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Major General Bruns’s Description of the Execution of Jews outside Riga on December 1, 1941, Surreptitiously Taped Conversation (April 25, 1945)

The German attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, marked the beginning of a new phase of the war. Intent upon realizing all of its geopolitical and ideological goals – which included the conquest of additional “living space” [Lebensraum] for the German nation and the prosecution of a war of annihilation against the Jews – the Nazi regime ordered Reinhard Heydrich’s so-called Special Operations Units [Einsatzgruppen] and numerous battalions of the Order Police [Ordnungspolizei] to follow the Wehrmacht as it advanced into newly conquered territories. The alleged task of these special units was to secure the conquered territories and eliminate dangerous political enemies. In reality, however, these troops were engaged in mass shootings of Jews. By the end of 1941, more than 700,000 Jewish civilians had been systematically murdered in a wave of massacres similar to the one described below.

The following document is the official English translation of a transcript of a surreptitiously taped conversation between German prisoners of war in a Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre (C.S.D.I.C.), a British-run detention camp for staff officers. The British military hoped to learn military secrets by eavesdropping on prisoners of war. The conversation reproduced below focused on events that had taken place in Latvia in December 1941. The transcript includes Major General Walter Bruns’s description of the mass execution of Jewish civilians outside Riga at the hands of Nazi occupiers. In 1948, Bruns testified as a witness to this crime in the trail against the High Command of the Wehrmacht.

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Top Secret

C.S.D.I.C. (U.K.)
G.G. Report

S.R.G.G. 1158 (C)

The following conversation took place between: --

CS/1952 – Generalmajor BRUNS (Heeres-Waffenmeisterschule I, BERLIN), Capt’d GÖTTINGEN (8 Apr 45) and other Senior Officer PW[s] whose voices could not be identified.

Information received: 25 Apr 45


BRUNS: As soon as I heard those Jews were to be shot on Friday I went to a 21-year old boy and said that they had made themselves very useful in the area under my command, besides which the Army MT park had employed 1500 and the 'Heeresgruppe' 800 women to make underclothes of the stores we captured in RIGA; besides which about 1200 women in the neighborhood of RIGA were turning millions of captured sheepskins into articles we urgently required: ear-protectors, fur caps, fur waistcoats, etc. Nothing had been provided, as of course the Russian campaign was known to have come to a victorious end in October 1941. In short, all those women were employed in a useful capacity. I tried to save them. I told that fellow ALTENMEYER(?) whose name I shall always remember and who will be added to the list of war criminals: "Listen to me, they represent valuable man-power." "Do you call Jews valuable human beings, sir?". I said: "Listen to me properly, I said 'valuable man-power'. I didn't mention their value as human beings." He said: "Well, they're to be shot in accordance with the FÜHRER's orders. I said: "FÜHRER's orders?" "Yes", whereupon he showed me his orders. This happened at SKIOTAWA(?), 8 km. from RIGA, between SIAULAI and JELGAVA, where 5000 BERLIN Jews were suddenly taken off the train and shot. I didn't see that myself, but what happened at SKIOTAWA(?) - to cut a long story short, I argued with the fellow and telephoned to the General at HQ, to JAKOBS and ABERGER(?), and to a Dr. SCHULTZ who was attached to the Engineer General, on behalf of these people; I told him: "Granting that the Jews have committed a crime against the other peoples of the world, at least let them do the drudgery; send them to throw earth on the roads to prevent our heavy lorries skidding." "Then I'd have to feed them." I said: "The little amount of food they receive, let's assume 2 million Jews - they got 125 gr. of bread a day - if we can't even manage that, the sooner we end the war the better." Then I telephoned, thinking it would take some time. At any rate on Sunday morning I heard that they had already started on it. The Ghetto was cleared and they were told: "You're being transferred; take along your most essential things." Incidentally it was a happy release for those people, as their life in the Ghetto was a martyrdom. I wouldn't believe it and drove there, to have a look.

? [Unidentified P.O.W.]: Everyone abroad knew about it; only we Germans were kept in ignorance.

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