Nazi Death Squads (2009) s01e02 Episode Script

Judenfrei

Although they had recruited death-squad reinforcements in July 1941 an auxiliary force of 10,000 police officers and 33,000 locals the Einsatzgruppen still didn't have enough personnel to wipe out all the Jews, disappearing by hundreds of thousands.
Other SS units patrolled the eastern lands, carrying out the same task: the Tilsit Kommando, which had been terrorizing Poland, the many SS brigades sent to the front, the Fegelein cavalry division in the Polesian marshes, the Viking SS in Ukraine, the Totenkopf units, Reserve Police Battalion 101, and the infamous brigade of SS Storm Troopers, made up of German ex-cons, led by Oskar Dirlewanger, an ambitious psychopath and convicted child molester.
The Wehrmacht also lent a hand to extermination Aktions.
In Serbia, an area of operations not covered by the Einsatzgruppen, the Germany army went to work murdering Jews and partisans.
In a world where good and evil were reversed, where the duty of the police was mass murder, killing a Jew was quite acceptable.
Local people indulged occasionally, on an individual basis, to steal a few possessions or settle old disputes.
Countries allied with Hitler, like Romania under General Antonescu, volunteered to exterminate their Jewish populations without outside help.
[in French] Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria have something in common, concerning the policy of ethnic cleansing of Jews during World War I.
All three countries, which destroyed or protected Jews in different phases and rhythms, started destroying, deporting, or killing Jews in provinces that were subject to border disputes.
That's what happened in Romania.
In Bessarabia and Bukovina, in those two regions, and also in Iasi, the capital of Romanian Moldavia, mass exterminations of Jews started immediately after war broke out.
Clear orders were given to destroy the Jewish population and prepare to deport any survivors.
Survivors were deported to the eastern bank of the Dniester, or Transnistria, a region occupied by Romania, under Romanian supervision, between the Dniester and the Bug.
Sonia Palty, who came from a middle-class Jewish family in Bucharest, was deported to various Transnistrian concentration camps.
She survived the cruelest of them Bogdanovka, where the Jews were crowded into pigsties before being murdered.
[in French] When we arrived at Bogdanovka, they threw us into pigsties.
On the ground.
But we were glad that there was no snow on the ground around us.
It wasn't too cold.
It was above freezing.
It had been very cold before.
It just had a roof.
Everybody sat on the ground for some time how long, I don't know.
Four hours? Six? Eight? Then people from the ghetto joined us, the few survivors of a community that had once numbered 67,000 Jews from Bukovna, Bessarabia, Odessa, Nikolayev They had all been killed the year before.
That means the crime started The crime was committed by Romanian police obeying orders from Modest Isopescu, a colonel in the Romanian army, and Aristide Padure, a lawyer who was vice-governor of the Golta region.
They had soldiers, and every day they killed 500 or 1,000 people 1,500.
The ones they hadn't succeeded in killing with machine guns were put in these big barns, which were then set on fire.
They burned people alive.
The people from the ghetto came to see us.
One of them was Esther Gelbelman.
I was fourteen and a half.
She was a year older, so she was fifteen and a half.
She saw that I was about her age.
She took my hand and said, "Come with me.
Come see where my mother and brothers are.
" I didn't understand what she was trying to say.
So I went with her, and in the terrible cold, we walked all the way to the Bug River.
She pointed and said, "See the hands and feet sticking out of the snow.
That grave contains a thousand, many thousands, of Jews killed by the Romanians.
" I can't say that it was a shock.
I couldn't understand! As we walked back home, the pigsty where we were spending the night, I mean she told me the story of how she'd seen them kill her mother and her 22-year-old brother.
She kept me company for the month and a half we stayed at Bogdanovka.
One day there, I was walking across the barnyard, because it had been a farm.
I stepped in some ashes.
She grabbed my jacket and jerked me away, saying, "Be careful! That's my brothers and my friends.
They were burned her!" I never forgot this.
Fourteen and a half! A teenager.
Think for just a moment what it was like for a girl a girl who had lived a happy life up until then! The Romanians were exterminating their Jews near territory assigned to Einsatzgruppe D, led by Otto Ohlendorf, which caused some friction between Nazi and Romanian officials.
On both sides of the River Bug, Romanians, Germans, and Ukrainian thugs engaged in mass murder actions, sometimes as partners.
To destroy some of the 65,000 Jews in Odessa, they used dynamite.
They also cooperated in killing Roma people in 1942.
[in French] In the carts, I saw children, women And they stopped there.
The Germans and Romanians made a bridge, a temporary one, with cables.
They stretched cables across the river, laid down a plank and herded 15 or 16 people onto it.
They were pulling it across the river.
The Gypsy women who had babies in their arms got onto this raft.
When they reached the middle of the Bug, they threw their infants into the river.
And then they jumped themselves.
Their men were standing on our side of the river.
Brothers, fathers They were yelling.
They wanted to jump in the water and rescue anyone they could.
But no.
The police had started firing.
[in French] This caused a scandal that was unprecedented in the history of World War II.
These 25,000 Gypsies deported to Transnistria in 1942 had sons, husbands, and other male kin who were soldiers in the Romanian Army, defending Romania, weapon in hand.
When these soldiers were given leave to go home and see their families, they found they'd been deported.
They went back and reported it to their superiors and were given leave to go look for their families.
But they couldn't find them, they'd been deported, and sometimes killed.
The cases were unbelievable.
Children raped by Ukrainian police.
Cannibalism.
Romanian authorities finally put an end to the operation, simply because it created such bureaucratic snarls.
The Romanian people see themselves as a humane people, hospitable and kind.
And I can say to them, "Yes, we did also find people who were humane.
" But the majority they were animals! They didn't look at me and see a girl who might have been their own daughter.
They saw me as a dirty Jew who had to die.
The Romanian people don't want to know about the 400,000 Jews who were killed.
Four hundred thousand human beings.
It's not A person who commits a murder goes to jail for 20 or 25 years.
I saw so many people killed, so many died in my arms I cannot bring myself, even today I can't stop talking about the ones I loved.
On the Ukrainian side of the Dniester, Otto Rasch's Einsatzgruppe C was assigned to exterminate the Jews of Kamenets-Podolsky.
Friedrich Jeckeln, the Higher SS and Police Leader in Ukraine, a cold-blooded killer aged 46, was the organizer of the great massacre of Jews of August 1941.
[in French] Jeckeln joined the SS early and rose in rank.
First, he served as SS and police leader in Western Germany.
His career was typical of his generation of Nazis.
He could have earned a degree, but his career was reoriented, let's say, by his political activism and the Great Depression.
He studied business.
Nevertheless, he rapidly became a professional politician.
He was elected to the Reichstag and was employed by the SS throughout his career.
He became a mass murderer in 1941.
True, his position predisposed him to duties of coordination and inspection in armed SS formations and the police.
He stands out for his great brutality and organizational inventiveness in these huge massacres.
Jeckeln was the vicious inventor of "Sardinenpackung," or "sardine technique," later adopted by a large number of death squads.
The victims are forced to lie down, head to toe.
One layer of people is killed.
Then you have the next layer lie on top of those corpses.
A technique remarkable for its standardization and its resemblance to methods used to slaughter animals on an industrial scale.
Jeckeln's goal was to have every German on the Eastern Front kill at least one Jew.
This was a three-pronged strategy: it implicated all the soldiers in the crime, proved they had submitted to the orders the Führer had given, and spread the load of responsibility more evenly.
He himself set the example at the mass killings he was assigned to supervise.
In Kamenets-Podolsky, in late August of 1941, five bomb craters were selected as mass graves for the Jews of the city and many others who had been expelled from Hungary.
In all, 23,600 men, women, and children were killed in three days by the SS, the police, and their Ukrainian auxiliaries.
The Wehrmacht had reached the gates of Moscow, allowing Hitler to believe that the Soviet army was nearly defeated.
Meanwhile, Jeckeln was called upon to supervise an Aktion of even greater magnitude than the massacre of Kamenets-Podolsky: the annihilation of the Jews of Kiev.
Paul Blobel, chief of Sonderkommando 4A, reached Kiev one day before Einsatzgruppe C and found the Ukrainian capital ravaged by fire.
The fact that the NKVD had used explosives which set the city ablaze for several days was seized as a pretext for the great "Juden Aktion" which had been planned.
Babi Yar, an enormous gorge, was located on the outskirts of the capital.
It was the site chosen by Blobel and Jeckeln to serve as a mass grave for the Jewish population of Kiev.
The two men were assisted in their task by the German police and squads of Ukrainian auxiliaries.
A Wehrmacht detachment was also present.
Signs were posted ordering the Jews to assemble on Melnikov Street on the morning of September 29, 1941, the day of Yom Kippur, the highest Jewish holy day.
The Jews believed they were being resettled.
[in Ukrainian] We saw it all.
It was awful.
Horrible.
A long line of people walking.
Children, old men women, young people All the men had been drafted.
They were away fighting.
Only old men, women, and children remained.
An immense crowd of people, impossible for me to count, was brought here.
The line was endless.
So was the automatic rifle fire and shots from a machine gun.
When we went to bed at home, our heads were full of the sound of shooting.
It's all impossible to forget.
Inna Evguenieva lived at 1 Babi Yar Street.
Aged 13 in 1941, she and her brothers and sister saw the two days of massacre from their attic window.
I could see everything.
The ravine was by my house.
We were as close to the ravine as we are to that tree.
We saw it all.
They were led to the ravine's sandy part, then stripped naked.
For some reason, they were also beaten.
They were made to lie down and beaten with whips.
A rubber thing.
If someone refused to undress, they'd shake him and tear off his clothes.
They'd grab him and throw him in the ravine.
[gunfire] I remember a group of four or five girls who absolutely refused to undress.
The Germans pulled on their clothing.
"Undress!" they shrieked.
And they refused.
They attacked the Germans.
We could hear.
The Germans cursed them and shot them then and there, fully dressed.
They died with their clothes on.
They were dragged to the ravine and thrown in.
Others were docile.
They didn't protest.
I remember, that evening, the clothing piled up.
Coats, little souvenirs.
It was all loaded into bins and hauled away.
We could see the outlines of the bodies.
At the end of the day, they built a circular sand dike.
In its center, we could see a black pool of blood and fat.
A lake of black liquid.
So many people had been killed The wounded bled.
You could see the blood through the sand.
The thing that struck me then was the excellent Ukrainian spoken by the Germans.
When I went home, I asked my grandmother why.
I understand all that they said.
The curses, the insults They were Ukrainians, that's why.
They were horrible.
Such cruelty is rare.
They took babies.
They didn't kill them.
They shook their blankets.
until the babies fell into the ravine.
It turns out people could be like that.
They were anti-Soviet.
Later, I saw a film saying they'd been hurt and wanted revenge.
Revenge against children? The women? They were innocent.
They weren't the guilty ones.
They took revenge on these thousands of people.
100,000 or 150,000 people died here.
They could have settled the score between themselves, not by killing a peaceful people.
Today, if a person takes one life, he is judged.
But for taking 150,000 lives, which punishment should be found? In two days, Einsatzgruppe C and its auxiliaries killed 33,771 people.
The few survivors were held at Syrets concentration camp, with a direct path to the ravine, where killing continued until the end of the war.
In the beginning, the killing was daily, but six months later, it was only twice a week.
There were specific days: Tuesdays and Thursdays, or Fridays.
I don't remember which.
Thursdays or Fridays.
On those days, we weren't allowed to walk here.
We had to go all the way around, behind the concentration camp.
It wasn't that big.
Three rows of barbed wire.
When they made the fence, the prisoners of war and the concentration camp inmates were forced to work very fast.
They were digging holes and driving posts as fast as they could.
They ran around with rags in their mouths.
It made them gag.
I remember that rag in their mouths.
After the Jews, they assembled the Gypsies and shot them, too.
Men bonded by mass murder engaged in other violent pursuits sadism, rape, shooting the children of Bjelaja Zerkow for sport or burying them alive in this cemetery in Kamenets-Podolsky.
Eastern Europe was the laboratory for endless experimentation in how to kill.
In this abandoned mine pit, the entire Jewish population of Dounaevetskaya was buried alive.
Cyanide poisoning, sterilization, extermination of the newborn in the Lviv ghetto clinic: the victims were spared no horror.
Partly to spare the executioners the psychological trauma of participating in extermination actions, and partly because they were consuming so much alcohol, the use of poison gas prevailed as an alternative to point-blank murder.
Arthur Nebe, commander of Einsatzgruppe B in Byelorussia, had pioneered the use of the gas chamber in the T4 program, eliminating people with disabilities.
This was suspended in 1941 due to public outcry in Germany.
Some 70,000 patients in public hospitals had been killed.
In Konin, trials with pits, where victims had been boiled alive for two hours as their executioners looked on, had been disappointing.
Another system, more hermetic and discreet, had been developed: vans were designed to gas victims with carbon monoxide.
Starting in December 1941, a gas van was issued to each Einsatzkommando.
Arthur Nebe immediately used the apparatus in the Minsk region.
Altogether there were more than 20 gas vans deployed along the Soviet border.
In Minsk the killing starts in early fall 1941 and go all the way through 1942 and even 1943 and involved the killing not only of Jews in the area but also partisans who were captured by the Germans and also particularly deportees, so that means Jews deported from western Europe or Germany that arrived in this area were brought to a site and then gassed by these vans.
The gas that was used was the carbon monoxide coming out of the exhaust of the trucks.
So the exhaust was connected with a pipe, a flexible pipe, to the interior, the compartment of the truck.
The people would be herded in there and compacted to maximum capacity, which would speed up the process, or was at least designed to speed up the process.
Again, not often did it work as planned, and that would lead to a delay in the time that people get killed, which would add to the torture involved.
Now, will you tell the tribunal who furnished these vans to the Einsatzgruppe? [in German] The gas vans were not Einsatzgruppen equipment.
They were issued to the Gruppe with their own staff.
The builder of the vans was the officer in charge.
They were issued to the Einsatzgruppen by Reich Central Security Office.
I was told that the commandos didn't like to use the gas vans.
[man in English] Uh, why not? [in German] Because the burial of the people who died in the vans was too difficult a task.
Extermination centers were set up, prisons where the victims were subjected to hard labor before being killed.
The Ninth Fort in Kaunas, Kaiserwald in Riga, and Yanovska in Lviv.
The frequent riots were ruthlessly quelled.
Leon Wells, whose family was wiped out, miraculously survived Yanovska, after having been forced to dig his own grave.
[Wells] When we got to the sands, we found that there was no grave prepared for us.
We got undressed, again registered every name so to know for sure that nobody disappeared on the marching road.
Everybody got a shovel and we started to dig our own grave.
When the grave was finished, they started to read from these registration lists and by two walked down the grave, had to lay down side by side with their faces down and were shot.
The next two had to cover a little sand over the first two and lay down in the other direction, line by line, and were shot again, and so it went ahead.
My dream at the moment was, as I was standing, to get my blood out, to have something to drink, because of my thirst due to the high fever in pneumonia and typhus.
To drink my own blood, that was my realization, what I was looking forward to.
When nearby was a bigger group working on the building of this camp, building barracks, and I disappeared between these people.
It seems that he, the SS man, was afraid that he lost me for his superiors, too.
Because according to the law, anybody that was already once at the sands can never return anymore to the concentration camp.
To get out from the concentration camp at this time, to escape from the concentration camp, was no problem at all.
One could escape easily.
The only thing that was a problem was that, if one escaped, they shot ten people from your brigade and they brought all your family and relatives and hanged them in the streets.
So, at this time still, most of us had family in the city.
In November 1941, Friedrich Jeckeln, the butcher of Babi Yar and Kamenets-Podolsky, was assigned to the Baltic countries.
He immediately went to Riga to liquidate the ghetto.
Jeckeln and Stahlecker, of Einsatzgruppe A, chose Rumbula Forest, bordering the city, as their killing field.
[in Latvian] At work, we saw Soviet POWs.
Often, we worked together.
We were building railroads.
Or unloaded ships in the harbor.
We were forbidden to speak to them, but we would do it anyway.
They told us, "We're digging graves for you.
" The news spread quickly in the ghetto.
We said, "The POWs don't understand the graves are for them!" They warned us, but we couldn't believe it.
Jeckeln had already elaborated the plan.
He had calculated that it took an hour to kill 1,000 people.
To bring them in, have them undress, funnel them through this corridor called a "schlauch.
" People had to run between two lines of police, who were clubbing them.
And at the end was a big pit, dug for them.
Can a person believe that killers will force their victims to lie down on the still-warm, bloody corpses of others? Face down, with killers walking on their backs, shooting them dead, one after another? Try to imagine the scene.
"Apocalyptic" may be too weak a term.
The Arajs commando took orders directly from the German SD.
It was a Latvian SD division.
The Germans used them, of course, but they weren't the main gunners.
They only shot the people who tried to escape, or who resisted going through the schlauch.
After the first extermination action in Ludzas Street, there were piles of corpses, many were children and elderly people.
On November 30th, in the evening, they said that anyone who volunteered to haul them away would be permitted to visit his family in the big ghetto.
A friend from school, Juze Goldberg, and I volunteered.
My parents and sister were still in the ghetto.
It was already dusk.
Night falls quickly on the 30th of November.
Some people had carts; others, big sleighs.
We were given children's sleds and tied two together to carry the bodies.
It would have been hard to carry adults on them.
They weren't big enough, but we picked up kids' bodies.
They were wearing several layers of clothing.
And the blood wasn't always visible because of the layers.
The children's eyes were wide open.
They seemed to look straight at you.
[man] There were orders from Himmler that he wanted drastically to reduce the number of Jews, and so in Riga, of course, there was a notorious Rumbula massacre, two massacres.
And in the middle of December, it was the turn of Liepaja.
They had killed a little less than half of the Jews by November.
And then they rounded up another 2,700 or so in December and shot them also.
And that left about a thousand.
And after some further killings, there were 800 left that went in the ghetto.
And this time in December it was also my turn.
Edward Anders was caught on Skede Beach the day the Jews of Liepaja were liquidated.
Thanks to the courage of Latvian friends and that of his mother, who bribed a Nazi officer to give him a false certificate of Aryan descent, he escaped death.
[Anders] They had three execution squads: one German, two Latvian.
One of the Latvians was in the Latvian SD unit.
The other one were just ordinary police that had been ordered to escort the Jews to this place, Schtit.
But then when they arrived there, their lieutenant told them, "You'll have to shoot.
" So they had rifles and then they counted out groups of ten Jews, and there were 20 marksmen.
Each of them had to, each of the victims got two bullets.
And then there came the next group.
It was all quite efficiently organized.
And there exists a dozen pictures of those executions, which a German SS man had photographed and a Jew working in the security police as an electrician noticed that roll of film in this SS man’s room when he was supposed to do some electrical work there.
And so he quickly arranged to have the film copied and then put it back.
And then he hid these pictures.
And after the war, when Liepaja was occupied by the Red Army, he immediately contacted the Russian counterintelligence, SMERSH, and told them, "We have pictures showing the executions," and they were flown to Moscow the next day and they were used in war crimes trials.
The first picture shows a number of Latvian policemen.
The one on the left wears a fur hat.
It's a cold day and unfortunately most of the Jewish victims had to undress before being shot.
So the policemen, at least, were comfortable.
He’s guarding a number of Jewish women.
They’re all wearing yellow stars on their chest and their backs.
And you can see that they are sitting there quietly.
None of them are tearing their hair out or crying or anything.
They’re very stoic.
And at the front right, there’s a German military car, sitting on the background here.
So it’s clear that the Germans were involved.
They supervised the whole operation.
The rule seems to have been that young women had to undress completely.
Older women and children and old men could keep, at least, their underwear on.
The outer clothes were taken for reuse by other people.
And here is a scene where a number of Jewish girls, with one exception, they're all stark naked.
They're running past the gauntlet of Latvian policemen.
There were some executions in the countryside where some orgies took place and girls were raped and so on, but nothing of the sort seems to have happened this time.
But, as far as I know, they really wanted only to look at these naked girls.
There's a group of three to the left.
The one in the middle is being held by her neighbors.
We can see that her head is quite low.
She seems to be close to fainting.
The others are holding her, probably to prevent her from falling over.
Here we see the Epstein family.
Emma Epstein is on the far left.
She is bent down.
She is dressed in white.
But you can see her head and her arm.
And next to her is her 18-year-old daughter, Mia, who already had been forced to undress completely, and is trying to cover herself as much as possible.
And her younger brother is undressing himself, standing in front of her.
And in the background, one sees a number of Latvian policemen, quite a few of them.
I think this Epstein family is a particularly sad example of what happened to the local Jews.
The husband of Emma Epstein, Haim Epstein, was a banker, was arrested by the Russians in early 1941.
He was in some gulag camp and he died about four or five months after his family did.
Of course, he didn't know that they were all dead.
This picture shows a group, including several children, with the sea in the background.
There's a boy in a dark shirt leading the group.
He's looking to the right and he's grimacing.
He seems to be upset at what he's seeing.
Right behind him is a little girl who is not going forward.
She's turned around and holding onto her mother, who's apparently trying to calm her down.
Behind them is a young boy who's not looking to the right.
And finally, the next one is a woman who's also not looking to the right.
And she has a little baby on her shoulder.
The baby's putting its head on the mother's shoulder.
Not a care in the world.
Doesn't know it's going to be killed in the next couple of minutes or so.
What they were seeing is shown in the next picture.
There were ten women lined up on the far side of the ditch ready to be shot by the execution squad standing on the other side of the ditch, which was about eight meters wide.
The third woman from the left seems to be quite upset, and she's leaning against the woman next to her, knowing that the last seconds of her life have come.
They're all facing the sea, which, of course, all of them loved.
This was one of the nice things about Liepaja, the beach.
And, in a way, it may have been reassuring to them that the last sight they got of this earth was the sea.
So that was the picture that the young boy in the dark shirt saw.
He sees women standing at the ditch ready to be shot.
And in the next picture, it's the turn of the boy in the dark shirt and the rest of the group.
Now they're standing, lined up there.
There are quite a few bodies that have fallen into the ditch.
The ditch was about 3 meters deep, so there were quite a few layers of bodies.
And in the far right, one can see there is a man with some object, which turns out to be a rifle.
He is pushing the bodies lying on the edge of the ditch down into the ditch.
And the little girl that you saw before that was facing her mother, she's again standing next to the mother.
The rule at these executions was that when children were old enough to stand, they were treated like adults.
Each of them got two bullets.
But if a child couldn't stand, if it was too small, then the mother was supposed to hold it up high and one bullet went to the child, one to the mother.
This picture was taken probably a few seconds after the previous one.
The Jews have now been shot.
The boy in the dark shirt is lying on the ledge and is about to be pushed down into the ditch.
One can also see there is a small flag between the policeman and the bodies.
They would generally move this flag to tell the victims where they were supposed to stand.
It was all well thought out and organized.
In December '41, after six months of massacre, the Baltic Jews were wiped out.
In a series of reports tinged with macabre sarcasm, Karl Jäger, the Nazi officer in charge of Einsatzkommando 3, informed his superiors that the Baltic lands were now "Judenfrei" free of Jews.
[convoy sound effects] [machine-gun fire] [soldiers marching] [footsteps] [gunshot] [train chugging]