They have tried to demonstrate this through contentions that have been shredded in previous articles of this series as well as Nick’s articles More Misrepresentations from Graf: Lithuania and Mass Graves in the Polesie and my article Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies …, which contain some cross-checking between contemporary German reports and other evidence. The issue of the Einsatzgruppen reports’ reliability, namely in what concerns the numbers contained therein, was also examined at several trials dealing with the crimes of these mobile killing units, some of which we will have a look at in this article.
The first trial at which the authenticity and reliability of the Einsatzgruppen reports was assessed was Case No. 9 of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal – The United States of America against Otto Ohlendorf et al, also known as the «Einsatzgruppen Case». The records of this trial are available online starting here. The section of the judgment containing the tribunal’s findings regarding the reliability of the Einsatzgruppen reports can be found starting here and will be quoted hereafter; emphases are mine.
One or two defense counsel have asserted that the number of deaths resulting from acts of the organizations to which the defendants belonged did not reach the total of 1,000,000. As a matter of fact, it went far beyond 1,000,000. As already indicated, the International Military Tribunal, after a trial lasting 10 months, studying and analyzing figures and reports, declared —
"The RSHA played a leading part in the ‘final solution’ of the Jewish question by the extermination of the Jews. A special section, under the Amt IV of the RSHA was established to supervise this program. Under its direction, approximately six million Jews were murdered of which two million were killed by Einsatzgruppen and other units of the security police."
Ohlendorf, in testifying before the International Military Tribunal declared that, according to the reports, his Einsatzgruppe killed 90,000 people. He also told of the methods he employed to prevent the exaggeration of figures. He did say that other Einsatzgruppen were not as careful as he was in presenting totals, but he presented no evidence to attack numbers presented by other Einsatzgruppen. Reference must also be made to the statement of the defendant Heinz Schubert who not only served as adjutant to Ohlendorf in the field from October 1941 to June 1942, but who continued in the same capacity of adjutant in the RSHA, office [Amt] III B, for both Ohlendorf and Dr. Hans Emlich, until the end of 1944. If there was any question about the correctness of the figures, this is where the question would have been raised, but Schubert expressed no doubt nor did he say that these individuals who were momently informed in the statistics entertained the slightest doubt about them in any way.
Schubert showed very specifically the care which was taken to prepare the reports and to avoid error.
"The Einsatzgruppe reported in two ways to the Reich Security Head Office. Once through radio, then in writing. The radio reports were kept strictly secret and, apart from Ohlendorf, his deputy Standartenfuehrer Willy Seibert and the head telegraphist Fritsch, nobody, with the exception of the radio personnel, was allowed to enter the radio station. This is the reason why only the above-mentioned persons had knowledge of the exact contents of these radio reports. The reports were dictated directly to Fritsch by Ohlendorf or Seibert. After the report had been sent off by Fritsch I received it for filing. In cases in which numbers of executions were reported a space was left open, so that I never knew the total amount of persons killed. The written reports were sent to Berlin by courier. These reports contained exact details and descriptions of the places in which the actions had taken place, the course of the operations, losses, number of places destroyed and persons killed, arrest of agents, reports on interrogations, reports on the civilian sector, etc." (NO-2716.)
The defendant Blume testified that he completely dismissed the thought of ever filing a false report because he regarded that as unworthy of himself.
Then, the actual figures mentioned in the reports, staggering though they are, do by no means tell the entire story. Since the objective of the Einsatzgruppen was to exterminate all people falling in the categories announced in the Fuehrer Order, the completion of the job in any given geographical area was often simply announced with the phrase, "There is no longer any Jewish population." Cities, towns, and villages were combed by the Kommandos and when all Jews in that particular community were killed, the report-writer laconically telegraphed or wrote to Berlin that the section in question was "freed of Jews." Sometimes the extermination area covered a whole country like Esthonia or a large territory like the Crimea. In determining the numbers killed in a designation of this character one needs merely to study the atlas and the census of the period in question. Sometimes the area set aside for an execution operation was arbitrarily set according to Kommandos. Thus one finds in the reports such entries as "The fields of activity of the Kommandos is freed of all Jews."
And then there were the uncounted thousands who died a death premeditated by the Einsatz units without their having to do the killing. When Jews were herded into a few miserable houses which were fenced off and called a "ghetto", this was incarceration — but incarceration without a prison warden to bring them food. The reports make it abundantly clear that in these ghettos death was rampant, even before the Einsatz units began the killing off of the survivors. When, in a given instance, all male Jews and Jewesses over the age of 12 were executed, there remained, of course, all the children under 12. They were doomed to perish. Then there were those who were worked to death. All these fatalities are unmistakably chronicled in the Einsatz reports, but do not show up in their statistics.
In addition, it must be noted that there were other vast numbers of victims of the Einsatzgruppen who did not fall under the executing rifles. In many cities, towns, and provinces hundreds and thousands of fellow-citizens of those slain fled in order to avoid a similar fate. Through malnutrition, exposure, lack of medical attention, and particularly, if one thinks of the aged and the very young, of exhaustion, most if not all of those refugees perished. These figures, of course, do not appear in the Einsatzgruppen reports, but the criminal responsibility for their deaths falls upon the Fuehrer Order program as much as the actual shooting deaths.
We can see that the NMT concluded on the reliability of the numbers stated in the Einsatzgruppen reports based on a) the absence of evidence to any manipulation and b) evidence to the precautions taken against manipulation, which made such more difficult and therefore unlikely. It furthermore concluded that, as the Einsatzgruppen often reported on having wiped out the entire Jewish population of a given area and didn’t tabulate deaths from privation in ghettos or among refugees that were caused by their activities, the number of victims of the Einsatzgruppen was, if anything, higher than becomes apparent from their reports.
The Einsatzgruppen reports were also used as evidence at trials of NS criminals before West German courts. How was the issue of these reports' reliability, namely in what concerns the numbers of killings, handled there? This will be the subject of the next part of this article.
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