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    Einsatzgruppen: Mass Graves Exist

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    Have we found the mass graves of Jews murdered in Eastern Europe?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The physical evidence of mass murder in Eastern Europe, in the form of mass graves and bodies, cannot be found. Neither the Soviets nor the Poles “have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies . . .”[1]

    For example, Germar Rudolf, a German Holocaust denier, describes how in 1996 the townspeople of Marijampole, Lithuania attempted to erect a memorial to murdered Jews from their town. According to Rudolf, the townspeople searched for the mass grave where “tens of thousands” of murdered Jews supposedly had been buried but they could not find it. His source was an article in a Lithuanian newspaper.[2] Extending this “failure” to find even one mass grave at Marijampole, Jürgen Graf, a Swiss Holocaust denier, insists that such incidents mean that “. . . material evidence of a mass murder of Jews in the alleged numbers is totally nonexistent.”[3]

    The facts are:

    The Einsatzgruppen and their collaborators murdered Jews throughout Eastern Europe as they made their way into the heart of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa); the Nazis occupied Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine, Crimea, and other Soviet controlled areas after June 1941. There are thousands of mass graves filled with the remains of murdered Jews. As of 2013, a project of Yad Vashem has documented 1,590 mass graves in part of the Ukraine alone. Father Patrick Desbois, who is dedicated to documenting the murder of the Jews in the Ukraine, had also located and documented mass graves. Contrary to the claims of Holocaust deniers, there was no “missing” mass grave at Marijampole, as inaccurately reported in one newspaper article from one Lithuanian newspaper. The mass grave was found 300 feet away from its anticipated location.

    Facts about the murder of the Jews of Marijampole:

    The Nazis entered Marijampole on Sunday, June 23, 1941. In August of that year, the Nazis forced Jewish men to dig trenches behind the cavalry barracks on the Shesupe River. On September 1, 1941, about 5,000 Jews from Marijampole were told to pack their belongings because they were being sent to a large ghetto where they would be able to work. They were then driven to the barracks on the river, shot, and buried in the pits they previously dug. Einsatzkommando 3 (of Einsatzgruppe A), which was commanded by Karl Jäger, did the killing.[4] Jäger’s report[5] summarized the massacre in Marijampole thus:

    1,763 Jews

    1,812 Jewesses

    1,404 Jewish children

    (111 other people were also shot including some persons with mental illness and a German female who had committed the crime of being married to a Jew.)

    Facts about the “missing” mass grave in Marijampole:

    It turns out the grave was not “missing” after all. The authorities found it 300 feet away from the original site they investigated. A memorial was erected there. Holocaust deniers have not publicized this fact, using Marijampole as their primary example of a “missing” mass grave.

    Facts about the existence of thousands of mass graves in the East:

    There are thousands of mass graves throughout Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine, Crimea and other areas of the Soviet territories. Yad Vashem is conducting a project to identify the mass graves in an area the Nazis called Reichskommissariat Ukraine (about 1/6 of the land area occupied by the Germans). The project is ongoing but a partial list for just the Reichskommissariat Ukraine contains over 1,500 identified mass graves (as of February 2013). The list details the GPS coordinates, the name of the town or murder site, and a description of the execution(s) committed there.[6]

    More specifically, the Yad Vashem report divides the Reichskommissariat Ukraine into 17 districts. To take an example, one of 17 districts on their list is the Zhitomir district, containing both the city by the same name and surrounding areas. In this Zhitomir district, Yad Vashem has identified 105 mass grave sites, including sites in or near the towns of Andrushevka, Baranovka, Barashi, Bazar, Berdichev, Chernyakhov, Chervonoye, Chudhov, Dzerzhinsk, Khodorkov, Kolodyanka, Korosten, Lyubar, Miropol, Novograd Volynskiy, Radomyshl, Ushomir, and Yanushpol (among many others). This is only a partial list of the towns and executions sites in the Zhitomir region.[7]

    Aside from the Yad Vashem project, a postwar Soviet commission, the Extraordinary State Commission, found six mass graves in the forest area near the town of Zhitomir. They exhumed 962 corpses of both sexes and various ages. In another area near the town they found 13 mass graves. They opened these as well and examined the bodies. They estimated there were no less than 20,000 bodies in these graves.[8] The Commission dug up the actual graves and physically counted and forensically examined the bodies.

    The Nazis documented their atrocities in the Zhitomir district:

    In the Operational Situation Reports written by Einsatzgruppe C:

    OSR No. 47 (August 9, 1941): “In Zhitomir about 400 Jews, mostly saboteurs and political functionaries, were liquidated during the last few days.”[9]

    OSR No. 86 (September 17, 1941): “266 Jews were liquidated as further reprisal measures against the rebellion of the Zhitomir Jews. They even sabotaged the black-out regulations at night and lit up their windows during Russian air raids.”[10]

    OSR No. 106 (October 7, 1941): “On September 19, 1941, from 4 o’clock [a.m.], the Jewish quarter [of Zhitomir] was emptied after having been surrounded and closed the previously evening by 60 members of the Ukrainian militia. The transport [deportation] was accomplished in 12 trucks, part of which had been supplied by military headquarters and part by the city administration of Zhitomir. After the transport had been carried out and the necessary preparations made with the help of 150 prisoners, 3,145 Jews were registered and shot. About 25-30 tons of linen, clothing, shoes, dishes, etc. that had been confiscated in the course of the action were handed over to the officials of the NSV in Zhitomir for distribution. Valuables and money were conveyed to the Sonderkommando 4a.”[11]

    Eyewitness evidence about the massacre of Jews in the Zhitomir district:

    Dr. Artur Neumann, a military judge who was based in Zhitomir, was informed that there was to be a hanging. After the hanging, he observed:

    “. . . a group of people gathered some distance away from the road . . . When I reached the spot I discovered the following scene: A trench between ten and fifteen metres long [33 feet by 49 feet] and about four metres [13 feet] wide had been dug out in the earth . . . About fifteen metres [49 feet] away from it stood a row . . . of members of an SS formation. Ten to twelve local people at a time were led to the front of this grave and made to line up facing it with their backs to the SS firing-squad . . . The order to fire was given and they were shot by the firing-squad. They fell immediately into the grave. I watched some three or four executions at a distance of perhaps twenty metres [66 feet] to the side of the firing-squad . . . The people being shot were of all ages. There were also women among them. I then realized that because of their appearance these people could not be partisans, spies or the like but that they were almost certainly all Jews . . . I also remember one or two SS marksmen firing coups de grâces into the trench after the executions.”[12]

    Major Rösler, who was part of Infantry Regiment 528, wrote a report to Infantry General Schniewindt, 3 January 1942:

    “. . we were informed, executions were being carried out at regular intervals. We were not able to see over the embankment; however, at intervals we kept hearing the sound of a whistle, following by a ten-volley rifle salvo, followed after a while by pistol shots. When we finally climbed onto the embankment we were completely unprepared for what we saw. We were confronted by a scene that was so abominable and cruel that we were utterly shattered and horrified. In the earth was a pit about seven to eight metres [26 feet] long and perhaps four metres [13 feet] wide. The earth that had been dug out was piled up to one side of it. This pile of earth and the wall of the pit were stained red by streams of blood. The pit itself was filled with innumerable human bodies of all types, both male and female. It was hard to make out all the bodies clearly, so it was not possible to estimate how deep the pit was. Behind the piles of earth dug from it stood a square of police under the command of a police officer. There were traces of blood on their uniforms. In a wide circle around the pit stood scores of soldiers from the troop detachments stationed there, some of them in bathing trunks, watching the proceedings. There were also an equal number of civilians, including women and children . . . In the pit the dead were not laid out in any orderly way but were left where they happened to land after being shot down from the top of the pit. All these people were first shot in the neck and then finished off with pistol shots from above.”[13]

    The difficulties of locating and documenting mass graves today:

    Father Patrick Desbois, a Roman Catholic priest, travels the Ukraine searching for the mass graves of murdered Jews. He has found that 65 years later the face of the land can change dramatically, making it hard to locate a specific grave even if a general area can be deduced. Sometimes only a minor settling of the ground indicates the presence of a mass grave.

    The Nazis did not document the sites of their crimes particularly well; in fact, they spent a great deal of time and energy trying to relocate them later. Why? As the Nazis were retreating from the Soviets, they wanted to dig up the graves and cremate the bodies to destroy the evidence. This activity disturbed mass grave sites even more and sometimes made the exact location of such sites harder to find.

    Every year, Father Desbois does intensive research on the possible locations of the graves before he even leaves for the Ukraine. Still, he often has to use a metal detector to discover the actual grave site. He has found that where he locates hundreds of German shell casings there is a good chance that a mass grave is nearby. “A bullet, a Jew. A Jew, a cartridge.”[14]

    By Avi1111 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27614537
    Mass Grave in Ponar. By Avi1111 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.


    Physical evidence, eyewitness testimony, and Nazi German documents prove that there are thousands of mass graves in the East. Overall, the East is the final resting place of 1,150,000 Jews. A single newspaper article about the difficulty of finding one mass grave does not constitute historical evidence. The use of inaccurately analyzed, anecdotal evidence is a common Holocaust denier strategy. This is not good history, nor does it hold logically. Meanwhile, Holocaust deniers demand that responsible, trained historians produce reams of documentation and physical evidence down to the tiniest detail. They then demand that witnesses to events in the 1940s have absolutely no slip in memory or differing perspectives. According to deniers, if there is one iota of difference between eyewitness accounts, then someone must be ill-informed or lying. It is highly unlikely that they would hold friends or family to the same standards of absolute perfection for events that they witnessed 25 years ago, let alone 70+ years ago. Instead, Holocaust deniers accept one single newspaper article about one small Lithuanian town as proof of their assumption that the Einsatzgruppen did not murder 1,150,000 Jews. The mass grave in this Lithuanian town has since been found (300 ft. away!), but Holocaust deniers do not rush to correct their mistake.[15]


    [1] Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, Treblinka: Extermination Camp or Transit Camp? (Theses & Dissertations Press, 2004), p. 226 at http://vho.org/dl/ENG/t.pdf.

    [2] Germar Rudolf, “The Controversy about the Extermination of the Jews: An Introduction” citing the Lithuanian newspapers Lietuvos Rytas, August 21, 1996 at http://www.vho.org/GB/Books/dth/fndintro.html#ftn145.

    [3] Jürgen Graf, “Raul Hilberg’s Incurable Autism” (“Hilberg’s Documentation Problems”) at http://www.vho.org/tr/2003/3/Graf344-350.html.

    [4] For an excellent account of this massacre see Lithuania: Crime & Punishment, #6, January 1999, pp. 79-81.

    [5] Karl Jäger, Report dated December 1, 1941 at http://fcit.usf.edu/HOLOCAUST/resource/document/DocJager.htm.

    [6] You may read the report, “Online Guide of Murder Sites of Jews in the Former USSR” at http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/about/institute/killing_sites_catalog.asp.

    [7] See Yad Vashem “Online Guide of Murder Sites of Jews in the Former USSR,” Zhitomir section at http://www1.yadvashem.org/yv/en/about/institute/killing_sites_catalog_details_full.asp?region=Zhitomir. In an area corresponding to part of the current county of Ukraine they have discovered the following by region: Chernigov, 23; Dnepropetrovsk, 23; Kamanets Podolsk, 92; Kharkov, 60; Kherson, 6; Kiev, 12; Kirovograd, 5; Lwow, 70; Nikolayev, 53; Poltava, 20; Stalino, 35; Stanislowow, 99; Sumy, 33; Vinnitsa, 86; Voroshilovgrad, 15; Wolyn, 164; Zaporozhye, 61; Zhitomir, 95 for a total of 952. These are only the ones they have discovered and marked. In 8 regions of Belarus they have discovered and marked 646 mass graves. This does not include the rest of the countries the Germans overran, including Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, etc.

    [8] Roberto Muehlenkamp, “Neither the Soviets nor the Poles have found any mass graves with even only a few thousand bodies . . .” at http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/07/neither-soviets-nor-poles-have-found.html.

    [9] Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski and Shmuel Spector (editors), The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections for 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. 79.

    [10] Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski and Shmuel Spector (editors), The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections for 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. 135. See also http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/situationreport17.html (Operational Situation Report USSR No. 17).

    [11] Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski and Shmuel Spector (editors), The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections for 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. 174. See also http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/situationreport106.html (Operational Situation Report USSR No. 106).

    [12] Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess (editors), “The Good Old Days”: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders (Free Press, 1988), pp. 115-116.

    [13] Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess (editors), “The Good Old Days”: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders (Free Press, 1988), pp. 117-119.

    [14] Father Patrick Desbois, The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 53.

    [15] As a further indication of their sloppiness, one Holocaust denier, crowing that the mass grave couldn’t be found and what it implied, kept referring to Marijampole as being in Latvia and the newspaper that reported it as Latvian. The newspaper is Lithuanian and Marijampole is in Lithuania. (See http://forum.codoh.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=608&start=0.)