The Nizkor Project

Shattered!
50 Years of Silence

History and Voices
of the Tragedy in Romania and Transnistria

The Germans


The Germans were involved simultaneously in two wars, one against the Soviet Union, and the other against Jews and other target populations, which they considered inferior.

While Operation Barbarossa was a military plan, focussing on the war against the Soviet Union, several Einsatsgruppen were created especially for the purpose of advancing the war against the Jews.

In March of 1941, Himmler, through his second in command, Heydrich, proceeded with the reorganization of the Einsatzgruppen. New commanding officers were selected to head four units of Einsatzgruppen (A, B, C, and D). They were experienced police workers, mostly university graduates. Each unit followed in the wake of the army and consisted of 500 to 800 men. Local auxiliary forces provided assistance, when required.

The Einsatzkommando and Sonderkommando were subdivisions of the Einsatzgruppen. The subdivisions were necessary in order to ensure more efficient mobility. Einsatzgruppe D operated in Bessarabia and Transnistria. Its Commander was Otto Ohlendorf.

On September 21, 1941, Heinrich Heydrich informed these new commanders of their mission: cleansing Europe of its Jews. True to the German spirit of organization, the activities and the methods of operation of the Einsatzgruppen were meticulously planned in order to accomplish their mission. Their units developed specific strategies for the annihilation of the Jewish population.

One such strategy was to instigate an uprising against the Jews by the local population of an occupied area. This would result in the unleashing of pogroms. This strategy met two objectives: on the one hand, it was needed to convince the outside world that the Jews had allegedly terrorized the local population, which was now merely taking its due revenge; on the other hand, since the pogrom was actually carried out by the local population, the Germans did not have to swing into action immediately.

Another strategy was to demand a census of the Jewish population from the local Jewish leadership. This was done under the pretext that the authorities would issue emigration permits to those wishing to leave. However, once the lists were provided, the Jews were gathered at a specific place, where they were loaded into trucks or herded on foot to anti- tank ditches or ravines. There, they were ordered to strip naked, then, they were executed. In order to avoid eyewitnesses, and have enough room to bury the victims, these mass murders were always committed at some distance from the actual community. After the executions, the bodies were covered with a layer of earth, which was then levelled. Not a trace of these heinous crimes was visible on the surface. Clothing and valuables of the victims were gathered and shipped by train to Germany, while inexpensive watches were distributed to the soldiers as rewards for their actions.

Yet another approach was to take the local Jewish leadership hostage. This was designed to prevent any likelihood of resistance, and to create an atmosphere of terror in the community. The slightest act of insubordination would result in the shooting of a number of the hostages.

In the summer of 1941, when the German forces occupied south-western Ukraine, they murdered thousands of local Ukrainian Jews. That was months before the deportation of the Jews from Romania began.

In the fall of 1941, it was decided that the territory east of the River Dniester to the western bank of the River Bug would be placed under Romanian Administration. Officially, German troops exercised total control only on the east side of the River Bug. But, they greatly influenced the policies and administration of the Romanians.

In the summer of 1942, the Germans expressed their dissatisfaction with the inefficiency with which Romania was resolving the Jewish problem. In order to appease them, a number of new extermination camps were set up by the Romanians. Often the whole population of a camp was herded into a forest and surrounded by barbed wire, eliminating any possibility of scrounging for food. The victims were left to die from dehydration and starvation. This approach was used in the camps of Copaigorod, Stanislavchik, Vindiceni, Capusterna, Mala-Kiriuca, and others.

However, the Romanians soon realized that by using this approach, they were loosing valuable free manpower. This prompted them to return those fit for labour to the camps. Some of those who were not needed for labour and survived the ordeal were also returned a month or two later.


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