the outside. During the first pogrom in the night from 25 to 26 June, the Lithuanian partisans did away with more than 1,500 Jews, set fire to several synagogues or destroyed them by other means, and burned down a Jewish dwelling district consisting of about 60 houses. During the following nights, approximately 2,300 Jews were rendered harmless in a similar way." (L-180, Pros. Ex. 34.)

Sonderkommando 1a, which was under the command of Martin Sandberger, arrested all male Jews over 16 in its area and with the exception of doctors and the Counsel of Elders, they were all executed. The Strauch commanded Einsatzkommando 2. Six months after they began operations, they reported a total of 33,970 executions. The Commissioner General of White Ruthenia had the following to say:  "During detailed consultations with the SS Brigadier Gen-eral [SS Brigadefuehrer] Zenner and the extremely capable Chief of the SD, SS Lieutenant Colonel [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."

Heinz Jost was in command of Einsatzgruppe A on 27 March 1942 when they reported that 15,000 Jews were shot in Cherven. The report pointed out that these acts created a feeling of insecurity and even anxiety in the population of White Ruthenia and that it was impossible to estimate the consequences of such measures. At another time while this Einsatzgruppe was under Jost's command, it reported that it had executed 1,272 persons, including those too aged and infirm to work, and political leaders. The report adds that 14 of this number of more than 1,000 persons slaughtered were either guilty of misdeeds or were criminals. The proof will show, we believe, that this proportion of only 2 percent of the victims shot for crime is not unusual.

(Pictured to the left, Otto Ohlendorf (left) receives his indictment from Col. C.W. Mays, Marshal of the Military Tribunal, before the Einsatzgruppen Trial. The other defendants (left to right) are, Heinz Jost, Erich Naumann, and Erwin Schulz. On 10 September 1947, the US Military Government for Germany created the Military Tribunal II-A to try the Einsatzgruppen Case, whose twenty-four defendants, all members of the German mobile killing units, the Einsatzgruppen, had been indicted on 29 July 1947. The indictment listed three counts, charging the defendants with: committing crimes against humanity by participating in atrocities and offenses, including murder, extermination, and imprisonment of the civilian population, and persecution on political, racial, and religious grounds; and committing war crimes by participating in the murder and ill-treatment of POWs and civilians of countries under German control, and wanton destruction and devastation not justified by military necessity as part of specific Einsatzgruppen actions. The final count charged all the defendants with membership in the SS, twenty-one defendants with membership in the SD, and 7 with membership in the Gestapo, all recently declared criminal organizations. After the defendants were arraigned between 15 and 22 September, the trial ran from 29 September until 12 February 1948, finishing with only twenty-two defendants, as Emil Haussmann committed suicide soon after being indicted and Otto Rasch had his case discontinued for medical reasons. The Tribunal returned its judgment on 8 and 9 April, finding twenty defendants guilty on all counts, one guilty on count three, and Mathias Graf only guilty of membership in the SD and not the SS. The sentences were announced on 10 April, with the Tribunal sentencing fourteen of the guilty defendants to death, two to life in prison, five to jail terms of ten or twenty years, and Graf to time served. Four of the defendants sentenced to death were executed in 1951, but the rest had their sentences reduced by a clemency board to various jail terms.)

 Einsatzgruppe B
Eric Naumann commanded Einsatzgruppe B. In Minsk this Einsatzgruppe had rounded up all male inhabitants and put them in a civilian prison camp. By careful screening, with the help of the Secret Field Police, it was able to liquidate over 1,000 Jews. In Lithuania, a local Kommando of this Gruppe reported that 500 Jews were being liquidated daily. The report also stated that nearly half a million roubles in cash "which belonged to Jews who were subject to special treatment were appropriated as belonging to the enemies of the Reich and confiscated." By the middle of November 1941, Einsatzgruppe B could report a total of 45,467 [sic] executions. These executions were broken down as follows:

                    Staff and Vorkommando Moscow.. . . . . . . . . . .2,457
                    Sonderkommando 7a........................................ 1,517
                    Sonderkommando 7b........................................ 1,822
                    Einsatzkommando 8. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... 28,290
                    Einsatzkommando 9......................................... 11,452

In reporting further executions in the civilian prisoners camps in Minsk, Einsatzgruppe B stated that another 733 civilian prisoners were liquidated. The comment made concerning these executions is:  " All the persons executed were absolutely inferior elements with a predominant mixture of Asiatic blood. No responsibility could be assumed if they were left in the occupied zone."

Walter Blume was chief of Sonderkommando 7a in Einsatzgruppe B. In one of his affidavits he says:  "I carried out one execution in the course of my duty. I remember one occasion on which between 70 and 80 people were executed in Vitebsk and on another occasion on which a similar number were executed in Minsk... on both occasions a kind of trench was dug, the persons destined to die were placed in front of it and shot with carbines. About 10 people were shot simultaneously by an execution force of 30 to 40 men. There was no doctor present at the execution, but the leader of the execution force who was responsible made sure that the people were dead. Coups de grace were not necessary." (NO-4145, Pros. Ex. 10.)

Eugen Steimle, commanded Sonderkommando 7a. In one of his affidavits he tells us that he had been reprimanded for not shooting women and children in his mass executions. His reports indicated that the reprimand was not without effect.

Adolf Ott commanded another unit in Einsatzgruppe B and he tells us: "During the time I was Kommando Leader of the Kommanclo 7 b, about 80 to 100 executions were carried out by this Kommando. I remember one execution which took place in the vicinity of Bryansk. The people to be executed were handed over to my unit by the local commandant. The corpses were temporarily buried in the snow and later buried by the Army. The valuables which were collected from these people were sent to Einsatzgruppe B." (NO-2993, Pros. Es. 67.)

Other units of Einsatzgruppe B headed by Klingelhoefer and Franz Six did not vary from this standard pattern.

Einsatzgruppe C
Einsatzgruppe C did not fail to report the success of its work. Under the significant heading, "Executive Activities", this group reported in the first days of November- "As to purely executive matters, approximately 80,000 per-sons were liquidated until now by the Kommandos of the Einsatzgruppe ... "Several retaliatory measures were carried out as large-scale actions. The largest of these actions took place immediately after the occupation of Kiev; it was carried out exclusively against Jews with their entire families.

"The difficulties resulting from such a large-scale action-in particular concerning the seizure-were overcome in Kiev by requesting the Jewish population through wall-posters to move. Although only a participation of approximately 5-6,000 Jews had been expected at first, more than 30,000 Jews arrived who, until the very moment of their execution, still believed in their resettlement, thanks to an extremely clever organization.

"Even though approximately 75,000 Jews have been liquidated in this manner, it is already at this time evident that this cannot be a possible solution of the Jewish problem. Although we succeeded, in particular in smaller towns and also in villages, in accomplishing a complete liquidation of the Jewish problem, again and again, it is however observed in larger cities that after such an execution all Jews have indeed disappeared. But when after a certain period of time a Kommando returns again, the number of Jews still found in the city always considerably surpasses the number of the executed Jews."

The killing of 33,000 Jewish inhabitants of Kiev in only 2 days stands out even among the ghastly records of the Einsatzgruppen. It was Paul Blobel, who with his unit under the command of Rasch, accomplished this massacre which nearly defies human imagination. Einsatzgruppe C received high praise for its activities from the Commanding General of the Gth Army, Field Marshal von Reichenau. This ruthless, mass killing shamed some of the German witnesses, and the Einsatz-gruppe had to report that "Unfortunately it often occurred that the Einsatzkommandos had to suffer more or less hidden re-proaches for their consequent stand on the Jewish problem."

But the Jews were by no means the only part of the population which was marked for extermination. They were only the most helpless victims. Therefore, Einsatzgruppe C stressed the point of the political sources of danger by reporting- "Even if an immediate hundred percent exclusion of Jewry were possible, this would not remove the political source of danger. The Bolshevistic work depends on Jews, Russians, Georgians, Armenians, Poles, Latvians, Ukrainians ; the Bolshevistic machine is by no means identical with the Jewish population. In this situation, the goal of a political police security would be missed, if the main task of the destruction of the communistic machine were put back into second or third place in favor of the practically easier task of the exclusion of the Jews."

Einsatzkommando 5 was commanded by Erwin Schulz. Only half a year after this Einsatzkommando had begun its activities, it was able to report a total of 15,000 executions. It was reported that the liquidation of insane Jews represented a particularly heavy mental burden for the members of Schulz' Einsatzkommando, who were in charge of this operation. Nor were the non-Jewish inmates of insane asylums spared. Einsatzkommando 6 killed 800 of them in one asylum alone. The commander of this unit, at a later time, was Ernst Biberstein.

Before he became leader of Einsatzkommando 6, he was a Protestant minister, and under his aegis two to three thousand helpless people were murdered, and he himself supervised executions which were carried out by his unit by means of a gas van.

Einsatzgruppe D
The headquarters staff of Einsatzgruppe D was commanded by Otto Ohlendorf and his deputy was Schubert. A subunit of Ohlendorf's command, Einsatzkommando 12, was commanded by Gustav Nosske. A third unit of Einsatzgruppe D, Sonderkommando l0b, was led by one Persterer. Persterer's deputy was Felix Ruehl.

During the first nine months of Ohlendorf's year in command of Einsatzgruppe D, this force destroyed more than 90,000 human beings. These thousands, killed at an average rate of 340 per day, were variously denominated Jews, gypsies, Asiatics, and "undesirables". Between 16 November and 15 December 1941, this Einsatzgruppe killed an average of 700 human beings per day for the whole 30-day period. The intensity of the labors of Einsatzgruppe D is suggested by an April 1942 report upon its work in the Crimea, which states- "The Crimea is freed of Jews. Only occasionally some small groups are turning up, especially in the northern areas. In cases where single Jews could camouflage themselves by means of forged papers, etc., they will, nevertheless, be recognized sooner or later, as experience has taught."

In ordering these massacres Ohlendorf and his men were not without scruples:   “It was," he said," my wish that these executions be carried out in a manner and fashion which was military and suitably humane under the circumstances. For this reason I personally inspected a number of executions, for example, executions which were carried out by Kommando 11b under the direction of Dr.Werner Braune, executions by Kommando11a under Sturmbannfuehrer Zapp in Nikolaev, and a smaller execution by Kommando l0b under the leadership of Alois Persterer in Ananev. For technical reasons (for example, because of road conditions) it was not possible to inspect all mass executions. Insofar as I was prevented from inspections for personal reasons, I ordered members of my staff to represent me at these. I remember that Schubert inspected an execution which was carried out by Kommando 11b under Braune's direction in December 1941 in Simferopol. The only people whom I generally assigned to inspections were, except for Schubert, Willy Seibert and Hans Gabel."

The execution at Simferopol which Ohlendorf mentions was reported to Berlin as," very difficult" because "reports about actions against Jews gradually filtered through from fleeing Jews, Russians, and also from unguarded talks of German soldiers." But these difficulties apparently increased the determination of Einsatzgruppe D. On 18 February it reported to Berlin- "By the end of February the combing-through of the occupied Crimea will have been finished. Certain important areas in towns in particular are being regularly rechecked. The search for isolated Jews who have up to now avoided being shot by hiding themselves or by giving false personnel data was continued. From 9 January to 15 February more than 300 Jews were apprehended in Simferopol and executed. By this the number of persons executed in Simferopol increased to almost 10,000 Jews, about 300 more than the number of Jews registered. In the other Kommando areas as well, 100-200 Jews were still disposed of in each instance."

The International Military Tribunal reached the conclusion from the evidence then before it that - "Einsatzgruppen of the Security PoIice and SD operating behind the lines of the eastern front engaged in the wholesale massacre of Jews ...   Commissars, Jews, members of the intelligentsia, 'fanatical Communists' and even those who were considered incurably sick were classified as 'intolerable', and exterminated .... These units were also involved in the widespread murder and ill-treatment of the civilian population of occupied territories.

Under the guise of combatting partisan units, units of the SS exterminated Jews and people deemed politically undesirable by the SS, and their reports record the execution of enormous numbers of persons." (In the picture to the right, German soldiers of the Waffen-SS and the Reich Labor Service look on as a member of Einsatzgruppe D prepares to shoot a Ukrainian Jew kneeling on the edge of a mass grave filled with corpses.)

Babi Yar

By 1941, the focus and function of the Einsatzgruppen had changed significantly. With the initiation of Operation Barbarossa, Germany's assault on the Soviet Union, the mobile killing units operated over a wide area of Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea. There were four main divisions of the Einsatzgruppen -- Groups A, B, C and D. These groups, all under Heydrich's general command, operated just behind the advancing German troops eliminating "undesirables: political "criminals," Polish governmental officials, gypsies and, mostly, Jews. Jews were rounded up in every village, transported to a wooded area, or a ravine (either natural or constructed by Jewish labor). They (men, women and children) were stripped, shot and buried. Sachar provides a description of one of the most brutal mass exterminations -- at a ravine named "Babi Yar," near the Ukranian city of Kiev:

Kiev ... contained a Jewish population of 175,000 on the eve of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The Nazi forces captured the city in mid-September; within less than a fortnight, on the 29th. and 30th., nearly 34,000 Jews of the ghetto were brought to a suburban ravine known as Babi Yar, near the Jewish Cemetery, where men, women, and children were systematically machine-gunned in a two-day orgy of execution. In subsequent months, most of the remaining population was exterminated.  (Pictured Left)

This, the most appalling massacre of the war, is often alluded to as a prime example of utter Jewish helplessness in the face of disaster. But even the few desperate attempts, almost completely futile, to strike back served as a reminder that the difference between resistance and submission depended very largely upon who was in possession of the arms that back up the will to do or die. The Jews in their thousands, with such pathetic belongings as they could carry, were herded into barbed-wire areas at the top of the ravine, guarded by Ukrainian collaborators. There they were stripped of their clothes and beaten, then led in irregular squads down the side of the ravine. The first groups were forced to lie on the ground, face down, and were machine-gunned by the Germans who kept up a steady volley.

The riddled bodies were covered with thin layers of earth and the next groups were ordered to lie over them, to be similarly despatched. To carry out the murder of 34,000 human beings in the space of two days could not assure that all the victims had died. Hence there were a few who survived and, though badly wounded, managed to crawl from under the corpses and seek a hiding place.

After the main massacre, the site was converted into a more permanent camp to which thousands of victims from other parts of the Ukraine could be sent for extermination. It became known as the Syrets camp, taking its name from a nearby Kiew neighborhood. Several hundred selected prisoners were quartered there -- carpenters, showmakers, tailors, and other artisans -- to serve the needs of the SS men and the Ukrainian guards. They were usually killed within a few weeks and replaced by others who continued their duties. In charge of the administration and ultimate killing was Paul von Radomski, who seemed to crace a reputation for outdoing his sadist colleagues in other camps.


 Obliterating the Traces of Bodies of Jews Killed by the Einsatzgruppen (June 18, 1947)


           I, Paul Blobel, swear, declare and state in evidence:

1. I was born in Potsdam on August 13, 1894. From June 1941 to January 1942, I was the Commander of Sonderkommando 4 A.

2. After I had been released from this command, I was to report in Berlin to SS Obergruppenfuehrer Heydrich and Gruppenfuehrer Mueller, and in June 1942 I was entrusted by Gruppenfuehrer Mueller with the task of obliterating the traces of executions carried out by the Einsatzgruppen in the East. My orders were that I should report in person to the commanders of the Security Police and SD, pass on Mueller’s orders verbally, and supervise their implementation. This order was top secret and Gruppenfuehrer Mueller had given orders that owing to the need for strictest secrecy there was to be no correspondence in connection with this task. In September 1942 I reported to Dr. Thomas in Kiev and passed the order on to him. The order could not be carried out immediately, partly because Dr. Thomas was disinclined to carry it out, and also because the materials required for the burning of the bodies were not available. In May and June 1943 I made additional trips to Kiev in this matter and then, after conversations with Dr. Thomas and with SS and Police Leader Hennecke, the order was carried out.

3. During my visit in August I myself observed the burning of bodies in a mass grave near Kiev. This grave was about 55 m. long, 3 m. wide and 2½ m. deep. After the top had been removed the bodies were covered with inflammable material and ignited. It took about two days until the grave burned down to the bottom. I myself observed that the fire had glowed down to the bottom. After that the grave was filled in and the traces were now practically obliterated.

4. Owing to the moving up of the front-line it was not possible to destroy the mass graves further south and east which had resulted from executions by the Einsatzgruppen. I traveled to Berlin in this connection to report, and was then sent to Estonia by Gruppenfuehrer Mueller. I passed on the same orders to Oberfuehrer Achammer-Pierader in Riga, and also to Obergruppenfuehrer Jeckeln. I returned to Berlin in order to obtain fuel. The burning of the bodies began only in May or June 1944. I remember that incinerations took place in the area of Riga and Reval. I was present at such incinerations near Reval, but the graves were smaller here and contained only about 20 to 30 bodies. The graves in the area of Reval were about 20 or 30 kms. east of the city in a marshy district and I think that 4 or 5 such graves were opened and the bodies burned.

5. According to my orders I should have extended my duties over the entire area occupied by the Einsatzgruppen, but owing to the retreat from Russia I could not carry out my orders completely....

           I have made this disposition of my own free will, without any kind of promise of reward, and I was not subjected to any form of  compulsion or threat.

            Nuremberg, June 18, 1947
                                                                                                    signed Paul Blobel

Evidence presented at Nuremberg by Paul Blobel regarding the burning of bodies and obliterating the traces of bodies of Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen.

           Source: Yad Vashem

 More Evidence
The murder and ill-treatment of civilian populations reached its height in the treatment of the citizens of the Soviet Union and Poland. Some four weeks before the invasion of Russia began, special task forces of the SIPO and SD, called Einsatz Groups, were formed on the orders of Himmler for the purpose of following the German armies into Russia, combating partisans and members of Resistance Groups, and exterminating the Jews and communist leaders and other sections of the population. In the beginning, four such Einsatz Groups were formed, one operating in the Baltic States, one towards Moscow, one towards Kiev, and one operating in the south of Russia. Ohlendorf, former chief of Amt III of the RSHA, who led the fourth group, stated in his affidavit:
     When the German army invaded Russia, I was leader of Einsatzgruppe D, in the
     southern sector, and in the course of the year during which I was leader of the
     Einsatzgruppe D it liquidated approximately 90,000 men, women and children. The
     majority of those liquidated were Jews, but there were also among them some communist

 In an order issued by Keitel on the 23rd July, 1941, and drafted by Jodl, it was stated that:

     ... in view of the vast size of the occupied areas in the East the forces available for
     establishing security in these areas will be sufficient only if all resistance is punished, not
     by legal prosecution of the guilty, but by the spreading of such terror by the armed forces
     as is alone appropriate to eradicate every inclination to resist among the population . . .
     Commanders must find the means of keeping order by applying suitable draconian

The German occupation policy was clearly stated in a speech made by Goering on the 6th August, 1942, to the various German authorities in charge of occupied territories:

     God knows, you are not sent out there to work for the welfare of the people in your
     charge, but to get the utmost out of them, so that the German people can live. That is
     what I expect of your exertions. This everlasting concern about foreign people must
     cease now, once and for all. I have here before me reports on what you are expected to
     deliver. It is nothing at all, when I consider your territories. It makes no difference to me
     in this connection if you say that your people will starve.

The methods employed to exploit the resources of the occupied territories to the full varied from country to country. In some of the occupied countries in the East and the West, this exploitation was carried out within the framework of the existing economic structure. The local industries were put under German supervision, and the distribution of war materials was rigidly controlled. The industries thought to be of value to the German war effort were compelled to continue, and most of the rest were closed down altogether. Raw materials and the finished products alike were confiscated for the needs of the Germany industry. As early as the 19th October, 1939, Goering had issued a directive giving detailed instructions for the administration of the occupied territories, it provided:

     The task for the economic treatment of the various administrative regions is different,
     depending on whether the country is involved which will be incorporated politically into
     the German Reich, or whether we will deal with the Government-General, which in all
     probability will not be made a part of Germany. In the first mentioned territories, the . . .
     safeguarding of all their productive facilities and supplies must be aimed at, as well s a
     complete incorporation into the Greater German economic system, at the earliest possible
     time. On the other hand, there must be removed from the territories of the
     Government-General all raw materials, scrap materials, machines, etc., which are of use
     for the German war economy. Enterprises which are not absolutely necessary for the
     meagre maintenance of the naked existence of the population must be transferred to
     Germany, unless such transfer would require an unreasonably long period of time, and
     would make it more practicable to exploit those enterprises by giving them German
     orders, to be executed at their present location.

As a consequence of this order, agricultural products, raw materials needed by German factories, machine tools, transportation equipment, other finished products and even foreign securities and holdings of foreign exchange were all requisitioned and sent to Germany. These resources were requisitioned in a manner out of all proportion to the economic resources of those countries, and resulted in famine, inflation and an active black market. At first the German occupation authorities attempted to suppress the black market, because it was a channel of distribution keeping local products out of German hands. When attempts at suppression failed, a German purchasing agency was organised to make purchases for Germany on the black market, thus carrying out the assurance made by Goering that ,it was " necessary that all should know that if there is to be famine anywhere, it shall in no case be in Germany."

The evidence has shown that this order was ruthlessly carried out in the territory of the Soviet Union and in Poland. A significant illustration of the measures actually applied occurs in the document which was sent in 1943 to Rosenberg by the Reich Commissar for Eastern Territories, who wrote:

     It should be possible to avoid atrocities and to bury those who have been liquidated. To
     lock men, women and children into barns and set fire to them does not appear to be a
     suitable method of combating bands, even if it is desired to exterminate the population.
     This method is not worthy of the German cause, and hurts our reputation severely.

The affidavit of Hermann Graebe, dated 10th November, 1945, described the immense mass murders which he witnessed. He was the manager and engineer in charge of the branch of the Solingen firm of Josef Jung in Spolbunow, Ukraine, from September, 1941, to January, 1944. He first of all described the attack upon the Jewish ghetto at Rowno:

     . . . Then the electric floodlights which had been erected all round the ghetto were
     switched on. SS and militia details of four to six members entered or at least tried to enter
     the houses. Where the doors and windows were closed, and the inhabitants did not open
     upon the knocking, the SS men and militia broke the windows, forced the doors with
     beams and crowbars, and entered the dwelling. The owners were driven on to the street
     just as they were, regardless of whether they were dressed or whether they had been in
     bed.... Car after car was filled. Over it hung the screaming of women and children, the
     cracking of whips and rifle shots.

Graebe then described how a mass execution at Dubno, which he witnessed on the 5th October, 1942, was carried out:

     . . . Now we heard shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The
     people who had got off the trucks, men, women and children of all ages, had to undress
     upon the orders of an SS man, who carried a riding or dog whip.... Without screaming or
     crying, these people undressed, stood around by families, kissed each other, said
     farewells, and waited for the command of another SS man, who stood near the
     excavation, also with a whip in his hand.... At that moment the SS man at the excavation
     called something to his comrade. The latter counted off about 20 persons, and instructed
     them to walk behind the earth mound.... I walked around the mound and stood in front of
     a tremendous grave; closely pressed together, the people were lying on top of each other
     so that only their heads were visible. The excavation was already two-thirds full; I
     estimated that it contained about a thousand people.... Now already the next group
     approached, descended into the excavation, lined themselves up against the previous
     victims and were shot.

The foregoing crimes against the civilian population are sufficiently appalling, and yet the evidence shows that at any rate in the East, the mass murders and cruelties were not committed solely for the purpose of stamping out opposition or resistance to the German occupying forces. In Poland and the Soviet Union these crimes were part of a plan to get rid of whole native populations by expulsion and annihilation, in order that their territory could be used for colonisation by Germans. Hitler had written in " Mein Kampf " on these lines, and the plan was clearly stated by Himmler in July, 1942, when he wrote:

     It is not our task to Germanise the East in the old sense, that is to teach the people there
     the German language and the German law, but to see to it that only people of purely
     Germanic blood live in the East.

In August, 1942, the policy for the Eastern Territories as laid down by Bormann was summarised by a subordinate of Rosenberg as follows:

     The Slavs are to work for us. In so far as we do not need them, they may die.
     Therefore, compulsory vaccination and Germanic health services are superfluous. The
     fertility of the Slavs is undesirable.

It was Himmler again who stated in a speech delivered at the meeting of the SS major generals at Posen on 4 October 1943, in the course of which he sought to justify the Nazi anti-Jewish policy. We refer to a portion of this document or this speech, which is found on Page I, Paragraph 3, of the English translation, starting with the Words, "I mean the clearing out of the Jews":

     I mean the clearing out of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish race. It's one of
     those things it is easy to talk about. 'The Jewish race is being exterminated', says one
     Party member, 'that's quite clear; it's in our program; elimination of the
     Jews, and we're doing it, exterminating them.' And then there come 80 million worthy
     Germans and each one has his decent Jew. Of course, the others are vermin, but this one
     is an A-1 Jew. Not one of all those who talk this way has witnessed it, not one of them
     has been through it. Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying
     side by side, or 500 or 1,000. To have stuck it out and at the same time-apart from
     exceptions caused by human weakness-to have remained decent fellows, that is what has
     made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is
     never to be written, for we know how difficult we should have made it for ourselves,
     if-with bombing raids, the burden and deprivations of war-we still had Jews today in
     every town as secret saboteurs, agitators, and trouble mongers.

     What happens to a Russian, a Czech, does not interest me in the slightest. What the
     nations can offer in the way of good blood of our type, we will take. If necessary, by
     kidnaping their children and raising them here with us. Whether nations live in prosperity
     or starve to death interests me only in so far as we need them as slaves for our Kultur,
     otherwise it is of no interest to me.

Looking back, in Poland the intelligentsia had been marked down for extermination as early as September, 1939, and in May, 1940, Frank wrote in his diary of " taking advantage of the focusing of world interest on the Western Front, by wholesale liquidation of thousands of Poles, first leading representatives of the Polish intelligentsia." Earlier, Frank had been directed to reduce the " entire Polish economy to absolute minimum necessary for bare existence. The Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater - German World Empire." In January, 1940, he recorded in his diary that "cheap labour must be removed from the General Government by hundreds of thousands. This will hamper the native biological propagation." So successfully did the Germans carry out this policy in Poland that by the end of the war one third of the population had been killed, and the whole of the country devastated.

It was the same story in the occupied area of the Soviet Union. At the time of the launching of the German attack in June, 1941, Rosenberg told his collaborators:

     The object of feeding the German people stands this year without a doubt at the top of
     the list of Germany's claims on the East, and here the southern territories and the
     northern Caucasus will have to serve as a balance for the feeding of the German
     people.... A very extensive evacuation will be necessary, without any doubt, and it is sure
     that the future will how very hard years in store for the Russians.

Three or four weeks later Hitler discussed with Rosenberg, Goering, Keitel and others his plan for the exploitation of the Soviet population and territory, which included among other things the evacuation of the inhabitants of the Crimea and its settlement by Germans.

A somewhat similar fate was planned for Czechoslovakia by von Neurath, in August, 1940; the intelligentsia were to be "expelled," but the rest of the population was to be Germanised rather than expelled or exterminated, since there was a shortage of Germans to replace them.

In the West the population of Alsace were the victims of a German " expulsion action." Between July and December, 1940, 105,000 Alsatians were either deported from their homes or prevented from returning to them.

A captured German report dated 7th August, 1942, with regard to Alsace states that:

     The problem of race will be given first consideration, and this in such a manner that
     persons of racial value will be deported to Germany proper, and racially inferior persons
     to France.
 Heydrich's Instructions to Chief's of Einsatzgruppen
            The Chief of the Security Police
            Berlin: September 21, 1939

            To: Chiefs of all Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police
            Subject: Jewish question in the occupied territory

I refer to the conference held in Berlin today and once more point out that the planned overall measures (i.e., the final aim) are to be kept strictly secret.

Distinction must be made between:
(1) The final aim (which will require extended periods of time), and
(2) The stages leading to the fulfillment of this final aim (which will be carried out in short terms).
The planned measures demand the most thorough preparation in their technical as well as economic aspects.
It is obvious that the tasks that lie ahead cannot be laid down in full detail from here. The instructions and guidelines below will at the same time serve the purpose of urging the chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen to give the matter their practical thought.


For the time being, the first prerequisite for the final aim is the concentration of the Jews from the countryside into the larger cities. This is to be carried out with all speed.
In doing so, distinction must be made:
(1) between the areas of Danzig and West Prussia, Posen, Eastern Upper Silesia, and (2) the rest of the occupied territories. (1)
As far as possible, the area mentioned (in item 1) is to be cleared of Jews; at least the aim should be to establish only a few cities of concentration.
In the areas mentioned in item 2, as few concentration points as possible are to be set up, so as to facilitate subsequent measures.
In this conjunction, it is to be borne in mind that only cities which are rail junctions, or at least are located along railroad lines are to be designated as concentration points.
On principal, Jewish communities of fewer than 500 persons are to be dissolved and to be transferred to the nearest city of concentration.
This decree does not apply to the area of Einsatzgruppe 1, which is situated east of Cracow and is bounded roughly by Polanico, Jaroslaw, the new line of demarcation, and the former Slovak-Polish border. Within this area, only an improvised census of Jews is to be carried out. Furthermore, Councils of Jewish Elders, as discussed below, are to be set up.


Councils of Jewish Elders [Jüdishe Ältestenräte]

(1) In each Jewish community, a Council of Jewish Elders is to be set up, to be composed, as far as possible, of the remaining influential personalities and rabbis. The council is to comprise up to 24 male Jews (depending on the size of the Jewish community).
The council is to be made fully responsible, in the literal sense of the word, for the exact punctual execution of all directives issued or yet to be issued.
(2) In case of sabotage of such instructions, the councils are to be warned of the severest measures.
(3) The Jewish councils are to take an improvised census of the Jews in their local areas - broken down if possible by sex(age groups): a) up to 16 years of age, b) from 16 to 20 years of age, and c) over, as well as by principal occupation groups - and are to report the results in the shortest possible time.
(4) The Councils of Elders are to be informed of the dates and deadlines for departure, departure facilities, and finally departure routes. They are then to be made personally responsible for the departure of the Jews from the countryside.
The reason to be given for the concentration of the Jews into the cities is that Jews have most influentially participated in guerrilla attacks and plundering actions.
(5) The Councils of Elders in the cities of concentration are to be made responsible for appropriately housing the Jews moving in from the countryside.
 For general reasons of security, the concentration of Jews in the cities will probably necessitate orders altogether barring Jews from certain sections of cities, or, for example, forbidding them to leave the ghetto (2)or go out after a designated evening hour, etc. However, economic necessities are always to be considered in this connection.
(6) The Councils of Elders are also to be made responsible for appropriate provisioning of the Jews during the transport to the cities.
 No objections are to be voiced in the event that migrating Jews take their movable possessions with them, to the extent that this is technically possible.
(7) Jews who do not comply with the order to move into the cities are to be allowed a short additional period of grace where circumstances warrant. They are to be warned of strictest punishment if they should fail to comply with this latter deadline.


On principal, all necessary measures are always to be taken in closest accord and cooperation with the German civil administration agencies and locally competent military authorities.
In carrying them out, care must be taken that the economic security of the occupies territories not be impaired.
(1) Above all, the needs of the army must be considered.
For example, for the time being it will hardly be possible to avoid leaving behind some Jew traders here and there, who in the absence of other possibilities simply must stay for the sake of supplying the troops. In such cases, however, prompt Aryanization of these enterprises is to be sought and the emigration of the Jews is to be completed later, in accord with the locally competent German administrative authorities.
(2) For the preservation of German economic interests in the occupied territories, it is obvious that Jewish-owned essential or war industries and enterprises, as well as those important for the Four Year Plan, must be kept up for the time being.
In these cases also, prompt Aryanization is to be sought, and the emigration of the Jews is to be completed later.
(3) Finally, the food situation in the occupied territories must be taken into consideration. For instance, as far as possible, real estate owned by Jewish settlers is to be provisionally entrusted to the care of neighboring German or even Polish farmers, to be worked by them together with their own, so as to assure harvesting of the crops still in the fields or renewed cultivation.
With regard to this important question, contact is to be made with the agricultural expert of the Chief of the Civil Administration.
(4) In all cases in which the interests of the Security Police on one hand and those of the German Civil Administration on the other hand cannot be reconciled, I am to be informed in the fastest way before the particular measures in question are to be carried out, and my decision is to be awaited.


The chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen will report to me continuously on the following matters:

(1) Numerical survey of the Jews present in their territories (broken down as indicated above, if possible). The numbers of Jews who are being evacuated from the countryside and of those who are already in the cities are to be reported separately.
(2) Names of the cities which have been designated as concentration points.
(3) Deadlines set for the Jews to migrate to the cities.
(4) Survey of all Jewish-owned essential or war industries and enterprises, as well as those important for the Four Year Plan, within their areas.

If possible, the following should be specified:
a. Kind of enterprise (also statement on possible conversion into enterprises that are truly essential or war related, or important for the Four Year Plan);
b. Which of these enterprises need to be Aryanized most promptly (in order to forestall any kind of loss)?  What kind of Aryanization is suggested? German or Poles? (This decision depends on the importance of the enterprise.)
c. How large is the number of Jews working in these enterprises (including leading positions)?  Can the enterprise simply be kept up after the removal of the Jews, or will such continued operation require assignment of German or Polish workers? On what scale?
Insofar as Polish workers have to be introduced, care should be taken that they are mainly brought in from the former German provinces, so as to begin the weeding out of the Polish element there. These questions can be carried out only through involvement and participation of the German labor offices which have been set up.


For the attainment of the goals set, I expect total deployment of all forces of the Security Police and the Security Service.  The chiefs of neighboring Einsatzgruppen are to establish contact with each other immediately so that the territories concerned will be covered completely.


The High Command of the Army, the Plenipotentiary for the Four Year Plan (Attention: Secretary of State Neumann), the Reich Ministries of the Interior (Attention: Secretary of State Stuckart), for Food and for Economy (Attention: Secretary of State Landfried), as well as the Chiefs of Civil Administration of the Occupied Territory have all received copies of this decree.

        //Signed// Heydrich

(1) The areas of Danzig, West Prussia, Posen, and Eastern Upper Silesia were to be incorporated into Germany, whereas the rest of the occupied territory of Poland would comprise the Generalgouvernment.
(2) This appears to be the earliest reference to the German plan to establish ghetto's in which to confine the Jews.

 Einsatzgruppen Directives
There were a number of briefings about the aims and activities of the Einsatzgruppen in the Nazi-occupied territories of the Soviet Union. The first took place in Pretsch, and it was conducted by Bruno Streckenbach, Chief of Department One of the RSHA. Streckenbach acted as spokesmen for Himmler and Heydrich in explaining the Fuhrer's order concerning the murder of the Jews.

The meeting is described in Ohlendorf's testimony at the Einsatzgruppen Trial No. 9 at Nuremberg. (6) It is also mentioned in the affidavit by Dr. Walter Blume, who headed SK 7a: "During June, Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police and the SD, and Steckenbach, head of Office I of the Reich Security Main Office [RSHA], lectured on the duties of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos. At this time we were already being instructed about the tasks of exterminating the Jews. It was stated that Eastern Jewry was the intellectual reservoir of Bolshevism and, therefore, in the Fuhrer's opinion, must be exterminated. This speech was given before a small, select audience. Although I cannot remember the individuals present, I assume that many of the Einsatzgruppe and Sonderkommando chiefs were present." (7)

Another briefing was given by Heydrich at a meeting of the leaders of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos which took place on June 17. There again the Fuhrer's orders concerning the murder of the Jews was discussed, as stated by Standartenfuhrer Dr. Walter Blume: "I heard another speech by Heydrich in the Prinz Albrecht Palace in Berlin, in the course of which he again emphasized these points.' (8) Erwin Schulz, head of EK-5, testified at the Nuremberg Trials that 'Some time during the first ten days of June 1941, the chiefs were called to the RSHA in the Prinz Albrecht Palace to hear a speech by Heydrich in which he outlined the policy to be adopted, giving us some guidelines concerning the fulfillments of the tasks imposed upon the Einsatzgruppen." (9)

At the third meeting, which probably took place shortly before June 22, high-level SS and Police chiefs met in the office of the Chief of Order Police, General Kurt Daluege. As Heydrich was unable to attend, he sent them a memorandum dated July 2, 1941 (dated after the invasion of the Soviet Union), specifying who was to be eliminated:

All the following are to be executed:

Officials of the Commintern (together with professional Communist politicians in general); Top- and medium-level officials and radical lower-level officials of the Party. Central committee and district and sub-district committees;

Peoples commissars; Jews in Party and State employment, and other radical elements (saboteurs, propagandists, snipers, assassins, inciters, etc.) insofar as they are, of special importance for the further economic reconstruction of the Occupied Territories ... (10)

More details are contained in Report No. 111 dated October 12, 1941: 'The principal targets of execution by the Einsatzkommandos will be: political functionaries, ...Jews mistakenly released from POW camps, ...Jewish sadists and avengers, ...Jews in general...'

According to the testimony of Otto Ohlendorf, head of Einsatzgruppe D, dated April 24, 1947, the objective was the "murder of racially and politically undesirable elements." Later on in the Einsatzgruppen trial, he said (October 1948): “The goal was to liberate the army's rear areas by killing Jews, Gypsies and Communist activists ..." (11)

                 (6) NMT (Case 9, Einsatzgruppen), vol. iv, p. 244
                 (7) NMT, vol. IV, p. 140
                 (8) NMT, vol. IV, p. 140
                 (9) NMT, vol. IV, p. 136
                 (10) (11) NMT, vol. IV, p. 244

Extermination in Gas Vans in the Ukraine

        Kiev, May 16, 1942
        Field Post Office No. 32704
        B. Nr 40/42
Reich Secret Document

To SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Rauff     Berlin

The overhauling of the vans of [Einsatz] Gruppe D and C has been completed....

I have had the vans of [Einsatz] Gruppe D disguised as house-trailers, by having a single window shutter fixed to each side of the small vans, and on the large ones, two shutters, such as one often sees on farmhouses in the country. The vans had become so well known that not only the authorities but the civilian population referred to them as the "Death Vans" as soon as one appeared. In my opinion the vans cannot be kept secret for any length of time even if they are camouflaged.

The brakes of the Saurer van which I took from Taganrog to Simferopol were damaged on the way... When I reached Stalino and Gorlovka a few days later the drivers of the vans there complained of the same trouble....

I also gave instructions that all personnel should stay as far away as possible from the vans when the gassing is in progress to prevent damage to their health in the event of gas leaking out. I would like to take this opportunity to call attention to the following: several of the special units let their own men do the unloading after gassing.

I pointed out to the commanders of the Sonderkommando (Special Unit) concerned the enormous psychological and physical harm this may cause the men, possibly later even if not immediately. The men complained to me of headaches that recur after each such unloading.

Nevertheless there is reluctance to change the orders because it is feared that if prisoners are used for this work they might make use of a favorable moment to escape. I request appropriate instructions in order to save the men from suffering harm.

The gassing is generally not carried out correctly. In order to get the Aktion finished as quickly as possible the driver presses down on the accelerator as far as it will go. As a result the persons to be executed die of suffocation and do not doze off as was planned. It has proved that if my instructions are followed and the levers are properly adjusted death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully. Distorted faces and excretions, such as were observed before, no longer occur.

Today I shall continue my journey to [Einsatz] Gruppe B, where I may be reached for further instructions.

        Dr. Becker
        SS Untersturmfuehrer


Nazi official Walter Rauff in a car with a Chilean policeman after his arrest in Punt Arenas on December 15, 1962. Rauff supervised the outfitting and dispatch of gas vans in which at least 200,000 people were murdered. However he was never extradited from Chile to face trial as the crimes with which he was charged were beyond the Chilean  statute of limitations.

            From Shootings to Gas Vans

 ...the Einsatzgruppen looked for additional and simpler methods for mass killings. The new facility developed and supplied to the Einsatzgruppen was gas vans. The  idea of the gas van originated with SS brigadefuhrer Artur Nebe, commander of Einsatzgruppe B, which operated in territories close to the central front and which had carried out in Belorussia large scale shooting actions of Jews, communists, and other "asocial elements." Nebe, as former leader of the Reich's Criminal Police Department (Kripo), was familiar with the euthansia program and killing by gas.

In September 1941, Einsatzgruppe B was faced with the task of liquidating the patients of the lunatic asylums in the cities of Minsk and Mogilev. Nebe decided to find a simpler way for his men to kill the mentally diseased, other than by shooting them. He contacted Kripo headquarters and asked for their help in carrying out the killing of the insane with either explosives or poison gas. Dr. Widmann of the Criminal Police was sent to Nebe in Minsk, but before he left, Dr. Widmann discussed with the director of the Criminal Police Technological Institue, Dr. Hess, ways of using the carbon monoxide gas from automobile exhaust for killing operations in the East, based on the experience gained from the euthansia program. Dr, Widmann took to minsk 400 kgs of explosive material and the metal pipes required for the gassing installations.

Nebe and Dr. Widmann carried out an experimental killing using explosives. Twenty-five mentally ill people were locked into two bunkers in a forest outside Minsk. The first explosion killed only some of them, and it took much time and trouble until the second explosion killed the rest. Explosives therefore were unsatisfactory.

A few days later an experiment with poison gas was carried out by Nebe and Dr, Widmann in Mogilev. In the local lunatic asylum, a room with twenty to thirty of the insane was closed hermetically, and two pipes were driven into the wall. A car was parked outside, and one of the metal pipes that Dr. Widmann had brought connected the exhaust of the car to the pipe in the wall. The engine was turned on and carbon monoxide began seeping into the room. After eight minutes, the people in the room were still alive. A second car was connected to the other pipe in the wall. The two cars were operated simultaneously, and a few minutes later all those in the room were dead.

After these experimental executions, Nebe came up with the idea of constructing a car with a hermetically sealed cabin for killing purposes. The carbon monoxide from the car's exhaust would be channeled into the sealed cabin, in which the victims stood. Nebe discussed the technical aspects of the idea with Dr. Hess and together they brought the proposal before Heydrich who adopted it. (8)

The Technical Department of the Reich Security Main Office, headed by SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Walter Rauff, developed a special vehicle for killing purposes. This vehicle resembled an ambulance or refrigerator truck and contained a hermetically sealed rear cabin. The victims were placed in the cabin and carbon monoxide was introduced by means of a pipe. The gassing process took between fifteen and thirty minutes. During this time the van was driven from the loading site to prepared graves.

Two types of gas vans had been built: a larger one, 5.8 meters in length, and a smaller one, measuring 4.5 meters. Both were about 2.5 meters wide and 1.7 meters high. The bigger one could accommodate between 130 and 150 people, when densely packed inside, and the smaller one from 80 to 100. (9)

The gas vans were supplied to the Einsatzgruppen and to the Chelmno death camps in November-December 1941. The killing in Chelmno began on December 8, 1941. By the middle of 1942, about thirty gas vans had been produced by a private car manufacturer, the Gabschat Farengewerke GMBH, Will=Walter Strasse 32-38, Berlin. (10)

A few weeks before the first gas vans were supplied to the Einsatzgruppen, in late October 1941, Dr. Alfred Wetzel of the Ministry for the Eastern Occupied Territories wrote to the Reichskimmissar for Ostland, Hinrich Lohse, of a proposal made by Viktor Brack to set up permanent gassing facilities in Ostland for mass extermination based on experience and help of the euthansia program. With the cessation of the euthanasia program in Germany, its personnel were available and looking for new tasks. (11)

The permanent gassing facilities were intended to lighten the task of Nazi authorities in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union in carrying out their killing operations. But the proposal of Dr. Wetzel and of Brack was not implemented in Ostland. The unemployed 'euthansia' personnel were assigned to another and bigger task - the erection of camps with gassing facilities, where annihilation of the Jews in the Nazi-occupied territories of Poland would be carried out. The successful experiments in Auschwitz and the development of the gas vans had provided the solution of the technical problems involved.

(8) YVA, TR-10/959, pp. 45-47, the trial against Dr.Widmann; Nationalsozialistische Massentotungen, pp. 81-82.
(9) Edward Serwanski, Oboz Zaglady w Chelmnie nad Narem (herafter Chelmno), Poznan, 1964, p. 45; Nationalsozialistische Massentotungen, p. 84, gives the number of 50 - 60 people in the Saurer and 25 - 30 people in the Diamond car.
(10) Nationalsozialistische Massentotungen, pp. 84 - 86.
(11) Nuremberg Documents, PS-510.

Killings At Moghilev Asylum

The testimony of Dr. Albert Widmann on the killings at an asylum at Moghilev east of Minsk:  Artur Nebe, head of Einsatzgruppe B and of Department V (the Criminal Police) at the Reich Security Main Office, turned first to his his deputy, a man named Werner, and ordered him to have a chemist from the Criminal Technology Institute, Dr. Albert Widmann, come to Minsk with esplosives and metal hoses. An attempt to blow up a bunker with mentally ill patients inside had been a failure, so it was decided to use exhaust fumes in the experiment to be conducted at the asylum at Moghilev, east of Minsk. Dr. Widmann described the preparations for this operation and its progress:

During the afternoon Nebe had the window bricked in, leaving two openings for the gas hose....When we arrived, one of the hoses that I had brought was connected. It was fixed onto the exgaust of a touring car....Pieces of piping stuck out of the holes made in the wall, onto which the hose could easily be fitted....After five minutes Nebe came out and said that nothing appeared to have happened. After eight minutes he had been unable to detect any result and asked what should be done next. Nebe and I came to the conclusion that the car was not powerful enough. So Nebe had the second hose fitted onto a transport vehicle belonging to the regular police. It then took only another few minutes before the people were unconscious. Both vehicles were left running for about another ten minutes.

Officers of Einsatzgruppen and Kommandos

Einsatzgruppe A  Stahlecker (Jost)
  Sonderkommando 1a    Sandberger
  Sonderkommando 1b    Ehrlinger (Strauch)
  Einsatzkommando 2      R. Batz (Strauch, Lange)
  Einsatzkommando 3      Jäger
Einsatzgruppe B  Nebe (Naumann)
  Sonderkommando 7a    Blume (Steimle, Rapp)
  Sonderkommando 7b    Rausch (Ott Rabe)
  Sonderkommando 7c    Bock
  Einsatzkommando 8      Bradfisch (Richter, Isselhorst, Schindhelm)
  Einsatzkommando 9      Filbert (Schäfer, Wiebens)
  Vorkommando Moskau Six (Klingelhöfer)
Einsatzgruppe C   Rasch (Thomas)
  Einsatzkommando 4a    Blobel (Weinmann, Steimle, Schmidt)
  Einsatzkommando 4b    Hermann (Fendler, F. Braune, Haensch
  Einsatzkommando 5      E. Schultz (Meier)
  Einsatzkommando 6      Kröger (Mohr, Biberstein)
Einsatzgruppe D   Ohlendorf (Bierkamp)
  Einsatzkommando 10a  Seetzen (Christmann)
  Einsatzkommando 10b  Persterer
  Einsatzkommando 11a  Zapp
  Einsatzkommando 11b  B. Müller (W. Braune, P. Schultz)
  Einsatzkommando 12    Nosske (Ministerialrat E. Müller)

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