• Search

    Einsatzgruppen: The Authenticity of the Einsatzgruppen Reports

    How do we know the Einsatzgruppen reports are authentic and not forgeries?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    There is doubt about the authenticity of the Einsatzgruppen reports: “at least in part we are dealing with manipulated documents.”

    The facts are:

    The provenance of the Einsatzgruppen reports is thoroughly documented. There is no doubt about their authenticity. Even at the trial of the Einsatzgruppen, the defense attorneys did not question their authenticity. The defense focused instead on refuting the information in the reports.

    What do Holocaust deniers say?

    Carlo Mattogno, an Italian Holocaust denier, questions the authenticity of the Einsatzgruppen reports, claiming that “. . . some revisionist researchers have expressed doubt as to the authenticity of the event reports and are of the opinion that at least in part we are dealing with manipulated documents.” According to Mattogno, “The German are therefore supposed to have distributed tens of thousands of pages of documents concerning the mass shootings committed by the Einsatzgruppen, then quite suddenly have grasped the necessity of exhuming and burning the bodies, but have forgotten to destroy the incrimination documents!” He notes that the reports “are supposed to have been found by the Allies in the offices of the Berlin RSHA. That the Germans let this sort of incriminating material fall into the hands of their enemies, although they could have easily burned the few stacks of papers in time, is strikingly odd.”[1]

    What are the Einsatzgruppen reports?

    As Einsatzgruppen A, B, C and D moved into the Soviet Union behind the Wehrmacht (regular German army), they broke into sub-units and spread through their assigned areas. Each sub-unit assembled a report about their activities in the field, submitting the reports to the headquarters of their specific Einsatzgruppen (A, B, C or D) about once a week.

    At each of the four Einsatzgruppe headquarters, the reports from their sub-units were assembled into one report. They sent this report to Reinhard Heydrich’s office in Berlin by telex, radio, or courier about once a week. These reports were known as the Activity and Situation Reports of the Security Police and the SS in the USSR (ASRs).

    In Berlin, the Activity and Situation Reports from all four Einsatzgruppen were compiled into one comprehensive report, known as Operational Situation Reports (OSRs). These were issued from June 1941 to May 1, 1942. The OSRs were circulated to officials in all arms of the Nazi government, including the Wehrmacht.

    The surviving documents related to the activities of the Einsatzgruppen are:

    • Eleven Activity and Situation Reports from the individual Einsatzgruppen commanders dating from July 31, 1941, through March 31, 1942.
    • Almost the entire collection of 195 Operational Situation Reports prepared in Berlin (missing only one in the series). They were dated from June 1941 through May 1, 1942.[2]
    • Fifty-five Reports from the Occupied Eastern Territories. The OSRs were discontinued in May 1942 and reports from the Occupied Eastern Territories took their place, covering the rest of 1942 and a little bit of 1943. They were compiled in Berlin and issued once a week on Fridays.
    • Two comprehensive reports prepared by Franz Stahlecker, the head of Einsatzgruppe A. These lengthy reports (130 to 150 pages) were not sent through the regular reporting channels. The first Stahlecker report covered all activities of Einsatzgruppe A, through October 14, 1941. The second is undated, but appears to be from February 1942. The second Stahlecker report updates the first report.[3]
    • One long report from Karl Jäger, the commander of Einsatzkommando 3 (a sub-unit of Einsatzgruppen A). This report covers all of the activities of Einsatzkommando 3 from June 21, 1941 to December 1, 1941 and lists a total of 137,346 Jews who had been shot. The location, date, and exact number of Jewish victims are listed for each day—113 operations in 71 different locations.[4]

    Where were the reports discovered?

    When the Russians liberated Berlin they took many captured Nazi documents with them to the Soviet Union. These documents were unavailable until the beginning of the 1990’s. But, the Russians were inconsistent in what they took: “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.”[5] The Americans and British collected all the remaining documents.[6]

    One entire set of 195 OSRs was found on the fourth floor of the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin. These OSRs were found on September 3, 1945 by the 6889th Berlin Document Group, a special unit charged with locating and sequestering German documents. The receipt register stated that the reports were part of a collection weighing two tons, which included 578 folders of documents taken from the files of the Gestapo and RHSA, among others. The twelve loose leaf binders containing the OSRs were given the folder numbers E316 to E335.

    All captured documents were stored in a temporary document center where they were initially screened for use in the prosecution of war criminals. The selected documents were given pre-trial serial numbers and sent to the office of Telford Taylor, the Chief Prosecutor at the International Military Trial. There, they were indexed and sent to the Screening and Analysis Branch of the Documentation Division, headed by Benjamin Ferencz, where they were examined more closely for their value as evidence. The evidence analysts created a cover page that described the document, its date, the number of pages, the source and location of the original, persons mentioned in the documents, summary of the contents, and the name of the person doing the analysis and the date of analysis. Photostatic copies were made of the originals and the originals were stored in a fireproof safe. An authenticated translation was made of each document. Ultimately, nearly 1,600 tons of documents from all over Germany were processed in this manner.[7]

    Otto Ohlendorf, head of Einsatzgruppen D, in his testimony at the Nuremberg Trial of the Major War Criminals (1946/47), mentioned the OSR reports, but no one followed up or tried to locate them. About one year later, an analyst brought the twelve binders to Ferencz’s attention. One of the analysts, Barbara Ritter, recalled the tremendous excitement when the binders were found and the staff realized the information they contained.[8]

    Ferencz flew to Berlin to show Taylor his find. Taylor, who was already involved in a number of other trials, did not have the time or staff to pursue the prosecution of the crimes of the Einsatzgruppen, so Ferencz assumed the job of Chief Prosecutor in a trial of the Einsatzgruppen.[9]

    Several other reports from Nazi officials were discovered later as well. Stahlecker’s reports are currently held in the Central Archives in Moscow, having apparently been found in Riga, Latvia.[10] Jäger’s report is housed in the Central Lithuanian Archives in Vilna, Lithuania.[11]

    Holocaust denier Carlo Mattogno claims that it was “strikingly odd” that this “incriminating material” was captured as the Germans could easily have burned the documents. It gets a little less “odd” when we understand that, in the chaos of Nazi retreat and the collapse of the Third Reich, the Nazis did not destroy literally tons of documents. In fact, the Nazis missed destroying an entire storage facility (now called the Berlin Document Center), which was discovered intact after the war. This treasure trove of documents contains 11,000,000 NSDAP membership cards, personnel files of SS officers, documents pertaining to rank-and-file members, and documents relating to other NSDAP-affiliated organization (both paramilitary and civil).[12] It is not really so “odd” that the Allies recovered such documents. This is especially true of the OSRs, which were found in a long-since abandoned office in Berlin, its occupants having fled or died.

    Conclusion:

    Indeed, the Allies were not supposed to find the documents listed above. With the imminent collapse of the Third Reich, Nazi officials were thrown into utter chaos. As their country disintegrated around them, the Germans left tons of documents behind, simply forgetting to destroy them. Among these documents is an entire set of reports on the activities of the Einsatzgruppen.

    Again, it is important to note: in the war crimes trial of the Einsatzgruppen, the defense attorneys did not question the authenticity of the OSRs, claiming instead that the information in the reports was unreliable (which is also largely false!).

    NOTES

    [1] Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 205 at http://vho.org/dl/ENG/t.pdf.

    [2] The entire collection of reports can be read in Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski and Shmuel Spector (editors), The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads’ Campaign Against the Jews in Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union July 1941-January 1943 (Holocaust Library, 1989). They can also be accessed on the Internet at http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/situationreport.html.

    [3] Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), pp. 152-154.

    [4] Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), pp. 154-158. You can read the Jäger Reportin full at http://fcit.usf.edu/holocaust/resource/document/DocJager.htm.

    [5] 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 (see page 217).

    [6] For more information on the various types of reports regarding the activities of the Einsatzgruppen were found see Nicholas Terry, “The Einsatzgruppen Reports (Ereignismeldungen) at http://holocaust-history.org/intro-einsatz/einsatzgruppen-reports.shtml.

    [7] Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), pp. 13-14

    [8] Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), p. 14, f15.

    [9] Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), p. 14.

    [10] Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), p.153, f27. An excerpt from this document was entered as evidence at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg (USSR 357a).

    [11] Ronald Headland, Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and the Security Service, 1941-1943 (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1992), p.155.

    [12] See National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized (Record Group 242)http://www.archives.gov/research/captured-german-records/foreign-records-seized.html.