May You Live Long and Be Prosecuted

May You Live Long and Be Prosecuted

Efraim Zuroff

At 100, Herbert Wahler has outlived other Germans listed as members of the genocidal Einsatzgruppe C. His age should not shield him from accountability.

This past Friday [December 10, 2021], Herbert Wahler celebrated his 100th birthday. Quite an achievement for a German who spent a significant part of World War II serving on the Eastern front in Ukraine. Yet upon closer examination of Wahler’s service record, it’s not that surprising, since, for a significant part of the conflict, Wahler was not dodging bullets shot at him by Red Army soldiers, but rather contributing to the efforts of Einsatzgruppe C to mass murder innocent Jews and other “enemies of the Reich.”

Einsatzgruppe C was one of the four special killing squads, labeled A, B, C, and D, the Nazis sent in June of 1941, along with the Wehrmacht troops invading the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa, to begin the mass murder of Jews, even before the formal decree of the Final Solution was officially adopted at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. They spread out over the entire territory, with A responsible for the former Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; B in charge in Belarus; C was active in central Ukraine and D in southern Ukraine. Over the course of 1941-1943 these units which numbered approximately 3,000 men with assistance from members of the Wehrmacht, German police units, and local collaborators, were responsible for the mass murder by shooting of approximately 2 million people, including 1.3 million Jews.

Wahler served initially in a Waffen-S.S. unit, which in late July, 1941, was assigned to Einsatzgruppen C. The unit went from place to place murdering tens of thousands of innocent civilians, most of whom were Jewish, and by the end of October, 1941, had killed an estimated 78,000 people, and carried out the largest mass murder in the history of the Holocaust, the September 29-30 massacre of 33,771 Jews in Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev.

Photo: 1944 file photo of part of the Babi Yar ravine on the outskirts of Kiev where the advancing Red Army unearthed the bodies of 14,000 civilians killed by fleeing Nazis, 1944. Einsatzgruppe C was responsible for one of the most notorious massacres, the shooting of nearly 34,000 at Babi Yar, a ravine northwest of the Ukrainian city of Kiev, on Sept. 29-30, 1941. AP Photo

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