The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Twenty-Sixth Day: Thursday, 3rd January, 1946
(Part 3 of 15)

[COLONEL JOHN H. AMEN continues]

[Page 248]

Q. In what respects, if any, were the official duties of the Einsatz Groups concerned with Jews and Communist Commissars?

A. As far as the question of Jews and Communists is concerned, the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos were orally instructed by their leaders before the march.

Q. What were their instructions with respect to the Jews and the Communist functionaries?

A. They were instructed that in the field of activity of the Einsatzgruppe in Russian territory the Jews, as well as the political Soviet Commissars, were to be liquidated.

Q. And when you say "liquidated" do you mean "killed?"

A. I mean "killed."

Q. Prior to the opening of the Soviet campaign, did you attend a conference at Pretz?

A. Yes, it was a discussion at which the Einsatzgruppen and the Einsatzkommandos were informed of the goals of their activity and were given the necessary commands.

Q. Who was present at that conference?

A. The Chiefs of the Einsatzgruppen and the leaders of the Einsatzkommandos and Streckenbach of the R.S.H.A., who transmitted the orders of Heydrich and Himmler.

Q. What were those orders?

A. Those were the general orders regarding the work of the Sipo, which aided the liquidation order which I have already mentioned.

Q. And that conference took place on approximately what date?

A. About three or four days before our march.

Q. So that before you commenced to march into Soviet Russia, you received orders at this conference to exterminate the Jews and Communist functionaries, in addition to the regular professional work of the Security Police and SD; is that correct?

A. That is right.

Q. Did you, personally, have any conversation with Himmler, respecting any communication from Himmler to the Chiefs of Army Groups and Armies concerning this mission?

A. Yes. Himmler informed me that before the beginning of the Russian campaign Hitler, in a conference with the Commander of the Army, had stated this task and had instructed the High Commander to provide the necessary support in regard to it.

Q. So that you can testify that the Chiefs of the Army Groups and the Armies had been similarly informed of those orders for the liquidation of the Jews and Soviet functionaries?

A. I believe that it is not correct in this particular form. They had no orders for liquidation. The order for the liquidation originated with Himmler, but since this liquidation took place in the operational region of the High Command, of the Army Groups or the Army, the Army was ordered to support these measures. Without these instructions to the Army, the Einsatzgruppe in this sense would not have been possible.

Q. Did you have any other conversation with Himmler concerning this order?

A. Yes, in the late summer of 1941 Himmler was in Nikolaiev. He assembled the leaders and men of the Einsatzgruppen and Kommandos and repeated

[Page 249]

to them the orders for liquidation with the remark that the leaders and men who were taking part in the liquidation bore no personal responsibility for the execution of these orders. The responsibility was his, alone, as well, of course, as that of the Fuehrer.

Q. And you yourself heard that said?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know whether this mission of the Einsatz Group was known to the Army Group Commanders?

A. This order and the execution of these orders were known to the High Commander of the Army.

Q. How do you know that?

A. Through conferences with the Army and through instructions which were given by the Army in reference to this execution.

Q. Was the mission of the Einsatz Groups and the agreement between O.K.W., O.K.H. and R.S.H.A. known to the other leaders in the R.S.H.A.?

A. At least some of them knew, since some of the leaders were also active in the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos in the course of time. Furthermore, the leaders who had to do with organisation also knew it.

Q. Most of the leaders came from the R.S.H.A., did they not?

A. Which leaders?

Q. Of the Einsatz Groups.

A. No, one cannot say that. The leaders in the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos came from the entire Reich.

Q. Do you know whether the mission and the agreement were also known to Kaltenbrunner?

A. After his entry into service Kaltenbrunner had to concern himself with these questions and consequently must have known the background of the Einsatzgruppen which were dealt with in his own office.

Q. Who was the commanding officer of the 11th Army?

A. At first, Ritter von Schober; later, Von Mannstein.

Q. Will you tell the Tribunal in what way or ways the commanding officers of the 11th Army directed or supervised Einsatz Group D in carrying out its liquidation activities?

A. An order from the 1st Army came to Nikolaiev, stating that liquidations were to take place only at a distance of not less than 200 kilometers from the Headquarters of the High Commander Mannheim.

Q. Do you recall any other occasion?

A. In Simferopol, the Army High Command gave the proper Einsatzkommandos further orders to hasten the liquidation, on the grounds that in this region there was a great housing shortage.

Q. Do you know how many persons were liquidated by Einsatz Group D, under your direction?

A. In the year between June, 1941, to June, 1942, the Einsatzkommandos announced 90,000 people liquidated.

Q. Did that include men, women, and children?

A. Yes.

Q. On what do you base those figures?

A. On reports sent by the Einsatzkommandos to the Einsatzgruppen.

Q. Were those reports submitted to you?

A. Yes.

[Page 250]

Q. And you saw them and read them?

A. I beg your pardon?

Q. And you saw and read those reports, personally?

A. Yes.

Q. And it is on those reports that you base the figures you have given the Tribunal?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know how those figures compare with the number of persons liquidated by other Einsatz Groups?

A. The figures known to me from other Einsatzgruppen are materially larger.

Q. That was due to what factor?

A. I believe that to a large extent the figures submitted by the other Einsatzgruppen were exaggerated.

Q. Did you see reports of liquidations from the other Einsatz Groups from time to time?

A. Yes.

Q. And those reports showed liquidations exceeding those of Group D; is that correct?

A. Yes.

Q. Did you personally supervise mass executions of these individuals?

A. I was present at mass executions for purposes of inspection.

Q. Will you explain to the Tribunal in detail how an individual mass execution was carried out?

A. A local Einsatzkommando attempted to collect all the Jews in one area. The registration of the Jews was performed by the Jews themselves.

Q. On what pretext, if any, were they rounded up?

A. On the pretext that they were to be re-located.

Q. Will you continue?

A. After the registration, the Jews were collected at a certain place. From there they were later led to the place of execution. The execution was carried out in a military fashion.

Q. In what way were they transported to the place of execution?

A. They were transported to the place of execution in a wagon -- always only as many as could be executed immediately. In this way the attempt was made to keep the span of time in which the victims knew what was about to happen to them until the time of their actual execution as short as possible.

Q. Was that your idea?

A. Yes.

Q. And after they were shot what was done with the bodies?

A. The bodies were buried in the trenches.

Q. What determination, if any, was made as to whether the persons were actually dead?

A. The unit leaders had the order to watch out for that and to administer the coup de grace themselves if necessary.

Q. And who would do that?

A. Either the unit leader himself or somebody designated by him.

Q. In what positions were the victims shot?

A. Standing or kneeling.

[Page 251]

Q. What was done with the personal property and clothing of the persons executed?

A. All personal property of value was collected at the time of the shooting, confiscated and handed over to the R.S.H.A. or the Finance Minister. At first the clothing was divided up, but in the winter of 1942 it was taken by the N.S.V. and disposed of by that organisation.

Q. All their personal property was registered at the time?

A. Only the objects of value were registered. The other objects were not.

Q. What happened to the garments which the victims were wearing when they went to the place of execution?

A. They were obliged to take off their outer garments immediately before the execution.

Q. All of them?

A. The outer garments, yes.

Q. How about the rest of the garments they were wearing?

A. They were allowed to keep their underclothing.

Q. Was that true of not only your group but of the other Einsatz Groups?

A. That was the order in my Einsatzgruppe. Other Einsatzgruppen handled the matter differently.

Q. In what way did they handle it?

A. A few of the Einsatz leaders did not employ the military way of liquidation and killed the victims simply by shooting them in the back of the neck.

Q. And you objected to that procedure?

A. I was against that procedure, yes.

Q. For what reason?

A. Because for the victims as well as those who carried out the executions that was an unnecessary spiritual suffering.

Q. Now, what was done with the property collected by the Einsatzkommandos from these victims?

A. In so far as it was a question of objects of value, they were sent to the R.S.H.A. in Berlin or to the Reich Ministry of Finance. The articles which could be used in the operational area were used there immediately.

Q. For example, what happened to gold and silver taken from the victims?

A. That was, as I have just said, turned over to the Reich Ministry of Finance in Berlin.

Q. How do you know that?

A. I can remember that it was actually handled in that way in Simferopol.

Q. How about watches, for example, taken from the victims?

A. At the request of the Army watches were put at the disposal of the Front.

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