"The last Jew in Vinnitsa"

22 September 1941: Wehrmacht officer's eyewitness evidence of mass murder

There were two mass shootings in Uman and Vinnitsa, one the 16th September, and the other on 22nd September. A subsequent massacre of Jews appears to have been of Jews brought in from outside the district. This is the evidence for the date of this photograph. There was one eye witness to the procedure involved.

Wehrmacht officer Lieutenant Erwin Bingel had been ordered to assist the Commandant of Uman district with men to guard the railway lines and around the airport. He was aware that ditches had been dug on the perimeter of the airfield and a number of specialist SS men had arrived by transport plane.

According to Bingel’s statement, made when he was a POW in 19451, the Jews of the area had been ordered to gather for a 'census'. He then describes how the first ‘Action’ was conducted:

The result of this proclamation was, of course, that all persons concerned appeared as ordered. This relatively harmless summons, it was thought, could be connected in some way or other with the preparations we were observing. It was because we took the matter so lightly that we were all the more horrified at what we witnessed during the next few hours.

One row of Jews was ordered to move forward and was then allocated to the different tables where they had to undress completely and hand over everything they wore and carried.

‘With automatic pistols and 0.8 pistols these men mowed down the line with such zealous intent that one could have supposed this activity to have been their life work.’

Some still carried jewellery which they had to put on the table. Then having taken off all their clothes, they were made to stand in line in front of the ditches, irrespective of their sex.

The commandos then marched in behind the line and began to perform the inhuman acts, the horror of which is now known to the whole world. With automatic pistols and 0.8 pistols these men mowed down the line with such zealous intent that one could have supposed this activity to have been their life work.
The people in the first row thus having been killed in the most inhuman manner, those of the second row were now ordered to step forward. The men in this row were ordered to step out and were handed shovels with which to heap chloride of lime upon the still partly moving bodies in the ditch. Thereafter they returned to the tables and undressed.

After that they had to set out on the same last walk as their murdered brethren ...

According to the statement made by Bingel in 1945 he took a number of photographs of the second ‘Action’ on the 22nd September although the' ‘Last Jew of Vinnitsa’ image does not seem to be one of them.

On September 22, 1941, we witnessed an action, that did not lag behind that of Uman in any respect, the only difference being, that since we were then on duty, the spectacle took place in close proximity to our quarters.

I was hence in a good position to take two complete reels of film, thus securing reliable proof of this second wicked act which I hoped would be brought to the attention of world public opinion at the appopriate time. These pictures have also been preserved to this very day and can be obtained at anytime.

It is not clear what happened to the photographs that Bingel said he took. His testimony was used by the Soviet Prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials. A number of images from Vinnitsa appear at the Holocaust Research Project.2