The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)
Nuremberg, war crimes, crimes against humanity

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
14th February to 26th February, 1946

Sixty-First Day: Monday, 18th February, 1946
(Part 7 of 7)

[COLONEL L. N. SMIRNOV continues]

[Page 105]

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 quotation:
"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 brief

[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 agony."

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 o'clock.

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

COLONEL SMIRNOV: I shall finish my presentation of evidence to-morrow.

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

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