The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/german/einsatzgruppen/esg.nuremberg


Newsgroups: alt.revisionism
Subject: Holocaust Almanac - Help for the Einsatzgruppen
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Sluzk,einsatzgruppen

Archive/File: orgs/german/einsatzgruppen/esg.nuremberg
Last-Modified: 1994/03/20

   "Hitler thought Reichenau's order so exemplary that he directed its
   distribution to troops throughout the East, where the terror of the
   Einsatzgruppen was now in full sway and leading to friction with
   the Wehrmacht.  (NCA, D 411, op.  cit., Oct.  28, 1941.)

   Since the Jews ranged from fifty percent of the skilled and profes-
   sional workers in central Poland to ninety percent in Russia and
   the Ukraine, the Wehrmacht depended heavily upon them in the
   support areas.  'The attitude of the Jewish population was anxious
   -- obliging from the beginning,' a Wehrmacht armaments officer
   reported to Berlin in one of the documents introduced at the trial.
   'They tried to avoid everything that might displease the German
   administration.  That they hated the German administration and army
   inwardly goes without saying and cannot be surprising.  But it
   cannot be said that the Jews as such representeda danger to the
   German armed forces.  The output produced by the Jews, who, of
   course, were prompted by nothing but the feeling of fear, was
   satisfactory to the troops and the German administration.' (NCA,
   3257 PS, Report of Armaments in the Ukraine, Dec.  2, 1941.)

   Himmler complained so much about the 'close relations between the
   Wehrmacht and the Jews' that Keitel issued an order: 'Any
   cooperation of the Wehrmacht with the Jewish population who are
   openly or secretly anti-German, as well as the use of a single Jew
   in any preferred auxiliary position, will have to cease.' (NCA, 878
   PS, Jews in the Newly Occupied Eastern Territories, Sept.  12,
   1941.) Employment of Jews was to be limited to back-breaking jobs
   in the building of roads, repair of railroads, and the like.  'Care
   is to be taken that Jewish labor is used only in those productions
   which will later suffer no noticeable interruption in case of a
   rapid withdrawal of these labor forces.  It is to be avoided in
   every case that Jewish workers become indispensable in essential
   production.' (NCA, 212 PS, Directive for the Handling of the Jewish
   Question.)

   This was an impossible stipulation, since the Jews were essential
   from the very beginning.  The officials of Rosenberg's civilian
   administration joined the Wehrmacht in attempting to tone down the
   SS executions, which tore up the whole fabric of the occupation.

   Since the number of men in the Einsatzgruppen was inadequate for
   the task, the SS recruited from among the native populations, who
   more often than not had fewer scruples than the Germans, and
   frequently constituted the preponderance of the extermination
   squads.  In the Baltic port of Libau, the rampaging SS and their
   Latvian auxiliaries swept thousands of Jews off the streets and
   machine-gunned them at the naval base, where the day previous they
   had been the principal workers.  As blood coursed down the gutters
   of the streets and desperate people scurried to find hiding places,
   the economy was paralyzed.  Hinrich Lohse, a prominent Gauleiter
   whom Rosenberg had named commissioner for the Baltic and White
   Russia, threatened to throw the Einsatzkommando leader out of the
   territory if the shootings did not cease.  Himmler brought the
   dispute to Hitler's attention.  An immediate explanation was
   demanded from Rosenberg, who petulantly wrote Lohse:

   'The RSHA has complained that the Reich Commissioner for the East
   has forbidden execution of Jews in Libau.  I request a report on
   this matter by return mail.'

   'I have forbidden the wild executions of Jews in Libau because they
   were not justifiable in the manner in which they were carried out,'
   Lohse wrote back.  'I should like to be informed whether your
   inquiry of 31 October is to be regarded as a directive to liquidate
   all Jews in the East?  Shall this take place without regard to age
   and sex and economic interests of the Wehrmacht; for instance,
   specialists in the armaments industry?'

   'Yes,' Rosenberg responded.  'Economic considerations should
   fundamentally remain unconsidered in the settlement of the
   problem.' (NCA, 3663 PS and 3666 PS, Correspondence between
   Rosenberg and Lohse, Oct.  31-Dec.  18, 1941; D 841, Deposition of
   Walter Kurt Dietmann.)

   Although Lohse's objections resulted in some key workers being
   exempted, the SS had no mercy on Jewish doctors and dentists, and
   so eliminated more than half the medical personnel in Lithuania.
   At this point, the Germans, discovering that they were facing
   epidemics of catastrophic proportions, were forced to import
   doctors from the physician-short Reich.   (The
   medical musical chairs later continued with the conscription of
   Ukrainian doctors and nurses to work in German hospitals.) 

   In neighboring White Russia, the Einsatzkommando with their
   indigenous footsoldiers swept over the land like ravenous locusts
   feeding on Jews.  At Borisov, a town fifty miles east of Minsk, an
   army intelligence officer learned on Friday, October 17, 1941, that
   the extermination was to take place on Sunday and Monday.  The
   chief of the Russian security police, Ehof, an ethnic German
   appointed by the SD, had served the czarist government in a similar
   capacity, and then adapted himself to the Communist regime.  In
   fact, the intelligence officer reported, 'these security men are
   said to consist largely of old Communists, but nobody dares to
   report them because they are feared.  To my astounded question
   whether it would be possible to dispatch eight thousand persons
   into Eternity in the course of a single night in a fairly orderly
   manner, he [Ehof] replied that this was not the first time he had
   done this and he was no longer an amateur.' About fifteen hundred
   Jews were to be spared temporarily, since they were specialists
   such as cobblers, tailors, blacksmiths, lock-smiths -- in other
   words, artisans who were urgently needed.

   'Although the shootings of Jews were to be kept secret, they were
   already known in the ghetto on Saturday,' the officer continued.
   'I gave my own boots for repair to a Jewish cobbler.  There I
   learned that a delegation was on its way to the mayor to obtain a
   temporary reprieve from these executions so that they might present
   a petition to the general.  The mayor promised them to speak to the
   general and he himself could only say that the conduct of the Jews
   had been exemplary in every respect -- the performing of the work
   imposed on the Jews, the raising of 300,000 rubles, the turning in
   of all gold and silver, etc.'

   On Saturday night, in preparation for the event, a great party
   entitled 'Celebration of the German Police' was held.  All of the
   town's prominent personalities participated in the enormous
   consumption of liquor.  A great ditch, one hundred yards long and
   nine feet deep, had already been dug by Russian prisoners of war.
   'At three o'clock in the morning the shootings began.  First the
   men were brought out.  They were driven to the place of execution
   in Russian trucks, escorted by men of the Russian security police.
   The women and children of all ages whimpered and screamed for help
   as soon as they saw a German soldier.  In this manner one vehicle
   followed another during the whole day in the direction of the place
   of execution, located in the woods near the former staff
   headquarters of Army Group Center.  Besides, since there were not
   sufficient vehicles, groups of women and children were constantly
   being herded down the aforementioned road, and other groups, even
   mothers with babies in their arms, were standing waiting to be
   picked up.  In the distance the noise of rifles could be heard all
   day.  The women and children cried and screamed, cars raced through
   the streets bringing new victims -- all before the eyes of the
   civilian population and German military personnel who happened to
   come along.

   'The scenes which took place in the streets were ghastly.  The
   non-Jews may have believed on the preceding evening that the Jews
   deserved their fate, but the following morning their sentiment was:
   'Who ordered such a thing?  Now it is the Jews' turn, when will it
   be ours?  What did these poor Jews do?  All they did was work!' The
   executions continued all day Monday.  Late in the evening the
   shooting could be heard not only from the woods, but also spread to
   the ghetto and the streets of the city, since many Jews broke out
   of the ghetto and tried somehow to save themselves.'

   In the bitter cold, those Jews who managed to flee into the
   countryside had little prospect other than to succumb to exposure
   and starvation.  The police, most of whom were never sober during
   the exterminations, looted the emptied residences.  Fires broke out
   and cast a reddish glow visible even from the execution site, where
   people were made to jump naked into the pit, and were then shot
   from above.  Those who followed were forced to arrange the bodies
   in neat rows, place a thin layer of dirt over them, then tamp down
   both the dirt and the bodies with their feet before being shot in
   turn.  The heaps of clothing and other articles carried back to the
   city on the trucks presented a graphic spectacle to the civilians
   and German troops, some of whom participated in the action as
   volunteers.  (NCA, 3047 PS, Report of Master Sergeant Soennecken,
   Oct. 24, 1941.)

   Exactly a week later a battalion of Einsatzkommando, composed half
   of Germans and half of Lithuanians, appeared in Sluzk, sixty miles
   south of Minsk.  Rosenberg's local commissioner, named Carl,
   reported: 'I protested violently, pointing out that a liquidation
   of Jews must not be allowed to take place in an arbitrary manner.
   These Jewish tradesmen were simply not expendable because they were
   indispensable for maintaining the economy.  White Russian tradesmen
   are, so to say, nonexistent, therefore all vital plants would have
   to be shut down at once if all Jews were to be liquidated.'

   Carl thought he had the battalion commander's acquiescence to spare
   essential workers and their families who had proper papers and
   identification.  However, he continued, when the shootings began,
   'all Jews without exception were taken out of the factories and
   shops.  The town itself offered a picture of horror during the
   action, which bordered on sadism.  With indescribable brutality by
   the German police officers and particularly the Lithuanians, Jews
   were taken out of their dwellings and herded together.  Everywhere
   in the town shots were to be heard, and in different streets the
   corpses of Jews accumulated.  The White Russians themselves were
   worked over with rubber truncheons and rifle butts.  There was no
   question of an action against the Jews anymore.  It rather looked
   like a revolution.' (NCS, 1104 PS, Carl to Kube, Oct. 31, 1941.)

   At the grave site, the Einsatzkommando had orders to shoot low, so
   as not to miss the children.  Consequently, many Jews collapsed
   into the trench with excruciating abdominal wounds. The
   executioners did not bother to finish them off.

   Rosenberg's commissioner for White Russia, Gauleiter Wilhelm Kube,
   protested that 'peace and order cannot be maintained in White
   Russia with methods of that sort.  To bury seriously wounded people
   alive who worked their way out of their graves again is such a base
   and filthy act that this incident should be reported to the Fuhrer
   and the Reichsmarshal.' (Ibid.)

   Kube, however, had no reluctance about proceeding with the killings
   in an orderly fashion.  During the dead of winter when the ground
   froze, so that it was impossible to bury the bodies, the killings
   were interrupted.  In the spring they resumed. On July 31, 1942,
   Kube reported that, in cooperation with 'the exceedingly capable
   leader of the SD, Obersturmbannfuhrer Dr. Strauch, we have
   liquidated in the last ten weeks about 55,000 Jews in White Russia.
   In the city of Minsk approximately 10,000 Jews were liquidated on
   July 28 and 29, 6,500 of them Russian Jews, predominantly aged
   persons, women and children, the remainder Jews unfit for
   commitment to labor who had been deported to Minsk in November of
   last year from Vienna, Brunn, Bremen, and Berlin on order of the
   Fuhrer.

   'After completion of the action against the Jews in Minsk,' Kube
   continued, 'SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Dr.  Strauch reported to me
   tonight with just indignation that suddenly a transport of one
   thousand Jews had arrived from Warsaw for the Luftwaffe
   Administrative Command. I beg the Reich Commissioner to prevent
   transports of such a kind. The Polish Jew is, exactly like the
   Russian Jew, an enemy of Germanism. He presents a politically
   dangerous element, far exceeding his value as a skilled worker.  I
   fully agree with the commander of the SD that we shall liquidate
   every shipment of Jews which is not ordered or announced by our
   superior offices.' (NCA, 3428 PS, Kube to Lohse, July 31, 1942.)

   This, of course, was the ultimate insanity: The SD exterminated the
   indigenous skilled workers the Wehrmacht desperately needed; the
   Wehrmacht imported more; and as soon as they arrived, the SD
   murdered the newcomers as well.  The prosecution had been in the
   midst of the account of Einsatzgruppe operations in central Russia
   when the trial had recessed for Christmas; and Colonel Storey
   resumed on January 2 by presenting the affidavit of Hermann Grabe,
   a German construction manager who had worked in the Ukraine for
   more than two years.

   On July 13,1942, Grabe had witnessed a violent roundup of Jews in
   the town of Rovno on the Polish-Russian border: 'All through the
   night these beaten, hounded, and wounded people moved along the
   lighted streets.  Women carried their dead children in their arms,
   children pulled and dragged their dead parents by their arms and
   legs down the road toward the train.  Again and again the cries,
   'Open the door!  Open the door!' echoed through the ghetto.

   'I saw dozens of corpses of all ages and both sexes in the streets
   I had to walk along.  The doors of the houses stood open, windows
   were smashed.  Pieces of clothing, shoes, stockings, jackets, caps,
   hats, coats, etc.  were Iying in the street.  At the corner of a
   house lay a baby, less than a year old, with his skull crushed.
   Blood and brains were spattered over the house wall and covered the
   area immediately around the child.' (IMT, vol. 4, 254-256)

   A few months later, in October 1942, Grabe had come across a mass
   execution: 'Moennikes and I went directly to the pit.  Nobody
   bothered us.  Now I heard rifle shots in quick succession, from
   behind one of the earth mounds.  The people who had got off the
   truck -- men, women, and children of all ages -- had to undress
   upon the order of an SS man, who carried a riding or dog whip.
   They had to put down their clothes in fixed places, sorted
   according to shoes, top clothing, and underclothing.  I saw a heap
   of shoes of about eight hundred to one thousand pairs, great piles
   of underlinen and clothing.  Without screaming or weeping these
   people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other,
   said farewell, and waited for a sign from another SS man, who stood
   near the pit.  An old woman with snow-white hair was holding a
   one-year-old child in her arms and singing to it, and tickling it.
   The child was cooing with delight.  The couple were looking on with
   tears in their eyes.  The father was holding the hand of a boy
   about ten years old speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting
   his tears.  The father pointed toward the sky, stroked his head,
   and seemed to explain something to him.  At that moment the SS man
   at the pit shouted something to his comrade.  The latter counted
   off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth
   mound.  I walked around the mound, and found myself confronted by a
   tremendous grave.  People were closely wedged together and Iying on
   top of each other so that only their heads were visible.  Nearly
   all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads.  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 Iying 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 Iying already motionless on top
   of the bodies that lay before them.' (NCA, 2992 PS, Affidavit of
   Hermann Friedrich Gra'be, Nov.  10, 1945.)

   This was the type of account that, no matter how often it was
   repeated, never failed to stir the tribunal.  Still, it would have
   had an even greater impact had Grabe, who was easily available,
   been called to testify for himself.  And Jackson, under pressure
   from his staff, finally agreed to permit the use of a few key
   German witnesses in person.

   No one, however, quite anticipated the sensation generated by Otto
   Ohlendorf when he appeared the next day.  Thirty-eight years old,
   short and blond, he would have been overlooked in any gathering.
   Yet he was, in some ways, the Savonarola of the Nazi era.  A
   militant anti-Semite, he had joined the party, of which he had the
   most idealistic conception, at the age of eighteen.  After
   graduating with a degree in economics, he had gone to work at the
   Institute for World Economics in Kiel.  He had an
   eighteenth-century belief in laissez-faire, and his vision of the
   party was of an organization that would simultaneously smite the
   Communists and big business, and nurture the development of small
   businesses and independent enterprise.  With his intellectualism
   and insistence on speaking the truth, he would, had he been
   Catholic, have found a natural home among the Jesuits.
   Disillusioned by Hitler's alliance with Schacht, Krupp, and the
   other Rhineland bankers and industrialists, outraged by what he
   considered Ley's bolshevization of the German workers, and shocked
   by the corruption that flowered in the Party Organization, he had
   generated consternation among local party leaders by his
   outspokenness.  At one point he had been arrested and interrogated
   by the Gestapo.

   Friends had obtained a job for him in Berlin, where within a year
   his intellect and analytical ability had come to the attention of
   Heydrich.  In 1936 he had joined the SD for the purpose of
   establishing a network of economic intelligence.  Heydrich found
   him invaluable; but when the party functionaries awoke to the fact
   that the SD, purportedly the party's intelligence organization, was
   turning its eye inward, they raised such a howl that Himmler
   severely curtailed Ohlendorf's operation.

   Upon the outbreak of the war, nevertheless, Ohlendorf's talents
   were too valuable to be left lying fallow; and he was made chief of
   Amt III, the Internal Intelligence Service.

   When Barbarossa was launched, Heydrich pressed his principal
   subordinates to take charge of the Einsatzkommando, so as to tie
   them to him irrevocably through bonds of blood.  Ohlendorf was
   placed in command of Einsatzgruppe D, which had responsibility for
   the southern Ukraine and the Crimea.  He had spent a year in
   Russia, then returned to Berlin in June of 1942 to resume his post.
   His 'Reports from the Reich,' which presented the only unvarnished,
   factual account of conditions in the nation, had circulated among
   the top echelon of the government and the party.

   The pretrial interrogation of Ohlendorf had been conducted by
   Lieutenant Colonel Smith W.  Brookhart, Jr., the rock-jawed son of
   a famous midwestern senator, Wildman Smith Brookhart.  Ohlendorf,
   after first offering to establish a German intelligence
   organization for the Allies, formed an attachment to Brookhart, and
   wanted the American to help him write a book.  He could not
   understand why any of the high-ranking Nazis incarcerated at
   Nuremberg should take offense at his recounting of the truth.
   'Every individual will have to stand for what he has done and be
   held responsible for what he has done, and also make a complete
   statement of what he has done,' he assured Brookhart.  (Int.  of
   Ohlendorf by Brookhart, Mar.  8, 1946, in Ohlendorf Interrogation
   File.) Nothing upset him or dejected him more than the accusation
   by Major Leon Goldensohn, who had replaced Dr.  Kelley as the
   prison psychiatrist, that he must be a sadist, a pervert, or a
   lunatic.  (Jaari Memo to Brookhart, Mar.  8, 1946, in Ohlendorf
   Interrogation File.) Goldensohn could not understand how else a man
   of such integrity and incorruptibility could have commanded an
   Einsatzgruppe.

   The fact of the matter was that Ohlendorf, as Himmler had indicated
   when he called him Nazism's 'Knight of the Holy Grail,' (Ho'hne,
   236) was gripped by the fanaticism of a crusader.  He would slay
   the heretics not because he liked to kill them, but because he
   believed their slaughter necessary in pursuit of his faith.

   It almost beggared belief that such a gem of veracity should have
   been discovered among the prevaricators; and a thorough
   interrogation of Ohlendorf on the witness stand might have done
   much to bring the true state of affairs in the Reich into focus and
   appreciably increase the comprehension of the judges.  Logic
   dictated that the adept Brookhart, who had worked with him for
   months, should be the one to question him; but Colonel Amen, of
   course, was not about to let such a prize get away from him; and
   Amen was interested only in Ohlendorf's leadership of the
   Einsatzgruppe and had little knowledge of the mass of additional
   material Brookhart had developed.

   After taking his oath, Ohlendorf, since he had not specifically
   been told or granted permission to sit down, remained standing
   during much of his testimony.  As he spoke, precisely, clerically,
   the normal hum of activity in the courtroom died away and
   everyone's eyes became riveted on his jockey-sized figure.

   'What was the ultimate objective of Group D?' Amen asked.

   'The instructions were that in the Russian operational areas of the
   Einsatzgruppen the Jews, as well as the Soviet political
   commissars, were to be liquidated.'

   'And when you say 'liquidated' do you mean 'killed'?'

   'Yes.' Ohlendorf nodded imperceptibly. 'I mean killed.'

   'Did you, personally, have any conversations with Himmler
   respecting any communication from Himmler to the chiefs of army
   groups and armies concerning this mission?'

   'Yes.  Himmler told me that before the beginning of the Russian
   campaign Hitler had spoken of this mission to a conference of the
   army groups and the army chiefs -- no, not the army chiefs but the
   commanding generals -- and had instructed the commanding generals to
   provide the necessary support.'

   'Did you have any other conversation with Himmler concerning this
   order?'

    'Yes, in the late summer of 1941 Himmler was in Nikolaev,'
   Ohlendorf continued.  Nikolaev was a city on the shores of the
   Black Sea halfway between Odessa and the Crimea.  In this pleasant
   setting Ohlendorf had, in fact, been procrastinating, and had hoped
   to avoid a mass execution by registering all Jews and selecting
   only the 'Bolshevists' from among them.  When Himmler found out
   what Ohlendorf had (or had not) done, he was furious, and demanded
   that the exterminations be initiated immediately.

   'He assembled the leaders and the men of the Einsatzkommando, '
   Ohlendorf declared, 'repeated to them the liquidation order, and
   pointed out that the leaders and men who were taking part in the
   liquidation bore no personal responsibility for the execution of
   this order.  The responsibility was his, alone, and the
   Fuhrer's.'

   'Do you know how many persons were liquidated by Einsatz Group D
   under your direction?'

   'In the year between June 1941 and June 1942 the Einsatzkommando
   reported ninety thousand people liquidated.'

   'Did that include men, women, and children?'

   'Yes,' Ohlendorf acknowledged.

   'On what pretext, if any, were they rounded up?'

   'On the pretext that they were to be resettled.' Ohlendorf paused.

   'Will you continue?'

   'After the registration, the Jews were collected at one place; and
   from there they were later transported to the place of execution,
   which was, as a rule, an antitank ditch or a natural excavation.
   The executions were carried out in a military manner by firing
   squads under command.'

   'What was done with the personal property and the clothing of the
   persons executed?'

   'All valuables were sent to Berlin, to the RSHA or to the Reich
   Ministry of Finance.  At first the clothing was given to the
   population, but in the winter of 1941-1942 it was collected and
   disposed of by the NSV [the Nazi relief organization].'

   'How about watches, for example, taken from the victims?'

   'At the request of the army, watches were made available to the
   forces at the front.' (IMT, vol. 4, 316-322)

   Though occasionally Ohlendorf's voice seemed on the verge of
   breaking, he might have been detailing the latest economics
   statistics.  He was the antithesis of the image of Nazi brutality;
   and Biddle began to wonder if the Allies were confronted with a
   nation of Jekylls and Hydes, as Frank seemed to indicate when he
   mused: 'Barbarism must be a strong German racial characteristic --
   how else could Himmler have gotten men to carry out his murderous
   orders?' (Gilbert, 61) Ohlendorf's bureaucratic, dispassionate
   manner only heightened the shock with which his recitation was
   received.

   Contrapuntally, during the next few weeks, the judges were to be
   treated to flesh and blood accounts from eyewitnesses and people
   who had been on the lethal end of the weapons.

   A man named Kamenev stated in his affidavit: 'We reached the
   trench.  We were lined up facing it, and the Germans began their
   preparations to shoot us in the nape of the neck.  The shots rang
   out and my son instantly jumped into the trench.  I threw myself in
   after him.  Dead bodies began to fall upon me in the trench.  About
   three PM an eleven-year-old boy stood up from among the pile of
   corpses and began to call, 'Little fathers, those of you who are
   still alive, get up.  The Germans are gone.' I was afraid to do so,
   since I thought that the boy was shouting by order of the
   policemen.  The boy called out a second time, and then my son
   answered him.  He stood up and asked, 'Dad, are you still alive?' I
   could not say anything and merely nodded.  My son and the other boy
   dragged me out from under the bodies.  We saw some others who were
   still alive and who were shouting, 'Help us!' Some were wounded.
   All the time, while I had been Iying in the trench, under the
   bodies of the dead, I could hear the shrieks and wails of the women
   and children.  The Germans had started shooting old men, women, and
   children after shooting us.'

   A youth, Anatol Bombarenko, related: 'I got up and the two of us
   began to drag out the living from beneath the corpses.  I was
   covered with blood.  A light mist hung over the trench -- steam
   arising from the rapidly congealing mass of dead bodies, from the
   pools of blood, and from the last breath of the dying.' (IMT, vol.
   7, 494-496)

   Himmler, the one time he witnessed an execution, would have fainted
   had he not been propped up by his adjutant, Karl Wolff.
   Consequently, Ohlendorf testified, in the spring of 1942 he had
   received 'a special order from Himmler to the effect that women and
   children were not to be exposed to the mental strain of the
   executions; and thus the men of the Kommando, mostly married men,
   should not be compelled to aim at women and children.' In order to
   accomplish this goal, a young SS university graduate,
   Untersturmfuhrer Becker, had devised a truck with a sealed body
   into which carbon monoxide was pumped from the engine.

   The vans, which came to be called 'soul destroyers' by the
   populace, had had their own drawbacks, however.  Ohlendorf and his
   subordinates preferred the strain of shooting people to that of
   unloading the corpses from the vans.  In Ohlendorf's opinion, 'The
   unloading of the corpses [was] an unnecessary mental strain
   [because of] the terrible impression created by the position of the
   corpses themselves and by the state of the vans -- certain
   functions of the body had taken place leaving the corpses lying in
   filth.'  (Becker protested that the unfortunate
   consequences were not his fault: 'The application of gas usually is
   not undertaken correctly.  In order to come to an end as fast as
   possible the driver presses the accelerator to the fullest extent.
   By doing that the persons to be executed suffer death from
   suffocation and not death from dozing off as was planned.  My
   directions now have proved that by correct adjustment of the levers
   death comes faster and the prisoners fall asleep peacefully.
   Distorted faces and excretions such as could be seen before are no
   longer noticed.') 

   The Einsatzgruppen, Ohlendorf related, had obtained their personnel
   from all the various organizations in Himmler's domain, and
   Ohlendorf himself had augmented his unit of five hundred Germans
   with five hundred Tatars.  Attempting to explain to the court the
   structure of the Reicb Sicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main
   Office), he narrated: 'The RSHA as such never actually had official
   validity.  Party and state offices with different authority were
   amalgamated.  Under this designation RSHA, no directives or laws or
   orders could be issued on a legal basis, because the state police,
   in its ministerial capacity, was still subordinate to the ministry
   of the interior, whereas the SD, despite this setup, was an organ
   of the party.  The RSHA was therefore nothing more than a
   camouflage designation which did not correctly represent the actual
   state of affairs but gave the chief of the Sipo and the SD
   [Heydrich] the opportunity of using one or the other letterhead at
   any time.'

   After Ohlendorf continued further in this vein, Lawrence,
   overstating his degree of comprehension, commented: 'I'm not sure
   that I follow altogether what you have been saying.' (IMT, vol.  4,
   354.)

   Ludwig Babel, the attorney for the SS, attempted to elicit some
   explanation for the Ohlendorf phenomenon: 'Did you have no scruples
   in regard to the execution of these orders?' 

   'Yes, of course,' Ohlendorf replied.  

   'And how is it they were carried out regardless of these scruples?'

   'Because to me it is inconceivable that a subordinate leader should
   not carry out orders given by the leaders of the state,' Ohlendorf
   answered, astonished.  

   'Was the legality of the orders explained to these people under
   false pretenses?' Babel desperately sought to discover some
   exculpatory factor.  

   'I do not understand your question,' Ohlendorf retorted icily.
   'Since he order was issued by the superior authorities, the
   question of legality would not arise in the minds of these
   individuals, for they had sworn obedience to the people who had
   issued the orders.' 

   'Could any individual expect to succeed in evading the execution of
   these orders?' 

   'No, the result would have been a court martial with a
   corresponding sentence.' (IMT, vol.  4, 354.)

   This was not entirely true, since one of the aspects of the Nazi
   system was that it operated on two tiers.  While introducing its
   own pragmatic immorality, it never dismantled the old legal
   structure.  Anyone who evaded a clearly immoral or illegal order
   with enough determined diplomacy or deviousness had not been called
   to account." (Conot, 226-238) 

                            Work Cited

   Conot, Robert E. Justice at Nuremberg. New York: Harper & Row,
   1983

                          Abbreviations

   IMT.  International Military Tribunal, Trial of the Major War
   Criminals; the published transcipts of the trial. 

   NCA.  Nazi Conspiracy and Aggession, the 10-volume compendium of
   the prosecution's agruments.


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