MLC Logo 

Annual 4 Chapter 9
 

The Tasks of the SS Einsatzgruppen
by Alfred Streim
Translated by Henry Friedlander and Martha Humphreys.

Helmut Krausnick and Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm. Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges: Die Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 1938-1942. Institut ffir Zeitgeschichte, Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte, Vol. 22. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1981. 687 pages, illustrations, maps.

The tactical employment during the invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) of mobile units under the command of the Chief of the Security Police and the SS Security Service1-Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos or Sonderkommandos-was nothing new. One such unit had already been employed during the "incorporation" of Austria in March 1938, and units of this type continued to be used until the end of 1944 in almost all assaults on foreign nations by the Wehrmacht. To some extent they were also involved in separate military operations, such as the Ardennes offensive in December 1944. But while the units employed in the West were charged only with security tasks until their conversion into stationary offices (ortsfeste Dienststellen), the assignment of those units operating in the East included, in addition, the physical destruction of certain segments of the population, particularly the Jews.

Since the end of the war a flood of publications about the Nazi era has appeared. Comprehensive histories have only treated the Einsatzgruppen as part of the larger picture, and even then only those operating in the Soviet Union.2 However, comprehensive studies about the Einsatzgruppen and monographs about specific units did not appear. 3

Admittedly, for a long time there was little or no information available about most of these mobile units operating under the direction of the RSHA. In contrast, an abundance of material about the units that operated in the Soviet Union had been collected for the International Military Tribunal and the subsequent American proceedings at Nuremberg-specifically the trial of Otto Ohlendorf, former head of Einsatzgruppe D, and accomplices (Case No. 9), and former Field Marshal Wilhelm von Leeb (Case No. 12). But these sources had not been utilized for a comprehensive scholarly investigation.

It is thus most welcome that the Institut ffir Zeitgeschichte in Munich has now issued a study that was previously lacking. The authors are two specialists who have worked with the subject for many years: Helmut Krausnick, former director of the Institut ffir Zeitgeschichte and an expert consultant in numerous proceedings against Nazi criminals, and Hans- Heinrich Wilhelm, also affiliated with the Munich institute.

The work consists of two parts. In the first part,4 Krausnick describes the origins of the Einsatzgruppen (the beginnings: Austria, Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia), then provides a detailed depiction of the violent measures applied by them for the first time against ethnic and "racial" groups during the Polish campaign and subsequently during Operation Barbarossa. In each instance he investigates their relationship to the Wehrmacht command. In the second part,5 Wilhelm provides an historical analysis of Einsatzgruppe A, which operated in the Baltic and White Russia, and uses it as an example to analyze the structure, activity, and reporting of such units as well as the participation in killing operations against Jews and other "potential opponents" by other German organizations and indigenous forces.

Krausnick has evidently asked himself the one recurring question about Nazism: how was it possible? In trying to find the answer, he has accordingly not only described the activities of the Einsatzgruppen, but has also shown how the unparalleled extermination measures implemented against entire populations was made possible by the collaboration between the Wehrmacht command and the criminal regime, represented on the spot by the units of the Chief of the Security Police and the SS Security Service.

In the process Krausnick also deals with the behavior of the troops and, citing examples, concludes that they did not always comply when the military command attempted to impose a standard of uniform collaboration. In this matter he will be faced with a great deal of opposition, especially since several publications that arrived at opposite conclusions have appeared in recent years.6 We must, however, agree with Krausnick. Most of these publications are based on one-dimensional sources, specifically on the evidence presented at Nuremberg by the prosecution. The fact that these studies are one-sided and lack the objectivity history requires probably needs no further elaboration.

For example, it has been repeatedly asserted that the Sixth Army in the East willingly collaborated with the Einsatzkommandos operating in their area.7 After a thorough examination of all available sources-particularly the extensive documentation found at the Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg-we must conclude that, on the contrary, it was not the entire army that collaborated but only the commander- in-chief and his general staff officer responsible for enemy information and counterintelligence (the Ic), as well as a few local station commanders (Ortskommandanturen). The preponderance of the command staff and of the units assigned to the Sixth Army opposed the activities of the Einsatzkommandos. They did so, for example, by circumventing official channels while informing their superiors about the killing operations against the Jews or, alternatively, disregarding their commander-in-chief's pro- collaboration posture to complain to him directly. A document is after all only a document. To base conclusions on it without further data is simply speculation and thus has no place in scholarly studies. The investigations of the relationship between the Wehrmacht and the Einsatzgruppen is necessarily extensive because the diverse interpretations of historians require such coverage.

In addition, Krausnick deals intensively with the "mission of the Einsatzgruppen," particularly the question of when, where, and from whom they received the order to shoot all Jews. As expert witness in postwar trials Krausnick always concluded on the basis of the Nuremberg testimony of Ohlendorf and his colleagues that the order for the destruction of the Jews (Judenvernichtungsbefehl) was issued at their assembly points to the Einsatzgruppen by Bruno Streckenbach, the chief of Office I in the RSHA, prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union. Krausnick has in the main retained this thesis in this study.

But this thesis may not correspond to the facts. Working through hundreds of interrogations produced in the proceedings against former members of the Einsatzgruppen, I have concluded that they have mainly asserted the following:

1. At the beginning there was no order to kill all Jews.

2. At that time always only male Jews of draft age were executed for reasons permissible under martial law; anyhow, that is what they were told.

3. Only several weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union was the order issued to shoot all Jews, even Jewish women and children, "so that no avengers can grow up"; this was the justification sometimes offered for this order.

After a subsequent first reexamination of the evidence I concluded the following:
1. Specific investigations concerning the exact time and place the order to kill the Jews was issued were as a rule not undertaken by the state attorneys.

2. The answer to the question "order or no order," essential for the distinction between perpetrators and accomplices, was frequently resolved by the same expert consultant-Helmut Krausnick-who believed that the Nuremberg testimonies of Ohlendorf and associates had proven that the order had been issued at the very beginning.

Some historians hold the opinion that it is basically irrelevant when and by whom the order was issued to the Einsatzgruppen, since it is known that it was issued and also implemented. This opinion may suffice for history, but not for the law: all pertinent court decisions that found members of the Einsatzgruppen guilty as accomplices to murder for killing Jews immediately after the invasion of the Soviet Union would have imposed a penalty that would be a legal error. Because the defendants acted without a specific order, which at that time had not yet been issued, the courts would have had to convict them as perpetrators and not as accomplices, and this would have influenced the penalty significantly; they would have been sentenced to life in prison instead of to frequently very light prison terms.8

After a further examination of this proposition, which I continue to investigate actively and which can now be considered established fact, I have developed the following thesis: the general order for the destruction of the Jews was not issued to the Einsatzgruppen prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union; rather, it was issued weeks later, approximately between the beginning of August 1941 at the earliest and September 1941 at the latest.9

The insights gained so far can be briefly summarized and delineated as follows:

1. Ohlendorf s testimony as witness before the International Military Tribunal and his defense in the Einsatzgruppen trial that the order for the destruction of the Jews was transmitted by Streckenbach at the assembly point prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union is false.

2. The farewell letter 10 of one of those condemned to death in the Einsatzgruppen trial shows that Ohlendorf posited this assertion as part of his defense argument, contending that if the defendants had not been under such orders from the beginning, they would be sentenced to death as perpetrators. The letter also shows that Ohlendorf, using threats and promises, persuaded his codefendants to adopt this line of defense. All but two complied with Ohlendorf's demand. Streckenbach was designated as the person who transmitted the "Fiihrer Order" because it was assumed that he was dead; actually he was a prisoner in the Soviet Union and returned to Germany in 1955.

3. The information supplied by the farewell letter was confirmed by interrogations of Ohlendorf's codefendants conducted later by German prosecutors.11 Further confirmation was obtained through the statements of attorneys who had defended the SS leaders in the Einsatzgruppen trial.12

4. After returning from Soviet captivity, Streckenbach denied that he had delivered the order for destruction. But he did not announce this publicly, because colleagues convicted in the Einsatzgruppen trial and released early on parole begged him not to do so, since they feared that public disclosure of their lies would return them to prison.13

5. Testimonies by other Einsatzkommando chiefs, who went underground after the war but were later found by German prosecutors, also confirm that Streckenbach did not transmit the order for destruction.14 This fact should now be considered indisputable.

6. Moreover, the order was also not delivered by Reinhard Heydrich, the former Chief of the Security Police and the SS Security Service, or by Heinrich Muller, the former head of the Gestapo, as has been asserted elsewhere.15 Although Heydrich had visited the assembly point, he had only reviewed a farewell parade and had been forced by a rainstorm to return immediately to Berlin. 16 Almost no one in the end has been able to recall Muller.

7. Unambiguous testimonies by several Einsatzkommando chiefs (1b, 4b, 5, 6, 8, and 12) asserted that the order was issued several weeks after the start of the Russian campaign.17

8. The value of these depositions is of particular significance, since with them these former SS leaders incriminated themselves in ongoing proceedings against them. They could not have anticipated that the verdicts rendered against them would reach a different, for them more favorable, conclusion concerning the transmission of the order.18

9. These statements were indirectly confirmed by Operational Orders No. 1 and 2, issued by the Chief of the Security Police and the SS Security Service on 29 June and 1 July 1941, instructing the Einsatzgruppen "silently" to instigate pogroms by the indigenous population.19 Further confirmation can be found in Heydrich's letter of 2 July 1941 advising the persons designated as Higher SS and Police Leaders [HSSPF] for the Soviet areas that only Jews in party and state positions and similar "elements" were to be executed. 20 If Hitler's destruction order had already existed at that time, it would not have been necessary to instigate pogroms, and Heydrich would not have had to restrict execution to only those Jews occupying party and state offices.

10. Moreover, the Einsatzgruppen situation reports,21 the so-called Jager Report,22 and the evidence of the majority of former members of the Einsatzgruppen show that for the most part Heydrich's directives were carried out during the first weeks of the Russian campaign.

11. The conclusion that the order for destruction was issued between early August and September 1941 is thus based on the following:

a. Testimonies by various Einsatzkommando chiefs (5, 8, and 12).23

b. Testimonies by SS leaders assigned to the Einsatzkom 24 mandos.

c. Documents listing time and place of executions as, for example, the Jager Report.25

d. Compilations of executions based on the results of judicial investigations (for example, Sonderko Mmando 4a).26

e. Hitler's interest in the execution of Jews at that time (cable to 17 the Einsatzgruppen of 1 August 1941).27

f. Various documents: for example, the report of Einsatzgruppe D of the end of August 1941, "The solution of the Jewish Question has ... been initiated.28

g. Reports by the Einsatzgruppen about the establishment on higher orders of ghettos to contain the Jews.29

h. Finally, the well-known order by Goring to Heydrich of 31 July 1941 "to make all necessary preparations ... for the final solution of the Jewish question."30

The objections raised against this thesis are based on isolated interrogations,31 the 1958 Einsatzgruppen trial in UlM,32 and the so-called Stahlecker Report (progress report up to 15 October 1941 by the chief of Einsatzgruppe A, SS Brigadefuhrer Dr. Walther Stahlecker),33 and attempt to show that a general order for destruction-the shooting of men, women, and children-existed from the beginning. These objections are not valid and must be refuted. But if, for example, it is shown that a certain Einsatzkommando chief had already testified in 1960 that the order existed prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union, this only proves that these explanations base themselves on what was known in 1960 and that subsequent interrogations-especially focused interrogations in other proceedingswere not taken into consideration.

The use of the Ulm trial also fails as evidence. To be sure, severalbut not all- of the defendants maintained that they had received the order to kill all Jews at the start of "Operation Barbarossa." This assertion, however, was simply a defense argument designed to obtain a conviction as an accomplice and not as a perpetrator. The Ulm court proceedings and court decision demonstrate that up to the beginning of August only able-bodied men were shot and, of course, here and there a woman who was described as a communist or as some other "element hostile to the Reich." Women and children, and also men not of draft age, were incarcerated in camps. The general liquidations started in August 1941 with 100 Jews; they were mostly women, children, and the elderly chosen from those who had previously been placed in camps. Finally, the Stahlecker Report also cannot be used to undermine the thesis that the general order for the destruction of the Jews was issued between early August and September 1941.

Legal arguments have been advanced to refute my thesis. It has been argued that my basic contention that Ohlendorf s testimony in the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen trial was a defense argument to escape the death sentence is not convincing; that Control Council Law No. 10, used by the Allies in the subsequent Nuremberg proceedings, did not exempt anyone from responsibility because he followed orders.34 Basically that is correct, but it is necessary to read further. Thus the entire Article II, Section 4(b) reads as follows: "The fact that any person acted pursuant to the order of his Government or of a superior does not free him from responsibility for a crime, but may be considered in mitigation" (my emphasis).35

We still do not know who delivered the order to the Einsatzgruppen. Only the (original) chiefs of the various Einsatzgruppen could have provided an answer. But after the war had ended only Ohlendorf and Dr. Dr. Otto Rasch, former chief of Einsatzgruppe C, were still alive. Ohlendorf's answer is known. Rasch, who due to illness was isolated from his codefendants at Nuremberg and thus knew nothing of Ohlendorf's line of defense, did not testify on this point as many of his companions feared: "If Rasch testifies, we will have a catastrophe."36 He was too ill to stand trial and died soon thereafter. The opening statement of his defense attorney, however, clearly showed that the order was issued in August 1941.37

The commanders serving under Rasch did know more: in August 1941 they had been called to Shitomir; there the Higher SS and Police Leader South, Friedrich Jeckeln (executed in Riga 1946), arranged that the order to exterminate be issued to them.38 In other words, this happened precisely at the time in which the universal execution of Jews commenced within the area of Einsatzgruppe C.

Evidence for this transmission route of the order to exterminate also exists for other regions. A former SS Oberfuhrer who served on the staff of the Higher SS and Police Leader North, Hans Adolf Prutzmann (suicide in 1945), testified that Himmler ordered the destruction of all criminal elements, a category that included the Jews.39

The following supports the contention that the order to exterminate was transmitted by the Higher SS and Police Leaders to the chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen:

1. In the East many operations to kill the Jews were directed by the Higher SS and Police Leaders.40

2. In August and September 1941, Himmler made inspection trips to the regions of the Higher SS and Police Leaders North, Middle, and South.41

3. While in Soviet captivity, Streckenbach was briefly able to ask Jeckeln whether the order had been transmitted via the Higher SS and Police Leaders, and Jeckeln replied: "Yes, that's just about how it was."42

Finally, it must still be pointed out that in the Third Reich not only the operations to exterminate the Jews in the Soviet Union and the Baltic states were initiated in this way; for example, certain euthanasia operations in Poland and the destruction of the Polish intelligentsia were initiated in a similar way.43

All in all, however, Krausnick's contribution offers a revealing overview about the origin and mission of the Einsatzgruppen and provides unexpected insights about the cooperation they received from the leadership of the Wehrmacht. Much of this is certainly still obscure, but Krausnick has provided the groundwork that win ultimately determine the direction of future research about this sad chapter in the history of Germany.

It would have been desirable, however, if Krausnick had not merely mentioned the activities of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos during the western campaigns in passing (pp. 107-15), but had instead treated them in a separate chapter as he did with their predecessors. After all, one could expect this from a work that promised to describe the Einsatzgruppen "from the beginnings up to the Russian campaign." Undoubtedly, these units were not as significant as those operating during the Polish and Russian campaigns; in part they were transformed into stationary offices after a brief period or were even disbanded. But the interested reader would be most interested to know how the Einsatzkommando for special purposes in Brussels-or the Einsatzgruppe "Norway" with its five Einsatzkommandos in Oslo, Kristiansund, Stavanger, Bergen, and Trondheim-applied its "security police tasks."44

Finally, it would have been welcome if Krausnick had completed his contribution by providing at the end an overview about the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos created after 1942. This is especially true because little or no information about these units has so far become known. For example, who knows anything about the following units: Einsatzgruppe E (formerly Einsatzgruppe Croatia) with its five Einsatzkommandos in Vin Kovci, Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Knin, and Zagreb; Einsatzgruppe F (with Army Group South); Einsatzgruppe G (Romania, later Hungary) with its Einsatzkommandos number 11 and 12; Einsatzgruppe H (Slovakia); Einsatzgruppe K (with 5th Panzer Army in the Ardennes offensive); Einsatzgruppe L (with 6th Panzer Army in the Ardennes offensive); and Einsatzkommando "Luxemburg."45 Who of those not familiar with this subject knows the notorious Sonderkommando 1005, and its numerous subsidiary units, charged with the task of excavating and burning the corpses so that all traces that could point to massive criminality should be obliterated?46 All these units also belonged to the Truppe des Weltanschaungskrieges that sought, as a rule with technical perfection, to realize the insane goals of the Nazi rulers.

The section by Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm is based on his dissertation of more than 1,000 pages,47 which has been cut and revised to avoid duplications with Krausnick's contribution. Of course duplications cannot be avoided in all instances, since repetition was occasionally needed to clarify relationships of various events. But these duplications in no way detract from the total picture.

Wilhelm first describes the political, social, and ethnographic situation within the operational area assigned to Einsatzgruppe A. Next he covers the policies of the German occupation in the Reichskommissariat Ostland: German rule and indigenous administration; economic policies; mobilization of labor for the German war economy; racial policies (Volkstumspolitik) as well as the problems of Germanization (Eindeutschung); policies vis-a-vis religion, culture, education, and the media. He then deals with the fight against enemies: intelligence, police, and military activities. Thereafter he treats in detail the measures implemented for the destruction of the Jews, providing additional information about the killing operations (Vernichtungsaktionen) in various places (Riga, Liepaja, Borissov, and Slutsk), the deportation of Jews from the Reich to the Ostland, and the participation of other German agencies as well as of indigenous forces in these operations. In dosing, Wilhelm provides a numerical accounting of the destruction of the Jews in the Soviet Union, and the role the Einsatzgruppen played in the origins of the Final Solution.

Wilhelm's contribution is supplemented with a chart showing the organizational structure of SS and police in the northern area, brief biographies of SS functionaries who occupied leading positions within the operational area of Einsatzgruppe A, and a chart listing the chiefs of all Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos in the Soviet Union.

Basing his work on the best available sources for the history of the German occupation in the East, especially the extensive Einsatzgruppen reports that survived the war,48 Wilhelm has produced an exemplary study on the activities of the Einsatzgruppen during Operation Barbarossa. Of course some readers will ask whether the study lacks objectivity due to its reliance on these reports; after all, any specialist knows that even a superficial comparison with other sources shows instances where data in these reports was manipulated to support the arguments and praise the work of the security police and SS security service and especially that of the Einsatzgruppen. For example, the reports imply that in its area only Einsatzgruppe A undertook the fight against partisans; in reality the Wehrmacht was also involved and their reports showed a greater rate of success.49

Another example of how these reports manipulated information is the reasons at first advanced for the execution of Jews; they were designed to justify this killing operation as reprisals permissible under international law. This argument was, for example, applied to justify the notorious execution by Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C of 33,771 Kiev Jews on 29 and 30 September 1941 in Babi Yar.50 In this instance the argument was advanced that the execution of civilians was a legal act of reprisal because the Kiev Jews had carried out acts of sabotage in the city. In reality, however, witness testimonies have provided absolute proof that the Jews were not involved in acts of sabotage in Kiev. Even General Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations in the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht, accepted the true facts-which were later confirmed by the testimony of other witness-in his Nuremberg testimony:

At first the local commander at Kiev thought that it was sabotage on the part of the population, until we found a demolition chart, listing 50 or 60 objectives in Kiev which had already been prepared for destruction some time before; and this chart was in fact correct, as investigation by engineers proved at once. At least 40 more objectives were ready to be blown up, and for most of them a remote-control was to set off the explosion by means of wireless waves. I myself had the original of this demolition chart in my hands.51
Wilhelm has not failed to recognize these dangers as his discussion of the reports's credibility shows. Using sources from different provenances, he attempted verification and has informed the reader whenever he had doubts about the objectivity of the reports.52

Wilhelm's careful investigation did convince him that these reports were not always complete, at least for certain events. Thus he has used a variety of sources to produce for us an accurate general picture. These sources included extensive files from involved civilian and military offices; reports from eyewitnesses; original minutes of important meetings; reports of inspection tours by emissaries from various central offices in Berlin; comprehensive reports about their experiences by district administrators (Gebietskommissare) and other functionaries; and, from the postwar period, memoirs and apologetic accounts of several leading participants; sworn testimonies from German and Soviet eyewitnesses; official reports by state commissions for the investigation of Nazi crimes in various Soviet republics; published and unpublished court records and court decisions in pertinent West German proceedings. Considering the abundance of sources and the multiplicity of their origin, it is understandable that Wilhelm had to overcome considerable difficulties, especially as the various sources do not supplement each other. He correctly points out, for example, that one must sometimes choose one of several sources without the ability to use the other sources as a reference point; official German reports and eyewitness testimony are an example of such incompatibility.

My evaluation of Wilhelm's objectivity is based on the information I obtained at the Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen, where I conducted numerous proceedings against former members of the Einsatzgruppen. And I can thus testify that Wilhelm has been able to produce, in spite of all difficulties, an account of the varied activities of Einsatzgruppe A that is as objective as possible, and that is also typical for the other Einsatzgruppen operating in the Soviet Union. His notably graphic descriptions show in impressive ways the extent of the atrocities committed by the Einsatzgruppen in fulfillment of their orders, particularly the destruction of the Jews. In this context, Wilhelm consistently and convincingly demonstrates that they could not have completed these criminal tasks if they had not been embedded within the German occupation and if numerous other German offices had not cooperated.

The work by Krausnick and Wilhelm is a first step toward a comprehensive history of the activities of the Einsatzgruppen. We must hope that additional monographs will treat the other units that also participated. It would be important as a service to truth and as a sign of respect for the victims to deal one by one with the killing operations, because many are not mentioned in the RSHA reports. For example, most operations by sub-units (Vorkommandos, Aufsenkommandos, and Teilkommandos) are frequently not recorded in detail; operations carried out by them figure only in the total count of the victims killed by the entire unit. But the sources for such work exist. The German judicial authorities have conducted hundreds of proceedings against former members of the Einsatzgruppen, from which individual killing operations can be extracted. For example, interrogations and other court records show that members of Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C carried out approximately 115 mass executions, but only a fraction of these appear in the RSHA reports.53

Ultimately, a full history of the Einsatzgruppen should include a work that deals with the postwar judicial proceedings against the former members of the units under the command of the Chief of the Security Police and the SS Security Service. It should not only describe the "reconstruction" of the crimes by the judicial authorities, but also the pitiful way the perpetrators tried to justify and excuse their crimes. Alongside the excuse that the perpetrators only followed orders- or the so-called duress under orders (Befehlsnotstand) that existed only in the imagination of the defendants-there were inappropriate justifications supposedly based on international law: the concept of lawful reprisals and the principles of tabula rasa and tu quoque.

The defendants' wretched behavior is best illustrated by the arguments they advanced to prove duress. For example, some claimed duress by contending that they would have been transferred to the front if they had refused to carry out executions. This type of defense argument could also help in the construction of psychological profiles of the perpetrators, something we do not yet possess. Of course, any treatment of "duress under orders" should also include those cases where members of the SS and police successfully refused to carry out executions and did not suffer severe disadvantages.

Finally, a comprehensive and detailed history of the Einsatzgruppen would effectively support the thesis that the mass crimes of the Nazis were unique. Such support is necessary, because recently there has again been an attempt to dispute this truth;54 the historian Ernst Nolte has thus argued that, except for the technical innovation of the gas chambers, nothing the Nazis did had not already been done by others before them. 55 This type of argumentation posits that genocide represents historical normality and every nation shares the guilt.

Certainly examples of genocide and murder for political, racial, and other ideological reasons can be found in every history text; but can this be compared with the crimes of the Nazi regime? Some hold the opinion that we should not ask the question whether the crimes of the Nazis were unique. Although this position is understandable, it does not help us to clarify an important historical (and also anthropological) phenomenon. Attempts to declare this topic taboo will only serve reactionary interests and foster Nazi apologetics. Thus let us admit the question. The answer will by no means offend the victims. After a scholarly comparison of the arguments pro and con the thesis about the uniqueness of the Nazi crimes, even skeptics will conclude "that the barbaric, programmed, and planned outrage of extermination, implemented by administrative and industrial means, in a highly civilized and culturally prominent nation is, however, unique."56

NOTES

1. The Chief of the Security Police and SS Security Service (Chef der Sicherheitspolizei und des Sicherheitsdienstes) in this capacity also headed the Central Office of Reich Security (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or RSHA); Reinhard Heydrich occupied this position until his assassination in 1942; his successor was Ernst Kaltenbrunner, who was convicted and executed at Nuremberg. The RSHA combined the security police-Gestapo (political police) and Kripo (detective forces)-as a government agency on the state budget and the security service (foreign and domestic intelligence) as an SS formation on the Nazi party budget in one office. But for official purposes the office and its agencies, including the Einsatzgruppen, used the designation "Chief of the Security Police and the SD." The Einsatzgruppen thus received their directives largely from the RSHA, and RSHA personnel, both from the central office and from the local Gestapo and Kripo offices, formed the core of its personnel. For a brief history and explanation, see Henry Friedlander, "The SS and Police," in Genocide: Critical Issues of the Holocaust, ed. Alex Grobman, Daniel Landes, and Sybil Milton (New York, 1983), pp. 150ff.

2. See Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia, 1941-1945: A Study of Occupation Policies (New York, 1957); Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution: The Attempt to Exterminate the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945 (New York, 1953); Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (Chicago, 1961); Reinhard Henkys, Die nationalsozialistischen Gewaltverbrechen: Geschichte und Gericht (Stuttgart and Berlin, 1964). But see also Alfred Streim, "Zum Beispiel: Die Verbrechen der Einsatzgruppen in der Sowjetunion," in NS-Prozesse. Nach 25 Jahren Strafverfolgung: Moglichkeiten-GrenzenErgelmisse, ed. Adalbert Ruckerl (Karlsruhe, 1971), pp. 65-106.

3. For official use by the prosecution and courts of the Federal Republic, however, extensive analyses of the Einsatzgruppen had been completed in the early 1960s by the Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg; the results were accessible in mimeographed form to historians and were used by them (often cited in Krausnick and Wilhelm): Adalbert Ruckerl "Einsatzgruppen in Polen," 2 vols. (1963); Alfred Streim, "Das Sonderkommando 4a der Einsatzgruppe C und die mit diesem Kommando eingesetzt gewesenen Einheiten wahrend des Rufslandfeldzuges in der Zeit vom 22.6.1941 bis Sommer 1943" (1964, 350 pp.)

4. Krausnick and Wilhelm, Part 1, pp. 13-278: Krausnick, "Die Einsatzgruppen vom Anschlufs Osterreichs bis zum Feldzug gegen die Sowjetunion: Entwicklung und Verhaltnis zur Wehrmacht."

5. Krausnick and Wilhelm, Part 2, pp. 281-636: Wilhelm, "Die Einsatzgruppe A der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 1941-42: Eine exemplarische Studie."

6. See, for example, Jurgen Forster, "Zur Rolle der Wehrmacht im Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion," in Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte: Beilage zur Wochenzeitung das Parlament 45/80 (8 Nov. 1980); Christian Streit, Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen, 1941-1945 (Stuttgart, 1978).

7. See, for example, Gideon Hausner, Die Vernichtung der Juden (Munich, 1979), p. 86; Gerald Reitlinger, The House Built on Sand (German ed., Hamburg, 1962), p. 129; Streit, Keine Kameraden, pp. 114f.

8. For a discussion of how German law has been applied to Nazi crimes, see Henry Friedlander, "The Judiciary and Nazi Crimes in Postwar Germany," SWC Annual 1 (1984): 27-44. See also Adalbert Ruckerl, The Investigation of Nazi Crimes 1945- 1978 (Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, 1979).

9. See Alfred Streim, Die Behandlung sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener im "Fall Barbarossa" (Heidelberg and Karlsruhe, 1981); idem, "Zur Eroffnung des allgerneinen Judenvemichtungsbefehls gegenuber den Einsatzgruppen," in Der Mord an den Juden im zweiten Weltkrieg: Entschlufsbildung und Verwirklichung, ed. Eberhard Jackel and Jurgen Rohwer (Stuttgart, 1985), pp. 107-19.

10. Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklarung von NSVerbrechen, Ludwigsburg [hereafter cited as ZStL], 415 AR 1310/63 -E 32, Vol. XLV, pp. 8128ff.

11. See for example ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 2, pp. 330ff. (Gustav Nosske, Einsatzkommando 12); Vol. 6, pp. 65f. (Erwin Schulz, Einsatzkommando 5); Vol. 8, pp. 9ff. (Dr. Walter Blume, Sonderkommando 7a); Vol. 13, pp. 8058ff. (Ernst Biberstein, Einsatzkommando 6); Vol. 18, pp. 8667ff. (Dr. Martin Sandberger, Sonderkommando 1a); Vol. XLHI, p. 7763 (Dr. Franz Six, Vorkommando Moscow).

12. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 9, pp. 136ff. (defense attorney for Erwin Schulz); Vol. 16, pp. 8394ff. (defense attorney for Otto Ohlendorf); Vol. 16, pp. 8390ff. (defense attorney for Gustav Nosske); Vol. 16, pp. 8387ff. (defense attorney for Ernst Biberstein).

13. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 5, pp. 53f.; see also pp. 56ff.; Vol. 13, p. 8058.

14. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 9, pp. 100ff (Erich Ehrlinger, Sonderkommando 1b); 202 AR-Z 7/59, Vol. 5, pp. 1008f. (Rudolf Batz, Einsatzkommando 2); 202 AR- Z 52/59, p. 509; 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 11, pp. 7605ff. (Dr. Otto Bradfisch, Einsatzkommando 8); 202 AR-Z 73/61, Vol. 6, pp. 1580ff. (Dr. Alfred Filbert, Einsatzkommando 9); 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 2, pp. 246ff.; Vol. 7, pp. 20ff. (Giinther Henn ann, Sonderkommando 4b); 201 AR-Z 75/59, Vol. 9, pp. 14ff., 111 (Dr. Erhard Kroeger, Einsatzkommando 6); 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 12, pp. 7766ff . (Paul Zapp, Sonderkommando 11a).

15. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Sonderband I, p. 172, Vol. 8, pp. 9ff . (Dr. Blume, Sonderkommando 7a); Sonderband I, pp. 174f., 415 AR-Z 1310/63-E32, Vol. XLII, pp. 7563ff. (Dr. Filbert, Einsatzkommando 9); 201 AR-Z 76/59, Sonderband I, pp. 171f., 207 AR-Z 14/58, p. 1887 (Karl Jager, Sonderkommando 3).

16. See for example ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 6, pp. 6944ff.; Vol. 7, pp. 17ff.; Vol. 11, pp. 76ff.; Vol. 14, pp. 8162ff.; Vol. 14, pp. 8173ff.

17. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 9, pp. 100ff. (Ehrlinger, Sonderkommando lb); Vol. 2, pp. 246ff . (Herrmann, Sonderkommando 4b); Vol. 6, pp. 58ff. (Schulz, Einsatzkommando 5); Vol. 9, pp. 109ff. (Dr. Kroeger, Einsatzkommando 6); 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 11, pp. 7605ff. (Dr. Bradfisch, Einsatzkommando 8); Vol. 7, pp. 27ff. (Nosske, Sonderkommando 12).

18. See for example Landgericht (LG) Darmstadt, Urteil gg. Callsen u. A., Ks 1/67, 29 Nov. 1968 [former members of Einsatzkommando 4a]; LG Munich 1, Urteil gg. Dr. Bradfisch u.A., 22 Ks 1/61, 21 July 1961 [former members of Einsatzkommando 81.

19. ZStL, Doc. Collection UdSSR, Vol. 401, pp. 270-71 (see "Ereignismeldungen UdSSR,- No. 10, 2 July 1941, Nuremberg Doc. NO-4534).

20. ZStL, Doc. Collection UdSSR, Vol. 401, pp. 263-69.

21. See below, n. 48.

22. Kommandeur Einsatzkommando 3, SS Standartenfuhrer Karl Jager, to BefehIshaber Einsatzgruppe A, SS Brigadefuhrer Dr. Walther Stahlecker, Kovno 10 Dec. 1941, facsimile reproduction in Ruckerl NS-Prozesse, appendix without pagination.

23. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 6, pp. 58ff. (Einsatzkommando 5); Vol. 11, pp. 7605ff. (Einsatzkommando 8); Vol. 7, pp. 27ff. (Einsatzkommando 12).

24. See for example ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 9, p. 117 (officer with Sonderkommando 4a); 415 AR-Z 1310/63-E 32, Vol. XLIV, p. 7998 (Einsatzkommando 8); 202 AR 72/60, Vol. 1, p. 63m (Einsatzkommando 9); 202 AR-Z 96/60, Vol. 10, p. 3579 (Einsatzkommando 9); 415 AR-Z 1310/63-E 32, Vol. XLIII, p. 7830 (Sonderkommando 10a); Vol. XLIII, p. 7775 (Sonderkommando Ila).

25. See above, n. 22.

26. See for example ZStL, 204 AR-Z 269/60 (Sonderkommando 4a).

27. ZStL, Doc. Collection UdSSR, Vol. 401/11, p. 295.

28. "Ereignismeldungen UdSSR,- No. 63, 25 Aug. 1941, p. 6 (Nuremberg Doc. NO- 4538).

29. See for example "Ereignismeldungen UdSSR," No. 43, 5 Aug. 1941, p. 5 (Nuremberg Doc. NO-2949); No. 45, 7 Aug. 1941, p. 11 (Nuremberg Doc. NO-2948); No. 54,16 Aug. 1941, p. 17 (Nuremberg Doc. NO-2849); No. 63, 25 Aug. 1941, pp. 6f. (Nuremberg Doc. NO-4538); No. 89, 20 Sept. 1941, p. 15 (Nuremberg Doc. NO-3148); No. 92, 23 Sept. 1941, pp. 33, 42 (Nuremberg Doc. NO-3143); No. 106, 7 Oct. 1941, pp. 16f. (Nuremberg Doc. NO-3140); No. 107, 8 Oct. 1941, p. 18 (Nuremberg Doc. NO-3139).

30. Nuremberg Doc. PS-710.

31. See Krausnick and Wilhelm, Part 1, pp. 150-72 (Der Auftrag der Einsatzgruppen). Concerning the transmission of the order of destruction, it is noteworthy that Krausnick bases his argument primarily on testimony by former Einsatzkommando officers found in the application filed by the Staatsanwaltschaft in Hamburg to open prelin-dnary proceedings (Antrag auf Voruntersuchung) against Bruno Streckenbach (147 Js 31/63 f, 29 Dec. 1969, pp. 158-200). But there only those portions of the testimonies needed to substantiate the application are cited. If Krausnick had studied these testimonies in their entirety, as well as those by other Einsatzkommando officers, he would undoubtedly have reached different conclusions. For example, Krausnick uses Dr. Sandberger's testimony that the "Fiihrer order" was announced before the departure for the Soviet Union to bolster his thesis (Krausnick and Wilhelm, p. 161). But if one considers all of Sandberger's testimonies in proceedings involving Nazi crimes, one must reach different conclusions about his statements (see Streim, Die Behandlung sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener, p. 89). And in addition, Schulz of Einsatzkommando 5 reported the following concerning Sandberger:

I met Dr. Sandberger frequently in the Zuffenhausen [internment] camp. There we were able to listen to reports about the Nuremberg trials on the radio. One day Sandberger came to me and declared with great excitement that he had just heard on the radio that Ohlendorf testified at the Nuremberg trial of the major war criminals that Streckenbach had passed on the Fiihrer order. But that cannot be true (Das stimme doch nicht). I also commented that I could not understand how Ohlendorf could make such a statement. I can no longer remember whether I also inquired at the time where and by whom he had been notified about the Fiihrer order. Later, in Nuremberg, Sandberger asked to speak to me: he had meanwhile been enlightened (he did not say by whom) that Streckenbach had after all passed on the Fiihrer order. Lapses of memory are certainly possible; perhaps even I could now remember that Streckenbach had passed on the Fiihrer order. To assure that all members would march in step at Nuremberg, Sandberger obviously wanted to persuade me to give false evidence (ZStL, 201 AR-Z 74/59, Vol. 6, pp. 8f.).

In addition, Krausnick has cited the testimonies of former SS Sturmbannfiiihrer Ernst Ehlers to substantiate Dr. Sandberger's evidence. Ehlers was originally designated to be chief of Einsatzkommando 8; disturbed by the disclosure of the order of destruction, he asked to be relieved of his command and this request was accepted (Krausnick and Wilhelm, n. 289 on p. 161). However, Ehler's testimony was a defense maneuver (Schutzbehauptung); he was accused, as chief of the police section at the headquarters of Einsatzgruppe B, of having issued orders to the Einsatzkommandos to execute Jews (ZStL, 202 AR-Z 73/61): Ehlers had first been designated chief of Einsatzkommando 8, but prior to the departure for the Soviet Union Dr. Bradfisch took his place and Ehlers was appointed to headquarters. Ehlers believed that he had been "booted out" by Bradfisch. (Thus Dr. Filbert: 202 AR-Z 73/61, Vol. 6, p. 1583). The event that aroused his indignation at that time could later serve as a defense maneuver.

32. Staatsanwaltschaft Ulm, Ks 2/57, in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen 15: llff. See also Adalbert Rfickerl, NS-Verbrechen vor Gericht: Versuch einer Vergangenheitsbezvdltigung (Heidelberg, 1982), pp. 140ff.

33. Nuremberg Doc. L-180.

34. Thus Krausnick presented this argument in his presentation on the Einsatzgruppen at an international conference (Stuttgart, 3 May 1984) on the murder of the European Jews. The conference papers and discussions were published in abbreviated form (Der Mord an den Juden im zweiten Weltkrieg [see above, n. 91), but these remarks by Krausnick were not included. See instead Krausnick and Wilhelm, Part 1, p. 160.

35. Control Council Law No. 10 (20 Dec. 1945), in Trials of War Criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10, 14 vols. (Washington, 1950-52) 1: xvi-xix.

36. ZStL, 415 AR 1310/63-E 32, Vol. XLV, p. 8134.

37. U.S. Military Tribunal II, Case 9, United States v. Otto Ohlendorf and others, Official Transcript, German ed. pp. 316f.

38. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 6, pp. 64f. (Schulz, Einsatzkommando 5); Sonderband I, p. 166 (Blobel, Sonderkommando 4a); Vol. 9, p. 34 (Dr. Kroeger, Einsatzkommando 6); LG Dilsseldorf, Urteil gg. Herrmann u. A., 8 Ks 3/70, 12 Jan. 1973, p. 115 (Sonderkommando 4b) [Hen IT arm testified, however, that this meeting had taken place in Winnizal. See also LG Dfisseldorf, Urteil gg. Karl Jung u.A., 8 1 Ks 1/66, 5 Aug. 1966, pp. 75-79 (former members of Einsatzkommando 5).

39. Nuremberg Doc. PS-3839.

40. The SS and Police Leaders thus directed the killing operations in the extermination camps. Auschwitz, where Himmler himself commissioned the camp commander Rudolf H6ss to undertake the mass killings of the Jews, was an exception; however, Hbss testified that originally Himn-der had wanted to commission a HSSPF, but had then changed his mind to avoid jurisdictional disputes (Hans Buchheim, SS and Polizei im NS-Staat [Diisseldorf, 19641, pp. 127f.) Further, in November 1941 Himn-der ordered the HSSPF Ruflland-Nord (formerly Ruflland-Siid) "to liquidate" the remaining Jews in the Reichskommissariat Ostland (ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Sonderband I, pp. 157f.).

41. See, for example, ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 16, p. 8384 (HSSPF North); 202 AR-Z 1319/62, Vol. 2, p. 526 (HSSPF Middle); 202 AR-Z 52/59, Vol. 4; p. 502ff . (HSSPF Middle); 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 7, pp. 39ff . (HSSPF Middle); 213 AR 1897/66, Vol. 9, pp. 1932ff. (HSSPF South); 201 AR-Z 76/59, Vol. 7, pp. 6ff. (HSSPF South).

42. ZStL, 201 AR-Z 76/59, Sonderband 1, pp. 157f.

43. See, for example, Staatsanwaltschaft Bonn, Anklageschrift gg. Wilhelm Koppe [HSSPF Reichsgau Wartheland], 8 Js 52/60, pp. 177ff. (Polish intellectuals) and pp. 246ff. (euthanasia).

44. See, for example, ZStL, 110 AR 238/71 (Einsatzkommando Brussels); Staatsanwaltschaft beim. Karnmergericht Berlin, Anklageschrift gg. Dr. Werner Best, 1 Js 12/65 (RSHA), 10 Feb. 1972, pp. 831ff; Hans Buchheim, SS und Polizei, p. 76; ZStL, 107 AR-Z 640/63 (operations of the Security Police and the SS Security Service in Norway).

45. ZStL, 503 AR 702/67; Doc. Collection Verschiedenes, Vol. 133, pp. 433-34 (Einsatzgruppe E); 415 AR 1310/63 (Einsatzgruppe F); 502 AR 3818/65 (Einsatzgruppe G); 505 AR-Z 293/60 (Einsatzgruppe H); 124 AR 1553/64 (Einsatzgruppen K and L); 124 AR-Z 2/67 (Einsatzkommando Luxem- burg).

46. ZStL, 202 AR-Z 22/66; 202 AR-Z 294/59. See also Streim, "Verbrechen der Einsatzgruppen," pp. 65-106.

47. Hans-Heinrich Wilhelm, "Die Einsatzgruppe A der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD,- Ph.D. diss., University of Munich, 1980.

48. On pp. 649-54 Wilhehn provides us with charts listing the numbers, dates, and current location of these reports: 1) the "Ereignismeldungen UdSSR," issued from 23 June 1941 until 24 Apr. 1942 by the Chief of the Security Police and the SD, now located in Bundesarchiv (Koblenz) Record Group R58; 2) the "Meldungen aus, den besetzten Ostgebieten," issued from 1 May 1942 until 21 May 1943 by the Kommandostab of the Chief of the Security Police and the SD, also located in Bundesarchiv R58; and 3) the summaries issued simultaneously (22 June 1941-21 May 1943) as "Tdfigkeits- und Lageberichte der Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheits- polizei und des SD in der UdSSR,- now located in Politisches Archiv des Aus-wArtigen Amtes (Bonn), Inland 11g, 431 Russland: SD-Einsatzgru- ppen, Berichte 1941-42. Wilhelm also provides for each report the Nuremberg document number (available in the National Archives in Washington) and the library number assigned by the Institut hir Zeitgeschichte (Munich).

49. See, for example, ZStL, 213 AR 1901/66, Dokumenten-Band Il: Erfolgsmeldungen des Stabes ffir Partisanenbekdmpfung/Abwehr-Offizier undder Einheiten und Dienststellen des Armeeoberkommandos 11.

50. "Ereignismeldungen UdSSR," No. 106, 7 Oct. 1941, pp. 14f. (Nuremberg Doc. NO-3140).

51. Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, 42 vols. (Nuremberg, 1947-1949) 15: 329.

52. Krausnick and Wilhelm, Part 2, pp. 333-47.

53. ZStL, 204 AR-Z 269/60: Abschlussbericht der Zentralen Stelle in dem Verfahren gegen Kuno Callsen und andere, 31 Dec. 1964.

54. Quite soon after the war special interests in Germany pointed to the crimes supposedly committed by others, especially the Soviet Union, and used-without legal or factual justification-the slogan "balancing the accounts" (Aufrechnung). See, for example, Friedwald Kumpf, Die Verbrechen an Deutschen (Neustadt a.d. Weinstrage, 1950); works by Erich Kern, including Verbrechen am deutschen Volk (Gottingen, 1960). See also the relevant contributions constantly published in Deutsche SoldatenZeitung (Munich), National-Zeitung (Munich), and Deutscher AnzeigerFreiheitliche Wochenzeitung (Munich).

55. Ernst Nolte, "Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen win: Eine Rede, die geschrieben, aber nicht gehalten werden konnte," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (6 June 1986). For similar arguments or arguments supporting Nolte, see Andreas Hillgruber, Ziviler Untergang: Die Zerschlagung des Deutschen Reiches und das Ende des europdischen Judentums (Berlin, 1986); Klaus Hildebrand in Historische Zeitschrift 242 (1986): 465-66; Joachim Fest, "Die geschuldete Erinnerung: Zur Kontroverse fiber die Unvergleichbarkeit der NS-Massenverbrechen," Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (29 Aug. 1986). For views in opposition, see Wolfgang Malanowski, "Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will," Der Spiegel, No. 36 (1986): 66-70; Jdrgen Habermas, "Eine Art Schadenabwicklung: Die apologetischen Tendenzen in der deutschen Zeitgeschichtsschreibung," Die Zeit (18 July 1986); Eberhard J5ckel, "Die elende Praxis der Untersteller: Das einmalige der nationalsozialistischen Verbrechen ldfgt sich nicht leugnen," Die Zeit (19 Sept. 1986); Martin Broszat, "Wo sich die Geister scheiden: Die Beschw6rung der Geschichte taugt nicht als nationaler Religionsersatz," Die Zeit (3 Oct. 1986).

56. Malanowski, "Vergangenheit," p. 66.

Chap 10

 

[Home] [Index] [Courage to Remember] [Glossary of the Holocaust] [Educational Resources] [36 Questions About Holocaust] [Library] [Bookstore]

Copyright © 1997, The Simon Wiesenthal Center
9760 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90035