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Volume 19, Fall 2006           
Nuremberg Trials 60th Anniversary
The Einsatzgruppen

Section 1
Background and Preparation for the Nuremberg Trials
Section 2
Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal
Section 3
Twelve Subsequent Trials
Medical Trial
Medical Experiments
Medical Trial Judgment
Justice Case
Industrial Cases
Krupp Trial
Taylor's statement
“On June 22, 1941, the German army invaded Soviet territory. They did not enter alone—small units of SS and police, some three thousand men in all, were also dispatched on special assignments—these were the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units). Their task was to kill Jews, and not only Jews, but also Communists, Gypsies, political leaders, and the intelligentsia. Order Police Battalions, Waffen SS units, the Higher SS, and police leaders also carried out these mass executions.

Their primary targets, Jews, were concentrated in the areas within easy reach of the German army. Almost nine in ten Jews were urbanized, living in large cities where the rapid advance of the army and the swift action of the mobile killing units left them unaware of their fate, paralyzed, unable to act.

There were five stages to the killing. The invasion was followed immediately by the roundup of Jews and other intended victims. Those rounded up were marched to the outskirts of the city where they were shot. Their bodies were buried in mass graves - large ditches were filled with bodies or people who had been shot one by one and buried layer upon layer.

The residents of these cities could see what was happening. They could hear the shots and the victims' cries. Most often, they remained neutral, neither helping the killer nor offering solace to the victim. Yet neutrality helped the killer, never his victim.

Frequently, local pogroms were encouraged by the Wehrmacht and the SS, especially in Lithuania and Latvia. Every Jew killed brought the Nazis closer to their goal. Auxiliary police comprised of local natives became indispensable to the understaffed killing units. Local collaborators volunteered.

Before this phase of the killing ended, more than 1.2 million Jews were killed. Their bodies were piled high in mass graves throughout the occupied Soviet territories.” Berenbaum, Michael. Witness to the Holocaust. New York: HarperCollins. 1997. 112-13.(


Paul Blobel, Defendant


Paul Blobel was SS-Standartenfuehrer, member of the SD, and commanding officer of Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppen C operating in the Ukraine. He was responsible for carrying out the massacre at Babi Yar in Kiev. Subsequently, he was put in charge of Aktion 1005, the operation to obliterate the traces of the mass murders committed by the Germans by disinterring and cremating the bodies from the mass graves in the German-occupied Soviet Union. He was arrested after the war and was one of the principal defendants in The Einsatzgruppen Case at Nuremberg. Blobel was tried and convicted by the U.S. military tribunal in Nuremberg. He was sentenced to death in 1948 and hanged at the Landsberg prison in Bavaria on June 8, 1951.

SS-Oberstrumfuhrer August Hafner description of Paul Blobels's order to kill of children:

Blobel ordered me to have the children executed. I asked him, "By whom should the shooting be carried out?" He answered, "By the Waffen-SS." I raised an objection and said, "They are all young men. How are we going to answer them if we make them shoot small children?" To this he said, "Then use your men." I then said, "How can they do that? They have small children as we." This tug-of-war lasted about ten minutes....I suggested that the Ukrainian militia of the Feldkommandant should shoot the children. There were no objections from either side to the suggestion.....

I went to the woods alone. The Wehrmacht had already dug a grave. The children were brought along in a tractor. I had nothing to do with the technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing around trembling. The children were taken down from the tractor. They were lined up along the top of the grave and shot so that they fell into it. The Ukrainians did not aim at any particular part of the body. They fell into the grave. The wailing was indescribable. I shall never forget the scene throughout my life. I find it very hard to bear. I particularly remember a small fair-haired girl who took me by the hand. She too was shot later....The grave was near some woods. It was not near the rifle range. The execution must have taken place in the afternoon at about 3:30 - 4:00. It took place the day after the discussions at the Feldkommandanten....Many children were hit four or five times before they died. (Klee, Ernst, Willi Dressen and Volker Riess, eds. The Good Old Days: The Holocaust as Seen by Its Perpetrators and Bystanders. New York: The Free Press, 1988. 153 - 154.

Question for Reflection and Discussion:

Hafner says, “I had nothing to do with the technical procedure.” Why does he refer to these murders as a “technical procedure”? Discuss.

Paul Blobel’s Affidavit

The following is Paul Blobel’s affidavit on the burning of bodies and obliterating the traces of bodies of Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen, given at Nuremberg, June 18, 1947:

I, Paul Blobel, swear, declare, and state in evidence:

1. I was born in Potsdam on August 13, 1894. From June 1941 to January 1942 I was the commander of Sonderkommando 4A.

2. After I had been released from this command, I was to report to Berlin to SS Obergruppenfuhrer Heydrich and Gruppenfuhrer Muller, and in June 1942 I was entrusted by Gruppenfuhrer Muller with the task of obliterating traces of executions carried out by the Einsatzgruppen in the East. My orders were that I should report in person to the commanders of the Security Police and SD, pass on Muller's orders verbally and supervise their implementation. This order was top secret and Gruppenfuhrer Muller had given orders that owing to the need for strictest secrecy there was to be no correspondence in connection with this task. In September 1942 I reported to Dr. Thomas in Kiev and passed the order to him. The order could not be carried out immediately partly because Dr. Thomas was disinclined to carry it out and also because the materials required for the burning of the bodies was not available. In May and June 1943, I made additional trips to Kiev in this matter and then, after conversations with Dr. Thomas and with SS and Police Leader Hennecke, the order was carried out.

3. During my visits in August I myself observed the burning of bodies in a mass grave near Kiev. This grave was about 55 m. long, 3 m. wide and 2-1/2 m. deep. After the top had been removed the bodies were covered with inflammable material and ignited. It took about two days until the grave burned down to the bottom. I myself observed that the fire had glowed down to the bottom. After that the grave was filled in and the traces practically obliterated.

4. Owing to the moving up of the front line it was not possible to destroy the mass graves farther south and east which had resulted from executions by the Einsatzgruppen. I traveled to Berlin in connection with this report, and was sent to Estonia by Gruppenfuhrer Muller. I passed the same orders to Oberfuhrer Achammer-Pierader in Riga, and also to Obergruppenfuhrer Jeckeln. I returned to Berlin in order to obtain fuel. The burning of the bodies began only in May or June 1944. I remember that incinerations took place in the area of Riga and Reval. I was present at such incinerations near Reval, but the graves were smaller here and contained only about twenty to thirty bodies. The graves in the area of Reval were 20 or 30 kilometers east of the city in a marshy district and I think that four or five such graves were opened and the bodies burned.

5. According to my orders I should have extended my duties over the entire area occupied by the Einsatzgruppen, but owing to the retreat from Russia I could not carry out my orders completely.....

Nuremberg, June 18, 1947
signed: Paul Blobel

Question for Reflection and Discussion:

Note the number of times Blobel refers to “orders.” Why does he do this? Discuss.

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