Saturday, June 23, 2018

Dividing the Dead – or not (Part 3)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

This article is about the Soviet prosecution’s case at Nuremberg regarding Crimes against Humanity, with a focus on how the Soviet prosecutors addressed the genocide of Europe’s Jews by Nazi Germany.

3.3 Counsellor Smirnov on Crimes against Humanity

Smirnov’s presentation of the Soviet case on Crimes against Humanity[60] differed from his presentation on War Crimes against Civilians mainly in that it included a section exclusively dedicated to the "persecution of the Jews",[61] with evidence in two other sections, "Experiments on Living Persons"[62] and "secret centers for extermination of people",[63] mentioning the mass gassing of Jews in extermination camps.

Brief as these sections were, they were also outstanding parts of Smirnov’s presentations of evidence. Not only did German documents and eyewitnesses testifying before the tribunal predominate in these presentations (whereas the War Crimes presentation relied heavily on Soviet official statements and investigation reports) [64] but the tone of the presentation was also different – with little if any of the pathos that characterized the war crimes presentation, just an exposition of the relevant facts. One gets the impression that, whereas atrocities against "peaceful citizens" aroused Smirnov’s emotions because they actually or at least officially involved his own people, crimes declaredly committed against Jews only were something he could address in a cooler, less passionate manner.

The evidence mentioning the extermination of Jews presented in the aforementioned three sections of the Smirnov’s presentation on Crimes against Humanity was the following:

1. A report on Einsatzgruppe A from October 1941 to 31 January 1942, Document Number USSR-57; [65]

2. A report of the commander of one of the companies of the 12th Regiment of Police, which carried out the mass extermination of the Jews assembled in the ghetto of the town of Pinsk, Document Number USSR-119(a); [66]

3. An original poster which had been put up in the town of Kislovodsk by Kommandantur Number 12; [67]

4. A report of the Extraordinary State Commission of the Stavropol region, Document Number USSR-1 (p. 298), about the massacre of 2,000 Jews at Mineralniye Vody; [68]

5. A Polish government report whereby "about 3 million Jews perished in Poland;"[69]

6. Data whereby in Czechoslovakia only 6,000 out of 118,000 Jews were left at the end of the war; [70]

7. A report from the Yugoslavian government whereby out of about 80,000 Jews on Yugoslavian territory before the German invasion, only about 10,000 survived the occupation;[71]

8. The testimony of Abram Gerzevitch Suzkever, about the extermination of the Vilna ghetto’s Jews; [72]

9. The testimony of Severina Shmaglevskaya, about experiments on children at Auschwitz;[73]

10. The testimony of Samuel Rajzman about Treblinka extermination camp;[74]

11. A report by a Polish examining magistrate about Treblinka extermination camp, whereby about 781,000 persons perished at that camp, Document Number USSR-340;[75]

12. Quotes from the depositions of an examining magistrate before the Chief Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, about the extermination camp "Helmno", whereby about 340,000 persons perished in that camp.[76]

The exhibit mentioned under item 1 is the later of the two reports issued by SS-Brigadeführer Stahlecker about the activities of Einsatzgruppe A in the Baltic States. The earlier report, covering the period up to 15 October 1941, had been presented by US prosecutor Major Walsh as Document L-180, Exhibit Number USA-276. [77] Smirnov expressly referred to the American prosecutor’s presentation of this earlier document. [78] The 1st Stahlecker report mentions the execution of 121,817 persons, thereof 118,430 Jews and 3,387 communists. The largest number of executions occurred in Lithuania (81,171 persons, thereof 80,311 Jews and 860 communists). Communists made up a larger proportion of people executed in Latvia (1,843 out of 31,868) and Estonia (684 out of 1,158, i.e. the majority) than in Lithuania. In "White Ruthenia", the part of Belorussia included in the Reichskommissariat Ostland, all 7,620 people executed by Einsatzgruppe A were Jews. In addition to those executed by his own forces, Stahlecker mentioned 5,500 Jews annihilated by pogroms in Lithuania and Latvia, 2,000 Jews, communists and partisans executed in the "old Russian area", 748 executed "lunatics" and 5,502 communists and Jews killed by the State Police and Security Service, for a total of 135,567.[79] The 1st Stahlecker report places special emphasis on the willingness of local forces to cooperate with the German authorities also as concerns the killing of Jews and communists (especially in Lithuania, where locals also did much killing on their own initiative), [80] on Soviet crimes against the Baltic peoples and their resistance against Soviet rule. [81] Major Walsh, in his presentation of the persecution of the Jews, emphasized the participation of Lithuanians and Latvians in the killings, namely in pogroms set into motion by Stahlecker’s unit and/or its local auxiliaries.[82]

The 2nd Stahlecker Report was written at a time when, despite the generally collaborationist attitude of the occupied populations in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and "White Ruthenia", especially in the former Baltic countries, an increasing dissatisfaction with the German rule had become noticeable. Accordingly the report addresses these phenomena in some detail. [83] Resistance had become a major concern, especially in Latvia and the Belorussian territories, and accordingly occupies a long section of the report. [84] The extermination of the Jews covers a comparatively short section, [85] which mainly addresses the history of Jews in each country (including their claimed culpability in the context of Soviet terror, and the need to keep some of them alive for lack of other skilled craftsmen) and also mentions Jews deported from the Reich (20,000 to Riga, 7,000 to Minsk). As concerns executions, Estonia had been made free of Jews (p. 50), in Latvia 30,000 Jews had been executed by Einsatzgruppe A and assisting Latvian police forces (p. 59), besides another 11,034 killed in Dünaburg (Daugavpils) on 9.11.1941[86] and, by forces of the Higher SS and Police Commander, 27,800 in Riga in early December 1941[87] and 2,350 in Libau (Liepāja) in mid-December[88] (p. 59). In Lithuania 136,421 persons had been killed with the help of Lithuanian auxiliaries (p. 61). [89] In "White Ruthenia", due to the dispersal of the Jews, difficult roads and lack of vehicles, gasoline and executors, "only" 41,000 had been killed by Einsatzgruppe A, with an additional 19,000 "partisans and criminals, i.e. mainly Jews"[90] killed by Wehrmacht forces and an undetermined number killed by earlier Einsatzkommandos (pp. 62-63). All but the last of these figures were mentioned in Smirnov’s presentation on Crimes against Humanity. [91] Unlike in Major Walsh’s quotes from the 1st Stahlecker Report, references to local initiatives and auxiliaries were omitted.

In the context of items 2 and 3 above, Smirnov spoke about the "extermination of the peaceful Jewish population".[92]

Unlike the Extraordinary State Commission reports in Smirnov’s presentation about war crimes against civilians, the report of the Stavropol commission about Mineralniye Vody (item 4) was summarized but not quoted verbatim.[93]

Regarding item 5 of the aforementioned list, it should be noted that the stated number of Jews who perished in Poland refers to Poland within its borders as of 1 September 1939. It thus includes Jewish inhabitants of Eastern Poland who had become Soviet citizens following the annexation of that region by the USSR. Unlike for Poland, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, no total figure for the USSR in its 1939 borders or including the former Baltic countries[94] was stated by Smirnov, the only hint that these figures might also be very high being Smirnov’s pointing out that Stahlecker’s Einsatzgruppe A was just one such unit and Stahlecker’s report referred to just one period of that unit’s activity. [95] The absence of a total figure for the USSR might have been be due to the fact that no such figure was available and/or related to the ludicrously low figure for total Soviet military and civilian losses that was official at the time, perhaps also to other "taboos".[96]

Suzkever’s testimony (item 8), despite exaggerating the number of victims,[97] was a vivid and realistic account of life and death in Jewish Vilna during the Nazi occupation, including the mention of key figures on the German side, like Martin Weiss and "a certain Herring", both later sentenced in the German Federal Republic.[98] A notable feature in Suzkever’s testimony is that, despite the prominent role played by Lithuanian auxiliaries in exterminating Vilna’s Jews,[99] these auxiliaries were never mentioned by the witness, who referred to the perpetrators eith as Germans or as "Sonderkommandos". Also notable is Suzkever’s having produced a document "concerning the Jewish clothing from Ponari", later identified as Document USSR-444, that Smirnov was unaware of.

Severina Shmaglevskaya’s testimony (item 9) is the first piece of evidence in the Soviet prosecution case, unless I missed something, that mentioned the selections among Jews arriving at Auschwitz and the gassing of those deemed unable to work. The witness stated that children born to Jewish mothers in the camp were immediately put to death, then mentioned that she had seen "many children among the Jews brought to the concentration camp", then that children arriving with Jewish transports were separated from their parents in front of the crematory and led separately into gas chambers (at peak periods thrown alive into the cremation ovens or pits), then that "the children of Hungarian Jews" had to "work together with the children who were brought after the Warsaw uprising." One of her statements[100] may or not be understood as suggesting that non-Jewish children were gassed as well.

The witness Rajzman (item 10) was introduced as "a Polish national", without Smirnov stating that he was a Jew or that Treblinka extermination camp was meant for Jews. However, Rajzman’s clearly stated the trains arriving at Treblinka were "filled exclusively with Jews-from Czechoslovakia, Germany, Greece, and Poland". A claim at the end of the testimony, whereby it had been planned to increase the number of gas chambers from 10 to 25 because, according to Rajzman’s German interlocutors, there would be "others" after all Jews had been killed, [101] suggests that Treblinka was meant to eventually exterminate non-Jews as well (there is no other evidence I know of that would corroborate this claim). With the mention of gas chambers as the killing method, Rajzman’s testimony was an important corrective to the Polish government report that had been presented by Major Walsh, according to which the victims had been killed with "steam".[102] Said prior mention of Treblinka by the US prosecution may have been the reason why the Soviets brought Treblinka into their case despite the camp’s having been omitted in their contribution to the indictment, which only mentioned Auschwitz and Majdanek (both not as camps whose victims had been mostly Jews). It is also noteworthy that the Soviets did not present any witness regarding Majdanek.

The Polish report about Treblinka submitted as Document Number USSR-340 and mentioned by Smirnov was prepared by Soviet Judge Zdzisław Łukaszkiewicz. [103] The stated estimated figure, about 781,000, was higher than the figure stated in a later Polish publication, [104] but a far cry from the 3 million estimated by Soviet war correspondent Vassili Grossman. [105] Considering the overblown figures for Auschwitz and Majdanek, the exclusively "Jewish" extermination camp Treblinka may thus have come across as ranking third, after Auschwitz and Majdanek. Łukaszkiewicz’s estimate was remarkably close to more recent estimates, which were made on the basis of documentary evidence that Łukaszkiewicz didn’t have at his disposal. [106]

Like regarding Treblinka, Smirnov also didn’t mention Jews when presenting the Polish deposition about "Helmno" (Chełmno), but the quoted text clearly mentioned Jews as the camp’s victims. The Polish figure, about 340,000, has since been reduced by judicial investigation and historical research. [107]

Considering the above, could it be that the Soviet prosecution, in its case on Crimes against Humanity, abandoned its "ecumenical" stance whereby Jews were victims of Nazi exterminatory violence just like other "peaceful citizens" or "peaceful civilians"?

Indications to the contrary can be sought in various statements or omissions mentioned above, namely the reference to the Jews as the "peaceful Jewish population" (arguably a sub-category of the "peaceful population" or the "peaceful Soviet population"), the inclusion of Jews murdered in annexed former Polish territories in a number of victims for "Poland", the absence of a figure for Jews killed on the territory of the USSR, and the possible mentions of non-Jewish or potentially non-Jewish victims in the testimonies of Shmaglevskaya and Rajzman. A much weightier argument, however, is the context in which the aforementioned sections of Smirnov’s Crimes against Humanity presentation were embedded.

In the introduction of this presentation, Jews were not mentioned even once – even though Treblinka extermination camp was expressly mentioned, and statements by "Jacob Vernik, a carpenter from Warsaw" were quoted. [108]

The title of the presentation’s first section after the introduction was far more dramatic than "Persecution of the Jews":
I pass on to the first part of my statement, which is entitled, "Extermination of Slav Peoples." In this part I shall show how this criminal purpose of the Hitlerites to exterminate the Slav peoples was carried out.[109]

Emphases in this and the following quotes are mine.

The first example of Nazi extermination policy against the "Slav Peoples" was an equally dramatic quote from a Yugoslav government report:
Apart from the thousands of Yugoslavs who died in battle, the occupants exterminated at least one and a half to two million people, mostly women, children, and aged persons. Of the 15 million prewar Yugoslav population, in the relatively short period of 4 years; almost 14 percent of the entire population was exterminated."[110]

No less dramatic, and no more realistic (as least as concerns wartime Nazi policies[111]) was the following claim in Smirnov’s presentation:
In Poland a regime of extermination of the Slav population was put into effect by divers criminal methods, among which driving people to an extreme state of exhaustion by excessive labor and subsequent death from hunger, was most prevalent. The criminals quite consciously embarked upon the extermination of millions of people by hunger, which is attested by a number of documents already quoted by me and my colleagues in part, namely, the diary of Hans Frank. [112]

This was followed by evidence to severe undernourishment among the Polish population and related statements of Nazi officials, the most damning of which was the one made by General Governor Hans Frank according to the minutes of a governmental conference held on 24 August 1942:
"With all the difficulties which arise from the illness of workers, or the breaking down of your co-operatives, you must always bear in mind that it is much better if a Pole collapses than if the Germans are defeated. The fact that we shall be condemning 1,200,000 Jews to death by starvation should be mentioned incidentally. Of course, if the Jews do not die from starvation, it is to be hoped that anti-Jewish measures will be expedited in the future." [113]

In accordance with the message that this part of his presentation was meant to convey, Smirnov’s emphasis was not so much on Frank’s genocidal statement regarding the Jews as on the passage I highlighted, about the underfeeding of the Poles.

The exploitation of the occupied territories of the USSR figured prominently in Smirnov’s presentation on the "extermination of the Slav peoples", as did statements about Germanization and removal of the locals and atrocities against the Slav population. In order to "explain the methods adopted by the German fascists in the execution of their cannibalistic plan for the extermination of the Soviet people", Smirnov called the witness Jacob Grigorievich, a survivor of the eradication of his home village in the district of Pskov near Leningrad on the pretext that partisans had hidden in that village.[114]

The next count of Crimes against Humanity was the "discrimination against the Soviet people". The main case presented here was that Soviet prisoners of war[115] were treated much worse than those from other Allied countries. This is an indisputable fact. [116] However, and although the different treatment of PoWs from various nations is an important aspect of Nazi racism and criminality, the rationale of this Crimes against Humanity count seems difficult to understand. Would the abysmal treatment of Soviet prisoners of war in German captivity have been a lesser crime if all prisoners of war in German custody had been treated as badly as the Soviet prisoners? If the Nazis had massacred the Soviet civilian population at large like they massacred the Jews (i.e. according to the impression that the Soviet stance about exterminatory crimes against "peaceful civilians", "the Soviet people"> and the like tried to convey), this would obviously have been a larger and more abominable crime than the ones that were actually committed.

The Soviet case on Crimes against Humanity did not end with the evidence about Treblinka and Chełmno extermination camps. From secret extermination centers Smirnov moved on to "religious persecutions" in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, which the "fascist criminals" were supposed to have indulged in "by their mockery of the religious feelings and faith of the people, by persecuting and murdering the priesthood of all religious creeds." [117]

After addressing repression of religion including incarceration of clerics in Czechoslovakia and the incarceration or murder of Polish clerics (the latter at least was real enough[118]), Smirnov’s presentation moved to actions against the Orthodox Church in the Soviet Union, where "the persecution of religion and clergy took the form of sacrilegious desecration of churches, destruction of shrines connected with the patriotic feelings of the Russian people, and the murder of priests".[119]

The Archdean of the Churches of the City of Leningrad, the Very Reverend Nikolai Ivanovitch Lomakin, was called to the stand as a witness. A survivor of the siege of Leningrad, Lomakin, who had himself been "dying of hunger" during the siege, recalled the horrors of life inside the besieged city, with large numbers of civilians killed by German air raids and dying of hunger, several thousand per day, piles of bodies piling up around a church, weakened relatives falling down and dying as they tried to bring the bodies of their loved ones to the cemetery. [120] Yet prosecutor Smirnov was mainly interested in damage done to the Leningrad churches, which the witness described in detail, including occasions on which parishioners and priests were killed or wounded in German air raids.

Lomakin claimed that "the Luftwaffe and German artillery forces timed their raids so that not only would the churches be demolished, but the peaceful worshipers who sought refuge there from the fighting and the artillery fire would be killed as well."[121] The number of people killed by air raids in or near sites of cult according to Lomakin (5,000 under the ruins of three churches alone)[122] is in all probability exaggerated, [123] and a claim that a girl was killed by a German sniper as she emerged from the crypt of the Leningrad Trinity Church[124] cannot possibly be accurate as the German besiegers of Leningrad never got within sniping range. [125]

The witness went on to describe destruction, plunder and mining of cult sites in the city of Pskov, [126] then moved back to Leningrad to recall that artillery fire was directed at the Cathedral of Leningrad and killed parishioners – fifty on one occasion, which seems fairly realistic, but the claim that in the cathedral "I had to bury thousands of peaceful citizens torn to pieces, victims of the predatory raids of the air force and artillery"[127] is clearly hyperbolic. The same does not necessarily apply to the claim that "most of the intensive artillery fire on Leningrad always took place on feast days; the houses of God, tramway stops, and hospitals were put under fire, and destroyed with all means," [128] as the shelling of the city was a means of terror that was most effective on days where and when congregations of people could be expected.[129]

Following Lomakin’s testimony, Smirnov concluded his presentation on Crimes against Humanity. He finished with a (notwithstanding its flaws) dramatic account provided by a Russian Orthodox cleric, which possibly appealed more to the feelings of religious Russians and perhaps also to those of religious men among the members of the Tribunal, and besides the suffering of struggling people may at the time have been something that people could identify with better than with the slaughter of people who did not defend themselves, besides being more familiar and easier to visualize than the unprecedented, unimaginable extermination camps.[130] In any case, Lomakin’s testimony helped to obfuscate the notion that the genocide of Europe’s Jews was the quintessential crime of Nazi Germany and not just one atrocity among others.

This obfuscation pervaded Smirnov’s case on war crimes against civilians and was also unmistakably present in his case on Crimes against Humanity. A "criminal German fascist organization", the Einzatzgruppen,[131] liquidated or executed Jews (thus the wording of the 2nd Stahlecker Report, which Smirnov didn’t qualify on) in large numbers. There were "mass executions of Jews by the German criminals." [132] The "German fascist invaders" proceeded to "the extermination of the peaceful Jewish population." [133] The "extent of the criminal extermination of the Jewish population in Eastern Europe"[134] (but not in the Soviet Union) was pointed out. On the other hand, the "this criminal purpose of the Hitlerites to exterminate the Slav peoples was carried out."[135] In Poland, the criminals "quite consciously embarked upon the extermination of millions of people by hunger." [136] The German fascists adopted measures like the eradication of villages and their inhabitants, described by the witness Grigoriev, "in the execution of their cannibalistic plan for the extermination of the Soviet people – peaceful citizens of my motherland, women, children and old people." The extermination of the Jews was nothing extraordinary in this context. It was an indistinct part of the Nazis’ exterminatory barbarity, which hit the "Slav peoples" as well. Throughout their prosecution case, the Soviets remained true to their stance that "peaceful citizens" or "peaceful civilians", Jews and non-Jews alike, had been victims of Nazi Germany’s criminal plans and actions. [137]


[60] IMT Vol. VIII, pp. 238 – 344.
[61] As above, pp. 294-308.
[62] As above, pp. 308-322.
[63] As above, pp. 322-331.
[64] Documentary evidence was also referred to in Smirnov’s War Crimes presentation, for instance Keitel’s order of 16 December 1942 authorizing any measures against civilians in the context of anti-partisan warfare (Vol VII pp. 488-489), communications by the Kiev town commandant dated 22 October, 2 November and 29 November 1941 about reprisal killings (pp. 503-504), a "Summary of a Punitive Expedition to the Village of Borysovka, 22 and 26 of September 1942." (p. 533), reports by German officers Rösler and Schirwindt about a mass execution witnessed by Rösler in Zhitomir in late July 1941 (pp. 534-536), photographs of the Liepāja massacres in December 1941, as well as other atrocity photos taken by Germans (pp. 548-550), and correspondence between Topf and Sons of Erfurt and the Auschwitz construction office about the Auschwitz crematoria (pp. 583-584). But the quantitatively prevailing evidence, which also set the tone of the presentation, was Soviet government communiques and reports by the Extraordinary State Commission, with their "peaceful citizens" stance. This doesn’t mean that the Soviet investigation reports presented are useless. They contain important descriptions of mass grave exhumations, and much of their content can nowadays be checked against and confirmed by evidence independent of the Soviets. For examples of matching Soviet and non-Soviet evidence (German documents, testimonies before judicial authorities of the German Federal Republic) see among others the aforementioned articles about the documentary film "The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR" and the articles Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies …, Mass Graves in the Polesie, Drobitski Yar , Mattogno and Father Patrick Desbois (5) Mattogno on the Mass Graves at Ponary (first of a series of four articles, with links to the others) and Mattogno’s Marijampolė Mass Graves Controversy.
[65] IMT Vol. VIII, pp. 294-296.
[66] As above, pp. 296-297.
[67] As above, pp. 298.
[68] As above. Regarding this massacre see also note 12.
[69] As above, pp. 298-299.
[70] As above, p. 299.
[71] As above, p. 301.
[72] As above, pp. 302-308.
[73] As above, pp. 317-322.
[74] As above, pp. 324-329.
[75] As above, p. 330.
[76] As above, pp. 330-331. "Helmno" is obviously the Chełmno extermination camp.
[77] IMT Vol. III, pp. 530-531 and p. 559.
[78] IMT Vol. VIII, p. 294. Fairly complete copies of the Stahlecker Reports can be downloaded on the page The Two Full Stahlecker Reports: Holocaust Atrocities in the Baltics. Only a very relatively short part of the 1st Stahlecker Report was translated into English (Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Vol. VII, pp. 978 – 996; the text is also available on the Wikisource page Comprehensive report of Einsatzgruppe A up to 15 October 1941.
[79] Enclosure 8 of the report, reproduced in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression Volume VII, p. 992.
[80] As above, pp. 983-986 and 989.
[81] As above, pp. 983 (Lithuanian uprising against Soviet rule at the beginning of the "Eastern Campaign"), 985 (Men of Lithuanian and Latvian detachments attached to execution squads were chosen whose relatives had been murdered or "removed" by the "Russians") and 988 (especially extensive exhumation of Estonians murdered by the "Russians", 30,000 Estonian men reported missing in Reval alone).
[82] IMT Vol. III, p. 559. The same quotes can be found in Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Vol. I, p. 999.
[83] E.g. in the section "Stimmungsbericht", pp. 9-17.
[84] "Widerstandsbewegung", pp. 120-147.
[85] "Juden", pp. 56-64.
[86] The number may be a typo. According to the 1st Stahlecker Report 9,845 Jews had already been killed at Dünaburg by mid-October 1941. Ezergailis, according to this page, mentions 1,134 killed in Daugavpils on 9 November 1941 in The Holocaust in Latvia, p. 279.
[87] This was the Rumbula forest massacre, organized by SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, who had earlier organized the massacre at Kamenets-Podolsky.
[88] This was the Šķēde beach massacre, recorded in photographs taken by an SS officer, Karl Strott.
[89] The figure was provided by Jäger on 9 February 1942. A facsimile of the report can be viewed in my article The Jäger Report (8) .
[90] German text: "Partisanen und Verbrecher, d.h. also in der Mehrzahl Juden".
[91] IMT Vol. VIII, pp. 294-296.
[92] As above, p. 298.
[93] As above.
[94] According to Nick Terry’s estimate published on the Axis History Forum, of about 2.89 million Jewish dead from prewar Poland about 1.6 million died in western Poland (occupied by Germany since 1939), 1.21 million in eastern Poland and 80,000 in the Wilno area (annexed by Lithuania in 1939, then annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 together with the rest of Lithuania). The number of dead Jews from among those living on territory of the USSR would thus be 2.558 million.
[95] IMT Vol. VIII, pp. 294 and 295.
[96] According to Michael Ellman & S. Maksudov, Soviet Deaths in the Great Patriotic War, the official figure in the Stalin period was 7 million, which was about 20 million below the currently accepted figure. As Stalin had claimed 5 million military fatalities at Yalta (so the article "Im Fernsehen: Rußlands Vaterländischer Krieg", Der Spiegel, 14.09.1981), this would leave room for only 2 million civilian dead, far less than the number of Jewish genocide deaths on Soviet territory alone. According to American historian Timothy Snyder (Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, 2010 Basic Books, p. 342) the number of Jews killed by the Germans in the Soviet Union was a "state secret". A contextual quote of Snyder’s statement is included in my article The Jäger Report (1).
[97] According to Suzkever in the last answer to his Soviet interrogator, 79,400 out of 80,000 Jewish inhabitants of Vilna were exterminated. According to my calculations the total number of Jews from the Vilna Ghetto cannot have exceeded about 37,000.
[98] Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, Vol. VI, Case No. 192 (LG Würzburg 500203, LG Würzburg 670921). At the first of these two trials Martin Weiss was sentenced to lifetime imprisonment for the murder of at least 30,000 people by units under his command, mostly at the Ponary killing site near Vilnius, as well as several individual murders he committed by his own hand. Also sentenced was August Hering, (obviously the "certain Herring" mentioned by Suzkever. The 1967 verdict acquitted Weiss from one of the individual murder charges on which he had been convicted in 1950, the murder of a female singer.
[99] Lithuanian executors are frequently mentioned in the "Ponary Diary" of Kazimierz Sakowicz, quoted in my article How many people were killed at Ponary? .
[100] "I should also add that it is impossible to determine the number of these children-like that of the Jews-because they were driven directly to the crematory, were not registered, were not tattooed, and very often were not even counted." – IMT Vol. VIII, p. 320.
[101] As above, p. 329.
[102] Document 3311-PS, Exhibit USA-293. The quote is transcribed in IMT Vol. III, pp. 567-568. In the IMT’s judgment, Auschwitz and Treblinka were mentioned as two of the concentration camps that had been set aside for the main purpose of destroying people in gas chambers.
[103] See the list of estimates on the Wikipedia page about Treblinka and the page about Zdzisław Łukaszkiewicz.
[104] 731,600 according to German Crimes in Poland. Volume I. Published by the Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. Warsaw, 1946, pp. 95-106, online.
[105] See my article 19 November 1942.
[106] Polish historian Jacek Andrzej Młynarczyk ("Treblinka – Ein Todeslager im Rahmen der "Aktion Reinhard"", in: Bogdan Musial (editor), Aktion Reinhardt Der Völkermord an den Juden im Generalgouvernement 1941-1944, pp. 257-281) added 713,555 deportees in 1942 according to the Höfle Telegram and 67,308 deportees in 1943 to arrive at a minimum total of 780,863 people killed at Treblinka (p. 281). This figure also includes ca. 2,000 Sinti and Roma taken to Treblinka in the spring of 1943.
[107] The Bonn Court of Assizes (Landgericht), in its judgment dated 30.3.1963 at the trial against Heinrich B. et al (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, Vol. XXI, Case No. 594, quoted in Adalbert Rückerl, NS Vernichtungslager im Spiegel deutscher Strafprozesse, pages 288 ff.), concluded that at least about 152,000 Jews had been killed at Chełmno. Additionally about 5,000 Sinti and Roma were murdered at the camp. See Hans Metzner’s articles Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - The Extermination of 100,000 Jews and Sonderkommando Kulmhof in German Documents - Drinks and Tobacco (With Excursus on the Extermination of the Sinti and Roma).
[108] IMT Vol. VIII, pp. 238-242; Vernik (aka Yankel Wiernik) is quoted on p. 240.
[109] As above, p. 242.
[110] As above, pp. 242-243. The claim that 1.5-2 million Yugoslav non-combatants (14 percent of the population) were "exterminated" is a considerable exaggeration. Total war-related fatalities in Yugoslavia, according to the late Croatian economist and United Nations specialist Vladimir Žerjavić, were in the order of 1,027,000, thereof 947,000 on Yugoslavian territory and 80,000 abroad. Of the former about 237,000 were resistance fighters, 209,000 were "collaborators and quislings" and 501,000 "victims", thereof 216,000 in camps and 285,000 "in places" (Žerjavić, Yugoslavia – Manipulations with the Number of Second World War Victims, chapter THE AUTHOR'S SURVEY OF THE DEMOGRAPHIC AND HUMAN WAR LOSSES IN YUGOSLAVIA, Table 3 and Table 5. While all occupying forces (Germans, Italians, Hungarians and Bulgarians) committed many atrocities against non-combatants in the course of anti-partisan reprisals, the only ones who perpetrated something that can be called genocide against Slavs (in this case Serbians) were other Slavs, the Croatian fascists known as Ustaše. According to the USHMM page about Jasenovac concentration camp, Croat authorities murdered between 320,000 and 340,000 ethnic Serb residents of Croatia and Bosnia during the period of Ustaša rule. Žerjavić’s figures are much lower: Serbian civilian losses on the territory of the NDH or "Independent State of Croatia" were in the order of about 197,000, thereof 45,000 killed by German forces, 15,000 killed by Italian forces, 28,000 died in "prisons, pits and other camps", 50,000 killed in the Jasenovac-Gradina camp, 25,000 died of typhoid and 34,000 killed "in battles between Ustashas, Chetniks and Partisans". According to my calculations, about 260,000 non-Jewish Yugoslavian citizens were killed criminal actions by Axis (including Croatian) forces during World War II.
[111] The Generalplan Ost, had it been implemented following a final victory by Nazi Germany, would have been a different matter altogether.
[112] As above, p. 243.
[113] As above.
[114] As above, pp. 257-261. Horrible though the atrocities committed against the non-Jewish peasant population in the context of anti-partisan warfare were (to get a small idea of what it was like, watch Elem Klimov’s Come and See, in my opinion the best war film ever made), and despite the fact that especially in Belorussia large swathes of land were depopulated, these killings were not intended to eradicate the peasant population per se like the Jews inhabitants of the occupied territories had been mostly wiped out. The idea was to deprive the partisans of shelter and sustenance by destroying the villages where they might find foodstuffs and killing or deporting the villagers that might assist them in any way, be it voluntarily or at gunpoint. In his study about German occupation and extermination policies in Belorussia, Christian Gerlach explains this tactic as follows (Kalkulierte Morde, p. 910, my translation): "As in the case of other guerrilla movements the military attacks of the partisans and the own losses were not the most dangerous aspect from the point of view of the German occupation authorities (see chapter 9.1). What concerned them more was the partisans growing political influence upon the local population. The partisans were thus to be isolated from the peasants at any cost. The more the armed resistance drew the peasants to its side, the less agrarian products they delivered to the Germans. The main interest of the occupiers, however, was to have a population as loyal and willing to deliver as possible. Where the population sided with the partisans, it became a threat to German rule through its disobedience, and as it was easier to hit, the occupiers concentrated on wiping out the partisan infested villages (a term often employed) in order to keep the political infection from spreading.".
[115] Crimes against prisoners of war had already been addressed in an earlier presentation by the Deputy Chief Prosecutor for the USSR, Colonel Pokrovsky (IMT Vol. VII, pp. 345 – 436). This presentation was based also on German documents such as Leykauf’s Letter to Thomas dated 2 December 1941 and Rosenberg’s letter to Keitel dated 28 February 1942, but chiefly on Soviet government communiques, Extraordinary State Commission reports, records of witness testimonies before Soviet authorities and a Soviet court verdict. One of the exhibits referred to, as concerns the treatment of Polish prisoners of war, was the infamous Document Number USSR-54, featuring the forensic report whereby the Soviets tried to make believe that it was not them but the Germans who had murdered the Polish officers whose bodies had been found in 1943 in the Katyn forest (pp. 425-427). This was the abysmal part of the Soviet prosecution case.
[116] See the HC reference library threads The Fate of Soviet Prisoners of War and Nazi and Soviet Crimes, as well as my article Scrapbookpages on Subhuman Cannibalism.
[117] As above, p. 332.
[118] According to Polish figures, during the German occupation Poland lost 45 percent of her physicians and dentists, 57 percent of her attorneys, more than 15 percent of her teachers, 40 percent of her professors, 30 percent of her technicians, and more than 18 percent of her clergy. See Tadeusz Piotrowski, Poland’s Holocaust. Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947, p. 23.
[119] IMT Vol. VIII, p. 333.
[120] As above, pp. 335-336. The horrors of the siege of Leningrad and the intentions of Hitler and the Wehrmacht High Command regarding the city’s population are addressed in the HC reference library thread The Siege of Leningrad, a collection of excerpts from German documents, eyewitness testimonies, photos, film footage and historical literature. Stills from a Soviet documentary about the siege can be viewed in my article Nazi crimes in Soviet footage.
[121] As above.
[122] As above, p. 341.
[123] In his presentation about war crimes against civilians Smirnov quoted from a Soviet report whereby bombing and artillery fire killed 16,747 people in Leningrad and 632,253 people died of hunger (IMT Vol. VII, p. 571). There is no indication, as far as I know, that the former figure is an undercount, and with less than 17,000 air raid and shelling victims throughout the city it is highly improbable that 5,000 died at three church sites alone. The number of starvation deaths, on the other hand, is generally held to be too low. According to Harrison E. Salisbury (The 900 Days. The Siege of Leningrad, 1970 Avon Books, New York, pp. 590 ff.), the civilian death toll of the siege was no lower than 800,000 and may have reached something over 1,000,000 deaths attributable to hunger alone in Leningrad and its vicinity. Anna Reid (Leningrad. Tragedy of a City under Siege, 2012 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, London, pp. 417-418) estimates that the siege’s civilian death toll was "not less than 650,000 and not much more than 800,000", and that the most probable single figure is about 750,000 (between one in three and one in four of Leningrad’s immediate pre-siege population).
[124] IMT Vol. VIII, pp. 341-342.
[125] If the incident happened the cause of death must have been shrapnel from an exploding bomb or shell. Or then the girl was shot in an embattled city like Pskov (which also has a Trinity Cathedral), and locations got mixed up in Lomakin’s memory. The hypothesis that he simply invented a tale I consider more remote. Witnesses to traumatic events often have confused or even weird recollections. A case in point are certain survivors of the Dresden bombings.
[126] As above, p. 342.
[127] As above, p. 343.
[128] As above.
[129] See Salisbury, as above pp. 636-637; Reid, as above pp. 377 – 380 and 383. Salisbury and Reid mention stations, tram stops and movie houses as the targets; according to Reid artillery fire was especially heavy during morning and evening journeys to work and public holidays. However, neither Salisbury nor Reid mention the targeting of churches.
[130] The siege of Leningrad was addressed in Why We Fight: The Battle of Russia, one of the US wartime propaganda documentaries made by Frank Capra. Footage about the defense and siege of Leningrad, which is presented in a rather euphemistic manner as befits the heroism stance that pervades Capra’s production, starts at 49:30 of the YouTube video. At 53:54 to 53:59 there is a (false) claim that surrender of the city was demanded by the Wehrmacht. The horrors of starvation are briefly shown, as is the shelling of the city (with some inaccuracies, e.g. what is shown as German artillery is sometimes Soviet artillery), supposedly meant to bring about the city’s surrender.
[131] IMT Vol. VIII, p. 294.
[132] As above, p. 296.
[133] As above, p. 298.
[134] As above.
[135] As above, p. 242.
[136] As above, p. 243.
[137] In fairness it should be said that this viewpoint is not wholly without merit, insofar as it is to a certain extent present in studies by historians like Christian Gerlach, Dieter Pohl and Timothy Snyder, who maintain that the genocide of the Jews must be seen and can only be properly understood in the context of crimes committed or intended by the Nazis against other victim groups. In the introduction of his latest book, The Extermination of the European Jews, Gerlach states that his study "places the persecution of Jews in the context of interdependent policies regarding warfare, occupation and policing, social issues, economics, racist thought and popular racism", and "also describes the murder of Jews amidst massive violence against other groups and attempts to make connections among these different sorts of violence", an approach in which it "differs from narratives that examine the persecution and murder of Jews alone with little regard to the fate of other groups, on the basis of a history of ideas with relatively few other forms of contextualization."


  1. On the Dünaburg number:



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