Post-war justifications

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Hans Baumgartner, one of the former shooters involved in mass killings in Libau between July and December 1941, was interrogated by the Stasi in the GDR 1969-1970. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.

Hans Baumgartner, one of the former shooters involved in mass killings in Libau between July and December 1941, was interrogated by the Stasi in the GDR 1969-1970. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death.

Excerpt from interrogation protocol, 11.2.1970

[Interrogator] What did you feel when you committed this criminal act? [July 1941 killings]

[Baumgartner] Everything in me recoiled at this execution, but I just had to do it, because it was an order. I didn’t dare to defy the order, because I would have had to fear being shot myself. I wanted to avoid this and in order to protect my own life, I shot at the Soviet citizens. It appeared to me to be the most viable solution. I didn’t see another way out. I would like to add that I felt sorry for the defenceless Soviet citizens, especially the women and children. After 1945 I still thought about these issues and I would often recall how I shot at the Soviet citizens. As long as I live I won’t ever forget it, because the gruesome images are indelibly imprinted on my memory.

Questions
  1. Baumgartner was found guilty and sentenced to death. How did trials and sentencing differ in the GDR, West Germany, and Austria?
  2. Does Baumgartner’s claim that he felt sorry for his victims change our perception of him and his actions?
  3. Is there any historical evidence that Baumgartner had to fear for his life had he refused to shoot the victims?
  4. This interrogation took place in the GDR. Are there any linguistic conventions that speak to that effect? And how might the oral interrogation have differed from the written protocol?
  5. How does the context of an interrogation affect what is said? How might an interrogation differ from e.g. an oral history interview or from an interview conducted for a documentary?
Sources

MfS HA IX/11 ZUV 14 Akte 11. [Translation S.R.]