During the Einsatzgruppen trial in Nuremberg, most of the 24 defendants, which dropped to 22, due to the death of one and suicide of another, denied culpability for murder by claiming they weren’t present for the executions to flat out saying it was the first time they heard Jews were killed, but one man provided an unflinchingly honest testimony that lead prosecutor, Benjmain Ferencz, said was the “best explanation for the justification for what they did.” Forty-year-old Otto Ohlendorf was the commander of Einsatzgruppe D from June 1941 until Reinhard Heydrich’s death a year later. Einsatzgruppe D operated in the southern Ukraine following the 11th Army, and the reports indicate the group was responsible for the execution of 90,000 people, though Ohlendorf stated those numbers were likely exaggerated. He testified that when he first received the liquidation order “that in addition to our general task the Security Police and SD, the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos had the mission to protect the rear of the troops by killing the Jews, gypsies, Communist functionaries, active Communists, and all persons who would endanger the security,” he protested it: “I pointed out that these were missions which couldn’t possibly be accomplished. It is impossible to ask people to carry out such executions.” However, his concerns lied with the impact it would have on his men, and he responded to the follow-up question of why with: “Well, I believe there is no doubt that there is nothing worse for people spiritually than to have to shoot defenseless populations.” Prosecutor James Heath countered, “If I may be a little facetious in a grim matter, there is nothing worse than to be shot either, when you are defenseless?“ but Ohlendorf remained unfazed in his reply: “Since this is meant ironically by you, I can imagine worse things, for example, to starve.”
Ohlendorf was repeatedly questioned about the necessity of such an order, and he offered the following explanation: “I was under military coercion and carried it out under military coercion knowing that it was given in a state of emergency, and the measures were ordered as emergency measures in self-defense.” Heinrich Himmler tackled its extension to women and children in a 1943 speech: “Then the question arose, what about the women and children? I decided to find a perfectly clear-cut solution to this too. For I did not feel justified in exterminating the men -that is, to kill them or have them killed- while allowing the avengers, in the form of their children, to grow up in the midst of our sons and grandsons.” Ohlendorf’s response mirrored his when the prosecution asked him what threat women and children posed to the security of Germany: “I believe that it is very simple to explain if one starts from the fact this order did not only try to achieve a security but also a permanent security because for that reason the children were people who would grow up and surely being the children of parents who had been killed they would constitute a danger no smaller than that of their parents.” An earlier piece of testimony expanded on his conviction:
“I have had no cause, and I still have no cause today to think that
any other goal was aimed at than the goal of any war, namely, an
immediate and permanent security of our own realm against that realm
with which the belligerent conflict is taking place.”
Ohlendorf maintained a strict militaristic manner throughout his cross-examination, refusing to view the extermination order through a personal moral lens, which prompted the prosecution to ask if he surrendered his moral conscience to Adolf Hitler. He replied, “No. But I surrendered my moral conscience to the fact that I was a soldier and therefore a wheel in a low position, relatively of great machinery; and what I did there is the same as is done in any other army, and I am convinced that in spite of facts and comparison which I do not want to mention again, the persons receiving the orders - and all armies are in the same position - until today, until this very day.”
Otto Ohlendorf’s role as one of Hitler’s subordinate pawns earned him the death sentence, and he was executed by hanging on June 7, 1951.
Reblog if you are ‘obsessed’ with any of the following:
The unknown(basically the first two, but whatever)
Children of Poseidon
The human mind
David, Liza, Zane, etc.
Learning about maladaptive daydreaming disorder