Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi’s paramilitary death squads, played a major role in the Holocaust that killed more than 6 million Jews. Einsatzgruppen means “deployment groups” in German, and it was the unit comprised of the German SS (Schutzstaffel; protection squadrons) and police squads. They undertook assignments to murder ethnical enemies, such as Jews, and political enemy forces in German-occupied territories. The “Final Solution,” the Nazi’s attempt to kill all the Jews in Europe, was the pretext for these massacres. Germans killed all those who defied them – not only Jews but also gypsies, Russians, disabled and the mentally insane in hospitals.
The Einsatzgruppen massacred civilians in extreme and brutal ways. When Germany invaded Russia in June, 1941, they mobilized the local police to shoot all the civilians who lived in the occupied areas. Einsatzgruppen’s way of decimating the Jews was different from the Nazi’s in that they went to their homes to murder them on the spot, instead of transporting them to concentration camps. Targets of murder gradually expanded, from mostly Jewish men in the beginning to all Jews regardless of age and gender, even children and women. As the number of their targets increased, Einsatzgruppen realized the inefficiency of shooting and began to use poisonous gas for mass murder. They killed millions of Jews by putting them in gas trucks and suffocating them to death with carbon monoxide gas. Furthermore, they forced the victims into buildings and then burned or exploded the buildings as another way of mass killing. This case is similar to the Japanese imperialists’ “Jeamri Massacre” which occurred during similar time frame.
Untied States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (2013, June 10). Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Killing Units). In Holocaust Encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005130
Zen, E., & Lewis, Ken. (1998, April 17). The Einsatzgruppen. In The Nizkor Project. Retrieved from http://www.nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/german/einsatzgruppen/esg/