Report received by General Lahousen in his official capacity as à German intelligence officer
24 October 1941
Report on the execution of Jews in Borisov
From Friday 17 October to Monday 20 October I had official business in Borisov. Upon arrival there on Friday I was informed by the head of the Russian security police there, Ehof, who had been installed in this post some time ago by the SD, that on the night from Sunday to Monday all Jews of Borisov were to be shot. To my astounded question, that it would be impossible to dispatch 8000 persons into Eternity in the course of a single night in a fairly orderly manner, he replied that it was not the first time that he did this and he would be able to finish the job with his men; he was no longer a layman at this. On this occasion I also learned, that about 1500 Jews were to be spared temporarily, since they were specialists, such as cobblers, tailors, blacksmiths, locksmiths, in other words artisans who were urgently needed for building up the country. The said Ehof at this time presented me with an invitation, signed by him, to the "Celebration of the German Police" which was to take place in à Borisov restaurant on Sunday 19 October al two o'clock.
I had known Ehof in my Borisov days. He was at one time made mayor of Zembin, a town about 25 kilometers from Borisov, by some army high command. Before the outbreak of the war he was, as a Volga German, employed as a teacher for the German language in the Russian School in Zembin.
Although the shootings of Jews were to be kept secret, they were already known in the Ghetto early on Saturday. I gave my own boots for repair to a Jewish cobbler who lived on the street leading to the airport. There I learned that a delegation was on its way to the mayor, Dr. Stankewitsch, and the Chief of the Russian Security Police, Ehof, in order to obtain a temporary reprieve of these executions so that they might present a petition to the general. However, the cobbler could not tell me which general was meant.
He only told me that the Jews consider it altogether impossible that Adolf Hitler or the general could have given the order to shoot these 6500 Jews. I learned further that the mayor, Dr. Stankewitsch, had promised them to speak to the general about it and that he added that he himself could only say that the conduct of the Jews residing in his official district had been exemplary in every respect. By "conduct" he meant the order in the Ghetto, the performing of the work imposed on the Jews, the raising of 300,000 Rubles in taxes imposed on them a few weeks ago, the turning in of gold, silver, etc., which they fulfilled completely.
On Saturday I visited the already mentioned "Celebration of the German Police", not so much in order to drink beer or liquor there, but because I know beforehand to what an unworthy extent this celebration would develop, in other words, to look the affair over.
Of the so-called prominent citizens there were present: a commissioner of the SD - a squire (Ordensjunker) Burg Vogelsang with his wife, a lieutenant of the GFP, the mayor, Dr. Stankewitsch, the Chief of the Russian Security Police, Ehof.
In addition there were present the assistant chief of the Russian security Police, Kowalewski, a large number of security Policemen and their wives, fiancees, or girl friends, a number o German non-coms, and men, and a lot of people.
There was a lot of talk and still more drinking. I started a conversation with the above mentioned Russiàn – Êowalewski - an old policeman of the time of the Czars. He is a very sympathetic, quiet, and discreet man of 62, and he informed me among other things that this celebration was to be ended by 9 o’clock because a "welikoje delo", a big affair, was scheduled for tomorrow. K asked me to go home with him after the celebration because he had the urge to speak his mind. After reprimanding a few members of our 'Wehrmacht for disorderly conduct and because no one could expect me to witness these disgusting excesses any longer, I left this place at about 5 o’clock in the afternoon and returned about 8 o'clock in order to pick up Ê and to accompany him to his home. I spent two hours with K in lively conversation, we exchanged reminiscences of Czarist days, of the time of the White Russian battles against Bolshevism, and then we also talked of present conditions. The point of view of K., who is a great admirer of everything German, especially of Adolf Hitler and the German Wehrmacht, coincide wholly with mine; a man who really has his heart in it.
After leaving K., I returned to my quarters and talked to my Russian landlord until bedtime. Here I learned among other things that a few days previously "Buessing Hall" had burned down and the next night "Opel Hall", and in addition another hall in which the kitchen, etc., of a German Wehrmacht until was stationed. Of course we also talked of the impending shooting of Jews, for this was also known to the civilian population. My hosts said verbatim, and this was probably the attitude of all non-Jews living in Borisov on that evening: "Pustj oni pogibajut: oni mnogo plochogo nam nadelali!" In German: them perish: they did us a lot of harm!"
This is what happened on the following morning: The shootings were begun at 3 am. First the men were brought out. They were driven to the place of execution in Russian cars, escorted by men of the Russian Security police of Borisov who were detailed for this purpose. Because there were not enough of these men, however, reinforcements were brought from the neighboring Russian Security Police offices, such as Zembin, etc. They were provided with the well-known red and white armband and armed with rifles or automatic pistols. On the Polotzkaja uliza, road leading to the airport I saw these cars, at considerable intervals, loaded with women and children. These cars were guarded by men of the Russian Security Police. On the roof sat among others a Russian policeman with an automatic pistol in readiness. The women and children of all ages in these cars cried and whimpered and screamed for help as soon as they saw a German Wehrmaeht member. In this manner one car followed the other during the whole day in the direction of the place of execution, which was located in the woods near the former staff headquarters of the army group "Center". Besides, since there were apparently not sufficient cars and the time was drawing short, groups of women and children were constantly being herded down the already mentioned road, partly with iron rods. On the periphery of the Ghetto, that is on this same street, groups of Jewish women and children, even babies in their mother's arms, were standing ready to he picked up. In the distance the noise of rifles could be heard all day, the women and children cried and screamed, cars raced through the streets and the Ghetto and kept bringing new victims - all before the eyes of the civilian population and the German military personnel that happened to come along.
À blockade may have been intended but could not be carried out because the other side of the street as well as the side street were inhabited by non-Jews. The eyes of the latter expressed either complete apathy or horror, because the scenes which took place in the streets were ghastly! The non-Jews may have believed on the evening preceding the executions that the Jews deserved their fate, but on the following morning their sentiment was:
"Who ordered such a thing" How is it possible to kill off 6500 Jews all at once? Now it is the Jews' turn, when will it be ours? What did these poor Jews do? All they did was work! The really guilty outs are surely in safely!”
The executions continued all day Monday! Late in the evening the shooting court not only be heard from the "woods but also spread to the Ghetto and nearly all the streets of the city since, in order to escape their fate, many Jews had broken out of the Ghetto and tried somehow to save themselves. On that evening and during that night it was not advisable even for a member of the Wehrmacht to venture on the streets, in order to avoid the danger of being killed or at least wounded by the Russian policemen, due to a generally prevalent nervousness. About 10 o'clock in the evening a fire was raging in the city and mild shooting was going on. A few houses were burning in the Ghetto and in the vicinity of the Ghetto - the cause is not known to me.
It must he added that German soldiers were summoned toward evening to blockade the Ghetto and to prevent the Jew's escaping. As I learned from a noncommissioned officer, a few Jews were said to have been caught and turned over to the Russian Security Police for execution. The shooting continued throughout the night. On Tuesday, about 8 o'clock in the morning, I was again a witness of the same occurrences as on the previous day. By no means all the Jews had been shot. Many escorted Russian cars returned from the woods. Pilled high on these cars was the clothing of the victims. Thus everybody could see what was going on. The clothing was brought to city warehouses. At many places in the Ghetto and along the street already described groups of Jews cowered, awaiting their executing.
As I heard, some Jews are said to have committed suicide in the nearby Beresina. The most gruesome scenes are said to have taken place in the Ghetto during this operation. According to report all specialists were shot, at least the majority of them. That may be so, for, escorted by two Russian policemen, entered the homes of a tailor and a cobbler on the main street; the barbed wire had been torn down and I found the house abandoned. It is hard to describe the appearance of these homes.
In order to obtain details of the executions, I struck up a conversation with these two Russian Security men, and I was told the following:
A few days earlier Russian prisoner of war had dug in the wood some huge mass graves about 100 meters long, 5 meter wide, and 3 meter deep. According to the reports of these eyewitnesses, the executions were performed as follows:
The first delinquents, about 20 men, were made to jump into the pits after taking off all but their underwear. They were then shot from above! Of course these dead and half-dead people were lying pell-mell. The next victims had to line them up so as to gain as much space as possible. Then it continued as above. When the bottom row of the mass grave was full, the Jews had to put a layer of sand over the bodies and had to trample upon both sand and bodies. The most horrible scenes are said to have take place in these two mass graves! Shortly before my departure for the front I met two German soldiers, a private first class and a corporal, who, for curiosity's sake, had witnessed these executions from very close by. They fully confirmed the information sought by me. They added that the Russian policemen were given a great deal of liquor, otherwise they would hardly have been able to perform their difficult task! The population of Borisov is of the opinion that the Russian Security men would enrich themselves with the valuables left behind by the Jews, such as gold, silver, furs, cloth, leather, etc., as they were said to have done during previous executions. These security men, moreover, are said to consist largely of old Communists, but nobody dares to report them because they are feared. The population generally desires the occupation of all important posts by German nationals!
Master sergeant and interpreter for the Russian language with Intelligence Command Â
Postscript: There is a rumor in Borisov that the now vacant houses of the Jews shall be prepared for Jews from Germany, who in turn shall be liquidated in the same manner as were the Jews of Borisov.