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The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Judgment
(Part 38 of 70)

121. The Operations Units were set up according to an agreement between Heydrich and the military command. Their commanders were selected from the ranks of the RSHA (T/312). Their ostensible task was to defend the army's rear in the Eastern Occupied Territories, but in fact they were murder units, and their prime objective was to round up and execute Soviet Commissars and all the Jews in those areas (T/177).

For this purpose, the military command agreed to allow Operations Units "within the framework of their objective and on their own responsibility, to take the necessary steps for the execution of their plans as regards the civil population" (viz., to kill this population), as we read in an order signed by General von Brauchitsch, dated 2 May 1941 (T/175, p. 3). Four Operations Units were set up, and the occupied areas from north to south were divided amongst them. Stahlecker, whom we already came across in Vienna and Prague as the Accused's superior, commanded Group A in the north; and Nebe, Rasch and Ohlendorf commanded the other Groups during the first period (T/312). Reports on the activities of the Operations Units have been submitted to us.

In one of the many reports which reached the Accused at this time - a report dated 11 September 1941 - we read:

"In Kamenets-Podolski, 23,400 Jews were killed by shooting within three days by the Group of the Senior Commander of the SS and the Police." (T/322)
A report from Operations Group A, in January 1942, about the actions in the north, states:
"Estonia has already been purged of its Jews. In Latvia, there are Jews left only in Riga and in Duenaburg. The number of Jews left in Riga - 29,500 - was reduced to 2,500 by an action carried out by the Senior Commander of the SS and the Ostland Police." (T/337)
On 15 October 1941, Stahlecker reports the killing of 118,430 Jews to date in the area of Group A alone (T/304). In two days, 29-30 September 1941, 33,771 Jews were killed in Kiev (T/327). So the bloodshed continued month after month across the length and breadth of the Eastern Occupied Territories. In connection with a later period - the four months from August to November 1942 - a report sent by Himmler to Hitler about the execution of 363,211 Jews, was submitted to us. This account is headed: "Accomplices of gangs or persons suspected of taking part in gangs" (T/338). During the same period, the Reich Commissioner in Ostland (the Baltic countries) emphasizes that the liquidation of the Jews is the task of the Security Police and the SD (T/414).

Gas Killings

122. Hundreds of thousands, and perhaps a million, Jews were slaughtered by the Operations Units by shooting, but this system alone could not have achieved the Final Solution, which meant the extermination of millions, were it not for an additional method, which made possible even more efficient mass killings, and also in a "tidier" way for those who actually dealt in the business of murder. This was the system of mass killing by means of gas. In his Statement to the police, the Accused mentions the first use of gas in the Eastern Occupied Territories, as follows:

"Perhaps, in the Eastern Ministry circles, they said to themselves, `This must be done in a more elegant manner'." (T/37, p. 2339)
This system appeared at first in the form of vans, in which the victims were asphyxiated by exhaust gases from the engine. Evidence was given before us of the existence of a mobile unit which transferred such vans in 1942 to Belgrade and to various places in Russia, and which murdered Jews in them (T/309). This system of killing Jews was also used by the Operations Units (see T/216, declaration of Blobel, p. 4). The system was extensively and regularly used in the Chelmno (Kulmhof) extermination camp in the Warthe district. Only four Jews survived this camp, and three of them - residents of Israel - gave evidence in Court about the Chelmno camp (T/1297, remark on p. 4 of the Hebrew version).

The witness Michael Podchlewnik was taken to Chelmno at the end of 1941 from the nearby village of Kolo. He relates that, together with other Jews, he was put into a building, at one time a manor house, and locked in the cellar. Then he goes on (Session 65, Vol. III, p.1190):

"A truck came with people... I heard somebody come out and say: `You are now going to the bathroom; then you will be given other clothes and you will go to work'... They all passed through the door and entered a corridor in the house ... We were sitting in a basement. We did not know exactly what was happening. But we heard what was going on outside ... A truck was waiting on the other side... When they saw the truck, the people did not want to board it. The SS men stood there with sticks and started beating them, they set the dogs on them and forced them to go into the truck... These were trucks into which they placed people, locked the doors, and let in gas... We heard the screams from inside the trucks. When they started the motor and let in the gas, gradually the screaming subsided, until they could no longer be heard outside...

"Five of us were taken from the cellar, and we had to collect what had been left, the shoes... the rooms were already full of such articles and of shoes."

Later, the witness was taken to a forest, to which trucks came from the same building, and put to work together with other Jews on digging pits. As the trucks arrived, the bodies of those asphyxiated on the way were taken out and buried in the pits. And the witness continues to relate these horrors:
"I had been working there for a few days, when people from my town whom I knew arrived... Among them were my wife and my two children... I lay down by my wife and the two children and wanted them to shoot me. The an SS man came up to me and said: `You still have strength enough, you can go on working.' He hit me twice with his stick and dragged me away to continue working."
During a later period, at the end of 1943 and in 1944, two other witnesses, Mordechai Zurawski and Shim'on Srebrnik, were held in Chelmno. At that time, the victims were still being killed in gas vans, but their bodies were burned in crematoria after the removal of their gold teeth (Srebrnik's evidence, Session 66, Vol. III, p. 1198), and the bones left unburnt were ground in a grinding machine (Zurawski's evidence, Session 65, Vol. III, p. 1193).

Jews from the surrounding area, from towns and villages of the Warthe district and especially from the Lodz Ghetto, which was also part of the Warthe district, were brought to Chelmno for extermination. These were Jews not only from Lodz itself, but also from other countries, who had been first assembled in Lodz. We have already described the deportations of Jews from the Reich to Lodz, organized by the Accused and his Section. The witness Srebrnik mentions Czech and German Jews (Session 66, Vol. III, p. 1199), and according to the official Polish report, Jews from Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxemburg and Holland were exterminated in Chelmno (T/1297, p. 3 of the Hebrew translation). The total number of Jews killed in Chelmno, young and old, is estimated in this report at 300,000 (supra, p.3; 22).

The Accused visited Chelmno and saw the victims being crammed into the gas vans, the removal of the corpses from the vans, and the removal of teeth from the corpses (T/37, p. 176).

123. Like Chelmno in the Warthe area, three camps were set up in the Generalgouvernement area. Their only function was the extermination of Jews. They were: Treblinka, near the railway line from Warsaw to Bialystok; Sobibor, to the east of Lublin; and Belzec, in Eastern Galicia. In each of these camps hundreds of thousands of Jews were put to death, asphyxiated by gas. We heard witnesses, survivors of these camps (except Belzec), and official reports were submitted to us from Polish Government Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, which examined the facts and reached reliable conclusions.

From the evidence about Treblinka, this seems to have been the extermination process: The Jews destined for extermination were brought in overcrowded freight trains which entered the camp gate. To mislead the Jews to the very last minute, the place was given the form of a sham railway station, with a timetable, and arrows pointing in various directions to indicate trains to various towns. When the train doors were opened, the victims were ordered off the train, were beaten with rifles and whips, and made to run to the camp courtyard. Those who could not run as fast as the guards wished were shot immediately.

In the courtyard, the people were told that, since they were going to wash and would be disinfected, all their documents, valuables and money must be deposited in the "camp safe" in a hut in the yard. They were also told that, after the shower, their belongings would be returned, and they would go out to work. They all had to undress. The men undressed in the courtyard, and the women were taken to another hut where their hair was shorn. In this naked state, the victims were led along a narrow path called by the Germans "the path to heaven" (Himmelstrasse), to a building partitioned into cells measuring seven by seven metres and 1.90 metres high. Eliahu Rosenberg stated in evidence (Session 66, p. 1213-1214):

"In the Himmelstrasse, SS men... stood there with dogs, with whips and bayonets. The people walked past in silence... They did not know where they were going. When they entered the gas chambers, two Ukrainians stood next to the entrance - one was Ivan, the other was Nikolai. They introduced the gas... The gas came from an engine, into which they put Ropa, which was a kind of oil, a crude oil, and the fumes entered the gas chambers. The people who were the last to enter the gas chambers, the very last, received stabs in their bodies from the bayonets, since the last persons already saw what was going on inside and did not want to enter. Four hundred people were put into one the small gas chamber... The outer door of the chamber was closed with difficulty. When they shut them in, we were standing on the outside. We only heard screams of `Sh'ma Yisrael,' `Father,' `Mother'; thirty-five minutes later, they were dead. Two Germans stood there listening to what was going on inside. Then they said: `They are all asleep' (Alles schlaeft)."
The corpses were taken out of the chamber and buried in pits. From 1943, after Himmler's visit to the camp, they began burning the corpses on pyres and opened the graves to burn the bodies in them. All this was done by Jewish labour units. About the gas which was let into the chambers, the witness Wiernik, who worked on the setting-up of the camp (Session 66, Vol. III, pp. 1205) adds that the gas was produced by the engine of a Soviet tank, which stood near the gas chambers, and introduced through pipes and valves into the chambers where the victims were.

One of the witnesses had to remove gold teeth from the mouths of the dead after they had been taken out of the gas chambers and before they were thrown into the pits (Session 66, Vol. III, pp. xxxx93-95). There was a special place in camp which the Germans nicknamed "Lazarett" (hospital). This was a pit where those who could not walk to the gas chambers were killed by shooting.

One of the witnesses gave evidence about two railway cars loaded with children, probably from an orphanage:

"The children were in fact almost asphyxiated. We had to remove their clothing, and they were led - that is we led them - into the Lazarett. There the SS men ... shot them." (Session 66, p. xxxx62.)
The Treblinka extermination camp began to function in July 1942. A revolt of the Jewish forced labourers broke out in August 1943, and afterwards the camp was gradually liquidated. The Polish Government Main Commission estimates the number of those killed there during this period at over 700,000. The victims were from Warsaw and from other cities in Central Poland, from Bialystok, Grodno and Volkovysk, from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and Greece (T/1304, p. 10 of the Hebrew translation; and T/1305, minutes of the evidence of a Polish railway worker named Zawetzky).

The Accused visited Treblinka. In his Statement T/37, p. 229, he describes the sham railway station and the naked Jews being led to the gas chambers along paths surrounded by barbed wire and calls this sight "the most terrible thing I ever saw in my life."

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