Monday, June 25, 2018

Dividing the Dead – or not (Part 4)

Author: Roberto Muehlenkamp
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The fourth and final part is this series is about how the Soviets addressed the Nazi genocide of the Jews after Nuremberg, and about what the Soviet approach to the particular fate of Jews under Nazi rule might (or not) reveal about the reasons why the Soviets held back the 2nd Jäger Report for almost twenty years after its discovery.

4. After Nuremberg

The Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals was the high water mark of Soviet interest in Nazi crimes committed specifically against Jews. Never again, as far as I know, would Soviet authorities address the subject in such detail as in Smirnov’s Crimes against Humanity presentation.

During the Nuremberg Trial the Soviet prosecutors, especially Smirnov, apparently tried to be in line with their western colleagues, as far as their instructions from above permitted, regarding Nazi Germany’s crimes against the Jews.[138] By the time the IMT issued its judgment, on 1 October 1946, the former allies in the war against Germany had become estranged, and the beginning of the Cold War was on its way. Interest in the documentation and persecution of Nazi crimes waned, with only the US keeping up the effort on a stand-alone basis at subsequent trials lasting until April 1949. [139]

The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, one of the five anti-fascist committees created by Stalin to encourage western support for the Soviet war effort, was no longer needed and rather considered an alien organization as Stalin’s government became increasingly anti-Semitic. Eventually it was disbanded and its members arrested and put on trial.[140] A voluminous documentation about atrocities against Jews in the Soviet Union, known as the Black Book, was rejected by Soviet censorship and never published in the USSR. [141]

Fond though it was of commemorating the Soviet people’s achievements and sacrifices in the "Great Patriotic War", the Soviet state, also in the post-Stalin era, didn’t erect memorials mentioning the mass killing of Jews. Sites where Jews had been mass murdered were relegated to oblivion, even used for military or industrial purposes. [142] Where memorials were erected, their message was something like "Soviet citizens were shot in this place in 1941–1944" or "Here in the Paneriai forest, from July 1941 to July 1944, the Nazis shot more than 100,000 Soviet citizens"[143]

Despite making up the large majority of Soviet civilians killed out of hand by the wartime occupiers and their local auxiliaries (or precisely because of that), Jews had never figured prominently as victims of the "fascist invaders" in Soviet reports and public statements. After 1946, however, Jews were indistinguishably merged with other "peaceful civilians" or "peaceful Soviet citizens" as victims of Nazi crimes. The Nazi genocide of Europe’s Jews had no place in Soviet history. One might consider this a form of Holocaust denial.

5. The Jäger Report

I go back now to the beginning of this series, to the hypothesis that the Soviet Union’s suppression of the 2nd Jäger Report had something to do with the "peaceful Soviet citizens" stance. Considering the Soviet approach to the subject throughout the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals, which was outlined in this series, there are arguments pro and contra this hypothesis.

Jäger’s figures add up to 137,447 people killed, of which 135,391 (98.50%) were Jews and 2,056 (1.50%) were non-Jews. [144] Not exactly something that would support the "all Soviet peoples suffered equally" fiction, but then a similar disproportion as concerns Lithuania (80,311 Jews vs. 860 communists) becomes apparent from the parts of the 1st Stahlecker Report, presented by US prosecutor Major Walsh, that were translated in English. Besides, the Soviet prosecution itself submitted as evidence the 2nd Jäger Report, which like its predecessor not only shows a huge disproportion between Jewish and non-Jewish victims of Einsatzgruppe A (even though executions of non-Jews are not mentioned at the same time as executions of Jews in this report), but also contains further information highly inconvenient for the Soviet Union, namely about Soviet oppression of and crimes against the Baltic peoples and the collaboration of Soviet citizens (Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians and Belarusians) with the Nazi invader, with Lithuanians and Latvians also taking part in Nazi mass crimes.

Then again, the Stahlecker Reports are large documents (the first almost 180 pages long, the second over 250 pages long, in each case with recovered annexes), of which only a small part deals with the mass killing of Jews, the rest being about the organization and marching route of the Einsatzgruppe, history of the occupied territories with a focus on Soviet rule and Jewish influence, the mood and attitudes of the locals, suppression of partisans and other resistance, administrative matters, economy and other issues, including even cultural life. It was therefore possible to pick out the relatively small parts that were of interest to the prosecution cases and ignore the rest, as Smirnov did in his presentation. Moreover no part of the 2nd Stahlecker Report was translated into English; the only parts rendered in the English language were translations from the notes of Smirnov’s presentation in Russian language.

The 2nd Jäger Report, on the other hand, is a very short document, only 9 pages long, and it is almost exclusively about mass killing, with only part of page 8 and page 9 dedicated to the liberation of prison inmates detained by Lithuanian nationalists. Each of pages 1 to 7 and most of page 8 brings home the message, additionally emphasized by the subdivision of the Jewish victim numbers into men, women and children, that Einsatzkommando 3 sought to wholly exterminate the Jewish population of Lithuania (being kept from completing its tasks only by the civilian administration and the Wehrmacht who needed Jewish laborers), whereas the killing of other "peaceful [Soviet] citizens" was a low priority for Jäger’s mass murderers. Picking and choosing in this report would be of no avail as any prosecution-relevant excerpt one might select would convey this message. Moreover, and although this was certainly not Jäger’s intention, the separate count of Jewish men, women and children gave the victims a bit of a human face, whereas the figures in Stahlecker’s report were just cold, impersonal figures.

The much stronger impact of the Jäger Report vs. the Stahlecker reports would also apply as concerns the inconvenient aspect of Lithuanian collaboration. Lithuanian "partisans" killing at Jäger’s command, in coordination with SS-Obersturmführer Hamman’s Rollkommando (mobile command) and Lithuanian civilian authorities or wholly on their own initiative are mentioned on the very first page and again on pages 5, 6 (one which the total number of victims is stated), 7 and 8. There was also no room for picking and choosing in this respect.

Considering the above, and also that the Jäger’s figures are a subtotal of those in the 2nd Stahlecker Report because they only cover Lithuania whereas Stahlecker’s also cover Latvia, Estonia and "White Ruthenia", there would be little if anything to motivate a Soviet presentation of this harrowing document. The disadvantages of doing so would outweigh any additional benefit that the document could have brought for the Soviet prosecution case.

So the Soviet prosecution would have had good reasons not to submit the 2nd Jäger Report as evidence at the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals. Assuming, that is, that the Soviet prosecutors at Nuremberg were even aware of its existence. Given the uncoordinated, inefficient manner in which Soviet investigators collected and processed German documentary evidence, it is quite possible that a document discovered in Latvia (the 2nd Stahlecker Report) was known to Counsellor Smirnov or who provided him with prosecution evidence whereas a document discovered in Lithuania (the 2nd Jäger Report) was not, simply because Soviet investigators in Latvia worked better than their colleagues in Lithuania.[145] After Nuremberg any Soviet motivation to make German evidence about the extermination of the Jews public vanished anyway (see the previous section of this article), and even in 1963 the Soviets seem to have been reluctant to make the 2nd Jäger Report available to judicial authorities of the German Federal Republic. [146]

Bottom line, there is no reason to suspect any kind of Soviet manipulation behind the suppression of the Jäger Report, other than a selection of evidence according to what was deemed necessary for the Soviet prosecutors at Nuremberg to be more or less in line with their western colleagues as concerns crimes against the Jews without watering down the claim that Nazi Germany had endeavored to exterminate the "peaceful [Soviet] population" in general and massacred Soviet civilians with no distinction between nationalities. The "do not divide the dead" approach to Nazi crimes need not but may well have been at play here.


[138] Indicative of this are Smirnov’s reference to evidence presented by the US prosecution, namely before presenting the 2nd Stahlecker Report (IMT Vol. VIII, p. 294) and the introduction of Treblinka evidence despite that camp’s having been omitted in the indictment, following its mention in Major Walsh’s presentation on the persecution of the Jews (IMT Vol. III, p. 557 and pp. 567-568).
[139] The Trials of War Criminals Before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals Under Control Council Law No. 10.
[140]See the YIVO Encyclopedia page Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.
[141] See the YIVO Encyclopedia page Black Book.
[142] A case in point is the use for military purposes of the massacre site near Marijampolė, Lithuania. Another is the use of the Babiy Yar ravine for dumping pulp, which led to the 1961 Kurenivka mudslide. Regarding the long struggle for a memorial at the killing site near Kiev see the YIVO Encyclopedia page Babi Yar.
[143]Text of memorials erected at the Ponary killing site near Vilnius, Lithuania, according to Piotr Niwiński, Ponary. The Place of "Human Slaughter" (brochure in Polish, Lithuanian and English), pp. 36-37.
[144] See my article The Jäger Report (1)
[145] An example of how the Soviets handled German documentary evidence is provided on the page How do we know the Einsatzgruppen reports are authentic and not forgeries? of the Holocaust Denial on Trial website, quoting Lucjan Dobroszycki, "Captured Nazi Documents on the Destruction of Jews in the Soviet Union", in: The Holocaust in the Soviet Union: Studies and Sources on the Destruction of the Jews in the Nazi-Occupied Territories of the USSR, 1941-1945 (M.E. Sharpe, 1993), pp. 215-221 (p. 217): "When the Russians occupied Berlin in 1945 they went through the German official archives with more vigor than discrimination, shipped some material to Russia, destroyed some, and left the rest scattered underfoot. They often following a system that is difficult to understand—emptying papers on the floor and shipping the filing cabinets that had contained them."
[146] Wolfram Wette, Karl Jäger. Mörder der litauischen Juden, S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2011, pp. 28-29, cited in my article The Jäger Report (1)

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