Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR (2)

[Last updated on 03.12.2011]

The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR (1)

The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR (3)

This is the second part of a collection of stills from the Soviet documentary film "The Atrocities committed by German Fascists in the USSR", shown at the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal on 19 February 1946, parts of which used to be viewable on Youtube.

Rzhev, the uppermost town situated on the Volga River, and its surrounding area were among the places hardest hit by fighting and German occupation during the Nazi-Soviet conflict. The following are excerpts from Dr. Nick Terry’s PhD thesis The German Army Group Centre and the Soviet Civilian Population, 1942-1944. Forced Labour, Hunger and Population Displacement on the Eastern Front, submitted in 2005 at King’s College, University of London:

(p. 198)
The town of Rzhev itself had fallen to the Germans in October 1941 along with 40,000 of its 55,000 prewar inhabitants. By the spring of 1942, the town was once again near the front, in the rear area of VI Corps in 9th Army’s sector. 88 At the same time, the Sauckel commissions moved in to recruit from the town’s population. Between May and July, VI Corps deported a total of 2,226 men and 1,969 women from Rzhev and Olenino as Ostar-beiter or to work for the Organisation Todt in Vyazma, Smolensk and Mogilev. In the first two weeks of July, 1,608 men and women were deported to Germany from Rzhev itself.89 This population reduction notwithstanding, German units still noted unimaginable privations among the remaining civilians. 6th Infantry Division, then fighting due north of Rzhev, reported in mid-July 1942:90
"The division area encompasses around 60 villages with 6000 inhabitants and 3000 evacuees. 11 villages are situated in the 5km front zone and are thus un-available for accommodation. The remaining localities are so overcrowded, that at least 10 to 12 people live in every house. The overcrowding aside, the food situation of the population grows more difficult by the day. A recent search of the localities and examination of the children up to four years of age gave a distinct picture of the intolerable conditions among the population. Completely undernourished, many people die daily from exhaustion. Others lay apathetically around their camps and have no energy to do anything. "

(pp. 200-01)
The remaining population of Rzhev, meanwhile, had begun quite literally to starve to death. The 256th Infantry Division, fighting to the west of the city, reported a sharp increase in the number of civilians arrested wandering through its rear area, all of whom hailed from Rzhev, “where the population must shortly be left to the mercy of a certain death from starvation.”104 In October, the chief of staff of VI Corps, Colonel Mantey, requested ‘urgent’ permission to evacuate a further 6,000 civilians from the town.105 9th Army then petitioned Army Group Centre to evacuate 12,000 refugees.106 In November, just 1,831 evacuees were resettled from 9th Army to the army group area. 600 came from Rzhev, and were sent to Borisov, where they were quarantined in a camp neighbouring the peat works at Beloe Boloto, as the majority were ill with typhus. A further 5,000 were resettled with the army’s own rear area.107 That month, the commander of 256th Infantry Division wrote to XXVII Corps, which had taken over the Rzhev sector, to report on the ever-worsening situation:
As before, the civilian population wanders around begging, starving and in rags. They consist of up to 80% women, children and the sick, thus unusable elements for labour. The scenes that are occurring are deplorable and unworthy of the German Wehrmacht as a ‘bringer of culture to the East’. The refugees live in earth holes etc. With certainty they form a source of disease, as they are in rags and starving, and therefore a serious danger to the troops. The first deaths from starvation have been observed. These will rapidly increase with the coming frost and snows. 108
In response, XXVII Corps created a refugee camp in its rear to accommodate 7,500 more refugees.109 By the winter of 1942/43, the SD reported that 10 civilians were dying each day in Rzhev.110 The population in the countryside was openly discussing eating into the seedstocks. Bread was being baked from flour made of potato peel or even from moss.111 According to the calculations of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission, between 15,000 and 20,000 civilians died of disease and starvation in the town and rayon of Rzhev under the German occupation. In the whole of Kalinin oblast, 34,817 died of starvation and disease between 1941 and 1943: somewhere between a half and two-thirds of the death toll was concentrated into one single area.112 At the end of 1942, Rzhev had been reduced through evacuation, epidemic and famine to 3,000 inhabitants. The town had lost 93% of its population in just thirteen months. Social taboos among the Russian population collapsed under the weight of desperation. On Christmas Day, 1942, two starving women murdered a ten-year old boy in the town, in order to cut the body up for meat. Caught red-handed by German military police, they were publicly hanged.113

(pp. 260-61)
In both Russia and Belorussia, liberation revealed an almost inconceivable scale of devastation, loss of life and suffering. Almost all industry and livestock had been destroyed or removed, while up to half the agricultural acreage was laid to waste. One in four houses had been burnt down, leaving millions homeless.1 In the zone of operations occupied by Army Group Centre, an estimated 700,000 civilians had been murdered by the German occupiers, including at least 250,000 Jews; a further 400,000 prisoners of war had starved to death or been executed.2
Though the mass starvation among Soviet POWs was extensively documented by the war crimes investigators, deaths from disease or hunger among civilians were less often acknowledged by the rayon and oblast commissions. Yet the surviving statistics indicate an appalling, hidden level of mortality from these causes. In many frontline districts, more may have died from hunger, disease and exhaustion than from face-to-face killing. Across the Kalinin oblast, one of the few provinces to give such estimates, at least 34,000 civilians died from hunger and disease between 1941 and 1943, the majority concentrated in and around the town of Rzhev.3 That Rzhev was not the only frontline locality to suffer in this fashion is borne out from the findings of the commission of Baturino rayon, Smolensk oblast. These recorded 1,544 deaths by shooting or hanging, but 2,616 deaths from hunger and exhaustion caused by forced labour. This mortality the Smolensk oblast authorities failed to take into account when calculating the total loss of 87,026 civilian lives across the entire province.4 Evidence drawn from German sources and presented in this dissertation indicates that hunger deaths were all too numerous among the civilian population, not just in the warzones on Russian territory, but also in eastern Belorussia. Compounding the death toll were fatalities from the three major typhus epidemics that swept the warzone during the three years of the occupation, outbreaks which infected several hundred thousand civilians (Chapters 7 and 9). A conservative estimate of hunger-induced mortality in the zone of operations of Army Group Centre would amount to 200,000 deaths from starvation and disease. This would indicate a minimum total loss of life in the zone of operations among the civilian population and Soviet prisoners of war from all causes of 1.3 million men, women and children.
At least half this number died from starvation. In contrast to the chillingly rapid mortality among Soviet prisoners of war in the winter of 1941/2, the slow famine of the civilian population persisted throughout the occupation. In both cases, hunger was a direct consequence of German agricultural policy. The economic geography of the warzone could barely support the German Army while simultaneously yielding sufficient foodstuffs for the indigenous population. In the food-deficit regions of Russia and Belorussia, an ever worsening cycle of requisitioning and famine was the result. This vicious circle left pitifully little for the working population and even less for children, their mothers, the elderly, crippled and invalids. Under the banner of the slogan ‘he who does not work, does not eat’, those classified as unfit for work saw their rations reduced or were excluded from the food supply altogether. Mortality was at its greatest among those who like the prisoners of war in 1941 were sent on forced marches or transported to camps in the rear. In both cases, the ostensibly humanitarian gesture of removing civilians and prisoners from the Kahlfrasszone immediately behind the front where food was in shortest supply often led only to a more rapid demise from starvation in a distant camp. The examples of the Olita refugee camp as well as Ozarichi illustrate that rather than relieve famine, the German Army was quite able to contribute towards what Alex de Waal has called famine crimes.5

(pp. 264-65)
The evacuations and population displacements undertaken by Army Group Centre owed almost nothing to National Socialist racial theory or political ideology.[…]
In its techniques and methods, however, the Wehrmacht practice of population displacement shared much in common with the far better-known resettlements undertaken by the RSHA. Transit camps, train transports, delousings, labour selections and concentration camps characterised both displacements. Both Ozarichi and Operation ‘Himmelfahrt’ recall much that is familiar from the implementation of the Final Solution. The testimonies of survivors as well as German reports reveal a litany of familiar horror. Slavic civilians were marked with badges, coralled into a welter of holding, prisoner, labour and other camps, transported to Auschwitz and Majdanek. A crucial difference between the two resettlement processes remained: the deportations conducted by the Wehrmacht stopped short of genocide. Evacuees were decimated by famine, disease, cold and by the random brutalities and indignities of their fate, but they were not exterminated outright. By contrast, Soviet Jews were not subjected to deportation or long-range resettlement, but were murdered where they lived. In this regard, their fate differed not only from their Slavic neighbours, but also from that of the overwhelming majority of European Jews. Considering the Tsarist deportations of Jews during the First World War, as well as the original Nazi intention to deport Soviet as well as European Jews to Siberia, the volte-face that led to genocide ‘in place’ during 1941 seems all the greater.13
The discrepancy in conduct towards Slavic and Jewish populations highlights the complexity of ideological motivations needed to carry out the respective policies. Racist contempt for Russians and political hatred of Bolshevism were necessary to fuel the inhumanitarianism of the Wehrmacht towards the Soviet civilian population, but were insufficient causes and are insufficient explanations for the conduct of the German Army in the Soviet Union. Even in the worst-case example of Ozarichi, racial conceptions played no overt role. 45,000 civilians were not abandoned in the middle of the winter simply because they were Slavs, but because they were deemed a logistical burden. At the same time as it embraced anti-Bolshevism, racism and anti-Semitism, the Wehrmacht also adopted the cold-bloodedly calculated logic of total war. Whether the civilian population would be used, discarded or shot depended on German perceptions of its military value as much as its racial value. If a "barbarisation of warfare", to use Omer Bartov’s memorable phrase14, took place on the Eastern Front of the Second World War, then it was a dual process: alongside racially motivated barbarism, the German Army also espoused an ideology of pragmatic barbarism.

A diary found with a young woman who died during the occupation, Nina Semjonova, gives an idea of what life in occupied Rzhev was like for the civilian population. What follows is my translation of this diary’s German translation transcribed in Kohl, Krieg, pp. 191-95.

10 October 1941. The Germans are bombing us since morning. It is terrible. What lies ahead of us?
14 October. The fascists have occupied the city.
15 October. Mama stood by the door and saw the first enemy columns.
20 October. In the nights we do not sleep. SD-men come and ask always he same. They want to know where the communists have disappeared to. Especially where Katharina Pavlovna Mikhailova is.
»This communist lived here for years«, they say. »You are her accomplices. If you don’t say where you have hidden her we will shoot you all«, an officer told Papa yesterday.
25 October. One can’t get milk anywhere. But we can still get hold of something for Marinka. Soon that will also be over. How shall we then feed the child?
1 November. They occupied our entire house. For a high officer. We are now confined to one small room. An interpreter came and instructed us: »Dare not show up in the corridor when the German officer comes or leaves the appartment. Dare not step into his room.« - Every day there is a boozing party. In the kitchen there are mountains of supplies, butter in bars, meat, white bread. All stolen from us, of course. From our stores, from our collective farms. And we must go hungry an perhaps even die of hunger.
10 November. A sunny day. I carried Marinka outside so she could catch a little air. An officer living nearby came around. He bragged that Moscow and Leningrad are occupied by the Germans. I said nothing. I don’t believe it. And yet I would have liked to know just a little truth. We know nothing, nothing. We only see hated strangers around us. Maybe we won't live to see the day when our folks come into this city. I only wish that Marinka stays alive.
15 November. On the square they set up gallows. And immediately hanged some of our people, because they heard radio, because they met. Hanged because they are Russians and were not afraid to show this to the enemy. Because they refused to serve the enemy. That is the fascist »new order«. But you won’t break us. Neither with gallows nor with shootings, you damned bandits!
22 November. Mama cries. The last sack of wheat, which we had saved for Marinka, and two bowls of potatoes, all our plenty, were taken away by the soldiers. Mama complained to the officer. He stood up and stonily said: »The German soldier doesn’t steal!« On the yard the ones that Mama had complained about beat her terribly. Now, as I write these lines, she lies in bed and moans. Ich would like to know where Sasha is. Maybe we will not live to see the liberation. Sascha, come!
25 November. The soldiers destroyed our store cupboard. Took away many clothes. In one bag they found a letter from Katya, in which she had written: »My dear Papa, I inform you that my husband has already become a captain and been recommended for a distinction.« In the bag there was also Papa’s pension booklet. They called him out for interrogation. Later he was taken home by neighbors. He was smeared with blood. I fear for his life. This is now the third time that they beat him half dead. Sasha! Liberate us!
3 January 1942. The big white house in the street of the Commune received the name »house of the devil«. The SD is there. We are afraid to walk past it. No one has yet come back alive from there. Hundreds of names are mentioned, of people who disappeared there without a trace. Only in whispers.
2 February . Hunger torments us more and more. Marinka cries and begs for something to eat. I give her the breast. But in the breast there is no milk. Papa traded cards somewhere. Our famished little tyke. Sasha would not recognize her. Her overlarge eyes.
5 February. The occupiers give rye to those who work for them. Wipe floors, make beds. Mama said that if were sparing we would still have for some days. She looked at me pleadingly. I said nothing and turned around.
10 February. We are very hungry. Two days without eating. For Marinka I asked the neighbors for a little grain. Buckwheat. I cooked a porridge with water. She leaped upon the food. The fascists – I freeze when I see them through the window. Should I go to them and bend to them? Work for them? No, a thousand times no.
15 February. No light, no water, no bread. We fetch water from the Volga. The soldiers shoot at us. Yesterday evening father returned with empty buckets: bullet holes in the buckets. He could only save himself by throwing himself on the ground and crawling. – Every day we await deportation. Every day they tell us terrible things about the fascists' victories. I don’t believe a word. I don’t want to believe it.
20 May. I have already forgotten what bread tastes like. And the feeling of being satiated. I can no longer imagine it.
12 June. I went to the neighbors, asked for something for Marinka. Nothing, nothing.
15 July. What luck! I got some chaff for Marinka.
19 October. The Germans who live with us are alarmed for some reason. Something has happened. Maybe our folks have again advanced.
20 October. They chase us out of the house. All inhabitants they want to gather at one place, in the prison building. And we know that who gets there doesn't come back. They say that this is all due to panic. Our folks are somewhere near. Therefore the occupiers want to resettle all Russians. God, if only we could wait for our folks!
15 November. We live in a dirty dark cellar. They also took our last little corner above. With our own eyes we saw how they burned our little house, in which Mama, I and Marinka were born and raised. The flames rose high into the sky. I thought of Sasha. Will he ever learn what we are going through here? - Papa refused to go out of the cellar. Thereupon, in front of Mama’s eyes and mine, an officer beat him with the riding whip. And when Papa fell he kicked him with the boots for a long time. When the SD man had gone Papa – lying here like he was dead – said to me calmly and quietly: »I ask you, Nina, don’t go work for them. Don’t work with them.«
25 December. Yesterday night - Papa is no more. These bandits did him in. In the last time he spit blood, from those beatings. Mama almost lost her mind. And Marinka didn’t even notice what had happened. Only asked for something to eat all the time. We buried father in the bombed vegetable plot.
10 January 1943. Life has become unbearable. I can no longer hear the two-year-old type scream from hunger. I will try to go to a village. Maybe I will succeed in getting something there after all.
15 January. The sun shines. And in the air there is a black, depressing mugginess. We live only from the hope that our folks will soon arrive.
25 January. Today I got up only with difficulty. A strong pain in the side, pain in the head. I am nevertheless determined to go to a village and find something for Marinka and Mama.
27 January. The German controls took everything away. I had obtained a few potatoes and some rye. I lost my composure and screamed that this is for the child. But they beat me and threw me into the barn, where I lay all night. When I got home Mama almost didn’t recognize me. I have no strength anymore. I’m in a very bad state. – My Sasha – I know, we will never see each other again. What will become of Marinka?

Vyazma is a town in Smolensk Oblast, Russia, which was mostly destroyed during the German occupation. American war correspondent Quentin Reynolds visited Vyazma shortly after the German retreat and gave an account of the destruction of the city in his book The Curtain Rises. This account is partially transcribed in the blog The Road to Vyazma.

Makeyevka, also transliterated Makiivka or Makeevka, is an industrial city located in eastern Ukraine within the Donetsk Oblast, 25 km from the capital Donetsk. About what happened there during the Nazi occupation the Wikipedia page Makiivka contains the following information:

In 1939, the Jewish population of Makiivka was 8,000. In the German Operational Situation Report (USSR No. 177) of Nazi Chief of the Security Police dated from March 6, 1942 it is stated that as a result of the measures carried out by Einsatzkommando 6, both the Horlivka and Makiivka districts had been made "free of Jews". Nazis executed a total of 493 people here, among them 80 political agitators, 44 saboteurs and looters, and 369 Jews.

Under the subheading "Executions", Operational Situation Report USSR no. 177 dd. March 6, 1942 contains information that translates as follows:

After the advance of the front had come to a standstill, the long stay of the Kommandos resulted in a considerable accumulation of cases. Police activity suffered very much from the cold temperature and the obliteration of tracks by the snow.

Sonderkommando 4b executed 1,317 people (among them 63 political agitators, 30 saboteurs and partisans, and 1,224 Jews). With this action, the district of Artemovsk was also freed of Jews.

As a result of the activity of Einsatzkommando 5, a number of political agitators, 114 saboteurs and looters, as well as 1,580 Jews were shot, in all 1,880 people. This kommando also carried out an action against the Bandera group.

As a result of the measures carried out by Einsatzkommando 6, both the Gorlovka and Makeyevka districts are free now of Jews. A small number who remained in Stalino will be moved as soon as whether conditions permit. A total of 493 people were executed here, among them 80 political agitators, 44 saboteurs and looters, and 369 Jews.

The number of arrested old members of the Communist Party remaining here is striking. This suggests specific intentions of the enemy in this zone. Also, four armed parachutists were liquidated here.

Donetsk, formerly Stalino, is a large city in eastern Ukraine on the Kalmius river, the largest city of the Donets Basin region. The information about events during Nazi occupation on the related Wikipedia page is the following:

In the beginning of World War II, the population of Stalino consisted of 507,000, and after the war - only 175,000. The Nazi invasion during World War II almost completely destroyed the city, which was mostly rebuilt on a large scale at the war's end. It was occupied by Nazi Germany between 16 October 1941 and 5 September 1943.
The territory of Donetsk at the time of the Nazi German occupation consisted mainly of a Jewish ghetto, in which 3,000 Jews died, and a concentration camp in which 92,000 people were killed.[5] During the war, a collective responsibility system was enforced. For every killed German soldier, 100 inhabitants were killed, and one for every killed policeman.

The Donets Basin, together with the Leningrad region, northeastern Ukraine, Kharkov and the Crimea, was one of the known regions of mass starvation among the civilian population during the German occupation. On pages 191-92 of Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht, German historian Dieter Pohl writes the following (my translation):

Stalino was the economic heart of eastern Ukraine, which also seemed to have a high value for German economic policy. Already immediately after the occupation the Economic Armaments Office (Wirtschaftsrüstungsamt) announced that the population had nothing to eat anymore because all supplies had been taken away by Soviet authorities. However, the economic organization was far from providing help. In the summer of 1942 there were still between ten and 25 starvation deaths in the city every day. Only in June 1942 measures were taken to increase the number of ration receivers. In November 77,000 of the city’s 248,000 inhabitants were still without ration cards, around the turn of the year 1942/43 there were 25,000. In the spring of 1943 mortality in Stalino was again particularly high, about 4 % p.a. The weakened inhabitants were now additionally visited by a typhus epidemic. The human cost for the region was enormous. Already in early March 1942, when the dying had not yet reached its climax, the economic administration estimated that thousands of the Donets Basin's inhabitants had starved to death.

Regarding the fate of Ukrainian Jews in the areas under military administration (which included the Donets Basin), Pohl writes that by mid-January 1942 there were few large Jewish communities left in Wehrmacht-administered Ukraine, and that the majority of Jews in eastern Ukraine who had not fled were killed within the first months of 1942, for instance in Stalino (today Donetsk) on January 9 and in Kramatorsk on January 26 (Dieter Pohl, "The Murder of Ukrainian Jews under German Military Administration and in the Reich Commissariat Ukraine", in: Ray Brandon, Wendy Lower, (editors)The Shoah in Ukraine: history, testimony, memorialization, pp. 23-76, p. 38).

The Wikipedia page History of Taganrog contains the following information about crimes committed by the German occupiers:

The SS Einsatzgruppe Sonderkommando 10a performed systematic genocide of Taganrog citizens from the first days of occupation. According to the information of the State Archive, some 7,000 Taganrogers (1,500 of them children of various age) were shot to death in the Gully of Petrushino [8].

Further, rather detailed information is available on the page Taganrog during World War II.

Angrick describes the massacre committed by Sonderkommando 10a in the Petrushino Gully in October 1941 as follows (Einsatzgruppe D, pp. 315-17, my translation):

Here there was a repetition of the events at Mariupol. After the conquest the Jewish population was informed that from now on it had to wear armbands with a six-point yellow star. Who didn't comply with this order was to be shot. The command of SK 10a established that preparations for the »evacuation« would have to be completed on 25 October 1942, as the destruction of Taganrog’s Jewish community had been set for 26 October 1941. Following the call by city commandant Major Averdunk from Local Headquarters I (V) 253, about 1,800 people gathered on this day at Vladimir Square in School No. 26, where they had to hand over food and valuables. The people were then taken under guard to the Petrushina-Balka, an S-shaped depression in the ground with steep slopes near the church village Petrushino. The execution went smoothly for the perpetrators – most of them had already gained sufficient experience -, and the new leadership personnel, which had arrived instead of the Leading Service candidates relieved in Mariupol, was immediately integrated and »put to work assiduously«. All tasks had already been distributed accordingly in the morning. A group of Sk 10a took care of transporting the people to the Balka. The old and sick, recorded on lists – among them the members of the Jewish Council – were dragged from their houses and forced into the trucks. The bulk of the community, on the other hand, had to make the way on foot. The village's peasants had at the same time been gathered in the village center and placed under guard, as the perpetrators had determined that they should bury the murdered after the execution. The entire complex of the Petrushina-Balka was sealed off by members of the Leibstandarte. Sepp Dietrich supported Seetzen in Taganrog as best as he could – and he would also do this in the future. The course of events shows that units of the Waffen-SS could simultaneously act as experienced army frontline troops and as members of Himmler's order at the same site, without this leading to a contradiction. In the view of the SS this combination even was what made the image of the typical SS-man in the east. The victims were taken in columns of 100 into the Balka or to additional pits.
»In a show of phony humanity Sonderkommando leader Obersturmführer Seetzen allowed the death candidates to die familywise, which indeed happened during the executions. I saw myself how entire families went to their death; in front the fathers with the elder children by the hand, thereafter the mother with a small child in her arms. In such cases Seetzen asked: "Is that the whole family? Ok, ok, continue!"«
After the shooting the inhabitants of Petrushino buried 1,800 people, while a group led by Dr. Görz searched that clothes that had been collected. Although the number of Jews murdered in Taganrog was much smaller than in the city of Mariupol, the perpetrators expressed their satisfaction as the number of looted jewels as well as gold and valuable objects far exceeded that of the Mariupol execution. Near the Balka they set up a signboard with the inscription: »No trespassing. Otherwise you will be shot!«
The majority of the population of Taganrog, like that of Mariupol, showed no sorrow, expressed no rage or secret criticism. Instead the »special measures against Jews« had been calmly accepted, not least because many inhabitants hoped to get a part of the »Jewish inheritance«. The administration group of Field Headquarter 538 gained the impression that not only the »rabble«, but also many people who had fallen into need due to the war »tried to obtain objects left by the Jews«. The Einsatzgruppe could now also report Taganrog als »free of Jews«, while the city’s inhabitants were told that the Jews had been taken for work to Mariupol.

Osipenko was from 1939 to 1958 the name of what is now the city of Berdyansk on the northern coast of the Sea of Azov, 160 km southwest of Donetsk. The Jewish Virtual Library provides the following information:

According to the 1926 census there were 2,138 Jews in Berdyansk in 1926 and 2,393 in 1939 (4.6% of the population). Berdyansk was occupied by German troops in October 1941. About a thousand Jews were shot in a gorge near the town; the rest were annihilated in 1942.

The Darnitsa prison camps in the Kiev area were investigated by a Soviet commission that issued its report on 18 December 1943. A German translation of this report is included in the document collection Eine Schuld die nicht erlischt. Dokumente über deutsche Kriegsverbrechen in der Sowjetunion, 1987 by Pahl Rugenstein Verlag GmbH, Cologne, pp. 215-221. What follows is my translation of that German translation.

Report about the Mass Extermination of Soviet Citizens who were Prisoners of War in the Camps at the Location Darnitsa, Kiev Area

18 December 1943

A commission, consisting of the President of the Kiev Regional Commission S.T. Serdyuk and the members N.I.Burichenko, Meritorious Schoolteacher of the Ukrainian SSR, Colonel K.R.Rudenko, the Priest Nikolai Skoropostishny, with the participation of forensic medical experts Prof. N.A. Shepelevski and G.I. Vedrigan, Assistant of the Faculty for Forensic Medicine of the Kiev Medical University, Prof. J.I. Pivovonski, Prof. J.J. Kramarenko, the President of the Darnitsa Rayon Soviet Executive Committee G.V. Grigoyev, and the Executive Committee member B.N.Jefimov, inspected two prisoner of war camps in the Darnitsa area and the places where pits were found with corpses of Soviet citizens who perished in these camps, and carried out an exhumation and forensic medical examination of the corpses, in order to
1. Determine the number of those buried,
2. Establish the cause of death,
3. Determine the time of burial and
4. Identify the victims.
The location Darnitsa is on the left bank of the Dniepr, 12 km from Kiev, at the junction of the railway connecting Kiev with Moscow and Kharkov. The location is in the middle of a wood that merges into wide forest areas in the north and east.
Already in the autumn of 1941 the German military authorities had chosen this area to set up prisoner of war camps.
One of the camps, on the edge of Darnitsa between a country road and a railway line, occupies a wide territory one and a half kilometers long and about one kilometer wide.
This area is a barren expanse of sand, with remains of burned-out small buildings here and there. The whole camp area is surrounded by three and in places four rows of barbed wire fences about three and a half meters high. Furthermore the whole camp is divided into several sectors by such wire fences; obviously the prisoners were to be separated and further isolated in this manner.
According to information from eyewitnesses and camp inmates the camp was furthermore constantly surrounded by armed guards with dogs, who didn’t allow any of the prisoners to come close. As confirmed by witnesses and former prisoners of war, rampant arbitrariness reigned in the camp. The cruel regime, the tortures and humiliations, which violated the most elementary human rights, the complete deprivation of food for a long time, the cold, in which the prisoners had no place to warm up, and other unbearable conditions led to heavy exhaustion, massive health disorders and, as a natural consequence thereof, to a high mortality. Additionally the number of mortal victims was further increased by systematic mass shootings.
Behind the railway construction, 326 meters away from the camp, there are 4 pits with sagged soil, which have a size of 12x6 meters. Further aside there is another pit with a size of 6x6 meters. When digging into one of the larger pits human corpses were found at a depth of 1-2 meters. Most of them lay in heaps with their faces down. All were completely undressed. Only one of the corpses dug out had worn-out field-gray trousers of military cut; another corpse had a small ribbon slung around the body and a third had socks on the feet. The exhumed corpses with one exception are of male sex and in a state of clearly recognizable decomposition. The overwhelming majority of the corpses had been shot through the skull with shattering of bone and strong bursting. A whole number of corpses shows splintered fractures with extensive bone impressions, which result from blows with dull, hard and heavy objects.
The autopsy showed that the corpses are completely lacking subcutaneous fatty tissue. Their stomachs and intestines contain no food remains.
As testified by witnesses these pits contain the corpses of Red Army commanders and political officers, who were shot on the spot.
The other camp was located in the area of the former car repair workshop. It was also enclosed by a barbed wire fence, which divides the camp into several sections. There, in one of the smaller buildings, was the »hospital« for prisoners of war, which served both camps. According to depositions from local inhabitants and other witnesses, including railway employee P.I. Kontashakovski, the »hospital« granted practically no medical assistance. The sick and wounded were not treated at all, they lay there with bandages drenched in pus, the wounds became filled with maggots, there were no clothes, and nobody received the necessary help at all. The food was abominable. The natural consequence was mass mortality. The existing rooms were sometimes extremely overfilled. Outside the camp area in the direction of the forest there is a cemetery with graves in five rows. Behind them lie rows of pits close to each other. Aside from the graves one sees on the free terrain other such pits wuth sagged soil. On each grave there is a small board containing family name, first name and patronym, year of birth and date of death. The board contains information about one person or about two to six persons. In one grave with one person's data there were found 5 corpses, mostly face down, carelessly dumped inside. All corpses are of males aged 20 to 40. They are without clothing and shoes. Furthermore parts of other corpses buried in the soil by the graves protrude from the graves' walls. Thus one grave on whose board only one buried person is mentioned in fact contains 6 to 8 corpses. This leads to the conclusion that the boards on the graves do not indicate the number of those actually buried but are only meant for deliberate deceit, in order to conceal the mass extermination of prisoners of war.
The pits lying behind the graves mostly have a size of 6 x 3 meters; some are even larger. When excavating one of these pits corpses dumped in just as carelessly were found after half a meter. The usual rules for burial were not observed. All corpses are in a state of advanced decomposition; they are of males aged 20 to 40. No clothing or shoes are present. The corpses show no traces of wounds or other external damage, but they are completely emaciated. According to eyewitness testimonies the Germans brought here the corpses from the large camp, dragged them with large poles to the pits and threw them inside. In this same cemetery there are two graves with boards containing one and the same family name, first name and patronym, the same year of birth and the same date of death.
Besides the mentioned pits and graves, there are further such pits with corpses in the forest and in the surroundings of Darnitsa, according to information from local inhabitants and other witnesses.


Due to the results of the exhumed corpses' forensic medical examination, after studying the investigation material and based on the number of corpses in the opened graves and pits as well as the examination results regarding individual sections of mass burial sites, the commission reaches the following conclusions:
1. At the above-mentioned places in the location Darnitsa and its surroundings the number of corpses of prisoners of war and other Soviet citizens who during the temporary occupation were killed by the Germans or perished, amounts to over 68,000. These are distributed as follows:
a) In the forest by the large camp 11,000 corpses,
b) In the cemetery and its near surroundings 40,000 corpses,
c) At other places in Darnitsa and surroundings 17,000 corpses.
2. In exhuming the pits and graves it was established that burial was not carried out in the usual manner but the corpses were chaotically thrown into the pits and covered with soil, violating not only the customs usually observed in such cases but also the most elementary rules of sanitation, as is shown by the superficial and sloppy filling-up of the pits.
3. One notable characteristic is that the exhumed corpses are completely without upper clothes, underwear and shows. Only some of the victims wore worn-out trousers or socks. One of these corspses was a person who had died of an infectious disease. These circumstances lead to the conclusion that clothes and shoes were as a rule taken away from the Soviet citizens before killing, obviously with the intention of using the alien goods for self-interested purposes.
4. When opening the pits no documents or other objects that could help identify the corpses were found. This can only be explained by assuming that it was intended to make establishing the personal data of those murdered impossible and thus to erase the traces of the crime.
5. According to the results of the forensic medical examination of the corpses from the pit in the forest the time of burial was the first half of the year 1942. In the graves and pits in the cemetery the time of burial was the second half of 1941 and the first half of 1942.
6. The forensic medical examination of the corpses found in the forest pits shows that the cause of death in the overwhelming majority of cases was shots through the head with shattering of the skull bone and strong burstings. Such damage is the consequence of shots from small arms weapons such as rifles. A lower number shows heavy skull fractures with bone impressions and splintered fractions of the lower jaw. Such damage is caused by blows with dull, hard and heavy objects, for instance rifle butts. A few of the corpses, which show no exterior damage, are of persons who died of hunger or infectious diseases.
The results of examining the corpses exhumed from graves and pits in the cemetery lead to the conclusion that the causes of death were hunger or infectious diseases.
In all cases in which shooting wounds in the head were established, the shots entered the back of the head or the temple. The skull fractures caused by dull objects are mainly in the temple, parting or forehead area. All these damages are deadly.
Proof that in many of the prisoners hunger was the cause of death comes from the corpse’s emaciation, the total lack of subcutaneous fatty tissue and the lack of food remains in the stomach and instestine. This is also confirmed by numerous witnesses. They testify that the prisoners of war in the camps were systematically deprived of food, which inevitably led to death from exhaustion.
7. The established age group of the dead (20-40 years), the enormous number of corpses in the opened graves and pits, the various burial times and the similar causes of death are evidence to the systematic premeditated killing of the prisoners of war, mainly persons of male sex in their prime.
8. Finally, as a further factor leading to mass dying of the war prisoners, there should be mentioned the heavy overfilling o the rooms, the absolutely insanitary conditions, the lack of adequate medical assistance, the accommodation in cold, unheated rooms and the lack of clothing. All this eventually led to epidemics with inevitable deadly outcome.
The treatment of the prisoners of war is inequivocal proof that this was a system deliberately planned by the Wehrmacht command in order to exterminate as many prisoners of war and other Soviet citizens as possible.
(Signatures of the commission members.)

If the commission’s estimate about the number of victims of the Darnitsa camps is realistic, this wouldn’t make the Darnitsa camps the deadliest of German POW camps in the occupied Soviet territories. In Kalkulierte Morde (see translated excerpt in my RODOH post of 31-Jul-2005 13:17, Gerlach lists a number of POW camps on Belarusian territory of which four (Gomel – 100,000; Lesnaja near Baranovichi – 88,407; Minsk – 109,500; Vitebsk – 120,000) claimed a higher number of victims. The total number of POWs who perished in the listed camps was at least 633,000, according to Gerlach. As pointed out in a recent blog (Mattogno, Graf & Kues on Aktion Reinhard(t) Cremation (4), note 231), this is more than the number of deportees killed at Bełżec and Sobibór extermination camps combined.

The final phase of Nazi occupation in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine is described as follows by Dutch historian Karel C. Berkhoff in Harvest of Despair. Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule, 2004 Harvard University Press, pp. 300-303:

The finale of the Reichskommissariat began in September 1943. On the sixth and seventh days of the month, Koch ordered the evacuation from the Left Bank of all livestock, machinery, and able-bodied people, and the destruction of everything else, producing (as he put it) "scorched earth". All of this should happen within eight weeks. The plan failed, for the Red Army reached the Dnieper shore by the end of the month. Yet the role of the SS in the German retreat was true to type. Agreeing that the land should be "completely burned and destroyed" (as he told Prützmann, the higher SS and police chief for Ukraine), Himmler expressed even more extreme sentiments than did Koch, who still granted that people unable to work might stay behind. German withdraval, Himmler told Waffen-SS division commanders in Kharkiv in April 1943, had to include Menschenvernichtung - "the destruction of human beings".
It does seem that at least some men, women and children who were unable or unwilling to leave were shot or died in explosions. Five days before leaving the village of Obolon in the Semenivka raion, German shot 122 people listed as Soviet activists, and on the final day they shot with submachine guns anyone in sight, killing fourty-four. In the nearby village of Velyki Lypniahy, another unit killed 371 people in four days, incuding 125 children. From September 20, Germans in the main nearby city, Poltava, apparently started killing everyone in sight. Nevertheless the Left Bank was far from empty. At the very end, the Wehrmacht reported the evacuation from there of 10 percent of its population, or some 600,000 people (guards at the Dnieper bridges, however, counted only 375,000).
There is some evidence of German soldiers in the fall of 1943 who were humane in their treatment of locals – apparently people who left voluntarily – allowing them on trains and feeding them from the field kitchens. As for the Right Bank, however, Soviet reports mention burnings and killing in the weeks or days before the German retreat. For instance, in the Podolian village of Rivno, forty males ages sixteen to fifty-seven were locked inside the church on March 22, 1944. The next morning the Red Army approached the village, but still some Germans took the time to shoot and burn the prisoners, inside a mill. Eight lived to tell of their ordeal. In another incident, about seventy civilians, including a six-year-old, were shot near the prison in Uman at the very last moment. Plunder and wanton destruction proliferated, as did rape by Wehrmacht members.
On September 17, 1943, the German Army Group South ordered everyone to leave the large cities on the Dnieper. Such a directive implied the separation of families, for some remained behind digging trenches and working the land. In Kiev, announcements called for trust in the military command, which would hold the city. Then the inhabitants of the city center were ordered to vacate their homes within three days: the area became a forbidden zone, surrounded by barbed wire. Trespassers shall be shot on sight, it was stated, but even then locals (just as Germans and Hungarians did) dared to loot there. Many of these native burglars believed that most Germans would not harm children and therefore took them along for protection, recalls a Kievan who remained in hiding in the city center. On September 25, there was an announcement on the radio that the city districts near the Dnieper – Pechersk, Lypky, Podil, and Stare Misto – also had to be vacated, by nine o'clock the next evening. (Later, two days were added to the deadline.) Thousands of Kievans moved their belongings by foot over long distances as fast as they could. The additions to the "military zone", which now comprised half of the city, were also looted. On October 21, anybody remaining anywhere in Kiev had to report to the train station. It is said that a group of people from the Kurenivka district who were directed towards the station fled and were shot when they were discovered in the Podil district.
The Security Police in Kiev busied itself with eliminating all traces of its crimes. For six weeks from the middle of August, hundreds of prisoners had to dig up corpses from Babi Yar and burn them. At the end, these laborers revolted. Of the only five rebels who survived, four have estimated that over 100,000, or even 125,000, bodies were incinerated at the Yar. Yet even then the SS kept on killing. In fact, its gas vans operated at top speed: initially only on Tuesdays and Saturdays, then also on other days, the van arrived at the ravine five to nine times per day. The fifty or more people inside were gassed on the way or were killed on arrival. The age and ethnicity of this group of victims varied. Among them were one hundred naked young women from a brothel. To increase the victim count of these frantic gas van murders, there were apparently indiscriminate roundups in the city. Zakhar Trubakov, one of the Jewish prisoners who had to pull the corpses out of the van and incinerate them, determined from the clothes that these were countrypeople as well as elderly men, adult women, teenagers, and young children from Kiev.

Mass killings in the Babi Yar ravine are addressed in several articles on this blog site, especially the following:

That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part III: Deniers and Babiy Yar massacre (1)

That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part IV: Deniers and Babiy Yar massacre (2)

That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part V: Deniers and Babiy Yar massacre (3)

That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part VI: Deniers and Babiy Yar massacre (4)

That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part IX (4): «The reports of the Einsatzgruppen …

Further images of Babi Yar and the Syrets concentration camp are shown in The Babi Yar Album. Readers wondering about the "Note to our viewers" at the top of the album's introduction are invited to read the thread A side note in the Skeptic Society Forum's Holocaust Denial section.

Iziaslav, Ukraine is one of the oldest cities in Volhynia. The extermination of the Jews in this region has been covered in several articles by Jonathan Harrison, which are collected under the label Volhynia-Podolia.

Kremenets and Vishnevets are two cities in the Ternopil Oblast of western Ukraine. Vishnevets had a prewar Jewish population of about 5,000, of which only ninety-three survived in camps in Germany. The Jewish population of Kremenets was wiped out in August 1942 A German report dated 15.08.1942 mentions the killing of 13,802 Jews in the Kremenets (Kremianez) area (Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, p. 715, fn. 1154; thanks to Jonathan Harrison for pointing out this source).

Pekalino seems to be or have been a village in the Minsk region of Belarus. In a thread on the Feldgrau forum, a poster cites a source whereby "The Group of Lepach reached Ebenrode on 10th July while other parts were captured by RA in the area of Minsk-Pekalino on 9th July". A village called Pekaline is also mentioned on a French Wikipedia page about Soviet female sniper Tatiana Baramzina.

If located in Belarus, as these sources suggest, Pekalino was one of the over 600 Belarusan villages that were wiped out together with all their inhabitants. The Khatyn Memorial Complex site provides the following information:

The following figures are further proof to the scale of crimes. The number of annihilated settlements with the inhabitants during punitive operations:
Unrestored Restored Altogether
186 442 628

The number of settlements destroyed together with only part of the inhabitants:
Unrestored Restored Altogether
325 4342 4667

In all: 5295.

Thus, over 5295 settlements were destroyed by fascists together with all or part of inhabitants during punitive action (out of 9200 settlements, burnt and annihilated in Belorussia during the Great Patriotic War). 243 villages were burned down twice, 83 villages thrice and 22 villages were burned down 4 times and more in Vitebsk region. 92 villages were burned down twice, 40 villages thrice, 9 villages four times and 6 villages five and more times were burned in Minsk region.

3% of all 5295 villages were destroyed in 1941. 16% � in 1942. 63% � in 1943. 18% � in 1944.

In Kalklierte Morde, see the translated excerpt in my RODOH post of 5-Jul-2005 10:58, Gerlach mentions that

In the more than 5,000 villages covered by Romanowski more than 147,000 inhabitants died. 627 villages were completely destroyed, and 186 thereof remained wastelands after the war. For comparison: In Lithuania there were 21, in the Ukraine 250 scorched villages.

The German anti-partisan killing sprees in Belarus were not without critics from among high-ranking German. Thus a letter sent by Hinrich Lohse, Reich Commissioner for the Eastern Territories, from Riga on 18.6.1943 (Nuremberg Document 135-R, IMT Vol. XXXVIII, pp. 371 ff.) contains the following observations (my translation):

Also the fight against the bandits it taking forms that give reason for much concern if pacification and exploitation of the various regions is the goal of our policy. Thus the dead banditry suspects, which according to the report dd. 5.6.43 from Operation "Cottbus" number 5,000, could in my opinion with few exceptions have been used for labor service in the Reich.
It shall not be denied that due to communication difficulties and generally in such mopping-up operations it is very hard to tell friend from foe. But it should nevertheless be possible to avoid cruelties and to bury those liquidated. To lock men, women, and children into barns and to 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.

I couldn't establish the location of the state farm that the above images refer to or find further information about the events narrated in the documentary or their context.

Mass killings in the Slonim area are mentioned in the following HC blog articles:

Mattogno and Graf Screwed By Their Own Source

More Mattogno Dishonesty

How Many Perpetrators in the USSR? - Part One: Overview

How Many Perpetrators in the USSR? - Part Two: Belorussia

How Many Perpetrators in the USSR? - Part Seven: Infantry Regiment 727

Extermination Planning and Forced Labour Needs

More «Evidence for the Presence of "Gassed" Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories» (1)

The Holocaust in Lida, 1942-43

Events in Slonim during the Nazi occupation are described in an article by German historian Hans-Heinrich Nolte ("Slonim 1941-1944", in: Gerd R. Ueberschär (editor), Orte des Grauens. Verbrechen im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2003, pp. 237-247. The extermination of Slonim’s Jewish population, swelled by refugees from Polish areas occupied by Germany in 1939 and from the city's surroundings after 22 June 1941, was wiped out in various stages:
• On 17 July 1941 a police unit collected all young Jewish men in the street, brought them with trucks to a pit near the village of Petrolevichi and shot them there. (Orte des Grauens, p. 237)
• In November 1941, at the request of Regional Commissioner (Gebietskommissar) Gerhard Erren, 9,000 "useless eaters" were shot in the village of Chepelovo. (as above, p. 238)
• Another massacre starting on 29 June 1942 was not so easy to carry out, as the Slonim ghetto’s Jews had mostly gone into hiding and some fought back. The ghetto was completely burned down and searched for three days. Eventually about 13,000 persons could be apprehended; they were brought to Petrolevichi, where they had to undress in front of newly dug pits and were shot by Latvian and German SS. As the killers were drunk, some were not fatally wounded and managed to crawl out of the mass grave at night. After this massacre the Jews considered "useful", who had been left alive, were placed in a new, smaller ghetto (as above, p. 240).
• In the autumn of 1943 the remaining ghetto was wiped out, about 10,000 Jews killed. This time the Jews were not brought to prepared pits but shot on the street or burned in their houses and cellars. Whoever managed to escape was betrayed to the Germans by Belarusan collaborators. (as above, p. 244).
Many Slonim Jews had fled into the woods and joined Soviet partisans, together with whom they became the targets of anti-partisan operations "Hamburg" and "Altona". In both operations the Germans killed 1,773 partisans, 2,205 Belarusan "sympathizers", 2,784 unarmed Jews and 56 Gypsies. Their own losses, not including local auxiliaries, were 7 dead and 18 wounded (as above, pp. 241-42).

The death toll of Salaspils concentration camp seems to have been considerably lower than 66,000 Soviet civilians as claimed in the documentary. The various claims and the current status of knowledge as concerns the Salaspils concentration camp (officially the camp was called a Polizeigegfängnis und Arbeitserziehungslager, i.e. a police prison and work education camp) are summarized on the webpage Salaspils, as follows:

The German occupation authorities established Stalag-350-s, a camp for Soviet prisoners of war in Salaspils. According to a report compiled by the Soviet authorities in 1944, 43,000 captured Red Army personnel either were killed or died from diseases and starvation here.

Later, 2 km from that camp in the nearby forest, the Nazi SS established the largest occupation camp in the occupied Baltic for civilians. This camp was not listed in Nazi documents as a concentration camp, but instead it was officially designated as a work and education camp (German: Arbeits- und Erziehungslager or AEL), a status similar to a prison. As such, it was directly subordinated to the HSSPF Ostland, the highest German police authority in the occupied Baltics. By contrast, Nazi concentration camps (KZ) were generally subordinated to the WVHA, the economic exploitation administration of the SS.

The number of those who died at Salapils camp is a the subject of ongoing debate. There are three different numbers mentioned in accounts published by Soviet historians. The history of the Latvian SSR printed in 1959 claims 56,000 people were killed. The Little Latvian Encyclopedia published in the 1970s claims 53,000 were killed. History textbooks published in the 1980s by the Soviet Union claim that over 100,000 people were killed in Salaspils. Similarly, archival documents of Soviet provenance recently published in Russia estimate the total number killed in Salaspils concentration camp to be 101,000.

Camp survivor H. Baermann, who was imprisoned at Salaspils from December 1941 to August 1942, reported that in this period 15,000 persons passed through the camp, and almost all of them were killed, only 192 survived. According to another eye-witness account, by E. K. Salijums, Soviet children in particular were annihilated by the Nazis through "medical experiments", from which some 150 children died each day. In total from 1942 to 1944 some 12,000 Soviet children passed through the camp, most of them being tortured by pumping out their blood (500 grams from each). In one of the burial places by the camp 632 corpses of children of ages 5 to 9 were revealed, with total number of Soviet children killed in the camp estimated to be 7,000.

Recent scholarship produced outside Russia questions the magnitude of these Soviet-era figures. The Latvian historian Heinrihs Strods and the German Holocaust historians Andrej Angrick and Peter Klein conclude that a more a realistic number of deaths at Salaspils is 2,000–3,000 in total, including children.

The Salaspils camp is addressed in two HC blogs, in connection with "Revisionist" propagandist Thomas Kues' conjectures about «Evidence for the Presence of "Gassed" Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories»:

«Evidence for the Presence of "Gassed" Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories» (3, 3)

More «Evidence for the Presence of "Gassed" Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories» (2)

While Salapils itself was not as horrible (at least in quantitative terms) as the Soviet documentary claims, there were also several other Nazi crime sites in the Riga area, and the combined number of civilians who perished at these sites (especially in the Rumbula and Bickerniecki forests) is closer to (though still somewhat below) the order of magnitude that the Soviets attributed to Salapils. What follows is my translation of an excerpt from Andrej Angrick/Peter Klein, "Riga 1941-1944", in: Orte des Grauens, pp. 195-206 (pp. 199-200).

Riga as a crime site during the German occupation claimed thousands of Jewish lives. They were not only murdered in mass shooting actions, but also literally worked themselves to death for the benefit of the German Wehrmacht, the German city administration and many private companies. An exhaustive balance of these events for the city of Riga is not possible, because everyday events in Salaspils and Kaiserwald are difficult to reconstruct. What is known is that until 15 October 1941 about 30,000 Latvian Jews fell victim to the operations of Einsatzkommando 2. "Additionally there were several thousand Jews that the self-defense formations killed on their own initiative after having been encouraged accordingly". Between November 1941 and January 1942 there was the murder of another "4-500 Jews in the course of handling criminal cases for not wearing the Star of David, black-market trading, theft, fraud etc." Additionally there were ca. 25,000 victims of the operations on 30 November and 8 December in Riga, about 4,000 people during the operation "Dünamünde" and 850 Jews immediately selected for the gas chambers in Auschwitz on 5 December 1943.
However, it was not the perpetrators' intention that the victims of mass murder should be found by the Red Army advancing to the west. For this reason the so-called "Operation 1005" had been created in the spring of 1942 as a secret Reich matter, in which special detachments of Security Police and SD (Sicherheitsdienst, i.e. Security Service) were to "unearth" all known mass graves, which meant exhuming and burning the corpses contained therein.
The so-called Sonderkommando 1005 B arrived in Riga around Easter 1944 to carry out its mission and took quarter in the Salaspils camp. From there it organized the measures to which inmates detached for this horrifying work by the Riga Commander of Security Police (Kommandeur der Sicherheitspolizei - KdS) were forced. The inmates were murdered after removing the mass graves. Sonderkommando 1005 B worked independently but in any case had contact with the Riga KdS office – especially the relevant man at the Jews deparment, SS-Obersturmführer Kurt Krause – as the detachment was used at the respective external dependencies. From the end of April until early June 1944 six to eight mass graves with 12,000 to 20,000 corpses were removed, which probably were mainly victims of the Rumbula executions. At the end of these "unearthings" the KdS in Riga killed further inmates, who were obviously from its own prison and had been brought to the murder site by truck, together with the other 50 persons who were to be eliminated as "secret carriers".
Thereafter Sonderkommando 1005B became active in the Bickernieki forest, where seven to eight mass graves were dug up. The number of inmates murdered during this operation is not known, but must have been at least 40 persons. After the operation in Bickerniecki had been completed, the Kommando turned to the mass graves of Kaiserwald and in the northern surroundings of Riga. In this another 60 innmates were murdered. Due to the situation at the front Sonderkommando 1005B in Riga ended its activity at the end of September 1944. It was then shipped by sea together with inmates of the Kaisewald camp to Danzig/Stutthof. On 13 October 1944 the Red Army reconquered Riga.

In his address at the Nuremberg Trial on 19 February 1946, Soviet prosecutor Smirnov mentioned the activity of "Kommando 1005-B" and announced that "Bikerneksky Forest will be shown in the documentary film". This suggests that either Smirnov was misinformed about the documentary's contents or the documentary's images of Bickerniecki/Bikerneksky are not included in the copy shown on Youtube.

Two photos of mass graves in the Bickerniecki Forest, obviously taken by the Germans at the time of the killing, are shown in the blog Photos from the German East.

The massacre at the Klooga forced labour camp in Estonia was first mentioned outside the USSR in an article by W.H. Lawrence published on 6 October 1944 in the New York Times. A photo series on the USHMM website contains further images of unburned or partially burned victims of the massacre, some of which are more graphic than the images included in the documentary film shown at Nuremberg.

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