Otto Rasch at the Einsatzgruppen trial
|Born||7 December 1891
Friedrichsruh, German Empire
|Died||1 November 1948
Wehrstedt, Lower Saxony, Germany
|Allegiance|| German Empire
|Service/branch|| Kaiserliche Marine
|Other work||Lawyer, Mayor|
SS-Brigadeführer Emil Otto Rasch (7 December 1891 – 1 November 1948) was a high-ranking Nazi official in the occupied Eastern territories, commanding Einsatzgruppe C (northern and central Ukraine) until October 1941. After World War II, Rasch was indicted for war crimes, but the case was discontinued for medical reasons in 1948. He died in 1948 while in custody.
Rasch was born in Friedrichsruh, Northern Germany. He fought in the First World War as a naval lieutenant. He studied philosophy, law, political science and received doctorates in law and political economy. With two university doctorates, Rasch was known as "Dr Dr Rasch", in accordance with German academic tradition. He became a lawyer in 1931 in Dresden and practiced law in the private sector. In 1933 he became mayor of Radeberg and in 1935 lord mayor of Wittenberg.
Rasch joined the NSDAP on 1 October 1931 with membership number 620,976. He joined the SA in 1933 and the SS on 10 March 1933; with membership number 107,100. Beginning in 1936 he was employed full-time by the Sicherheitsdienst (SD). On 1 October 1937, as commissioner, Rasch assumed leadership of the State Police (Stapo) in Frankfurt am Main. In March 1938, again as commissioner, Rasch became director of security (based in Linz) for Upper Austria. In June 1938, Rasch was assigned various responsibilities within the RSHA and was appointed chief of the Security Police (SiPo) and SD in Prague.
In November 1939, as inspector of the SiPo and SD, Rasch was transferred to Königsberg. Rasch suggested and oversaw the liquidation of Polish political prisoners (intelligentsia) who had been arrested by the Einsatzgruppen. Rasch himself checked which prisoners were to be killed; the killings took place in forests. However, the executions were not inconspicuous. So, with the approval of Reinhard Heydrich, Rasch organised and founded the Soldau concentration camp in the winter of 1939/40 as a Durchgangslager (Dulag), or transit camp, for deportations to the General Government, and where Polish intelligentsia could be secretly executed.
In June 1941, shortly before the invasion of the Soviet Union, Rasch took command of Einsatzgruppe C. In this capacity, he perpetrated extermination actions against Jews. Rasch, along with General Kurt Eberhard and Paul Blobel, organised the Babi Yar massacre, which saw the murder of over 33,000 Jews.
SS Brigadeführer Dr. Rasch distinguished himself by particular ruthlessness. He ordered the leaders also to participate personally in the shootings.
Rasch made sure that all Einsatzgruppen personnel, including the commanding officers, personally shot Jews, so that all members were culpable.
In August 1941, Hitler is alleged (in post-war interrogations of German prisoners) to have given a Führerbefehl (Leader's Order) for the extermination of entire populations in the Eastern territories.[page needed] The commando leaders subordinate to Rasch met with him to discuss this order. Paul Blobel later testified that Rasch basically quoted what had been stated by Friedrich Jeckeln, that "the measures against the Jewish population had to be sharper and that he disapproved of the manner in which they had been carried out until now because it was too mild". In other words, the order was to shoot more Jews. Erwin Schulz confirmed this:
After about two weeks' stay in Berdichev the commando leaders were ordered to report to Zhitomir, where the staff of Dr. Rasch was quartered. Here Dr. Rasch informed us that Obergruppenführer Jeckeln had been there, and had reported that the Reichsführer-SS had ordered us to take strict measures against the Jews. It had been determined without doubt that the Russian side had ordered to have the SS members and Party members shot. As such measures were being taken on the Russian side, they would also have to be taken on our side. All suspected Jews were, therefore, to be shot. Consideration was to be given only when they were indispensable as workers. Women and children were to be shot also in order not to have any avengers remain. We were horrified, and raised objections, but they were met with a remark that an order which was given had to be obeyed.
Rasch was indicted at the Einsatzgruppen trial at the end of September 1947 but the case against Rasch was discontinued on 5 February 1948 because he had Parkinson's disease and associated dementia. Otto Rasch died later that year on 1 November in Wehrstedt, Lower Saxony.
- Rasch appears in Jonathan Littell's novel Les Bienveillantes. He files a record that the military should concentrate on fighting bolshevism which should not be identified with Jews. He also gives the order that Jews should be paraded in public before executions to 'destroy in eyes of Ukrainian peasants the myth of Jewish power'.
- Christopher Browning (2004). The Origins of the Final Solution : The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939 – March 1942 (With contributions by Jürgen Matthäus), Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press.
- Henry Friedlander (1995). The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-4675-9
- Richard Rhodes (2002). Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust, New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40900-9
- Zenter, Christian and Bedürftig, Friedemann (1991). Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, New York: Macmillan, p. 754. ISBN 0-02-897502-2