The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Twenty-Sixth Day: Thursday, 3rd January, 1946
(Part 6 of 15)



The testimony of the witness is important for the clarification of such questions, on the report of which the Soviet Delegation is at present working. Therefore, with the permission of the Court, I would like to ask the witness Ohlendorf a number of questions.

Q. You, witness, said that you were present twice at the mass executions. On whose orders were you an inspector at the executions?

A. I was present at the executions on my own initiative.

Q. But you said that you attended as inspector.

A. I said that I attended for inspection purposes.

Q. That was your initiative?

A. Yes.

Q. Did one of your chiefs always attend the executions for purposes of inspection?

A. Whenever possible I sent some leader of the Einsatzgruppe, but this was not always possible because of the great distance from the Einsatzgruppe.

Q. For what reasons was a person sent for purposes of inspection?

A. Please repeat the question?

Q. For what purpose was an inspector sent?

A. To determine whether or not my instructions regarding the manner of the execution were actually being carried out.

Q. Am I to understand that the inspector was to make certain that the execution had actually been carired [sic] out?

A. No, that is not a correct statement of the fact. He should simply ascertain whether the conditions which I set for the execution were actually being carried out.

Q. What manner of conditions had you in mind?

A. (1) The absence of publicity; (2) The carrying out of the execution in a military fashion. (3) The arrival of the transports and the carrying out of the liquidation without any hitch, in order to avoid unnecessary

[Page 259]

excitement. (4) The control of the property, in order to prevent appropriation by any person. There may have been other details which I no longer remember. At any rate any mistreatment, whether physical or spiritual, was to be prevented by means of these measures.

Q. You wished to make sure that, according to your opinion, a more equitable distribution of this property was effected, or did you aspire to a complete acquisition of the valuables?

A. Yes. [Note: Only the first half of the preceding question, originally spoken in Russian, was transmitted to the witness in German by the interpreter. The answer of the witness, therefore, refers only to the first half of the question.]

Q. You spoke of ill-treatment. What did you mean by ill- treatment at the executions?

A. If, for instance, the manner in which the executions were carried out was not able to prevent excitement and disobedience among the victims and the consequent execution of the order by means of violence.

Q. What do you mean by "execution of the order by means of violence"? What do you mean by violent suppression of the excitement arising amongst the victims?

A. When, as I have already stated, in order to carry out the liquidation as ordered it was necessary, for example, to resort to beating.

Q. Was it absolutely necessary to beat the victims?

A. I myself never saw such a case, but I heard of such.

Q. From whom?

A. In conversations held with members of other Kommandos.

Q. You said that cars, auto-cars, were used for the executions?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know where, and with whose assistance, the inventor, Becker, was able to materialise his inventions?

A. I remember only that it took place within Amt II of the R.S.H.A.; but I can no longer say definitely.

Q. How many were executed in these cars?

A. I did not understand the question.

Q. How many persons were executed by means of these cars?

A. I cannot give you any precise figures. The number was comparatively small -- about a few hundred.

Q. You said that mostly women and children were executed in these vans. For what reason?

A. There was a special order from Himmler to that effect.

According to this order women and children were not to be executed in this manner in order to avoid the spiritual strain arising from other forms of execution and likewise not to force the soldiers, mostly married men, to shoot down women and children.

Q. Did anybody observe the behavior of the persons executed in these vans?

A. Yes, the doctor.

Q. Did you know that Becker had reported that death in these vans was particularly agonizing?

A. No. I only learned about Becker from the letter which was shown to me here in the Court. On the contrary, I know that according to the doctor's reports the victims felt nothing at the time of death.

[Page 260]

Q. Did any military units -- I should say, Army units -- take part in these mass executions?

A. As a rule, no.

Q. And as an exception?

A. In so far as I remember, in Nikolaiev and in Simferopol an observer from the Army High Command was there for a short time.

Q. For what purpose?

A. I do not know. Probably for personal information.

Q. Were military units assigned for carrying out the executions in these towns?

A. Officially, the Army did not assign any units for this purpose, since the Army as such was opposed to the liquidation.

Q. But factually?

A. Individual units voluntarily made themselves available. However, I know of no such case in the Army itself, only in the units attached to the Army (Heeresgefolge).

Q. You were the man by whose orders people were sent to their death. Were Jews only handed over for the execution by the Einsatzgruppe or were Communists -- "Communist Officials" you call them in your instructions -- handed over for execution along with the Jews?

A. Yes, "Communist Officials" was the name for political commissars and for those who were politically active. The mere fact of belonging to the Communist Party was not sufficient grounds for sending a man to his death.

Q. Were any special investigations made concerning the part played by persons in the Communist Party?

A. No, I said precisely the contrary, i.e., that the fact of belonging to the Communist Party was not, in itself, a determining factor in regard to persecution or in regard to execution -- unless it implied a special political function.

Q. Did you hold any conversations regarding the murder vans sent from Berlin and on their work?

A. I do not understand the question.

Q. Had you any occasion to discuss, with your chiefs and your colleagues, the fact that motor vans had been sent to your own particular Einsatzgruppe from Berlin for carrying out the executions? Do you remember any such conversations?

A. I do not remember any specific conversation.

Q. Had you any information concerning the fact that members of the execution squad in charge of the executions were unwilling to use the vans?

A. I knew that the Einsatzkommandos used these gas vans.

Q. No, I have something else in mind. I wish to discover whether you received any information whether members of the execution squads were unwilling to choose the vans or whether they preferred other means of execution?

A. In other words, that they would killing by gas vans rather than by shooting?

Q. On the contrary, that they preferred execution by shooting to rather than by the gas vans.

A. Yes, I have already said so, that the gas van----

[Page 261]

Q. And why did they prefer execution by shooting to killing in the gas vans?

A. I have already said: because, according to the opinion of the Einsatzkommandos, the unloading of the corpses was an unnecessary spiritual strain.

Q. What do you mean "an unnecessary spiritual strain"?

A. As far as I can remember the actual conditions, for instance, the state of the bodies, certain functions of the body took place which left the corpses lying in filth.

Q. You wish to say that the sufferings endured prior to death were clearly visible on the victims? Have I understood you correctly?

A. Do you mean during that moment when the gas killed them in the van?

Q. Yes.

A. I can only repeat what the doctor told me, namely, that the victims at the time of death, felt nothing.

Q. In that case your reply to my previous question, namely, that the unloading of the bodies made a very terrible impression on the members of the execution squad, becomes entirely incomprehensible.

A. As I have already said, the terrible impression was created by the whole situation and by the fouling of the vans by excreta.

COLONEL POKROVSKY: I have no further questions to ask this witness at the present stage of the Trial.

THE PRESIDENT: Does the Prosecutor for the French Republic desire to put any questions to the witness?


THE PRESIDENT: Does the counsel for Kaltenbrunner desire to cross-examine now or at a later date?

DR. KAUFFMANN (Counsel for defendant Kaltenbrunner): Perhaps I could ask a few questions now and request that I be allowed to make my cross-examination later after I have already spoken with Kaltenbrunner.


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