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1941: Mass Murder
 pg. 236 

On December 1, 1941, in Kovno, Lithuania, SS Colonel Karl Jäger completed a report stamped Geheime Reichssache! (Secret Reich Business!). A German businessman who had become a member of the SS in 1932, Jäger filed his report as the commander of Einsatzkommando 3JC (EK 3), a unit of Einsatzgruppe A (EG-A). Jäger's report stated: "Today I can confirm that our objective, to solve the Jewish problem for Lithuania, has been achieved by EK 3. In Lithuania there are no more Jews, apart from Jewish workers and their families."

Jäger claimed that Einsatzkommando 3JC accounted for the deaths of more than 130,000 Jewish men, women, and children. Prior to the arrival of EK 3JC in Lithuania on July 2, 1941, he estimated, another 4000 Jews had been "liquidated by pogroms and executions," bringing the Jäger report's total of Jewish dead to 137,346.

Far from being isolated episodes, Jäger's report and the mass murder it tallied were parts of the systematic destruction policy that Nazi Germany implemented when its military forces invaded Soviet territory on June 22, 1941. Prior to the invasion, Hitler resolved that the campaign would destroy both communism and Soviet Jewish life, for part of his antisemitism emphasized that communism was a Jewish invention. Einsatzgruppen --special mobile killing squads composed of SS, SD, and other police and security personnel--were ordered to execute Communist leaders and, specifically, "Jews in the party and state apparatus." Nazi interpretation placed virtually all of the Soviet Union's Jews in that category. Thus, with key logistical support from the German Army and enthusiastic help from antisemitic collaborators, the Einsatzgruppen specialized in the mass murder of Jews.

About 1.3 million Jews (nearly a quarter of all the Jews who died during the Holocaust) were killed, one by one, by the 3000 men who were organized into the four Einsatzgruppen that headed east in the summer of 1941. Deadly contributors to what became known as the "Final Solution," these mobile killing units rounded up Jews and brought them to secluded killing areas. The victims were forced to give up their valuables and take off their clothing. They were then murdered by single or massed shots at the edges of ravines or mass graves that the victims were often forced to dig themselves.

Like Colonel Karl Jäger, most of the Einsatzgruppen officers were professional men. They included lawyers, a physician, and even a clergyman. Postwar trials brought some of them to justice. Arrested in April 1959, Jäger said of himself that "I was always a person with a heightened sense of duty." That sense of duty made him and his Einsatzgruppen colleagues efficient killers. While in custody, Jäger hanged himself on June 22, 1959.
Photo: Yad Vashem

 June 25, 1941: When 47-year-old Dr. Benjamin From, a Jewish surgeon, refuses to break off an operation on a Christian woman at Lutsk, Ukraine, Germans drag him from the hospital to his home, where he and his family are murdered.
 June 26, 1941: Hundreds of Jews from Kovno, Lithuania, are executed at the fortified Ninth Fort on the city's outskirts.
 June 27, 1941: The second Nazi occupation of Bialystok, Poland, occurs. Hundreds of Jews are burned alive in a local synagogue by a German motorized unit.
 June 27, 1941: German troops gathered in a synagogue courtyard in Niéswiez, Poland, beat and shoot exhausted Russian POWs.
1941: Mass Murder
 pg. 236 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.