We will now look at what the Munich District Court (Landgericht München) found in respect to the Einsatzgruppen reports’ reliability, at the trial against Dr. Otto Bradfisch and other former members of Einsatzkommando 8 (hereinafter EK 8). A transcription of the judgment at this trial (LG München I vom 21.7.1961, 22 Ks 1/61) can be found here [broken link replaced on 13.03.2012 - RM].
More cautious than the NMT in its assessing the reliability of the Einsatzgruppen reports, the Munich court wrote the following in its judgment (my translation):
The Operational Situation Reports USSR, insofar as they were available to the juror court in photocopy, were made the subject of the procedure. They are based on the reports of the Einsatzgruppen about their activity in the area of operation and would constitute a relatively safe basis for establishing the number of shootings if their accuracy were beyond doubt. This is not the case, however.
Rather, it cannot be excluded with the necessary certainty that the execution figures contained in the Operational Situation Reports do not correspond to the facts in several cases, because falsified numbers were reported by Einsatzgruppe B and its units in order to feign a greater activity in executing the directives within the scope of the Führer order aimed at the extermination of Jewry. Although the defendant Dr. Bradfisch expressly excluded the possibility of such false reports for his person, it must be assumed that the figures reaching his staff from his sub-commanders and transmitted from there to the staff of the Einsatzgruppe were not accurate on occasion, as cannot, for instance, be disproved in what concerns the detachment R. There is also no dismissing the possibility that Bradfisch’s deputy, SS-Obersturmführer Koch, increased the number of shootings when he was responsible for reports to Einsatzgruppe B in Bradfish’s absence. Finally, Schulz also claimed to have frequently rounded upwards the numbers of shootings in his reports to EK 8. Given this state of facts, the juror court only assumed the numbers stated in the Operational Situation Reports to be correct when these numbers were at least approximately – an exact concordance is unthinkable anyway – confirmed by witness testimonies.
The above considerations exemplify the «careful judgments, pleading for the accused or for facts not being provable in case of doubt» that West German courts holding trial over Nazi criminals have often been criticized for, according to German historian Martin Broszat (see my article Jürgen Graf on Criminal Justice and Nazi Crimes). Bradfisch’s deputy, Obersturmführer Koch, is mentioned several times in the judgment, yet the only occasion on which he is mentioned in connection with possible manipulations of execution figures is the one quoted above. In other words, there was merely the theoretical possibility of Koch having manipulated figures, but no indication that he actually so did. The defendant Schulz had an interest in claiming that he had reported figures higher than the number of people killed by his detachment, and the court’s findings of fact about this defendant’s perfectionism in carrying out his killing tasks (for instance, my translation: «Immediately upon taking over the detachment formerly led by Winkler, Schulz, in his characteristically bureaucratic and thorough manner, started implementing a tight organization in order to give more drive to the service, which he considered too lax.») make the reporting of exaggerated figures by Schulz seem a rather unlikely breach of habit, yet the court used Schulz’s claim of having «frequently rounded upwards the numbers of shootings» as one justification for its principle of caution regarding numbers stated in the Operational Situation Reports, and that even though it considered Schulz’s allegations in general to be rather untrustworthy (for instance, my translation: «However, especially the assessment of this occurrence, which was not strictly part of the trial’s subject, transmitted to the court an impressive picture of the defendant Schulz’s lack of credibility.») In what concerns the detachment R., the court accepted the claims of deliberate exaggeration made by the acquitted defendant R. (who maintained that he had done what he could to avoid or at least diminish his own participation in mass killings) because these claims could not be disproved. While all of this defendant’s behavior, described by him and partially confirmed by eyewitnesses, was considered by the court to point to R. having indeed tried to distance himself from the killing, there is no other evidence (or no evidence at all, if a defendant’s self-exonerating claims are not counted as evidence) that R.'s exaggeration claims are accurate.
Now, did this court base its skepticism regarding the accuracy of those Einsatzgruppen reports it looked at on little more than an arguably excessive application of the in dubio pro reo principle, or did it come upon evidence that any of these reports was in fact exaggerated? This shall be examined in the following regarding those among the mass executions included in the subject matter of the trial that are more or less individualized in Einsatzgruppen reports, on hand of the court’s statements about the numbers of victims it assumed for the various massacres examined at the trial and how it arrived at those numbers. The translations of these excerpts from the judgment are mine, as are the emphases in the quotes.
In the first days of July 1941, EK 8 carried out two shooting actions in Bialystok, in which male Jews aged 18 to 65 were killed. The exact numbers can no longer be ascertained, but at least 800 were killed on one occasion and at least 100 on the other. On page 12 of Operational Situation Report nº 21 dated 13 July 1941, it is mentioned that 215 Jewish and Bolshevik functionaries had been shot and that the executions were being continued in equal magnitude on a current basis.[…]
For clarification of these events, which were essentially conceded by the defendants involved –
Winkler merely disputes the number of people shot – the court had at its disposal, besides the defendants’ depositions, the statements of a number of witnesses and the account in Operational Situation Report nº 21.
From the testimonies of witnesses B., K., Kl., G., Ru., Ra., Ko., T. and D., which of course diverge sometimes considerably from each other, in connection with the open description of the deed’s events by the defendant S., the juror court gained the conviction that the events in question occurred in the sense of the findings of fact. In this context it must be pointed out that the numbers of mass executions carried out and of the people respectively killed are minimum numbers established beyond doubt. Deviations in relation to the trial opening decision there are insofar as in regard to the larger of both shooting actions only 800 victims could be assumed.
A translated excerpt from Operational Situation Report nº 21 can be read here.
My comment: The court found no contradictions between the contents of Operational Situation Report nº 21 and the accounts provided by defendants and witnesses, and used this report as corroboration of said accounts in what concerns the occurrence of the mass shootings in Bialystok during the period in question. The conclusions about the number of victims of the two shootings considered proven beyond doubt, about which Operational Situation Report nº 21 contains no definite information, were based on the statements of defendants and eyewitnesses alone.
EK 8 reached Baranovichi about mid-July 1941 (see Operational Situation Report nº 27, page 4). At this location there were at least 2 actions, directed against the local Jewish population. In these executions carried out by EK 8, at least 100 male Jews were executed on each occasion. From Operational Situation Report nº 32 dated 24.7.1941 (page 4) it becomes apparent that at that time the liquidation of at least 381 Jews had been reported.[…]
These findings of fact are supported by the depositions of the defendants R. and Winkler and by the statements of witnesses F., Ba., B., P., Go., K., G., J., Ru., Thomanek , T. and D., as well as the accounts in Operational Situation Reports nos. 27 and 32. Also in this case the testimonies of the individual witnesses, especially in what concerns the number of executions and respective victims, were not negligibly different from each other, but in their overall assessment led to the minimum numbers considered proven by the court, which coincide with the numbers stated in the trial opening decision.
The defendant Winkler also questioned the numbers of shootings stated in connection with the shooting actions in Baranovichi, without however being able to provide specific numbers himself. His objections therefore could not be considered, especially as the aforementioned witnesses sometimes had considerably higher numbers in memory and a considerably higher number (381) also results from the Operational Situation Reports.
My comment: The court saw no contradiction between the contents of Operational Situation Reports nos. 27 and 32 and the accounts provided by defendants and witnesses, except for the defendant Winkler’s allegations. These allegations, however, were dismissed, the numbers becoming apparent from the testimonies of some witnesses and from the reports being considered more accurate. True to its above-mentioned principle of caution, however, the court seems to have based its findings of fact regarding the magnitude of the killings on the lower or middle range of the numbers stated by eyewitnesses, rather than on what was stated in the Operational Situation Reports.
While stationed in Minsk (July/August 1941), EK 8 or parts thereof carried out at least 7 shootings of Jews, in which for the first time there were also women and children among the victims. In one of these executions, in which at least 300 Jews were killed, the then Reichsführer-SS Himmler was present. […]A further 6 executions carried out in Minsk by EK 8 victimized at least 800 Jewish people. These were one large execution, in which at least 400 Jews were killed, and 5 smaller shooting actions, in which respectively at least 80 persons of Jewish descent met their death. According to Operational Situation Report nº 36 dated 28 July 1941 (page 2) at least 200 persons sorted out of a camp for civilian prisoners were liquidated every day. In Operational Situation Report nº 50 it is stated on page 8 that in Minsk the combing-through of the civilian prisoner camp and the liquidations are continuing. Specific figures are contained in Operational Situation Reports nº 67 (page 25) and nº 73 (pages 27/28), in which the liquidation of another 615 racially inferior elements and a special action against the Jews of Minsk, in which 214 persons were shot, are mentioned.[…]
The findings of fact made are grounded on the testimonies of witnesses Ba., B., Ro., N., Th., W., Sc., P., Gu., K., Kl., G., J., Sch., Ru., Fu., Ra., Ne., T., M., H. (whose statements during his interrogations by the police and the public prosecutor were read out, due to his having died in the course of the investigation procedure), Fr., L. and D., and on the depositions of the defendants Dr. Bradfisch and Winkler. Furthermore the accounts in Operational Situation Reports nos. 36, 50, 67 und 73 were taken into consideration in finding the facts.[…] In regard to the execution numbers contained in the trial opening decision there were deviations insofar as the minimum numbers established at the trial for the respective actions were in part considerably lower, a consequence of the difficulties of proof already mentioned.
My comment: The data contained in the Operational Situation Reports seem to have been used by the court only for corroboration of the fact that executions in the order of magnitude described by defendants and witnesses were being carried out in Minsk during the period in question. In what concerns the numbers of victims of those execution actions that could be reconstructed at the trial, the court relied on the testimonies made, the apparent reason for this being its principle of caution and the fact that the information in the reports was not detailed enough to establish the magnitude of individual executions in which defendants had participated.
EK 8 reached Mogilev on 9 September 1941 (Operational Situation Report nº 90 dated 21.9.1941). There EK killed at least 4,100 Jewish men, women and children as well as Russian prisoners of war, in at least 8 shooting actions.
At one of these actions alone, which is mentioned in Operational Situation Report nº 133 dated 14.11.1941 (page 24) as a special action against the Jews, and took place on 19 October 1941 with the support of Police Reserve Battalion 316 of Police Regiment Center, at least 3,600 Jews of both sexes and all ages were shot. […] After this large-scale action EK 8 reported that the ghetto established at Mogilev could largely be again placed at the city administration’s disposal, as the city could be considered nearly free of Jews (see Operational Situation Report nº 133 of 14.11.1941, page 26).
Before and after this large-scale action against the Jews in Mogilev EK 8 carried out at least 6 other executions on a smaller scale, which were directed against the Jewish population. In these shootings, unlike in the mass shooting described above, only members of EK 8 and its subordinated police unit took part.[…] It was not possible to establish further details in regard to these shooting actions, which are mentioned in Operational Situation Reports nº 106 dated 7.10.1941 (page 15), nº 124 dated 25.10.1941 (page 2) and nº 133 dated 14.11.1941 (page 25), where considerably higher execution numbers are stated.[…] A further action, which took place in September or October 1941, was directed against 200 Russian prisoners of war of Mongolian descent, who had been separated from the prisoner-of-war camp in Mogilev and were shot due to their race (so-called "racially inferior elements").[…] The findings of fact regarding events at Mogilev are based on the deposition of defendant Winkler, who took part in the small actions, on the statements of witnesses Sa., Ho., Ba., B., N., Th., W., Sc., P., Go., K., Kl., Rot. (whose testimony before the police was read because he died during the investigation procedure), J., Fu., Ra., Ne., Ko., T., Di., Wa., Run., Pol., Ha., Kr., St., Br., L., Si. and D. Finally the Operational Situation Reports nos. 90, 106, 124 and 133 were used in determining the execution figures. Deviations in regard to the trial opening decision there were in what concerns the number of executions and several execution victim figures, as the witnesses in part considerably restricted the data provided during the investigation procedure and the Operational Situation Reports alone were not enough proof, for the reasons already mentioned. However, the number reported for the large-scale action in Operational Situation Report nº 133 could be considered proven due to the respective statements of witnesses Ho., N., W., P., Ne., St., Br. and L., with small reservations due to the possibility that also partisans and criminals had been shot at the same time.[…]
Translated excerpts from Operational Situation Reports nos. 106 and 133 can be read, respectively, here and here.
My comment: In regard to the smaller executions, the court obviously assumed the lower numbers of victims stated by a part of the witnesses at the trial proper, instead of concluding on higher figures based on the pertinent Operational Situation Reports alone. While consistent with the court’s principle of not grounding findings of fact regarding numbers of victims solely on what is stated in Operational Situation Reports, this was an arguably unjustified application of the in dubio pro reo principle, as the apparent coincidence between the higher figures given by the same witnesses during the investigation procedure on the one hand and the figures in the reports on the other suggests that at the trial the witnesses were trying to protect either the defendants or themselves in the event of a criminal procedure being opened against them in the future, and that the figures given at the trial sessions were thus likely to be understatements. Regarding the large-scale action on 19 October, the «small reservations» made by the court in regard to the figure stated in Operational Situation Report nº 133, which the court reduced from 3,726 to «at least 3,600», seem completely unjustified, not only because they are based on a mere theoretical possibility not borne out by any evidence, but also because only Jews are mentioned as victims in the pertinent passage of section 5) of the report, whereas executions of partisans and criminals are mentioned separately in sections 2) and 4) of the same. The confirmation of the order of magnitude of this large-scale execution by several eyewitness testimonies is also a further indication, not taken into account by the court, of deliberate understatement on the part of those witnesses who at the trial sessions «considerably restricted the data provided during the investigation procedure» in regard to the smaller executions.
Bobruisk – large-scale mass execution
In November 1941 EK 8, parting from Mogilev, carried out a large-scale action against the local Jewish population of Bobruisk, at with a total or at least 5,000 men, women and children were shot.[…] This mass shooting was reported about in Operational Situation Report nº 147 of 19.12.1941 (page 8). According to this report EK 8, following withdrawal of the partial detachment, carried out a special action and thereafter reported the city of Bobruisk and its closer surroundings as free of Jews.[…] The possibility that Bradfisch didn’t lead the action himself cannot be excluded. However, as results from the testimony of witness Fu., who as deputy of Lieutenant D. commanded the policemen, the action had been ordered after a meeting of EK 8 in Bobruisk, in which Bradfish had taken part, Fu. having received the detailed instructions for the police unit he commanded from Obersturmführer Koch, the defendant Bradfish’s deputy. Furthermore the defendant Bradfish’s claim is in contradiction to the report about this special action in Bobruisk contained in Operational Situation Report nº 148. There on page 8 it is stated that, after withdrawal of the partial detatchment from Bobruisk – this obviously refers to the detachment R. – it turned out necessary to carry out a large-scale action, in which 5,281 Jews of both sexes were shot.[…]The findings of fact are furthermore grounded on the statements of witnesses Hai., Schu., Neu. and Bu., who as members of Police Battalion 316 took part in the shooting action. The number of victims, as it becomes apparent from Operational Situation Report nº 148, was confirmed in this magnitude by witnesses Go. and Neu.. The figures stated by the other witnesses range from several hundred to 2,000, it having to be taken into account that in such large-scale actions the witnesses often did not have an overview of the entire execution and therefore the numbers stated by them are only valid for that killing site at which they were deployed. If the court did not consider the number contained in Operational Situation Report nº 148 as having been proved in its full extent, this is because it could not be excluded with the required certainty that within the scope of the large-scale action there were also executed partisans and criminals, whose number cannot be established.
A translated excerpt from Operational Situation Report nº 148 can be read here.
My comment: In what concerns this large-scale execution, the court duly considered the likeliness of witnesses stating lower numbers of victims not having had an overview over the whole action, and accepted as more reliable the testimonies reporting numbers coinciding with those stated in the pertinent Operational Situation Report. On the other hand, the slight reduction of the number of Jewish deaths considered proven – from the 5,281 mentioned in the report to «at least 5,000» – lacks justification, as in the case of Mogilev. For not only is it expressly stated in Operational Situation Report nº 148 that «by carrying out a special action, a total of 5,281 Jews of both sexes were shot», but the report also contains separate listings of non-Jews executed for criminal offenses or for other reasons (For instance, my translation: «Sixteen mentaly ill Jewish and Russian children were shot in Shumyachi. They had been placed in a children's home which had been left in a totally neglected condition by the Soviet authorities. In part, the children were lying in their own excrement. All had severe eczema. The German chief military physician from the hospital in Shumyachi who was called in for consultation declared that the children's home and its inmates were an epidemic center of the first degree, sufficient reason for their shooting.») Without any reason to consider the possibility of there being non-Jewish undesirables among the 5,281 victims of the «special action», the court again applied the in dubio pro reo principle to a greater extent than that warranted by the evidence.
Borissov and surroundings
At about the time from early September to mid-October 1941 a detachment of EK 8 under the command of SS-Obersturmführer Schönemann was stationed in Borissov. There and in the surroundings it carried out at least 9 shooting actions, in which a total of at least 1,160 Jews of both sexes and all ages were killed. Three of these executions took place in Borissov itself. In one case at least 1,000 Jewish men, women and children were shot. Each of the other two actions claimed at least 20 Jewish victims. Finally there were at least 20 Jewish people killed in each of the at least 6 shooting actions carried out in the Borissov area, including Zembin.[…] All actions mentioned in Operational Situation Reports nº 92 dated 23.9.1941 (page 36) and nº 108 dated 9.10.1941 (page 16) were ordered and commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Schönemann. […] For establishing these events the court only had at its disposal the deposition of the defendant S. and the data in Operational Situation Reports nos. 92 and 108. There are no witnesses to the deed. These were shooting actions carried out by the partial detachment Schönemann, the strength of which was comparatively small for lack of allocated policemen and of whose members none besides S. could be found. His description of events, which coincides with the description in the trial opening decision, was considered reliable by the juror court and therefore could be used without reservations, together with the mentioned Operational Situation Reports, in establishing the facts.[…]
A translated excerpt from Operational Situation Report nº 108 can be read here.
My comment: The description of events provided by the defendant S. was corroborated by Operational Situation Reports nos. 92 and 108. The numbers of victims established by the court were obviously taken from S.’s deposition, and not from the reports. This was not because the court considered the numbers in the reports to be wrong, as also becomes apparent from the statement that the numbers concluded upon were minimum numbers, thus leaving open the possibility that the actual numbers were larger. It was merely in keeping with the principle of caution adopted by the court, according to which it never based findings of fact regarding numbers of victims on the respective Operational Situation Reports alone.
In the autumn of 1941, a partial detachment of EK 8 carried out an action against the Jews in Gorki, at which at least 50 men and women were shot. Further findings about the course of this shooting action could not be made. Operational Situation Report nº 133 dated 14.11.1941 mentioned on page 24 that in the "mopping-up" of 8 locations in the Gorki area a total of 2,200 Jews of all ages were liquidated.[…] This action, which was carried out by a partial detachment of EK 8, only the witnesses P. and J. still remembered. The established minimum number of victims, which is different from the number stated in the trial opening decision, becomes apparent from the testimonies of these two witnesses, both of whom confirm that this was a relatively small shooting action. It can also be seen from Operational Situation Report nº 133 that shootings took place in the Gorki area and that the number of victims considered proven is by no means too high.
My comment: Operational Situation Report nº 133 corroborated the testimonies of witnesses P. and J. about the execution in question in that it mentioned a number of executions that had been carried out in the Gorki area during the respective period, of which the particular execution examined by the court was but one.
With his partial detachment, which was about 12 to 15 men strong, R. carried out two shooting actions in Sluzk in the first half of of July 1941, in which at least 60 Jewish men aged 18 to 65 were killed. […] The activity of detachment R. in Sluzk was reported about in Operational Situation Report nº 73 of 4.9.1941 (page 27).[…] For clarification of these events the court merely had at its disposal the deposition of defendant R., whose partial detachment had carried out the shootings, and the statements of witness F. as well as the account of the events contained in Operational Situation Report nº 73. In deviation from the trial opening decision it was established as proven that at least two actions against Jews took place in Sluzk, in which at least 60 people were killed. This number could be assumed without reservations, also considering that Operational Situation Report nº 73 shows the killing of a total of 115 Jews to have been reported at that time.
My comment: In keeping with its principle of caution regarding numbers stated in Operational Situation Reports, the court made the numbers given by defendant R. and/or witness F. the subject of its findings of fact, again as «minimum» numbers, i.e. allowing for the possibility that the actual numbers were larger. Note that, although R.’s allegation of having exaggerated the relatively low numbers of shootings carried out by his detachment was one of the reasons adduced by the court to justify its caution regarding numbers stated in Operational Situation Reports, no such exaggeration is mentioned in this particular case involving the defendant R.
Bobruisk – other mass executions
During the months September and October 1941 the partial detachment R. was stationed in Borissov. There the detachment, according to instructions given by the command of EK 8, carried out at least 2 shooting actions, which were ordered and also commanded by the defendant R. The first of these actions, which presumably took place in September 1941, was directed against the Jewish population that was already concentrated in a special part of the location at that time. In combing-through the ghetto – R. had received policemen from Dr. Bradfish to reinforce his detachment for this action – at least 400 men, women and children were apprehended and thereafter taken away with trucks. Details about the carrying-out of this execution, in which they fired in salvoes, could no longer be established. A further execution victimized 30 Gypsies, who were killed exclusively because of their race.
The action against the Jews described before was mentioned in Operational Situation Report nº 92 dated 23.9.1941 (page 36). There the liquidation of 407 people, predominantly Jews, is referred to.[…] Besides the statements of the already mentioned witnesses, the testimonies of witnesses Go., G. and H. as well as the account in Operational Situation Report nº 92 were used for establishing the facts.
My comment: Despite the almost exact coincidence between the number «liquidated» according to Operational Situation Report nº 92 and the number of Jews taken to execution from the ghetto in the first of the actions here examined, according to the pertinent eyewitness testimonies, the court refrained from establishing that at least 400 Jews had been killed during that action. The reasons for this are not explained. It is possible that the court’s reluctance in establishing as fact the number becoming apparent from both eyewitness testimonies and the Operational Situation Report was due to the stated absence of details about the execution in question (though it was known that the killers fired at the victims in salvoes, i.e. firing-squad style) and to there being no breakdown of the reported figure into Jewish and non-Jewish victims. If so, this reasoning would arguably be neither justified nor in keeping with the court’s approach regarding the large-scale executions at Mogilev and Bobruisk (see above). The coincidence between testimonies and report regarding the number of victims also belies the defendant R.’s exaggeration allegations, at least for this particular case.
The acquitted defendant R., incidentally, was SS-Obersturmführer Carl Ruhrberg. As Nick has informed me, evidence assessed by German historians Gerlach and Langerbein shows this gentleman to have not been the reluctant killer as which he successfully portrayed himself at the Munich trial. Among other actions, Ruhrberg commanded the massacre of over 1,000 Jews at Paritchi on the Beresina, which is mentioned in Operational Situation Report No. 148. (The name of the location is wrongly spelled «Partichi» in the online translation. The number of victims stated there is 1,013, whereas Gerlach, on page 599 of his book Kalkulierte Morde, speaks of 1,113 victims, which is the number stated in a Lagebericht Nr. 8 der EG des SD in der UdSSR, 1.12.-31.12.1941, an overall situation report of the Einsatzgruppen in the USSR for December 1941, quoted in a post of Thu 24-Jun-04 11:49 PM by «cellarius» on the discussion forum of the Nachrichtendienst für Historiker.) According to Gerlach, as above, Ruhrberg’s partial detachment of EK 8 arrived at Paritchi in a motorboat on the Beresina and carried out the killing with the assistance of local auxiliary police; the presumable time was October 1941, even though this massacre was reported only in December, because at a later stage ice on the river would have hindered the approach in a motorboat. Gerlach’s source linking Ruhrberg to this massacre seems to be the deposition of one K.H. on 31.10.1962, recorded at the former German Central Bureau of Federal Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes (Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen) under ZStL 204 AR-Z 393/59, Bl. 2284. This evidence turned up more than one year after the Munich court’s judgment against Dr. Bradfisch et al on 21 July 1961, which may have been one of the reasons why the Munich court was not able at the time to disprove Ruhrberg’s self-protecting claim of having killed as little as possible and reported exaggerated numbers to his superior.
In the time thereafter, i.e. in the course of the autumn and late autumn of 1941, the partial detachment Schulz, according to the instructions of EK 8 command, carried out a number of executions in Gomel and in this city’s closer and farther surroundings, which were exclusively directed against the Jewish population and victimized at least 1,100 men, women and children in total. […] In Gomel itself and in the city’s closer surroundings at least two mass executions took place, in each of which at least 200 Jews of both sexes and all ages were killed. […] In these mass shootings, carried out by the partial detachment Schulz, the witnesses Ba., B., Ru. and Fö. took part. Their testimonies and the defendant Schulz’s deposition are the basis of the findings of fact in this respect. Also in this context the witnesses did not adhere to their original statements in what concerns the number of victims killed at these actions, so that in deviation from the trial opening decision it had to be assumed that in both cases at least 200 people were killed. […] The defendant Schulz did not question that the shooting actions described were carried out in Gomel. He only invoked in his defense that, in his reports forwarded to EK, he had in each case rounded the numbers of shootings upwards. […] This defense allegation could not be successful, however. The numbers stated by the witnesses at the trial sessions could without reservations be used in establishing the facts, especially as Schulz did not seriously question the magnitude of these execution numbers and Operational Situation Report nº 148 of 19.12.1941 (page 9) tells about the shooting of 52 Jews in Gomel and of a special action carried out in Gomel, Rogachev and another location, in which 2,365 Jews were killed.
My comment: The data in Operational Situation Report nº 148, which did not refer specifically to the executions in Gomel here examined by the court but to a set of executions in Gomel, Rogachev and Kormu, in which the Gomel executions were included, was used by the court as corroboration of the numbers stated by the eyewitnesses and as evidence, together with the eyewitnesses’ testimonies, against Schulz’ allegation of having rounded upwards the numbers he reported to EK 8. It doesn’t speak for the appropriateness of the court’s general caveat regarding numbers stated in Operational Situation Reports that Schulz’s allegation, although proved false in this case, was nevertheless invoked as one of the reasons for this caveat.
In Rogachev, situated on the Dnjepr northwest of Gomel, the partial detachment Schulz, parting from Gomel, carried out a further shooting action in the course of November 1941. Of this action it is only known that the Jews were taken out of the already created Jewish quarter by means of the combing-through that has already been described several times, collected on the street and then taken with trucks to the execution site. There they – at least 400 men, women and children of Jewish descent, - were unloaded at some distance from the shooting pit, led to the pit in groups of about ten persons and then killed by a member of the detachment inside the pit with shots in the back of the head. The men had to undress completely before their execution.
This shooting action in Rogachev and the executions in Gomel itself were mentioned in Operational Situation Report nº 148 dated 19.12.1941 (page 9), a total number of 2,365 Jews and Jewesses shot within the scope of a special action being mentioned.[…]
These findings of fact are based on the deposition of defendant Schulz and the statements of witness B. Also here there were again deviations in relation to the contents of the trial opening decision, when the witness did not uphold the number of victims he had stated during his interrogation in the course of the investigation procedure – at that time he spoke of about 800 people. Schulz made no statement about the magnitude of this shooting action carried out in Rogachev.
The assumed minimum number of victims is based on the testimony of witness B, who was obviously trying to weaken his previous account in order to avoid incriminating himself, and on the data contained in Operational Situation Report nº 148 dated 19.12.1941 (page 9), according to which 2,365 Jews had been liquidated within the scope of a special action carried out in Gomel, Rogachev and another location.
My comment: The above excerpts are particularly illustrative of the court’s arguably excessive caution regarding its findings of fact, namely as concerns the numbers of victims. Although it seemed obvious to the court that the witness B. had halved the number of victims stated in his pre-trial interrogation in order to protect himself, and although the figure for the three locations Gomel, Rogachev and Kormu in Operational Situation Report nº 148, while not broken down among these three locations, suggested a higher number of killings at each of them and hence the greater accuracy of the witness’s statement during his pre-trial interrogation, the court didn’t want to go beyond concluding on the obviously understated figure stated by the witness at the trial as a minimum figure.
In sum, the above excerpts from the Munich District Court’s judgment against former members of Einsatzkommando 8 show us how a very cautious German court, which based it’s professed skepticism in regard to the numbers stated in the Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Reports it looked at on indications that can be called weak at best and were partially contradicted by the court’s findings of fact regarding specific massacres (defendant R. – see under «Bobruisk – other mass executions»; defendant Schulz – see under «Gomel»), and which applied the principle in dubio pro reo to an extent that sometimes went beyond what was warranted by the evidence, found no evidence pointing to a frequent or even general overstatement of numbers in said reports, while coming upon at least two cases (the large-scale executions at Mogilev and Bobruisk) in which the order of magnitude stated in the Operational Situation Reports was confirmed by eyewitnesses who had participated in the respective executions.
This, in turn, means that the Munich County Court’s very cautious assessment of the Einsatzgruppen reports leads to conclusions no different from those that can be derived from the Nuremberg Military Tribunal’s previously quoted assessment: there is no evidence that execution figures in these reports were frequently or even generally exaggerated, whereas there is evidence, in the form of testimonies describing the controls against falsification of figures and/or confirming the magnitude of individual massacres stated in given reports, that speaks in favor of these reports’ reliability and against the assumption of wholesale exaggeration proclaimed by Mattogno & Graf. What cross-checking has been done before by this blog’s contributors, 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 …, points in the same direction.
Needless to say, Mattogno & Graf didn’t bother to look at any of the above-mentioned judicial assessments of the Einsatzgruppen reports’ reliability, or at any other such judicial assessments – at least there is nothing in their Treblinka screed that suggests otherwise.
But then, they also
• Showed blatant disregard for the truth in their ramblings about Aktion/Sonderkommando 1005;
• Blindly relied on Mr. Germar Rudolf’s claim that no physical evidence to the Einsatzgruppen massacre at Marijampole had been found;
• Ignored much of the documentary evidence regarding the Babi Yar massacre;
• Blindly relied on John Ball’s blundering air photo analysis;
• Ignored almost all of the eyewitness testimonies regarding the cremation of the corpses at Babi Yar;
• Made bloody fools of themselves with other pathetic objections to Einsatzgruppen reports;
• Took Mr. Paget’s demonstrably false claims regarding the Simferopol massacres at face value because they fit into their bubble;
• Didn’t acquaint themselves with a great many Soviet investigation reports about physical evidence corroborating pertinent eyewitness testimonies and/or documentary records independent of the Soviets, some of which are referred to here and here;
• And so on, and so forth (further examples of these gentlemen’s «scholarship» can be found here).
But then, what these people do is not revisionism, and it has nothing to do with serious historical research. It’s just mindless, dishonest and blundering, ideologically motivated denial.
Of the three West German judgments regarding Einsatzgruppen crimes that I have read so far – the other two being the Landgericht Ulm’s judgment against Behrendt, Böhme et al, see trial summary here, and the Landgericht Darmstadt’s judgment against Kuno Cal. et al, see trial summary here – in which the court stuck to a caveat regarding the accuracy of numbers of killings stated in the Einsatzgruppen reports, despite strong indications that there was no need for such caveat. The Darmstadt trial, also mentioned in Yale F. Edeiken’s article An Introduction to the Einsatzgruppen, dealt with, among other mass killings, the massacre of over 33,000 Jews at Babi Year near Kiew on 29 and 30 September 1941, which is the subject of several previous articles of this series. It will therefore be addressed in the following and last part of the present article.
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