The Einsatzgruppen reports (Ereignismeldungen)

by Nicholas Terry

Introduction

Holocaust deniers claim there was never any Nazi policy to exterminate the Jews. They claim that no documents exist that are both unambiguous as to such a policy and unquestionably authentic. However, such documents do indeed exist: the Einsatzgruppen (Operational Group) reports filed by the units operating in the Soviet Union that carried out this extermination policy in the occupied areas. This series of questions and answers will demonstrate that the Ereignismeldungen (EM) are authentic and that the Einsatzgruppen demonstrably mass-murdered over a million Jews.

The Ereignismeldungen were located in American captured documents (not British, Soviet, or French), in 1946. Benjamin Ferencz, one of the prosecutors on Case IX, describes the find in his memoirs, and has given interviews about it to historians.1

Questions and Answers

1) Do multiple copies exist?

Yes. As we will see.

2) Are these multiple copies in different spheres of influence?

Yes. The Soviets had some copies of the Ereignismeldungen which are housed in the substantial file that also includes other Einsatzgruppen-related material (RGVA 500-1-25). Moreover there are fragments of Ereignismeldungen in a number of other files: I have seen them in Wehrmacht Propaganda department files, Labour Ministry files, and in separate RSHA files. These tend to be of the intelligence (SD) portions, but the RSHA also circulated parts of the executive (Stapo) reports to interested parties, notably IV A 1 (anticommunism) where these dealt with antipartisan warfare.

3) Do summaries at a higher level exist?

Yes. As is also well-known to historians, there are the Taetigkeits- und Lageberichte (TuLBs) der Einsatzgruppen, which were the summaries of the EMs, these contain summary data compiled from the Ereignismeldungen and which were then circulated to non-SS agencies such as the Foreign Office. These repeat bodycounts, intelligence details, etc and are very long. The published collection of these reports runs to several 100 pages just reproducing the TuLBs.

4) Are these summaries archived in different spheres of influence?

Yes. The TuLBs exist in complete sets both in US-captured materials (originally, Foreign Office files) as well as the Soviet RGVA 500-1-25 file. The Foreign Office copies include marginalia by civil servants. [Comment: whose civil servants - German or British foreign office?] Indeed, one tried to add up the executions mentioned in one of the reports. You can search for the Soviet copies in the USHMM finding guide. Go to: http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/search/finding_aid.php and search for "Einsatzgruppen." RG-11.001M.01 lists the material held by the Soviet archives.

5) Do ground-level Einsatzgruppe reports exist?

Yes. The Ereignismeldungen were compiled from individual Taetigkeits- und Lageberichte sent out by the Einsatzgruppen. A number survive. As with the TuLBs compiled by the RSHA there are verbatim and paraphrased passages relating both to executive actions and to intelligence reportage, so that the same incident might be referred to in 2 or 3 reports.

6) Are these ground level reports archived in different spheres of influence?

Yes. In US possession and never used for a war-crimes trial by the Allies postwar, there were 2 TuLBs for Einsatzgruppe B for August/September 1942. These have the same format as was standard for the EMs and also include the running bodycount total, which is consistent with the last running body count total in the EMs, from March 1942. Also in US possession are a number of TuLBs submitted by Einsatzgruppe D to 11th Army. In East Bloc possession, there are more TuLBs for Einsatzgruppe B from both 1941 and from 1942-3. These are actually scattered across Moscow, the AGK in Poland, and the NARB in Minsk. But they are all consistent numerically, thematically and with other sources.

7). Was the authenticity of the EMs ever confirmed by someone after the war?

Yes. This was done in Case IX, the Einsatzgruppen trial. People who had handled them said that these reports were genuine.

8) Do the EMs get the names right?

Yes. The reports begin with a summary of where which Kommando was and who was in command. The names of Einsatzkommando leaders as well as the infrequent mentions of junior officers buried in the main body of the reports can all be confirmed from personnel files. There are also a separate set of personnel orders from the RSHA detailing transfers which fell into US hands.

9) Did the Ereignismeldungen report on both intelligence and on executive actions?

Yes. The Ereignismeldungen consisted of two kinds of reportage from each Einsatzgruppe. The first was an intelligence (SD-III) report; the second was an executive (Stapo-IV) report. That is why they were known as Taetigkeits- (Stapo) und Lageberichte (SD).

The chances that the SD sections of these reports were fabricated ought to be given as zero, because they echo so many other reports and indeed incorporate sometimes verbatim sections of other Wehrmacht and economic staff reports. The SD liked to receive reports under the counter and synthesise them into its analyses. This is what they did also with the Meldungen aus dem Reich for the home front.

Moreover they describe the situation in the occupied territories in general: food situation, establishing collaboration, how many inhabitants there were in particular towns - all things that can easily be corroborated elsewhere. Every corroboration of a fact or observation mentioned in the intelligence sections of the reports confirms the authenticity of the Ereignismeldungen as a whole. Clearly, these reports were not invented out of whole cloth and fabricated from total nonexistence.

10) Ah, you might reply, but this does not preclude the possibility that someone manipulated the executive (Stapo) sections of the reports where all the details of mass executions are recorded.

No. The reports are ordered by Einsatzgruppe, not by intelligence and executive categories. If the sections were separate then it would have been easier for someone to have inserted manipulated sections. But they are not, so that it would have been necessary to retype them entirely.

The executive action sections of the Ereignismeldungen describe both antipartisan warfare as well as mass executions of Jews. This creates the same problem discussed above. Inserting a fictitious mass execution requires retyping the report, since the references are buried within a larger discussion of executive activity known as 'Polizeiliche Taetigkeit'. By the autumn of 1941, Einsatzgruppe B reported having executed 1500 partisans by itself, as a separate category to any other target group.

Furthermore, the executive action sections of the Ereignismeldungen dealing with antipartisan warfare can be corroborated from Wehrmacht sources. Army-Einsatzgruppen cooperation was the subject of an entire chapter of Helmut Krausnick's 1981 monograph on the Einsatzgruppen.2 The chapter had 700 footnotes and did not locate all of the relevant Wehrmacht documents that are extant indicating the activities of the Einsatzgruppen in combating partisans and Soviet resistance networks. There are quite a few reports from individual SD Kommandos cc'ed to the Army regarding antipartisan operations and found in Army files. This further corroborates the authenticity of the Ereignismeldungen as a whole.

The problem however is that the reports are ordered by Einsatzgruppe, not by intelligence and executive categories. If the sections were separate then it would have been easier for someone to have inserted manipulated sections. But they are not, so that retyping them would have been a pain in the neck.

11) Was there a successor series to the Ereignismeldungen?

Yes. After EM 195 in April 1942, the RSHA switched to compiling fortnightly Meldungen aus den besetzten Ostgebieten (MadbO), which are less forthcoming on anti-Jewish actions but continue to detail both Polizeiliche Taetigkeit as well as intelligence. They are not completely silent about the executions of Jews, however. There are quite a few four-figure body counts given.

12) Do the MadbOs exist in multiple copies?

Yes. A full set was captured by the Americans and fragmentary copies were captured by the Soviets. Copies were circulated to civilian agencies including the Foreign Office, Labour Ministry, Economics Ministry, Economics Staff East, Wehrmacht Propaganda office, and the Quartermaster-General's office. All of these institutions' files were captured by the Americans.

13) Do the MadbOs match the reports in Einsatzgruppe B's TuLBs from 1942-43?

Yes. By late 1942-3 there were no more Judenaktionen, however the Einsatzgruppen continued to function as executioners during antipartisan operations. These reports match up, not only between the RSHA-compiled reports and the Einsatzgruppe B set of TuLBs, but with Wehrmacht documentation. For example, the Wehrmacht filed a detailed report relating to Operation 'Kugelblitz' in early 1943 during which the SD executed over 900 partisan suspects (note, not proven partisans). The incident is also detailed in the TuLB for March 1943, by which time Einsatzgruppe B reported 140,000 executions.

This is after no fewer than seven TuLBs gave consistent escalating body counts (where consecutive, the numbers match). These seven surviving reports are scattered across no fewer than four countries: Russia, Belarus, Poland and the US.

14) Are mass executions of Jews recorded in the Ereignismeldungen in 1941-42 discussed in Wehrmacht sources?

Yes. These range from the report filed by the 454th Security Division confirming the extent of Babi Yar in September 1941 to reports filed by Wirtschaftskommando Borissow confirming an action in Tolochin, northeastern Belarus, during March 1942. Most extensive are the reports from the rear area commands of 11th Army regarding Einsatzgruppe D's 90,000 body count. There are easily as many documents from the Wehrmacht as there were mass executions.3 Fairly extensive are the reports from Army Group Centre and its subordinate commands relating to Bialystok, Vilna, Brest, Baranovichi, Slonim, Minsk, Borisov, Bobruisk, Roslavl, Beshenkovichi, Vitebsk, Smolensk, and Velizh.4

15) Are mass executions of Jews recorded in the Ereignismeldungen in 1941-42 discussed in Ostministerium sources?

Yes. Ministerial-level sources fell into US hands and contain a number of protest reports from ground-level officials concerned about decorum. Most regional reports fell into Soviet hands. These match up with the entire picture, since for example, the Gebietskommissar Glebokie was visited by a detachment from Einsatzkommando 9, who, having run out of Jews to kill in their own fiefdom in the military zone, were 'borrowed' to wipe out 20,000 Jews in the neighbouring civilian zone to their west. The document in question can be found in NARB in Minsk, while the troop leader filed a request for a Bandenkampfabzeichen which repeats the names of the towns visited, this can be found in the AGK in Warsaw, while the overall Einsatzgruppe B report for the end of August 1942 can be found in NARA and the BA, i.e. was in American hands. The number reported executed by the end of August 1942 was 126,000, up from 91,000 at the end of March 1942. 5

18) Are there sources from Waffen-SS and Order Police (Orpo) units who supported the Einsatzgruppen?

Yes. Though not that common, there are a fair number of such sources. Reports from the SS Cavalry Brigade and 1st SS Infantry Brigade fell into US hands if they were from regimental level, while brigade level reports ended up in Prague where the Waffen-SS archive was moved at the end of the war. There are cross-matches between these sources and the Ereignismeldungen. For the Orpo, there exists the extant and complete war diary for Police Battalion 322, again found in the Prague archive, and this matches details from the Ereignismeldungen. There are other scattered documents from the Orpo in Wehrmacht files and of course there are the Police Decodes intercepted by the British, which count as external corroboration of the Waffen-SS and Police reports, thus are indirect to the Einsatzgruppen.

19. Were there witnesses?

Yes. They are divided into the following: (a) German bystanders from the Wehrmacht, (b) Russian bystanders, (c) rare Jewish survivors, (d) the members of the Einsatzgruppen themselves. At a rough estimate these would total at least several thousand witnesses. Of particular interest are numerous German bystander witnesses who would have to be bribed or coerced into giving completely false testimony, by the BRD no less, and not by the Allies immediately postwar, if what they were saying was completely untrue.

20) Do witnesses independently identify dates and the extent of specific mass executions?

Yes. Soviet witnesses were interrogated about events from 1943-45, well before the Ereignismeldungen were located by the Americans. Soviet witnesses also give for example the dates of certain actions which are not given precisely in the EMs, but which are given in Wehrmacht sources captured by the Americans (e.g: Klimovichi). Since the Soviets lacked a full set of the EM reports there are a number of actions which were only recorded documentarily by reports in exclusive US possession.

The possibility that the Soviets communicated sufficient results of their investigations to the US in order that the documents could be fabricated Stateside is zero. While a number of Soviet investigative reports were published during the war and submitted at Nuremberg, there is no evidence of the transmission of the remainder of the reports to the west until after the US restituted the captured German records to the Federal Republic of Germany. By this date (the early 1960s) all the Einsatzgruppen reports had been in the public domain for a while and been used by Poliakov, Reitlinger, and Hilberg.

Moreover, the Soviet investigations included details on actions in towns which weren't mentioned in the Ereignismeldungen at all, sometimes carried out by other units, sometimes clearly by individual troops of an Einsatzkommando stationed in the nearby regional headquarters. A number of these actions not mentioned in the Ereignismeldungen are also corroborated from Wehrmacht documents directly or indirectly.

21) Were mass graves exhumed after the war?

Yes. Contrary to popular belief, Sonderkommando 1005 only visited a fraction of the sites, notably the larger cities, but even in these cases, a mass-grave sized pit with ashes must be considered corroboration of the document and the witnesses. There were no such exhumations and incinerations by the Germans in among other cities: Smolensk, Kharkov, Pinsk, Rovno, Bryansk, Orel, the Crimea as a whole, and pretty much every smaller town. There mass graves were located, exhumed and in some cases autopsied. Probably better than two-thirds of the mass graves were found intact after the war. A number have been re-exhumed or relocated since the end of the Cold War, notably at Marijampole in Lithuania (contrary to claims by Germar Rudolf based on a premature news story), in Galicia and the western Ukraine, and in Belarus, though given the extent of the mass graves there is no plan to re-examine all of them: this would satisfy the curiosity of only a tiny minority who would refuse to believe it anyway, so would be a complete waste of time and effort.

There are now memorials by almost all major sites just as there are also memorials identifying the locations of villages wiped off the face of the map and not rebuilt after the war, and memorials for smaller mass graves of those executed in reprisals.

22) Are there indicators demonstrating that the Einsatzgruppen systematically executed all Jews?

Yes. The indicators are primarily that where the Einsatzgruppen carried out Judenaktionen, they executed the entire Jewish population of a locality to make it 'judenfrei'. Comparison with prewar census data (now available for every town in the USSR as of 1939, and for the 1931 Polish census) confirms this. There are also reports from Wehrmacht and civilian agencies giving either the precise number of Jews left alive as of certain dates or declaring the district 'judenfrei'. These as usual can be found in documents captured by the US and by the Soviets, independently of each other. (There are also a plethora of documents, again from both east and west, discussing the distribution of Jewish property, ranging from the sale of 'Jewish cows' to the division of household contents among the Slavic population through to the administering of formerly Jewish-owned houses to the relocation of refugees in former ghettos.)

Direct orders indicating that the Einsatzgruppen were to expand the circle of victims can be found in the Einsatzbefehle 1-14 issued in 1941 by Heydrich, copies of which can be found in both US and Soviet possession, though the Soviets have the full set. There is also an order from early 1942 defining who is to be excluded from liquidation, namely those of working age. Wehrmacht orders indicate that the SD was charged with the solution of the 'Jewish Question' and that the troops were not to interfere or to take pictures, though they did so anyway. These orders are however not necessary to prove a genocidal outcome since the repetitious use of the term 'judenfrei' after detailing mass executions suffices to demonstrate this.

23) How many monographs and articles have been researched and written on different aspects of the Einsatzgruppen since 1945?

At least 200 separate bibliographic items (books and articles) including case studies of all individual Einsatzgruppen, the role of the military, assistance from the Orpo and Waffen-SS, assistance from collaborator auxiliaries and the local population, the reactions of the bystander local population and Jewish population, postwar prosecution, and so on.

This count excludes the discussion of the Einsatzgruppen in standard/general works such as Hilberg, whose 1985 edition covers the topic in 123 pages with 459 footnotes 6. This one chapter examines substantially more evidence than the entirety of revisionists have managed on the same subject since the 1960s.

24) What would be required for the Ereignismeldungen to be faked or manipulated?

Primarily, a vast conspiracy between the USA and USSR at a time of worsening east-west relations. This is on the face of it absurd. The Soviets had not been invited to participate in the successor trials to the IMT. Extradition requests made by them were not honoured. The Truman doctrine was announced six months before the start of the Einsatzgruppen trial, case IX, in September 1947. By the time it ended in April 1948, the Berlin blockade was two months away.

Direct cooperation and information exchange would have been necessary to harmonise the documentation in each others' respective possession and to agree on the precise formatting of fabricated/manipulated documents so both appeared identical, no matter if viewed in NARA in College Park or in Osobyi archive in Moscow or in NARB in Minsk sixty years later. Indeed coordination would also involve the Poles as well as regional archives across Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and the Ukraine.

This direct cooperation would have been necessary to ensure that the 194 Ereignismeldungen, 7 TuLBs der Einsatzgruppen and 12 or so TuLBs of Einsatzgruppe B all matched up, never mind matching with other corroborative documentation, which posed even greater problems.

Then of course there is the necessary arm-twisting/coercion/torture/bribery necessary to convince the German witnesses to endorse the authenticity of the reports, to testify to their actions during Case IX, to testify to their actions in dozens of trials carried out in the BRD, to testify to what they saw as bystanders in the same trials, and to maintain the silence of released prisoners after the end of their sentences. Everyone from Case IX was out by 1958 while the majority of BRD trials gave out low sentences.

For what? The Americans ended their trials program by 1949, releasing all prisoners by 1958. The Ereignismeldungen were only significantly used in one American trial involving just 23 defendants. The Soviets did not acknowledge the scale of the Holocaust on their territory at any time during the existence of the USSR. They barely touched the documents in their possession so that many were first made public in the 1990s.

All in all, the scenario necessary is simply absurd.


Notes

  1. From here on, 'US possession' means captured by the Americans, microfilmed by the American Historical Association for archiving in NARA, and then restituted to the Federal Republic of Germany to be archived in the Bundesarchiv, Koblenz as was, now Berlin-Lichterfelde.

  2. Krausnick, Helmut and Wilhelm, Hans-Heinrich: Die Truppe der Weltanschauungskriege: Die Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 1938-1942. Quellen und Darstellungen zur Zeitgeschichte, Stuttgart 1981. (The Troops of the War of Ideology: the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and SD 1938-1942. Sources and Interpretations of History.)

  3. See Angrick, Andrej: Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D in der sudlichen Sowjetunion 1941-1943. Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswissenschaft, 2004, Jahr 52 Heft 6, pages 576-577. (Occupation Policy and Mass Murder: Einsatzgruppe D in the Southern Soviet Union 1941-1943. Journal of History, Vol. 52 No. 6.)

  4. See Gerlach, Christian: Kalkulierte Morde. Die deutsche Wirtschafts-und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944 Hamburger Edition, HIS Verlag, 1998. (Calculated Murder: the German Economic and Extermination Policies in White Russia 1941 to 1944.)

  5. ibid.

  6. Hilberg, Raul: The Destruction of the European Jews, Holmes and Meier, New York, 1985.