Holocaust by Bullets: Myth of the “Genocide in the East”

By John Wear

The “Holocaust by bullets” is an increasingly popular theme among defenders of the “Holocaust” story. The allegation is that the Einsatzgruppen, with support of the German army, attempted to murder every Jew in the Soviet Union. This article discusses the facts and myths of this allegation.

Jewish Princeton University historian Arno Mayer summarizes the mass shootings carried out by the Einsatz­gruppen in the USSR:

Even so, and notwithstanding the unparalleled magnitude of the Jewish suffering, the extermination of eastern Jewry never became the chief objective of Barbarossa. The fight for Lebens­- raum and against Bolshevism was neither a pretext nor an expedient for the killing of Jews. Nor was it a mere smoke screen to disguise the Jewish massacres as reprisals against partisans. The assault on the Jews was unquestionably intertwined with the assault on Bolshevism from the very outset. But this is not to say that it was the dominant strand in the hybrid “Judeo-Bolshevism” that Barbarossa targeted for destruction. In fact, the war against the Jews was a graft onto or a parasite upon the eastern campaign, which always remained its host, even or especially once it became mired deep in Russia.

When they set forth on their mission, Einsatzgruppen and the RSHA were not given the extermination of Jews as their principal, let alone their only, assignment.1

In Mayer’s analysis, the massacres of the eastern Jews were not part of a comprehensive plan of extermination. Rather, the killing of Jews in the Soviet Union occurred as the result of the inexorable radicalization of the war in the east, and because many Soviet Jews were classified by the SS as carriers of Bolshevism.2

In the eyes of the SS and the civilian population of the Soviet Union, many Soviet Jews were regarded as being responsible for or accomplices to the Communist acts of violence. For example, the massacres of Jews committed by Ukrainians and SS men in July 1941 in Lemberg and other Galician towns were primarily retaliations for the mass murders of Ukrainians committed by the Soviets be­- tween June 22 and July 2, 1941. The reports of the Einsatzgruppen provide evidence of this:

In Tarnopol 5,000 Ukrainians kidnapped, 2,000 murdered. As counter-measures arrest operation initiated against Jewish intellectuals, who shared responsibility for the murder and, besides, were informers for the NKVD. Number estimated at about 1,000. On July 5, approximately 70 Jews rounded up by Ukrainians and shot. An­other 20 Jews killed on the road by military and Ukrainians, as response to the murder of three soldiers who were found chained in jail, with tongues cut out and eyes gouged out.3

Other Jews were shot in retaliatory measures after the discovery of Soviet torture chambers. For example, after the discovery of a torture chamber in the Tarnopol courthouse, the Germans reacted as follows: “The troops marching through who had the opportunity to see these atrocities, above all the bodies of the murdered German soldiers, killed all of the approximately 600 Jews and set their houses on fire.”4

Modern Historiography

Israeli holocaust historian Yitzhak Arad and other historians are now promoting the idea that the Einsatzgruppen with support of the German army murdered almost every Jew in the Soviet Union.5 In his book The Holocaust in the Soviet Union, Arad discusses the difficulty of obtaining exact figures of Jews who died in the Soviet Union during WWII:

The absence of accurate Soviet statistics on the number of evacuated Jews into the Soviet rear areas and German documentation on the number of Jews remaining in the occupied Soviet territories makes it difficult to sum up the number of Jews who perished in these territories. The Soviet administration did not conduct any kind of census of the inhabitants, including Jews, who survived the German occupation. German statistics are incomplete on the number of Jews murdered during the years of occupation. The Einsatzgruppen reports and other German documents give the numbers of Jews murdered by them in specific locations, but they don’t include all of the murder sites, and there is doubt as to the accuracy of these statistics. Reports on the many massacres conducted by the Orpo and local police forces are only partial.6

Despite this lack of documentation, Arad produces estimates of Jewish deaths in the German-occupied Soviet Union during World War II that show only slight variations. Arad estimates that there were 2,612,000-2,743,500 Jews in the German-occupied Soviet Republics. Of this number, 103,000-119,000 Jews are estimated to have survived, while about  2,509,000-2,624,500 Jews are estimated to have died.7 Using the mid-range of these estimates, this equals a Jewish death rate of 95.85%, with a survival rate of only 4.15%.

Arad estimates that there were 2,105,000-2,225,000 Jews in the German-occupied Soviet republics of Belorussia, Ukraine and Russia. Of this total, 42,000-55,000 Jews are estimated to have survived, while about 2,063,000-2,170,000 Jews are estimated to have died. Using the mid-range of these estimates, Arad thus estimates that only 48,500 Jews survived out of 2,165,000 total Jews in Belorussia, Ukraine and Russia.8 This equals a Jewish death rate of 97.76% in these three Soviet republics, with a survival rate of only 2.24%.

Arad provides no documentation for his estimated Jewish death totals in the Soviet Union. Arad’s assumed death total of Jews in the Soviet Union is absurd. The German army and the Einsatzgruppen were engaged in a monumental struggle against the Soviet army. The Germans could not possibly have killed such a high percentage of Jews based solely on verbal orders from Heinrich Himmler9 while engaging in battles of epic proportions with the Soviets.

Yitzhak Arad has given out false historical information in the past to support the official holocaust story. Regarded by many as the leading Treblinka expert, Arad distorted a report dated November 15, 1942 by saying the report referred to gas chambers instead of steam chambers as the murder weapon at Treblinka.10 Arad was forced to make this change because the official historiography now states that steam chambers were never used to kill Jews at Treblinka.11

Aktion 1005

 Since the bodies of the alleged 2.5 million murdered Soviet Jews have not been found, the official holocaust historiography claims they were cremated in what is called Aktion 1005. An article in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust defines this operation: “Operation 1005, code name for a large-scale activity that aimed to obliterate the traces of the murder of millions of human beings by the Nazis in occupied Europe.”12

It is unrealistic to assume that Aktion 1005 succeeded and that Germans exhumed and burned approximately 2.5 million bodies. This would mean that, within a period of 13 months, the Germans had to have emptied thousands of mass graves in a territory of more than 463,000 square miles—all without leaving behind any material or documentary traces. The mass exhumation of such a large number of bodies in such a short period of time is quite impossible.13

Furthermore, we know that no Soviet planes discovered and photographed the burning of these bodies, because, otherwise, the Soviets would have exploited the photographs for propaganda purposes. The thousands of pyres burning through the night would have been photographed by the Soviets if such mass exhumations had actually taken place.14

Yitzhak Arad attempts to explain away these problems by stating that Aktion 1005 was both a highly classified operation and a failure:

Aktion 1005 was a highly classified operation. Orders and reports were given and received verbally, and no German documents were saved to provide evidence. The SS, which was responsible for the operation, did everything in its power to prevent a leak of information on the site. …

There is no way of knowing how many corpses were cremated in the course of the operation—hundreds of thousands, certainly, possibly even millions. But millions of corpses remained in the pits in which they had been buried. This tangible evidence—the corpses of millions of Jews and non-Jews, murdered by Nazi Germany and its collaborators in the occupied Soviet territories—remained for posterity. In its main objective—destroying the evidence of mass murder—Aktion 1005 failed.15

The problem with Arad’s explanation is that neither the Soviets nor anyone else have found mass graves in which large numbers of Jews were supposedly buried in the Soviet Un­ion. Germar Rudolf writes:

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, numerous mass graves, containing altogether hundreds of thousands of bodies of victims of the Soviets, were discovered, excavated, and investigated. Not only was the number of victims determined, but in many cases the specific cause of death as well. In the same regions where many of these mass graves were found, 1 million Jews are said to have been shot by the Einsatzgruppen. Yet no such grave has ever been reported found, let alone dug and investigated, in the more than half a century during which these areas have been controlled by the USSR and its successor states.16

Thus, the undocumented and imaginary Aktion 1005 provides no evidence of a German program of genocide against Soviet Jews.

Carlo Mattogno concludes: “Orthodox ‘Holocaust’ historiography has never proven that the authorities of the Reich planned and carried out a general plan on an institutional level to eliminate the bodies of the victims of the Einsatzgruppen and other associated units by means of a systematic operation of exhumation and cremation of bodies.”17

The Einsatzgruppen Trial

 The Einsatzgruppen trial that took place in Nuremberg from September 1947 to April 1948 form the basis for the allegations that the Einsatzgruppen and other German forces murdered millions of Jews and other people in a “Holocaust by bullets.” The defendants in this trial were 24 commanding and senior officers of the Einsatzgruppen.18 

Benjamin Ferencz, the chief prosecutor at the Einsatzgruppen trial, has admitted to using death threats to obtain evidence. Ferencz said in an interview:

You know how I got witness statements? I’d go into a village where, say, an American pilot had parachuted and been beaten to death and line everyone up against the wall. Then I’d say, “Anyone who lies will be shot on the spot.” It never occurred to me that statements taken under duress would be invalid.19

Ferencz, who enjoys an international reputation as a world peace advocate, further related a story concerning the interrogation of an SS colonel. Ferencz explained that he took out his pistol in order to intimidate him:

What do you do when he thinks he’s still in charge? I’ve got to show him that I’m in charge. All I’ve got to do is squeeze the trigger and mark it as auf der Flucht erschossen [shot while trying to escape] … I said, “you are in a filthy uniform sir, take it off!” I stripped him naked and threw his clothes out the window. He stood there naked for half an hour, covering his testicles with his hands, not looking nearly like the SS officer he was reported to be. Then I said “now listen, you and I are gonna have an understanding right now. I am a Jew—I would love to kill you and mark you down as auf der Flucht erschossen, but I’m gonna do what you would never do. You are gonna sit down and write out exactly what happened—when you entered the camp, who was there, how many died, why they died, everything else about it. Or, you don’t have to do that—you are under no obligation. You can write a note of five lines to your wife, and I will try to deliver it.” [Ferencz gets the desired statement and continues.] I then went to someone outside and said “Major, I got this affidavit, but I’m not gonna use it—it is a coerced confession. I want you to go in, be nice to him, and have him re-write it.” The second one seemed to be okay—I told him to keep the second one and destroy the first one. That was it.20

This and other admissions by Ferencz cast an immediate shadow over the entire proceedings. Is this the sort of legal person who can be relied upon to present fair and objective evidence at a major trial?21

Ferencz took only two days to present the 253 captured documents in the Einsatzgruppen case. These documents were the primary evidence used to convict the defendants in this trial.22 It should be noted that all the documents presented in this trial were prosecution documents. The documents were screened solely for the purpose of helping the prosecution’s case, while depriving the defense of helpful defense documents.23

The accuracy and authenticity of the Einsatzgruppen reports have been called into question by many researchers. The originals of the Einsatzgruppen reports have never been produced, and many of the copies that have been produced show clear signs of postwar additions. For example, Einsatzgruppen Report No. 111 contains garbled wording and a clear addition to the end of a paragraph (highlighted in italics below):

These were the motives for the executions carried out by the Kommandos: Political officials, looters and saboteurs, active Communists and political representatives, Jews who gained their release from prison camps by false statements, agents and informers of the NKVD, persons who, by false depositions and influencing witnesses, were instrumental in the deportation of ethnic Germans, Jewish sadism and revengefulness, undesirable elements, partisans, Politruks, dangers of plague and epidemics, members of Russian bands, armed insurgents—provisioning of Russian bands, rebels and agitators, drifting juveniles, Jews in general.24

Defenders of the official “Holocaust” story often state that the Einsatz­gruppen reports were captured by the U.S. Army when they took control of the Gestapo headquarters. However, even Ferencz has admitted that the copies of these reports originated with the copies held by the German Foreign Office in Berlin, which makes them Soviet-origin papers.25

The unreliability of the Einsatz- gruppen reports was acknowledged in the trial of German Field Marshal Erich von Manstein in 1949. Von Manstein’s lawyer demonstrated that whole areas claimed by the reports to be “cleared of Jews” actually contained many flourishing Jewish communities that were untouched through­out the entire war. The trial court accepted the argument that the Einsatzgruppen reports were unreliable, and Von Manstein was acquitted in regard to the Einsatzgruppen activities in his command sec­tor.26

Dr. Arthur Butz explains exactly why the Einsatzgruppen documents were actually forged:

It is not difficult to see why these documents exist; without them the authors of the lie would have no evidence for their claims except testimony. We have seen that with Auschwitz there was an abundance of material facts to work with and whose meanings could be distorted: shipments of Jews to Auschwitz, many of whom did not return to their original homes, large shipments of a source of hydrogen cyanide gas, elaborate cremation facilities, selections, the stench. The situation with the Einsatzgruppen was different; there was only one fact, the executions. Standing alone, this fact does not appear impressive as evidence, and this consideration was no doubt the motivation for manufacturing these docu­ments on such a large scale.27


 The Einsatzgruppen were assigned the tasks of killing Soviet commissars and fighting partisan activity in the Soviet Union. Large numbers of Jews and non-Jews were killed in these operations.

Because German forces were always limited and always in demand at the front, German military authorities were all the more fearful of the disruptions partisans could cause. Consequently, the Einsatzgruppen and German army officers took severe measures against partisan activity in the Soviet Union.

This resulted in the Einsatzgruppen and the German military engaging in mass killings of partisans, including the execution of many civilians. However, the Einsatzgruppen did not serve the additional purpose of committing genocide against Soviet Jewry.28

The increased death toll in the “Holocaust by Bullets” is being used today by Yitzhak Arad and other historians to offset the diminishing estimated deaths in the German camps. This is the only way in which the alleged 6 million deaths in the so-called Holocaust can still be maintained.    v


1 Mayer, Arno, Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The “Final Solution” in History, New York: Pantheon Books, 1988, p. 270.

2 Mattogno, Carlo and Graf, Jürgen, Treblinka: Transit Camp or Extermination Camp?, Washington, D.C.: The Barnes Review, 2010, p. 208.

3 Ibid., p. 262.

4 Ibid.

5 Arad, Yitzhak, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2009, pp. 125-133.

6 Ibid., p. 517.

7 Ibid., p. 525.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid., p. 131.

10 Arad, Yitzhak, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps, Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 1987, pp. 354-355.

11 Mattogno, Carlo and Graf, Jürgen, Treblinka: Transit Camp or Extermination Camp?, Washington, D.C.: The Barnes Review, 2010, p. 63.

12 Gutman, Israel (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, four volumes, New York: Macmillan, 1990, article “Aktion 1005,” Vol. 1, p. 11.

13 Mattogno, Carlo and Graf, Jürgen, Treblinka: Transit Camp or Extermination Camp?, Washington, D.C.: The Barnes Review, 2010, p. 226.

14 Ibid.

15 Arad, Yitzhak, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union, Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2009, pp. 355-356.

16 Rudolf, Germar, The Rudolf Report: Expert Report on Chemical and Technical Aspects of the “Gas Chambers” of Auschwitz, Washington, D.C.: The Barnes Review, 2011, p. 40.

17 Mattogno, Carlo, The Einsatzgruppen in the Occupied Eastern Territories: Genesis, Mission and Actions, Uckfield, UK: Castle Hill Publishers, 2018, p. 715.

18 Winter, Peter, The Six Million: Fact or Fiction?, 4th edition, The Revisionist Press, 2015, p. 22.

19 Brzezinski, Matthew, “Giving Hitler Hell,” The Washington Post Magazine, July 24, 2005, p. 26.

20 Jardim, Tomaz, The Mauthausen Trial, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012, pp. 82-83.

21 Winter, Peter, The Six Million: Fact or Fiction?, 4th edition, The Revisionist Press, 2015, p. 24.

22 Maguire, Peter, Law and War: International Law and American History, New York: Columbia University Press, 2010, p. 138.

23 Mattogno, Carlo, The Einsatzgruppen in the Occupied Eastern Territories: Genesis, Mission and Actions, Uckfield, UK: Castle Hill Publishers, 2018, pp. 78-79.

24 Winter, Peter, The Six Million: Fact or Fiction?, 4th edition, The Revisionist Press, 2015, pp. 24-25.

25 Ibid., p. 25.

26 Ibid.

27 Butz, Arthur R., The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry, ninth edition, Newport Beach, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1993, p. 200.

28 Ibid., pp. 197-204.


Related Reading from TBR:

March/April 2018: “The Malmedy Farce: The Debunking of a Debunking.”

September/October 2018, “Holocaust in the East: Inside the Einsatzgruppen Trial.”

May/June 2019: “Guilty Verdicts at Mauthausen.”


This article appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of The Barnes Review. Click here for more information.

Posted in: TBR Articles