What were Einsatzgruppen Aktions?

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During the last five months of 1941 the Einsatzgruppen, supported by local collaborators from across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Ukraine, murdered over 500,000 Jews.

By December 1941, 80 per cent of the Jews of Lithuania had been murdered. Within a further 12 months most of the Jews of Western Ukraine and Belorussia had also been murdered, along with a large number of Jews from Romania.

The invasion of the Soviet Union (Operation Barbarossa) marked a change from the Nazi’s initial racial policy that involved the resettlement and containment of the Jews of Europe. In its place came a policy of mass murder. Barbarossa was, in fact, a racial war. A war in which the Nazis would rapidly carryout the mass murder of the Jews of eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.

Following the German army into battle were the Einsatzgruppen. These volunteer killing squads were made up of thousands of elite SS officers. One of their main tasks was to kill all Jewish men, women and children in the areas that were being conquered.

The method was usually to take the Jews out of a town or village to a forest or open land, make them dig pits and undress, and then to shoot them all.