On 6 February 1941 Stahlecker was promoted to SS-Brigadeführer and Generalmajor der Polizei and took over as commanding officer of Einsatzgruppe A, in hopes of furthering his career with the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), Nazi Germany’s security police and intelligence organization. In June 1941, Einsatzgruppe A followed Army Group North and operated in the Baltic states and areas of Russia up to Leningrad.Its mission was to hunt down and murder the Jews, Gypsies, Communists, and other “undesirables”.
In a 15 October 1941 report, Stahlecker wrote:
Considering that the population of the Baltic countries had suffered very heavily under the government of Bolshevism and Jewry while they were incorporated in the USSR, it was to be expected that after the liberation from that foreign government, they would render harmless most of the enemies left behind after the retreat of the Red Army. It was the duty of the Security Police to set in motion these self-cleansing movements, and to direct them into the correct channels in order to accomplish the purpose of the cleansing operations as quickly as possible. It was no less important, in view of the future, to establish the unshakeable and provable fact that the liberated populations themselves took the most severe measures against the Bolshevist and Jewish enemy quite on their own, so that the direction by German authorities could not be found out. In Lithuania this was achieved for the first time by Partisan activities in Kowno.
To our surprise it was not easy at first to set in motion an extensive pogrom against Jews. Klimatis, the leader of the partisan unit mentioned above, who was used for this purpose primarily, succeeded in starting a pogrom on the basis of advice given to him by a small advance detachment acting in Kowno, and in such a way that no German order or German instigation was noticed from the outside. During the first pogrom on the night of 25-26 [June], the Lithuanian partisans did away with more than 1,500 Jews, set fire to several Synagogues or destroyed them by other means, and burned down a Jewish dwelling district consisting of about 60 houses. During the following nights about 2,300 Jews were made harmless in a similar way.
A wounded Stahlecker on 22 December 1941
By winter 1941, Stahlecker reported to Berlin that Einsatzgruppe A had murdered some 249,420 Jews. He was made Higher SS and Police Leader of Reichskommissariat Ostland, which included the occupied territory of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus, at the end of November 1941. Stahlecker, age 41, was killed in action on 23 March 1942, by Soviet partisans near Krasnogvardeysk, Russia. Heinz Jost then assumed command of Einsatzgruppe A. In 1951, Jost was released from Landsberg prison. He then worked in Düsseldorf as a real estate agent. He died in 12 November 1964, age 60 at Bensheim