WAS THE WEHRMACHT INVOLVED IN THE KILLINGS?
The idea of Rassenkampf, or 'race war', gave the Russian campaign its unprecedented character. Many historians now argue that Nazi propaganda had so effectively dehumanized the Soviet enemy in the eyes of the Wehrmacht that German soldiers hardly felt that Russians were human. This is borne out by the almost negligible opposition within the Wehrmacht to the mass execution of Jews, which was deliberately confused with the idea of security measures against partisans.
Many officers resented the Wehrmacht's abandonment of international law on the Ostfront, but only a few expressed disgust at the massacres. The ignorance claimed after the war by many officers, especially those on the staff, is rather hard to believe when we see the evidence that emerged from their own files. Sixth Army headquarters, for example, cooperated with SS Sonderkommando 4a, which followed the Army all the way from Ukraine to Stalingrad. Not only were staff officers well aware of its activities, they even gave troops to help in the round-up of Jews in Kiev and transport them to the ravines of BabiYar.
It is hard to swallow that the German officers did not understand the essence of the directive of 23 May, which called for the German armies in the east to seize whatever they needed, and also to send at least seven million tons of grain a year back to Germany. The orders were to live off the land. Nazi leaders very well knew what would happen to the civilians deprived of the Ukraine's resources. 'Many tens of millions will starve,' predicted Martin Bormann. Goering bragged that the population would have to eat Cossack saddles.
When the inhuman orders were prepared, in March 1941, it was General Franz Haider, the chief of staff, who bore the main responsibility for the army's acceptance of the harsh treatment of civilians.
Although a few army commanders were reluctant to distribute the instructions, several others issued orders to their troops which might have come straight from Goebbels's office. The most notorious order of all came from the commander of the Sixth Army, Field Marshal von Reichenau. General Hermann Hoth, who was to command the Fourth Panzer Army in the Stalingrad campaign, declared: 'The annihilation of those same Jews who support Bolshevism and its organization for murder, the partisans, is a measure of self-preservation.' General Erich von Manstein, a Prussian guards officer admired as the most brilliant strategist of the whole of the Second World War, and who privately admitted to being partly Jewish, issued an order shortly after taking over command of the Eleventh Army in which he declared: 'The jewish- bolshevik system must be rooted out once and for all.' He even went on to justify 'the necessity of harsh measures against Jewry.' There was little mention of this in his post-war memoirs, Lost Victories. The acceptance of Nazi symbols on uniform and the personal oath of allegiance to Hitler had ended any pretence that the army remained independent from politics. 'The generals followed Hitler in these circumstances', Field Marshal Paulus acknowledged many years later in Soviet captivity, 'and as a result they became completely involved in the consequences of his policies and conduct of the war.'
KILLINGS IN POLAND
Two Ukrainian SS men watch a pile of bodies of women and children who were killed during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Dead Russians in the prison yard at Rostov after the Germans left
Picture taken on 26/10/1941. Location: Minsk, Belarus, USSR. Men and women of the Russian underground being hung for helping wounded Russian soldiers to escape.
Minsk. Belarus. October 1941. A young Russian girl about to be hanged.
Same place. While one of the teenage girl has been hanged, another is being readied.
The Germans used the Lenin monument in Occupied Voronezh as gallows.
October 1941. Kiev. Ukraine. Jews walk as dead bodies lie strewn on the streets.
Gatchina in Russia. The Nazi Germans looted much of the Gatchina palace collections of art, while occupying the palace for almost three years. The Gatchina Palace and park was severely burnt, vandalized and destroyed by the retreating Germans. The extent of devastation was extraordinary, and initially was considered an irreparable damage.
October 1941. Kiev. Ukraine. Old women hurry past dead bodies of Russian POW. Eyewitnesses recall that while the prisoners were being driven on the streets of Kiev, the guards shot those who could not walk. The picture was taken 10 days after the fall of Kiev. German war photographer Johannes Hele, who served in 637th company of propaganda was part of the 6th German army that captured the capital of Ukraine.
Russian partisans being prepared for hanging. 1941
After the work was done. 1941
THE STORY OF ZOYA