Sunday, January 22, 2017

Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans: Einsatzgruppe D in Simferopol

Author: Hans Metzner
Rebuttal of Alvarez on Gas Vans
Part IX: The Just Memo
Part XI: Einsatzgruppe D in Simferopol

Beginning with late July 1941, the Einsatzgruppe D followed the army via Moldava and South Ukraine into South Russian territory. More than 30 years later, two of its members, Max Drexler and Walter Kehrer, were trialed by the regional court Munich for atrocities committed by the group (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 40, no. 816). Kehrer was accused of killing Jews with a gas van in Simferopol on the Crimean Peninsula in Spring/Summer 1942, where Einsatzgruppe D had established its headquarter since November 1941.

As to be expected after parts III and X of this series on other West-German trials, the Holocaust denier Santiago Alvarez shines with crass ignorance and deception on the subject. Apart from addressing the mistakes and systematic flaws in his writing, the posting also compiles the available evidence on the mass shooting of Jews in Simferopol and the later presence and use of homicidal gas vans in the town.

The Extermination of Jews in Simferopol in December 1941
"The bogus nature of this entire case becomes clear when considering the British trial against German General Field Marshal Erich von Manstein in 1949. Manstein, who during the war was the commander in chief of Germany’s 11th Army operating on the Crimean Peninsula, among other places, had been indicted by the British for assisting in the Einsatzgruppe D’s claimed mass murder of the local Jewish populace. Yet Manstein‘s defense team managed to prove that the local Jewish community was never threatened with destruction, let alone that it was destroyed (Paget 1951, pp. 170f.)."

(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, 2011, p. 234f.)

The argument is not new and has been tried by David Hoggan in 1969, Mark Weber in 1988, Carlo Mattogno in 1995 and again in 2002 (for another "Revisionist" trickery on the mass killing of Jews in Simferopol, see this French article on Rassinier). What's more: the entire argument has been refuted already in 2006 by Roberto Mühlenkamp (That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part VIII: The Simferopol Massacres) and more recently again at the Holocaust Denial on Trial site. Roberto's rebuttal had been available for five years when the book was published. But Alvarez' failure to check out an anti-denial blog is only the tip of the ice berg, as he has clearly not performed any research at all on Einsatzgruppe D.

What Alvarez regards as proof "that the local Jewish community was never threatened with destruction, let alone that it was destroyed" was a claim by Manstein's British lawyer Reginald Paget that several former German soldiers testified that they "had been billeted with Jewish families and also spoke of the functioning of a synagogue and of a Jewish market" in Simferopol so that "it certainly appeared that this Jewish community was unaware of any special danger" (Paget, Manstein. His Campaigns and His Trial, 1951, p. 171).

There were indeed four Wehrmacht witnesses, who appeared at Manstein's trial to testify having seen Jews in Simferopol in 1942: Stefan Gmeiner (examination of 10 November 1949, TR.4/45, p. 19; cf. von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein: Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 187), Wilhelm Specht, Hans-Dieter Schiel and Günther Lehmann (von Wrochem, p. 185). However, the testimony by people from the organization suspected of accomplice in murder is, of course, not exactly an infallible proof that the Simferopol Jews were not destroyed, let aside that having seen some Jews in Simferopol does by no means show that most of the Jews had not been decimated.

Moreover, as Roberto has pointed out in the above mentioned blog posting and as Alvarez could have easily learnt himself, if he just did what any German-reading person curious on the subject who have done and checked out the historian Andrej Angrick's monograph on Einsatzgruppe D, the existence and survival of a community of religious Jews of Turkic ethnic known as Crimean Karaites in Simferopol does not contradict the extermination of racial Jews according to the National Socialist ideology (on the Nazi policy towards the Karaites, see also Feferman, Nazi Germany and the Karaites in 1938–1944: between racial theory and Realpolitik).

Paget also argued that the killing of 10,000 people in Simferopol within three days by "only one company of the S.D." was logistically impossible. The claim is false, however, as the Einsatzgruppe was supported with vehicles and men by the military and secret field police of the army, as follows from documentary and testimonial evidence.

The extermination of the Jews (except for the Karaites community) in Simferopol is established by numerous contemporary German sources and perpetrator testimonies. Most of the sources and citations were readily available at the time Alvarez wrote his pamphlet. The existence of German documents on the killing is even mentioned in Paget's book. Alvarez turns the usual denier method up side down when he dismisses the killing of Jews in Simferopol demonstrated by German sources - supposedly the best type of evidence according to deniers - just because of the pompous statement from a defense lawyer and vaguely known testimonies, he has never examined. Or rather, simply because it suits his purpose.

Contemporary German Sources

Activity report from Ortskommandantur 1/853 to the Commander Army Rear Area 553 of 14 November 1941:
"Simferopol...The 11,000 Jews remaining will be executed by the SD"

(Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, Verbrechen der Wehrmacht, p. 176, my translation)


Activity report from the military police in Simferopol of 6 December 1941:
"11 military police men ordered to the SD for the Jewish action"
(von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 75, my translation)


Contemporary diary entry from Johann Gaffal, Wehrmacht soldier in Simferopol:
"12,000 Jews executed. Women and children"
(von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 171)


Activity report USSR no. 150 of 2 January 1942:
"Simferopol, Yevpatoria, Alushta, Krasubasar, Kerch, and Feodosia and other districts of western Crimea are free of Jews. From November 16 to December 15, 1941, 17,645 Jews, 2,504 Krimchaks, 824 Gypsies, and 212 Communists and partisans have been shot. Altogether, 75,881 persons have been executed.

Rumors about executions in other areas complicated the action in Simferopol. Reports about actions against Jews gradually filter down from fleeing Jews, Russians, and also from the loose talk of German soldiers."

(Yad Vashem Archives, O.51/165.150, p. 20)


Einsatzgruppen activity report USSR no. 153 of 9 January 1942:
"The operational areas of the Teilkommandos, particularly in smaller villages, were made free of Jews. During the period covered by the report 3,176 Jews, 85 partisans, 12 looters, and 122 Communist officials were shot. In all: 79, 276. In Simferopol, apart from Jews, the Krimchak and Gypsy question was also solved. The population generally welcomed the elimination of these elements."

(Yad Vashem Archives, O.51/165.153, p. 14)


Report from Einsatzgruppe D to the 11th Army Command of 12 February 1942:
"I have learnt by a call from the local commander in Simferopol that Mr. Supreme Commander asks for the watches, which are still available from the Jew action. I hereby hand over 120 watches, which have been repaired, to the army. About 50 watches are still being repaired, of which some will be made going again."

(Stein, Der Januskopf, p. 375, my translation)


Report from Einsatzgruppe D to the 11th Army Command of 12 February 1942:
"The watches confiscated during the Jew action were properly collected. Those watches, which represent valuables (gold and silver watches), have been sent to the state account as ordered. The remaining watches, which have a value that is so low that a general utilisation seems not proper, have been given to Wehrmacht members (officers and troop) and members of Einsatzgruppe D for a complimentary fee or for free, depending on the case. Prerequisite for the hand over was that the their own watch was lost in duty or defective or was needed for official reasons. According to the experience, mostly old watches are found and a large part cannot be used."

(Stein, Der Januskopf, p. 376, my translation)

Note that the significance of the last two documents results from a) the well known meaning of Judenaktion (Jew action) as default term for rounding up and either deporting or immediately killing Jews and b) that the mass confiscation of very personal items such as watches further supports that the Jews in Simferopol were rounded up and exterminated.


Einsatzgruppen activity report USSR no. 170 of 18 February 1942:
"The occcupied Crimea will have been combed through by end of February, while single, important areas and especially towns are regularly screened. The search for isolated Jews, who have so far avoided being shot by hiding or giving false personal data, was continued. From 9 January to 15 February, more than 300 Jews were caught and executed in Simferopol. The number of people executed in Simferopol is thereby increased to almost 10,000 Jews, which is about 300 more than the number of Jews registered."

(Yad Vashem Archives, O.51/166.170, p. 19, my translation)


Report from Wilhelm Ostwald of the 11th Army to the Army High Command of 31 March 1942:
"Since the complete 'resettlement' of the Jewish population and the liquidation of a mental asylum with about 6000 inmates could not be kept secret in the length of time, such rumors [to kill all inhibitants above 50 years] become more probable among the population."
(von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 67, my translation)


Testimonial Evidence  

Testimony of Otto Ohlendorf from Einsatzgruppe D:
Presiding Judge Musmanno: Would you say that the army commander not only countenanced this program of executions but lent their active support to it?

Defendant Ohlendorf: Yes. That is what I want to say. If I may give you two examples for that, the executions in Simferopol by the Einsatzkommando 11b were carried out on the order of the army, and the army supplied the trucks and the gasoline and the drivers in order to bring the Jews to the places of execution. (p. 250f.)
...
Q. Did General von Schobert or Field Marshal Manstein ever issue orders to your Gruppe concerning executions?

A. That question is too definite, Mr. Prosecutor. Such orders existed in various forms. For example, he told the defendant Seibert, who is present here, that retaliation measures which he had ordered were not sufficient, and for that reason he would have to take a hand himself, or, as I described concerning Simferopol, where the army requested that the liquidation of Jews be carried out immediately. Apart from that, there was the idea of killing certain persons like, for example, the insane people but I cannot always say, of course, that this was of the army itself. But the Einsatzkommandos were assigned to units or divisions, so that contact with the Kommandos, and, therefore, the issuing of individual orders were settled in the individual areas to smaller units rather than in the central offices. (p. 292)
...
Mr. Walton: Now, did you have any army directives or any orders stating the minimum distances from army headquarters where these people could be executed? 

Defendant Ohlendorf: In the case of Simferopol the army decreed that shootings should take place at a certain distance from the city. The same occurred at Nikolaev.  (p. 299)
(examination in October 1947, Trials of war criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, volume 4, 323 ff.)

Testimony of Werner Braune from Einsatzgruppe D:
"Dr. Mayer (Counsel for defendant Braune): When were the Jews, gypsies, and Krimchaks executed in Simferopol, with which you are charged?

Defendant Braune: In the first half of 12/1941.

Q. How did these executions come about?

A. On one of the first days of 12/1941 in the evening, the liaison officer of the 11th Army came to see Mr. Ohlendorf and told him that the army demanded the carrying out of the executions before Christmas.

Q. Were you present yourself when the liaison officer of the 11th Army told this to Mr. Ohlendorf?

A. Yes. I was personally a witness and a few more officers were present too.

Q. How did you conduct yourself in the face of this army order?

A. I immediately told Mr. Ohlendorf that for my weak forces it would be impossible to carry out these executions before Christmas.

Q. Witness, at this point, please tell the Tribunal about the strength of your unit.

A. When I left Odessa my Kommando had a strength of about 100 men, but all told, including drivers, interpreters, auxiliary forces, etc. In Simferopol, outside of an administrative officer and two aides on my staff I had no other people, except an officer who took care of the SD reports temporarily for 2 months and at times I had a noncommissioned officer who helped me in the handling of partisan questions which had become so extensive that I could not handle them myself. Everything else was assigned to the Teilkommandos, that is, the Teilkommando Simferopol, including the guard personnel and drivers who were necessary. Certainly it was not more than 25 to 30 men strong and the other Teilkommandos also were about the same strength. Yevpatoriya was a little stronger than Karasubazar and Alushta. I know that in the Teilkommando in Simferopol there were about three or four trained police and interrogation officials. With these forces it was practically impossible for me to carry out the required executions in Simferopol.

Q. What did Mr. Ohlendorf do when you told him that your forces were too weak to carry out the execution which was demanded by the army?

A. Mr. Ohlendorf recognized my objections as justified and with his agreement I went to see the G-2 of the army, Colonel Hanck, and described the situation to him.

Q. What was the result?

A. The result was that he managed to put at our disposal a large number of trucks with drivers, to furnish the gasoline, and a certain number, I don't remember how many, of field police, all of whom were placed at the disposal to help in this execution.
...
My Teilkommando chief, Sturmbannfuehrer [Major] Schulz, was responsible for carrying out the details. He had at his disposal the people furnished by the army, the newly arrived police company who was to relieve the company so far in operation and who had not yet been distributed among the Teilkommandos. Furthermore, I think I recall that Kommando 11a or 10b, or even both, furnished forces by order of Ohlendorf. Finally there were the forces of the Teilkommando and my guard personnel."
(Trials of war criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, volume 4, 323 ff.)


Testimony of Heinz Schubert from Einsatzgruppe D:
3. In December 1941 — I do not remember the exact date — I was assigned by Ohlendorf or Seibert to supervise and inspect the shooting of about 700 to 800 people, which was to take place in the close vicinity of Simferopol. The shooting was undertaken by the special Kommando 11b, one of the formations of the Einsatzgruppe D. My task in connection with the shooting consisted of three parts

a. to see that the location of the shooting be remote enough, so that there could be no witnesses to the shooting  

b. to supervise that the collection of money, jewels, and other valuables of the persons who were to be shot be completed without the use of force; and that the persons, designated for this by the special Kommando 11b, hand over the collected items to the administration leaders and their deputies in order to have them passed on to Einsatzgruppe D 

c. to supervise, that the execution be completed in the most human and military manner possible, exactly according to Ohlendorf's orders.

After the execution I had to report personally to Ohlendorf that the execution had been carried out exactly according to his orders.

4. As commissioner of Ohlendorf I followed his orders. I went to the gypsy quarter of Simferopol and supervised the loading of the persons who were to be shot into a truck; I took care that the loading was completed as quickly as possible, and that there were no disturbances and unrest by the native population. Furthermore, I took care that the condemned persons were not beaten while the loading was going on. Since it was my task to supervise the whole execution, I could only stay a short time at each phase of it.

5. The place which was designated for the shooting of these Russians and Jews was several kilometers outside of Simferopol and about 500 meters off the road in an antitank ditch. Among other things I ascertained that the traffic in that region was stopped by persons designated for this and was detoured on sideroads. When the condemned persons arrived at the place of execution, they were ordered to leave their money, their valuables, and papers at a place designated for this. I watched that none of the deposited items were kept by the SS and regular police who were designated for the collection. The depositing of this property by the condemned persons was finished without the use of force. I supervised this phase carefully, in order that all the valuables could be handed over to the Einsatzgruppe D for subsequent remittance to Berlin.

6. For a short time, when the people who were to be shot were already standing in their positions in the tank ditch, I supervised the actual shooting, which was carried out in strictest conformity with Ohlendorf's order - in a military and human manner as far as possible. The people were shot with submachine guns and rifles. I know that it was of the greatest importance to Ohlendorf to have the persons who were to be shot killed in the most human and military manner possible, because otherwise - in other methods of killing - the moral strain would have been too great for the execution squad.
(affidavit of 24 February 1947, Trials of war criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribunals, volume 4, 207f.)
"I was present only at one execution, Ohlendorf ordered me to inspect the execution in Simferopol. The execution took place at the request of the 11th army. I was present during the talk between Ohlendorf and Dr. Braune. It was about that the army absolutely wanted that the Jews of Simferool are killed before Christmas 1941...Dr. Braune explained Ohlendorf that he cannot carry out the execution since vehicles and personnel are lacking. Ohlendorf sent Dr. Braune to the Oberquartiermeister Hauck of the 11th army to tell him that the execution cannot be carry out. But the army insisted on carrying out the order and Hauck agreed to provide trucks and military police."
(interrogation of 12 June 1969, Mallmann, Rieß, Pyta, Deutscher Osten 1939 -1945, p. 156, cf. BArch B 162/1065, p. 3742, my translation)


Testimony of Robert Barth from Einsatzgruppe D of 1946 (?):
"Group staff and Kommando 12 were stationed in Simferopol. It was said that about 12,000 Jews had been shot in Simferopol by Kommando 12."
(NO-3663, translation reproduced in Mendelsohn, The Holocaust. 10 The Einsatzgruppen or murder commandos,  p. 198; note that the affidavit seems to be misdated October 1943, as the place where the testimony was set-up, Sandbostel in Germany, was not yet occupied by the Allies. Barth was captured by the British in October 1943 and gave a still unpublished account on the Einsatzgruppen already in November 1943, see Breitman, Officials Secrets, p. 190 citing  PRO HW 16/1, pp. 47-49)


Testimony of Kühn from the military police:
"After our arrival we left the truck and noticed that civilians, which appeared to be Jews, climbed off another truck, I don't know if [the truck was] from the military police. Among these civilians were men, women, children and infants, also pregnant women....The civilians were forced to go to an open site...The civilians had to undress, as far as I remember, and were sent through a cordon of uniformed men into the direction of an anti-tank ditch..."
(interrogation of 21 July 1964, Geiger, Quellenkritische Anmerkungen zum "Fall Eggebrecht", p. 13, my translation)


Testimony of Johann Gaffal from the Wehrmacht in Simferopol:
"Well, at the end of December - well, I really ought to have a look at my diary. Anyhow, at the end of December it became known that the Jews were to be shot....It was from the 16th December...From that time onwards people in Simferopol learnt that Jews had been shot.On the 19th December I heard at the Officer's Mess, while I was waiting on the officers, that my chief intended to make enquiries as to where people were being shot....Well, they were all of them talking about the shootings that were happening in the surroundings of Simferopol, and my chief decided that he would go there by car.....That was Captain Kippler...My chief went there with two N.C.Os....I followed their car on motorcycle...Well, I think it went eastwards of Simferopol. I think the direction was north-east...I think it must have been approximately 7 kilometres - I cannot tell you for certain now. It may only have been 6 kilometres. On the other hand it may have been 10. After all these years I cannot tell you that for certain...There was a large anti-tank ditch across the road, and at the side of the road I saw a number of people on the road. They were members of the Wehrmacht. But I do not know whether they were MP, SS or Secret Field Police - I do not remember that now. They stopped the vehicles; they stopped me too and they told me to drive off as fast as possible...Well, about 300 metres or perhaps 250 metres away I saw 50 - well, I cannot tell the figure for certain; it may be there were 60 people. I saw members of the Wehrmacht. I saw men in uniform....They wore civilian clothes. From that distance one could not see whether they were Jews or whether they were ? civilians. At any rate, they were lined up along the anti-tank ditch and (it is very difficult to say from that distance) they may have been 5 metres away from the ditch; they may have been 3 metres away, or it may have been 10 metres, and at that distance there were people in uniform. I could see a few black dots. They must have been people who had fallen into the anti-tank ditch. At the same time I heard shots being fired. I could not hear all the shots, because my motor cycle was still running and was making a noise, but as I left off pressure on the gas I could hear the shots quite clearly."

[...]

"What I started to say was that according to what the Jewish Council said approximetely 12,000 people were registered at Simferopol....On 20th December there began at Simferopol a looting campaign in the empty Jewish homes. It was the Russians civilians who did the lootings....I saw nothing except that the Jewish homes were empty and there were no more Jews to be seen in Simferopol."
(examination of 20 September 1949, Yad Vashem Archives, TR.4/20, p. 41-46)

Testimony of Simferopol resident V. Davydov:
"Around 10 am, the Germans started a horrible blood bath. Elderly were assigned to a separate group and hanged in the nearby streets...The other were brought to the steeps at the new swimming bath, where the were shot with machine guns...Not a single Jew remained alive in Simferopol."
(Grossmann, Ehrenburg, Das Schwarzbuch. Der Genozid an den sowjetischen Juden, p. 763, my translation)

Further testimonies on the extermination of Jews in Simferopol:
  • Gottfried Raetz, interrogation of 27 November 1962 (von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 75)
  • Walter Ickler, interrogation of 22 November 1962 (von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 75)
  • Jean Breuer, interrogation of 14 March 1969 (Hamburger Institut für Sozialforschung, Verbrechen der Wehrmacht, p. 177)
  • Heinrich Hüggelmeyer, interrogation of 17 March 1969 (von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 75)
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Hauck, interrogation of 23 March 1965 (von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 366)
  • Theodor Busse, interrogation of  8 September 1965 (von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 366)
  • Otto Wöhler, interrogation of  29 October 1965 (von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 366)
  • Werner Rank, interrogation of  31 October 1965 (von Wrochem, Erich von Manstein, Vernichtungskrieg und Geschichtspolitik, p. 366) 
  • Paul Lohmann, interrogation of 9 December 1971 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341f.)
  • Hermann Frenser, interrogation of 7 July 1966 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341)
  • Georg Mandt, interrogation of 7 March 1962 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341)
  • Hans Günther, interrogation of 26 June 1962 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341)
  • Georg Glück, interrogation of 6 May 1963 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341)
  • Hans Kurz, interrogation of 5 August 1963 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341)
  • Hans Fibiger, interrogation of 2 May 1963 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341)
  • Walter Güsfeldt, interrogation of 2 October 1963 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 341)
  • Fritz Urbach, interrogation of 9 December 1963 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 342)
  • Kurt Wehrbein, interrogation of 12 April 1962 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 342)
  • Karl Jonas, affidavit of 30 Sepember 1947 (Mendelsohn, The Holocaust. 10 The Einsatzgruppen or murder commandos,  p. 194), interrogation of 11 December 1962 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 342)
  • Heinz Hoffmann, interrogation of 29 August 1962 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 342)
  • Harry Pilawski, interrogation of 5 May 1963 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 342)
  • Wilhelm Ickerott, interrogation of 22 February 1972 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 342)
  • Paul Zapp, interrogation of 10 January 1968 (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord. Die Einsatzgruppe D, p. 340)
  • Evsey Efimovich Gopstein (Grossmann, Ehrenburg, Das Schwarzbuch. Der Genozid an den sowjetischen Juden, p. 438ff.)
  • Fischgoit (Grossmann, Ehrenburg, Das Schwarzbuch. Der Genozid an den sowjetischen Juden, p. 438)

Gas Vans in Simferopol
"The verdict here under scrutiny has the leanest description of those alleged 'gas vans' ever encountered in any verdict. [...] This finding follows the common, yet technically impossible pattern of hermetically sealed cargo boxes. The alleged gassing is here claimed to have happened while the van was stationary. The introduction of the exhaust gases by means of 'a special device' is awkwardly imprecise. The killing time reported is on the low side."
(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 235)

The lack of technical precision in the descriptions of the gas vans in the trial verdicts in general is owed to a number of circumstances of the investigations and trials:
  1. The vehicles had been destroyed, dismantled, made unrecognisable by the Germans, and no gas van was captured by the Allies and could be made available to investigators (in fact, it is known that a gas van of Einsatzgruppe D was destroyed upon its retreat from the North Caucasus region, see German Document on Gas Van Blown up by Einsatzgruppe D).

  2. The available contemporary German documents on the gas vans provide some details on their layout and operation, but do not allow for their full description.

  3. Most of the testimonies were obtained in the 60s, one or two decades after the events, and memory tends to degrade over time.

  4. Most accounts were given by perpetrators with the tendency to withhold knowledge to avoid self-incrimination and suppress responsability.

  5. There was abundant testimonial evidence on the gas vans, which left no doubt about their existence and operation, rendering knowledge and understanding of their exact details a secondary issue in the proceedings.

  6. The defendant strategy was usually to deny involvement or knowledge, but not the existence of the gas vans as such, and did not focus on technical issues of the vehicles.

"As to the defendant’s attitude the verdict elaborates (p. 294):
'[…] the defendant denied strongly to have participated in any gas van operations. He stated that he has never seen a gas van in his life and that he had not even heard of the existence of such vehicles at that time; […].'
Evidence to the contrary originated almost exclusive from testimonies and affidavits by Russian citizens (p. 294), the same kind of witnesses that had appeared during the Krasnodar show trial."
(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 235)

The argument performs the hasty generalisation that because the witnesses incriminating Kehrer were Soviets citizens, they therefore shared the same alleged poor credibility of the Soviet witnesses at the 1943 Krasnodar trial (for a review and analysis of this trial, see Bourtman, "Blood for Blood, Death for Death": The Soviet Military Tribunal in Krasnodar, 1943).

Even supposing for the sake of argument that the Soviet witnesses at the Krasnodar trial were generally unreliable (which Alvarez failed to show anyway), the main reason would have been the specific circumstances of the trial and not the origin of the witnesses. But the political climate in the Soviet Union was already different in the 1960s during the cold war compared to 1943 during the war against Nazi Germany. Moreover, the Soviet witnesses incriminating Kehrer had been examined in presence of "the German investigating judge and a German interpreter". It is far fetched to conclude on the reliability of the Soviet witnesses on Kehrer from what allegedly happened at the Krasnodar trial 20 years earlier.
 
"The defendant’s suspicion of a Soviet orchestration of these testimonies was brushed aside by the court (pp. 295)."
(Alvarez, The Gas Vans, p. 235)

The assertion that the court has simply "brushed aside" this matter is glaring nonsense. In actual fact, the verdict provided a detailed rebuttal of the defendants' concerns and found that there are "no objective indications" that the witnesses had been pressured by the Soviet authorities.



It is also noteworthy that the court rejected four charges against Kehrer - including homicidal gassing in Stavropol - because it had reservations and doubts about the witnesses, which shows its careful and critical approach to the evidence (Justiz und NS-Verbrechen, volume 40, no. 816, p. 313). Not less telling is that this was conveniently omitted by Alvarez, obviously because it does not fit well to his misrepresentation of the West-German trials.

The individual guilt of Kehrer was based on the testimonies of the Russian collaborators "Efe., Gad., Ga., Ibr., Mel., Sar. und Sai.". According to the trial verdict, the gassing actions in Simferopol were also reported by the German witnesses "Gre., Rei., Walter Ho., Ku., Pa., Kne. and especially Bra.". The corroboration of the Russian witnesses by members of the German forces is another important piece of information in the verdict, which Alvarez preferred to withhold from his readers.

Looking also beyond this specific trial, there are at least 34 accounts, mostly eyewitnesses, from former members of Einsatzgruppe D (plus each one account from former members of the Wehrmacht and the RSHA) on gas vans in Simferopol in the files of the West-German investigations  (note that Gre., Ku. and Pa. cited in the verdict are probably also included in this list):
  • Helmuth Ar., interrogation of 7 November 1969, BArch B 162/1066, p. 3962
  • August Becker (RSHA), interrogation of 14 April 1962, BArch B 162/1149, p. 1040
  • Willi Be., interrogation of 9 July 1970, BArch B 162/1068, p. 4355
  • Paul Bö., interrogation of 15 March 1963, BArch B 162/1055, p. 1641 f.
  • Heinrich Bo., interrogation of 18 April 1962, BArch B 162/1149, p. 1073 & 1080
  • Willi Br., interrogation of 30 September 1963, BArch B 162/1056, p. 1843
  • Heinrich Buttke, interrogation of 15 July 1970, BArch B 162/1068, p. 4440
  • Heinrich Di., interrogation of 13 March 1963, BArch B 162/1055, p. 1666
  • Hermann Fo., interrogation of 16 November 1962, BArch B 162/1054, p. 1434
  • Wilhelm Fr., interrogation of 19 March 1964, BArch B 162/964, p. 1386
  • Johann Fr., interrogation of 5 December 1962, BArch B 162/1054, p. 1520
  • Emil Gr., interrogation of 17 January 1957, BArch B 162/5066, p. 178
  • Franz Gr., interrogation of 22 September 1969, BArch B 162/1066, p. 3865
  • Franz He., interrogation of 11 October 1962, BArch B 162/1053, p. 1287f.
  • Walter Ho., interrogation of 22 May 1964, BArch, B 162/964, p. 1421f.
  • Gotthard Kö., interrogation of 15 October 1962, BArch B 162/1053, p. 1383f.
  • Kurt Kr., interrogation of 17 July 1970, BArch B 162/1068, p. 4445
  • Paul Ku., interrogation of 4 December 1962, BArch B 162/1054, p. 1504
  • Emil Le., interrogation of 29 August 1963, BArch B 162/964, p. 1270
  • Walter Lü., interrogation of 5 December 1962, BArch B 162/1054, p. 1601
  • Alfred Ma., interrogation of 10 December 1963, BArch B 162/964, p. 1309ff.
  • Emil Mi., interrogation of 3 March 1965, BArch B 162/1015, p. 2099
  • Gustav No., interrogation of 9 April 1962, BArch B162/1149, p. 1022
  • Karl Od., interrogation of 18 July 1962, BArch, B162/1053, p. 1287f.
  • Leonhard Pa., interrogation of 6 April 1962, BArch B 162/1149, p. 1000
  • Georg Po., interrogation of 22 March 1963, BArch B 162/3299, p. 334
  • Helmut Re. (Wehrmacht), interrogation of 19 June 1963, BArch B 162/1064, p. 3568
  • Heinrich Ru., interrogation of 20 July 1970, BArch B 162/1068, p. 4458
  • Heinz Sc., interrogation of 20 January 1953, BArch B 162/5066, p. 61
  • Willi Seibert, interrogation of 11 March 1947, Institut für Zeitgeschichte, ZS-2388, p. 49ff.
  • Stadler, interrogation of ?, Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas, p. 98
  • Alfred To.,  interrogation of 9 July 1970, BArch B 162/1068, p. 4361
  • Otto Un., interrogation of 20 November 1969, BArch B 162/1066, p. 4004
  • Rudolf Vo., interrogation of 21 February 1968, BArch B 162/1062, p. 3205
  • Paul Wa., interrogation of 17 November 1962, BArch, B 162/1054, p. 1454f.
  • Helmut We., interrogation of 22 March 1967, BArch B 162/1062, p. 3022
  • Herbert Wollenweber, interrogation of 14 May 1970, BArch B 162/1068, p. 4312
  • Friedrich Wu., interrogation of 26 June 1966, BArch B 162/1230, p. 3739f.

For example, Alfred Ma. of the police unit assigned to Einsatzgruppe D testified as follows:
"I have already stated that I have seen the gas van. Several weeks after our arrival in Simferopol, it stood in the yard of our accommodation. It was a truck with a closed coachwork and two swing doors in the back. It was told that the vehicle was meant for the resettlement of Jews. During the following period, it became clear to everyone that "resettle" was just a camouflage term for killing.

I have seen from the carpenter's workshop, which was accessible from the yard, two or three times, that SD men lead a group of 40 to 50 civilians of all ages - men, women and children - to the yard and into the vehicle. The civilians carried hand luggage. They readily entered the vehicle. After the people were inside, the doors were closed and the vehicle stood for about half an hour on the yard with its engine running. Then it drove away."
(interrogation of 10 December 1963, BArch B 162/964, p. 1313f., my translation)

The existence of homicidal gas vans among Einsatzgruppe D is further demonstrated by a contemporary German document on its later retreat from Stavropol.

Conclusion

Santiago Alvarez is a Holocaust denier. As such, it is his job to point out critical problems in the sources on the gas vans. But it is not too much asked for that this excercise itself is based on some solid evidence and reasoning. However, in case of the verdict against Kehrer, Alvarez starts straight away with the historically false notion that the Jews in Simferopol were not subjected to extermination measures, which he found in the Revisionist literature and refrained from critically examining despite the obvious dubious nature of the claim. The behaviour of blindly following the rhetorics of some defense counsel and admirer of an accused accomplice of Nazi atrocities reminds of somebody, who is desperately grabbing for anything that just suits his purpose.

The confidence with which Alvarez advanced his falsehood on the killing of Jews in Simferopol stands in stark contrast to the total lack of research he performed on the subject. The minimum requirement would have been to check out some books on the Einsatzgruppen before commenting on what supposedly did not happen. In general, it is ridiculous that Alvarez thought to tackle the West-German trials on gas vans deployed in the Russian East without reviewing the relevant literature and without writing any section discussing the actual activities of what he trivialises only as "German antipartisan Einsatzgruppen" (p. 14). Since Alvarez did not take into account the genocidal context of the Einsatzgruppen, which is established already by their own reports, his entire "analysis" of the West-German trials on the gas vans is pretty much worthless.

The trial against Walter Kehrer found him guilty to have participated in at least three gassing actions with a gas van in Simferopol. The evidence consisted of the testimonies of seven former Russian collaborators working for Kehrer. The judges carefully evaluated this testimony and the general description of the actions were corroborated by seven former German members of the paramilitary forces. Such highly relevant information, which support the credibility of the evidence and challenge his mistrust in the verdict, were simply withheld by Alvarez in his "summary" and "analysis" of the verdict.

To sum it up, Alvarez' performance on Einsatzgruppe D in Simferopol and the corresponding West-German trial illustrates the grotesque double standard, distortion of sources and the good portion of historical ignorance, which are needed to shape the story according to the agenda of Holocaust denial.

14 comments:

Gilles Karmasyn said...

Impressive work. Odly enough Simferopol seems to constitute a kind of fixation in Holocaust denier's productions. The french denier Paul Rassinie has crudely falsified Hilberg's writings about the Jews killed in Simferopol. I have completely studied this case (in french) there: http://phdn.org/negation/rassinier/hilbergsimferopol.html

Another point: Reginald Paget is an "interresting" case of "extreme partisan interests" even crossing the line of "revisionism" according to Daniel Bloxham, "Punishing German Soldiers during the Cold War: The Case of Erich von Manstein", Patterns of Prejudice, 1999, 33:4 (and, as cited by Bloxham, also Tom Bower, Blind Eye to Murder: Britain, America and the Purging of Nazi Germany—A Pledge Betrayed, London: Andre Deutsch 1981). I wonder if the obsession with Simferopol in several deniers' production all find their source with Paget...

Nicholas Terry said...

Gilles, yes, Paget is the Urquelle for this denier gambit; Hans rounded up a lot of the recent examples but this goes back a long way, as you note, to Rassinier. The Paget gambit was one of the few things that Mattogno brought up re: the Einsatzgruppen in "My Banned Holocaust Interview", having previously said essentially nothing about them in his original 'Myth' essay in 1985/1987.

Jonathan Harrison said...

Roberto wrote on this in 2006:

http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.com/2006/10/thats-why-it-is-denial-not-revisionism.html

Jonathan Harrison said...

Simferopol is given as a gas van site in Becker's letter to Rauff 16.5.42

http://holocaustcontroversies.blogspot.de/2015/10/contemporary-german-documents-on.html#more

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

This is an excellent article, based on thorough research. Congratulations!
In the excerpt from the Kehrer verdict, it seems that references to the "russischen" authorities and witnesses are misspelled as "rassischen" in some places. Is this misspelling in the original? There are also other misspellings, e.g. "Grand" instead of "Grund".
Anyway, here’s a translation of the jury court’s considerations about the reliability of the Russian witnesses, which you may add to the original text. It’s not easy to translate German indirect speech into English, hence the supporting remarks in square brackets.
"The Jury Court also examined the general doubts uttered by the defendant Keh. regarding the credibility of the Russian witnesses. Keh. and his defense attorney claimed in this respect that the Russian witnesses were not speaking the truth insofar as they incriminated Keh. [They argued that] these witnesses were co-inculpated persons who wanted to discharge their own guilt onto Keh.. Furthermore, that there was the possibility of the witnesses having been induced by the Russian authorities into making untrue statements, because these authorities had great interest in Keh.’s conviction. In this context, [so Keh. and his defense attorney argued,] it was of significance that in 1960 the Russian authorities had, via a letter from his mother exiled to Siberia, undertaken the covert attempt to contact him [Keh.], probably in order to hire him as an agent or to lure him into the Soviet Union. These doubts cannot be considered pertinent. There have been no indications that the Russian witnesses wanted to discharge their own guilt onto Keh. They especially in no way denied their own participations in the crime or tried to portray themselves in a more favorable light by claiming that they had acted under pressure of orders. Also speaking against the assumption that the Russian witnesses wanted to unjustly incriminate Keh. is the fact that – as the defendant himself admits – they has a close and good relationship with Keh. at the time. Another indication against this assumption is that some witnesses are clearly reserved as concerns details and do not incriminate Keh., even though they could easily have done so. Thus, for instance, the witness Gad. narrated that he had witnessed 4 gas van actions, but that Keh. had only participated in the last two of these. Similarly to the witness Gad., the witness Ga. also did not incriminate Keh. regarding alleged gas van actions in Stavropol (see below item VI B 4), although he had been in Stavropol and even seen a gas van there."

Roberto Muehlenkamp said...

"The Jury Court is furthermore convinced that the defendant’s supposition regarding the Russian authorities having pressured the witnesses and induced them into making untrue statements is without foundation. There are no objective indications in this direction. Insofar as the defendant in this context points to the Russian authorities having tried to contact him in 1960, this by itself doesn’t mean anything. Even if it is to be assumed that the Russian authorities – for whatever reasons – are interested in Keh., it doesn’t follow from this that they would have had a reason to unjustly incriminate him. It is correct that a few Russian witnesses, in earlier depositions, unjustly incriminated Keh. regarding individual aspects that are not part of the present proceeding’s object, and that these witnesses changed their depositions in this respect only later. The only thing that follows from this, however, is the personal unreliability of these witnesses. From the deposition of these witnesses the Jury Court therefore derived no findings of fact (in this respect see below item VI B). On the other hand this provides no indications supporting Keh.’s defense claim that the witness testimonies had been manipulated. Keh.’s defense in this sense is furthermore contradicted by the following circumstance: as mentioned in more detail under item VI B 3, the defendant Keh. was also charged with having participated in a mass shooting in Simferopol in December 1941. Regarding this charge the only witness to Keh.’s participation available was the Russian witness Göt., who additionally was one of the few who – as mentioned above – had earlier unjustly incriminated Keh. regarding other deeds. If the Russian authorities had really forced the witnesses to make untrue statements, it stands to reason that especially regarding the Simferopol crime complex – one of the largest of all mass shootings in Russia, as is historically known – they would have provided for more and better evidence. The Jury Court is therefore convinced, after examining all relevant aspects, that general doubts against the credibility of the Russian witnesses have no value, and also that those witnesses on whose testimonies the findings of fact regarding Keh.’s participation in the Simferopol gas van actions were based are personally reliable and fully credible. In this evaluation the Jury Court applied especially strict standards, because these witnesses could not be personally interrogated in the main proceedings, but only the transcriptions of their depositions could be read out loud."

Reactionary said...

Hi Hans,

Real Open Debate on Holocaust seem to be working again.

Will you answer Berg from 29 november 2016?: https://rodoh.info/forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=2713&start=30

Thanks.

Jonathan Harrison said...

The Russian witness "Sar." above is presumably Sarkisyan, quoted here:

http://www.yadvashem.org/untoldstories/database/germanReports.asp?cid=646&site_id=821

Hans said...

Hi Roberto, many thanks for your English translation! I've added it to the post instead of the German text (the spelling mistakes you mentioned are not in the original but were created by the OCR that helped to make the trancription).

Hans said...

Yes, good find, Jon!

Hans said...

@Reactionary

I will respond to Berg when time permits and they will be likely something like a Rebuttal of Berg on Gas Vans on the blog, summarizing the "debate" from my point of view.

Hans said...

Gilles, I've added a link to your article on Hilberg and Rassinier, thanks for sharing.

Gilles Karmasyn said...

Thanks Jonathan for the link to ROberto's 2006 piece. I had forgotten about it or missed it.
Thanks, Hans for the link. I'll have to update the Rassinier page to include links to relevant content on the HC blog.

Reactionary said...

Thanks Hans, sounds good.