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.
- Baumgartner was found guilty and sentenced to death. How did trials and sentencing differ in the GDR, West Germany, and Austria?
- Does Baumgartner’s claim that he felt sorry for his victims change our perception of him and his actions?
- Is there any historical evidence that Baumgartner had to fear for his life had he refused to shoot the victims?
- 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?
- 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?
MfS HA IX/11 ZUV 14 Akte 11. [Translation S.R.]