nuremberg military tribunal




Erich Naumann

SS-Brigadier General Erich Naumann left school at the age of sixteen and obtained employment in a commercial firm in his home town of Meissen, Saxony. In 1933 he joined the SA in a full-time capacity and then became official and officer of Police. He joined the SD in 1935. He was Chief of Einsatzgruppe B from November 1941 until February or March 1943. The Prosecution contends that he took


over the command of this organization on November 1, 1941 and points to various pieces of evidence to confirm that contention:

(1) Naumann's personnel SS record,

(2) Reports listing Naumann as being in Smolensk (Headquarters of Einsatzgruppe B) on November 12, 1941,

(3) Testimony of Steimle that he met Naumann in Russia about the Middle of November,

(4) Naumann's note to the co-defendant Klingelhoefer under circumstances which would suggest an attempt to influence Klingelhoefer's testimony that Naumann's duties began on November 30th.

Naumann's purpose in establishing the latter date of induction into the chiefship of Einsatzgruppe B is to refute the prosecution's claim that he is responsible for executions committed by Einsatzgruppe B in the month of November. One report, dated December 19, 1941, described various actions which resulted in the liquidation of several thousands of people. Another report carrying the date of December 22, 1941 told of the execution of 324 Jewish prisoners of war and 680 civilian Jews.

Naumann contends that he cannot be held accountable for these executions, since the reports were published four to five weeks following the events described therein. This would date the indicated events as having occurred about the middle of November and consequently prior to the date he claims he took over the Einsatzgruppe command. It has not been established as a fact that the Operational and Situation Reports always appeared four to five weeks subsequent to the chronicled events. It was testified during the trial that this period of delay fluctuated and that sometimes the reports were published within two weeks after the happening of events.

However, this discussion is more interesting than practical. Even if Naumann were to prove irrefutably and conclusively that the reports were delayed and that he did not arrive in Smolensk until November 30, this would still not exonerate him from the charges under Counts I and II, for there is extant the Operational


Report of April 21, 1942, covering operations from March 6 to March 30, a period during which indubitably Naumann commanded the area under consideration. This report shows, inter alia, that the Einsatzkommando 9 killed 273 persons made up of 85 Russians "belonging to partisan groups", 18 "because of Communistic, seditious acts and criminal offenses" and 170 Jews. Sonderkommando 7a executed 1,657 persons, 27 of whom were partisans and former Communists, 45 were Gypsies, and 1,585 were Jews. The same report shows that unit Einsatzkommando 8 killed 1,609 persons made up of 20 Russian Communists, 5 criminals, 33 Gypsies, and 1,551 Jews.

Defense counsel meets this report with the argument that the report was not "derived from the actual observation of the author of the document". This indeed is equivocation. The Operational Report was made up from accounts sent in by Einsatzgruppe B, accounts controlled by Naumann himself. In his affidavit of June 27, 1947 Naumann declared:

"The Einsatzgruppe B reported regularly on the events within its scope to the Reich Main Security Office. Written reports were sent to Berlin every three weeks and only small matters such as changes of location, transfers and the like were transmitted by radio. The reports were prepared by my staff and submitted to me as a matter of routine."

After his attack on the reliability of the report Defense Counsel states:

"It is in no way intended to disclaim the assertion that executions were carried out by the Einsatz and Sonderkommandos subordinate to the Einsatzgruppe while Naumann was Chief of Einsatzgruppe B."

But he states that perhaps the report erred because the number of executions appeared "much too high". In other words Dr. Gawlick claims that the numbers are incredible. To say that these figures are incredible is an entirely credible and sane observation. This whole case is incredible. This is a case where the incredible has become the norm. It is not necessary to look at the reports to be shocked with incredulity. Many of the defendants themselves


made statements on the incredulous things which they did.

Naumann asserts that he did not transmit the Fuehrer-Order but that it was in effect when he arrived. From this he seems to argue an absence of guilt. But Naumann had the power of command:

"The law of war imposes on a military officer in a position of command an affirmative duty to take such steps as are within his power and appropriate to the circumstances to control those under his command for the prevention of acts which are violations of the law of war." (Judgment Military Tribunal I, Case No. I, The United States of America against Karl Brandt et al, page 70)

Naumann met from time to time with his kommando leaders. He knew that they were giving full effect to the Fuehrer-Order. He knew that executions were taking place and even stated that if any of his subordinates had refused to carry out the order he would have taken disciplinary action against them.

Then it is to be noted from Naumann's own testimony that he knew of the liquidation order even before he took command of the Einsatzgruppe. He testified:

".....I was ordered to Heydrich and I received clear orders from him for Russia. Now, first of all, I received the Fuehrer-Order concerning the killing of Jews, Gypsies and Soviet officials...."

The Tribunal finds as a fact from all the evidence in the case that Naumann was aware of the Fuehrer-Order and that he carried it into effect. The only defense left him is that of the so-called Superior Orders. Did he agree with the order or not? If he did not and thus was compelled by chain of command and fear of drastic consequences to kill innocent human beings, the avenue of mitigation is open for consideration. If, however, he agreed with the order, he may not, as already demonstrated in the General Opinion, plead Superior Orders. The answer to this question can be found in his own testimony.

On October 17th, 1947, he was asked on the witness stand if he saw anything morally wrong about the Fuehrer-Order, and he replied in the negative. He was asked again the same question, and


he replied specifically:

" considered the decree to be right because it was part of our aim of the war and, therefore, it was necessary."

So that there should be no doubt about his position, the Tribunal inquired if Naumann intended by his answer to say that he "saw nothing wrong with the order, even though it did involve the killing of defenseless human beings" and he replied "yes".

The Tribunal finds from all the evidence in the case that the defendant is guilty under Counts I and II of the Indictment.

The Tribunal finds also that the defendant was a member of the criminal organizations SS and SD under the conditions defined by the Judgment of the International Military Tribunal and is, therefore, guilty under Count III of the Indictment.


Musmanno, Michael A., U.S.N.R, Military Tribunal II, Case 9: Opinion and Judgment of the Tribunal. Nuremberg: Palace of Justice. 8 April 1948. pp. 137 - 141 (original mimeographed copy)

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Ken Lewis
April 7, 1998
Rev. 1.1