Historical Note on the Jaeger Report

Written by Yale F. Edeiken
author of An Introduction to the Einsatzgruppen

In "Messages of Murder," a study of the reports of the Einsatzgruppen, Ronald Headland wrote: "Jaeger's report is only several pages long, but for cold-blooded horror, for a mind-boggling depravity that leaves one stunned and incredulous at the ordered recording of such atrocities, this report is without equal in all of the Einsatzgruppen reports" [1]. The report was written at the request of Walter Stahlecker, the commander of Einsatzgruppe A by Karl Jaeger, the commander of Einsatzkommando 3, one of the subunits of Einsatzgruppe A.

Of the four Einsatzgruppen which operated behind the lines as the Wehrmacht advanced into the Soviet Union, we know the most about the composition of Einsatzgruppe A. At the time of the invasion of the Soviet Union, Einsatzgruppe A consisted of 990 men organized into a headquarters unit and four subgroups: Sonderkommandos 1A and 1B and Einsatzkommandos 2 and 3. Einsatzkommando 3, which Jaeger commanded, drew the 141 men serving with the unit from several other formations of the German army and the Nazi establishment. The roster included [2]:

Waffen-SS 32
Drivers 34
Administration 1
SD 10
Criminal Police 10
State Police 29
Auxiliary Police 15
Female Auxiliary 1
Translators 8
Radio Operator 1

In July of 1941 Einsatzkommando 3 was ordered to take over the killing operations in the Vilna-Kaunas region of Lithuania from Einsatzkommando 2 (Einsatzgruppe A) and Einsatzkommando 9 (Einsatzgruppe B). This area contained the largest and the most influential Jewish community in the Baltic region. The community, famed for its learning and scholarship, had produced the "Vilna Gaon", one of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 19th century. There was no Jewish partisan activity in the area due to the efforts of Jakob Gens, the leader of the Jewish ghetto of Vilna who continually sought an accommodation with the occupiers [3]. It was the task of Einsatzkommando 3 to destroy this community. As Jaeger Report details they did so by murdering over 135,000 people in the five months of operations covered by the report.

It should be noted that Einsatzkommando did not act alone. Detachments from Sonderkommando 1B (Einsatzgruppe A) were also assigned to this area. More disturbing was the reaction of the Lithuanians. As the Jaeger Report notes, some of the killing was carried out by Lithuanian "militia" and "partisans" even before Einsatzkommando 3 began its operations. The Lithuanian forces continued to assist Einsatzkommando 3 in the period covered by the Jaeger Report. This cooperation consisted of rounding up Jews and guarding the ghettos as well as participation in the actual killing. Lithuanians were especially active in Kaunas which was surrounded by a series of forts where much of the killing took place. These forts were staffed with Lithuanian soldiers cooperating with the forces of the Third Reich and the soldiers took an active part in the operations [4].

In response to his commander's request, Jaeger composed his report which tersely details the murders that were committed by his troops. There were only five copies of this report of which only the fourth survives. It was located in the Central Lithuanian Archives in Vilnius [5]. Although it was discovered too late to be used in either the Nuremberg Trial before the IMT or the trial of the commanders of the Einsatzgruppen in the subsequent trials [6], the Jaeger Report has been used at several other legal proceedings in several countries including Germany, Canada, and the United States. The most recent use of the Jaeger Report was in "U.S. v. Stelmokas" 100 F.3rd 302 (3rd Cir.; 1996). During the trial before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [7], the Jaeger Report was accepted as authentic and reliable over the objections of the defendant. Its impact can be gauged by the statement of one of the appeals court judges who reviewed the document. "Colonel Jaeger reports the executions of thousands of Jews and hundreds of others in such an impersonal, matter-of-fact-manner and with such pride that his account leaves one in a horror-driven state of shock." (100 F.3rd 302, 325). As the courts in that case noted, there is no doubt that the report is both authentic and reliable.

Neither Jaeger nor Stahlecker ever stood trial for their crimes. Stahlecker was mortally wounded by Soviet partisans in March, 1942. Jaeger survived the war and lived in Germany until his report was discovered. Arrested and charged with his crimes, Karl Jaeger committed suicide in prison while he was awaiting trial.

The Jaeger Report is not only authentic but stands as one of the most important documents about the Holocaust. It gives historians a close look at the actual procedures used by the Einsatzgruppen and how proud they were of their work [8]. No other known document presents this detailed an account of the regular and steady growth in the toll of victims as the Holocaust progressed. For the layman, the Jaeger Report - with its precise and dispassionate account of mass murder - helps to make the cold-blooded, premeditated killing of over one million human beings by the Einsatzgruppen a horrifying reality.


1. Roland Headland "Messages of Murder" Farleigh Dickenson University Press (1992); page 155.

2. French L. MacLean "The Field Men" Schiffer Military History Press (1999); page 13.

3. Jewish resistance actually began with a declaration issued on New Year's Eve, 1942, by Abba Kovner. This occurred after the period covered by the Jaeger Report. A full account of response of Gens to the occupation and the eventual decision to begin a partisan movement can be found in Raul Hilberg, "Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders" HarperCollins, New York (1992).

4. An account of how the Lithuanian military assisted in the mass murder of the Jewish population can be found in U.S. v. Stelmokas 100 F.3rd 302 (3rd Cir.; 1996). Stelmokas was an officer in the Lithuanian military assigned to one of the forts surrounding Kaunas. Stelmokas immigrated to the U.S. after the war and was naturalized as a U.S. citizen. In this successful action the U.S. took away that citizenship. The decision was based, in large part on the information found in the Jaeger Report. Subsequently a second case was filed against Stelmokas to deport him to Lithuania for trial. The U.S. won again but the case was appealed. Jonas Stelmokas died in 1999 before the appeal could be decided.

5. Headland, page 155.

6. 22 Einsatzgruppen officers were tried for their crimes in "United States v. Otto Ohlendorf, et al." in 1946. All were convicted and the leaders sentenced to death. Justice Michael Musmanno of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court presided at the trial. His final judgment can be found on The Einsatzgruppen Page at http://www.pgonline.com/electriczen/. Justice Musmanno, who testified as an expert witness on the Einsatzgruppen at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, also wrote an excellent account of the trial. "The Eichmann Kommandos" (1962).

7. The decision of the District Court was not published.

8. Headland, pages 187-190.