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    Einsatzgruppen: Jews and Partisans

    How do we know the Jews were shot because they were Jews and not because they were partisans?

    Holocaust deniers claim:

    The Jews were murdered because they were partisans, not because they were Jews. They assert that Jews “made up a disproportionately large share of the partisans” therefore “Jewish civilians suffered . . . to a much greater degree than non-Jewish civilians.”

    The facts are:

    The Germans’ own words and actions make it plain that the vast majority of Jews were murdered simply because they were Jews. The sheer number of Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen (1,150,000) does not support this claim. All of the partisans in 1944 (on which only 10 percent were Jewswould have had to have been murdered three times over to even get close to the number of Jews who were murdered by the Einsatzgruppen. Further, thee is no way to rationalize the murder of Jewish women, children and infants, the elderly and infirm as partisans.

    Jürgen Graf, a Swiss Holocaust denier, asserts that Jews “. . . made up a disproportionately large share of the partisans” therefore “Jewish civilians suffered in the German repression measures to a much greater degree than non-Jewish civilians.”[1] Graf does admit that “‘wild’ shootings, which is to say, shootings that were done not as a reaction to attacks by partisans, can hardly be excluded.”[2]

    Arthur Butz, an American Holocaust denier, argues that the Einsatzgruppen were tasked with dealing with partisans “by all necessary means, so we need not be told much more to surmise that the Einsatzgruppen must have shot many Jews, although we do not know whether ‘many’ means 5,000, 25,000 or 100,000. Naturally, many non-Jews were also executed.”[3]

    What is a partisan?

    A partisan is a member of irregular military force which opposes control by an army of occupation through underground activities. In the Soviet Union, the partisans units were composed of officers and soldiers from the Soviet army, Communists, and civilians who fled to the woods and took up arms against the German occupation forces. Those Jews who managed to make it into the forest usually joined a non-Jewish unit, but there were a few entirely Jewish partisan units as well.

    How many partisans were there in the Soviet Union

    The exact number of partisans (including Jews) in the occupied Soviet territories is impossible to know with certainty since, by definition, they were underground fighters, loosely organized, fluid in their membership, and hidden by necessity. Kenneth Slepyan, a scholar of the Soviet partisan movement, informs us that, according to Soviet wartime figures, by the end of 1941 German opposition had nearly destroyed the fledgling partisan movement. However, in 1942 the movement began to recover and as of June 1942 there were almost 70,000 partisans. By August 1942 that number had grown to 93,000 and by February 1943 it had grown to over 120,000. Slepyan notes, however, that the Soviet figures are incomplete.[4]

    Yitzhak Arad, a respected scholar on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, estimates that by 1944, there were 200,000 to 250,000 (and perhaps as many as 350,000), partisans operating in hundreds of brigades, of which about 20,000 to 25,000 were Jews.[5] On the basis of these numbers—the best available at this time—it appears that about 10 percent of the entire partisan movement was composed of Jewish fighters.

    The evidence proves that Jews murdered because they were Jews and not partisans.

    First and foremost, the sheer number of Jews murdered by the Einsatzgruppen (some 1,150,000) does not support the Holocaust deniers’ claim that the Jews were killed because they were partisans.   Ronald Headland, in Messages of Murder, concludes: “The statistical record of the killing rose beyond any plausible association with the norms of mere police work.”[6] Further, there is no way to rationalize the murder of Jewish women, children and infants as partisans.

    What the Jäger Report tells us about whether the Jews were murdered because they were Jews or partisans.

    One of the most important pieces of documentation that Jews were murdered as Jews and not as partisans is a report written by Karl Jäger, the commander of Einsatzkommando 3 (attached to Einsatzgruppe A) which operated in Lithuania. This document—the so-called Jäger Report—was submitted to Berlin on December 31, 1941, and meticulously lists the mass killings of Jews performed by just one sub-unit (EK3) of one Einsatzgruppe in the Vilna area from September to November 1941. Here are three examples from that list:

     

    12.9.41                       Wilna (Vilna)

    993 Jews

    1,670 Jewesses

    771 Jewish children

    Total: 3,334

     

    27.9.41           Zysisky

     

    989 Jews

    1,636 Jewesses

    821 Jewish children

    Total: 3,446

     

    9.10.41               Svenciany

     

    1,169 Jews

    1,840 Jewesses

    717 Jewish children

    Total: 3,726

     

    Jäger’s report listed 113 separate operations in 71 different locations. The total number of Jews “liquidated” by his unit in just five months was 137,346.[7]

    In the summary of his report, Jäger makes it clear that the Jews were murdered because they were Jews not partisans: “Today I can confirm that our objective, to solve the Jewish problem for Lithuania, has been achieved by EK 3. In Lithuania, there are no more Jews, apart from Jewish workers and their families.” He did not write “there are no more partisans” but “there are no more Jews.”

    Jäger’s report shows that Graf’s “wild shootings” theory is unsupported by the evidence. The murder of the Jews in the East was the state-sanctioned, systematic, thorough destruction of every last Jew in every last community with reach of Jäger’s Einsatzkommando 3. The story is the same across the areas occupied by all four Einsatzgruppen.

    The Germans did make a rudimentary—and ultimately unconvincing—attempt to explain the murder of Jews.

    The Germans used a wide variety of reasons for the murder of Jews that had nothing to do with partisan activity:

    OSR 59 (August 21, 1941). In Staro-Konstantiov: “The Jews were impertinent and even refused to work.   . . . In reprisal, the SS-Brigade carried out an action against the Jews in the course of which 300 male and 139 female Jews were shot.”[8]

    OSR 88 (September 19, 1941). “On September 1 and 2, 1941, leaflets and inflammatory pamphlets were distributed by Jews in Berdichev. As the perpetrators could not be found, 1,303 Jews, among them 875 Jewesses over 12 years, were executed by a unit of the Higher SS and Police Leaders.”[9]

    OSR 92 (September 23, 1941). “In the Nevel ghetto which was set up approximately 3 km outside the city and which comprised several wooden houses, scabies broke out according to the diagnosis of a German doctor. In order to prevent further contagion, 640 Jews were liquidated and the houses burned down.”[10]

    OSR 124 (October 25, 1941). “In Mogilev, two more Jews were liquidated for kicking wounded German soldiers and for not wearing the [yellow] badge as ordered. . . . Four Jews were liquidated for instigating others to refuse to work. During the period covered by the report, 23 individual cases of execution of Jews took place because they did not wear the [yellow] badge while residing in the town. A rearguard squad of Einsatzkommando 8 stationed in Minsk until October 3, 1941, executed another 42 persons in Minsk. Most of them were Jews who had not moved into the ghetto or who had refused to wear the badge against orders . . . In Vitebsk, there were four more cases of liquidating Jews for loitering outside the ghetto and earning their living by begging for food; they, too, had removed their badges. One of them had also made insulting remark about members of the German Army.”[11]

    Eventually, the Germans stopped bothering to give a “reason” at all.

    For instance, in OSR 178 (March 9, 1942), they simply announced: “During an action against the Jews, carried out on March 2 and 3, 3,412 Jews were executed in Minsk, 302 in Vileyka, and 2,007 in Baranovichi. In all, a total of 5,721 Jews were executed.”[12]

    Thus, the Germans’ own documents often did not bother to assert that Jews were killed because they were partisans, but reveal they were killed because they were Jews.

    Captured Soviet partisans. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0123-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons.
    Captured Soviet partisans. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-N0123-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

    Conclusion

    The claim of the Holocaust deniers that the Jews were shot because they were partisans does not stand up under scrutiny. The Germans own words and documents make it clear that the vast majority of Jews were murdered because they were Jews. Nor was it a matter of “wild shootings,” but the state-sanctioned, systematic, thorough destruction of every last Jew in every last community with reach of the four Einsatzgruppen, the Higher SS Police Leaders and their staff, police battalions and their local helpers.

    NOTES

    [1] Jürgen Graf, The Giant With Feet of Clay: Raul Hilberg and his Standard Work of the “Holocaust,” p. 36 at http://vho.org/GB/Books/Giant/Chapter5.pdf.

    [2] Jürgen Graf, The Giant With Feet of Clay: Raul Hilberg and his Standard Work of the”Holocaust,” p. 36.

    [3] Arthur R. Butz, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (“Chapter 6: Et Cetera) at http://vho.org/GB/Books/thottc/10.html.

    [4] Kenneth Slepyan, Stalin’s Guerillas: Soviet Partisans in World War II (University Press of Kansas, 2006), pp. 51-59.

    [5] Yitzhak Arad, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (University of Nebraska Press, 2009), p. 515 and Allen Levine, Fugitives of the Forest: The Heroic Story of Jewish Resistance and Survival During the Second World War (Lyons Press, 1998), p. xxi.

    [6] 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. 78.

    [7] You may read the “Jäger Report” at http://www.holocaust-history.org/works/jaeger-report/htm/intro000.htm.

    [8] 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. 100.

    [9] 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. 140. See also http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/situationreport88.html (Operational Situation Report USSR No. 88).

    [10] 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. 152.

    [11] 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. 205, 206.

    [12] 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. 307. See also http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/situationreport178.html (Operational Situation Report No. 178).