An einsatzgruppen commander on orders to liquidate Jews (1946)

SS General Otto Ohlendorf was commander of Einsatzgruppen Group D, which operated in Ukraine and the Crimea. At Nuremberg, Ohlendorf was cross-examined by US Colonel John H. Amen about receiving orders to liquidate Jews:

Amen: “Please explain to the Tribunal the significance of the terms “Einsatzgruppe” and Einsatzkommando.”

Ohlendorf: “The concept Einsatzgruppe was established after an agreement between the chiefs of the RSHA, OKW, AND OKH, on the separate use of Sipo units in the operational areas… This agreement specified that a representative of the chief of the Sipo and the SD would be assigned to the army groups, or armies, and that this official would have at his disposal mobile units of the Sipo and the SD in the form of an Einsatzgruppe, subdivided into Einsatzkommandos…”

Amen: “To the best of your knowledge and recollection, please explain to the Tribunal the entire substance of this written agreement.”

Ohlendorf: “First of all, the agreement stated that Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos would be set up and used in the operational areas… The agreement specified that the army groups or armies would be responsible for the movement and the supply of Einsatzgruppen, but that instructions for their activities would come from the chief of Sipo and the SD.”

Amen: “Let us understand. It is correct that an Einsatz group was to be attached to each army group or army?”

Ohlendorf: “Every army group was to have an Einsatzgruppe attached to it. The army group in its turn would then attach the Einsatzkommandos to the armies of the army group…”

Amen: “How much advance notice, if any, did you have of the campaign against Soviet Russia?”

Ohlendorf: “About four weeks.”

Amen: “How many Einsatz groups were there, and who were their respective leaders?”

Ohlendorf: “There were four Einsatzgruppen groups: A, B, C, and D. Chief of Einsatzgruppe A was Stahlecker; chief of Einsatzgruppe B was Nebe; chief of Einsatzgruppe C, Dr. Rasche, and later, Dr.Thomas; chief of Einsatzgruppe D myself and later Bierkamp.”

Amen: “Will you describe in more detail the nature and extent of the area in which Group D originally operated, naming the cities or territories?”

Ohlendorf: “The northernmost city was Cernauti; then southward through Mohilev-Podolsk, Yampol, then eastward Zuvalje, Czervind, Melitopol, Mariopol, Taganrog, Rostov, and the Crimea.”

Amen: “In what respects, if any, were the official duties of the Einsatz groups concerned with Jews and Communist commissars?”

Ohlendorf: “The instructions were that in the Russian operational areas of the Einsatzgruppen, the Jews, as well as the Soviet political commissars, were to be liquidated.”

Amen: “And when you say “liquidated” do you mean “killed”?”

Ohlendorf: Yes, I mean “killed”.”

Amen: “Prior to the opening of the Soviet campaign, did you attend a conference at Pretz?”

Ohlendorf: “Yes, it was a conference at which the Einsatzgruppen and the Einsatzkommandos were informed of their tasks and were given the necessary orders…”

Amen: “What were those orders?”

Ohlendorf: “Those were the general orders of the normal work of the Sipo and the SD, and in addition the liquidation order which I have already mentioned.”

Amen: “Did you personally have any conversation with Himmler… concerning this mission?”

Ohlendorf: “Yes. Himmler told me that before the beginning of the Russian campaign [that] Hitler had spoken of this mission to a conference of the army groups and the army chiefs – no, not the army chiefs but the commanding generals – and had instructed the commanding generals to provide the necessary support.”

Amen: “So that you can testify that the chiefs of the army groups and the armies had been similarly informed of these orders for the liquidation of the Jews and Soviet functionaries?”

Ohlendorf: “I don’t think it is quite correct to put it in that form. They had no orders for liquidation; the order for the liquidation was given to Himmler to carry out. But since this liquidation took place in the operational area of the army group or the armies, they had to be ordered to provide support. Moreover, without such instructions to the army, the activities of the Einsatzgruppen would not have been possible.”

Amen: “Did you have any other conversation with Himmler concerning this order?”

Ohlendorf: “Yes, in late summer of 1941 Himmler was in Nikolaiev. He assembled the leaders and men of the Einsatzkommanos, repeated to them the liquidation order, and pointed out that the leaders and men who were taking part in the liquidation bore no personal responsibility for the execution of this order. The responsibility was his, alone, and the Fuhrer’s.”