A picture from an Einsatzgruppen soldier’s personal album, labelled on the back as “Last Jew of Vinnitsa”. It shows a member of Einsatzgruppe D just about to shoot a Jewish man kneeling before a filled mass grave in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, in 1941. All 28,000 Jews from Vinnitsa and its surrounding areas were massacred at the time.
There were two mass shootings in Vinnitsa, on the 16th September, and the other on 22nd September. A subsequent massacre of Jews appears to have been of Jews brought in from outside the district. This is the evidence for the date of this photograph. There was one eye-witness to the procedure involved. Wehrmacht officer Lieutenant Erwin Bingel had been ordered to assist the Commandant of Uman district with men to guard the railway lines and around the airport. He was aware that ditches had been dug on the perimeter of the airfield and a number of specialist SS men had arrived by plane. All the Jews of the area had been ordered to gather for a “census”.
Below you can read an excerpt from: “Erwin Bingel: Eyewitness to Mass Murder at Uman and Vinnitsa in the Ukraine“:
On the 22 September 1941 Lieutenant Bingel and his men witnessed a second massacre in Vinnitsa. This was followed by a third, also in Vinnitsa, carried out by Ukrainian militia who had been trained by the SS, and were commanded by a small group of SS officers and NCO’s. In the first two massacres, Bingel calculated first twenty-four thousand and then twenty-eight thousand Jews were killed. In the third, Ukrainian militia killings, six thousand were murdered.
In the morning at 10.15, wild shooting and terrible human cries reached our ears. At first I failed to grasp what was taking place, but when I approached the window from which I had a broad view over the whole of the town park, the following spectacle unfolded before my eyes and those of my men, who, alerted by the tumult, had meanwhile gathered in my room.Ukrainian militia on horseback, armed with pistols, rifles and long straight cavalry swords, were riding wildly inside and around the town park. As far as we could make out, they were driving people along before their horses – men, women and children. A shower of bullets was then fired at this human mass. Those not hit outright were struck down with the swords. Like some ghostly apparition, this horde of Ukrainians, let loose and commanded by SS officers, trampled savagely over human bodies, ruthlessly killing innocent children, mothers and old people whose only crime was that they had escaped the great mass murder, so as eventually to be shot or beaten to death like wild animals.
The result of this proclamation was, of course, that all persons concerned appeared as ordered. This relatively harmless summons, it was thought, could be connected in some way or other with the preparations we were observing. It was because we took the matter so lightly that we were all the more horrified at what we witnessed during the next few hours. One row of Jews was ordered to move forward and was then allocated to the different tables where they had to undress completely and hand over everything they wore and carried.
Some still carried jewelry which they had to put on the table. Then having taken off all their clothes, they were made to stand in line in front of the ditches, irrespective of their sex. The commandos then marched in behind the line and began to perform the inhuman acts, the horror of which is now known to the whole world. With automatic pistols and 0.8 pistols these men mowed down the line with such zealous intent that one could have supposed this activity to have been their life work.
The people in the first row thus having been killed in the most inhuman manner, those of the second row were now ordered to step forward. The men in this row were ordered to step out and were handed shovels with which to heap chloride of lime upon the still partly moving bodies in the ditch. Thereafter they returned to the tables and undressed.
After that they had to set out on the same last walk as their murdered brethren…
Hannah Arendt wrote about “the banality of evil”: “The neutral expressions on the shooter and his uniformed audience pretty well encapsulate that concept: they could be watching a barber cut hair, instead of the heartless extermination of innocents. Humans can adapt to endure almost anything, but in doing so, they sometimes perpetuate incredible evil. The death of human empathy is one of the earliest and most telling signs of a culture about to fall into barbarism”.