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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)

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BRUNS: I'll tell you something: some of the details may have been correct, but it was remarkable that the firing squad detailed that morning - six men with tommy-guns were posted at each pit; the pits were 24 m in length and 3 m in breadth - they had to lie down like sardines in a tin, with their heads in the centre. Above them were six men with tommy-guns who gave them the coup de grace. When I arrived those pits were so full that the living had to lie down on top of the dead; then they were shot and, in order to save room, they had to lie down neatly in layers. Before this, however, they were stripped of everything at one of the stations - here at the edge of the wood were the three pits they used that Sunday and here they stood in a queue 1½ km long which approached step by step - a queuing up for death. As they drew nearer they saw what was going on. About here they had to hand over their jewelry and suitcases. All good stuff was put into the suitcases and the remainder thrown on a heap. This was to serve as clothing for our suffering population - and then, a little further on they had to undress and, 500 m in front of the wood, strip completely; they were only permitted to keep on a chemise or knickers. They were all women and small two-year-old children. Then all those cynical remarks. If only I had seen those tommy-gunners, who were relieved every hour because of over-exertion, carry out their task with distaste, but no, nasty remarks like: "Here comes a Jewish beauty." I can still see it all in my memory: a pretty woman in a flame-colored chemise. Talk about keeping the race pure: at RIGA they first slept with them and then shot them to prevent them from talking. Then I sent two officers out there, one of whom is still alive, because I wanted eye-witnesses. I didn't tell them what was going on, but said: "Go out to the forest of SKIOTAWA(?), see what's up there and send me a report." I added a memorandum to their report and took it to JAKOBS myself. He said: "I have already two complaints sent me by Engineer 'Bataillone' from the UKRAINE." There they shot them on the brink of large crevices and let them fall down into them; they nearly had an epidemic of plague, at any rate a pestilential smell. They thought they could break off the edges with picks, thus burying them. That loss there was so hard that two Engineer 'Bataillone' were required to dynamite the edges; those 'Bataillone' complained. JAKOBS had received that complaint. He said: "We didn't quite know how to tell the FÜHRER. We'd better do it through CANARIS." CANARIS had the unsavory task of waiting for the favorable moment to give the FÜHRER certain gentle hints. A fortnight later I visited the 'Oberbürgermeister' or whatever he was called then, concerning some other business. ALTENMEYER(?) triumphantly showed me: "Here is an order, just issued, prohibiting mass-shootings on that scale from taking place in future. They are to be carried out more discreetly." From warnings given me recently I knew that I was receiving still more attention from spies.

? [Unidentified P.O.W.]: A wonder you're still alive.

BRUNS: At GÖTTINGEN I expected to be arrested every day.

Source of English translation: Major General Walter Bruns’s Description of the Execution of Jews outside Riga on December 1, 1941, Surreptitiously Taped Conversation (April 25, 1945), National Archives (UK), WO 208/4169, Report SRGG 1158.

Source of original German transcript: National Archives (UK), WO 208/4169, Report SRGG 1158.

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