The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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I am now going over to the presentation of evidence of mass
extermination of the peaceful population in the territory of
the USSR.

As to the circumstances of the mass executions, we may now
judge them not only by the testimony of eye witnesses or of
the perpetrators of the atrocities, but also, in part, judge
them on the basis of the material collected by the medico-
forensic commission. I say "in part," because, as from 1943,
fearing retribution for the crimes committed, the Hitlerites
began to destroy the traces of their crimes. They exhumed
and burned corpses, ground bones and strewed the ashes on
the fields; they also used the slag formed by the corpses
cremated, as well as the bone meal, for repairing the roads
and fertilising the fields.

But notwithstanding the efforts of the criminals to-conceal
the traces of their crimes, it was impossible to destroy all
the corpses of the people murdered.

The first mass "action" of the Germans, when tens of
thousands of innocent and peaceful people were murdered at a
time - was the "Kiev action". In order to realise the extent
of these atrocities I refer your Honours to a communication
of the Extraordinary State Commission already submitted to
the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR-9. I quote from Page 238, on
the reverse side of the document book, at the end of the
third paragraph from the top:

   "In Kiev over 195,000 Soviet citizens were tortured to
   death, shot and poisoned in the gas vans, as follows:
   (1) In Babi-Yar - over 100,000 men, women, children and
   old people.
   (2) In Darnitza - over 68,000 Soviet prisoners of war
   and peaceful citizens.
   (3) In the anti-tank trench, in the vicinity of Syretzk
   Camp, and in the camp proper - over 25,000 peaceful
   Soviet citizens and prisoners of war.
   (4) In the grounds of the Hospital of St. Cyril - 800
   insane patients.
   (5) In the grounds of the Kiev-Pechersk Abbey - about
   500 peaceful citizens."

I continue to quote from this document, Page 238, paragraph
6, and I give two short excerpts from this page:

  "In 1943, sensing the uncertainty of their position in
  Kiev, the occupying forces, in an attempt to conceal the
  traces of their crimes, opened up the tombs of their
  victims and began to burn the corpses. The Germans
  delegated the burning of the corpses in Babi-Yar to the
  internees of Syrezk Camp. S.S. officer Topaida was placed
  in charge of this work, together with members of the
  gendarmerie, Johann Merker and Focht, and the commander
  of the S.S. Platoon, Rever.
  The witnesses Ostrovski, Berlandt, Davydov, Stuke and
  Brodski, who had escaped the shootings at Babi-Yar on 29
  September, 1943, testified:
  'As prisoners of war we were interned in the Syrezk
  concentration camp, in the outskirts of Kiev. On 18
  August, 100 of us were sent to Babi-Yar. There were we
  shackled in chains and ordered to exhume and burn the
  corpses of Soviet citizens who had been murdered by the
  Germans. Here the Germans brought granite monuments and
  iron railings from the cemetery. From these monuments we
  made platforms on which we placed rails, and on top of
  these rails we laid the iron grills to act as fire bars.
  On the iron grills a layer of fire wood was placed, and
  on top of the firewood we placed a layer of corpses. On
  the corpses we placed a further layer of
  firewood and poured paraffin over the whole. Following
  this order the corpses were piled up in several layers
  and then ignited. 2,500 to 3,000 corpses were placed in
  each of these "ovens". The Germans detailed special gangs
  for the removal of earrings, rings, and also gold teeth
  from the dead.
                                                  [Page 106]
  When all the corpses were burned, new "ovens" were built,
  and so on. The bones were crushed into small particles by
  bulldozers and the ashes strewn over the Yar, so that no
  traces should be left. The men worked from twelve to
  fifteen hours a day.
  The Germans used excavators in order to expedite the
  work. From 18 August until the day of our escape - 29
  September - approximately 7,000 corpses were burned.' "
I interrupt this quotation and invite the attention of the
Tribunal to a document on Page 287, Volume 11, paragraph 5,
of the document book. This is a report of the Extraordinary
State Commission "On Crimes of the German Fascist Invaders
in the Territory of the Latvian SSR." In the place to which
I will draw the attention of the Tribunal it is shown that
the Hitlerites systematically carried out executions in the
forest of Bikernek. I make a special point of quoting this,
because further on we shall present documentary films
showing full details of these mass shootings. I begin the

   "In the forest of Bikernek, on the outskirts of the city
   of Riga, the Hitlerites shot 46,500 peaceful citizens.
   The witness Stabulnek (woman) who lived in the vicinity
   of the forest stated that: 'On Friday and Saturday
   before Easter 1942, packed buses went from the city to
   the forest. I counted forty-one buses from the beginning
   of Friday morning to noon - forty-one buses passed my
   house. On the first day of the week, Easter Sunday, many
   inhabitants, and I among them, went into the forest to
   the site of the executions. There we saw one large open
   pit containing the bodies of women and children who had
   been shot; they were either naked or in their underwear.
   There were traces of tortures and ill-treatment on the
   corpses of these women and children, many of whom had
   black and blue bruises on their faces and cuts on their
   heads. Some had had their hands and fingers cut off,
   their eyes gouged out and their stomachs ripped open.'"

I now omit one paragraph and continue: "The commission
discovered, on the execution ground, fifty-five graves,
covering a total area Of 2,885 square metres."

I quote one more paragraph from this communication:

"In the forest of Dreileskin, five or seven kilometres east
of Riga, along the highway to Luban, the Germans shot over
13,000 peaceful citizens and prisoners of war."

The witness Gamis testified:

   "As from August 1944, the Germans organised excavation
   crews to open up the graves, and all through the week
   bodies were burned. The forest was surrounded by German
   guards armed with machine guns. On and after August 20,
   black, closed cars filled with citizens, among whom were
   women and children - so-called 'refugees' from Riga -
   began to arrive: they were shot and their bodies burned
   immediately. I had hidden in the bushes and watched this
   fearful scene. The screams of the victims were terrible.
   I heard shouts of  'Murderers', 'Hangmen' and the
   children crying, 'Mama, don't leave me!' The bullets of
   the murderers stopped the screams."

I conclude this document because it now contains only
analogous facts. I wish to invite the Tribunal's attention
to the fact that 38,000 people were shot in this forest.

I further request the Tribunal to refer to a document
already presented to the Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 47, which
is the report of the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission
on "Crimes Committed by the German and Roumanian Invaders in
Odessa and the Region of Odessa ". I shall refer to two very

                                                  [Page 107]

excerpts of this report. Your Honours will find one of the
excerpts I wish to quote on page 283, Volume II, of the
document book, paragraph 5. I begin:

  "On 21 December, 1941, the Roumanian gendarmes proceeded
  to execute the internees in the camp. The internees were
  brought, under guard, to a half-ruined building on the
  outskirts of the forest. There they were forced to kneel
  by the ravine; then they were shot. From the edge of the
  ravine those who were killed, and often those who were
  only wounded, fell to the bottom of the ravine, where a
  gigantic fire of straw, reeds and wood had been built.
  The smaller children were thrown alive into this fire by
  the executioners. The burning of the corpses went on for
  24 hours on end."

Here I interrupt my quotation, since details of these crimes
will follow later, and I refer the members of the Tribunal
to Page 283 of the document book, paragraph 3, containing a
complete summary of the data available.

  "According to the preliminary figures as established by
  the Commission, the German occupying forces shot,
  tortured to death and burned, in Odessa and the region of
  Odessa, up to 200,000 people."

In confirmation of the fact that during the mass executions,
the so-called "actions," the German criminals buried people
who were still alive, I submit to the Tribunal, as Exhibit
USSR 37, a report of the Extraordinary State Commission,
dated 24th June, 1943. I quote this report, which the
members of the Tribunal will find on page 259, in Volume 11
of the document book. The place that I refer to will be
found on Page 362 of the document book.

While excavating the pit at the foot of Chalk Hill
(Mielovaya Gora) in the town of Kupiansk, 71 bodies were
discovered, i.e., those of 62 men, 8 women and 1 infant. All
the victims were barefooted, and some of them were quite
naked. I begin the quotation at paragraph 4:

  "The Commission notes that there were many whose wounds
  were not fatal; they had evidently been thrown into the
  pit and buried alive. This has also been confirmed by
  citizens who passed near the pit soon after the shooting;
  they saw the ground stirring and heard dull groans coming
  from the grave."

In confirmation of this fact I would request the Tribunal's
permission to read into the record the original minutes,
taken from the report of the Extraordinary State Commission
on the interrogation of witness Vassilievitch Joseph
Ivanovitch, examined by the Public Prosecutor of the city of
Stanislav, at the request of the Extraordinary State
Commission, Exhibit USSR 346. I shall quote only two
paragraphs from the minutes of this interrogation:

   "In the beginning of 1943 we burned people there in the
   cemetery to which firewood was brought for this purpose.
   There were cases when women and children were thrown
   alive into the pits and there buried.
   One woman, whose name I do not know, begged an officer
   not to shoot her, and he gave her his word that she
   would not be shot. He even said, 'I give you my word as
   an officer that you will not be shot.' After the
   shooting of the group to which this woman belonged this
   officer himself took her by the hand, threw her alive
   into the pit, and alive she was buried."

Thus, in some cases, the victims were purposely buried alive
while in other cases the Germans did not trouble to verify
whether the people to be liquidated were dead or not.

An investigation of the data on the exhumation of these
bodies, when the Germans no longer had the time to destroy
the traces of their crimes by burning

                                                  [Page 108]

them, shows that towards the end of 1941, and in 1942, the
criminals did not particularly attempt to camouflage the
execution grounds, and this despite the instructions,
already known to the Tribunal, issued by fascist
headquarters on the camouflaging of execution grounds and
keeping secret the so-called executions. I refer to the
document already presented with other documents to the
Tribunal as Exhibit USSR 2A, a report of the Extraordinary
State Commission on "Atrocities Committed by the German
Fascist Invaders in the Region of Stalinsk". There we find a
report of the Medico-forensic Expert Commission on the
atrocities committed by the German fascist invaders in the
alabaster quarries near the city of Artemovsk of the
Stalinsk District. I shall quote only a brief excerpt from
this document. I shall omit the majority of the details.

In the document book, Page 366, fifth paragraph, your
Honours will find the following :

   "Two kilometres to the east of the city of Artemovsk, in
   the tunnel of the quarry of the alabaster works, 400
   metres from the entrance, there is a small bricked-up
   opening. When the bricks were removed a continuation of
   the tunnel was discovered. This was a narrow passage,
   rising steeply, having at the end a broad, oval cavern,
   20 metres in length, 30 metres in width and 3 to 4
   metres in height.
   The entire cavern was filled with dead bodies, and only
   a small area at the entrance and a narrow strip in the
   centre were without corpses. These were closely pressed
   one against the other, with their backs turned to the
   entrance to the cavern.
   This is typical because it shows the customary German
   routine of shooting in the nape of the neck.
   The corpses were wedged so tightly that, at first
   glance, it appeared as though there was just one solid
   mass of intertwined bodies. The last layers had been
   heaped on to the ones before, which were then closely
   pressed to the walls of the cavern."

I omit the two following pages of the report and I merely
quote the conclusion of the Medico-forensic Expert
Commission. You will find this on Page 366, Volume II,
paragraph 15.

  "According to the testimony of the inhabitants of
  Artemovsk, on 9 November, 1942, several thousand people
  were driven into the abandoned alabaster quarries,
  carrying their small household possessions and food.
  As soon as the cavern was full of people they were shot
  either when standing or kneeling down; then another batch
  would be driven in and shot down on the corpses of the
  first batch; the corpses of the victims were piled one on
  top of another. Some people tried to flee from the
  impending murder, trampled each other down and died in

I further omit three pages of my presentation, and continue
on Page 209. During the period of the mass executions the
German fascist criminals elaborated a definite technique for
the perpetration of their crimes. I would like to mention
some of the most typical methods employed, because the
Tribunal will realise, on hearing individual instances, how
this criminal technique of atrocities was perfected by the
Germans and how increasingly cynical was the premeditation
of these monstrous crimes. In confirmation of my statement I
should like to present some documents to the Tribunal.

THE PRESIDENT: We shall have to break off now. It is four

The Tribunal would be glad to know how much longer your
presentation will be.

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I shall finish my presentation of evidence

(The Tribunal adjourned until 19th February, 1946, at 10.00

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