Saturday, November 27, 2010

One gets used to it

On October 2 and 3, 1941, German police and Ukrainian auxiliaries shot 2,273 men, women, and children in the city of Mahileu, in Soviet Belarus. One of the policemen--an Austrian, as it happened, not himself a German national--wrote his wife about what it was like to kill people on the edge of a pit that was to be their grave:

"During the first try, my hand trembled a bit as I shot, but one gets used to it. By the tenth try I aimed calmly and shot surely at the many women, children, and infants. I kept in mind that I have two infants at home, whom these hordes would treat just the same, if not ten times worse. The death that we gave them was a beautiful quick death, compared to the hellish torments of thousands and thousands in the jails of the GPU [Russian secret police]. Infants flew in great arcs through the air, and we shot them to pieces in flight, before their bodies fell into the pit and into the water."

Quoted in Timothy Snyder's magnificent history, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, pages 205-206. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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