Friday, October 21, 2011

Thomas Kues on Maly Trostenets: Lying about a German Court Judgment

In a judgment issued on 21.05.1963, the Court of Assizes (Landgericht - LG) in Koblenz, German Federal Republic, sentenced several former participants in mass crimes committed in the years 1941-44 in the areas of Minsk, Koidanow, Rakow, Slonim and Sluzk in present-day Belarus, including the Maly Trostenets killing site near Minsk.

The judgment is published in the University of Amsterdam's Justiz und NS-Verbrechen collection. The Justiz und NS-Verbrechen website features the following trial summary:

Case Nr. 552
Crime Category: War Crimes, Euthanasia, Mass Extermination Crimes by Einsatzgruppen, Mass Extermination Crimes in Camps, Other Mass Extermination Crimes
Dalheimer, Karl Robert 4 Years
Harder, Arthur Alexander Judgment annulled by the BGH; no subsequent judgment found
Heuser, Georg Albert Wilhelm 15 Years
Merbach, Friedrich 7 Years
Schlegel, Rudolf 8 Years
Stark, Franz life sentence
Wilke, Artur Fritz 10 Years
LG Koblenz 630521
Country where the crime was committed: Belarus
Crime Location: Minsk, HS KL Gut Trostinez, Koidanow, Rakow, Slonim, Sluzk
Crime Date: 41-4406
Victims: Jews, Civilians, Mentally Disabled
Nationality: Soviet, German, Austrian
Agency: Polizei Sipo Minsk, Sonderkommando 1005
Subject of the proceeding: Shootings, gassings in 'gas vans', as well as burning alive of thousands of Soviet and West European Jews, who had been deported to Minsk, of Gypsies, mentally disabled, other Soviet civilians and Soviet agents, during the years1941-1944, within the jurisdictional territory of the KdS/BdS Minsk. Reprisal shootings: among them, execution of 300 men, women and children from Minsk, after the attempt on the life of Generalkommissar Kube

Published in Justiz und NS-Verbrechen Vol. XIX

The subject matter of the judgment included the defendants’ participation in the following mass executions of Jews in the area of the Kommandeur der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (Commander of Security Police and Security Service –hereinafter KdS) Minsk in the years 1942 to 1944 (numbers of victims according to the court’s findings of fact):

1. Rakow operation, 4 February 1942 – ca. 100 victims
2. Minsk/Koldanow operation, 1-3 March 1942 – at least 3,000 victims
3. Transport operations, 11 May to 9 October 1942 – at least 13,500 victims
4. Slonim operation, April, May or June 1942 – at least 200 victims
5. Minsk ghetto operation, 28-30 July 1942 – at least 9,000 victims
6. Sluzk operation, 8 February 1943 – at least 1,600 victims
7. Shooting of Jews employed at the Generalkommissariat in Minsk, 20 July 1943 – 70 victims
8. Liquidation of the Minsk ghetto, autumn 1943 – at least 4,000 victims
9. Final executions prior to the retreat from Minsk, June 1944 – ca. 500 victims.

The so-called transport operations (item 3) being the subject of Kues’ falsehood that this blog is meant to expose, a closer look at the court’s findings of fact regarding these operations is required.

In November 1941 a total of about 7,000 Jews were sent to Minsk from various cities in the Reich and the Protectorate Bohemia and Moravia (Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin, Brünn, Bremen and Vienna). They occupied a part of the ghetto cleared of local Jews in mass shootings that took place from 7 to 11 November, which was separated from the local Jews’ ghetto that held about 18,000 inhabitants after the November shootings. Originally it had been planned to transport about 25,000 Jews from the Reich and the Protectorate to the General District White Ruthenia (the fate of Jews in this district is discussed in the blog More «Evidence for the Presence of "Gassed" Jews in the Occupied Eastern Territories» (1)). However, transportation difficulties caused by the strong winter led to a suspension of these transports in December 1941. Most of the Jews on these transports succumbed to hardship in the ghetto or fell victim to the various killing operations in Minsk mentioned above.

Transports from the Reich to Minsk were resumed in May 1942, by which time the Nazi government had decided to wipe out the Jews throughout Europe and not just those of the occupied Soviet territories. In April 1942 Heydrich went personally to Minsk and informed KdS Strauch that now also the German and other European Jews were to be exterminated, announcing that the transports of Jews from the west to Minsk, interrupted in late 1941, would be resumed and ordering that the arrivals be immediately killed. In accordance with Heydrich’s announcement a total of 16 freight trains arrived at Minsk between May and October 1942, carrying a total of 15,002 Jews from Vienna, Königsberg, Theresienstadt and Cologne, of whom at least 13,500 were killed immediately after arrival. In a table reproduced in Part 1 of Kues "preliminary historiographical survey" regarding Maly Trostenets, the court listed the train number, place of origin, number of deportees and date and place of arrival of each of these trains, as well as the minimum number of deportees from each train found to have been killed immediately upon arrival.

Regarding the evidence underlying its findings of fact as concerns the transports, the number of deportees and the numbers killed, the court’s statements translate as follows:

The findings of fact about the trains’ departure station, the number of occupants, the place and the time of unloading are mainly based on the Reichsbahn files of the Main Railway Direction Center (Haupteisenbahndirektion Mitte) in Minsk, which are in Soviet possession and were available to the jury court in photocopy. Only the arrival date of transport Da 201 cannot be gleaned from the Reichsbahn documents. It has been credibly stated by the witness Seb., one of this transport’s survivors. The authenticity of the Reichsbahn documents is not in doubt. Their contents are also in accordance with the defendants’ depositions, the witness testimonies as well as other documents. Thus as concerns all transports from Vienna complete name lists with the time of departure and the place of destination Minsk have been preserved; these are kept partially as originals, partially as photocopies in the Archive of the International Red Cross’s International Tracing Service in Arolsen and were there made the subject of a legal inspection. Only in regard to some transports there are minor divergences. As it cannot be clarified which data are correct, the lower number in each case was considered in the defendants’ favor. This procedure was adopted regarding the transport Da 40, proven by the Reichsbahn files alone, for which various documents mention the number of those transported as having been 465 and 470 (photocopies nos. 27 872 and 27877), whereas elsewhere 770 are mentioned (photocopy nº 27 891).
In order to establish how many of the deported Jews were killed after arrival, a certain deduction had to be made from the number of transported persons. This because possibly some people died a natural death on the transport already. It was furthermore considered that always a number of persons were selected for work at the Trostinez estate. The statements of defendants and witnesses in this respect vary. The witness Seb., who arrived with the first transport from Vienna in Minsk on 11 May 1942 and since then lived on the estate under the name Hoch., stated in her read-out interrogation by a public prosecutor on 20 March 1962 that from each transport 20-40 people were taken to the estate as workers. On the other hand the former co-defendant Mad., who undertook the selection on several occasions, spoke of 50-80 persons in his also read-out deposition before a public prosecutor on 7 February 1961. In order to take into account all eventualities, the jury court assumed a minimum number of only 900 victims for each of the transports that carried about 1,000 occupants. As from the two smaller transports DA 40 with 465 and Da 230 with 500 persons accordingly fewer workers were selected, the number of those killed has here been established as 400 and 500.

None of the deportees arriving on these transports were taken into the Minsk ghetto, notwithstanding the defendant Heuser’s claims to the contrary regarding two transports in the summer of 1942. The court did not believe the defendant because none of the other defendants made a similar claim and five witnesses who had survived the Minsk ghetto and would surely have noticed these arrivals did not recall anything in this direction. The reason alleged by the defendant for the diversion of these transports – the dead end track via which deportees had been taken to the Trostenets killing site was supposed to have been blocked by an anti-aircraft battery – was also not considered credible by the court, insofar as the KdS could easily have found a means to overcome such hindrance.

As concerns the killing procedure for these transports, Kues has already been so kind to provide an extensive partial translation of the court’s findings of fact, which I have complemented with parts left out by Kues and posted on the HC forum’s thread Partial translation from the judgment LG Koblenz v. 21 Mai 1963.

These detailed findings of fact with all their harrowing particulars, which are largely quoted by Kues himself, make it rather hard to understand how Kues could with a straight face write down the following claim in Part 1 of his "preliminary historiographical survey" (along with other claims there and in Part 2, which may be the subject of future blogs):

While the court took pains to determine the number of deportation trains, their departure and arrival dates, as well as the number of deportees, there is no hint in the verdict that any kind of verification was carried out of the claim that the vast majority of the deportees had indeed been murdered following their arrival at Trostenets. Rather it appears that this was taken judicial notice of based on a sworn statement that the former Kds Minsk head Eduard Strauch had made in January 1948.

Judicial notice is a rule in the law of evidence that allows a fact to be introduced into evidence if the truth of that fact is so notorious or well known that it cannot be refuted. Rule 201 of the US Federal Rules of Evidence allows a court to take judicial notice of a fact that is "not subject to reasonable dispute in that it is either (1) generally known within the territorial jurisdiction of the trial court or (2) capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned". The German Criminal Procedure Code (Strafprozessordnung - StPO) does not contain such provision, but it allows the court to reject an application to take evidence made by the prosecution or the defense for a number of specified reasons, one being that the fact to be proved or disproved by the evidence whose taking is applied for is a matter of common knowledge (Section 244 paragraph 3 second sentence and Section 245 paragraph 2 third sentence of the StPO).

So what is Kues asking his readers to believe here?

He is obviously asking them to believe that:

a) Strauch’s sworn statement made in January 1948 contained all details about the killing process mentioned in the court’s findings of fact, from the choice and precise location of the killing site over the organization and execution of the killings (including the way intended participants were summoned to take part, the type and quantity of weapons employed and ammunition issued, the killing method, the ruses used to mislead the victims and other specifics) down to the particulars of the gas vans, the background of their use and the aspect of the people killed therein;

b) A jury court of a democratic state of law like the German Federal Republic, bound by defendant-friendly procedural rules (including but not limited to Section 244 paragraph 2 of the StPO, which rules that "In order to establish the truth, the court shall, proprio motu, extend the taking of evidence to all facts and means of proof relevant to the decision"), flagrantly violated these rules, for instead of meticulously reconstructing the killing process and each individual defendant’s participation therein on hand of eyewitness testimonies (whose credibility it could assess through direct interrogation and cross examination) and of the documentary evidence at its disposal, the court is supposed to have relied for findings of fact leading to far-reaching decisions about the defendants’ future lives (namely whether they would spend the rest of their lives or a considerable part thereof in prison) on nothing but a sworn statement made almost fifteen years before, moreover pronouncing the claims made in that statement to be facts of common knowledge.

If the court’s findings of fact about the massacres themselves already make Kues’ above-quoted claim seem rather absurd, this applies all the more to the findings of fact about what each defendant did at the killing site. Take, for example, the court’s findings of fact about the first two transport operations in which the defendant Heuser took part (my translation, emphases added):

a. At the shooting of 900 people from the first railway train Da 201 from Vienna on 11 May 1942 he [Heuser] was allocated as a marksman. In the early morning he drove with his car to the copse near the Trostinez estate that commander Strauch had determined to be the execution site. He positioned himself in the line of marksmen and fired with his pistol first on a Jew not mortally wounded by someone else who already lay in the pit. In the further course of the execution he killed those led up to him by a shot in the neck. Heuser remembers to have fired "like an automaton". Now and then he switched places with a member of the cordoning detachment. How many people he shot himself cannot be established.
The defendant Heuser admits to this sequence of events. His confession is credible.

b. According to the plans of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt in Berlin at that time, which were later modified, after the transport Da 201 another 17 transports with 1,000 forcibly deported Jews each were to be brought to Minsk until early September and exterminated there. The competent directorates of the German Reichsbahn thus each issued timetable instructions for their district, in which the exact course of the train with stations and times was established. For the line between Wolkowysk and Minsk there applied Timetable Instruction Nr. 40 from the Haupteisenbahndirektion Minsk dated 13 May 1942. According to this instruction, between 16 May and 5 September one train per week with about 1,000 "re-settlers" was to arrive in Minsk each Saturday; these trains bore the numbers Da 202 to Da 218. The transport scheduled for 16 May 1942 was cancelled for unknown reasons, so that the next one would have been due on 23 May, the Saturday before Pentecost. As the arrivals were to be killed without further delay, the timetable instructions would have meant that over a period of several months the men of the KdS would have had to carry out executions on weekends.

In order to avoid this, commander Strauch instructed SS-Obersturmführer Lütkenhus, who was in charge of Jewish matters instead of Burkhardt since late March/early April 1942, to negotiate with the Haupteisenbahndirektion in Minsk. On 22 May there was a meeting between Lütkenhus on the one hand and on the other Reichsbahn High Official (Reichsbahnoberrat) Reichardt as well as the witnesses Lo. and Ka., who at the time belonged to the directorate as Reichsbahn officials (Reichsbahnräte). On the following day the defendant Heuser confirmed the result of the meeting in writing. The letter he signed himself pointing to his representation capacity. This he did because commander Strauch had gone on home leave the day before and appointed him representative in his absence.
The letter had the following wording:

The Commander of Security Police and Security Service White Ruthenia
Minsk, 23.5.1942

To the
Reichsbahndirektion - Mitte .
Att. Mr. Reichsoberrat Reichardt
- oViA-

Subject: Agreement about transports of Jews from the Reich
Reference: Meeting with SS-Obersturmführer Lütkenhus on 22.5.42

Following today’s meeting between Mr. Reichsoberrat Reichardt and the Reichsbahnräte Lo. und Ka. with SS-Obersturmführer Lütkenhus, I briefly summarize the result of the negotiations as follows:

1. The transport expected here on the Saturday before Pentecost shall be detained at Koydanoff so that it only arrives at Minsk in the night to the Tuesday after Pentecost. The exact time of arrival I shall yet ask about there.

2. The Reichsbahndirektion - Mitte shall apply at the Reichsbahn’s competent service for a corresponding postponement of departure times also for the further transports of Jews.

3. The Reichsbahndirektion is prepared to, until approval of this schedule change, keep on its own initiative all further Jewish transports during weekends at Koydanoff in such a manner that the trains arrive at Minsk in the night to Monday or another weekday except Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

4. The Reichsbahndirektion shall as far as possible lead the transports upon arrival at Minsk to a track that allows for the approach of the trucks employed by me.

For the obligingness shown in the above matter I express my special thanks.

In representation Dr. Georg Heuser.

After 22 May, when Lütkenhus had spoken with the Haupteisenbahndirektion Mitte, the witness Ka. issued an instruction by railway service telegram that the train Da 203 was to depart at Koidanow only on 26 May at 4:39 hours and arrive at the Minsk freight station at 6:09 hours on the same day. At the same time the witness directed that Da-trains were until further notice to be stopped at Koidanow and await special instructions regarding the continuation of their journey.
According to this change of schedule the transport Da 203 from Vienna was received by the detachments of the KdS only on 26 May 1942. The defendant Heuser again took part in the execution of this transport as a marksman. He killed an unknown number of people. In the afternoon, when the executions were finished or approaching completion, there also appeared at the pit the witness Dr. Kun. He was a criminal police officer and had the equivalence rank of an SS-Hauptsturmführer; he had been in Minsk only for a few days. According to his own words the defendant Heuser had "invited" him to come and watch the matter. The witness was so shocked by the sight of the pit filled with hundreds of bodies that he couldn’t eat afterwards. In total the operation claimed at least 900 victims.

The defendant Heuser credibly admits to having himself shot a number of people during this operation. However, he disputes having directed the measure; he claims that this had been done by Burkhardt. It speaks for a responsible function of Heuser’s that, as he admits, he was at the time representing the absent commander. However, this doesn’t exclude the possibility that prior to his departure Strauch put another SS leader in charge of carrying out and directing the operations taking place during his absence. After all, also on other occasions the carrying out of a mass execution did not always lie in the hands of the commander or his representative, but was also entrusted to other leaders. The letter sent to the Haupteisenbahndirektion on 23 May also provides no clarity. As it referred to all future transports of Jews, Heuser possibly signed it only because he happened to be the commander’s representative at the time, but not in the capacity as supervisor of the next extermination operation. It is more conspicuous that he summoned the witness Dr. Kun. to come and watch the matter. The witness assures, however, that he didn’t understand the words as a service order and didn’t feel obliged to come out. His only intention had been to certify himself with his own eyes of what was going on there. He also doesn’t know whether Heuser directed the shooting. With this evidence Heuser’s defense that he was only a marksman cannot be disproved.

One can see that the court based its findings of fact regarding Heuser’s participation in the killings on 11 May and 26 May 1942 not on Strauch’s 1948 statement but on
a) Heuser’s own deposition,
b) Heuser’s memo of 23 May 1942 and the related testimonies of witnesses Lo. and Ka., and
c) the witness Dr. Kun.’s testimony about what he saw on 26 May at the killing site he had been invited to "watch" by Heuser.
One can also see that the court cautiously applied the in dubio pro reo principle, accepting Heuser’s defense that he had been just a shooter and not the one directing the execution on 26 May, despite strong indications to the contrary.

Kues would like his readers to believe that Heuser and the other defendants renounced to the obvious first line of defense (denying the occurrence of the crime itself) against better knowledge ("The defendants naturally resorted to the well-known strategy of denying personal involvement in certain alleged cases of mass murder and claiming that they acted on orders under the threat of death.") because a court with no regard for its legal obligations pronounced the killings themselves to be facts of common knowledge (supposedly pursuant to Strauch’s 1948 statement) and thus left them no other choice but to give up what would naturally have been their best defense. However, there is no indication in the judgment that the court rejected an application to take evidence on grounds that the facts claimed by Strauch in 1948 were common knowledge, and this even though one would expect a ruling that rejected the taking of evidence to be expressly mentioned in the judgment (as such rulings – based on reasons other than common knowledge - are mentioned, for example, in the judgment LG Frankfurt/Main vom 19./20.8.1965, 4 Ks 2/63). What is more, there is no mention whatsoever of Strauch’s 1948 statement in the context of the court’s findings of fact about the transport operations between May and October 1942.

Strauch’s 1948 statement is mentioned, however, in the context of the shooting of 70 Jews employed at the Generalkommissariat in Minsk on 20 July 1943 (the massacre mentioned in item 7 above), this because Strauch’s statement had been the basis of a charge brought against the defendant Heuser whereby said defendant had commanded the execution squad in this killing. The court’s assessment of Strauch’s statement and the context thereof are worth quoting in their entirety, especially but not only for what they reveal about Thomas Kues’ intellectual dishonesty and the abysmal quality of his research. Emphases in the following translation are mine, as are the quote marks around the text of Strauch’s file note.

On 20 July 1943 a detachment of the KdS department in Minsk killed 70 Jews who had been employed at the local Generalkommissariat.
About this occurrence SS-Obersturmbannführer Strauch, who had shortly before been nominated Ic [assistant] to the Chief of Bandit-fighting Units von dem B., prepared the following "file note" on the same day:

"On Tuesday, 20 July 1943 around 7:00 hours, according to orders received, I arrested the 70 Jews employed by the General Commissioner White Ruthenia and subjected them to special treatment.
On the same day at 10:00 hours I received a call from the Generalkommissariat whereby the Gauleiter wished to speak to me immediately.
I complied with this wish.
The Gauleiter made an outwardly calm impression, while one could hear from the way he spoke that he was extremely upset. He asked me how it had occurred to me to arrest the Jews employed at his office. I stated that I had had strict orders to carry out this operation. He demanded of me a written order. I replied that for me a verbal order was sufficient, as I could carry it out just as correctly as a written order. Gauleiter Kube then emphasized that this was a serious intervention in his sovereign rights; the Jewish workers were subordinated to him and it was not admissible that the Reichsführer SS or the Obergruppenführer von dem B. interfered in his Generalkommissariat. Furthermore he understood this measure as a chicanery directed against him personally. If only at his office but not at all Wehrmacht and other offices the Jews were removed, he had to look on this as a personal attack. The Obergruppenführer von dem B. had during his last stay in Minsk been his guest until 3:00 hours in the morning. During his last visit, however, he had let nothing be heard of himself. He thus had to assume that in this connection the Jew action was meant as a special affront against him. Of course he could not arm his men to keep the SD from carrying out the arrest. He thus was forced to bow to violence. He wished to leave no doubts, however,
that in the future he rejected any cooperation with the police – especially with the security police, and he would also not permit that a member of the Security Police entered his office building in the future. "

After short remarks about other subjects Strauch continued:

"I pointed out that I could not understand how German people could get into a discussion over some Jews. I [added that I] could again and again see that my men and I are accused of barbarism and sadism. Even the fact that Jews meant for special treatment have their gold tooth fillings removed in an orderly manner by specialist doctors had been made the subject of conversations. Kube replied that the manner of our proceeding was unworthy of a German person and of the Germany of Kant and Goethe. If Germany’s reputation throughout the world was being undermined, this was alone our fault. Apart from that it was also correct that my men got a downright hard-on with these executions (dass meine Männer sich an diesen Exekutionen geradezu aufgeilen würden). I protested energetically against this depiction and emphasized that it was deplorable that we, on top of this nasty work, also had dirt poured upon us.
Thus the conversation ended. "

When after the war Strauch was imprisoned at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg as a suspect in the Einsatzgruppen trial, he was also heard about the above file note. In a sworn statement dated 22 January 1948 he stated the following:

On 20 July 1943, that is, at the time when this incident took place, I was already for a longer time 1c to the Chief of Bandit-fighting Units, i.e. no longer Commander of the Security Police and Security Service in White Ruthenia. Our headquarters was in East Prussia. My chief, Obergruppenführer von dem B., flew with me to Minsk at that time. He had learned that Kube was still employing Jews. He gave me the express order that these Jews were to be arrested and liquidated, specifically with the assistance of the Commander of Security Police and Security Service in White Ruthenia.
I transmitted this order to the commander, my successor. He then had the Jews arrested and executed by Obersturmführer Hauser, after he had without success attempted to reach von dem B. on the phone and ask him to revoke the order in view of the consequences. The file note I made in order to have proof towards von dem B. of the carrying out of the order given to me and to describe Kubes’ comment. Kube was informed about the matter by my successor …"

At the KdS department in Minsk there was no SS-Obersturmführer Hauser at the time. Strauch actually meant the defendant Heuser. This defendant is thus accused of having carried out the execution of the Jews who lost their lives on 20 July 1943. He denies this and claims that he only heard about this incident after the war. During his time in Minsk it had also not come to his knowledge that due to the killing of the so-called domestic Jews there had been an intervention by Kube. It was true that at that time Dr. Isselhorst had already been the commander. He remembered, however, that Strauch had on one occasion again appeared alone at the office. He also had no doubt that Strauch had meant him when mentioning Obersturmführer Hauser. Why Strauch had unjustly accused him of the killing he could not understand.

With the result of the taking of evidence the defendant Heuser cannot be confuted. It is true that Strauch’s file note of 20 July 1943 provides the certainty that on this day Kube’s 70 domestic Jews were arrested and executed. If Strauch had already then mentioned Heuser as leader of the execution detachment, this would be impeccable proof. Yet in his note Strauch mentioned no names; only in a later affidavit of 22 January 1948 he incriminated Heuser. As 5 ½ years had gone by in the meantime, it cannot be excluded already according to general human experience that Strauch was possibly wrong and fell victim to a case of mistaken identity. After all in a multitude of similar incidents had occurred at Minsk. Furthermore Strauch himself pointed out that he had transmitted the order to his successor, and that it had been his successor who had had the Jews arrested and executed by Obersturmführer Hauser. It is thus not sure at all whether Strauch was present when the leader of the execution detachment was chosen. His reference to the defendant Hauser was therefore possibly a mere conjecture or rendering of hearsay.

It also cannot be excluded that Strauch incriminated Heuser against better knowledge in order to cover up the extent of his own participation. For according to his expression in his file note of 20 July 1943 ("… I arrested the 70 Jews employed by the General Commissioner White Ruthenia and subjected them to special treatment") he had possibly himself been the one who led the execution detachment provided by his successor in the KdS function. How questionable his veraciousness was is shown especially by the information in his sworn statement regarding the dissolution of the Sluzk ghetto in February 1943. In this respect he claimed that the dissolution of the Sluzk ghetto had been a "pure anti-partisan" operation. He claimed to have himself found out on a reconnaissance mission with 20 to 25 other men that the ghetto was "bristling with hand weapons and heavy machine guns". Only for this reason von Gottberg is supposed to have decided to clear out the ghetto. The summoning of the Jews to hand over their weapons had allegedly been "answered with surprise fire from light and heavy weapons". The ghetto had thereupon been literally "stormed", partially with heavy weapons. The surviving Jews are supposed to have been shot at von Gottberg’s orders. He, Strauch, had been involved in the whole operation only insofar has he had carried out the prior reconnaissance of the ghetto and later participated in the storming. All this is said by the same man who in a detailed "commando order" had with pedantic exactitude prepared the dissolution of the Sluzk ghetto and the shooting of its peaceful inhabitants – an eloquent testimony of how arbitrarily Strauch handled the truth.
In its doubts about the credibility of Strauch’s sworn statement the jury court sees itself confirmed by the expert witness Prof. Dr. von Baey. For in the years 1947/48 – the witness at that time was director of the Nuremberg City Hospital’s Psychiatric and Neurologic Clinic – the witness had had to assess Strauch on behalf of the International Military Tribunal. The witness informs that Strauch had been profoundly ill; he had suffered from epilepsy with loss of mental function and psychogenic overlay (Epilepsie mit geistigem Abbau und psychogener Überlagerung). Due to this state he had mixed up many things and shown a tendency to conceal matters. His credibility thus had to be considered extremely questionable, so that no reliable information had been expectable from him.
Strauch’s statement can thus be accorded no evidentiary value.

As there was no other evidence that Heuser had led the execution detachment that had killed Kube’s 70 domestic Jews on 20 July 1943, the defendant was acquitted of this charge.

So one can see that, far from basing findings of fact unfavorable to defendants – namely such about the massacres of Jews deported to Minsk/Trostenets - on Strauch’s 1948 sworn statement, let alone proclaiming Strauch’s claims to be common knowledge facts as Kues would have it, the Koblenz Court of Assizes expressly dismissed Strauch’s sworn statement as completely unreliable and thus acquitted the defendant Heuser of the charges that had been brought against him on grounds of Strauch’s sworn statement. (I’m using Kues’ term here, by the way – the correct English translation of eidesstattliche Versicherung or eidesstattliche Erklärung is not "sworn statement" but "affidavit").

What does this tell us about Thomas Kues, who must be assumed to have read at least those parts of the judgment stating the court’s findings of fact and mentioning the evidence that these findings of fact had been based on? (Footnote 30 in Part 1 of Kues "preliminary historiographical survey" actually suggests that Kues read the judgment all the way to the list of cited documents at the end, where «there is no trace of any preserved written Heydrich order from this time period; on the other hand we find a “Sworn statement by Strauch from 22 January 1948”, the source: “Bundesarchiv Koblenz, All. Proz. XXVII ZA/4 fol. 1-12 plus associated Transcripts Volume 7, 978ff.” (ibid., p. 317)».)

It tells us nothing that is not yet known, actually. It is just further confirmation that Thomas Kues is a liar who does not shrink from outrageously deceiving his readers about the contents of his sources, to the point of trying to sell them – as in this case – the very opposite of what such sources actually convey. And it is further confirmation that Kues’ lies are not the most intelligent. When he tried to sell his readers the idea that Prof. Kola had been forced to stop an excavation near the Sobibór mass graves due to underground waters at a depth of 3.60 meters, deliberately omitting from his quote the passage of Kola’s text whereby the excavation had stopped at a depth of 5 to 5.10 meters, he may have entertained the not altogether unrealistic hope that neither I nor any other potential critic had access to Prof. Kola’s report about his archaeological work at Sobibór let alone an English translation thereof. But how on earth could he have expected (as he apparently did) that an eventual critic of his "preliminary historiographical survey" would not look up a judgment that is probably available (as part of the Justiz und NS-Verbrechen collection) in the library of any German university that has a law faculty? Maybe Kues has simply ceased to care about credibility (assuming he ever did care) and is just writing for the benefit of "Revisionist" true believers who will gladly swallow his "historiographical surveys" hook, line and sinker. I hope he is not suffering from an ailment akin to that which led the former SS-Obersturmbannführer Strauch to mix up facts and falsehood at Nuremberg, as testified by expert witness Prof. Dr. von Baey before the LG Koblenz.

While these conclusions don’t mean that I won’t probe Kues "preliminary historiographical survey" for other instructive finds, I’d say that the stupid lie about the Koblenz court’s assessment of Strauch’s 1948 affidavit is sufficient by itself to show that said "survey" is just another worthless piece of "Revisionist" propaganda.

Kues’ propaganda has at least one merit, however, in that it gave me the opportunity to inform our readers about the judgment discussed in this blog and a number of interesting documents. Some of these are transcribed in the above quotes from the judgment; others will be the subject of future blogs. Stay tuned.


Jonathan Harrison said...

Kues' claim is refuted by Strauch's own testimony. Strauch never admitted to killing the totals listed in Kube's report of 31.7.42:

"Strauch first attempted to deny the authenticity of this letter and then abandoned that position, claiming that Kobe exaggerated the figures. The Tribunal is convinced that the letter is authentic, and that the statements contained therein represent the truth even if not accepting the absolute accuracy of the figures down to the last digit."

Strauch accepted responsibility for only 17,000 deaths:

'In response to a question regarding the Jewish problem in White Ruthenia, Strauch replied that the Fuehrer Order was valid in White Ruthenia, as everywhere else. He testified that he had a conference with Kube and that Kube told him Jews were needed and he could not do without these Jews, since they should be used in bringing in the harvest, working in an armament factory, and doing other jobs. The defendant thereupon talked to Heydrich and was directed to postpone the execution of the Fuehrer Order until the harvest was brought in.

The defendant testified that, in February — May 1942, 7,000 Jews had been killed. When Strauch arrived, Kube asked him not to continue this system, and the defendant said that he could not begin to shoot Jews on the first day of his arrival.

Responding to a question as to the number of Jews executed during the defendant's time of service he replied —

"You mean my time? Oh yes, well, if I count those Jews who were later killed by Gottberg, when I was G-2, when I count them along with the others, then I would say 17,000."

He admitted that, to his own knowledge, a Jew had to be killed just because he was a Jew.

The defendant admitted that he saw probably 60 to 90 executions.'

Jonathan Harrison said...

Kues is wrong to state that Heuser and his co-defendants claimed to have "acted on orders under the threat of death." Heuser actually "accepted full responsibility for his guilt", and was released in 1969 because it was believed that he expressed remorse.