Now, if one considers that according to the most comprehensive studies on this subject that exist, the Einsatzgruppen alone are supposed to have shot 2,200,000 people (Jews and non-Jews),657 that Wehrmacht, SS, and police units are also accused of hundreds of thousands of murders, and that – as already emphasized – neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any massgraves with even only a few thousand bodies, the ‘Sonderkommandos 1005’ must have exhumed and burned between one-and-a-half and three million bodies.
I wonder if Mattogno’s source, the study on the Einsatzgruppen published in 1981 by German historians H. Krausnick and Hans Heinrich Wilhelm, really attributed 2,200,000 killings to the Einsatzgruppen, but that’s not the issue for the moment. The issue is whether Mattogno/Graf’s claim that «neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies» holds water.
To check this, I had a look at the few reports on Soviet investigations of killing sites and mass graves that I have at my disposal, the pertinent parts of some of which are rendered hereafter.
1. Excerpt from The People's Verdict: a full report of the proceedings at the Krasnodar and Kharkov German atrocity trials – Ignatik Fedorovich Kladov; Ivan Fedorovich Kotomtsev, defendant; Reinhard Retzlaff, defendant; Wilhelm Langheld, defendant. (NY: 1943, 1944), pp. 110 – 111 (courtesy of Scott Smith; see my post here in the HC reference libary). Emphases are mine:
Morning Session, 17 December, 1943.
Findings of the Commission of Medico-legal Experts:
“The Medico-legal experts examined in Kharkov and neighbouring localities the scenes of the crimes of the German fascist invaders—the places where they carried out the extermination of the Soviet citizens. These included the burned-out block of the army hospital, where they shot and burned war prisoners—severely wounded personnel of the Red Army; the place of the mass shooting of the healthy and sick, of small children, juveniles, young people, old men and women in the forest park of Sokolniki, near the village of Podvorki, in the Dobritsky gully, and in the therapeutic colony of Strelechye. At these sites the medico-legal experts examined the grave-pits and exhumed bodies of Soviet citizens shot, poisoned, burned or otherwise brutally exterminated.
“The medico-legal experts examined the places where the German fascist invaders burnt bodies to destroy evidence of their crimes—the poisoning with carbon monoxide. This is the site of the conflagration on the territory of the barracks of the Kharkov tractor plant. Examination of territories on which bodies were burnt or buried, examination of the grave-pits and positions of bodies in them and comparison of material thus obtained with data of the Court proceedings, provide grounds for considering that the number of bodies of murdered Soviet citizens in Kharkov and its environs reaches several tens of thousands, whereas the figure of 33,000 exterminated Soviet citizens given by accused and some witnesses is only approximate and undoubtedly too low.
“In the 13 grave-pits opened in Kharkov and its immediate vicinity were found a huge number of corpses. In most graves they lay in extreme disorder, fantastically intertwined, forming tangles of human bodies defying description. The corpses lay in such a manner that they can be said to have been dumped or heaped but not buried in common graves. In two pits in the Sokolniki forest park bodies were found lying in straight rows, face downward, arms bent at the elbow and hands pressed to faces or necks. All the bodies had bullet wounds through the heads. Such a position of the bodies was not accidental. It proves that the victims were forced to lie down face downward and were shot in that position. In the grave pits where the bodies lay and in places where the bodies had been burnt the medico-legal experts found articles of everyday use and personal effects, such as bags, sacks, knives, pots, mugs, spectacles, fasteners of women’s handbags, etc. The fact revealed by the investigation—namely, that before being murdered Soviet citizens were stripped of their footwear—is fully confirmed by the medico-legal examinations: during exhumation the experts in most cases discovered naked or half-naked bodies.
“In order to ascertain which Soviet citizens were exterminated and in what manner, the experts exhumed and examine 1,047 bodies in Kharkov and its environs. These included the bodies of 19 children and adolescents, 429 women and 599 men. The dead ranged in age from two to 70 years. The fact that the bodies of children, adolescents, women and old men as well as invalids were discovered in grave-pits with civilian clothes and articles of domestic use and personal effects on the bodies or near them proves that the German fascist authorities exterminated Soviet citizens regardless of sex or age. On the other hand, the fact that the bodies of young and middle-age men were found clothes of military cut worn in the Red Army, also articles of military equipment (pots, mugs, belts, etc.) is evidence of Soviet war prisoners.
“On the basis of all the combined data of their proceedings—the medico-legal experts have established the presence of:
“(a) A vast number of burial sites in the city of Kharkov and its immediate environs.
“(b) A huge number of bodies in the grave-pits.
“(c) Varying times of burial in various graves.
“(d) Varying degrees of preservation of the bodies in the same graves.
“(e) Distinction of bodies in regard to sex and age.
“(f) Uniformity of methods of extermination of human beings.
“We regard the above as proofs of systematic, methodically organized, mass extermination of Soviet civilians and war prisoners.
“Chief medico-legal expert of the People’s Commissariat for Health Protection of the U.S.S.R., Director of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine under the People’s Commissariat for Health Protection of the U.S.S.R. Prozorovsky.
“Professor of Forensic Medicine at the Second Moscow Medical Institute, Doctor of Medical Science Smolyaninov.
“Snr. Staff Scientist of the tanatological department of the State Scientific Research Institute of Forensic Medicine of the Commissariat of Health of the U.S.S.R, Dr. Semenovsky.
“Chief medico-legal expert of the 69th Army, major of Medical Service Gorodnichenko.
“Pathologist-anatomist Major of Medical Service Yakusha.
“After the translation of the finding of the medico-legal experts in to the German language, the President, Justiciary Major-General Miasnikov, declared the Court proceedings concluded.”
2. From the report of a Soviet investigation commission in Zhitomir, 5 to 16.02.1944
Source: Ernst Klee/ Willi Dreßen, »Gott mit uns« Der deutsche Vernichtungskrieg im Osten 1939-1945, pages 31 and following. Reference: West German criminal trial procedure Js 4/65 GstA Frankfurt/Main, Russian files, Volume 1. What follows is my translation of the German text, which is a translation of the Russian original.
[…]The commission of forensic medical experts, composed of: professor Voronyj Ju., the physicians Stoliza, B., Iskra F.I., Skalkij M.N., in the presence of the Representative of the Extraordinary State Commission, Candidate of Law Vjel’nikov D.G, the members of the Zhitomior Regional Support Commission: the Reverend Father Feodot Tysljukjevich, Kharchenko, K.S., Colonel Shapovalov. Roshanchuk N.M. and a great number of local inhabitants, established that the fascist German occupants and their helpers shot local inhabitants at the following places:
1) 500 meters to the south of the factory [German: “Vorwerk”] Dovshik, which is located in the forest 10 kilometres away from the city of Zhitomir, two shooting sites and places of burial for corpses were found. At first two places were found along the way that leads to the N.-Volynsk street at kilometre 9 from the Dovshik factory. Six graves were found, from which 962 human corpses of both sexes and various ages were exhumed. Then on the way leading from this factory to the street at kilometre 8 an area of two hectares was found which was fenced in by wire three meters high among which thick oak branches had been woven which couldn’t be looked through from the outside. On this area 13 graves were found, with the measurements 16 x 2 x 2.5 meters. When the graves were opened a male corpse, the rests of a corpse partially eaten by fire and a huge number of human bones were found. During the exhumation a strong smell of corpses was noticeable.
The witnesses present at the exhumation stated that at the location sighted civilian citizens had been shot and also buried in the course of the years 1941/42. In July 1943 this site had been fenced in, and guards had also been posted. Eyewitnesses had observed that during one month smoke had gone up from the fenced-in place, which had had an extremely foul smell and spread in such a way that it could still be sensed in the houses of the Dovshik factory, 500 – 600 meters away from the place.
The commission of forensic medical experts reached the conclusion that on the mentioned area burials and later exhumations and burning of human corpses, not less than 20,000 in number, had taken place.
2) South of the N.-Volynsk street, 8 kilometres away from Zhitomir, in the forest along the way leading to the village of Barachevka, 28 graves and two uncovered pits were discovered. When opening the graves 14,110 corpses were found. There was found a whole grave full of bodies that were completely unclad. In one grave was found the corpse of a women who had a bind with a huge red cross on her arm. A large part of the bodies had their hands tied with wire or strips.[my emphasis – RM] In one of the uncovered pits four well-conserved corpses were found, 3 men and one women. In the clothes of the male corpse papers on the name Vlassov, F.I., resident at Zhitomir, Proviantskaja 13/14, were found. The dead man’s wife, Mrs. Vlassova A.C., stated that he had been arrested by the Gestapo in Dezember 1943 because he was under suspicion of having hidden Jews and kept a rifle in his apartment.[…]
3. Excerpt from a Communiqué of the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission about the Liquidation of Prisoners of War and Civilians in Smolensk and Surroundings from July 1941 to September 1943 (my translation from the German translation from Russian, which is featured in Paul Kohl, Der Krieg der deutschen Wehrmacht und der Polizei 1941 – 1944, pages 269 f.)
[…]The examination material, the number of corpses in the opened mass graves and the examination on the mass grave sites lead to the conclusion that at the examined places of the city of Smolensk and its surroundings the number of Soviet citizens, who during the temporary German occupation were murdered or died, exceeds 135 000; this number is broken down by the various locations as follows:
1. In the area of the former Smolensk radio station by the village
Gedeonowka about 5 000 corpses
2. In the area of the villages Magalenchina und Vjasowenka
3 500 “
3. In the area of the fruit and vegetables garden by the village Readowka 3 000 “
4. In the area of the Pionerski (pine) garden 500 “
5. In the area of the House of the Red Army 1 500 “
6. In the area of the huge concentration camp 126 45 000 “
7. In the area of the small concentration camp 126 15 000 “
8. In the area of Medgorodka 1 500 “
9. In the area of the village Jassenaja 1 000 “
10. In the area of the former German hospital for prisoners of war and
the students’ residence of the Medical University, Roslawl Alley 30 000 “
11. In the area of the saw mill and the liquor factory 500 “
12. In the area of the concentration camp by the village Petcherskaja 16 000 “
13. In the area of the village Rakitnja
2 500 “
14. In the area of the airplane factory 35 around the railway station Krasny
Bor, the state estate Passowa, the village Alexandrovskaja, the waterworks,
the settlements Serebrjanka and Dubrovenka 12 000 corpses
Just three out of many killing sites investigated by the Soviets (according to Alan Bullock’s Hitler and Stalin. Parallel Lives., London 1993, page 818 and following, the documents assembled by the Soviet Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes amounted to about two million pages), and the Soviet report on each of them belies Mattogno/Graf’s claim that «neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies», for the first source points to at least 33,000 bodies in the Kharkov area, the second to 14,110 bodies «south of the N.-Volynsk street, 8 kilometres away from Zhitomir» and the third to more than 135,000 bodies found in mass graves in the Smolensk area.
To be sure, the Soviet reports quoted above may be affected by exaggerations, such as pointed out by German historian Christian Gerlach in his book Kalkulierte Morde regarding mass graves in the area of Minsk in Belorussia, from which the following excerpts are taken.
Footnote 1471 on page 770 (my translation)
The number and size of the mass graves is not quite clear; only some of them were opened. Generally their number in Blagovshchina is given at 34 (Rübe and Heuser spoke of 15-18, interrogation as mentioned in previous note), of which, however, and contrary to the description of Kohl, page 97, only some were up to 50 meters long, instead of all being 60 meters long. Their volume was thus considerably lower than 25,000 cubic meters (which at an estimated maximum of 6 corpses per cubic meter would have corresponded to up to 150,000 murdered people), but cannot be indicated exactly. Even the original size of the mass graves could hardly be established already in 1944 because Special Detachment 1005 had carried out earth works with caterpillars. See “The Evidence Collected at Minsk“, Nuremberg Document USSR-38, Federal Archives Freiburg 16030; data about Trostinets in Central State Archive Minsk 845-I-62, pages 1-48, especially page 1, and undated interrogation of W.A. Buzewich, pages 27-32; Act of the City of Minsk dated 13.08.1944, Special Archives Moscow 1525-1-1473, pages 309-316, also in: Beluga (editor), pages 224-226.
Footnote 1472 on pages 770/771 (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.
Pages 852 and following (my translation)
In the area of Minsk the largest shooting of Soviet prisoners of war on Belorussian soil took place in January 1943. According to the depositions of several witnesses, especially the German perpetrator Alois Heterich, the 3rd Battalion of Infantry Regiment 595 was unloaded at Minsk at the end of January 1943 during the transport of the 327th Infantry Division to Krasnodar and had the task of shooting 10,000 people, mostly prisoners of war from a camp at the freight train station, a few kilometers away from there during three nights at the end of January of beginning of February of 1943. Heterich’s platoon alone is said to have executed 1,500 people. Allegedly there were further mass killings with gas vans in the following days. The victims (among them, according to the result of the exhumation, also a small portion of civilians, among them women) were murdered by a shot in the neck an carried uniforms of the Soviet tank forces. The number of dead in the mass grave of Urechye, 6 kilometers to the east of Minsk, which the Soviet authorities estimated at 30,000 taking into consideration the depositions of witnesses, was about 12,500 according to the description of the mass graves. [Footnote: These were 10 mass graves with an area of 24 by 5 meters, wherein corpses were found in three rows and seven layers on top of each other. See Act of 13.8.1944, City of Minsk, Special Archive Moscow 1525-I-473, pages 309-316; “The Evidence Collected at Minsk”, Nuremberg Document USSR-38, Federal Archives Freiburg 16030.
However, even Gerlach’s lower assessments of the contents of the mass graves he mentions still leave a lot more than just a few thousand bodies in each of these mass graves.
So, were Soviet site investigation reports necessarily as inaccurate, or even fraudulent, as Mattogno/Graf would like them to be?
One way to establish this is to compare Soviet investigation reports on a given mass killing site with other evidence on the mass killings at that site to which the Soviets had no access or influence.
Consider, for instance, the description of the bodies in the Kharkov mass graves in the first of the sources quoted above:
In the 13 grave-pits opened in Kharkov and its immediate vicinity were found a huge number of corpses. In most graves they lay in extreme disorder, fantastically intertwined, forming tangles of human bodies defying description. The corpses lay in such a manner that they can be said to have been dumped or heaped but not buried in common graves. In two pits in the Sokolniki forest park bodies were found lying in straight rows, face downward, arms bent at the elbow and hands pressed to faces or necks. All the bodies had bullet wounds through the heads. Such a position of the bodies was not accidental. It proves that the victims were forced to lie down face downward and were shot in that position.
What the commission considered proven from the position of the bodies, i.e. that the victims had been forced to lie down face downward and been shot in that position, also becomes apparent from the depositions of two participants in the executions around Kharkov (Karl G., former member of police battalion 314, and Viktor T., former member of Sonderkommando 4 a) before West German criminal justice authorities in the 1960s, the transcription and translation of which can be found in my post here in the HC reference library:
The Jews had to undress and to lie down nearby or right inside crevices in the earth. The crevices were natural ones and not tank ditches or other dug-outs. In these pits the Jews were shot by the SD.
I was ordered to the execution detachment. The execution detachment with a strength of 10 men entered the crevice that went about 20 meter inside the mountain. The Jews were led inside in groups of 20-25 people and had to lay down on the ground. They were shot in the neck with machine pistols.
Another convergence can be found between the number of Jews executed in the so-called “Drobizk Ravine” near Kharkov according to the Protocol of the Extraordinary State Commission For The City Of Kharkov To Investigate The Crimes There Committed , and the number that becomes apparent from the deposition of Phillip F., former member of the 297th Infantry Division, on 23. March 1961 before the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the City of Hamburg. Both sources are also quoted in my above-mentioned HC reference library post.
Protocol of the Extraordinary State Commission For The City Of Kharkov To Investigate The Crimes There Committed
[...]According to incomplete data in the months of December 1941 and January 1942 in the proximity of the Rogan works, eight kilometers away from Kharkov, in the so-called “Drobizk Ravine”, over 15 000 Jews, inhabitants of the city of Kharkov, were shot. These monstrous crimes against the peaceful population are confirmed by the depositions of witnesses, the forensic medical report and other documentary material. [...]
On 14 December 1941 the German military commander of the city of Kharkov issued an order, according to which the whole Jewish population was to move to the city periphery within two days, into the barracks of the works of a machine factory. In the order it was stated that people who did not follow this order would be shot. Thus several days later a crowd of many thousands of elder people, women and children was moving in the direction of the resettlement site through the streets of the city. As it was forbidden to walk through the city after 16ºº hours, but many of those to be resettled were still on their way at this time, the movement stopped. The people spent the night on the street, under open sky, in icy frost. Due to this many of them died already on the way. [...]
Deposition of Phillip F.
[...] It was in the middle of December 1941, when I spent several weeks in Kharkov. I still know exactly today that it was on 15.12.41 when I saw in Kharkov how a trek several kilometers long of Jews in long rows with handcars and luggage moved from the city eastwards to the tractor factory. The tractor factory is about 15 km away from the city center. Among the Jews there were men, women and children. Some cars were drawn by small horses who sometimes broke down under their load. On the cars there were sometimes little children, women and sick people sitting on the luggage. The cold was about 15 degrees (celsius) below zero. I watched the Jews passing by for a full hour and still the trek didn’t end. I estimate the number of Jews who on this day were led from Kharkov to the tractor factory at ca. 15 000 persons.
I still recall that the trek was secluded and guarded by uniformed men. I cannot tell anymore today, however, whether these were members of the SS or Ukrainian auxiliary police in uniform. I didn’t observe any mistreatment of the Jews during this. When on the next day I drove in my car from Kharkov to Tshugev, I used the same road that the trek of Jews had used on the previous day. On the left and right side of the street I repeatedly saw corpses that were from the trek of the Jews. Whether these Jews had die from mistreatment or shooting or from exhaustion I cannot tell. The corpses lay there abandoned and nobody cared about them.
The reason why I know exactly that the Jews were led to the tractor factory on 15.12.41 is that at that time there were posters in German and Russian language hanging everywhere in the city, on which the Jews were called upon to gather at a certain place of the city in order to be taken away. I no longer know today what service had issued these posters. But I still remember exactly that 15.12.1941 was mentioned as the day of gathering. [...]
Emphases in the above quotes are mine and highlight the similarities between the information contained in these two sources, which are as independent of each other as the depositions of Karl G. and Viktor T. are of the Soviet Findings of the Commission of Medico-legal Experts regarding the mass graves in the Kharkov area. These convergences make it seem unlikely that the Soviet investigation commissions investigating the mass killings in that area manipulated their reports, and the images related to the Drobitski Yar near Kharkov shown in the other two articles linked to here go further to suggest that in this case at least the Soviets did not engage in an alleged manipulative practice that Mattogno/Graf accuse them of on pages 218 ff of their book, that of photographing relatively few dead bodies found at a camp or killing site from different angles so as to create the impression that the number of bodies found was much larger. (It is nonsense to take the number of bodies photographed as a marker of the number of bodies found, by the way. There was hardly ever a mass murder investigation more publicized and propagandized than the German investigation of the Soviet killings of Polish POWs at Katyn, yet these photos, apparently the greater part of the 80 photographs that, according to Mattogno, accompanied the Nazis’ investigation report, seem to show at most a few hundred of the over 4,000 bodies found.)
As to the mass graves in the Minsk area mentioned by Gerlach, whoever doubts that mass murder on a scale of tens of thousands took place in that area during the German occupation need only look at the secret memorandum dated 31 July 1942 from Kube, Commissioner of White Ruthenia, to Gauleiter Hinrich Lohse, Reich Commissioner of Ostland, the translation of which prepared for the Nuremberg Trials, together with other evidence submitted at the Nuremberg Einsatzgruppen Trial, is available online. Mass killings in the Minsk area were by no means over when this memorandum was written.
As to the report of a Soviet investigation commission in the Zhitomir area, the corroborating independent evidence I know about – which covers only a part of the period of Nazi occupation in that area – comes from the Operational Situation Reports USSR of the Einsatzgruppen, on which the following statements in the indictment the Nuremberg “Einsatzgruppen Case” were based:
(A) During the period 22 June 1941 to 3 November 1941 in the vicinity of Zhitomir, Novo Ukrainka and Kiev, Einsatzgruppe C murdered more than 75,000 Jews.
(B) On 19 September 1941 in Zhitomir, Einsatzgruppe C murdered 3,145 Jews and confiscated their clothing and valuables.
(C) During the period 22 June 1941 to 29 July 1941 in the vicinity of Zhitomir, Sonderkommando 4a murdered 2,531 persons.
Regarding the mass graves in the Smolensk area mentioned by the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission, I unfortunately have no evidence independent of Soviet investigations at my disposal that would allow for even the rough checking of the commission’s accuracy I did in the other cases, apart from what I know in general, mainly from German sources used by historians Christian Streit and Christian Gerlach, about the treatment by the Nazis of Soviet prisoners of war, who seem to have made up a considerable part of the victims found in the Smolensk area. Perhaps my fellow contributors are familiar with such evidence more specifically related to the Smolensk area.
I think that, in order to make a fairly reliable statement about the extent to which reports of Soviet commissions on the investigation of Nazi killing sites can be relied upon, it would be necessary to do such checking of the respective Soviet investigation reports against evidence independent thereof regarding as many Nazi killing sites as possible. This kind of basic historical research work – of which Nick Terry’s article Mass Graves in the Polesie provides a brilliant demonstration – cannot, of course, be expected of people like Mattogno & Graf, who seem all too happy to conclude, from a single purported example (that of the Osarichi camp discussed on pages 218 ff of their book; regarding Babi Yar they just make a silly fuss, followed by a non-sequitur coulda-woulda-shoulda conclusion, about the Soviets having published photographs of the little physical evidence that survived the Nazis’ cover-up operation), that Soviet investigation reports in general tended to be fraught with manipulations and contain figures and other conclusions based on little or no evidence.
As was to be expected in this context, Mattogno/Graf see manipulations not only on the Soviet side, but also on the side of the Nazi killers themselves, who are supposed to have wildly exaggerated the size of their massacres and even wholly invented some. Mattogno/Graf makes such claims regarding not only Babi Yar (regarding which Sergey Romanov’s articles on Deniers and Baby Yar massacre are of interest), but also (pages 223 f.) the massacre of 5,090 Jews by Einsatzkommando 3 at Marijampole on 1 September 1941 (thus sharing the shame of Germar Rudolf’s sloppy research, pointed out in Sergey’s article on Deniers and the graves of Marijampole) and the massacre of 10,000 to 12,000 Jews at Simferopol, see pages 210 f. The last of these allegations, regarding which Mattogno quotes the claims of Manstein’s defense attorney Reginald T. Paget, will be the subject of a future blog article.
The article about Paget’s allegations can be found here.
[Edited on 08.04.2008 to update links to the RODOH forum.]
[Edited on 13.03.2012 to replace broken links to the RODOH forum.]
[Edited on 10.06.2019 to replace broken links to the HC Reference Library.]