In mid-August of 1941, Himmler became aware of the psychological costs to his military personnel of the mass extermination of women and children. Accordingly, he ordered experimentation with more "humane" methods of killing. Drawing upon experience gained in the "euthanasia" programme, these experiments led to the creation of the mobile killing vans -- vans especially constructed for gassing victims. The vans were air-tight. They had a drain in the center for cleaning of human excrement. Exhaust fumes from the truck's engine were piped into the van. A couple of these vans could pull into a small village, Jews could be rounded up for transport to some unknown destination and, within a few minutes they would all be dead. The same van could transport them to a burial area, unload them and return to the village for another load.
The following German military reports confiscated after the war provide crucial information regarding the activities of the Einsatzgruppen. These reports were collected by Mr. Kenneth McVay. Director of the Nizkor Project.
Reich Secret Document
To SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Rauff Berlin
The overhauling of the vans of Einsatzgruppe D and C has been completed...
I have had the vans of Einsatzgruppe D disguised as house trailers, by having a single window shutter fixed to each side of the small vans, and on the large ones, two shutters, such as one often sees on farm houses in the country. The vans had become so well known that not only the authorities but the civilian population referred to them as the "Death Vans" as soon as one appeared....
I also gave instructions that all personnel should stay as far away as possible from the vans when the gassing is in progress to prevent damage to their health in the event of gas leaking out...
The gassing is generally not carried out correctly. In order to get the Aktion finished as quickly as possible the driver presses down on the accelerator as far as it will go. As a result the persons to be executed die of suffocation and do not doze off as was planned....
Commander of the Security Police and the SD Einsatzkommando 3
Reich Secret Document
.. . .I confirm today that Einsatzkommando 3 has achieved the goal of solving the Jewish problem in Lithuania: There are no more Jewish in Lithuania, apart from working Jews and their families.
I wanted to eliminate the working Jews and their families as well, but the Civil Administration and the Wehrmacht attacked me most sharply and issued a prohibition against having these Jews and their families shot.
This extract comes from a report by Einsatzgruppe A in the Baltic countries. It is a general report of their progress up to October 15, 1941.
Basing oneself on the consideration that the population of the Baltic countries had suffered most severely under the rule of Bolshevism and Jewry while they were incorporated into the USSR, it was to be expected that after liberation from this foreign rule they would themselves to a large extent eliminate those of the enemy left behind after the retreat of the Red Army. It was the task of the Security Police to set these self-cleansing movements going and to direct them into the right channels in order to achieve the aim of this cleansing as rapidly as possible. I was no less important to establish as unshakable and provable facts for the future that it was the liberated population itself which took the most severe measures, on its own initiative, against he Bolshevik and Jewish enemy, without any German instruction being evident.
In Lithuania this was achieved for the first time by activating the partisans in Kovno. To our surprise it was not easy at first to set any large-scale anti-Jewish pogrom in motion there...In Estonia there was no opportunity of instigating pogroms owing to the relatively small number of Jews.
[Thread from another network discussing Einsatzgruppen reports and their significance in the extermination program. The discussion begins with a denial opponent providing documentation regarding the Einsatzgruppen]
The following several messages are from the Einsatzgruppen Reports. The number of the report and the date will be noted with each excerpt. The Einsatzgruppen reported on their activities to their respective headquarters which sent the information to Berlin. There the RSHA compiled concise reports in the name of the Chief of Sipo and the SD. Copies were distributed to high- ranking army, police and SS officers, diplomats, members of the foreign office an even to industrialists as they related to economic factors in the Soviet territories. The Einsatzgruppen Reports were discovered by the U.S.Army in Gestapo headquarters in Berlin after the war. They were initially impounded by a research analyst attached to the Berlin branch of the Office of the Chief of Council for War Crimes. They were sealed and transported in the custody of the US Army to Nuremberg. During the first days of the Einsatzgruppen Trial, the authenticity of the reports was established beyond doubt and none of the German defendants challenged their validity.
After the trial, the original reports were sent to the National Archives in Washington, DC. In 1960 they were given to the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz. Photocopies of all the reports remain in the National Archives and at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 17
According to instructions by RSHA, liquidations of government and party officials, in all named cities of Byelorussia, were carried out. Concerning the Jews, according to orders, the same policy was adopted. The exact number of the liquidated has not as yet been established.
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 19
In Kaunas, up to now a total of 7,800 Jews have been liquidated, partly through pogroms and partly through shooting by Lithuanian Kommandos. All of the corpses have been removed. Further mass shootings are no longer possible. Therefore, I summoned a Jewish committee and explained that up to now we had no reason to interfere with the internal arrangements between the Lithuanians and the Jews.
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 106
In agreement with the city military command, all the Jews of Kiev were ordered to appear at a certain place on Monday, 29 September, by 6 o'clock. This order was publicized by posters all over the town by members of the newly organized Ukrainian militia. At the same time, oral information was passed that all the Jews of Kiev would be moved to another place. In cooperations with the HQ of EGC and two Kommandos of the police regiment South, Sonderkommando 4a executed 33,771 Jews on September 29 and 30.
[NOTE: This took place in the ravine of Babi Yar outside of Kiev.]
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 111
These were the reasons for the executions carried out by the Kommandos: political officials; plundereres and saboteurs; active Communists and political representatives; Jews who gained their release from prison camps by false statements; agents and informers of the NKVD; persons who by false depositions and witness influencing were instrumental in the deportation of ethnic Germans; Jewish sadism and revenge; undesirable elements; partisans; politruks; danger of plague and epidemics; members of Russian bands; armed insurgents supplying Russian bands; rebels and agitators; drifting juveniles; JEWS IN GENERAL. [emphasis mine]
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 117
The districts occupied by the Kommandos were cleansed of Jews. 4,091 Jews and 46 Communists were executed during the time span covered by the report, bringing the total to 40,699 [for the period of 1-15 October 1941 by Einsatzgruppen D].
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 126
The difficulties in carrying out such a large action - first of all with respect to sowing disunity - were overcome in Kiev by a call via posters to the Jewish population that they were to move. Although at the start, one could count on the participation of about 5,000-6,000 Jews, more than 30,000 Jews turned up who, due to extraordinarily skillful organization, believed in the transfer right up to the moment of their execution.
Thus, even if about 75,000 Jews had been liquidated so far, it has already become clear that a solution of the Jewish question will not be possible in this way. True, we have succeeded in bringing about a total solution to the Jewish problem, particularly in smaller towns and also in the villages. However, in bigger towns it was observed that all the Jews have disappeared after such an execution.
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 173
In the course of a routine Security Police screening of an additional part of the civilian population around Leningrad, 140 more people had to be shot. The reasons for this were as follows:
a) Active participation in the Communist Party before the arrival of the German troops;
b) Seditious and provocative activity since the arrival of the German Army;
c) Partisan activity;
e) Belonging to the Jewish race.
So, from the Einsatzgruppen Reports we learn that Jews were being executed for no reason other than being Jewish, that these reports were being transmitted to Berlin and that these executions continued. From this we can conclude that Berlin did indeed order these executions. After all, Report 17 states that the executions were ordered and, if this was false, it is reasonable to expect that that misconception would be corrected quickly. However, almost 8 months later executions are still taking place because individuals belong to the "Jewish race."
In Report 126 we learn that these executions are considered part of the Final Solution. This not only supports the conclusion that the Einsatzgruppen were performing these executions based upon orders but also that this was just a part of a bigger program to solve the "Jewish question."
Source: The Holocaust\Shoah Page