February 19, 2015

1943. The Soviet Commission on Nazi War Crimes

"The Russian People Will Not Forget"
"The execution of 56 Polish citizens in Bochnia, near Kraków, during German occupation of Poland, December 18, 1939 in a reprisal for an attack on a German police office two days earlier by the underground organization 'White Eagle'" (source)
The parentheses indicate text that did not pass Soviet censors for military security or propaganda reasons. A month earlier Bill Downs reported similar accounts of atrocities committed against the people of Kharkiv in Ukraine.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

April 6, 1943

The Soviet press this morning printed another record of blood and death and suffering; of crime and rape and starvation and slaughter.

This official record is the report of the Soviet state commission investigate atrocities in Russia. (And this report gives a lengthy, detailed description of what the Nazis did to the towns and villages just west of Moscow which have been recaptured by the Red Army forces now pressing on Smolensk.)

The Russian atrocities commission is set up very much like a similar commission operated by the free governments in London. It assesses damage and establishes responsibility for the crimes committed by the Germans in the Soviet Union.

The report issued today concerns the atrocities in the Rzhev, Vyazama, and Gzhatsk district—that powerful defense area west of Moscow held by the Germans for a year and a half. The record makes you sick to your stomach. Some of it doesn't bear repeating over the radio.

The war crimes are divided into four classifications. The first classification is the murders and atrocities of civilians. Here it is, the old story that we have heard from other cities and town in Russia—the stories of murder, hangings, and torture (of people found with their eyes pierced, their hands and legs and arms and ears cut off.) A typical incident were the bodies of two men hung from a gallows by meat hooks forced through their jaws (and left to die).

The second classification in the commission's report concerned the atrocities against Russian war prisoners. (Here the commission has the names of unit commanders and prison guards who used captured Soviet soldiers for target practice.) There are almost unbelievable stories of beatings and emasculation.

The third type of atrocity is the kidnapping of Russian civilians for forced labor in Germany. (The report says that 16,500 people were shipped to German from Rzhev, Sychyovka, Vyazma, Gzhatsk, and the surrounding regions.)

The fourth classification of German war crimes is the destruction of towns and villages which the report says was carried out according to a systematic plan by special German units assigned to burn and blow up every building of importance in these towns.

The atrocity report ends with the names of German officers commanding units responsible for these crimes. These names include the commander of the Fourth German Army, Colonel-General Heinrici, and the commander of the Ninth German Army, Colonel-General Model. Also listed are the names of thirteen divisional commanders and leaders of Nazi police corps. Others listed included the head of the Gestapo for the Rzhev region, a one Baron Adler, as well as two non-commissioned officers who were heads of two German prison camps.

The report ends with the statement, "These men must bear full responsibility and merited punishment for all these unprecedented atrocities."

And this morning's Izvestia editorial adds "The Russian people will not forget."
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

May 12, 1943

. . .

Mr. Molotov's latest report on the forcing of Soviet citizens into German slavery occupies almost all of the Russian newspapers this morning. The note, which was sent to all countries which have diplomatic relations with Russia, puts on the official record the long, unsavory reports of the kidnapping of labor from the occupied countries of Europe for work in German factories.

(From what I have seen in the recaptured territory of Russia in my trips to the front—from the people to whom I have talked—this long list of atrocities, of starvation, beatings, and degradation, is not exaggerated.)

(These things will be put on the record for investigation by the Russian atrocities commission. And for the first time, the Soviet government holds up the ordinary citizen of Germany who uses slave labor as directly responsible for this violation of international law. It is an interesting development.)

Mr. Molotov's note also expresses concern for the Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavs, French, Greeks, Belgians, Norwegians, and Dutch who are being and have been forced to work for Germany.

It is a move toward international settlement of atrocities, and it opens the way for cooperation between the commissions operating in Moscow and in London.