Sunday, June 05, 2016

German Footage of a Homicidal Gassing with Engine Exhaust. Part 3: Responsibility (I).

German Footage of a Homicidal Gassing with Engine Exhaust
Part 1: Provenance
Part 2: Location
Part 3: Responsibility (I)
Part 4: Responsibility (II)
Part 6: Forgery Allegation

In 1961 - 1963, West-German investigators sought to find out who was responsible for the gassing action shown on the photographs available to them (they were not aware that the stills were taken from the film Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today from 1948, see also the first part on provenance). The scene displays two German police vehicles with their exhaust tubes connected to a gas chamber, an Adler car with the license plate POL 28545 and a truck with the license plate POL 51628 as well as some military symbols. The key to track down the perpetrators of the scene was considered to identify the units to which these vehicles were assigned. Whoever placed and operated them at the site, was also responsible for the action.

The most promising approach seemed to understand the military symbols at the back of the truck. But neither the Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt in Freiburg, the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz and the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich nor several former police and military leaders in the East questioned by the investigators could help to clarify these symbols - except for one former police general who thought to decipher the military symbol as "seventh message [unit] from the Wehrkreis Kassel" (interrogation of Güsken of 11 December 1961, BArch, B 162 / 4340, p. 35). Unfortunately, such a unit was unknown and this hint was a dead end.

Since the vehicles had belonged to the German police, the investigators went forward to ask among employees of the German Criminal Police for identification of the vehicles, but without explaining the background and showing the exhaust tubes. The police officer Ernst Korn believed to know that the military symbols on the truck belonged to a previously mounted, now motorised police unit assigned to the Wehrmacht, but he doubted that a clear identification was possible since the sign is cropped off (Sichting to Landeskriminalamt Baden-Würrtemberg of 26 March 1962 & interrogation of Korn of 6 April 1962, B 162 / 4340, p. 53 & p. 55).

Was this the unsatisfactory end of the search? Not quite so. The former motor pool head of the first company of the police reserve battalion no. 3 (Pol. Res. Bat. 3) operating for Einsatzkommando 8, Ernst Else, still possessed a list of vehicles including license plates of his former fleet - among these also POL 51628, the same as on the truck on the gassing footage. According to Else, the truck was a Ford V8 assigned to Einsatzkommando 8. Another driver of Pol. Res. Bat. 3 attached to Einsatzkommando 8, Walter Finger, confirmed that the police license plate belonged to one of their trucks (interrogation of Else of 21 December 1962 & interrogation of Finger of 18 September 1963, BArch B 162 / 4340, p. 59 & p. 185).

Thus, the gassing on the footage was most likely carried out by or with the help of members of Einsatzkommando 8 of Einsatzgruppe B. The commando settled down in Mogilev on 9 September 1941 (Activity Report of the Einsatzgruppen no. 90 of 21 September 1941, in Cüppers et al., Die Ereignismeldungen UdSSR 1941. Dokumente der Einsatzgruppen in der Sowjetunion I, p. 515). This also strongly corroborates Sergey's finding in the previous part that the gassing scene took place at the asylum in Mogilev, and vice versa.

1 comment:

Gilles Karmasyn said...

Congratulations for this series about a well known (and not so well in fact) footage. The responsibility you attribute to Einsatzkommando 8 was already inferred by Mathias Beer in his breaking study, « Die Entwicklung der Gaswagen beim Mord an den Juden», Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 35, 1987, 3 (see among others note 36, p. 408).


A english translation can be found on nizkor or on the Einsatzgruppen Archive:

Keep the (very) good work flowing

Oh, by the way, I have put back online The Holocaust History Project website there:

Apart from some Nuremberg material I must work on, the whole thing is there, in all its pristine glory.