“What are we, chopped liver?”
Babi Yar, Ukraine, April 12 – Members of the special mobile SS killing squads tasked with mass shootings of Jews, intellectuals, clergy, political leaders, Communists, and other groups deemed “undesirable” by the Nazis voiced resentment today at the recent focus on the role of gas chambers in the Holocaust, saying that their efforts led to almost as many Jewish deaths as did the killing centers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and other extermination camps.
Einsatzgruppe A chief Franz Walter Stahlecker, who oversaw the near-total elimination of Jews from the Baltic States, confessed today that he and his men felt bitter that White House spokesman Sean Spicer’s remarks on Syrian chemical weapons had led to a media frenzy of invoking gas chambers, when his special squads, and many others like them, spent many intense months identifying, rounding up, and shooting more than a million Jews across Poland, the Baltics, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Croatia, and elsewhere.
Spicer touched off a storm of criticism Tuesday when he observed that in contrast to Syrian President Basher Assad, even Adolph Hitler never used poison gas. While Spicer’s clumsy formulation referred only to battlefield use of chemical weapons, his phrasing appeared to negate the mass gassing of Jews and others at extermination camps, and critics rounded on him for Holocaust denial. Stahlecker explained that while by itself the Spicer episode would barely register, it constitutes merely the latest in a trend that, he argued, shortchanges the contribution of the Einsatzgruppen to the six million Jewish deaths in the Holocaust.
“We worked damn hard to kill more than a million Jews and untold thousands of others,” insisted Stahlecker. “But all you hear from the media is ‘Auschwitz, Auschwitz, Auschwitz,’ as if that place’s death toll dwarfed ours, when in fact the numbers are more or less comparable – and we did the bulk of our work over less time. It’s insulting, frankly, to have our efforts so casually swallowed up like that.”
“What are we, chopped liver?” challenged Otto Rasch, who supervised Einsatzgruppe C, covering northern and central Ukraine. “We worked our tuchuses off to kill that many Jews. Do you have any idea what it takes to instigate pogroms by local proxies? It would be one thing if we had the manpower to do all that killing on our own, but that wasn’t the case. We had to mobilize and manage thousands of Russian, Ukrainian, and other auxiliaries to do a good bit of the shooting. Babi Yar was exhausting,” he continued, referring to a ravine north of Kiev where tens of thousands of Jews were shot to death by Einsatzgruppen and Ukrainian paramilitaries over the course of two days in autumn 1941.
“What does a genocidal racist fascist have to do to get his contributions recognized around here?” he concluded.
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