Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Einsatz Group A
Einsatz Group B
Einsatz Group C
Einsatz Group D
[ OSR's #8 - #195 ]
Himmler in Minsk
Learn more about the Minsk Ghetto [Here]
SS – Obergruppenfuhrer Karl Wolff who served as Himmler’s adjutant recalled that during a trip to Minsk on 15 August 1941 recalled that Himmler “asked to see a shooting operation,” and Einsatzgruppe B Commander Nebe arranged such an execution of 100 people, 98 men and 2 women.
Wolff was present at this action and he remembered how Himmler, just before the firing was to begin, walked up to a doomed man and put a few questions to him.
Are you a Jew?
Are both your parents Jews?
Do you have any ancestors who were not Jews?
Then I can’t help you.
An open grave had been dug and they had to jump into this and lie face downwards. And sometimes when one or two rows had already been shot, they had to lie on top of the people who had already been shot and then they were shot from the edge of the grave.
And Himmler had never seen dead people before and in his curiosity he stood right up at the edge of this open grave – a sort of triangular hole – and was looking in.
While he was looking in, Himmler had the deserved bad luck that from one or other of the people who had been shot in the head he got a splash of brains on his coat, and I think it also splashed into his face and he went very green and pale – he wasn’t actually sick, but he was heaving and turned round and swayed and then I had to jump forward and hold him steady and then I led him away from the grave.
After the shooting was over, Himmler gathered the shooting squad in a semi-circle around him and, standing up in his car, so that he would be a little higher and be able to see the whole unit, he made a speech.
He had seen for himself how hard the task which they had to fulfil for Germany in the occupied areas was, but however terrible it all might be, even for him as a mere spectator, and how much worse it must be for them, the people who had to carry it out, he could not see any way round it.
They must be hard and stand firm. He could not relieve them of this duty, he could not spare them.
In the interests of the Reich, in this hopefully Thousand Year Reich, in its first decisive great war after the take-over of power, they must do their duty however hard it may seem.
He appealed to their sense of patriotism and their readiness to make sacrifices.
Then he drove off and he left this police unit to sort out the future for themselves, to see if and how far they could come to terms with this – within themselves, because for some it was shock which lasted their whole lives.
Von dem Bach-Zelewski claims to have lectured Himmler after the Minsk executions, telling him that the firing squad were now ruined for life, that they were destined to become either nervous wrecks or ruffians.
After the speech Himmler, Nebe, von dem Bach and Wolff inspected an insane asylum at Novinki. Himmler ordered Nebe to end the suffering of these people as soon as possible
At the same time Himmler asked Nebe “to turn over in his mind” various other killing methods more humane than shooting. Nebe asked permission to try out dynamite on the mentally ill people.
Von dem Bach and Wolff protested that the sick people were not guinea pigs, but Himmler decided in favour of the attempt. Much later Nebe confided to von dem Bach that the dynamite had been tried on the inmates with woeful results.
The Field Men by French L. MacLean, published by Schiffer Military History Atglen PA 1999
The Final Solution by G. Reitlinger – Vallentine Mitchell &Co Ltd 1953.
The Holocaust – The Jewish Tragedy by Sir Martin Gilbert published by Collins London 1986.
The Destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hilberg, published by Holmes and Meier, New York 1985.
Wiener Library, London
COPYRIGHT: CW & CL H.E.A.R.T 2007