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

The Trial of German Major War Criminals

Sitting at Nuremberg, Germany
16th July to 27th July 1946

One Hundred and Eighty-Eighthth Day: Saturday, 27th July, 1946
(Part 5 of 8)


[Page 454]

These actions were not only the work of the SS and Himmler. They were carried out in co-operation with the army commanders with the full knowledge of Keitel and Jodl and, indeed, because every soldier fighting in the East must have known about them, with the knowledge also of every member of the Government and of the commanders of its armed forces.
"Our task," so states the report of the task Force A, "was hurriedly to establish personal contact with the commanders of the armies and with the commander of the rear army. It must be stressed from the beginning that co- operation with the armed forces was generally good. In some cases, for instance, with Panzer Group A under Col.- Gen. Hoeppner, it was very close, almost cordial."
The German generals were "almost cordial " as they weltered in the blood of hundreds of thousands of helpless, innocent men, women and children. Perhaps they enjoyed this work - in the same way as the members of the Einsatz Commandos themselves apparently enjoyed it.
"It should be mentioned," states the report, "that the leaders of the armed SS and of the uniformed police, who are reserves, have declared their wish to stay on with the Security Police and the SD."
Again and again in the reports of the Einsatz Commandos, progress, co-operation with the army authorities is emphasized. After describing how thousands of Lithuanian Jews had been made harmless, during a particular pogrom in June, it is stated:
"These self-cleansing actions went smoothly because the army authorities who had been informed showed understanding for, this procedure."
Nor was it only cordiality and understanding that the army authorities showed. In some cases they themselves took the initiative. After describing the murder of inmates of lunatic asylums that had fallen into their hands, the Einsatz Commando Report continues:
"Sometimes authorities of the armed forces asked us to clear out in a similar way other institutions which were wanted as billets. However, as the interests of the Security Police did not require any intervention, it was left to the authorities of the armed forces to take the necessary action with their own forces."
And again:
"The advance of the forces of Action Group A which were intended to be used for Leningrad was effected in agreement with and on the express wish of Panzer Group 4."
How can operations of this kind, extending for months and years over vast territories, carried out with the co- operation of the armed forces as they advanced, and in the rear areas that they administered, have remained unknown to the leaders in Germany? Even their own commissioners in the occupied territories protested. In October, 1941, the Commissioner for White Ruthenia was forwarding to the Reich Commissioner for Eastern Territories at Riga a report on the operations in his district. Some idea of the horror of those operations can be seen from that report. I quote:
"Regardless of the fact that the Jewish people, among whom were also, tradesmen, were maltreated in a terribly barbarous way in the face of the White Ruthenian people, the White Ruthenians themselves were also worked over with rubber clubs and rifle butts - the whole picture was generally more than ghastly - I was not present at the shooting before the town. Therefore: I cannot make a statement on its brutality. But it should suffice if I point

[Page 455]

out that persons shot have worked themselves out of their graves some time after they had been covered."
But protests of this kind were of no avail; the slaughter continued with unabated ghastliness.

In February, 1942, in Heydrich's activity and situation report on the Einsatz Commandos in the USSR, of which a copy was addressed to Kaltenbrunner personally, it was stated:

"We are aiming at cleansing the Eastern countries completely of Jews. Estonia has already been cleared of Jews. In Latvia the number of Jews in Riga, of whom there were 29,500, has now been reduced to 2,500."
By June, 1943, the Commissioner for White Ruthenia was again protesting. After referring to 4,500 enemy dead, he says:
"The political effect of this large-scale operation upon the peaceful population is simply dreadful in view of the many shootings of women and children."
The Reich Commissioner for Eastern Territories, forwarding that protest to Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for Occupied Eastern Territories in Berlin, added:
"The fact that Jews receive special treatment requires no further discussion. However, it appears hardly believable that this is done in the way described in the report of the General Commissar. What is Katyn against this? Imagine only that these occurrences would become known to the-other side and exploited by them. Most likely such propaganda would have no effect if only because people who read and heard about it simply would not be ready to believe it."
How true that comment is! Are we ready even now to believe it? Describing the difficulty of distinguishing between friend and foe, he says:
"Nevertheless, it should be possible to avoid atrocities and to bury those who have been liquidated. To lock men, women and children into barns and set fire to them does not appear to be a suitable method of combating bands, even if it is desired to exterminate the population. This method is not worthy of the German cause and hurts our reputation severely."
Of these Jews murdered in White Ruthenia, over 11,000 were slaughtered in the district of Libau, and 7,000 of them had been killed in the naval port itself.

How can any of these defendants plead ignorance of these things? When Himmler was speaking of these actions openly amongst his SS generals and all the officers of his SS divisions in April, 1943, he told them:

"Anti-Semitism is exactly the same as delousing. Getting rid of lice is not a question of ideology: it is a matter of cleanliness. In just the same way, anti-Semitism for us has not been a question of ideology but a matter of cleanliness which now will soon have been dealt with. We shall soon be deloused. We have only 20,000 lice left, and then the matter is finished off within the whole of Germany."
And in October of that year:
"Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side, or 500, or 1,000."
Meanwhile, the mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz and the other extermination centres was becoming a State industry with by-products. Bales of hair, some of it, as you will remember, still plaited as it had been shorn off the girls' heads, tons of clothing, toys, spectacles and other articles went back to the Reich to stuff the chairs and clothe the people of the Nazi State. The gold from their victims' teeth, seventy-two transports full, went to fill the coffers of Funk's Reichsbank. On occasion, even the bodies of their victims were used to make good the war-time shortage of soap.

The victims came from all over Europe. Jews from Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Holland, Soviet Russia, France, Belgium, Poland and Greece

[Page 456]

were being herded together to be deported to the extermination centres or to be slaughtered on the spot.

In April, 1943, Hitler and Ribbentrop were pressing the Regent Horthy to take action against the Jews in Hungary. Horthy asked:

"What should he do with the Jews now that he had deprived them of almost all possibilities of livelihood; he could not kill them off. The Reich Foreign Minister declared that the Jews must be either exterminated or taken to concentration camps. There was no other possibility."
Hitler explained:
"In Poland the state of affairs had been fundamentally cleared up. If the Jews there did not want to work they were shot. If they could not work they had to succumb. They had to be treated like tuberculosis bacilli. This was not cruel if one remembered that even innocent creatures of nature, such as hares and deer, have to be killed so that no harm is caused by them."
In September, 1942, Ribbentrop's State Secretary, Luther, was writing:
"The Reich Foreign Minister has instructed me today by telephone to hasten as much as possible the evacuation of the Jews from different countries ... After a short lecture on the evacuation now in progress in Slovenia, Croatia, Rumania and the occupied territories, the Reich Foreign Minister has ordered that we are to approach the Bulgarian, Hungarian and Danish Governments with the goal of getting evacuation started in those countries."
By the end of 1944, 400,000 Jews from Hungary alone had been executed in Auschwitz. In the German Embassy in Bucharest, the files contained a memorandum:
"110,000 Jews are being evacuated from Bukovina and Bessarabia into two forests in the area of the river Bug .... The purpose of the action is the liquidation of these Jews."
Day by day, over years, women were holding their children in their arms and pointing to the sky while they waited to take their place in blood-soaked, communal graves. 12,000,000 men, women and children have died thus, murdered in cold blood, millions upon millions more today mourn their fathers and mothers, their husbands, their wives and their children. What right has any man to mercy who has played a part - however indirectly - in such a crime?

Let Graebe speak again of Dubno:

"On 5th October, 1942, when I visited the building office at Dubno my foreman told me that in the vicinity of the site Jews from Dubno had been shot in three large pits, each about thirty metres long and three metres deep. About 1,500 persons had been killed daily. All of the 5,000 Jews who had still been living in Dubno before the pogrom were to be liquidated. As the shooting had taken place in his presence, he was still much upset. Thereupon I drove to the site, accompanied by my foreman, and saw near it great mounds of earth, about thirty metres long and two metres high. Several trucks stood in front of the mounds. Armed Ukrainian militia drove the people off the trucks under the supervision of an SS man. The militia men acted as guards on the trucks and drove them to and from the pit. All these people had the regulation yellow patches on the front and back of their clothes and thus could be recognized as Jews. My foreman and I went directly to the pits. 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 trucks - men, women and children of all ages - had to undress upon the orders 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 800 to 1,000 pairs, great piles of under-linen and clothing. Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for a

[Page 457]

sign from another SS man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes that I stood near I heard no complaint or plea for mercy. I watched a family of about eight persons, a man and a woman, both about fifty, with their children aged about one, eight and ten, and two grown-up daughters of about twenty to twenty-four. An old woman with snow-white hair was holding the 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 and speaking to him softly, the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to 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 about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound. Among them was the family which I have mentioned. I well remember a girl, slim and with black hair, who as she passed close to me, pointed to herself and said, 'Twenty-three'. I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was already two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about 1,000 people. 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 lying there, to the place to which the SS man directed them. They laid 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 lying motionless on top of the bodies which lay before them. Blood was running away from their necks. I was surprised that I was not ordered away but I saw that there were two or three postmen in uniform near by. The next batch was approaching. already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot. When I walked back round the mound I noticed another truck-load of people which had just arrived. This time it included sick and infirm persons. An old, very thin woman with terribly thin legs was undressed by others who were already naked, while two people held her up. The woman appeared to be paralysed. The naked people carried the woman around the mound. I left with my foreman and drove in my car back to Dubno.

On the morning of the next day, when I again visited the site, I saw about thirty naked people lying near the pit - about thirty to fifty metres away from it. Some of them were still alive; they looked straight in front of them with a fixed stare and seemed to notice neither the chilliness of the morning nor the workers of my firm who stood around. A girl of about twenty spoke to me and asked me to give her clothes and help her escape. At that moment we heard a fast car approach and I noticed that it was an SS detail. I moved away to my site. Ten minutes later we heard shots from the vicinity of the pit. The Jews still alive had been ordered to throw the corpses into the pit, then they had themselves to lie down in this to be shot in the neck."

That no man in that dock can have remained ignorant of the horrors perpetrated to support the Nazi war machine and the policy of genocide becomes the more clear when you consider the evidence with regard to another great crime little heard of during the course, of this trial but which, as clearly as any other, illustrates the wickedness of these men and of their regime - the murder of some 275,000 persons by so- called mercy killing. To what base uses that beautiful word was put!

[Page 458]

Some time in the summer of 1940 Hitler secretly ordered the murder of ill and aged people in Germany who were no longer of productive value for the German war machine. Frick, more than any other man in Germany, was responsible for what took place as a result of that decree. Of his knowledge and of the knowledge of a great many people in Germany there is abundant evidence. In July, 1940, Bishop Wurm was writing to Frick:
"For some months past, insane, feeble-minded and epileptic patients of State and private medical establishments have been transferred to another institution on the orders of the Reich Defence Council. Their relatives, even when the patient was kept at their cost, are not informed of the transfer until after it has taken place. Mostly they are informed a few weeks after that the patient concerned has died of an illness, and that owing to the danger of infection the body has had to be cremated. At a superficial estimate several hundred patients of an institution in Wurttemberg alone must have met their death in this way .... Owing to numerous inquiries from town and country and from the most varied circles, I consider it my duty to point out to the Reich Government that this fact is causing a particular stir in our small province. Transports of sick people who are unloaded at the small railway station of Marbach, the buses with opaque windows which bring sick persons from more distant railway stations or directly from the institutions, the smoke which rises from the crematorium and which can be noticed even from a considerable distance ... all this gives rise to speculation as no one is allowed into the Castle .... Everybody is convinced that the causes of death which are published officially are selected at random. When, to crown everything, regret is expressed in the obituary notice that all endeavours to preserve the patients' life were in vain, this is felt as a mockery.

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