From Richard Harwood's book "Nuremberg and other War Crimes Trials."
AMT 9: Ohlendorf — Einsatzgruppen
One case during the Nurnberg Trials which receives little attention today is that of the Einsatzgruppen — the Action Groups which were set up by Hitler in 1941 to suppress guerilla activity in German-occupied Russia. It was alleged by the Soviets at Nurnberg that the Action Groups operated as roving exterminators, a la Zardoz, murdering a million Jews and gypsies either by shooting or in special gas-vans, poisoned by exhaust fumes. Yet any objective examination of the evidence will show that there is even less reason for believing this allegation than there is for the entire "extermination camp" myth.
Four groups of about 700 SD men were set up. Ohlendorf commanded Group D in southern Russia. Rasch of Group C operated immediately to the north of D. Groups A and B operated around the Baltic states, commanded by Stahlecker and Nebe respectively.
Although masses of documentary 'evidence' was produced at Nurnberg to 'prove' the case against the Action Groups, most of these documents are highly suspect. Most of them came from the Soviets, who claimed to have captured them when they pushed back the Germans in 1943.
The only points where signatures appear on the documents are on irrelevant pages. Not a single page was produced which mentioned "extermination" and bore the signature of any Nazi commander. Document NO-1128, said to be a report from Himmler to Hitler about the execution of 363,211 Jews in Russia, bears only initials (said to be Himmler's) on the essentially irrelevant first page. Documents 180-L, 2273-PS, 119-USSR, NO-3159 and many others too numerous to list, all mention extermination, but the signatures are either type-written or on irrelevant pages. In passing, it is worthwhile mentioning
that in referring to the IMT and AMT volumes one should note that a reference to a "signed" document always means a type-written signature, unless it is specifically noted as a hand- written one.
A large number of the documents produced in this trial came via the Yivo — the Yiddish Scientific Institute in New York. Document 3663-PS was one of 70 documents supposedly found at the Rosenberg Ministry in September 1945 by a Sergeant Szajko Frydman of the US 82nd Airborne Division. Frydman was a staff member of the Yivo both before and after his military service. Like the Soviet documents, none of the Yivo papers bears a signature on a page which directly refers to extermination.
Many of the reports cited in evidence were obvious forgeries. Even the Jewish holocaust historian Reitlinger expresses unease at some of these "rather amateurish essays".
As in the other trials, testimonial evidence was admitted willy-nilly. One such statement was that of SS Capt. Dieter Wisliceny, an assistant in Adolf Eichmann's office and later Gestapo Chief in Slovakia. Wisliceny fell into the hands of
the Czech Communists and was interrogated (by both Soviets and Americans) at the Soviet-controlled Bratislava Prison in November 1946. Subjected to torture, Wisliceny was reduced to a nervous wreck and became addicted to uncontrollable fits of sobbing for hours on end prior to his execution. Although his written confession is peppered with obvious factual inaccuracies, it was still admitted as 'proof of the Action Groups' misdeeds. Again, Wisliceny displayed a remarkable linguistic ability, for his affidavit was submitted in the English language.
The major defendant at the Action Groups trial was also subjected to torture — SS General Otto Ohlendorf, the chief of the SD who commanded Action Group D in the Ukraine, attached to Field Marshal von Manstein's Eleventh Army. During the last phase of the war he was employed as a foreign trade expert at the Ministry of Economics.
Service on the Eastern front was by no means popular with the German soldiers (the degenerate Commandant Koch of Buchenwald was initially given the choice of either serving on the Eastern Front or being executed) and there is a certain amount of evidence to show that Ohlendorf was only sent there because he had crossed Himmler.
After his torture, Ohlendorf appeared as a prosecution witness at the IMT and agreed that exterminations had taken place. But Ohlendorf was in for a surprise when he found that he too was going to stand in the dock, regardless of his co-operation in the trial of his bosses.
At the AMT Case 9, Ohlendorf attempted to refute his previous testimony. He retracted the affidavit he had made on 5 November 1945 when he admitted that 90,000 Jews had been killed under his command alone. He now claimed it was only 40,000. In a main speech before the Tribunal, Ohlendorf took the opportunity to denounce Philip Auerbach, the (Jewish) Attorney-General of the Bavarian State Office for Restitution, who at that time was claiming compensation for "11 million Jews" who had suffered in Nazi concentration camps. Ohlendorf dismissed this ridiculous claim, stating that "not the minutest part" of the people for whom Auerbach was demanding compen-sation had even seen a concentration camp. (Ohlendorf lived long enough to see Auerbach convicted for embezzlement and fraud; forging documents purporting to show huge payments of compensation to non-existent people.)
Ohlendorf explained that his units often had to prevent massacres of Jews by anti-Semitic Ukrainians. He insisted that the partisans, which his units were sent in to suppress, had taken a far higher toll of lives from the regular German army — an assertion confirmed by the Soviet Government, which boasted of half a million German troops killed by guerillas. In fact, Franz Stahlecker, commander of Group A, was himself killed by partisans in 1942.
Another defendant, SS Lieutenant Col. Hansch, who was in charge of a commando group in Group C for about seven weeks, disputed that any orders had ever been given which even mentioned Jews. He estimated that whilst he was in charge, only about sixty partisans had been killed, and all of these had been armed. The distinguished English jurist, A. J. P. Veale, in dealing with the Action Groups, explains that in fighting on and behind the Russian front no distinction could be properly drawn between partisans and the civilian population, because any Russian civilian who maintained his civilian status instead of acting as a terrorist was liable to be executed by his countrymen as a traitor. Veale says, "There is no question that the Action Groups' orders were to combat terror with terror" and he finds it strange that atrocities committed by the partisans were regarded as blameless simply because they turned out to be on the winning side. Ohlendorf took the same view, and in a bitter appeal written before his execution, he accused the Allies of hypocrisy in holding the Germans to account by conventional laws of warfare while fighting a savage Soviet enemy who did not respect those laws.
The prosecutors were anxious to utilise Ohlendorf to the full. Consequently, even while he was under sentence of death, he was again presented as a prosecution witness at the High Command Trial (AMT No. 12) when his commanders stood in the dock. However, they did not dare produce him in the case of the regular army chief on the Eastern Front, Field Marshal Manstein, since they knew that Manstein's brilliant defence counsel Reginald (now Lord) Paget would be able to demolish him. Instead they submitted Ohlendorf 's written affidavit, which could not be challenged.
Ohlendorf and Hansch were both sentenced to hang. Ohlendorf 's sentence was carried out in 1951, when there was no further use for him. Hansch 's sentence was com-muted to fifteen years.
Ironically, it is thanks to a Russian that the bogusness of the "gas-van" legend is finally being exposed. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in The Gulag Archipelago, mentions the case of a Bavarian, Jupp Aschenbrenner, whom the Soviets persuaded to sign a declaration that he had worked on wartime gas-vans. Aschenbrenner was later able to prove that, at the time he had supposedly been working on the vans, he was actually in Munich studying to become a welder.