The German text . . . and the English
This two page German-language document (above left) has been scanned and is reproduced on this site, with annotations. Below is the official wartime English translation. Explanatory notes by David Irving are added as hyperlinks.
C. S. D. I. C. (U.K.)
CS/1952 -- Generalmajor BRUNS (Heeres-Waffenmeisterschule I, BERLIN) Captd GÖTTINGEN 8 Apr 45
and other Senior Officer PW 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 neighbourhood 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
BY C.S.D.I.C. (U.K.)
M.I.19.a War Office
BRUNS: had already started on it. The Ghetto was cleared and they were told: "You're being transferred: take along your 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.
? : Everyone abroad knew about it; only we Germans were kept in ignorance.
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 there were six men with tommy-guns who gave them the coup de grâce. 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 1 1/2 km long which approached step by step - a queueing up for death. As they drew nearer they saw what was going on. About here they had to hand over their jewellery and suitcases. All good stuff was put into the suit-cases 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-coloured 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 loess there was so hard that two Engineer 'Bataillone' were required to dynamite the edges; those 'Battaillone' 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 unsavoury task of waiting for the favourable 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 attentions from spies.
? : A wonder you're still alive.
BRUNS: At GÖTTINGEN, I expected to be arrested every day.
Notes and Comments by David Irving
Generalmajor Walter Bruns was in 1941 an Oberst der Pioniere, chief of the "Bruns Bridge Building unit" at Riga. According to Report 6824 DIC (MIS)/CI-24, dated April 29, 1945, Bruns "later heard . . . that a total of 42,000 Jewish women and children were killed in Skirotawa within three successive days." (NA: RG.332, box 93). [Return]
His description provides convincing verisimilitude -- there is all the halting train of thought, the uncertainties, the local-colour which makes for authenticity, but also the phrase which betrays instantly that Bruns was certainly himself there. Testifying at the OKW Trial (Case XII) three years later (18. Februar 1948), pp 841ff, he no doubt wisely covered up the fact that he was an eye-witness, saying just that he had been provided with reports by two unnamed officers, presumably Abberger und Schulz-Du Bois. Abberger was alive in 1992, the other died February 1945. [Return]
There can be no doubt as to the veracity of his description, which was overheard at No.6824 Detailed Interrogation Centre in Germany on April 25, 1945 between the 54 year old Bruns ("a mild-mannered, bureaucratic officer who is anti-Nazi") and a number of other senior-officer prisoners. [Return]
Friday, November 28, 1941 [Return]
Werner Altemeyer, the 21-year-old Stabsleiter (chief of staff) attached to the Nazi mayor of Riga, trained at the Nazi Ordensburg at Crössinsee/Pommern. Remarkable for the general reader, perhaps, the fact that a 21-year-old should have had the authority to execute this crime in the name of the German people. [Return]
In this case however Hitler had demonstrably ordered the Jews were not to be killed. On November 30, Himmler visited him at his bunker, the Wolf's Lair. Himmler noted the same day a telephone call at 13,30 hrs to SS Obergruppenführer Heydrich in Prague: "... Judentransport aus Berlin. Keine Liquidierung." (Transport of Jews from Berlin. No liquidation.) [Return]
The Sunday was November 30, 1941. On November 27 the first trainload with 1,000 Berlin Jews had left the city for Riga; at 9 a.m. on the 30th, as described, at zero degrees and with three inches of snow, these were "suddenly" pulled out of the train and even before the four thousand Riga Jews who were due to be shot this day they were shot into the mass graves, at the edge of a forest strip near Rumbuli, five miles outside Riga on the highway to Dvinsk (Dünaburg) (Bericht Stahlecker vom 5. Januar 1942: ND, NO-3527). [Return]
General Alfred Jacob, since 1938 Inspekteur der Pioniere und Festungen, who had his office at OKH headquarters at that time at Angerburg, East Prussia (near Hitler's). [Return]
Oberst Erich Abberger Jacob's chief of staff. [Return]
Hptm. d. Res. Dipl. Ing. Dr Otto Schulz Du Bois; he later sent his wife a lengthy letter describing the shootings (now in the archives of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich). [Return]
Presumably Babi Yar. [Return]
Remarkable, the moral cowardice of Bruns and his senior-officer colleagues, none of whom wished personally to sign a report to the Führer's headquarters about the atrocity they had witnessed ("Wie bringen wir es dem Führer zu Gehör?"; and the fact that Hitler -- far from having issued the order, as (allegedly) claimed by Altemeyer -- seemingly intervened at once to order a halt to "diese Massenerschiessungen" as soon as a report, signed by a junior officer, was forwarded to him. [Return]
Bruns was taken prisoner by the British army on April 8, 1945 at Göttingen. There he shared captivity with Lieutenant General Heinrich Kirchheim, a former divisional commander under Rommel in North Africa, and latterly a member of the Army's Court of Honour after the Bomb Plot of July 20, 1944. Shortly after his own capture on April 12, 1945, Kirchheim offered to address an appeal to Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel over Radio Luxemburg to cease fighting. In the first week of May 1945 he explained to the German Major General Bassenge (verbatim):
KIRCHHEIM: Ich sagte mir damals [April 1945], daß es nun endlich soweit war: Es hat doch noch Zweck. Denn an jedem Tag sterben ja nicht nur soundso viele Soldaten, sondern Frauen und Kinder. Dann sagte ich mir: Es ist doch nun auch notwendig, daß offiziell mal in der Öffentlichkeit darauf hingewiesen wird, daß wir mit diesen furchtbaren Greueln tatsächlich nichts zu tun haben. Wir haben das doch nicht gewußt, daß da 50 000, 100 000 --