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  • Die Einsatzgruppen in der besetzten Sowjetunion 1941/42. Die Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD
  • Erich E. Haberer
Die Einsatzgruppen in der besetzten Sowjetunion 1941/42. Die Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD, edited by Peter Klein. Publikationen der Gedenk- und Bildungsstätte Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz, Band 6. Berlin: Edition Hentrich, 1997. 434 pp. DM 39.80.

This collection of documents is a most welcome addition to the growing literature on the Nazi genocide in the Soviet Union, spearheaded by the Einsatzgruppen of the Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, RSHA). Although there are excellent works based extensively on Einsatzgruppen reports, SS/RSHA directives and orders (for instance, Kausnick’s and Wilhelm’s seminal work Die Truppe des Weltanschauungs krieges [1981] and more recently Ogorreck’s Die Einsatzgruppen und die “Genesis der [End Page 149] Endlösung” [1996]), the principal sources for this secondary literature have not been readily available to scholars and the public at large. Except for two documentary readers which are, however, highly selective in their choice and editing of documents (Y. Arad, et al., eds., The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads’ Campaign against the Jews July 1941–January 1943 [New York, 1989] and volume 10 of The Holocaust: Selected Documents in Eighteen Volumes, edited by J. Mendelsohn and D.S. Detwiler [New York, 1982]), little has been published to do justice to the extraordinary wealth of sources on Einsatzgruppen activity and mass murder. In Die Einsatzgruppen in der besetzten Sowjetunion 1941/42 we now have an excellently edited collection of 83 documents. Along with 100 pages of introduction, this compilation provides a reliable source of information on Einsatzgruppen activity and its importance for comprehending the radicalization of Nazi genocidal intentions in the wake of Hitler’s Weltanschauungskrieg against the Soviet Union.

Die Einsatzgruppen is one of those rare works which delivers more than it promises. Contrary to its subtitle, it includes not only the complete set of eleven “Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte” of the Chief of the RSHA (section I, 111–315), but also the “Einsatzbefehle aus dem Reichssicherheitshauptamt” (section II, 317–62) and supplementary documents (“Ergänzende Dokumente,” section III, 363–411). Moreover, this collection is thoroughly introduced and annotated by a team of outstanding scholars.

To begin with, Peter Klein offers a concise and well documented general intro duction to Einsatzgruppen reports and the history of Einsatzgruppen deployment prior to Barbarossa in the Austrian Anschluss and subsequently in the occupation of Czechoslovakia and Poland. Concluding with RSHA preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union, Klein seamlessly provides the transition to Wolfgang Scheffler’s, Christian Gerlach’s, Dieter Pohl’s, and Andrej Angrick’s expertly written essays on Einsatzgruppen A, B, C, and D operating in the Baltic, Belorussia, Ukraine, and Bessarabia/Transnistria, respectively. Three basic themes are common to these essays: (1) the transition from selective killings to the whole-scale genocidal mass murder of Jews between July and August/September 1941, (2) the cooperation and active partici pation of the Order Police, civil authorities, and Wehrmacht (including military police, GFP), and (3) the significant role of indigenous collaboration and police auxiliaries in facilitating Einsatzgruppen Aktionen—and, quite often, in unleashing murderous pogroms of their own (Pohl, for example, refers to the murder of 24,000 Ukrainian Jews without German assistance or supervision). Specific to Angrick’s contribution is the interaction of Einsatzgruppe D and Romanian military authorities in the genocide of Jews in southern Russia. Thus, while on orders from higher up the Einsatzgruppen initiated, escalated, and sustained the deadly drive against Soviet Jewry, it was cooperation of both native collaborators and German agencies other than the SS which provided the momentum for the Final Solution. [End Page 150]

The sources published in Die Einsatzgruppen document the process whereby Heydrich’s liquidation squads proved instrumental for the genesis of the Final Solution. The “Tätigkeits- und Lageberichte” bear witness to the criminal nature of their “security operations” between June and March 1942. They demonstrate the degree to which this was integrally part and parcel of the Nazi mind-set of how to wage a...

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