A one-time Nazi police officer, Wilhelm Gehrke, testified here yesterday in the trial of ten Gestapo officers that he himself took part in the execution of at least 813 Jewish women and children.
Gehrke, recently extradited from Sweden, appeared as a prosecution witness against former Tilsit Gestapo Chief Hans Joachim Boehme, Criminal Kommissar Hains, and eight other Gestapo officers. The group, composing a special Nazi extermination squad, had been ordered to conduct mass executions of Jews in Lithuania, near the old German border, shortly after Hitler’s armies invaded Russia in 1941. The ten men are accused of having massacred more than 5,000 Jews, including many women and children.
After detailing the executions in which he had taken part–at Haydekrug Garsden, Georgenburg and Wirballen–Gehrke fainted. He had wept throughout his recital on the witness stand.
Gehrke testified that, after the massacre of Jews in Georgenburg, Boehme ordered him to “chase” more Jews out of their homes for slaughter, because “the number killed was too small.” After the massacres, he said under oath, the extermination squad held a banquet at a nearby Lithuanian inn, paying for food and cognac with money taken from the victims.
A 67-year-old Lithuanian woman, Mrs. Ona Rudaitis, also testified yesterday, declaring she saw the squad shooting Jewish women and children in a pasture near her home at Wirballen. Gestapo chief Boehme, who has been contending that he was in charge only of exterminating people who might hamper the Nazi army’s occupation, finally admitted on the stand that he may have ordered executions “without knowing that women and children” were among the victims.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.