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[ OSR's #8 - #195 ]
Eyewitness to Mass Murder at Uman and Vinnitsa in the Ukraine
On the 15 September 1941 Lieutenant Erwin Bingel, a Wehrmacht officer was ordered to report to the Town Commandant of Uman, in the Ukraine, and instructed to set up guards on all railways in the area, and around the airport.
He accomplished this, and discovered whilst putting his men in place, that ditches had been dug in the square in front of the airport.
At dawn on the 16 September 1941, Lieutenant Bingel’s men were in place, then they saw a crowd of people brought to the ditches in front of the airfield, consisting of men, women and children.
Lieutenant Bingel’s account continued:
“When the people had crowded into the square in front of the airport, a few trucks drove up from the direction of the town. From these vehicles a troop of Feldgendarmarie alighted, and were immediately led aside.
A number of tables was then unloaded from one of the trucks and placed in a line at distances from each other. Meanwhile a few more trucks with Ukrainian militiamen commanded by SS had arrived. These militiamen had work tools with them and one of their trucks also carried chloride of lime.
The truck now drove alongside these ditches and the men on it unloaded six to eight sacks of chloride of lime at intervals of fifteen to twenty metres. In the meantime, a number of transport planes – Model Junkers 52 – had landed at the airport. Out of these stepped several units of SS soldiers who, having fallen in, marched up to the Feldgendarmarie unit, subsequently taking up positions alongside it.
As could be discerned from the distance, the two units were obviously being sworn in. I was then informed by my interpreter, who was Jewish- which fact was known only to me personally – that he had learned that the people had been brought together following upon an order which had been posted in the streets of Uman and which had been given the widest publicity throughout Uman sub-district by the Ukrainian millita.”
The order was for all Jews in the town of Uman and its sub-district, of all ages to assemble for the purpose of a census of the Jewish population. Anyone not complying with this order would be punished “most severely.”
Lieutenant Bingel continued:
“The result of this proclamation was, of course, that all persons concerned appeared as ordered. This relatively harmless summons, it was thought, could be connected in some way or other with the preparations we were observing. It was because we took the matter so lightly that we were all the more horrified at what we witnessed during the next few hours.
One row of Jews was ordered to move forward and was then allocated to the different tables where they had to undress completely and hand over everything they wore and carried.
Some still carried jewellery which they had to put on the table. Then having taken off all their clothes, they were made to stand in line in front of the ditches, irrespective of their sex.
The commandos then marched in behind the line and began to perform the inhuman acts, the horror of which is now known to the whole world. With automatic pistols and 0.8 pistols these men mowed down the line with such zealous intent that one could have supposed this activity to have been their life –work.
Even women carrying children a fortnight to three weeks old, sucking at their breasts were not spared this horrible ordeal.
Nor were mothers spared the terrible sight of their children being gripped by their little legs, and put to death with one stroke of the pistol-butt or club, thereafter to be thrown on the heap of human bodies in the ditch, some of which were not quite dead. Not before these mothers had been exposed to this worst of tortures did they receive the bullet that released them from this sight.
The people in the first row thus having been killed in the most inhuman manner, those of the second row were now ordered to step forward. The men in this row were ordered to step out and were handed shovels with which to heap chloride of lime upon the still partly moving bodies in the ditch. Thereafter they returned to the tables and undressed.
After that they had to set out on the same last walk as their murdered brethren, with one exception – this time the men of the alternative firing squad surpassed each other in cruelty, lest they lag behind their predecessors.
The air resounded with the cries of the children and the tortured. With senses numbed by what had happened, one could not help thinking of wives and children back home who believed they had good reason to be proud of their husbands and fathers, who, they thought, were fighting heroically in the ranks of the German army on behalf of the Fatherland, whilst the so-called Elite troop, always referred to as unique, perpetrated the most horrible acts of cruelty in the honourable uniform of a nation.”
On the 22 September 1941 Lieutenant Bingel and his men witnessed a second massacre in Vinnitsa. This was followed by a third, also in Vinnitsa, carried out by Ukrainian militia who had been trained by the SS, and were commanded by a small group of SS officers and NCO’s.
In the first two massacres, Bingel calculated first twenty-four thousand and then twenty-eight thousand Jews were killed. In the third, Ukrainian militia killings, six thousand were murdered.
Lieutenant Bingel recalled:
“In the morning at 10.15, wild shooting and terrible human cries reached our ears. At first I failed to grasp what was taking place, but when I approached the window from which I had a broad view over the whole of the town park, the following spectacle unfolded before my eyes and those of my men, who, alerted by the tumult, had meanwhile gathered in my room.
Ukrainian militia on horseback, armed with pistols, rifles and long straight cavalry swords, were riding wildly inside and around the town park. As far as we could make out, they were driving people along before their horses- men, women and children.
A shower of bullets was then fired at this human mass. Those not hit outright were struck down with the swords. Like some ghostly apparition, this horde of Ukrainians, let loose and commanded by SS officers, trampled savagely over human bodies, ruthlessly killing innocent children, mothers and old people whose only crime was that they had escaped the great mass murder, so as eventually to be shot or beaten to death like wild animals.”
The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert published by Collins London 1986
Gerald Reitlinger's The SS: Alibi of a Nation 1922-45
The State Committee on Archives of Ukraine
Copyright: David Watts H.E.A.R.T 2009