Lutheran University , Tacoma,
The report reproduced here with the permission of Christopher
introduced in the course of a libel trial brought by David Irving, which
was held in London in 2000. David Irving, who has
written extensively on Third Reich history2,
entered the suit
against the American scholar Deborah E Lipstadt, author, and Penguin
Books, publisher, of Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on
Truth and Memory, 1993. In that publication Lipstadt had made
the claim that David Irving was a Holocaust denier. Christopher
Browning's submission was one among a number3
of important reports submitted at the trial. The case was lost by the
plaintiff. Further background information is available at the Holocaust
Denial on Trial Web site.
to give historical evidence:
I am a Professor of History at Pacific Lutheran University in
Tacoma, Washington, where I have taught since 1974.
Beginning the the fall semester of 1999, I will take up a new
position as the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the
University of North Carolina--Chapel Hill.
I received my B.A. in History from Oberlin Colege in 1967, and
my M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern European History from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison in 1968 and 1975 respectively.
My scholarly career has been devoted to the study of National
Socialist Germany and the Holocaust.
I have published four books in this field:
The Final Solution and the German Foreign Office (New
York: Holmes & Meier, 1978);
Fateful Months: Essays
on the Emergence of the Final Solution (New York: Holmes and
Meier, 1985; revised and expanded edition, 1991);
Ordinary Men: Reserve
Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York:
HarperCollins, 1992), with translations in German, Dutch,
French, Italian, and Swedish; and The Path to Genocide (New
University Press, 1992), with translations in German and Italian.
In addition I have published more than thirty-five articles and
delivered my than thirty-five scholarly papers in the field.
In early 1999 I delivered the George Macaulay Treveylan
Lectures at Cambridge University.
I have been engaged as an expert witness for five cases
involving accusations of "war crimes" under the Nazi regime:
the Wagner case in Australia, the Grujicic and Kisluk cases in
Canada, and the Serafimovich and Sawoniuk cases in the United Kingdom.
II. Purpose of the Expert Opinion Report
I have been asked to write a report the addresses the following
is the documentary evidence concerning the implementation of a policy
to kill the Jews on German-occupied Soviet territory through shooting.
is the state of evidence concerning the implementation of a policy to
kill Jews by means of gas in camps other than Auschwitz, and
particularly in the camps of Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka.
is the state of evidence concerning the emergence and existence of an
overall plan of the Nazi regime to kill the Jews of Europe.
is the state of evidence concerning the importance and purpose of the
is the state of evidence concerning the naming and purpose of
of the Final Solution
The Nazi regime implemented the Final Solution or mass murder
of the European Jews caught within its empire primarily by two
methods--shooting and gassing. In
the territories occupied by Germany after June 22, 1941 (with the
exception of the district of Bialystok and partial exception of the
district of Galicia), shooting was the most common method employed to
kill Jews. The Jews of
central and western Poland i.e. the Polish territory held by Germany
since September 1939, and those deported from all over Europe to
Poland during the war for the most part perished in the gas chambers
of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, and the gas
vans of Chelmno.
The evidence for these killing operations is of four types used
commonly by scholars in the writing of history and judicial
authorities in the conducting of trials:
1) contemporary documentation;
2) witness testimony recorded later (from survivors,
perpetrators, and bystanders); 3) material evidence; and 4)
circumstantial evidence. Because
the Nazi regime sought to destroy not only the Jews of Europe but also
the documentary evidence and material evidence (i.e. the mass graves
and death camps), the evidence with which scholars and judicial
authorities can work is both less than complete and not symmetrical
for the two killing methods. In
particular, the documentation of mass killing by shooting in the
territories occupied by Germany after June 1941 is quite extensive,
while documents relating to gassing in Poland is scant.
For gassing, therefore, witness testimony and circumstantial
evidence play a much larger role.
for Systematic Mass Killing of Jews by Shooting:
Prior to the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Reinhard
Heydrich (Himmler's deputy and Chief of the Security Police and
Security Service) assembled four mobile SS units known as Einsatzgruppen.
They were designated A, B, C, and D for the Baltic, Central,
Southern, and Romanian fronts respectively.
The four Einsatzgruppen were in turn divided into
smaller units referred to as Einsatzkommandos and Sonderkommandos.
By agreement with the German army, these SS units were
permitted to move forward with the advancing German military and
operate up to the front lines.
In the rear areas police functions were exercised by the Order
Police, which included rural police stations of the Gendarmerie,
urban police stations of the Schutzpolizei, mobile Police
Battalions, and growing auxiliary police units composed of native
recruits working on behalf of the Germans called Schutzmannschaften.
Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS and Chief of German
Police, also designated three Higher SS and Police Leaders (North,
Central, and South) to coordinate all joint police activities behind
By far the richest collection of surviving documents relevant
to the systematic mass murder of Jews through shooting are the reports
from the Einsatzgruppen recorded in the so-called Ereignismeldungen
or Event Reports compiled by Heydrich's staff in Berlin.
One hundred and ninety-five Event Reports were compiled between
June 23, 1941, and April 24, 1942.
Eleven "Activity and Situation Reports (Tätigkeits- und
Lageberichte) of the Einsatzgruppen of the Security Police and
SD in the USSR" were also compiled by Heydrich's staff between
July 31, 1941, and March 31, 1942.
These Activity and Situation Reports summarized the contents of
the Event Reports (bi-monthly for August and September 1941 and
otherwise monthly) and were widely circulated throughout the German
Three other reports originating from the Einsatzgruppen
(two by the commander of Einsatzgruppe A, Franz Stahlecker,
and one by his subordinate, the commander of Einsatzkommando 3,
as well as a series of orders from Heydrich are also significant.
One reason for this extensive reporting from the Einsatzgruppen
and its systematic compilation in Berlin is revealed by a message from
Heinrich Müller, the head of the Gestapo within Heydrich's Security
Police, to the four Einsatzgruppen on August 1, 1941.
"The Führer is to be kept informed continually from here
about the work of the Einsatzgruppen in the East."
These collections of Einsatzgruppen documents certainly
constitute the primary though not the only documentary sources for the
killing operations into the spring of 1942.
Thereafter, for contemporary written records, the historian is
dependent upon a mixed collection of German documents originating from
a number of sources, such as the Higher SS and Police, the civil
administration of the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern
Territories, the mobile Police Battalions, the Gendarmerie
stations, and the military.
This report will not attempt a complete history of the
destruction of Soviet Jewry as reflected in these German documents.
Rather it will focus on four issues:
1) the scale of killing; 2) the steady escalation of the
categories of Jews targeted for execution;
3) the use of open and camouflage language in the documents;
and 4) the implications for our wider understanding of Nazi Jewish
policy and the Final Solution.
The various reports and documents are incomplete concerning the
total number of Jews and others executed by various German and
collaborator units on occupied Soviet territory.
Nonetheless, if one simply adds the summary numbers contained
in the surviving documents, even the partial total gives a sense of
the scale on which the killing was carried out.
2 reported having shot 34,193 people by February 2, 1942.
3 reported having killed 133,346 people by November 25, 1941.
B reported on November 14, 1941, that its "total number" (Gesamtzahl)
of "liquidations" (Liquidierungen) had reached 45,467.
4a reported having shot 59,018 people as of November 40, 1941, and
5 reported having shot 36,147 people as of December 7, 1941.
D reported having shot 91,678 people as of April 8, 1942.
These cumulative totals do not distinguish between Jewish and
non-Jewish victims. The
Jäger Report (summarizing the activities of Einsatzkommando 3 in
Lithuania up to December 1941), however, does identify all its
victims, of which only 2,042 or barely 1.5% were non-Jewish (mostly
identified as communist functionaries or mentally-ill).
Einsatzgruppe D did not make this distinction in its
cumulative totals, but it often did in its bi-weekly reports.
For instance, on November 5, 1941, it reported killing 11,037
Jews and 31 communist officials in the previous two weeks.
For the period November 16-December 15, 1941, it reported
executing 17,645 Jews, 2,504 Krimchaks (categorized racially as Jews),
824 Gypsies, and 212 communists.
For the last two weeks of December 1941, it reported shooting
3,176 Jews, 85 partisans, 12 looters, and 122 communists.
For the first two weeks of January 1942, it reported a rare
reversal, in which 1,639 communists and partisans were reported shot
along with 685 Jews.
For the latter half of January, it reported shooting 3,286
Jews, 152 communists, 84 partisans, and 79 looters and saboteurs, and
By the estimate of Einsatzgruppe C in late October, it
had "liquidated" (liquidiert) some 80,000 people, of which
75,000 were Jews.
Sonderkommando 4a conceded that "the total
number...of those executed included, in addition to a relatively small
number of political functionaries, active communists, people guilty of
sabotage, etc., above all Jews...."
Einsatzkommando 5 occasionally offered specific
breakdowns of its victims as well. For instance, for the period November 2-18, 1941, it shot
10,650 Jews, 15 political officials, 21 saboteurs and looters, and 414
For the week of November 23-30, 1941, it reported shooting
2,615 Jews, 64 political functionaries, and 46 saboteurs and looters.
And for the following week it reported shooting 1,471 Jews, 60
political functionaries, and 47 saboteurs and looters.
In short, there is compelling evidence to conclude that the
overwhelming majority of the people reported executed by the Einsatzgruppen
were in fact Jews.
In addition to giving figures for the four Einsatzgruppen
themselves, the Event Reports occasionally record killings by other
units as well, though in a much less complete fashion.
For example, a police unit operating on Soviet territory just
over the border from the town of Tilsit in East Prussia was credited
with liquidating 3,302 persons in the first weeks after the invasion.
An additional Einsatzgruppe "for special
purposes" operated in the areas immediately across the
demarcation line in Belarus and the Ukraine once the original four Einsatzgruppen
had moved further east. For
the last ten days of July, this unit was credited with 3,947
For several periods in August, it was credited with an
additional 12,652 killings.
The Higher SS and Police Leader South, Friedrich Jeckeln, was
reported to have killed 44,125 persons, "mostly Jews," in
(meist Juden) He was subsequently credited with 10,000 Jews in
Dniepropetrovsk and 15,000 Jews in Rowno (the latter with help from EK
Transferred to become Higher SS and Police Leader North in
November 1941, the same Jeckeln was credited with reducing the Jewish
population of Riga from 29,500 to 2,600 in late 1941.
For the period beyond the spring of 1942, other documents
provide a glimpse of continued killing of Jews on a massive scale.
On July 31, 1942, the head of the civil administration in
western Belarus, Wilhelm Kube, reported from Minsk that in the
previous ten weeks some 55,000 Jews had been killed in his district.
On December 26, 1942, the Higher SS and Police Leader for South
Russia, the Ukraine, and the Northeast submitted a report on the
campaign against the partisans for the three-month period from
September 1 to December 1, 1942.
Three days later, on December 29, 1942, the report was retyped
in the so-called Führer-type (especially large type that Hitler could
read without his glasses) and retitled:
Reports to the Führer on combatting partisans.
Report No. 51.
Russia South, Ukraine, Bialystok.
Results of the antipartisan campaign from 1.9. to
The report was signed by Heinrich Himmler.
On the top of the front page was the initialed hand-written
report noted for August, September, October, and November in the
category of "bandits" a total of 1,337 killed in battle, 737
executed immediately after battle, and 7,828 executed after
interrogation. In the
category of "accomplices and suspects," the report had two
sub-categories: on a line for "executed," it listed 14,256.
On a separate line for "Jews executed," it listed
Why would Himmler include the killing of 363,211 Jews in a
report to Hitler on anti-partisan warfare?
According to Himmler's appointment book, on December 18, 1941,
he and Hitler had discussed the "Jewish question."
The result of their conversation was noted succinctly: "to be annihilated as partisans."
(Als Partisanen auszurotten)
In short, annihilating Jews and solving the so-called
"Jewish question" under the cover of killing partisans was
the agreed-upon convention between Hitler and Himmler.
1 Among his most
important publications on the Holocaust are: The Final Solution and
the German Foreign Office (1978), Fateful Months: Essays on the
Emergence of the Final Solution (1985); Ordinary Men: Reserve
Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (1992), The
Path to Genocide (1992).