Saturday, January 30, 2016

Note on Decode Concerning Shooting at Kamanets-Podolsk

Back in April. BroI posted this scan to CODOH, which he summarized as:
27 Aug 1941:
Police Regiment South shot 914 Jews
Police Battalion 320 shot 4,200 Jews
BroI's scan is taken from HW 16/45. The action in which "Police Battalion 320 shot 4,200 Jews" took place at Kamanets-Podolsk. Below I discuss some facts concerning how the intercepted information in this message first came to light.

In 1996, wartime decodes by the British of German messages concerning shootings of Jews were published and widely reported, such as here and here. The Kamenets-Podolsk decode was summarized in the latter link as follows:
Typical of the messages intercepted by the British is one dated Aug. 27, 1941, from the German commander in Ukraine, Friederich Jeckeln, which records that Order Police Battalion 320 shot 4,200 Jews near the town of Kamenets-Podolsk. Four days later, Jeckeln reported that the same battalion had executed a further 2,200 Jews.
This was part of a wider action that was documented in many sources, which Roberto summarized here, and the YVA here, and also in several other decodes that Breitman summarized in Official Secrets pp.62-65. However, a point that requires clarification is whether these publications relied on the original in HW 16/45 or one of the copies held in another folder or at another archive. Breitman takes it from NA RG 457, Box 1386 whereas Hanyok (p.69) cites the "Signals Intelligence Pass[ed] to the Prime Minister, Messages and Correspondence.” HW 1/62, September 1941." Shooting are also listed in Appendix B of Vol XIII of GCCS Air and Military History entitled"The German Police", a copy of which is HW 16/63.

In conclusion, as far as I know, BroI's scan may be the first that has been taken directly from HW 16/45 but its true import is how if fits a chain of evidence consisting of pieces that have been sitting around since 1941 but which only come to light in a piecemeal manner that has to be reconstructed. Most importantly of all, each piece confirms the veracity of the others, and it is particularly significant that British intelligence had no desire for these pieces to come to light.


  1. 1/2

    The first person to mention the shooting of 4,200 Jews was Hinsley in British Intelligence in the Second War War Volume II (p.671) but he merely gives the figure as being the largest in the last week of August 1941.

    I think that Hinsely took a lot of information regarding the decodes from G.C. & C.S. Air and Military History V.XIII: The German Police by Lt. E. D. Phillips, which, as you mentioned, is now available at Kew as HW 16/63. And it was from this previously "Top Secret 'Ultra'" volume that I learnt of this shooting (p.235). As I said to Hans Sortie yesterday, the ZIP/GPD codes are the important thing to cite. Asides from making the decodes easier to locate in the files, they were used as references in the Summaries and enabled me to track down the decode featuring this shooting.

    Phillips noted after listing some shootings:

    "The figures given above are selected from many more reports; some simply in general terms. It is probable that "Jews" and "Bolshevists" were convenient categories to account for any kind of execution." (p.236)

    Which would please Hungover no end!


    JH: Breitman takes it from NA RG 457, Box 1386

    He doesn't mention the shooting of the 4,200 by Pol. Batl. 302 at Kamanets-Podolsk though, only the shooting of 914 Jews by Pol. Regt. S. (p.63), and if you re-check his book you'll see that you've quoted from the previous endnote; 51 instead of 52 (pp.270-271).

  2. 2/2

    There's a lot of strange things claimed about HW 1/62:

    D. Irving (CW:1 p.867 n.39), N. Terry (CF, p.365), R. Haynok (EoH p.126) all claim it contains the note with the famous message:

    ‘The fact that the Police are killing all Jews that fall into their hands should be now sufficiently well appreciated. It is not therefore proposed to continue reporting these butcheries specially, unless so requested.’

    But that note is actually in a different file in a bundle of papers sent to Churchill on 31.08.41, and it does mention the shooting of 4,200 Jews by Pol. Batl. 302 and 914 by Pol. Regt. S. on 27.08.41.

    Strange all three authors should have made exactly the same mistake!!!!!

    What is notable, is that N. Terry (who does discuss Irving's book in his paper: p.388 n.109) doesn't mention the shooting of the 4,200 Jews anywhere in his article. Which is very odd, considering that he claims to have seen this famous note, and those shooting are its main subject, and will no doubt claim it's a "coincidence" that he made the same mistake as Irving!

    I made a complete copy of HW 1/62 on 20.03.13 and there is no longer a German police report in it. But there should be one: dated 11.09.41:
    but it's been lost, or stolen. I reported its absence to staff at Kew on 28.03.13, and their catalogue now notes its absence:

    C's 12.09.41 memo to Churchill in HW 1/62 states "Attached is a German Police Message, dated 11.9.41" so it seems improbable that it was a translation of ZIP/GPD 349 no.1, (i.e. the one inc. shooting of 4,200 Jews) as that was dated 27.08.41, and especially as C had already told Churchill about those shootings two weeks earlier.


    Terry reproduces (pp.363-364) a table of shootings from the Summary of August 15-31, 1941, ZIP/MSGP 28, in HW 16/6 Pt.1.

    But he made a real pig's ear of it, with too many mistakes for me to bother to list. But the total printed on the Summary is 12,361 (which is correct for the figures listed). Terry quotes this total, but his figures total just 8,034 and he doesn't even acknowledge the massive discrepancy!

    The reason why he is so far out, is because Terry's "42" shot by Pol. Batl. 360 on 27.08.41, should read "4200". The figure appears on the edge of the paper and the 00 has been ripped off or perished, so it does look like 42:

    If only he'd reproduced the rest of the list correctly, he surely would have noticed the total was 4,158 less than 12,361, and perhaps he was once clever enough to have figured out why!

  3. Breitman states "forty-two hundred Jews" on page 64. He seems to have split the same decode into two footnotes (52 and 55), maybe as an editing error (he should obviously have put them together).

    Hinsley's claim about the conflation of Communists and Jews simply tells you how antisemitic the action was, given that most of those those killed at Kamenets-Podolsk were civilians expelled from Hungary. Recall also that Jeckeln calls it a Sonderaktion.

    The info in these decodes was later amended by Jeckeln in the second document shown here:

    e.g. the shooting was done by Jeckeln's staff company not PB 320.

  4. Don't know, do you have a copy and can repost it? If not, Roberto should be able to restore it in case it was accidently deleted.

  5. Yes, I kept a copy:

    JH: Breitman states "forty-two hundred Jews" on page 64. He seems to have split the same decode into two footnotes (52 and 55), maybe as an editing error (he should obviously have put them together).

    I see it now. I missed it because you said he cited "NA RG 457, Box 1386", but for this section of his text "NA RG 457, Box 1386" only features in endnote 51.

    So endnotes 51, 52 and 55 you mean. Although I agree that his endnote are a mess, editing errors or not.

    Incidentally, Breitman wrote in U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis, p.469, endnote 4:

    "The police decrypts are located in NA, RG 457, Historical Crytographic Collection (HCC), box 1386, and in the Public Record Office, HW/16, "GC&CS: German Police Decrypts."

    JH: Hinsley's claim about the conflation of Communists and Jews simply tells you how antisemitic the action was,

    It was Lt. E. D. Phillips' "conflation" I quoted; he wasn't the first to air the view that all these "Jews" being shot might not actually of been Jews:

    "The execution of "Jews" is so recurrent a feature of these reports that the figures have been omitted from the situation reports and brought under one heading (3. d). Whether all those executed as "Jews" are indeed such is of course doubtful; but the figures are no less conclusive as evidence of a policy of savage intimidation if not of ultimate extermination"

    - Summary 15-31.8.41, HW 16/6:1

  6. How would Phillips have had access to local population info that made him qualified to make that judgment? The Nazis often used local collaborators to point out the Jews; I doubt those collaborators would have led them to Russians and Ukrainians by mistake or that Russians and Ukrainians were hanging around Jewish communities and thus incurring a risk of getting shot.


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