Fact Check

Were Doctors and Members of the Media Hanged in This Nuremberg Trial Photo?

This article contains images of death and may not be suitable for all viewers.

Published July 14, 2021

Image Via Wikipedia
A photograph shows doctors and members of the media who were hanged in the aftermath of the Nuremberg trials.

This photograph was taken in Kyiv, Ukraine, not Nuremberg, Germany, in 1946 and shows Nazi war criminals, not doctors or members of the media, who were charged with killing, torturing, and abducting tens of thousands of Jewish people.

A photograph of a public hanging was widely circulated on social media in the summer of 2021 along with a caption claiming that the people who had been sentenced to death in this image had been doctors and members of the media.

"Members of the Media who lied and misled the German People were executed, right along with Medical Doctors and Nurses who participated in medical experiments using living people as guinea pigs."

This meme was widely circulated among people pushing an anti-vaccination agenda along with messages stating that public health officials and reporters should be put to death in a similar fashion for encouraging people to get their COVID-19 vaccines. Some versions of this meme had added captions at the top, such as: "Still so sure you want to try to force me to get the experimental vaccination!" and "Anyone else think this should be a thing here in the states?" and "This is what happens when the MEDIA lies to the people." [Side note: Please go get vaccinated. It will help keep you and your community safe.]

This is a genuine photograph of a group of people who were sentenced to death by hanging in 1946. However, those pictured here were not doctors or members of the media. They were Nazi war criminals who were sentenced to death after being charged with participating in the killing, torturing and abduction of thousands of people.

This image was taken on January 29, 1946, and shows the execution of a dozen Nazi war criminals in Kyiv, according to Ukraine's Shostka Museum of Local History. These Nazis were not executed for being members of the press or doctors. According to the Nuremberg Casus Pacis Project, one of the people executed, SS-Obersturmbannführer Georg Heinisch, was charged with ordering the killings of 3,000 children. Another person sentenced to death at this trial in Kyiv, Paul Scheer, Lieutenant General of Police, was accused of burning villages near Korosten and shooting the displaced people:

Paul Scheer, Lieutenant General of Police, former Head of the Security Police and Gendarmerie of Kiev and Poltava Regions, is accused of carrying out punitive operations near the mouth of the Desna River and Korosten. Under his control villages were burned and displaced people shot dead.

SS-Obersturmbannführer Georg Heinisch, former district Commissar (Gebietskommissar) of Melitopol, is accused of committing crimes in Melitopol. 3,000 children were shot there on his orders in October 1942.

An article from Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance center, contains the testimony of a woman named Dina Pronicheva (pictured at the top of this article) who testified against the Nazi soldiers during the trial shortly before this picture was taken. Pronicheva describes how the Nazi's forced thousands of Jews to gather near a ravine called Babi Yar where they would be executed and how she escaped after falling into this pit filled with the recently deceased bodies of her neighbors.

Hitler's troops occupied Kiev on September 19, 1941 and from the very first day started to rob and kill Jews… We were living in terror. When I saw the posters on the city’s streets and read the order: “All the Jews of Kiev must gather at Babi Yar,” about which we had no idea, in my heart I sensed trouble… So I dressed my little ones, the younger one [the girl] who was 3 years old and the older one [the boy] - 5, packed their belongings into a small sack, and took my daughter and son to my Russian mother-in-law. Afterwards, I took my sick mother and, following the order, she and I started out on the way to Babi Yar.

Hundreds, no thousands, of Jews were walking the same way. An old Jew with a long white beard walked next to me. He wore a talis [prayer shawl] and tefillin [phylacteries]. He was murmuring quietly. He prayed the same way as my father did when I was a child. Ahead of me a woman with two children in her arms walked along, while the third child clung to her apron-strings… Small children were crying… Russian husbands accompanied their Jewish wives. Russian wives accompanied their Jewish husbands. When we neared Babi Yar, shooting and inhuman cries could be heard… When we entered the gate, we were ordered to hand over [our] documents and valuables, and to take off our clothes. One German approached my mother and tore her gold ring off her finger. Only then did my mother say [to me]: “Dinochka-you are Pronicheva, a Russian. You should save yourself. Run to your little ones. You should live for them.”

But I could not run… How could I leave my mother alone? I hugged her, burst into tears, but I could not leave her.
My mother pushed me away from her, crying: “Go quickly!”

I then approached a table where a fat officer was sitting, showed him my passport, and said quietly: "I am a Russian."
He looked closely at my passport, but at that moment a policeman came running up and muttered: "Don't believe her, she is a kike. We know her…"

The German told me to wait and to stand aside.

Each time I saw a new group of men and women, elderly people, and children being forced to take off their clothes. All [of them] were being taken to an open pit where submachine-gunners shot them. Then another group was brought…

With my own eyes I saw this horror. Although I was not standing close to the pit, terrible cries of panic-stricken people and quiet children’s voices calling “Mother, mother…” reached me. The German who ordered me to wait brought me to some superior of his, gave him my passport, and said to him: "his woman says she is a Russian, but a policeman knows that she is a kike."

The superior took the passport, examined it for a long time, and then muttered: "Dina is not a Russian name. You are a kike. Take her away!"

The policeman ordered me to strip and pushed me to a precipice… But before the shots resounded, apparently out of fear, I fell into the pit. I fell on the [bodies] of those already murdered…. During the first moments I couldn't grasp anything - either where I was or how I got there… I pretended to be dead…

The shooting was continuing and people kept falling…

Suddenly all became quiet. It was getting dark… I felt we were being covered with earth… When it became dark and silent, literally the silence of death, I opened my eyes and threw the sand off me… I said to myself: “Dina, stand up. Get away. Run from here, your children are waiting for you.” So I stood up and ran, but then I heard a shot and understood that I had been seen. I fell to the ground and remained silent. It was quiet. Still on the ground, I started to move quietly toward the high hill[s] surrounding the pit…"

This image does not show members of the media or doctors being hanged during the Nuremberg trials. This photograph was taken in Kyiv, Ukraine, and shows Nazi war criminals who were sentenced to death for the mass murder of Jewish people.

When the AFP looked into this article in June 2021, they reported that only one member of the media was executed during the Nuremberg trials. According to Richard Wilson, professor of anthropology and law at the University of Connecticut, Julius Streicher was sentenced to death for running the the anti-Semitic newspaper Der Steurmer, which was a "central element of the Nazi propaganda machine."

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.