Modern History Sourcebook:
Hermann Friedrich Graebe:
Account of Holocaust Mass Shooting, 1942
As well as the use of gas [ZyklonB], mass shootings of
unarmed civilians were also used during the Holocaust. This is
an eyewitness account, which suggests the wellorganized
procedure for mass shooting that the elite Schutzstaffel (SS) soldiers had developed by 1942.
I, the undersigned, Hermann Friedrich Graebe, make the following
declaration under oath:
From September 1941 toJanuary 1944 I was director and chief engineer
of the Sdolbunow branch of the Josef Jung Construction Company
of Solingen. In this capacity I had, among my other duties, to
visit the firm's projects. Under the terms of a contract with
the army construction services, the company was to build grain
warehouses on the old Dubno airfield in the Ukraine.
On October 5, 1942, at the time of my visit to the construction
offices in Dubno, my foreman, Hubert Moennikes, living at 21 Aussenmühlenweg,
HamburgHaarburg, told me that some Dubno Jews had been shot
near the building in three huge ditches about 30 metres long and
3 metres deep. The number of people killed daily was about 1,500.
The 5,000 Jews who had lived in Dubno before the Pogrom were all
marked for liquidation. Since the executions took place in the
presence of my employee, he was painfully impressed by them.
Accompanied by Moennikes, I then went to the work area. I saw
great mounds of earth about 30 metres long and 2 high. Several
trucks were parked nearby. Armed Ukrainian militia were making
people get out, under the surveillance of SS soldiers. The same
militia men were responsible for guard duty and driving the trucks.
The people in the trucks wore the regulation yellow pieces of
cloth that identified them as Jews on the front and back of their
Moennikes and I went straight toward the ditches without being
Stopped When we neared the mound, I heard a series of rifle shots
close by. The people from the trucks-men, women and children-were
forced to undress under the supervision of an SS soldier with
a whip in his hand. They were obliged to put their effects in
certain spots: shoes, clothing, and under wear separately. I saw
a pile of shoes, about 8001,000 pairs, great heaps of underwear
and clothing. Without weeping or crying out, these people undressed
and stood together in family groups, embracing each other and
saying goodbye while waiting for a sign from the SS soldier, who
stood on the edge of the ditch, a whip in his hand, too. During
the fifteen minutes I stayed there, I did not hear a single complaint,
or plea for mercy. I watched a family of about eight: a man and
woman about fifty years old, surrounded by their children of about
one, eight, and ten, and two big girls about twenty and twentyfour.
An old lady, her hair completely white, held the baby in her arms,
rocking it, and singing it a song. The infant was crying aloud
with delight. The parents watched the groups with tears in their
eyes. The father held the tenyearold boy by the hand,
speaking softly to him: the child strug gled to hold back his
tears. Then the father pointed a finger to the sky, and, stroking
the child's head, seemed to be explaining something. At this moment,
the SS near the ditch called something to his comrade. The latter
counted off some twenty people and ordered them behind the mound.
The family of which I have just spoken was in the group. I still
remember the young girl, slender and dark, who, passing near me,
pointed at herself, saying, "Twentythree." I walked
around the mound and faced a frightful common grave. Tightly packed
corpses were heaped so close together that only the heads showed.
Most were wounded in the head and the blood flowed over their
shoulders. Some still moved. Others raised their hands and turned
their heads to show that they were still alive. The ditch was
twothirds full. I estimate that it held a thousand bodies.
I turned my eyes toward the man who had carried out the execution.
He was an SS man; he was seated, legs swinging, on the narrow
edge of the ditch; an automatic rifle rested on his knees and
he was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, climbed
down a few steps cut in the clay wall and stopped at the spot
indicated by the SS man. Facing the dead and wounded, they spoke
softly to them. Then I heard a series of rifle shots. I looked
in the ditch and saw their bodies contorting, their heads, already
inert, sinking on the corpses beneath. The blood flowed from the
nape of their necks. I was astonished not to be ordered away,
but I noticed two or three uniformed postmen nearby. A new batch
of victims approached the place. They climbed down into the ditch,
lined up in front of the previous victims, and were shot.
On the way back, while rounding the mound, I saw another full
truck which had just arrived. This truck contained only the sick
and crippled. Women already naked were undressing an old woman
with an emaciated body; her legs frightfully thin. She was held
up by two people and seemed paralyzed. The naked people led her
behind the mound. I left the place with Moennikes and went back
to Dubno in a car.
The next morning, returning to the construction, I saw some thirty
naked bodies lying thirty to fifty yards from the ditch. Some
were still alive; they stared into space with a set look, seeming
not to feel the coolness of the morning air; nor to see the workers
standing around. A young girl of about twenty spoke to me, asking
me to bring her clothes and to help her escape. At that moment
we heard the sound of a car approaching at top speed; I saw that
it was an SS detachment. I went back to my work. Ten minutes
later rifle shots sounded from the ditch The Jews who were still
alive had been ordered to throw the bodies in the ditch; then
they had to lie down themselves to receive a bullet in the back
of the neck.
From Leon Poliakov, Harvest of Hate (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse
University Press, 1954), pp. 125-126.
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook.
The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted
texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the
document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying,
distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal
use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source.
No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.
(c)Paul Halsall Aug 1997