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The Massacres in Kovno

Reports and Eyewitness Accounts

Franz Walther Stahlecker


Franz Walther
Stahlecker

Franz Walther Stahlecker was born in Sternenfels, Austria on the 10


October 1900. He was trained as an administrative jurist, and he joined
the Nazi Party and the SS on the 1 May 1932. His SS number was
73041 and his NSDAP number was 1069130

He served in the police and in 1934 he became chief of the police in the Wurtemburg region. He
then transferred to the Sicherheitsdienst main office, and in 1938 he was appointed the head
of EinsatzgruppeWien during the annexation of Austria to the Reich.
In Vienna he was appointed head of the SD for the Danube district based in Vienna, where he
was Adolf Eichmanns superior and played a leading role in the Nisko project.
He was promoted to the rank of SS-Standartenfuhrer and became Head of the SD in the
Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, and was involved in the student demonstrations in
October 1939, in which the Germans opened fire and killed the
Czech student Jan Opletal.
In 1940 Stahlecker was sent to Norway to serve as Kommandeur
der Sicherheitspolizei (KdS). In 1941, prior to the Nazis invasion
Lithuanians cheer on the
of the Soviet Union, Stahlecker was among the Senior SS and
German entrance into Kovno
Police officers who met at Pretzsch on the Elbe, where Heydrich
outlined the role of theEinsatzgruppen in Russia.
Stahlecker, who had risen to a Brigadefuhrer was appointed as the commander
of Einsatzgruppen A, which was active in the Baltic States and the region west of Leningrad.
Einsatzgruppen A was one the bloodiest mobile killing squads, and Stahleckers reports to
Heydrich recording the number of Jewish men, women and children were presented at the
International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg after the Allies defeated the Germans.
He was fatally wounded on March 23, 1942 in a battle with Estonian partisans at
Krasnowardeisk, and he died on a hospital train. His body was taken back to Prague where
Reinhard Heydrich gave the funeral oration, which was held at Hradcany Castle.

Extracts from a Report of Einsatzgruppe A Covering the Period from 23 June 1941 to 15
October 1941
Report by Franz Walther Stahlecker to RSHA Berlin
Einsatzgruppe A after preparing their vehicles for action, proceeded to
their area of concentration as ordered on 23 June 1941, the second day of the
campaign in the East.
Order issued by
General Erich
Hoepner,
"Conduct of
Operations"
[click text for
translation]

Army Group North consisting of the 16th and 18th armies and Panzer Group 4
had begun their advance the day before. Our task was to hurriedly establish
personal contact with the commanders of the army of the rear area.

It must be stressed from the beginning that co-operation with the armed
forces was generally good, in some cases, for instance with Panzer Group 4
under General Hoepner, it was very close, almost cordial. Misunderstandings
which cropped up with some authorities in the first days were cleared up
mainly through personal discussions.
At the start of the eastern campaign it became obvious for the security police that its special
work had to be done not only in the rear areas, as was provided for in the original agreements
with the High Command of the Army, but also in the combat areas, and this for two reasons on
the one hand, the development of the rear area of the armies was delayed because of the quick
advance and on the other hand, the undermining Communist activities and the fight against
partisans took place mainly within the areas of actual warfare, especially when the Luga sector
was reached.
To carry out security police tasks, it was desirable to enter into the larger towns together with the
armed forces. We had our first experiences in this direction when a small
advance Kommando under my leadership entered Kovno together with the advance units of the
armed forces on 25 June 1941.
When the other larger towns, especially Lepaya, Yelgava, Riga, Tartu, Tallin
and the larger suburbs of Leningrad were captured, a Kommando of the
Security Police was always with the first army units.

Franz Walther
Stahlecker (fron
t view)

Above all, Communist functionaries and Communist documentary material had


to be seized, and the armed forces themselves had to be safeguarded against surprise attacks
inside the towns, the troops themselves were usually not able to take care of that because of their
small numbers.
For this purpose the Security Police, immediately after capture, formed volunteer detachments of
reliable inhabitants of all three Baltic provinces who carried out their duties successfully under
our command.

As an example it may be mentioned that the armed forces suffered considerable losses through
guerrillas in Riga, on the left of the Dvina River: on the right bank of the Dvina River, however,
after these volunteer detachments had been organized in Riga, not a single soldier was injured,
although members of these Latvian detachments were killed and wounded in fighting against
dispersed Russians.
Similarly, native anti-Semetic forces were induced to start pogroms
against Jews during the first hours after capture, though this
inducement proved to be very difficult.
German soldiers humiliate
Following our orders, the Security Police was determined to solve
Jews in Kovno
the Jewish question with all possible means and determination most
decisively.
But it was desirable that the Security Police should not put in an immediate appearance, at least
in the beginning, since extraordinarily harsh measures were apt to still even German circles.
It had to be shown to the world that the native population itself took the first action by way of
natural reaction against the suppression by Jews during several decades and against the terror
exercised by the Communists during the preceding period.
Wilhelm Gunsilius - Report by a German Photographer
At the beginning of the Russian campaign on the morning of 22 June 1941 I was transferred
with my unit to Gumbinnen. We remained there until the following Tuesday, 24 June 1941. On
that Tuesday I was ordered to transfer from Gumbinnen to Kovno
with an advance party. I arrived there with the head of an army
unit on Wednesday morning (25 June 1941).
My assignment was to find quarters for the group following us.
My job was made substantially easier because we had already
pinpointed a number of blocks of houses for our unit on an aerial
photograph of Kovno that had been taken beforehand.

Imprisoned Jews, their hands


bound, being led through
Kovno by an armed
Lithuanians

There were no more significant clashes in the city. Close to my quarters I noticed a crowd of
people in the forecourt of a petrol station, which was surrounded by a wall on three sides. The
way to the road was completely blocked by a wall of people.
I was confronted by the following scene: in the left corner of the yard there was a group of men
aged between thirty and fifty. There must have been forty to fifty of them. They were herded
together and kept under guard by some civilians. The civilians were armed with rifles and wore
armbands, as can be seen in the pictures I took. A young man he must have been a Lithuanian
with rolled-up sleeves was armed with an iron crowbar.

He dragged out one man at a time from the group and struck him with the crowbar with one or
more blows on the back of his head. Within three quarters of an hour he had beaten to death the
entire group of forty-five to fifty people in this way. I took a series of photographs of the victims.
After the entire group had been beaten to death, the young man put the crowbar to one side,
fetched an accordion and went and stood on the mountain of corpses and played the Lithuanian
national anthem. I recognised the tune and was informed by bystanders that this was the national
anthem.
The behaviour of the civilians present (women and children) was
unbelievable. After each man had been killed they began to clap
and when the national anthem started up they joined in singing
Kovno Jews beaten to death and clapping.
with iron bars
In the front row there were women with small children in their
arms who stayed there right until the end of the whole
proceedings. I found out from some people who knew German what was happening here.
They explained to me that the parents of the young man who had killed the other people had
been taken from their beds two days earlier and immediately shot, because they were suspected
of being nationalists, and this was the young mans revenge. Not far away there was a large
number of dead people who according to the civilians had been killed by the withdrawing
Commissars and Communists.
While I was talking to the civilians an SS officer came up to me and tried to confiscate my
camera. I was able to refuse since in the first place the camera was not mine but had been
allocated to me for my work, and second I had a special pass from
16th Army High Command, which gave me authorisation to take
photographs everywhere.
I explained to the officer that he could only obtain the camera if he
went through GeneralfeldmarscallBusch, whereupon I was able to
go on my way unhindered.

German soldiers watch as


Lithuanians murder Jews

Testimony of Laimonas Noreika (Lietukis garage massacre witness)


I cant remember whether we left work early that day (my elder brother Albertas and I) or
whether we went home at our usual time. Opposite the Kovno cemetery at the corner of
Greenwald St and Vytautas Boulevard there was a small garage, which serviced light vehicles. A
large crowd had gathered alongside the perimeter fence of the garage yard. So we also went over
to see what was happening. I keep asking myself whether I just imagined it all but I know I did
not.
Those horrific events have been burned onto my memory and will remain there until my dying
day. In the middle of the yard, in broad daylight and in full view of the assembled crowd, a
group of well dressed, spruce intelligent looking people held iron bars which they used to

viciously beat another group of similarly well dressed, spruce, intelligent people. It was obvious
the yard also served as a horse stable as animal droppings were littered everywhere.
The assailants yelled the word norma (move it) repeatedly as they relentlessly battered the
Jews until they fell to the ground and began gathering feces. They kept hitting them until finally
they lay inert. Then, using a hosepipe for washing cars, they doused them with water until they
came round following which the abuse would start all over again. And so it went on and on until
the hapless victims lay dead. Bodies began to pile up everywhere. I stood next to the fence and
watched it all until finally, my brother Albertas pulled me away
Excerpt from testimony given by Colonel L. Von
Bischoffshausen
I arrived in Kovno on the afternoon of June 27 1941. Whilst
The Jewish cemetery in
Kovno near the location of the patrolling the city I came across a crowd of people that had
gathered alongside a gas station to watch was happening in the
massacre
adjacent yard. There were women in the crowd and many of them
clambered onto chairs and crates so that they and their children
could get a better view of the spectacle taking place in the yard below. At first I thought this
must be a victory celebration or some type of sporting event because of the cheering, clapping
and laughter that kept breaking out.
However, when I asked what was happening I was told the death dealer of Kovno is at work
and he would make sure that all traitors and collaborators received a fitting punishment for
their treachery. When I drew closer I witnessed a display of brutality that was unparalleled by
anything I saw in combat during two world wars.
Standing on the tarmac in the yard was a fair haired young man of around 25. He leaned on a
long iron bar as thick as human arm and around his feet lay between fifteen to twenty people
who were either dying or already dead. A few feet away from him stood another group of
individuals who were guarded by armed men. Every few minutes he signaled with his hand and
another person quietly stepped forward and had his skull shattered with one blow from the huge
iron bar the killer held in his hand. Each blow he struck drew another round of clapping and
cheering from the enthralled crowd.
Later on at staff headquarters, I discovered that my superiors knew about the killings of Jews.
They were appalled but at the same time they made it clear that such acts
constituted spontaneous retribution against Jewish traitors and
collaborators for their mistreatment of Lithuanians during Soviet rule.
Such horrific acts were therefore an internal matter which the Lithuanians
had to resolve on their own, without outside interference.
The "Death Dealer"
of Kovno
On the evening of June 27, I was invited to dinner at staff headquarters.
During the meal, a staff officer approached General Bush, the local
Wehrmacht commanding officer, and informed him of the rioting and killing that had broken out
in parts of the city. The general replied that these were internal disputes and the Wehrmacht had

no authority to intervene until such time as new orders were issued, which he hoped would be
soon. All through the night I heard the sounds of machine gun and canon fire in the city.
The next day, armed men could be seen on the streets escorting groups of around forty to fifty
men, women and children, all of whom had just been driven out of their homes. On seeing me, a
woman rushed over and falling to her knees, she begged me to rescue her. Within seconds the
guards pounce on her and dragged her back into the group she had left. They told me the people
were being taken to jail but in fact they were all taken outside town and executed.