The Jäger Report (3)
The Jäger Report (4)
The Jäger Report (5)
The Jäger Report (6)
The Jäger Report (7)
The Jäger Report (8)
The report dated 1 December 1941 by SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger, head of Einsatzkommando 3 of Einsatzgruppe A, is probably the most detailed and explicit document about Nazi mobile killing operations. It contains a tabulation, by date and place, of executions carried out by Einsatzkommando 3 on Lithuanian territory between 4 July and 25 November 1941. For each execution the number of victims is stated, broken down into Jews and (where existing) non-Jews, the number of Jews often further broken down into Jewish men, women and children.
Jäger’s EK 3 reportedly killed 133,346 persons in the aforementioned period. Prior to the start of EK3’s activity about 4,000 Jews had been killed in pogroms and executions carried out by Lithuanian "partisans", bringing the sum total stated on page 6 of the report to 137,346. There are several addition mistakes on page 2 ("13.8.41 Alytus" – sum should be 718 instead of 719; "19.8.41 Ukmerge" – sum should be 643 instead of 645) and on page 6 ("12.9.41 Wilna-Stadt" - sum should be 3,434 instead of 3,334; "17.9.41 Wilna Stadt" – 4 executed Lithuanian communists are not included in sum), so the correctly added total is 137,447. Of these, a total of 135,391 (98.50%) were Jews and 2,056 (1.50%) were non-Jews (communists, partisans, prisoners of war, mentally disabled people and others).
A recent biography of Jäger by German historian Wolfram Wette (Wolfram Wette, Karl Jäger. Mörder der litauischen Juden, S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2011) contains the following information about how the Jäger Report became available to western criminal justice authorities and historians (pp. 28-29, my translation):
What's interesting is the adventurous provenance history of the Jäger Report. It wasn't yet available to the Nuremberg Military Tribunals that judged German war criminals in the years 1945 to 1949. A copy of the report, namely the fourth of a total of five copies, had already during the war, when the Red Army re-conquered Lithuania in 1944, fallen into the hands of the Soviet Union, who at first kept quiet about it. Only in 1963 the Soviet foreign ministry made this unique document available to authorities of the German Federal Republic, namely the Central Bureau of the Federal States’ Judicial Administrations for the Investigation of NS Crimes (Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen für die Aufklärung von NS-Verbrechen) in Ludwigsburg. There the source was thoroughly examined and declared authentic.Why did the Soviet Union not use the Jäger Report for propaganda purposes or present it as evidence at the Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, even though a copy of the report had been found by the Red Army already in 1944?
It then took another while for the document to be published in Germany with its complete text and thus made available to an interested public. The then head of the Central Bureau, Leading State Prosecutor Adalbert Rückerl, printed the report as a facsimile in the appendix to his book about the NS trials of the last 25 years. He probably chose the facsimile print form to let this source, which is as impressive as it is upsetting, be effective by itself, and also to document Jäger’s signature by his own hand.
A transcription of the report was published in 1988 in the book by Ernst Klee, Willi Dreßen and Volker Rieß with the title »Schöne Zeiten«. Judenmorde aus der Sicht der Täter und Gaffer. (»Good Old Days«. Murder of Jews as seen by Perpetrators and Onlookers.). Another report, written and signed by Jäger by his own hand, about the executions carried out by his Einsatzkommando 3, was published by the author of this book in 1990 in his book Politik im Elztal (Politics in the Elz Valley). The work edited in 2003 by Vincas Bartusevicius, Joachim Tauber and Wolfram Wette with the title Holocaust in Litauen. Krieg, Judenmorde und Kollaboration im Jahr 1941 (Holocaust in Lithuania. War, Murder of Jews and Collaboration in 1941) contains both reports as facsimiles and in transcription. A further report by Jäger dated 10 September 1941 with the title Gesamtaufstellung der im Bereiche des E.K. 3 bis jetzt durchgeführten Exekutionen (Complete list of the executions carried out until now in the area of E.K. 3) was published in 2003 in an official Lithuanian publication.
Why did the Soviet Union only in 1963 – 4 years after Jäger’s death – make the Jäger Report available to West German criminal justice authorities, and then only half-heartedly (lustlos), according to German writer Ralph Giordano in his foreword to Wette’s book about Jäger (p. 13)?
The likeliest explanation lies in the fact that Jäger’s Einsatzkommando 3 and its Lithuanian auxiliaries had murdered almost exclusively Jews. Only 2,056 of the 137,447 people executed by Jäger's (corrected) count, a mere 1.5 % of the total, were non-Jews. Thus the Jäger Report flew in the face of the Soviet party directive to not "divide the dead".
The Stalinist line, as pointed out by British historian Antony Beevor in the introduction to A Writer at War: A Soviet Journalist With the Red Army, 1941-1945, was that "the Jews should never be seen as special victims" and that the crimes committed against them "should be seen entirely as crimes committed against the Soviet Union". In her book Ivan's War: Life And Death in the Red Army, 1939-1945, British historian Catherine Merridale writes the following (p. 252 of the 2005 edition by Faber & Faber. London):
Russia’s long torment, then, was real, and like most cases of persecution, it created in the sufferers a sense of outrage, of entitlement, of solidarity. No one had borne the weight of war more patiently, no one had fought or endured more. That was the story, and it became a political refrain. However, Russia’s access of outrage – and Stalin’s pre-eminence within it – could not have been sustained if two specific truths had been considered. First, the group that faced the Nazis’ most concentrated violence, a cruelty unparalleled even in this most vicious war, was not the Russian people but the Jews. Second, Soviet citizens in the occupied zones, including thousands of Ukrainians and Balts, had not only colluded in the genocide but welcomed and abetted it.
When the Red Army discovered evidence of the Babi Yar massacre in late 1943, printing the news of that Nazi crime "in tones of justifiable outrage" had been "a real challenge for the Sovinformburo" (Merridale, as above, p. 253):
Those Jewish corpses, petrol-soaked and stained with ash, raised spectres that Moscow could not confront. The Holocaust, as one account puts it, was 'an indigestible lump in the belly of the Soviet triumph'. Moscow could never approve of the mass killing of Jews, but nor was it eager to accord to them a special place in the myth of the war. If it had done so, Russia would have had to share its victimhood, and its communist leadership would also, by implication, have been forced to countenance the idea of a special closeness between Jews and Bolsheviks, a notion that Stalin had done his best to extirpate (not least by arresting Jewish comrades) for years. Those bodies, like those of Polish officers in the woods near Smolensk, threatened to pollute the fragile ecologies of Soviet righteousness and Russian certitude.
Not everywhere was the overwhelming majority of Soviet citizens murdered by the Nazis Jewish, as was the case in the 1941 operations of Jäger’s Einsatzkommando 3. On the territory of present day Belarus, according to German historian Christian Gerlach, the Nazi occupiers murdered about 700,000 Soviet prisoners of war and over 400,000 non-Jewish civilians together with about 500,000 to 550,000 Jews (see the blog One might think that …). The absolute number of Soviet non-Jewish non-combatants murdered by the Nazis (either out of hand or by causing them to die from starvation, disease, exposure or exhaustion) was more than twice as high as the number of Jewish victims from the territory of the Soviet Union in its 1941 borders. What is more, that number comes close to or even exceeds the total number of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution in Europe during World War II (see the blogs 5 million non-Jewish victims? (Part 2), Nazi persecution and mass murder of Jews and non-Jews and June 22, 1941).
Yet this doesn’t change the fact that Soviet Jews were more intensively victimized by the Nazis than all other Soviet nationalities, considering the percentage of their pre-war population (which in turn was but a relatively small part of the Soviet Union’s total population) that was murdered by German forces. As American historian Timothy Snyder points out in his book Bloodlands (page 342 of the 2010 Basic Books edition):
The number of Jews killed by the Germans in the Soviet Union was a state secret. The Germans killed about a million native Soviet Jews, plus about 1.6 million more Polish, Lithuanian, and Latvian Jews brought into the USSR by the Soviet annexations of 1939 and 1940. The Romanians also killed Jews chiefly on territories that after the war were within the boundaries of the Soviet Union. These numbers were of an obvious sensitivity, since they revealed that, even by comparison with the dreadful suffering of other Soviet peoples, the Jews had suffered a very special fate. Jews were less than two percent of the population and Russians more than half; the Germans had murdered more Jewish civilians than Russian civilians in the occupied Soviet Union. Jews were in a category of their own, even by comparison with the Slavic peoples who had suffered more than the Russians, such as Ukrainians and Belarusians and Poles. The Soviet leadership knew this, and so did Soviet citizens who lived in the lands that the Germans had occupied, but the Holocaust could never become part of the Soviet history of the war.
[Warning: links in the following paragraph lead to graphic images.]
Where Soviet investigators found mass graves filled with corpses of Jews murdered by the Nazis, like at Drobitski Yar or at Taganrog and in the Ternopol area (see the blog The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR (2)), they could lump them together with non-Jews killed in the same area and/or simply refer to the victims as "inhabitants of Taganrog", "Soviet citizens" or "residents of two cities near Ternopol, Kremenets and Vishnevets". But a document like the Jäger Report, which detailed the systematic killing of Jews in much greater numbers than non-Jews, often even distinguishing between Jewish men, women and children, revealed all too flagrantly – and thus all too inconveniently for Soviet policy – that the Nazis had pursued an extermination program directed specifically against Jews, as opposed to slaughtering Jews like they did other Soviet citizens.
What is more, the Jäger Report also revealed that citizens of Soviet Lithuania had had an important part in the killing, e.g. on pages 1 (" … the following operations were carried out in collaboration with Lithuanian partisans: …") 6 ("Jews liquidated by pogroms and executions, exclusively by partisans, before the assumption of security police tasks by Einsatzkommando 3") and 7 ("The goal of making Lithuania free of Jews could only be attained through the deployment of a raiding commando with selected men under the leadership of SS First Lieutenant Hamann, who completely and entirely adopted my goals and understood the importance of ensuring the co-operation of the Lithuanian partisans and the competent civilian positions.").
Thus the Jäger Report, while being probably the most detailed and explicit document incriminating the Nazis, was also too revealing of "an indigestible lump in the belly of the Soviet triumph" (Merridale, as above, citing Garrand and Garrard and Garrard, The Bones of Berdichev. The Life and Fate of Vassili Grossman, New York 1996, p. 174) to be used for propaganda purposes or as trial evidence by the Soviets.
While there were some important changes in Soviet politics after the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet history of the "Great Patriotic War" remained much the same, and this forbade acknowledging that Jewish Soviet citizens had "faced the Nazis’ most concentrated violence, a cruelty unparalleled even in this most vicious war" (Merridale, as above). In his book The Unknown War (Bantam Books, 1978), Harrison E. Salisbury mentions the approach taken towards the mass killings at Babi Yar in the post-Stalin USSR:
Babi Yar in the post-Stalin years became a symbol of German atrocities in Russia, particularly against the Jews – a symbol in spite of itself, for Soviet authorities were not eager to perpetuate the memory of a crime directed so specifically against the Jews. At one time there were plans to bulldoze Babi Yar and to put up a housing development or an athletic center. After much bitterness a memorial monument was finally erected to "all" the victims, Russian and Jewish, at Babi Yar.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Russian poet who skyrocketed to fame in the Khrushchev days, wrote a poem to Babi Yar in 1961. Bestial as had been the Nazi atrocity against the Jews, it was still against Communist Party policy to mention Babi Yar publicly in the Soviet Union. Yevtushenko spoke out regardless of the official outburst he knew would greet his words:
The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar
The trees look ominous as judges,
Here all things scream in silence
And I myself am one massive, soundless scream
Above the thousand thousand buried here
I am each old man here shot dead
I am every child here shot dead
Nothing in me shall ever forget.
In this context it is no surprise that only in 1963 Soviet authorities half-heartedly made available to criminal investigators of the German Federal Republic the only surviving copy of the Jäger Report.
This Soviet attitude, together with the German investigators’ thorough examination of the document to establish its authenticity, mentioned by Wette, puts paid to any "Revisionist" conjectures that this document, so inconvenient to their articles of faith, might have been manipulated.
The Soviet approach to the Nazi genocide of the Jews also renders absurd "Revisionist" claims that the Holocaust was "made in Russia".
Yevtushenko’s poem Babi Yar is available online in the Russian original and in English translation.
The Jäger Report (2)