SS-Colonel Steimle studied history, Germanic languages and French at the Universities of Tuebingen and Berlin. In May l935 he qualified as instructor of secondary schools, and in March 1936 he passed the examination as Studienassessor. In April 1936 he entered the Security Service and on 1 September 1936 was appointed leader of the SD Regional Headquarters in Stuttgart.
From September 7 to December 10, 1941, Steimle was chief of Sonderkommando 7a of Einsatzgruppe B. During this time his unit executed over 500 people:
Report No. 92, NO-3l43, IIB / 53
Report No. l08, N0- 3156, IIB /18,21
Report No. 125, NO-3403, IIB / 42
Report No. 133, NO-2825, IIB/14-15
From August l942 to January l943 the defendant was chief of Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C, which unit also participated in liquidating operations.
It is the contention of the defendant that all executions ordered by him were in the nature of punitive actions falling under established offenses against the laws of war, such as sabotage, looting, and partisan activity. It is evident that this defendant, like the defendant Blobel, has a distorted view of what constitutes established offenses when he states, as he does in his pre-trial affidavit, that under his leadership his kommando executed even "persons suspected of being partisans". (Emphasis supplied)
Defense Counsel in his trial brief complains that the Prosecution did not submit any evidence to contest the defendant's assertion that every execution of partisans was preceded by a thorough examination on the basis of a regular procedure. The defendant himself gave one highly illuminative demonstration on his idea of regular procedure. He was asked what he would do to a man he came upon lecturing on communism, and he replied that, after taking a look at him:
"If I was under the impression that he would put his theoretical conviction into deed in that case I would have him shot. "
Another example of his idea of justice arose out of his voluntary narrative of an episode involving the shooting of three girls who, according to the defendant, were about to form a partisan group. He explained that the case of these three girls was investigated for eight days. Whether such an investigation actually took place or not can only depend on the credibility of the defendant himself. In this respect it must be remarked that, if his concern for the girls' civil rights rose no higher than his regard for their spiritual comfort, the victims could not have had much of a chance to defend themselves. Steimle himself commanded the firing squad, and he was asked if the girls were afforded any religious assistance before the shots were fired. He replied that, since they were Communists they could not have had a religious conviction. Then the question was put to him as to what he would have done in the event they were religious. His reply was:
"If the wish had been uttered I can imagine that this would have been done. I, myself, wouldn't have bothered." (Emphasis supplied)
The defendant undertook to deny responsibility For various executions performed by his two units by stating that the alleged investigations were conducted by his subordinates. His admission, however, that he reviewed investigations and ordered death sentences makes him co-responsible with the persons in charge of the examinations. A superior may not delegate authority to a
subordinate and then plead non-involvement for what the subordinate does. Especially, when the superior reserves the right of supervision, as Steimle testified he did.
The Tribunal is satisfied from the evidence in the case that the defendant understood his responsibility in this regard but failed to meet it.
The Tribunal further finds that the credible evidence in the case does not support any conclusion that all Jews admittedly executed under Steimle's orders were accorded a trial and judicial process guaranteed by the rules of war and International Law. The defendant then claims that no Jews were executed by either of his sub-kommandos while he was chief. In his pretrial affidavit he stated:
"From talk by members of the Kommando, I know that SS-Standartenfuehrer Dr Blume, my predecessor in this Kommando in White Ruthenia, carried out shootings of Jews besides fighting against partisans"And
"I know that my predecessors, SS-Standartenfuehrer Blobel and SS-Standartenfuehrer Weinmann carried out shootings of Jews and other atrocities, mainly during the march through the Ukraine."
It is incredible that, although the two kommandos involved were engaged in the execution of Jews prior to Steimle's arrival, they should suddenly cease performing their principal function while the Fuehrer-Order was still in force.
The defendant's other statement that there were no more Jews in his territory is discredited by Report No.108:
"The Sonderkommando 7a executed a local, leading Bolshevist official and 21 Jewish plunderers and terrorists in Gorodnie. In Klinzy 83 Jewish terrorists and 3 leading party officials were likewise liquidated. At a further checking up 3 Communist officials, 1 Politruk (political commissar at the front) and 82 Jewish terrorists were dealt with, according to orders."(Emphasis supplied)
The defendant stated that when he took over the command of Sonderkommando 7a, Foltis, the sub-commander, informed him of
the Fuehrer-Order. He added that he, was opposed to it and thus, by failing to shoot Jews, he exculpated himself from any responsibility under that order. But, neither the Fuehrer-Order nor the Indictment in this case is limited to the extermination of Jews. The ruthless killing of members of the civilian population other than Jews is also murder. Nonetheless the Tribunal is convinced that the Einsatz units under Steimle's leadership and authority killed Jews on racial grounds and also killed Jews on supposed offenses without affording them the trial called for under the Rules of War and International Law. It is also clear that Steimle did not attempt to prevent Foltis, his subordinate, from killing Jews under the Fuehrer-Order. The Tribunal finds from all the evidence in the case that Steimle authorized and approved of killings in violation of law and is guilty of murder.
From all the evidence in the case, the Tribunal finds the defendant guilty under Counts I and II of the Indictment.
The Tribunal also finds that the defendant was a member of the criminal organizations SS and SD under the conditions defined by the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal and therefore, is guilty under Count III of the Indictment.
HTML: Scott Conway
April 16, 1998