Wednesday, October 18, 2006

That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part VIII: The Simferopol Massacres

On pages 210 f. of the screed Treblinka. Vernichtungslager oder Durchgangslager? , written by our regular customers Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf and available for free online download here, we read the following text:
d. Simferopol and the Manstein Trial
General Field Marshall Erich von Manstein was Commander of the Eleventh Army and was fighting on the Black Sea and in the Crimea. In 1949, he came before a British military court in Hamburg on charges of complicity in the massacres committed by Einsatzgruppe D. His defense counsel was the Englishman Reginald T. Paget, who wrote a book – translated into German the year after – about the trial in 1951.593 In it, he reports the following concerning the activities of Einsatzgruppe D in the Crimea:594
"To me, the numbers stated by the SD appeared to be entirely impossible. Individual companies of about 100 men with about 8 vehicles are declared to have killed 10,000 to 12,000 Jews in two or three days. Since, as one will recall, the Jews believed in a resettlement and consequently took their belongings along with them, the SD could not possibly have transported more than twenty or thirty Jews respectively in one truck. For each vehicle, with loading, 10 km of driving, unloading and return, an estimated two hours had to elapse. The Russian winter day is short and there was no night driving. In order to kill 10,000 Jews, at least three weeks would have been necessary.
In one case we were able to check the numbers. The SD claimed to have killed 10,000 Jews in Simferolpol in November and declared the city free of Jews in December. Through a series of counter-tests, we were able to prove that the shooting of Jews in Simferopol had taken place on a single day, namely on November 16. There was only a single SD company in Simferopol. The place for the execution was situated 15 km away from the city. The number of victims could not have been greater than 300, and these 300 were in all probability not only Jews, but a collection of different elements who were under suspicion of belonging to the resistance movement. The Simferopol affair leaked out at the time of the trial to broad strata of the public, since it was being mentioned by the sole living witness to the charge, an Austrian private by the name of Gaffal. He claimed that he had heard the Jewish operation mentioned in a sappers’ mess, where he was the ordnance man, and that he had passed by the place of execution near Simferopol. After this testimony we received a quantity of letters and were able to produce several witnesses who had stayed near Jewish families in the Quarter and reported about the religious services in the synagogue as well as a Jewish market, where they bought icons and junk goods – up to the time of Manstein‘s departure from the Crimea and afterwards. There was no doubt at all that the Jewish community in Simferopol had continued to exist openly, and although some of our opponents had heard rumors of violence by the SD against the Jews in Simferopol, it nevertheless appeared that the Jewish community was unaware of any particular danger."
Mattogno & Graf quote Manstein’s defense attorney Reginald T. Paget in the context of their attempt to demonstrate that the "Operational Situation Reports USSR" of the Einsatzgruppen killing squads from Reinhard Heydrich’s Sicherheitsdienst (SD), which are among the most direct and damning evidence to Nazi mass killings and can be partially read in English translation under this link, were much exaggerated by their authors and that the real number of executions carried out by these killing squads was much lower than becomes apparent from said reports. The superiors of the Einsatzgruppen commanders, all the way up to Heydrich and Himmler themselves, must have been very naïve and trusting fellows who didn’t think it necessary to implement any control mechanism to check the accuracy of what was being reported to them about the execution of their orders, or then they didn’t give a damn about the extent to which their orders were actually being carried out, while the Einsatzgruppen commanders, on the other hand, are supposed not to have taken their job very seriously and routinely cheated their superiors by claiming achievements far beyond what they had really accomplished.

Manstein’s defense attorney Paget seems to have believed in this rather unlikely scenario, or so he told his readers in the book he wrote about Manstein’s trial. In the following, we will have a look at the consistency and accuracy of Paget’s claims.

Let us start with Paget’s general doubts about the logistical possibility of accomplishing massacres of the size and within the time reported.

Paget claims that there are reports in which «about 100 men with about 8 vehicles are declared to have killed 10,000 to 12,000 Jews in two or three days». This was impossible, Paget contends, because transporting the victims to the execution site was a bottleneck that could not be overcome as the special detachments of the SD had too few vehicles and couldn’t fill them to capacity with people because the Jews earmarked for execution took their belongings with them, believing they were to going be resettled.

Paget’s assumption underlying this claim is that the victims were taken with motor vehicles from the cities or towns where they lived to secluded execution sites somewhat further away. This was not necessarily so. At the Babi Yar massacre on 29/30 September 1941, for instance, the over 30,000 victims were marched in a long line to a ravine near the city of Kiev, where they were shot down. At Kharkov in mid-December 1941, about 15,000 Jews were marched to a tractor factory outside the city, at which they were concentrated and near which they were later shot, in the first days of January 1942. In my article Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies ..., some evidence regarding this massacre is shown.

But even where the victims were taken with motor vehicles to a killing site outside their city or town and bumped off upon arrival at that site, the limitations invoked by Paget did not necessarily apply.

For one thing, the Einsatzgruppen, as we shall see in regard to the massacre that will be more closely described later in this article, could count on vehicles made available by the German Wehrmacht, including captured enemy trucks and requisitioned civilian buses, in order to have a transportation capacity adequate to the size and intended time frame of the respective killing operation.

The transport space available could further be stretched by stating a limitation to the amount of belongings that the Jews were allowed to take along for the alleged deportation, or by ordering them to leave behind all their belongings, which allegedly would be delivered to them later. This procedure was applied in killings with gas vans, see Kogon, Langbein, Rückerl et al, Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas, page 91 (quote from the testimony of Ramasan Sabitovich Chugunov, platoon leader of a battalion of local auxiliary police, regarding the liquidation of the Minsk ghetto in Oktober 1943) and page 121 (testimony of Polish railway worker Vladyslav Dabrovski regarding transports to Chelmno extermination camp). As we will see later in this article, it was also applied on at least one occasion when Jews were driven to an out-of-town killing site to be shot there.

The larger versions of the gas vans used by the Einsatzgruppen were described by several eyewitnesses as taking in 50, 60 or even more people at a time (Kogon et al, as above, page 87, quote from testimony of gas van driver Erich Gnewuch; page 91, quote from testimony of Chugunov, as above; page 98, reference to testimony of gas van driver Pauly; page 105, reference to testimony of Schiewer, member of Einsatzkommando 11a; page 128, quote from testimony of gas van driver Gustav Laabs, Chelmno; page 141, quote from written report by gas van driver Walter Piller). The measurements of the gassing compartment of one such van were stated to have been the following by gas van driver Burmeister, Chelmno (quote from testimony in Kogon et al, page 125): 4 to 5 meters long, 2.2 meters wide and 2 meters high – a loading area of at least 8.8 square meters, enough to accommodate at least 70 people. So we can assume that, if the trucks used to transport Jews to shooting sites were as big as the huge versions of the gas vans applied at a later stage of the extermination process, each of these trucks could carry at least 50 Jews to the respective shooting site.

As concerns the transport time required, it is hard to understand why a 10 km drive including loading and unloading would take as long as Paget’s «estimated two hours». If the required pressure was applied, fifteen minutes for each loading at the place of concentration, driving (at a speed of merely 40 km/h), unloading and returning seems enough time. So the eight trucks that Paget mentions could, under my above assumptions, transport 400 Jews to the killing site every hour and 2,800 in one assumed winter working day from 9:00 to 16:00 hours. By increasing the number of vehicles through recourse to Wehrmacht stocks and/or requisitions, this number could easily be doubled or tripled.

As to the tasks of cordoning off the killing site, ordering the victims to undress, leading them to the mass grave or ravine where or into which they were to be shot and shooting them down there, the special detachments of the Einsatzgruppen didn't perform these alone but with the assistance of other forces, such as the order police and the Wehrmacht's Feldgendarmerie (military police) and Geheime Feldpolizei (Secret Field Police). Thus, for instance, the Babi Yar massacre was carried out by Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C in cooperation «with the HQ of EGC and two Kommandos of the police regiment South». According to German historian Wolfram Wette ("Babij Yar 1941", in: Wolfram Wette / Gerd R. Ueberschär (editors), Kriegsverbrechen im 20. Jahrhundert, pages 152-164), Sonderkommando 4a was made up of members of the Sicherheitsdienst and the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police), one company of a Waffen-SS battalion and one platoon of a police battalion, and reinforced by another two police battalions and units of Ukrainian auxiliary police; the task of supervising and guarding the march of Kiev’s Jews to the ravine in which they were killed was carried out by Wehrmacht troops under the orders of city commandant Eberhard. The massacre of the Jews of Kharkov in early January 1942 was jointly carried out by Sonderkommando 4a in conjunction with Police Battalion 314, which was in charge of cordoning off the killing site. In the massacre that will be more closely described later in this article, the special detachment from Einsatzgruppe D was reinforced by policemen from two police reserve battalions as well as members of Feldgendarmerieabteilung(FGA) 683 and the unit 647 of the Geheime Feldpolizei (GFP).

To sum it up, if «about 100 men with about 8 vehicles» (Paget) were not sufficient to kill the required number of Jews within the required time frame, additional human and material resources could be obtained to the extent required for achieving the desired result.

The fallacies of Paget’s logistical objections thus exposed, we now turn to the particular operation regarding which Paget was allegedly «able to check the numbers», the killing of the Jews of Simferopol.

Paget claims to have been «able to prove that the shooting of Jews in Simferopol had taken place on a single day, namely on November 16», that «the number of victims could not have been greater than 300» and that «these 300 were in all probability not only Jews, but a collection of different elements who were under suspicion of belonging to the resistance movement».

A detailed reconstruction of events at Simferopol in November and December 1941, based on documentary evidence and on numerous eyewitness testimonies recorded in the course of various investigations by West German criminal justice authorities, can be found on pages 323 ff. of the book Besatzungspolitk und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D in der südlichen Sowjetunion 1941-1943, by historian Andrej Angrick. This reconstruction, of which I will provide a summary hereafter, shows Paget’s above-mentioned claims to be false.

At the beginning of November 1941, Otto Ohlendorf, commander of Einsatzgruppe D, transferred the staff of his unit from Nikolajev to Simferopol, the Crimea’s capital. Simferopol was an important base of German troops and supplies, the staffs of the XXXth and LIVth Army Corps, the 72nd and 22nd Infantry Divisions, the Head Quarter Master, the Commander of the Luftwaffe at 11th Army and the competent Economics Command having their headquarters there. The city’s administration was in the hands of Local Command Post (Ortskommandantur) I/853 under Captain Kleiner, which made a census of the local population according to their ethnicity and found that, of originally 156,000 inhabitants, 120,000 of various population groups had remained in Simferopol, thereof 11,000 of originally 20,000 Jews. Regarding these Jews, the local command post’s report, which was dated 14 November 1941 and is kept in the German Federal Archives/Military Archives (Bundesarchiv/Militärarchiv), stated that they would be "executed by the SD".

While this document makes clear that there was the intention of wiping out the Jews of Simferopol and that the Wehrmacht was aware of this, two problems kept this killing from being carried out in November 1941. One of these problems was of an ideological, the other of a practical nature.

The ideological problem was that, in the Crimean peninsula, there were three different population groups that were potentially subject to Nazi policies regarding Jews. These were:

1. The Karaim, a Turkic people that adhered to Judaism;

2. The Krimchaks or Krymchaks: according to Angrick, they were descendants of Spanish Sephardic Jews who no longer adhered to the Jewish religion (other information on the Krimchaks can be found here);

3. Ashkenazi Jews emigrated from Central Europe and their descendants.

While there was no doubt that the third of these groups would be wiped out, there was uncertainty among Nazi policy makers about how to handle the other two. After consulting his "scientific" experts on "Jewish matters", Himmler himself – who claimed it his prerogative to decide who was and who was not a Jew – eventually decided that the Karaim would be spared, as they were not Jewish by "race". The Krimchaks, on the other hand, would be killed, because "racially" they were Jews. Himmler’s decision must have been taken between 5 December 1941 (the date of Operational Situation Report 142, which still refers to the "Krimchak issue") and 9 December 1941, the date on which, as will be detailed later on, the Krimchaks of Simferopol were wiped out.

The practical problem hindering the extermination of Simferopol’s Jews in November 1941 was that partisan activity in the area, widely exaggerated in German army reports, led the Supreme Command of 11th Army to throw every man it could get into fighting the partisans, and Einsatzgruppe D was used for reconnaissance duty on partisan movements.

By the beginning of December 1941, however, the threat had become less after about a thousand partisans had been killed or captured, and with the arrival of a Romanian mountain brigade as reinforcement Ohlendorf no longer had to use his men for anti-partisan reconnaissance duty. At the same time, the transfer of Sonderkommando 11b under Werner Braune from Odessa to Simferopol brought him additional resources to carry out his task proper, wiping out the Jews. This was favored, even urged, by Wehrmacht Head Quarter Master Hauck, who saw the "action regarding the Jews" (Judenaktion) as a means to ease the dramatic food situation in Simferopol by getting rid of mouths to feed. 11th Army commander von Manstein himself had condoned the killings in an order he issued on 20 November 1941, which contained the following passage (my translation from Angrick, as above page 338):

For the need of visiting harsh atonement on Jewry, the spiritual carrier of Bolshevism, the soldier must show understanding. It is also necessary in order to choke at birth all revolts, which are mostly incited by Jews.
The "harsh atonement" began at Simferopol on 9 December 1941, when Sonderkommando 11b and the staff of Einsatzgruppe D wiped out the city's Krimchaks, probably at least 1,500 people. Thereafter the killing stopped for two days because Ohlendorf had to solve a personnel problem: the policemen of the 4th Company of Police Reserve Battalion 9, who had assisted Einsatzgruppe D in its massacres since the beginning of the Russian campaign, were tired of killing and had requested being given another duty. Their request had been granted, and Ohlendorf had to wait for the replacement unit, the 3rd Company of Police Reserve Batallion 3, to arrive at Simferopol.

When 3rd Company of Police Reserve Battalion 3 arrived at Simferopol, there was no time for getting its men used to the killing on a gradual basis. With the assistance of available men from other detachments of Einsatzgruppe D, the policemen of both police battalions and the detached members of FGA 683 and GFP 647, Braune’s Sonderkommando 11b and Ohlendorf’s staff of Einsatzgruppe D continued the execution on 11 December 1941. Braune had told his men that they had a "major combat day" (Grosskampftag) ahead and even the medics would have to take part. The killing of the Jews lasted for three days. The Jews were ordered to gather in the area of the former Communist Party building in the city center and to hand over their bags and valuables, for – so their killers told them – these could otherwise be stolen during the transport that was to take them to labor service, and they would receive them afterwards. Trucks of the Einsatzgruppe and the army, buses and also smaller booty vehicles were used to quickly bring the people to an anti-tank ditch outside Simferopol. The members of Police Reserve Battalion 3 had to take part in the murder right away. Some of them had noticed that colleagues of Police Reserve Battalion 9 had "cracked"; now they understood why. Again and again, in the presence of Ohlendorf and Braune, there was the command "Ready, aim, fire!". 50 men firing in salvos were standing in a row. So-called coups de grace were administered by experienced members of the Einsatzgruppe. Wehrmacht soldiers also participated in the shooting, it being unclear whether these were exclusively military policemen and members of the Geheime Feldpolizei. In the icy cold chosen prisoners had to pile up the corpses in the ditch so that no space would be wasted, others dragged corpses lying aside to the pit and threw them in. Whoever tried to flee or faked death was shot by the men of the Einsatzgruppe with machine pistols. The perpetrators' cynicism was ever present, like when the instruction was given not to waste another bullet on a Jewess still alive lying in the pit because a heap of earth would be thrown unto the corpses and she would then choke anyway. A young Jew had tried to resist, whereupon the leader of the action ordered not to shoot him but to beat him dead. Thus the murder went on the following days. Eventually the Einsatzgruppe also extended its action to the city’s Gypsies, a request from the army having presumably been one of the factors that led to the decision to also remove this population group.

In Operational Situation Report USSR Nr. 150 of 02.01.1942, Ohlendorf reported that, with the end of the action on 15 December 1941, Simferopol, along with other parts of the Crimea, had been made free of Jews. This turned out to be a mistake, as many Jews were still in hiding. Smaller massacres throughout the Crimea followed until the end of the year.

Thus ends my summary of Angrick’s reconstruction of events at Simferopol in November and December of 1941. As I said before, this reconstruction is based on documentary evidence and numerous eyewitness testimonies. The above description of the massacre starting 11 December 1941, for instance, is based on the testimonies of eyewitnesses recorded in investigation files of West German criminal justice authorities and referred to on pages 340 to 342 of Angrick’s book: Paul Zapp, Sergej Myshekov, Georg Glück, Hermann Frenser, Georg Mandt, Hans Günther, Hans Kurz, Hans Fibiger, Walter Güsfeldt, Fritz Urbach, Kurt Wehrbein, Karl Jonas, Heinz Hoffmann, Harry Pilawski, Wilhelm Ickerott, Paul Lohmann, and others. These eyewitnesses, except probably for the Soviet witness Myshekov, had participated in the killing as members of one or the other unit involved therein.

A translation of Ohlendorf’s statement in Operational Situation Report USSR 150 can be read here:

Simferopol, Yevpatoria, Alushta, Krasubasar, Kerch, and Feodosia and other districts of western Crimea are free of Jews. From November 16 to December 15, 1941, 17,645 Jews, 2,504 Krimchaks, 824 Gypsies, and 212 Communists and partisans have been shot. Altogether, 75,881 persons have been executed.
The latter figure referred to the total number of executions by Einsatzgruppe D since the beginning of the Russian campaign. The greatest part of the Crimea figures probably correspond to the Simferopol massacres, followed by the massacres at Kerch in the first days of December (ca. 2,500 Jews) and at Feodosia around 10 December 1941 (over 1,000 Jews and Krimchaks), also described in detail by Angrick.

It is thus clear that Paget’s claim about a single small-scale massacre at Simferopol on 16 November 1941 has nothing to do with the historical record of the fate of Simferopol’s Jews and Krimchaks, most of whom were killed in the massacres on 9 December and after 11 December 1941.

What, now, does this mean regarding Paget’s claim that there were «several witnesses who had stayed near Jewish families in the Quarter and reported about the religious services in the synagogue as well as a Jewish market, where they bought icons and junk goods – up to the time of Manstein‘s departure from the Crimea and afterwards»? Is this a deliberately false claim, or were the witnesses false witnesses eager to get Manstein off the hook?

Not necessarily. As we have seen above, Himmler decided to spare the Karaim because they were not considered Jews in "racial" terms. The Karaim practice Karaite Judaism, and contact with the Karaim population of Simferopol may thus have led Paget’s witnesses to describe them as Jews and to believe that the Jews of Simferopol had not been wiped out.

Paget’s erroneous claims may be excusable for a defense attorney in the late 1940s, with limited access to information about the pertinent events and concerned only with defending his client as best as he could.

But is it also excusable for Mattogno & Graf, who pretend to be historians or researchers of history, to take Paget’s claims at face value and, without cross-checking them against other sources, transcribing them into their book as if they were indisputable statements of fact?

Look at what Angrick did: he collected all documentary and eyewitness evidence he could find in a number of archives and put together the bits and pieces he found into a picture of events as accurate as possible.

That’s what historians do.

Mattogno & Graf, on the other hand, based their conclusions regarding the Simferopol massacres on a single source – not even a primary one – that happened to fit their preconceived notions.

That’s not what historians do. That’s what sloppy charlatans with an ideological agenda do. Mattogno & Graf are not revising acknowledged notions about a certain historical event or set of events based on hitherto unknown evidence. What they are doing is to ignore or dismiss all evidence contradicting their pre-conceived notions – which in this case, the Simferopol massacres, is rather abundant – and base their conclusions on a convenient secondary source that is as much at odds with the evidence as their pre-conceived notions.

And that, again, is why "Revisionism", as represented by Mattogno & Graf among other "scholars", has nothing to do with revisionism in the proper sense of the word, that of a method which is part of historiography. It is nothing but denial of events inconvenient to certain pre-conceived notions and articles of faith, ideologically motivated propaganda.


  1. I think Roberto's posting shows that M&G are really nothing but intellectual dwarves. "Even" amateurs like Roberto or me, relying on publicly available sources, can make a mincemeat out of them.

  2. I don't think that you guys qualify as amateurs, you are beyond that level.

  3. We are still amateurs, Aldo. Neither Sergey nor I are trained historians, and we do this for fun on our free time.

  4. I can state unequivocally that none of my 'professional' PhD-qualified historian colleagues could do the work that Roberto and Sergey do. That includes Van Pelt ;-)

  5. which makes Andrew and myself the exceptions to the rule, of course, but we're both busy corrupting young minds teaching...

  6. Thanks, and I return the compliment: Nick is one of the very few professional historians who tackle the "Revisionist" trash, if not the only one at all. He deserves especial praise for that. If only there were more historians like Nick!

  7. "Good for you, but I HIGHLY advise against saying "I discuss the Holocaust for fun on my free time" if you're in a bar trying to pick up ladies. It doesn't go over too well."

    Two of the team are married, I think the other two worked out what does and doesn't make for a suitable date topic long ago ;-)

  8. JFYI, "rodohcodohwatch" is currently the only person (sociopathic troll) banned from this blog (summarily, for his behavior in the past). All his comments are unconditionally deleted.

    For just a small illustration of the reason for which he is banned click here.

  9. Nah, we'll keep it, because it will piss him off.


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