Ohlendorf, Otto

Ohlendorf, Otto
   A high official in the Reich Security Main Office (RSHA), Ohlendorf was the commander of Einsatzgruppe D in southern Ukraine in 1941–1942. Although born to a peasant family, Ohlendorf went on to study at the University of Leipzig and Gottingen, where he graduated in 1933. In 1925, while still a student, he joined the Nazi Party, then the Schutzstaffel (SS) in 1926. Although a specialist in the theories of National Socialism and Italian fascism, he was also a lecturer on economics and had addressed institutions such as the Institute of World Economy at the University of Kiel.
   Ohlendorf joined the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in 1936 and became chief of the SD Inland Section of the RSHA in 1939. In June 1941, Heinrich Himmler appointed the intellectually minded Ohlendorf to head Einsatzgruppe D, which subsequently swept through the Crimea and the Ciscaucasia, killing more than 90,000 men, women, and children, who were mostly Jews. Fearing that the mass killings might have damaging psychological consequences on his men, Ohlendorf insisted that his men shoot their victims at the same time, thus avoiding personal responsibility for their actions. At the Nuremberg Trials where he was tried as a war criminal, Ohlendorf defended the mass shooting of Jews as a necessary consequence of the policy of Lebensraum. When asked whether children also had to be murdered, he replied that it was unavoidable “because the children were people who would grow up, and surely, being the children of parents who had been killed, they would constitute a danger no smaller that than of their parents.”
   Ohlendorf was tried by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal and sentenced to death in 1948. He was hanged along with other Einsatzgruppen commanders in Landsberg prison on 8 June 1951.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

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