How do we know the number of victims in the Einsatzgruppen reports is reliable?
Holocaust deniers claim:
The “Operational Situation Reports,” prepared by the Einsatzgruppen and sent to Berlin, are statistically unreliable.
Specifically, Holocaust deniers cite the work of R.T. Paget, the defense attorney for a Nazi general who participated in the Einsatzgruppen’s crimes. Paget claimed that the figures from the Operational Situation Reports are inflated. For example, he suggested that the figure of 10,000 Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen in Simferopol (Crimean) is really about 300. According to deniers, this “gross” exaggeration throws the totality of the report’s figures into doubt.
The facts are:
It is true that the Einsatzgruppen’s Operational Situation Reports contain some typographical errors and duplications. However, none of these minor errors have led reliable scholars to question the overall total number of Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen. In the case of Simferopol, R.T. Paget’s “analysis,” that only 300 Jews were murdered in Simferopol, was a defense strategy for his client. The claim is not supported by the evidence, which indisputably shows that 10,000 Jews were murdered in Simferopol in December 1941.
Examples of what Holocaust deniers say:
David Irving, who the High Court in London in 2000 declared to be a Holocaust denier, racist, and antisemite, claims regarding the Einsatzgruppen reports: “I don’t trust the statistics they [the OSRs] contain . . . Statistics like this are meaningless . . . it is possible that at the time some overzealous SS officer decided to put in a fictitious figure in order to do Heinrich Himmler a favor.”
Mark Weber, an American Holocaust denier, provides an example of the alleged exaggerations. Like Paget, Weber claims that one particular incident, the execution of 10,000 Jews in Simferopol, Crimea, was “grossly exaggerated.” Weber cites Paget’s work, who suggests that the Simferopol massacre figures were “quite impossible.” Rather, according to Paget and Weber, there was only one incident on November 16, 1941, in which “the numbers involved could not have been more than about 300. These 300 were probably not exclusively Jews but a miscellaneous collection of people who were being held on suspicion of resistance activity.”
Are there legitimate concerns about the reliability of the Einsatzgruppen reports?
Paget’s questioning of the Simferopol figures—which, as we will see, is baseless—does raise several important issues regarding the OSRs. While the reports themselves are undeniably authentic, are their contents truthful? Is it possible that the numbers were exaggerated to impress Nazi superiors, as David Irving suggests? Is it possible the errors and duplications were due to the multiple methods of transmission (radio, telex, and courier)? Is it possible that mistakes were made in process of compilation, both at the Einsatzgruppen level and in Berlin, where the reports were edited and compiled? If so, would the number of victims be significantly more or less than the figure of 1,150,000?
It would be foolish to accept the OSRs as paradigms of truthfulness and reliability without carefully considering these possibilities. First, let us look at the Simferopol massacre, which Holocaust deniers cite as the quintessential example of massive exaggeration in the reports. Let’s see if there is any basis for speculation in the OSRs.
Who is R.T. Paget?
Paget is a favorite source for many Holocaust deniers, who cite his “research” as a means of discrediting the figures in the Einsatzgruppen reports. So who is R.T. Paget? His full name is Reginald Thomas Guy Des Voeux Paget, Baron Paget of Northampton, a Member of Parliament for Northampton from 1945 to 1974, and a British lawyer (Queen’s Counsel).
However, what Weber and the other Holocaust deniers neglect to tell their readers is that Paget was also the defense counsel for Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, a German general tried by the British in Hamburg, Germany. The von Manstein trial took place in 1949 and von Manstein was indicted on 17 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. One of the charges against von Manstein included his allegedly complicity in the murder of 90,000 Jews by Einsatzgruppe D. Headed by Otto Ohlendorf, Einsatzgruppe D operated in Crimea, the region in von Manstein’s area of command. After the trial, Paget wrote a book about his experiences as defense counsel for von Manstein.
The fact that Paget was the defense counsel for von Manstein is important for determining his credibility. This knowledge should cause one to consider the possibility that Paget’s conclusions might not reflect dispassionate and evidence-based truth seeking. Rather, it might reflect a calculated defense strategy. Further, writing a book about the trial does not make Paget an “historian.”
The murder of the Jews of Simferopol:
Using investigations by West German criminal justice authorities, documentary evidence, and eyewitness testimony, it is possible to make a detailed reconstruction of the events at Simferopol in November and December 1941.
At the beginning of November 1941, Otto Ohlendorf, commander of Einsatzgruppe D, transferred his command to Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, which was also the base of operations for Field Marshal Erich von Manstein and the Eleventh Army.
The Germans wanted to liquidate the Jews of Simferopol in November 1941, but there were several issues that needed to be resolved before beginning. First, there were two population groups in the area that might have qualified as being Jews and would, therefore, need to be executed. These two groups were the Karaites, a Turkic people that practiced Judaism, and the Krimchaks, who were descendants of Sephardic Jews from Spain, but who no longer practiced Judaism. Nazi authorities in Berlin had to debate the Jewish status of these two groups. It was decided, apparently in early December 1941, that the Krimchaks were Jews because of their ancestry, but the Karaites were not because they only practiced Judaism. Thus, the Krimchaks were among those executed, but the Karaites were not.
Second, during November 1941, Einsatzgruppe D spent much of its time fighting partisans and had little spare time to execute the Jews of Simferopol. But, in early December, reinforcements arrived in the form of Sonderkommando 11b, which was transferred from Odessa to Simferopol, and the 3rd Company of Police Reserve Battalion 3.
With the arrival of this additional manpower, the stage was set for the massacre of the Jews of Simferopol. On December 11, 1941, the Jews were ordered to gather in the city center. They were told they were being sent to work. Instead, they were put on trucks and driven to an execution site about five miles outside town. At the execution site, they handed over their valuables, which the Nazis promised would be returned to them when they arrived at their work site. Then, in small groups, Nazi execution squads marched them to the killing site, shot them, and buried them in anti-tank ditches. In order to finish their planned executions at Simferopol before Christmas, the Nazis murdered the Gypsies as well.
Less than a month later, Ohlendorf reported the total number of executions in the region (OSR 150, January 2, 1942). He said: “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, 825 Gypsies, and 212 Communists and partisans have been shot. Altogether, 75,881 persons have been executed.”
In OSR 171, dated February 18, 1942, Ohlendorf reported on the final “cleanup” of Simferopol: “From January 9 to February 15, more than 300 Jews were arrested in Simferopol and executed. With this the number of persons executed in Simferopol increased to almost 10,000 Jews, about 300 more than the number of Jews registered.”
Ohlendorf’s numbers and the sequence of events are confirmed by survivor testimony and perpetrator testimony, as well as primary documents. Over 10,000 Jews were murdered by the Einsatzgruppen at Simferopol alone, not the 300 “miscellaneous” people Paget claims.
Implications for all the OSRs:
Paget’s claim, that the number of Jews murdered at Simferopol was highly exaggerated, does not hold up under responsible scrutiny. Still, are there exaggerations in the reports that throw the overall number of murders into doubt?
At the Einsatzgruppen trial (Case No. 9) in Nuremberg in 1947/1948, Otto Ohlendorf, the commander of Einsatzgruppe D, claimed that his fellow Einsatzgruppen leaders exaggerated the numbers by double. He suggested that his colleague, Arthur Nebe, head of Einsatzgruppe B, was “not very exact with his zeros” and claimed that his superiors in Berlin exaggerated the numbers on their end. Ohlendorf, however, could not back his assertion with any proof of such exaggerations.
However, even as he tried to paint the numbers of other Einsatzgruppen commanders as exaggerated, Ohlendorf stressed how hard he worked to keep his figures accurate. In fact, he warned his Kommando leaders not to exaggerate: “I tried to keep the number secret in order to prevent the Kommando leaders from making a contest out of it and reporting larger numbers than had actually been executed.” In other words, Ohlendorf affirmed that his numbers were as correct as possible. When Holocaust deniers claim that Ohlendorf fudged his numbers, they ignore the fact that Ohlendorf confirmed the accuracy of his figures.
Is there evidence of systematic exaggerations throughout the OSRs?
There is no evidence of systematic exaggerations throughout the OSRs. To make any significant difference, all four Einsatzgruppen and their sub-units, the staff of three Higher SS and Police Leaders, and police battalions (numbering the in the tens of thousands) would have had to exaggerate all the numbers by as much as 90 to 95 percent (as Paget claimed). Only by such extreme exaggeration could one arrive at the figures quoted by Holocaust deniers. The demographics of postwar Jewish communities, and the thousands of mass graves throughout the Soviet territories, support the conclusion that the Einsatzgruppen and their collaborators murdered least 1,150,000 Jews in the East.
Typographical errors in the OSRs:
There were typographical errors in the reports. For instance, we know that 1,134 Jews were killed in Dünaburg by Einsatzgruppen A, not the “11,034” the report indicates. The typo becomes apparent when the summarized totals don’t add up. However, using the number 1,134 does add up to the summarized total, ultimately making the typographical error inconsequential.
Duplications in the OSRs:
There are duplications in the reports. Because of the difficulties of wartime communication and the multiple ways of reporting (radio, telex, and courier), the reports sometimes overlapped in Berlin. A report sent by courier instead of radio or telex might arrive as much as two weeks or a month later, providing the same information and getting included twice. Here are some examples of duplication:
OSR No. 47 (August 9, 1941) reported that 600 Jews had been murdered in Tarnopol, Ukraine. This figure had already been mentioned in OSR No. 19 (July 11, 1941).
OSR No. 165 (February 6, 1942) stated that on February 1, 1941 in Loknia, 38 Jews and one Gypsy were murdered. In OSR No. 181 (March 16, 1942), the same operation and figure was listed again.
There were only a few typographic errors in the OSRs, most of them small, although one duplicated figure involved the shooting of 5,000 Jews in both Nikolajew and Cherson.
David Irving’s assertion, that the Einsatzgruppen reports heavily exaggerated their numbers, is incorrect. In the specific matter of the murder of 10,000 Jews at Simferopol, Paget’s conclusion, that only 300 “miscellaneous” people were murdered, is not based on historical evidence. Paget’s conclusions are worthless. Responsible historical research reveals that the Nazis murdered over 10,000 Jews at Simferopol, just before Christmas 1941.
The Operational Situation Reports are not a perfect source. There are typographical errors and duplications, but none of these minor errors should lead to questioning the overall validity of the total number of Jews murdered.
 Kulaszka, Barbara (editor), “Did Six Million Really Die?” Report of the Evidence in the Canadian ‘False News’ Trial of Ernst Zündel–1988 at http://www.vho.org/aaargh/fran/livres3/KULA.pdf, p. 517.
 Reginald T. Paget, Manstein: His Campaigns and his Trial (Collins, 1951), p. 170f as cited in Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? (“Chapter VII: The role of the Einsatzgruppen in the Occupied Eastern Territories, 3. The Scale of the Shootings”) at http://www.vho.org/GB/Books/t/8.html. For an excerpt of the pertinent text in Paget’s book in English see, “That’s why it is denial, not revisionism. Part VIII: The Simferopol Massacres” (October 18, 2006) at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/10/thats-why-it-is-denial-not-revisionism.html.
 For instance, Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf in Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 210; Richard Harwood, Did Six Million Really Die? Truth at Last—Exposed (Part 4 of 9), “Action Group Executions Distorted” at http://www.zundelsite.org/harwood/didsix00.html#4; and David Hoggan, The Myth of the Six Million, (“Outbreak of the War with Russian June 22, 1941, and the Einsatzgruppen”) at http://www.vho.org/GB/Books/tmotsm/12.html.
 See “Reginald Paget, Baron Paget of Northampton” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reginald_Paget,_Baron_Paget_of_Northampton.
 Jörg Muth, “Erich von Manstein: His Life, Character and Operations—A Reappraisal” at http://militaryhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2007/07/28/erich-von-lewinski-called-von-manstein-his-life-character-and-operations-%E2%80%93-a-reappraisal-by-jorg-muth/. See also “Erich von Manstein” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_von_Manstein.
 Yitzhak Arad, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (University of Nebraska Press and Yad Vashem, 2009), pp. 203, 204.
 See “That’s why it is denial, not revisionism. Part VIII: The Simferopol Massacres” (October 18, 2006).
 Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman (editors), The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in German-Occupied Soviet Territories (Indiana University Press, 2008), pp. 338-359, the testimony of Yevsei Yefimovich Gopshteyn (August 16-17, 1944).
 Testimony of Werner Braune (head of Einsatzkommando 11b of Einsatzgruppe D) from the Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1947, NO-3024 as cited in Yitzhak Arad, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (University of Nebraska Press and Yad Vashem, 2009), p. 204. See also “NMT Einsatzgruppe Testimony of Werner Braune” at http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=60039 where portions of his testimony are cited.
 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), p. 267. Also available on the Internet at http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/situationreport150.html.
 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), p. 296.
 For the text of Otto Ohlendorf’s Affidvait see http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/ohlendorf1.htm, which is essentially the same as his witness testimony in Nuremberg at the Einsatzgruppen trial on January 3, 1946.
 For a full account of the Einsatzgruppen trial see Hilary Earl, The Nuremberg SS-Einsatzgruppen Trial, 1945-1958: Atrocity, Law, and History (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
 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. 171.
 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. 170. For a complete discussion of how the numbers were handled, who knew about them, how they were compiled and sent to Berlin, see Chapter 3, “How the Einsatzgruppen Reports Were Compiled,” pp. 37-43.
 “That’s why it is denial, not revisionism. Part VII: Other pathetic objections to the Einsatzgruppen reports”.
 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), pp. 19, 79.
 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), pp. 290, 312.
 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. 170.
 Paget’s overall defense strategy of proclaiming the military greatness and heroism of his client was not persuasive to the court. Von Manstein was convicted on 8 counts including one for “failing to protect the civilian population,” which was a watered down version of intentionally ordering or participating in the murder of Jews. Von Manstein was sentenced to 18 years in prison, which was reduced to 12 of which he ultimately served only four. He was released for medical reasons, but apparently recovered enough to become an advisor to the West German government in 1953. Von Manstein died in 1973 and was buried with full military honors. (See Axis History Factbook, “Erich von Manstein: His Life, Character and Operations—A Reappraisal” at http://militaryhistoryblog.wordpress.com/2007/07/28/erich-von-lewinski-called-von-manstein-his-life-character-and-operations-%E2%80%93-a-reappraisal-by-jorg-muth/. See also “Erich von Manstein” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_von_Manstein.)