Defendant Otto Ohlendorf (second from left) receives his indictment from Colonel C.W. Mays, marshal of the Military Tribunal, before the Einsatzgruppen Trial. The other pictured defendants (left to right) are Heinz Jost, Erich Naumann, and Erwin Schulz. July 7, 1947.
National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.
The Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) were squads of German SS and police personnel. The Einsatzgruppen committed some of the most heinous atrocities of the Holocaust, including the massacres of over one million Jews and tens of thousands of Soviet political commissars, partisans, Roma, and disabled persons. Twenty-four of these units' leaders were indicted by the Nuremberg court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Nuremberg tribunal noted that “the charge of purposeful homicide in this case reaches such fantastic proportions and surpasses such credible limits that believability must be bolstered with assurance a hundred times repeated.” Twenty-two of the defendants were found guilty. In all, 14 defendants were sentenced to death, 2 were sentenced to life terms, and 5 received sentences that ranged from 10 to 20 years.
One of the guilty was immediately released with time served. Ultimately, only four of the 14 death sentences were carried out. The sentences of the other defendants, all convicted mass murderers, were either commuted or reduced.