Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thomas Kues on Maly Trostenets: Trying to discredit the Arlt Reports

A large part of Thomas Kues’ article The Maly Trostenets "Extermination Camp"—A Preliminary Historiographical Survey, Part 2 is spent discussing the activity reports of an SS unit known as Gruppe Arlt, which Kues claims are the only documents that connect the Maly Trostenets killing site with mass killings.

These reports contain several terse but unequivocal mentions to large-scale mass executions, which cannot be explained away as referring to anything else. So it's no surprise that Thomas Kues does what any defense attorney would do in such case, which is to call in question the documents' authenticity and accuracy. This blog examines the consistency of Kues’ arguments in this respect.

Facsimiles of the activity reports signed by SS-Unterscharführer Arlt were provided by Jonathan Harrison from the online archives of Yad Vashem and are reproduced hereafter: YVA cover page; report of 17.5.1942; report of 16.6.1942: page 1, page 2; report of 3.8.1942: page 1, page 2; report of 25.9.1942: page 1, page 2, page 3, page 4.

Kues provided a complete English translation of the Gruppe Arlt reports, which is transcribed in the HC forum’s thread The Reports of SS-Unterscharführer Arlt, highlighting the parts that refer to large-scale mass executions or the preparatory work for such mass executions.

Kues also translated the table of transports from the Reich to Minsk/Maly Trostenets from the judgment mentioned in the blog Thomas Kues on Maly Trostenets: Lying about a German Court Judgment. Kues translation is reproduced hereafter from Part 1 of his "preliminary historiographical survey", as is is of interest for the discussion of Kues’ arguments (tables can be enlarged by clicking on them).

Regarding the provenance of the reports, Kues informs his readers that

In the 1965 documentation Unsere Ehre heisst Treue, which is the source for the Arlt reports given by both Gerlach and Kohl, we are informed that the war diaries and activity reports of the 1st Company of the Waffen SS special-forces battalion were among "new material recently discovered" at the Czechoslovakian State Archives in Castle Zásmuky, Kolin.30 The editor(s) provides no explanation as to how these documents were discovered, by whom, or the reason for their presence in the Czechoslovakian archives. Later the reports were evidently copied and incorporated into the archival collections of the Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen in Ludwigsburg (ZStL).31 The "recent" discovery of the reports most likely took place after 1963, because they were clearly not introduced as evidence at the Koblenz trial. There is no mention in Unsere Ehre heisst Treue of the documents ever being authenticated, and I have found no indication that Arlt himself survived the war, or that in such case he was confronted with the documents.

Kues has a problem with the fact that the reports’ addressee is not mentioned in the reports:

The most striking feature common to all of the four reports is that they are lacking an addressee. Who was the recipient of the report? The reader has no way of knowing. The only heading provided is the name of Arlt's unit, the place and date, and the word "activity report" (Tätigkeitsbericht). In contrast to this we have reproduced in the same documentation32 an activity report written by SS-Unterscharführer Lipps (who also appears in the Arlt report of 16 June). It is dated 27 May 1942 at the Aussenstelle Wilejka, typewritten, neatly paginated (in Arabic numerals) and states as its addressee a certain SS-Untersturmführer Burgdorf stationed in Minsk (cf. Ill. 3). The Lipps activity report mentions four operations against Jews ("Judenaktion") – in Krzywice on 28 April, in Dolhinov on 29-30 April, in Wolozyn on 10 May and again in Dolhinov on 21 May. As for the last operation we learn that thereby "the Jewish problem in this town was solved with finality", but aside from this possible veiled reference there are no mentions of mass killings in the report, explicit or implicit.

Kues doesn’t explain what, other than mass killing, Lipps’ "possibly veiled reference" (to operations against Jews and to the Jewish problem in one town having been "solved with finality") could possibly have meant.

The difference in presentation between Lipps’ exemplary report of 27.5.1942 and Arlt’s reports is hardly an indication against the authenticity of the latter. Arlt may simply have been less pedantic than Lipps in the presentation of his reports. The fact that Arlt’s reports don’t mention their addressee doesn’t mean that they didn’t have one. They may have been handed over directly to the superior they were meant for, perhaps together with a cover letter addressed to that superior that was originally filed together with the report but for some reason lost when the reports were recovered or when they were placed in the archives.

Kues’ next arguments relate to Arlt's signatures:

Arlt's form of signature also varies from report to report. On the 17 May report we have a tiny, almost unreadable handwritten signature (presumably "Arlt") under which is typewritten "SS-Unterscharführer" (using the SS-rune). On the 16 June report we have a handwritten signature ("Arlt") of about the same size, clearer now, under which is typewritten "Unterscharführer" followed by a typed period (full stop). No "SS", either typed with the special rune or with ordinary letters, can be seen preceding the word "Unterscharführer", but there is a small dot just to the left of the "U" which might possibly be the right end of a hyphen connecting a missing "SS" with "Unterscharführer". On the 3 August report we have a somewhat larger handwritten signature ("Arlt") under which is typewritten "SS-Unterscharführer" using the SS-rune, followed by a typed period. On the 25 September report, finally, the signature is for the first time preceded by the abbreviation "[g]ez." (gezeichnet, signed; the "g" is not visible, likely due to a problem with the typewriter). The signature itself is typewritten ("Arlt"). Under this is typewritten "SS-Unterscharführer" sans concluding period. We also have here to the lower left a note of attestation signed SS-Rottenführer Auer, who was to substitute for Arlt during the latter's furlough. For a facsimile see Ill. 5.

A comparison of the three handwritten signatures (cf. Ill. 4) further shows that the "A" and the "t" in the 3 August report look radically different from the corresponding letters in the two other handwritten signatures.

A look at the facsimiles reproduced below reveals no significant differences in size between Arlt’s signatures on the reports dated 17 May, 16 June and 3 August 1942. The size difference that Kues claims may have resulted from differently sized facsimiles.

Arlt's signature on the report of 17.5.1942

Arlt's signature on the report of 16.6.1942

Arlt's signature on the report of 3.8.1942

The signature on the report of 17.5.1942 is not "tiny" in comparison to the other signatures. It’s just so faded that one can barely see it. Nevertheless, what one can see is enough to recognize that it’s equal to the signature on the report of 16.6.1942. On the signature of 16.6.1942 one can see what looks like a dot after Arlt’s name; comparison with the signature of 3.8.1942 shows that the dot is actually an extension of the "t"’s crossbar, which also appears (better connected with the "t") in the latter signature. The "A" in the signature of 3.8.1942 is more exuberant than in the other two signatures (suggesting that Arlt was in a different, perhaps happier or more excited mood when he made that signature), but the "r", the "l" and the "t" are quite similar to those in the signature of 16.6.1942. Speaking of a radical difference between the letters is something of an exaggeration, at least as concerns the "t". Besides, what would such difference mean? Would a forger manipulating the reports of 16 June and 3 August 1942 (both of which have incriminating references to mass executions) have made radically different signatures on either document, instead of trying to make them look as similar as possible? Would a forger trying to emulate the signature of 16.6.1942 on the report of 3.8.1942 have made the "A" in the letter so different from the "A" in the former? This seems rather improbable, and certainly less probable than mood-dependent differences between the signatures’ first letters. In highlighting the difference between the signatures, Kues is actually arguing against his own case.

Kues' next set of arguments deals with the "problematic content" of the reports.

Kues counts a total of 14 massacres of Jews mentioned in Arlt’s reports near the "Commander's Estate", i.e. at the Maly Trostenets killing site (according to the Koblenz Court of Assizes’ judgment quoted in Part 1 of Kues "preliminary historiographical survey", this site was "a copse of half-grown pine trees located some 3-5 km from the Trostinez estate [Gut Trostinez]", which was "a former kolkhoz which was taken over and put in use by the KdS department in April 1942"), of which he lists the following 13:

If Kues had read Arlt’s report of 17.5.1942 and the Koblenz judgment more carefully, he might have realized that the prison-clearing massacre mentioned at the start of this report (misdated to 30.5.1942, the date was obviously 30.4.1942 as the respective paragraph describes the unit’s activity prior to 4.5.1942) did not take place at Maly Trostenets. The "Commander’s Estate" is first mentioned in the next paragraph, describing the unit’s activity on 4 May 1942 and the four subsequent days, obviously as a place different from the site 22 km outside Minsk where the pits mentioned in the first paragraph had been dug. According to the Koblenz’ courts’ findings of fact partially translated by Kues, the killing site near the Trostenets estate had been prepared in order to handle the transports that were to arrive starting May 1942:

In order to be able carry out the extermination of so many people smoothly and within a short period of time, Kommandeur Strauch made extensive organizational preparations. As the execution site he selected a copse of half-grown pine trees located some 3-5 km from the Trostinez estate [Gut Trostinez]. With the Trostinez estate is meant a former kolkhoz which was taken over and put in use by the KdS department in April 1942. It was located some 15 km southeast of Minsk and could be reached by the Minsk-Smilovichi-Mogilev road, from which a branch road led some hundred meters south to the estate. Seen from the estate the pine copse was located across the road to Smilovichi. In order to reach it from the estate one had to first return to the road, then follow it for some kilometers in the direction of Smilovichi, and finally use a dirt track diverting to the north, which passed immediately by the copse. It was thus located remote from any human settlement and was from a distance hard for the eye to penetrate.

The first mass killing at the copse near the Trostenets estate was the shooting of the deportees arriving on the train Da 201 from Vienna on 11.5.1942, in which the defendant Heuser took part (see the blog Thomas Kues on Maly Trostenets: Lying about a German Court Judgment). The prison clearing massacre on 30 April 1942 took place at another site. In his book Kalkulierte Morde, German historian Christian Gerlach mentions that there were several other killing sites in the Minsk area besides Trostenets (footnote 1472 on pp. 770-71, my translation):

There were a number of other extermination sites in the surroundings of Minsk. Beside the graves of Glinishchi in the north-west with about 66,000 and at Urechye with an estimated 12,500 (officially 30 000) destroyed prisoners of war there were the pit of Drosdy (10,000 dead civilians) and the graves of Petrashkevichi (14,000 to 20,000 dead civilians; officially 25,000 according to one source, 54,000 according to another) and at Tuchinka, at the Jewish cemetery, in the cultural park etc. See as above and Kohl, note 132, pages 264 and following. The mentioned deviations of my estimation from the official figures result partially – not always – insofar as the measurements of the mass graves are known. Regarding other killing sites in Minsk see Kohl, pages 77-90; Schlootz, page 75; interrogation of Eberhard Herf on 26.12.1945, ZStl 202 AR-Z 184/67, Volume 1, page 67.

Prison clearing massacres were a regular occurrence during the Nazi occupation of Belarus, as also mentioned by Gerlach (as above, p. 772, my translation):

The prisons in occupied Belarus were also sites of death. They were in most cases formally subordinated to the gendarmerie (Schutzpolizei). The arbitrarily imprisoned detainees suffered and died from beatings and torture, overcrowding, lack of heating and insufficient food. On a regular basis the prisons were emptied by mass executions in order to make room for new inmates.

In a footnote Gerlach mentions, among other evidence, prison director Arthur Günther’s deposition on 19.9.1962, whereby the prison in Minsk had between 1,200 and 1,500 inmates on average, 20 to 30 in each cell of 40-50 m². A document signed by Günther is mentioned in the blog «What is Katyn against that?»

Regarding the participation of Arlt’s unit in the liquidation of the Slonim Ghetto, Kues has the following issues:

In the report from 3 August 1942 we read that Gruppe Arlt departed for Baranovichi on 27 June to participate in an operation, and that during the course of this operation it evacuated the Slonim Ghetto. We further read that "on this day" some 4,000 Slonim Jews were killed. Any reader would take it that the mass killing in question was carried out on 27 June, as no other date is mentioned, but all other available sources state that the liquidation of the Slonim Ghetto began on 29 June. Since we learn in the same report that Gruppe Arlt returned to Minsk on 30 June, it is possible to argue that the unit was indeed active in Slonim on 29 June, the day before its return to base, and that Arlt simply forgot to mention the actual date of the massacre. The official historiography on the Slonim Ghetto liquidation, however, offers a further contradiction.

Yitzhak Arad describes the events as follows:
"The annihilation of Jews in the Slonim ghetto, which housed 10,000 to 12,000 Jews, including several thousand from neighboring townships, took place between June 29 and July 15 [1942]. Prior to the murder action, in May, 500 Jewish men had been sent to work in the east Belarusian town of Mogilev, where no Jews existed. On June 29 at dawn, the ghetto was surrounded by local police reinforced by a unit of Lithuanian police. The ghetto inhabitants hurried into their hiding places; on the first day of the action, some 2,000 Jews were caught and taken 7 kilometers east of the city, to Petrolevich, where they were shot. Many Jews were killed when hand grenades were thrown into their hiding places, and many more were shot trying to escape. The massacre and the manhunts continued until July 15. Between 8,000 and 10,000 Jews were murdered in Slonim. When the action was over, fewer than 1,000 Jews remained; most of these were artisans. About 400 of them were murdered on August 20, and a few hundred more escaped to the forest. The last Jews in Slonim were shot in December 1942."34

Thus if we are to believe Arad, Arlt and his unit could only have participated in the murder of some 2,000 Jews, i.e. half the number recorded in the 3 August report.

Say what, Mr. Kues? We have here again on of those silly references to "official historiography", which is something that exists only in "Revisionist" minds. In the real world there are studies on a given subject by one or more researchers, each of which is subject to potential correction by other researchers who find hitherto unknown evidence or provide a more solid interpretation of existing evidence. This may happen to Arad’s account of the liquidation of the Slonim ghetto, for historiography, like any science, is not stagnant. Thus it is rather nonsensical to call in question the accuracy, not to mention the authenticity, of a primary source like Arlt’s report of 3 August 1942 on grounds that information contained therein doesn’t coincide with information contained in a secondary source like Arad’s book about the Holocaust in the Soviet Union.

There are two possibilities, assuming the contradiction in numbers that Kues points out: either Arad’s research finds are mistaken, or Arlt was misinformed about or overestimated the number killed on the day he was referring to (not by his unit alone but by a large force that also included the men of Kommandeur des Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (KdS) Strauch from Minsk including Strauch himself, the KdS dependency at Baranowice, the 7th Company of SS Police Regiment 2, with the assistance of Wehrmacht, gendarmerie and Schutzmannschaften local auxiliaries, see Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, p. 701). The latter of these possibilities would mean that figures in Arlt’s report can only be considered accurate insofar as corroborated by evidence independent of Arlt, but neither possibility would mean a "problematic content" calling in question this report’s authenticity.

But is there even such a contradiction in numbers? Kues didn’t read Arad’s text very attentively, otherwise he might have noticed that Arad’s mention of 2,000 Jews shot at Petrolevich on the action’s first day is followed by a mention of many more deaths, which may have occurred on the same day:

Many Jews were killed when hand grenades were thrown into their hiding places, and many more were shot trying to escape.

Arlt’s figure is thus not necessarily incompatible with the results of Arad’s research.

As a side note, Kues mentions in this context a massacre of 200 Jews from the Slonim ghetto that the defendant Heuser was found guilty of having participated in, which took place possibly in April but probably in May or at the beginning of June 1942. Kues points out that "the verdict did not state whether this number was included in the 8,000 figure" mentioned in Kube’s letter to Lohse of 31 July 1942, and that he has "been able to determine no other source" mentioning "this alleged massacre". A translation of the Koblenz court’s findings of fact regarding this massacre can be found in the HC forum’s thread A Massacre of Slonim Jews, which readers may look up for information about the particularly unsavory details of this event that Kues, true to "Revisionist" protocol, refers to as an "alleged" massacre.

Kues claims that Arlt’s report of 16.6.1942 possibly states the wrong date for the arrival of transport Da 203 from Vienna:

According to both the Fahrplananordnung Nr 12 of the Deutsche Reichsbahn Reichsbahndirektion Königsberg from 7 May 1942 and the Fahrplananordnung Nr 40 from Haupteisenbahndirektion Mitte (Minsk) from 13 May 1942, the transport Da 203 from Vienna was scheduled to arrive in Minsk on 22 May 1942 (a Saturday).36 On 22 May 1942 Georg Heuser and SS-Obersturmführer Lütkenhus met with Reichsbahn officials to negotiate new arrival dates for the transports. On the following day, 23 May, Heuser dispatched a telegram to Reichsbahnoberrat Reichardt summarizing the results of their meeting.37 In this we read that "the transport expected here on the Saturday before Whitsuntide [Pfingsten] is to be halted in Koydanoff, so that it arrives in Minsk only on the night of Tuesday after Whitsuntide". The Reichsbahn also promised to insert corresponding delays to all further transports, so that they would arrive in Minsk "on the night of a Monday or another weekday, with the exception of Friday".
In 1942 Whitsuntide fell between 22 and 25 May.38 The first Tuesday following Whitsuntide was 26 May. Accordingly the Koblenz court ruled that Da 203 had arrived in Minsk on that day (cf. §2.3.). This also fits with the Arlt report from 16 June. There appears, however, to exist some doubt regarding the arrival date of Da 203. Gerlach lists it as arriving on 23 May, and then lists separately a transport arriving on 26 May, with the Arlt report as the only source, concluding that "because of the great difference in time there can be no confusion with the preceding or following transports".39 In the Arlt report in question there is no mention of a transport arriving on 23 May, despite the fact that it strongly implies that Arlt and his men were in the Minsk area on that day without any other business to attend to. As sources on the arrival of Da 203 Gerlach lists a "Note of the KdS White Russia concerning alterations" (Vermerk KdS Weissruthenien über Änderungen) dated 23 May 1942, likely the same as the Heuser telegram quoted above, but also "Information on arrived deportation trains" ("Angaben über eingelaufene Deportationszüge") from the Minsk State Archives.40 Although I have not been able to access the latter document, I find it reasonable to assume that it does indeed confirm a 23 May arrival – else Gerlach must have committed a rather remarkable blunder. Could it be that the train was not delayed as planned until the 26th, but that its arrival was only postponed for one day, until May 23?

It is rather unlikely that the train in question arrived on 23 May and not on 26 May. Gerlach mentions that the main source of information about the transports to Minsk/Trostenets is the file "Da-Züge" of the Haupteisenbahndirektion Minsk, whose original is in the Minsk State Archives, and that incomplete copies of this file reached the west in 1962 in the course of the trial against Heuser (Kalkulierte Morde, p. 757, footnote 1378). This means that Gerlach consulted essentially the same documents on which the Koblenz Court of Assizes had based its findings of fact about these transports. It is possible that the "Information on arrived deportation trains" mentioned by Kues had not been included in the copies available to the court in 1962/63, and that it (mistakenly) stated the train’s arrival date as being the one originally foreseen according to the respective timetable instruction (Timetable Instruction Nr. 40 from the Haupteisenbahndirektion Minsk dated 13 May 1942, see translated excerpts from the judgment quoted in the blog Thomas Kues on Maly Trostenets: Lying about a German Court Judgment) instead of the actual arrival date pursuant to the meeting on 22 May 1942 between SS-Obersturmführer Lütkenhus, Reichsbahn High Official (Reichsbahnoberrat) Reichardt and two other Reichsbahn officials, mentioned in the same excerpts.

23 May 1942 was a Saturday, as correctly stated in the judgment (a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants took place on this day, see also the pages Today in History for 23rd May 1942 and War Diary for Saturday, 23 May 1942). Kues is wrong in claiming that 22 May 1942 was a Saturday and the train was scheduled to arrive on that day. Pentecost or Whitsuntide (Pfingsten, in German) was on Sunday, 24 May 1942. The next day, 25.05.1942, was Pfingstmontag, Pentecost Monday, which is also a religious holiday in Germany. Tuesday, 26 May 1942, was the first working day after Pentecost.

The purpose of the meeting on 22 May 1942 had been to delay the train due to arrive on 23 May and subsequent trains so that the men of the KdS Minsk would not have to do their murderous work on weekends, especially the weekend of the Pentecost holidays. Heuser’s note of 23 May 1942 shows that it had been agreed to delay the trains accordingly, and in keeping with this agreement the witness Ka. had "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".

Thus it can be considered certain that the transport Da 203 from Vienna arrived at Minsk not on 23 May 1942 as originally scheduled, but on 26 May 1942 in accordance with the agreement reached on Friday, 22 May 1942. The arrival date stated in Arlt’s report of 16 June 1942 is the correct one.

The coincidence between Arlt’s report of 16 June 1942 and the other evidence mentioned above about the arrival date of train Da 203 is a strong indication against any suspicion that the report may have been manipulated, considering that the hypothetical forger would have had to a) be familiar with the documentary evidence that helped the Koblenz court conclude on an arrival date different from the one stated in the original time schedule and presumably also in other documents, and b) reach the same conclusions as the court, or know the findings of fact in a judgment that had been issued at about the same time or shortly before the Arlt reports were discovered in the Czechoslovakian State Archives, and was probably not yet available to the public at that time. Even if the existence of such an extraordinarily talented and well-informed document manipulator were plausible, what would the purpose of this manipulation have been? Forgeries are usually made in order to be used for propaganda or other purposes, not in order to be kept in an archive in case someone finds them some day.

The arrival of train Da 203 on 26.5.1942 means that Gerlach’s conclusion on an earlier arrival date is mistaken. Even a sterling historian like Gerlach is bound to make mistakes in processing a large amount of sources for a groundbreaking study about German economic and extermination policies in Belarus that has no less than 1150 pages (11 to 1161) of text, a bibliography 38 pages long (1162 to 1200), and a register with 14 pages of persons’ names (1207-1221) and 10 pages of place names (1221 to 1231), with the section about the murder of the Belarusian Jews alone taking up 271 pages (503-774) and 1489 footnotes. However, Gerlach’s mistake was probably not the "rather remarkable blunder" that Kues would like to have. It's more likely that the document Gerlach seems to have mainly relied on (the "Information on arrived deportation trains") mistakenly stated 23.5.1942 as the arrival date, and that Gerlach’s mistake consisted in not having duly taken into account the evidence for the later arrival date mentioned in the Koblenz court's judgment.

Gerlach expressly states that the arrival dates concluded on by the Koblenz court deviate from the ones that become apparent from the sources known to him, and that he considers questionable one of the transports (Da 205) included in the Koblenz judgment’s list (Kalkulierte Morde, p. 757, footnote 1381). So before looking at Kues' other examples of the Arlt reports’ supposed "problematic content", one should make a list of all matches and mismatches regarding the 16 transports mentioned by the Koblenz court between that court’s judgment, the Arlt reports (which were unknown to the court at the time) and Gerlach’s conclusions (also based on sources presumably unknown to the Koblenz court at the time, mainly the "Information on arrived deportation trains").

The first thing one notices in the above table is that whenever Arlt stated the dates of train arrivals there is an almost complete match between the dates considered by the Landgericht (LG) Koblenz and the dates stated by Arlt. The only exception is transport Da 220, which the court considered to have arrived on 18.7.1942 whereas Arlt wrote that it arrived on 17.7.1942, a difference of merely one day that may be explained as a minor inaccuracy in either Arlt’s reporting or the court’s determination of the arrival date. 17.7.1942 was a Friday, 18.7.1942 a Saturday, which means that both dates were not in keeping with the KdS – Reichsbahn arrangement of 22.05.1942, whereby transports of Jews bound for Minsk were to be detained 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", while the trains’ arrival on Saturday, 18.7.1942 would have been in line with the original schedule. It is thus possible that the arrangement could for some reason not be adhered to in this one case, and that the date established by the Koblenz court (and by Gerlach on hand of the "Information on arrived deportation trains") is the correct one.

This almost total match of dates is a strong indication against any speculations that the Arlt reports might not be authentic, as the court determined the arrival dates without having knowledge of these reports, while on the other hand the one slight mismatch further belies the already far-fetched notion that the hypothetical forger wanted to vindicate the dates established by the Koblenz court (which the forger is highly unlikely to have been aware of) in his document manipulation.

Transport Da 205, which Gerlach considers uncertain as its mention was deleted from the "Information on arrived deportation trains" (Kalkulierte Morde, footnote 1381 on page 757 and footnote 1386 on page 758) is interestingly not mentioned in Arlt’s report of 16 June 1942, though this may be attributed to the fact that between 5 and 8 June Arlt and his men were on an anti-partisan assignment and would thus not have handled transport Da 205 if it had arrived in this period. The other transports not mentioned by Arlt in the period up to 25.9.1942, covered by his reports, arrived on 25.8.1942 (Gerlach) or 28.8.1942 (LG Koblenz), 2.9.1942 (Gerlach) or 4.9.1942 (LG Koblenz), 10.9.1942 (Gerlach) or 12.9.1942 (LG Koblenz) and 16.9.1942 (Gerlach) or 18.9.1942 (LG Koblenz). On these dates Arlt’s unit was on anti-partisan assignment. According to the report of 25.9.1942 the unit was deployed in the Shazk area on 27.8.1942, from where it moved to Byten, Nihatschewo and Baranowitsche, returning to Minsk only on 22.9.1942.

For transports Da 222 (arrived on 10.8.1942) and Da 223 (arrived on 21.8.1942 according to LG Koblenz, on 19.8.1942 according to Gerlach) Arlt gives no dates in his report of 25.9.1942, but these are likely to be the two transports he mentioned (somewhat inaccurately) as having arrived in "the first half of August". This inaccuracy, contrary to what Kues would like to believe, is another indication against manipulation conjectures, for a forger trying to "confirm" the arrival dates considered by the Koblenz courts would hardly have made this mistake but made Arlt state that these two transports had arrived in the first three weeks of August. Arlt’s unit was obviously still in Minsk on 18.8.1942, when Strm. Hering returned from furlough. While Arlt doesn’t mention on what date the "Heuser Commando", including his group, "set out for Schazk, 75 km from Minsk in the direction of Sluzk", it is not unlikely that this happened after 21.8.1942, which means that Arlt’s group could have taken part in the "processing" of transport Da 223 before moving out to Shazk. Arlt’s omitting the date of departure for Shazk suggests that he was not exactly the most meticulous record-keeper and may thus have recalled events from memory when reporting, which in turn leaves room for the possibility that he incorrectly recalled the liquidation of trains Da 222 and Da 223 as having taken place in "the first half of August" when writing his report of 25.9.1942, more than a month after the last of these transports had arrived.

Besides the already discussed transport Da 203, the only other transport regarding which there is a discrepancy as concerns the arrival date between Gerlach’s sources on the one hand and both the Arlt reports and the Koblenz judgment on the other is transport Da 206, which arrived on 13.6.1942 according to the former and on 15.6.1942 according to the other.

The reason for this difference is easy to understand insofar as Gerlach’s sources for this date (Kalkulierte Morde, page 758, footnote 1387) are the aforementioned "Information on arrived deportation trains", mentioned by reference to footnote 1386, a list of transports bound for Minsk already mentioned in footnote 1385, and Arlt’s report of 16.6.1942. Obviously the former two sources mention 13.6.1942 as the arrival date, so Gerlach assumed this date to be the correct one without considering the possibility that the train had been delayed pursuant to the KdS – Reichsbahn arrangement but the "Information on arrived deportation trains" nevertheless gave the originally scheduled date for whatever reason. Given that this arrangement was obviously not adhered to at all times (as shown by the case of train D 220, which arrived either on Friday 17.7.1942 or on Saturday 18.7.1942), Gerlach may not have wanted to base his dating on speculation about whether the arrangement had been adhered to as concerns transport Da 206.

If this caution was Gerlach’s reason for having relied on the "Information on arrived deportation trains" rather than Arlt’s report for the arrival date of train Da 206, it was excessive considering that 13.06.1942 was a Saturday (i.e. the day on which the train was supposed to arrive according to Timetable Instruction Nr. 40 from the Haupteisenbahndirektion Minsk dated 13 May 1942, mentioned in the Koblenz judgment) and 15.6.1942 was the next Monday (i.e. the date on which it was supposed to arrive in keeping with the KdS – Reichsbahn arrangement of 22.5.1942, whereby trains due to arrive on Saturday were to be delayed until the next Monday or another working day except Friday.) The Arlt report thus confirms that the KdS –Reichsbahn arrangement of 22.5.1942 was adhered to regarding transport Da 206, which also corresponds to the deposition of witness Ka. before the Koblenz court whereby "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".

It can thus be concluded that, even where there’s a mismatch between train arrival dates stated by Arlt and arrival dates stated in other sources (especially the "Information on arrived deportation trains" that Gerlach relies on for the arrival dates of transports Da 203 and Da 206), there are much better explanations for this mismatch than Kues’ rather feeble manipulation scenario.

Another aspect of the Arlt reports’ contents that Kues considers "problematic" is the designation of Arlt’s unit:

(f) Zug versus Gruppe
In the Waffen-SS a Zug (pl. Züge) was the tactical equivalent of a platoon and had 30 to 40 men in its ranks. Gruppe (group, squad) was the term for the smallest sub-unit of the German military and as a norm consisted of 8-10 men. Usually a Gruppe was a component of a Zug.45 Yet at the very beginning of the 17 May report Arlt writes: "The activity of the Zug, i.e. 1 Unterführer and 10 men" ("Die Tätigkeit des Zuges d.h. 1 Unterführer und 10 Mann"). Then at the end of the 16 June report we read: "My Gruppe here in Minsk is now only 1:7 strong" ("Meine Gruppe hier in Minsk ist nur mehr 1:7 stark"), i.e. there were only 1 Unterführer (Arlt himself) and 7 men (Sturmmänner and Rottenführern) left in the Gruppe. This is congruent with the statements that Strm. Lukas was on furlough, Rttf. Puck detached to Loklja, and Strm. Otto in the hospital with spotted fever. This clearly shows that Arlt (or a possible forger) confuses Zug with Gruppe at the beginning of the 17 May report.
There is also the curious renaming in the report headers of Arlt's unit from "II. Zug Waffen-SS" (in the 17 May report only "II. Zug") to "Gruppe Arlt". How come that Arlt was reporting for the 2nd Zug when from the beginning he had only 10 men with him? Note that this renaming isn't explained, even though reports from 16 June and 3 August (between which it occurred) are consecutive. Also note that Arlt continues to use the term Zug for his Gruppe throughout the 17 May report. It seems odd, to say the least, that a unit commander would misuse such basic terms.

It doesn’t seem odd, to say the least, that a "Revisionist" would produce such blatant nonsense.

Arlt’s changing between the designations Zug (platoon) and Gruppe (squad) can be easily explained as due to Arlt’s having been occasionally tempted – perhaps also in order to convey to his superiors that his unit needed either reinforcements or re-designation – to refer to his platoon (Zug) as a squad (Gruppe), on grounds that the platoon was down to squad strength (Kues claims that Arlt’s unit had squad strength "from the beginning", without explaining whence he derived the notion that Arlt’s unit had only been formed shortly before the first report).

What is more, Arlt referred to his unit only as a Zug (platoon) in the report of 17.5.1942 and only as a Gruppe (squad) in the reports of 3.8.1942 and 25.9.1942, suggesting that by the time of the report of 3.8.1942 at the latest the platoon had been re-designated a squad due to being well below nominal platoon strength. Kues bemoans that the change of designation is not "explained", but doesn’t explain why it should necessarily have been "explained" by the re-designated unit’s commander in the unit’s activity report.

In the report of 16.6.1942 the term Zug appears only in the heading, while the only reference to the unit in the report’s text is in the last paragraph and calls it a Gruppe. There are at least two possible explanations for this discrepancy:

a) The unit was (at the time still erroneously) referred to as a Gruppe because various previous references to the Gruppe Lipps had put that term in Arlt's mind when he wrote or dictated this report;

b) The under-strength Zug had already been re-designated a Gruppe as corresponded to its actual strength, but Arlt had not yet grown used to the new status and thus (erroneously) still used the term Zug in the heading.

It’s no surprise that these simpler and more plausible explanations for the "Zug versus Gruppe" - phenomenon did not occur to an anomaly-hunting "Revisionist".

The location of the graves described at the beginning of the 17 May report is another of the "problematic" issues that anomaly-hunter Kues eagerly points out:

In the 17 May report Arlt writes that he and his unit spent 8 days "leading and supervising the excavation of pits 22 km outside of Minsk" ("die Aushebung von Gruben, 22 km vor Minsk zu leiten bezw. zu beaufsichtigen"). The wartime Übersichtskarte von Mitteleuropa makes it clear, however, that Trostenets and Blagovshchina were located approximately 12 and 14 km respectively outside of the city of Minsk (cf. Ill. 1). Kohl has chosen to excise "22 km vor Minsk" from his transcript of the report without notifying his readers.46

If so, that doesn’t recommend Paul Kohl (who is not a historian but a somewhat emotional and not necessarily objective journalist, and thus an easy target for "Revisionist" nitpicking). However, Kohl’s excision wouldn’t change the fact that the mass grave 22 km outside Minsk was at a killing site other than Maly Trostenets, as has been pointed out before and as Kues would have realized if he had read Arlt’s report of 17.5.1942 and the Koblenz judgment more carefully. I like these maps that Kues tries to impress his readers with, by the way – even if they are superfluous.

With this we come to Kues’ last example of "problematic content":

The date of the clearing of the prison is chronologically inconsistent with the dating of the report, although this may be explained by a simple mistake (Arlt typing a "5" instead of a "4"). The operation would in that case have taken place on 30 April (I have indicated thus in Table 4 above).

As the next date mentioned in the 17 May report is 4 May, it stands to reason indeed that the previous date can only have been 30.4.42 and the "5" was a simple mistake. Kues had a flicker of common sense.

Not a lasting one, though, as Kues shows in the next section of his article, which is headed "The Evidentiary Value of the Reports" and contains a collection of ill-reasoned considerations I’ll have the pleasure of commenting hereafter.

Although the above listed anomalies and problems pertaining to provenance, document characteristics and contents may not be sufficient to brand the Arlt reports as forgeries, they constitute a number of good reasons to be skeptical of its authenticity.

I’m confident to have shown just how "good" Kues’ "good reasons" are.

Moreover, even if it was 100% genuine, the killings mentioned or implied in them would cover only some half of Gerlach's minimum figure of 40,000 Trostenets victims.

The Arlt reports, whose authenticity cannot be reasonably questioned, are documentary evidence to as many killings as are mentioned therein and/or correspond to transports in the periods covered by the reports that can be unequivocally traced to Minsk/Maly Trostenets. There is no reason to assume that only the transports in whose extermination Arlt and his men participated were actually exterminated. The reports can even be considered documentary evidence to the extermination of the one transport that arrived after the date of Arlt’s last report (Da 230 from Vienna), as there are no reasons to consider the possibility that this transport was treated differently from its predecessors.

Except for the killings of Jews from the Minsk Ghetto on 28-29 July 1942 and the Slonim Ghetto liquidation, which are corroborated (more or less) by 3428-PS, there exists, as far as I have been able to determine, no documentary evidence corroborating the other mass killings mentioned by the reports, unless we count the 15 June 1942 "gas van" telegram (see the following paragraph) which does not mention Trostenets and only speaks of "special treatment" (Sonderbehandlung).

The participation of Arlt’s unit in the Slonim Ghetto liquidation was described as follows in Arlt’s report of 3 August 1942:

On 27.6 we and most of the commando departed for Baranowitsche to participate in an operation. The result was as always negative. In the course of this operation we evacuated [räumten wir] the Jewish ghetto in Slonim. Some 4000 Jews were given over to the earth on this day [an diesem Tage der Erde übergeben].

These killings were clearly part of the killings mentioned as follows in Kube’s letter to Lohse dated 31.7.1942 (emphasis added):

During detailed consultations with the SS Brigadefuehrer Zenner and the extremely capable Chief of the SD, SS Obersturmbannfuehrer Dr. jur. Strauch, we found that we had liquidated approximately 55,000 Jews in White Ruthenia during the last 10 weeks. In the Minsk-Land area, the Jewry was completely exterminated, without endangering the allocation of labor in any way. In the prevailing Polish Licla area, 16,000 Jews, in Slonim 8,000 Jews, etc., were liquidated.

The Minsk ghetto operation was described as follows by Arlt:

On 28.7 large operation in the Russian. Ghetto of Minsk. 6,000 Jews were brought to the pits.
On 29.7 3000 German Jews were brought to the pits.

and as follows by Kube:

In the city of Minsk about 10,000 Jews were liquidated on 28 and 29 July, 6,500 of whom were Russian Jews-mainly old people, women, and children-the remainder consisted of Jews unfit for work, most of whom had been sent to Minsk from Vienna, Brno, Bremen, and Berlin in November of the previous year at the Fuehrer's orders.

So why is Kube’s letter supposed to only "more or less" corroborate Arlt’s reports, Mr. Kues?

As to the Jews transported to Minsk/Trostenets from Germany, Austria and Theresienstadt, the documents pertaining to these transports are documents corroborating Arlt’s reports insofar as the occupants of these transports are (with few exceptions) not known to have returned alive and there’s no evidence - notwithstanding Kues’ lengthy speculations about Trostenets being (guess what) a transit camp – that any of these deportees, a few exceptions aside, were taken anywhere else after reaching the place. This although the deportees’ names and personal data are largely known (e.g. the 1,168 names of deportees to Minsk between 7 May and 7 October 1942 that can be found in the database pertaining to the online version of the German Federal Archives’ memorial book Opfer der Verfolgung der Juden unter der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft in Deutschland 1933-1945), while on the other hand the killings were described in conclusive and matching eyewitness testimonies (mostly from participants in the killings), assessed by a democratic state of law’s independent courts at several trials including the Koblenz trial of Heuser and others.

Most importantly, there exists no reliable forensic evidence for any of the mass murders.

If no forensic evidence had been found despite efforts to find it, or if the forensic evidence contradicted the notion of mass killings on the scale that becomes apparent from other evidence, that would be something for Mr. Kues to write home about.

But none of this is the case. The forensic evidence examined by Soviet investigators at Maly Trostenets and mentioned by Kues in Part 1 of his "preliminary historiographical survey" – the remains of a shed where the Investigation Commission discovered "a tremendous quantity of ashes and bones, also some partly preserved bodies", the "127 incompletely charred bodies of men, women and children" found near these ashes and bones, the mass graves in the Blagovshchina Forest (34 by the Soviet Commission’ count, some of them "no less than 50 yards long", charred bodies "covered with a layer of ashes 18 inches to one yard thick" found "at a depth of three yards in five graves when they were partly opened", and "a great quantity of small human bones, hair, dentures and many personal articles" found near the graves), the remains of corpses burned at the Shashkova forest site – clearly points to mass murder on a large scale and subsequent attempts to destroy the traces of the crime. The Soviets illustrated the descriptions of their finds with graphic photographs. These images, or some of them, can be viewed on the USHMM website (query Maly Trostinets) and in the Yad Vashem Photo Archives (see my blog June 22, 1941).

The Soviets' examination of this evidence may not have been sufficiently thorough, and the quantitative estimates they derived from what graves they partially opened and what bodies they found or exhumed may have been somewhat-less-than-reliable or even grossly exaggerated. However, this doesn’t change the fact that the Soviets discovered physical evidence of mass extermination at Maly Trostenets, evidence that corroborates and is corroborated by what documentary and eyewitness evidence tells us about this killing site. However incompetent and prone to mistaken quantitative and other conclusions the Soviet crime site investigation may have been, the partial coincidence of Soviet finds with evidence from the German side (including documents and eyewitness testimonies on which the Soviets could have had no influence) shows that the Soviets were not totally wrong and that Maly Trostinets was the killing site they found it to be, even if the actual number of victims was somewhat below their estimate.

It is worth noting that while the Arlt reports describe anti-partisan operations in great detail, their descriptions of the handling of Jewish transports are terse in the extreme. Thus while we are provided with information such as that Heuser's commando was equipped with "one light grenade launcher, one [heavy] machine gun, four light machine guns and submachine guns and carbines" during the anti-partisan operation in mid-August,

• There is no description of the modus operandi of the mass killings, nor is there any mention of which officers were in charge of them

• There is no mention of the "gas vans" allegedly employed at Trostenets

• There is no mention of the fact that some of the arrivals were selected for work at the estate

• There is no mention of the change in the arrival procedure which took place in early August (from indirect transports via the Minsk freight station to direct arrivals via the new railway line).

Here we have "Revisionist" reasoning at its best.

Why on earth should all the details that Kues is missing have been mentioned in Arlt's reports?

Why on earth should these reports have contained more than the terse essential facts as concerns execution activities?

Would Arlt's superiors have required such details? What would they have needed them for? Why should they have been interested in knowing the modus operandi of the mass killings, whether gas vans had been used etc.? I’m looking forward to Mr. Kues' explanation.

It made more sense from the point of view of Arlt's superiors to keep mention of these dirty secrets to the indispensable minimum required for information purposes. Concealment required that this be so, and the almost incidental mention of mass executions in the context of activity reports mostly dedicated to anti-partisan activities may also have served the fiction that wiping out the Jews was part of such activities, just like the equally casual mention of 363,211 executed Jews in Himmler’s Meldung Nr. 51 to Hitler about Bandenbekämpfungserfolge (successes in the fight against bands) in southern Russia, Ukraine and Bialystok between 1.9. and 1.12.1942.

Would Arlt himself, assuming he had not been instructed to write no more than the indispensable minimum about these issues, have been inclined to go into detail about this unsavory business? It’s more likely that mass executions were something he preferred not to talk or write about any more than absolutely necessary. Fighting partisans was a different matter, because it could be perceived as manly combat duty involving a certain danger and requiring a certain amount of courage, unlike the butcher’s work at the pits. Thus it was the subject to go into much detail about for a man who (as suggested by euphemistic references like "given over to the earth" or "brought to the pits") didn’t feel to well about having to slaughter defenseless people and thus rather focused his reporting on confrontations with an armed foe.

Thus the terseness of information about mass executions in Arlt’s reports is further evidence of the reports’ authenticity, rather than the opposite.

In his 2003 transcript of the reports Paul Kohl has left out most of the descriptions of anti-partisan operations (including a full two pages from the 25 September report) without even marking these omissions with ellipses.

Not marking omissions with ellipses is bad form, and emotional journalist Paul Kohl is hardly the most reliable source, but omitting parts of a text in order to completely distort the information such text conveys is unforgivably dishonest, with or without ellipses. So is omitting a part of a judgment that squarely contradicts an argument one is making about that judgment. As shown or mentioned in the blog Thomas Kues on Maly Trostenets: Lying about a German Court Judgment, Kues is guilty of both offenses, and these are not the only examples of his dishonesty. It is therefore grotesque to see him pointing the finger at Kohl's comparatively minor fallacy in not marking with ellipses the omission of comparatively unimportant parts of Arlt's text. He who lives in a glass house shouldn't throw stones, Mr. Kues.

One might argue that a hypothetical forger would not include long detailed descriptions, such as the passages concerning anti-partisan operations. This possible argument, however, does not take into consideration that the forger may have used authentic activity reports as a basis for his work and simply altered or added text.

While this is theoretically possible, a look at the reports' facsimiles shown at the beginning of this blog is sufficient to consider it unlikely in this case. Do the incriminating passages in the reports look like they have been subsequently inserted in the text, Mr. Kues?

The forger would of course be wise to exercise caution when making his own additions and refrain from giving too many verifiable details – something which could explain the abovementioned terseness of the description of the mass killings.

Kues' forger would have been very incautious, then, because he would have given verifiable details par excellence by stating the dates on which transports arrived and executions took place, details that allow for checking whether and to what extent the reports are in line or at odds with their evidentiary context.

The odd lack of an addressee could also be explained from the viewpoint of a forger, as a measure to prevent any search for copies or corresponding report summaries.

The lack of an addressee is not as "odd" as Kues would like it to be and can be plausibly attributed to banal reasons, as mentioned before. For a forger trying to protect his manipulation against discovery, someone’s searching for "copies or corresponding report summaries" would have been less a concern than someone's checking the reports' evidentiary context on hand of the dates provided. The forgers in "Revisionist" cloud-cuckoo-land must be rather illogical bumblers.

Hopefully future research will throw more light on the background and the contents of the Arlt reports. Until then the most reasonable assessment is to consider their evidentiary quality questionable.

As shown in this blog, the Arlt reports’ evidentiary quality is not nearly as questionable as Kues’ attempt to make it look questionable.


Holocaust Denial is Chutzpah said...

Very clear and consistent. Thanks for taking the trouble!

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

Thanks. I also liked your blog Welcome to Maly Trostinec!.

thom said...

The Reichsbahn document on the arrivals in Minsk has been reproduced in Gottwaldt/Schulle's chronology "Die Judendeportationen aus dem Deutschen Reich", Wiesbaden 2005, p. 241. It states that Da 203 was originally scheduled for arrival on 23/5, Da 204 on 30/5, Da 205 on 6/6 and Da 206 on 13/6. Da 205 was later crossed out so apparently it did not arrive in Minsk but directed to another destination. For Da 206 there is a handwritten note on the document that it arrived at 10:03 on 15/6.