A compilation of Nazi crimes by witnesses, victims, historians and perpetrators taken from hundreds of sources.

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​“The ghettos were dissolved in 1943 at the latest.  Of course, many died before it came to that, including my grandparents who were both 80 years old.  After being unloaded in Lublin, all of them were forced to run.  Naturally there was no way my 80-year-old grandmother could keep up and they beat her until she couldn’t get up anymore.  She was the first to die.  My grandfather died of natural causes the very next night.”

VOICES FROM THE THIRD REICH
Steinhoff, Pechel and Showalter

 

Has anyone ever confessed to you or to one of your fellow priests any atrocities they took part in during the extermination process?

“No, I can’t think of anyone…though yes, there was one situation, though I’m not sure it’s exactly what you’re looking for. A man came to me shortly before he died. In his confession he told me that in all the years since it had happened, the brown eyes of a six-year-old girl had given him no peace. He had been in the Wehrmacht, he was serving in Warsaw at the time of the uprising in the ghetto. They had been ordered to clear out the bunkers, and one morning a six-year-old girl came running towards him out of one of these bunkers, her arms outstretched. He still remembered the look in her eyes, terrified and full of trust at the same time. Then his NCO ordered him to bayonet her, which he did. He killed her. But the look in her eyes haunted him for the rest of his life.”

MY FATHER’S KEEPER
Stephan and Norbert Lebert

 

“When on the way we stayed in a barn for the night, a large number of dead women lay in the barn. One woman screamed that she was freezing. This SS man ordered the woman to lie down on the corpses, saying, “Now you will be warm.” He beat the victim so long until she expired.”

HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

 

In Daugavpils, the second-largest city in Latvia, southeast of Riga and approximately equidistant from Riga, Kaunas and Minsk, Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann of Einsatzkommando 3 directed massacres during August 1941that ended more than nine thousand lives…Among the murdered were four hundred children from a Daugavpils orphanage trucked to a military training ground and shot. At a dinner party later in the war, Viktors Arajs would explain why his experienced killers often threw children up into the air to shoot them: not because of a boyish exuberance, he said, but because the bullets often passed completely through the children’s bodies, so that shooting children on the floor or the street risked dangerous ricochets.

MASTERS OF DEATH
Richard Rhodes

 

“Do you know what it means – to kill Jews, men, women, and children as they stand in a semicircle around the machine guns? I belonged to what is called an Einsatzkommando, an extermination squad – so I know. What do you say when I tell that a little boy, no older than my youngest brother, before such a killing, stood there to attention and asked me ‘Do I stand straight enough, Uncle?’ Yes, he asked that of me; and once, when the circle stood round us, an old man stepped out of the ranks, he had long hair and a beard, a priest of some sort I suppose. Anyway, he came towards us slowly across the grass, slowly step by step, and within a few feet of the guns he stopped and looked at us one after another, a straight, deep, dark and terrible look. ‘My children,’ he said, ‘God is watching what you do.’ He turned from us then, and someone shot him in the back before he had gone more than a few steps.”

WHEN I WAS A GERMAN
Christabel Bielenberg

 

“I went out to the woods alone. The Wehrmacht had already dug a grave. The children were brought along in a tractor [-drawn wagon]. I had nothing to do with this technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing round trembling. The children were taken down from the tractor. They were lined up along the top of the grave and shot so that they fell into it. The Ukrainians did not aim at any particular part of the body. They fell into the grave. The wailing was indescribable. I shall never forget the scene throughout my life. I find it very hard to bear. I particularly remember a small fair-haired girl who took me by the hand. She too was shot later…The grave was near some woods. It was not near the firing range. The execution must have taken place in the afternoon at about three-thirty or four… many children were hit four or five times before they died.”

MASTERS OF DEATH
By Richard Rhodes

 

On a spur off the main rail line to Munich they stumbled on thirty-nine stationary boxcars. Usually they were used for transporting coal. As they neared, they were overwhelmed by the stench of death. All the cars were piled high with rotting human corpses. In total, they contained the bodies of some 2,300 men, women and children. All were either totally naked or clad in their striped blue-and-white concentration camp clothes smeared with blood and excrement. Most had starved to death while being transported from Buchenwald nearly three weeks before. The train had reached the siding only two days prior to the arrival of the Americans, and the few prisoners who had survived the journey had been shot or clubbed to death by the SS.

ENDGAME, 1945
By David Stafford

 

After entering Bialystock on the twenty-seventh of June, a city which the Germans had captured, like many others, without a fight, the battalion commander, Major Ernst Weis, ordered his men to round up male Jews by combing through Jewish residential areas. Although the purpose of congregating the Jews was to kill them, instructions about the manner in which the Germans would extinguish their lives were not given at that time. The entire battalion participated in the ensuing roundup, which itself proceeded with great brutality and wanton murderousness. These Germans could finally unleash themselves without restraint upon the Jews. One Jew recalls that “the unit had barely driven into the city when the soldiers swarmed out and, without any sensible cause, shot up the entire city, apparently also in order to frighten the people. The incessant shooting was utterly horrible. They shot blindly, in fact, into houses and windows, without regard for whether they hit anyone. The shooting lasted the entire day.” The Germans of this battalion broke into people’s homes who had not lifted a finger in hostility, dragged them out, kicked them, beat them with their rifle butts, and shot them. The streets were strewn with corpses.

HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

 

One witness claimed she had heard prisoners screaming in the punishment cells [at Auschwitz]. These ‘standing cells’ (height: 2 meters; Size: 50 by cm; air vent: 5 by 8 cm) guaranteed a slow death through starvation and lack of air. The bodies of the dead had to be scraped out of the cells with iron pitchforks. Some of the victims had eaten their own fingers.

THE WAGES OF GUILT
By Ian Buruma

 

In 1940, a visitor to the Warsaw ghetto offered the following description of living conditions there: “On the streets children are crying in vain, children who are dying of hunger. They howl, beg, sing, moan, shiver with cold, without underwear, without clothing, without shoes, in rags, sacks, flannel which are bound in strips round the emaciated skeletons, children swollen with hunger, disfigured, half conscious, already completely grown up at the age of five, gloomy and weary of life. They are like old people and are only conscious of one thing: ‘I’m cold.’ ‘I’m hungry.’”

THE HOLOCAUST: A CONCISE HISTORY
By Doris L. Bergen

 

Five-year-old Avram Rosenthal and two-year-old Emanuel Rosenthal in the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania, before their deportation and murder.

 

“The stunning thing about the Bucharest bloodbath,” Sebastian recorded a few days after the events, “is the quite bestial ferocity of it…It is now considered absolutely certain that the Jews butchered at Straulesti abbatoir were hanged by the neck on hooks normally used for beef carcasses. A sheet of paper was stuck to each corpse: ‘Kosher Meat.’ As for those killed in Jilava forest, they were first undressed (it would have been a pity for clothes to remain there), then shot and thrown on top of one another.”

NAZI GERMANY AND THE JEWS 1933-1945
By Saul Friedlander

 

One morning, the guards asked all educated Jews [at the Minsk ghetto] – engineers, doctors, accountants – to register for work. Two days later, they were pulled out of the camp and shot. The Jews starved on nettles and potato peels, and lived in terror. “Suddenly, the Gestapo swoop down on the ghetto in trucks and began seizing men,” wrote Mikhail Grichanik, a tailor who worked at a garment factory in Minsk and spent several months in the ghetto before escaping; the Nazis executed his mother, his wife, his three children, and three other relatives. “They go into apartments, beat people with rubber truncheons and lead them out under the guise of sending them off to work: to the peat bogs and such places. No one ever saw any of those taken away alive again.” In September, the patriarch of the Kovarsky family reportedly watched, hidden with one of his sons, while the police stormed into his home and murdered his other two boys, both of his daughters, and their grandmother. The oldest girl was first ordered to take off her clothes and dance for them on the table.

THE DEVIL’S DIARY
By Robert K. Wittman & David Kinney

 

“I then set out with a friend, and with my own eyes saw how the people were slaughtered; in two days, 25,000 men, women, and children and in the most beastly way. I saw how they had to undress in front of the tank traps and many other things.  And the absolute worst thing I saw was how this man took a screaming baby and beat it headfirst against a wall until it was dead.”

WHAT WE KNEW
By Eric A. Johnson and Karl-Heinz Reuband

 

There was, he said, “every imaginable kind of beating, immersion in bathtubs, squeezing of testicles, hanging, crushing of the head in iron bands, and the torturing of entire families in each other’s sight. I have, in particular, seen a wife tortured before her husband; and children tortured before their mothers.”

THE NUREMBERG TRIALS: THE NAZIS BROUGHT TO JUSTICE
By Alexander MacDonald

 

In late October, one company from the Twelfth SS Totenkopfstandarte occupied the town of Owinsk and began the systemic liquidation of the patients in the large psychiatric hospital there. The mentally ill were hauled away from the hospital in truckloads of fifty and shot by SSTV soldiers in groups on the edge of a mass grave. In less than a month, one company of Totenkopf soldiers murdered over 1,000 innocent, helplessly ill men and women.

SOLDIERS OF DESTRUCTION
By Charles W Sydnor, Jr.

 

Two weeks after entering the camp [Bergen-Belsen], the British Army’s medical services were still so overburdened that they called desperately on the help of ninety-six medical students from London…One student left a vivid account of his hut: “It was full of the most emaciated people I have ever seen in my life. There was supposed to be a loo at the far end but they couldn’t get up to go to it. [The hut] was almost up to the top of one’s boots in excreta. One just stumped about in it. People by now were too weak to use [the toilet] and were just lying in their own feces and urine which dripped down from one bunk to the next.” Another student captured a singular moment of horror: “I was standing aghast in the midst of all this filth, trying to get used to the smell which was a mixture of post-mortem room, a sewer, sweat, and foul pus, when I heard a scrabbling on the floor. I looked down in the half light and saw a woman crouching at my feet. She had black matted hair, well-populated [by lice] and her ribs stood out as though there was nothing between them, her arms were so thin that they were horrible. She was defecating, but she was so weak that she could not lift her buttocks from the floor and, as she had diarrhea, the liquid yellow stools bubbled over her thighs.”

ENDGAME, 1945
By David Stafford

 

​So then came the Children’s Hour [their parents had been deported, probably to Auschwitz]. It was decided in the next few days to transfer three thousand, ranging in age from two to twelve (older ones had already been deported) from Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande to Drancy [France]. The buses began arriving at Drancy on August 15, their engines grinding, raising clouds of dust in the courtyard. The children got off the buses and stood there, bewildered. They looked around and saw barbed wire and uniformed guards. They were hostages to the gods of darkness, but where was the God of children? He was not in strict attendance.

In the courtyard, silent and confused, children four and five years old picked through the rows of bags, looking for their baluchon (bundle). The youngest ones did not know their names. One of them said: “I am Pierre’s little brother.” Some of them had cardboard name tags around their necks, but more often they had lost their tags, or the rain had washed out the names. Many were barefoot. Physically, they were in a pitiful state, undernourished and covered with vermin and open sores. Mentally, they were in a state for which childhood does not prepare one. What does a child, who feels life in every limb and breath, know of death?

Drancy was not equipped to receive large numbers of children. They were kept in what was called the escalier de depart (departure stairway), where they slept in large barrackslike rooms, one hundred to a room, on straw mattresses on the floor. Many got diarrhea from the cabbage soup that was served at every meal. It was useless to wash their clothes or their mattresses, for a few hours later they would be soiled again. There were pails on the landing, as there would be pails in the cattle cars. And they waited. And they wept at night. On the day of departure, the children were awakened at five and dressed in the semidarkness. Some refused to move. They lay on the damp straw crying. The gendarmes, who had to carry them downstairs past the overflowing pails, were unnerved. They heard a four-year-old boy addressing his absent mother, repeating, “Maman, je vais avoir peur” (“Mommy, I am going to be afraid”).  The children lined up in the courtyard, where bus engines were already running. It was still dark enough that the camp searchlights were on. Some children were pulling suitcases that seemed bigger than they were, and some were carrying bags made from bed sheets, and some were holding dolls and teddy bears, and it took two and a half hours to process them on the buses…Seven trains with children together with adults left Drancy on August 17, 19, 21, 24, 26, 28, and 31. Their progress from then on is painful to record…Children in the freight cars – like the subway at rush hour – for three days, in a closed and windowless car in the heat of August, with the stink, the lack of air, and the difficulty of relieving oneself. Those who survived the trip arrived ill and dehydrated at Auschwitz and were taken at once to the gas chambers. Not one survived. And some of those children were two years old. And they had been escorted to the border by French police, in the land of Voltaire and The Rights of Man.

AN UNCERTAIN HOUR
By Ted Morgan

 

“On this day, over 5,000 Jews from the ghetto of Peresika were massacred. Among them was our whole family from Karelitz: my grandmother Gitel Gurevitz, my uncle Yosef Gurevitz, his wife Breine Feigel and their daughters Nachama and Hassia (as mentioned earlier, their eldest daughter Rachel whose name today is Rachel Konigsberg was sent to her uncle in England), and my aunt Malke Kapushevski with her little son Nahum. My cousin Srolik Sucharski who worked at the military barracks didn’t join us at the court-house. He was killed at the barracks while trying to escape.”

SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST WITH THE RUSSIAN JEWISH PARTISANS
By Jack Kagan and Dov Cohen

 

A Jewish person helping another Jewish person to evade justice constituted a very serious offense …On 6 November 1942, the Gestapo suddenly decided that Helene Krabs should be transported to the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland. Paul Krabs begged the Gestapo for mercy on behalf of his wife in two letters in early December 1942. In one letter he writes, “My wife was only acting in a compassionate manner. She simply felt a loyalty to her relative. It was an impossible situation for her. I beg for mercy on her behalf.” The Gestapo refused to change its decision. On 10 December 1942, the Gestapo reported that Helene Krabs had been sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Rudolf Hoss, the camp commandant, was informed about her pregnant state.  On 3 January 1943, Helene Krabs was murdered, along with her unborn child, in Auschwitz.

THE GESTAPO: THE MYTH AND REALITY OF HITLER’S SECRET POLICE
By Frank McDonough

 

“On the concrete forecourt of the petrol station a blond man of medium height, aged about twenty-five, stood leaning on a wooden club, resting. The club was as thick as his arm and came up to his chest. At his feet lay about fifteen to twenty dead or dying people. Water flowed continuously from a hose washing blood away into the drainage gully. Just a few steps behind this man some twenty men, guarded by armed civilians, stood waiting for their cruel execution in silent submission. In response to a cursory wave the next man stepped forward silently and was then beaten to death with the wooden club in the most bestial manner, each blow accompanied by enthusiastic shouts from the audience.”

“THE GOOD OLD DAYS”
By Ernst Klee, Willi Dressen, and Volker Riess

 

Jewish women from the Misotch ghetto (Ukraine) forced to undress before being executed. Notice the small children and infants in their mother’s arms. These babies were shot along with their mother’s.

At the collection point I could see many acquaintances from Radzyn. I also saw my child with her aunt and uncle. Apparently all Jews had been caught during the raid. The ghetto was to be destroyed and all the Jews liquidated. Terrible scenes took place. Most people sat there apathetically for hours, others had already been shot. Children cried; mothers who tried to console them, thereby attracting attention, were worked over with rifle butts.

As we lined up in rows of five, the Nazis noticed that some children without parents remained in the marketplace. They were probably lost in the chaos or their parents had been shot. The SS men would hold their pistols against the children’s necks and fire.

Many Jews grasped each other’s hands tightly so as not to be lost. There were men and women, sisters and brothers, friends, lovers, sons and daughters who did not want to leave their feeble parents in their hour of need. Small children in the arms of their mothers, who clasped them to their chests. One often heard muted crying, then shots and silence.

In great disarray, accompanied by shouted commands, we were beaten and shoved by rifle butts into waiting cattle cars. Families and friends were mercilessly torn from each other. Those who managed to stay together felt like they had won. Dogs were let loose to bite us and tear our clothing to shreds.

THE DEAD YEARS: HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS
By Joseph Schupack

 

Five thousand more Jews were forced on to two trains and deported to the south. Crammed on board sealed freight trucks, the Jews found it hard to breath, and the Romanian guards refused to let them drink any water. After several days their thirst was all but unbearable. Nathan Goldstein, a Jew from Iasi, witnessed what happened when his train stopped near a river: “An eleven-year-old child jumped out the window to get a drink of water, but the [deputy of the train’s commander] felled him with a shot aimed at his legs. The child screamed, ‘Water, water!’ Then the adjutant took him by his feet, shouting, ‘You want water? Well, drink all you want!’, lowered him head-first into the water of the Bahlui River until the child drowned, and then threw him in.”

THE HOLOCAUST: A NEW HISTORY
By Laurence Rees

 

The men of Police Battalion 309’s First and Third Companies [at Bialystok] drove their victims into the synagogue, the less compliant Jews receiving from the Germans liberal blows of encouragement. The Germans packed the large synagogue full. The fearful Jews began to chant and pray loudly. After spreading gasoline around the building, the Germans set it ablaze; one of the men tossed an explosive through a window, to ignite the holocaust. The Jews’ prayers turned into screams. A battalion member later described the scene that he witnessed: “I saw…smoke, that came out of the synagogue and heard there how the incarcerated people cried loudly for help. I was about 70 meters’ distance from the synagogue. I could see the building and observed that people tried to escape through the windows. One shot at them. Circling the synagogue stood the police members who were apparently supposed to cordon it off, in order to ensure that no one emerged.” Between 100 and 150 men of the battalion surrounded the burning synagogue. They collectively ensured that none of the appointed Jews escaped the inferno. They watched as over seven hundred people died this hideous and painful death, listening to screams of agony. Most of the victims were men, though some women and children were among them. Not surprisingly, some of the Jews within spared themselves the fiery death by hanging themselves or severing their arteries. At least six Jews came running out of the synagogue, their clothes and bodies aflame. The Germans shot each one, only to watch these human torches burn themselves out.

HITLER’S WILLING EXECUTIONERS
By Daniel Jonah Goldhagen

 

There had been many Jews among the sixty-five thousand men, women, and children who died in the camp. Buchenwald was not a death camp, like Auschwitz or Treblinka, specifically designed to annihilate the Jews. Prisoners at Buchenwald were worked to death or they died of disease, hunger, torture, and executions. All prisoners were treated horribly, but according to the most accounts, the Jews were treated worst of all.

THE WAGES OF GUILT
By Ian Buruma

 

For Victor Klemperer, professor of French literature in Dresden, routinization of Nazi rule meant an ever-tightening trap. The university dismissed Klemperer in 1935…One insult and deprivation followed another. Klemperer was forbidden to publish. He lost borrowing privileges at the library, and eventually library staff refused even to let him use the reading room. Over the years Nazi regulations robbed Klemperer of his car, his house, his driver’s license, even his pets.

THE HOLOCAUST: A CONCISE HISTORY
By Doris L. Bergen

 

“On March 31, they started searching for the handicapped and old people, and later several thousand young and healthy people were taken. We were hiding in the attic and through the window I saw the transports of Hungarian Jews…I saw children from the orphanage wrapped in bed sheets. The houses around the ghetto were on fire. I heard some shooting, crying children, mothers calling, and Germans breaking into the neighboring houses.”

SALVAGED PAGES: YOUNG WRITERS’ DIARIES OF THE HOLOCAUST
By Alexandra Zapruder

 

The final year of the war had brought a rapid deterioration in the condition of Thereisenstadt’s inmates. Already in the fall of 1943, Jakob Edelstein had been arrested for having helped some inmates to escape the camp and was sent to Auschwitz with his wife, Miriam, his son, Aryeh, and old Mrs. Olliner, Miriam’s mother. While Edelstein was kept in block 11 of the main camp, his family was kept detained in the ‘family camp’ in Birkenau. On June 20, 1944, they were all reunited in front of crematorium III and shot. Jakob was shot last, after he had witnessed the killing of his son, his wife, and his mother-in-law.

NAZI GERMANY AND THE JEWS 1933-1945
By Saul Friedlander

 

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