Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

The Einsatzgruppen: Directives & Activities

There were a number of briefings about the aims and activities of the Einsatzgruppen in the Nazi-occupied territories of the Soviet Union. The first took place in Pretsch, and it was conducted by Bruno Streckenbach, Chief of Department One of the RSHA. Streckenbach acted as spokesmen for Himmler and Heydrich in explaining the Fuhrer's order concerning the murder of the Jews.

The meeting is described in Ohlendorf's testimony at the Einsatzgruppen Trial No. 9 at Nuremberg. (6) It is also mentioned in the affidavit by Dr. Walter Blume, who headed SK 7a: "During June, Heydrich, Chief of the Security Police and the SD, and Steckenbach, head of Office I of the Reich Security Main Office [RSHA], lectured on the duties of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos. At this time we were already being instructed about the tasks of exterminating the Jews. It was stated that Eastern Jewry was the intellectual reservoir of Bolshevism and, therefore, in the Fuhrer's opinion, must be exterminated. This speech was given before a small, select audience. Although I cannot remember the individuals present, I assume that many of the Einsatzgruppe and Sonderkommando chiefs were present." (7)

Another briefing was given by Heydrich at a meeting of the leaders of the Einsatzgruppen and Einsatzkommandos which took place on June 17. There again the Fuhrer's orders concerning the murder of the Jews was discussed, as stated by Standartenfuhrer Dr. Walter Blume: "I heard another speech by Heydrich in the Prinz Albrecht Palace in Berlin, in the course of which he again emphasized these points.' (8) Erwin Schulz, head of EK-5, testified at the Nuremberg Trials that 'Some time during the first ten days of June 1941, the chiefs were called to the RSHA in the Prinz Albrecht Palace to hear a speech by Heydrich in which he outlined the policy to be adopted, giving us some guidelines concerning the fulfillments of the tasks imposed upon the Einsatzgruppen." (9)

At the third meeting, which probably took place shortly before June 22, high-level SS and Police chiefs met in the office of the Chief of Order Police, General Kurt Daluege. As Heydrich was unable to attend, he sent them a memorandum dated July 2, 1941 (dated after the invasion of the Soviet Union), specifying who was to be eliminated:


All the following are to be executed:

Officials of the Commintern (together with professional Communist politicians in general);
Top- and medium-level officials and radical lower-level officials of the Party. Central committee and district and sub-district committees;

Peoples commissars; Jews in Party and State employment, and other radical elements (saboteurs, propagandists, snipers, assassins, inciters, etc.) insofar as they are, of special importance for the further economic reconstruction of the Occupied Territories ... (10)

More details are contained in Report No. 111 dated October 12, 1941: 'The principal targets of execution by the Einsatzkommandos will be: political functionaries, ...Jews mistakenly released from POW camps, ...Jewish sadists and avengers, ...Jews in general...'

According to the testimony of Otto Ohlendorf, head of Einsatzgruppe D, dated April 24, 1947, the objective was the "murder of racially and politically undesirable elements." Later on in the Einsatzgruppen trial, he said (October 1948): "The goal was to liberate the army's rear areas by killing Jews, Gypsies and Communist activists ..." (11)

(6) NMT (Case 9, Einsatzgruppen), vol. iv, p. 244

(7) NMT, vol. IV, p. 140

(8) NMT, vol. IV, p. 140

(9) NMT, vol. IV, p. 136

(10) (11) NMT, vol. IV, p. 244

Sources: Arad, Yitzak. Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. IN: Indiana University Press, 1987, pp. 10-11, and Electric Zen: An Einsatzgruppen Electronic Repository.