Zvi Gitelmann "Bitter Legacy"

August 1 to 14  S.100

By December 1941 EK 3 listed 133,346 persons, the overwhelming majority of them Jews, as having fallen before the guns of its mixed killing squads. Some feil to the roaming Kommandos, great numbers to the stationary Schuma battalions at Kaunas and the “Special Detachment” at Vilnius, which was re­inforced by local Schutzmannschaft units when deployed for major actions. Three thousand and fifty victims feil to EK 3 across the border in Belorussia. Including the victims of the partisans (which he understated as a total of 4,000), Jager claimed 137,346 victims, murders committed with a force of 139 Germans, including secretaries and office workers.

The huge death toll registered by Einsatzkommando 3 in 1941 cannot be at- tributed to fabled German efficiency or the skili and dedication of Jager’s SiPo and SD men, including in their efforts the occasional assistance of various German reserve police battalions. Instead, Jager’s “achievement” has to be considered largely as a triumph of managing the Lithuanian Schutzmann­schaft forces (some 8,000 men by the end of 1941) and the Lithuanian police, without whom this deadly work would not have been remotely possible.

The role of the local police forces in facilitating the process is illuminated by documents from the Lithuanian State Archives. The head of the uniformed police, Vladas Reivytis, sent out identical Orders to almost every police Station in central Lithuania. These Orders were issued in such quantity that, rather than being individually typed they were run off as mimeographed forms, with blanks spaces left for the names of the affected localities. In each, the local police chief was instructed to round up all the Jews in the town and to either hold them there or to movė them to a nearby collection point. When the requisite number of Jews had been assembled, Reivytis would send a communication to Hamann informing him that so-and-so many Jews had been locked up at a given place, under conditions which presented the danger of the “outbreak of infectious disease.” Hamann would then dispatch his flying squad to that place and conduct the Aktion.11


The utility of the Lithuanian units in mass killing was recognized and employed elsewhere. At the beginning of October 1941, the 2nd Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft Battalion, formed at Kaunas, accompanied the llth German Reserve Police Battalion to Minsk. At numerous locales in Western Belorussia this unit helped kill some 17,000 Jews, Red Army prisoners, and others in the span of two months. Other Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft units served in the Bandenbekampfung (antipartisan combat) units under operational command of the SS. Many such units acquired a reputation for their propensity to commit atrocities against civilian populations. One Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft bat­talion was sent to the concentration camp at Majdanek, where it formed a major part of the guard contingent; when its Stint was completed there, it was replaced by another Lithuanian battalion.

One can only speculate as to the motivations of the collaborators. In some cases personal greed clearly played a role, the executioners robbing the corpses and property of the victims. In others, especially the adherents of the Iron Wolf, there was an ideological commitment as deep as that of the Nazis to the elimination of the Jews. Regardless, enough willing hands were found to make | possible acts which the Nazis themselves, due to the paucity of their numbers, could never have accomplished. Jager’s (and the other Baltic Einsatzkommando leaders’) contribution lay in the observation, manipulation, Stimulation, and management of these destructive powers.