This 4 page series reports on some occurrences within:
THE LIDICE MASSACRE (June 10, 1942)
Two Czech patriots, Jan Kubis and Josef Gabcik, serving with the Free Czech forces in Britain, and based in the grounds of Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire, volunteered to be dropped by parachute near Prague. Their mission, codenamed 'Anthropoid' was to assassinate SS Obergruppenfuehrer Reinhard Heydrich (Party Number 544916) the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. The ambush took place on May 27, 1942, as Heydrich drove to his office in his dark-green Mercedes-Benz. Severely wounded, he was rushed to Bulovka Hospital where he died eight days later. The Nazi reprisals then began. In the next few days, 3,188 Czech citizens were arrested of whom 1,357 were shot. Another 657 died while being interrogated by SS police. On June 9th armed police surrounded the small village of Lidice, some ten kilometres from Prague and gathered together the entire population in the tiny square. Boys over 15 were lined up with the men and locked up in an empty barn. Women and children were herded into the local school for the night. The houses were then ransacked, the pillaging went on all night. Next morning, June 10, at 5am, the women and children were bundled into trucks and driven away. The police then fetched dozens of mattresses from the ransacked houses and propped them up against the wall of the barn to prevent ricochets. The men and boys were then brought out 10 at a time, lined up in front of the mattresses and then shot. (See photo below)
In all, 173 souls were murdered this way. While the firing squads were busy, others set about burning the village to the ground. The bulldozers and ploughs were then brought in and in no time no recognizable feature of the village remained. Meanwhile, the 198 women and 98 children were forcibly separated and driven away, the women to the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where 35 of the older women were then sent on to Auschwitz to be used for medical experiments. Only 143 were alive at wars end. Of the children, 17 were picked out as suitable for Germanisation and allocated to German households. These children all survived the war and were eventually reunited with their families. The rest, 81 in number, were sent to the camp at Chelmno and gassed. Reprisals were also taken in the concentration camps where thousands of Czech political prisoners were murdered. Contrary to what some history books tells us, not a single unit of the SS took part in the destruction, massacre and deportation of women and children in Lidice. The massacre was carried out by a thirty man unit of the Prague police acting under German officers. When Churchill heard of this atrocity five days later, he sugested to cabinet that three German villages should be wiped off the face of the earth in retalitation. This was never carried out owing to moral objections put forward by the then deputy Prime Minister, Clement Attlee. A new village of 150 houses for the women who survived, has been built a short distance away from the original site. The men and boys who were shot now lie in a mass grave in the Park of Peace.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA TAKES REVENGE
A massacre similar to to the one in Lidice was repeated in the village of Lezaky on July 24, 1942. With a population of about fifty, seventeen men and fourteen women were executed and fourteen children taken to Prague to be adopted out to Nazi families. Only two of the fourteen children survived the war. The village of Lezaky was never rebuilt but crosses were put up where the houses once stood. On May 5, 1945, the village of Javoricko experienced the wrath of the Nazi occupiers. Attacked by an SS unit, thirty-eight men of the village were murdered, allegedly for co-operating with partisans, the whole village was then burned to the ground. The only buildings left standing were the school and the chapel. The victims were all buried in a common grave over which a memorial has since been erected.
In retaliation for the 213,000 of its citizens murdered during the Nazi occupation, the Czechs lost no time in squaring the account. In May, 1945, the native German population was just over three million. Eduard Benes returned from exile in London and in Prague set up a new government which established a brutal campaign of expulsions against the German minority. Thousands of Sudeten Germans were rounded up and interned in camps without proper sanitation facilities. Soon, the camps were swarming with vermin. Hunger and disease were on a par with Belsen. In July, 1945, the Czech militia massacred some 1,000 Germans in a village near Aussig. In the town of Saaz, thousands of German women were herded into huge barracks. As night fell, hundreds of Czech militia entered the barracks and picked out their victims, mostly young women. Whoever wanted to could rape them. For two whole weeks, night after night, this mass rape continued. Without decent food and medicines, babies and young children were dying at a rate of up to fifteen per day. Eventually, when the survivors were transported to Germany, they left behind around 2,000 of their dead. In Troppau, in Silesia, 4,200 German women and children were expelled back to Germany, a journey by rail, in unheated freight cars, that lasted eighteen days. When the train arrived in Berlin, only 1,350 were still alive. In Prerau, Moravia, on June, 1945, an anti-German pogrom resulted in the deaths of 71 men, 120 women and 74 children who were ordered from a train and forced to dig their own grave before being shot. Many of these Germans were totally innocent and in no way sympathetic to Hitler's regime. It is estimated that between 20 and 40 thousand Germans, Austrians and Hungarians were murdered during the Czech reprisals. In the 2001 census in the Czech Republic only about 40,00 persons claimed German ethnicity.
ATROCITIES IN POLAND (Polish Revenge)
Unable to stem the onrush of German forces during the invasion of their country, Polish soldiers and civilians started fleeing eastwards. It was during this flight to the east that the ethnic German civilians, resident in Poland for many years, received the full impact of the spite and hate stored up in the hearts of the retreating Polish soldiers and their civilian followers. Between September 4 and September 8, 1939, in the communities of Eichdorf, Hopfengarten and Narzheim nearBromberg the polish soldiers began an orgy of murder and rape that is beyond belief. German houses were entered and the occupants arrested and then murdered. Not all were shot, many were brutally put to death by all sorts of tools and their bodies severely mutilated. As the soldiers left to search for more German houses, their civilian helpers were left behind to plunder and steal and in most cases, to set the house on fire. Many of the German women were raped before being shot. During this retreat from the west, the Polish soldiers, together with the communist civilian irregulars, were responsible for the deaths of many thousands of German residents. At a later investigation, the testimonies of 593 witnesses established the fact that at least 3,841 named ethnic Germans were murdered by the Poles prior to the full German occupation. These revenge murders were carried out as early as April, 1939 in the Polish Corridor. In September, 1939 these Volksdeutsche formed themselves into Self-Protection units known as Selbschutz and came under the control of the SS and later under the Ordungspolizei (Order Police). The infamous reputation that it earned caused it to be disbanded on 30th of November, 1939. These massacres were one of the causes that gave Hitler the excuse to invade.
After the German takeover of Poland in 1939, so called 'pacification' raids on towns and villages were started. The SS method of 'pacifying' a district and subdue the local population was to shoot a few hundred of its inhabitants. Picked at random, they were marched to the place of execution and forced to undress and to lie face down in previously dug pits. They were then shot and their corpses covered with a layer of quick-lime. A second batch of victims were then ordered to lie down on top and after they were killed another layer of quick lime was thrown on top. This procedure was repeated till the pit was full. It was then trampled down until the surface was level and on which trees or grass was planted. Executions such as this were committed daily by the Nazi death squads as they marched victoriously through Poland, and later the Soviet Union. In the village of Szalas, all male inhabitants over the age of fifteen, some 300 in all, were rounded up and many machined-gunned to death, the others were locked in the local school which was then set on fire. An order issued by Hitler stated that "No German soldier could be brought to trial for any act committed against Polish or Russian citizens".
Between 1939 and 1945, Poland suffered 6,028,000 non-military deaths. Around three million were Jews and about 300,000 were Gypsies. The fate of the Gypsies is often neglected by most authors in their writings, yet they were subjected to the same mode of extermination as were the Jews.
BROMBERG MASSACRES (September, 1939)
In the area around Bydogszcz (Bromberg) about 10,000 non-Jewish Polish civilians were murdered in the first four months of the Nazi occupation. This, the largest town in Pomerania had a population of around 140,000. Its priests, lawyers, teachers and industry leaders were arrested and executed in the town's square by machine-gun fire. About 100 twelve to sixteen year old boy scouts were rounded up and machine-gunned to death on the steps of the Jesuit Church. For every German soldier shot, a group of between 50 and 100 Polish civilians were randomly selected and executed. Participating in the shooting of hostages on September 10th, 1939, were members of the Police Battalion 6 (Berlin). Head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, had said 'All Poles will disappear from the world'. In the provinces of Lodz and Warsaw, the SS conducted a total of 714 executions which took the lives of 16,376 Polish civilians, mostly the leading intelligentsia and aristocracy, civil and political leaders. In mental hospitals around Bromberg around 3,700 mental patients were shot. The most victimized class of Polish society was the clergy. In Pomerania, only 20 of its 650 priests were allowed to remain, the rest were either shot or sent to concentration camps. In Wroclaw, 49% of its priests were killed. In Chelmno, 48%, Lodz, 37% and Poznan, 31%. In Warsaw 212 priests died at the hands of the invaders. The last transport of Jews from Bydogszcz arrived at the Warsaw Ghetto on March 10, 1941. In September, 1939, Poland had a Jewish population of 3,351,000. Only 369,000 were alive at the war's end. In the post-war period the city of Bromberg was surrounded by a network of Soviet concentration camps the inmates of which were ethnic German nationals and residents of the region arrested between 1944 and 1950.
(On November 29, 1939, the USSR forced Soviet citizenship on all residents of Polish territory under their control)
MASSACRE AT JÓZEFÓW
On June 20, 1942, Reserve Police Battalion 101 from Hamburg, consisting of eleven officers, five administrators and 486 men set out by truck for Poland. A few days later they arrived at the town of Bilgoraj, south of Lublin. Here for the first time they were told the purpose of their mission: to drive the Jews out of the nearby town of Józefów. Next morning, each man was issued with an ox-hide whip to be used to drive the victims out of their homes. Anyone who resisted was to be shot on the spot. The first 'action' was the rounding up of Jews from the ghetto of Jósefów. This was done with the utmost brutality, Jewish corpses lay strewn throughout the ghetto. All Jews, lying sick in the hospitals were simply shot where they lay, wounded Russian soldiers were completely ignored. Those alive were assembled in the town's market place and then marched in groups to the woods on the town's outskirts. Divided into killing squads of eight to ten men, each man from Battalion 101 would select a victim, a man, a woman or child and then walk in parallel single file to the killing site. There the victims were ordered to lie, face down, in a row on the ground to await the inevitable bullet in the back of the head. This procedure was repeated over and over again throughout the day at the end of which, the uniforms of the killers were splattered with blood, brain matter and bone splinters. The thirty men of Lieutenant Kurt Drucker's platoon of Second Company, shot between two and three hundred Jews within a four hour period. That day, over 1,200 Jews were disposed of, the bodies left for Jósefów's Polish mayor to arrange burial. Not all members of Police Battalion 101 approved of the task they were asked to perform, and after the first few killings, asked to be excused. Surprisingly, many such requests were granted as there were always enough volunteers to take their place. At the war crimes trials after the war, 21 members of Police Battalion 101 were convicted, 14 were sentenced to death by hanging.
SLAUGHTER AT LOMAZY (August 19, 1942)
In the town of Lomazy (Lomza) in eastern Poland, the Reserve Police Battalion 101 from Hamburg, led by Major Wilhelm Trapp, started the round up of all Jewish inhabitants. About 1,650 persons were arrested and marched to the playing field of the local school. Made to squat under a scorching sun and without anything to drink many fainted from the heat. A group of men were then selected and taken to a wooded area to dig a trench 30 yards wide and 50 yards long. While the trench was being dug, back in the playing fields the men of Battalion 101 were having a bit of ‘fun’. An empty bottle was thrown into the crowd of squatting victims and whoever was hit was then dragged out in front of the crowd and shot. When the digging was finished, the executions began. After shedding their clothes the naked victims were forced to run a gauntlet of policemen wielding clubs and rifle butts before reaching the trench, bloodied and half dead. As the pit began to fill with water the victims were made to lie down in the water before receiving a bullet in the back of the head. The next victims had to lie on top of the corpses while their killers stood knee-deep in the bloodied water and fired the fatal shots. As the murderers (including many Ukrainian collaborators - Hiwis) got more and more drunk they were then relieved by another squad. Finally, when most of the 1,650 Jews were executed the remainder were spared to fill in the trench after which they too were shot. The town of Lomazy was now declared ‘Jew-free’. Major Trapp survived the war but in July, 1948, he was arrested and extradited to Poland for trial. He was condemned to death and the sentence carried out at Siedlce on the 18th of December, 1948.
THE BIALYSTOK SLAUGHTER
One of the first major slaughter of Jews took place in the Polish city of Bialystok. The city had been captured without a fight as had many others in eastern Poland. On June 27, 1941, German Police Battalion 309, commanded by Major Ernst Weis, entered the city and began a roundup of all male Jews. Shooting blindly into windows and doors, the anti-Semitic hordes forced their way into houses and dragged the Jewish inhabitants out on to the streets where they were made to do an impromptu jig before their leering captors. If the dance was not brisk enough their beards were set on fire or completely cut off. In the hospitals all Jewish patients were shot as they lay in their beds. The captured Jews were then herded into the city's main synagogue, the largest in Poland at that time. Around 700 people were packed into the Jewish house of worship. Sensing that something untoward was about to happen, the victims started chanting and praying loudly. The chanting and praying soon turned to screams of agony as petrol was poured in and the building set alight. Surrounding the synagogue were over 100 men of the Police Battalion, posted there to prevent any escapes. At least six escapees were shot as they ran outside with their clothes aflame. That day in Bialystok, between 2,000 and 2,200 Jewish men, women and children were wantonly killed. The members of Police Battalions 309 and 101 were ordinary Germans, not fanatical SS, SD or Gestapo, but ordinary lower middle class citizens who had opted for police duties (Ordnungspolizei) as a means of avoiding military service. The average age of this cross section of the population was 36.5 years, 153 of whom were older than 40 and 179 were members of the Nazi Party. Only four were SS members. They were given a uniform, a few weeks training and then sent to the eastern front where they were given a free rein to vent their pent-up hatred on innocent defenseless Jews.
WARSAW GHETTO MASSACRE (April 19 to May 16, 1943)
The most outstanding act of Jewish resistance was during these four weeks when SS and Gestapo units killed a total of 56,065 Jews during the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto. The operation was commanded by SS Brigadier-General Stroop, who, in his report to Hitler, wrote "The Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw no longer exists". On March 22, 1947, Stroop was sentenced to death by an American court at Dachau and on September 8, 1951, he was hanged at the scene of his crime in Warsaw. The Warsaw Ghetto was enclosed by a 10-foot high wall inside of which were herded between 400,000-410,000 Jews. Guards in German uniform and Jewish policemen maintained a rigid check on everyone entering or leaving. Many Jews turned against their own people and worked for the Nazis only to stay alive. The majority of Jews in the Ghetto hated these collaborators more than they hated the Nazis. Every Jewish child was taught, and this saved the lives of some of them: "if you enter a square from which there are three exits, one guarded by a German SS man, one by an Ukrainian and one by a Jewish policeman, then you should first try to pass the German, then maybe the Ukrainian, but never the Jew". The Warsaw Uprising cost the German forces 17 dead and 93 wounded.
In 1939 there were some 3,474,000 Jews living in Poland. (359,827 in Warsaw). After the war, 55,509 registered as survivors, a loss of 98% of Poland's Jews.
MASS MURDER IN VIONNYTSIA
During the German occupation of this Ukrainian town in 1943, the troops discovered a number of mass graves containing in all some 9,432 bodies. All had been shot with two .22 bullets in the back of the head during the great Stalin Purges between 1937 and 1938. Most were identified as Ukranians but 28 were ethnic Poles. The victims were killed by the Soviet secret police the NKVD. A monument was erected stating "Victims of Stalinist Terror" but later the Russians changed the wording to "Victims of Nazi Terror" before removing it completely and creating a pleasure park in its place. Years later a new monument was built referring only "To the Victims of Totalitarianism".
MAJDANEK MASSACRE (November 3, 1943)
Eighteen thousand men, women and children were shot in a single day in what the SS called the 'Harvest Festival'. The slaughter started at 7am in the morning when a never-ending line of naked Jews were force-marched into a huge trench dug within the Krempecki Forest near the precincts of the notorious Majdanek concentration camp in Poland. They were ordered to lie down flat, layer upon layer, to be machine-gunned to death. At six o'clock that evening, petrol was poured over the bodies and set alight. Within the next few weeks a further 34,000 perished. The camp, only four kilometres from the town centre of Lubin, was built in 1941 and consisted of 144 barrack type huts each holding 300 prisoners. Used mainly for the killing of Polish Jews, and Russian prisoners-of-war, it is estimated that around 235,000 people died here including civilian political prisoners, partisan and resistance group members. Two of the camps commandants, Karl Otto Koch and Hermann Florstedt were both executed by the SS for stealing from the camps warehouses. In the days before the arrival of the Soviet troops, 15,000 prisoners had been evacuated to other camps further west. Today, a gigantic circular Mausoleum stands at the entrance to the camp. On the frieze of the Dome is the inscription "Let our fate be a warning to you" (English translation). A huge urn, shaped like a saucer and built under the dome, contains some ashes of the victims of Majdanek. When the Red Army liberated the camp they found in a huge barn like bulding hundreds of thousands pairs of shoes.
ATROCITY AT THE MARIE CURIE INSTITUTE
At 10.30am on August 5, 1944, one hundred armed troops in German uniform barged into the Maria Curie-Sklodowska Radium Institute on Wawelska Street in Warsaw. Shouting in loud voices they began searching and looting the entire building. The majority of the soldiers were drunk and were shooting at anyone who barred their way. In the Institute were 80 staff members and about 90 patients. All were robbed of their jewellery, money and personal items. The staff members were taken to a camp at Zieleniak a few kilometres away and for four days and nights were kept in the open without food or water. During this time many of the nurses were dragged out and raped by the drunken mob. At the end of the four days they were transported to Germany for slave labour. Back at the Institute the hospital patients remained in bed while the plundering and destruction of the hospital buildings proceeded. Stores and cupboards were broken open and everything thrown about while some of the female patients were dragged from their beds, assaulted and raped. Around 15 of the seriously sick patients were shot in their beds and their mattresses set on fire. Petrol was poured over the floors of the wards and set alight. Patients still alive (about 70) were then shot, their bodies piled in a heap and doused with petrol and ignited. This atrocity at the Radium Institute took the lives of all patients being treated there. The perpetrators of this horrible crime were mostly soldiers of the Kaminsky Brigade allied with The Dirlewanger Brigade. General Vlassov was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1942 and later commanded an army of Russian prisoners of war who volunteered to fight on the German side rather than starve to death in German prison camps.
The concentration camp of Stutthof was situated about twenty miles east of the Polish town of Danzig. Reputed to have the highest death rate from disease and hunger of any of the Nazi camps. A few weeks before liberation by the Red Army, the SS herded together the 35,000 prisoners in the camp and began a forced march towards the west. Without food, and little water, they dropped dead like flies. A large group of prisoners, estimated at around four thousand, were driven to the cliffs overlooking the sea and there mercilessly machine-gunned. Another group, mostly women prisoners from Lithuania and Hungary were locked up in a vacant factory in Palmnicken after a 25 mile march from Konispsberg. There, they were machined-gunned to death. Only a few thousand of the thirty-five thousand reached the west alive.
ATROCITY AT GRUBEN
German women living in the Polish town of Gruben were subjected to one of the worst atrocities ever committed on Polish soil. During the occupation the SS had murdered around 500 Polish prisoners and buried them in a meadow near Lamsdorf (now Lambinowice). In an act of revenge, the deputy mayor (Czeslaw) who was Jewish, ordered all the German women of nearby Gruben to dig the bodies up. This the women were forced to do but started to suffer sickness and nausea as the badly decomposed bodies were brought up. Laid out in rows, the women were ordered to 'Lie down beside them!' 'Hug them!' 'Kiss them!' and with their weapons the perpetrators forced the backs of the women's heads deep into the slime of the dead Polish faces. Spitting, retching and vomiting, and smelling like nothing on earth, the poor women were marched back to Lamsdorf. As most of the corpses had typhus, sixty-four of the Gruben women soon died. In the interment camp at Lamsdorf a total of 8,064 German civilians were being held there prior to being transported back to Germany. Of the 8,064 internees, 6,488 (including 628 children) died of physical maltreatment, typhus and other diseases. As one German survivor said "the methods used by the Nazis at Auschwitz were horrible, but the methods of the Poles were even more horrible".
THE RADZILOW MASSACRE (July 7, 1941)
In 1941, in the impoverished village of Radzilow in eastern Poland, lived some 800 Jews, about half the towns population. When the German army occupied the village the non-Jewish citizens welcomed them with open arms and displaying a large sign which read 'Long live the German army which liberated us from the horrible grip of the Jewish community'. When the soldiers moved on, persecution of the Jews of Radzilow immediately followed. Ordered to bring out all holy books and Torahs from the synagogue, the Jews could do nothing else but obey. Once the pile of books was high enough, kerosene was poured over them and set alight. While the pile was burning, the defenceless Jews were forced to sing and dance around it while being jeered, taunted, stabbed with pointed stakes and beaten mercilessly until they fell bloodied and unconscious. Those still alive, some twenty families including children and grandparents, were herded into a barn in Piekno Street and burned or shot to death. Their houses and businesses were then plundered by the angry mob. There were only eight surviving Jews of this massacre. Catholic Polish citizens of Radzilow were the main tormentors in this bestial atrocity.
THE JEDWABNE MASSACRE (July 10, 1941)
The 200 year old farming village in the Bialystock region of north-eastern Poland, nine miles south of Radzilow, was the scene of one of the most horrendous massacre of Jews just days after the Nazi troops supplanted the previous Soviet occupiers. Over 1,000 Jewish residents were herded into the town's square where they were forced to pluck the grass from between the paving stones. They were stoned, beaten and mutilated with clubs and axes. Those left alive were then marched outside the village to a large barn belonging to farmer Bronislaw Sleszynski where they were locked up and the barn set alight burning to death all those inside. Only seven of Jedwabne's Jews survived, saved by a Polish family. A stone monument erected by communist officials in the village has a plaque which reads '' Site of a massacre of Jews. Gestapo and Nazi soldiers burned 1,600 people''. The wording on the plaque belies the awful truth, the Jews were murdered not by the Nazis, but by around forty of their fellow Poles from Jedwabne and surrounding villages. The non-Jewish citizens of Jedwabne turned on their Jewish neighbours in a fit of anger over their collaboration with the Soviet occupiers during 1939 and 1941. After the killings the victims homes were looted. (In 1989, a new plaque was placed on the monument, it now reads "In memory of the Jews of Jedwabne and surrounding areas, men, women and children, fellow-dwellers of this land, murdered and burned alive at this site on 10 July, 1941). Strangely, no mention is made of the perpetrators!
Similar revenge killings took place in many other parts of Poland at this time. In the town of Vasosz, 1,185 Jews were put to death. In Stawiski, the same brutality was meted out to its Jews by their non-Jewish neighbours.
MASSACRE IN NALIBOKI (May 8-9, 1943)
The town of Naliboki in the Nowogrodek province of Poland was situated near the Naliboki Forest in which partisan units of the Stalin Brigade had set up their base. To survive, much of their time was spent on scavenging for food and clothing in the surrounding villages and towns. Angered by the widespread plundering, the men of Naliboki decided to fight back and partisan units attacked the town on the night of 8/9, May. All houses were plundered, food and valuables removed, the church and local sawmill burned down as were several houses. The perpetrators in this attack were mostly Jewish communist members of the Stalin Brigade some of whom were former residents of Naliboki. and who had earlier escaped from the ghettoes. In the three hour battle with the defence units of Naliboki, 129 men, women and children were killed.
Three months later, in August, inhabitants of the surrounding villages, suspected of supporting the partisans, were rounded up by German troops and deported to Germany as slave labour. (After the war there were 359 empty villages in Poland all the inhabitants of which had been exterminated or expelled.)
MASSACRE IN KONIUCHY (28-29 January, 1944)
The village of Koniuchy was located at the edge of the Rudniki Forest in eastern Poland. In this forest Soviet partisan groups had set up their bases from which to attack the German occupation forces. To survive in the forest, raids were made on surrounding villages to plunder food, footwear and clothing. In an attempt to prevent these raids occurring the men of Koniuchy formed themselves into a local defence force and a few skirmishes with the partisans did occur. On the night of 28/29th January about 120 members of the partisan groups and including the Lithuanian Brigade, a Jewish partisan unit of the Red Army, attacked and completely destroyed the village. About forty of those who tried to escape were simply shot down on the spot. Around 300 men, women and children were killed in the 60 households destroyed. There were no survivors.
ATROCITY AT KIELCE (July 4, 1946)
In the later part of 1945, tens of thousands of Jewish concentration camp survivors made their way back to their homeland, Poland. Many found their former homes destroyed or inhabited by Polish or German families who had moved in after the previous owners were arrested. Their possessions were either sold, confiscated or lost. These survivors were shocked by the anti-Jewish violence perpetrated against them by their former neighbours. In their first year of freedom over 1,000 survivors had been murdered. Incidents of anti-semitism in Poland was common in the months after the war ended. In Kielce, an industrial city where during the war 27,000 Jews were deported to the Treblinka death camp and murdered, a group of 150 returned Jews were living in the Jewish Community building at No 7 Planty Street. On July 4, 1946, they were ordered to leave the building by armed Polish police and then set upon by a local mob of onlookers and 41 of them were killed, 39 Jews and 2 Gentiles. (the strong Soviet garrison in the area wasn't involved in any way) As a result of these killings over 5,000 survivors made their way back to the Displaced Persons camps in the Allied occupation zones of Germany. There, stateless and penniless, they waited for the opportunity to emigrate. Their dream of a Jewish state in Palestine prompted thousands to sail in obsolete sailing vessels toward the land of their dreams, only to be confronted by British patrol vessels and turned back towards the island of Cyprus to again be incarcerated in a new type of camp, the 'Interment Camp'. They were finally allowed entry into Palestine in 1948 after Israel became independent. By 1949, some 92,000 survivors had emigrated to the USA, Canada, South America and Australia, all eager to get as far away from Europe as possible. The first census carried out in Israel in 1948 listed 712,000 Jews, a year later it had reached one million.
ATROCITY AT IASI, ROMANIA (June 28-29, 1941)
In 1940, the town of Iasi in north west Rumania, on the border with the USSR, consisted of around one hundred thousand inhabitants, many thousands of whom were Jews. Sparked by rumours that Russian parachutists had landed on the outskirts of the town, the national army, Antonescu's Iron Guard, conducted a search of all Jewish homes in the area in the belief that all Jews were Bolshevik agents and therefore allies of the Soviet Union. Hundreds were arrested and marched to the courtyard of the police station where they were shot to death. Similar arrests and shootings took place in the town's movie theatre. Estimates put the number killed at 900. The bodies were buried in mass graves previously dug by the victims prior to their deaths. Other Jews in the surrounding areas, between 2,600 and 3,500, were rounded up and put on two trains carrying them to Calarasi and other camps in the interior of the country. Conditions on board one of the trains that left on the 30th of June were horrific, about one thousand died in transit mostly from suffocation and heat exhaustion during the seventeen hour journey. More died during their two months interment in the camps before being allowed to return to their homes. Only 1,076 Jews of Iasi survived the pogrom.
ATROCITY IN NORWAY
TRANDUM FOREST In May, 1945, in the forested area of Trandum, near Oslo, several mass graves were discovered containing the bodies of 194 Allied commandos. Most were Norwegian, 15 were Russian and 6 were British prisoners of war (captured during Operation Freshman, part of the plan to blow up the heavy water plant at Vermok in 1943). All were males in their early twenties. Some were buried alive as pathologists found their lungs contained sand. The bodies were exhumed and reburied in the Vestre Gravlund (Cemetery) in Oslo with full British and Norwegian military honours. Fehlis, the head of the Gestapo in Oslo, who signed the execution order, committed suicide just days before Prince Olaf and British representatives accepted the surrender of all German troops in Norway on May 8.
KATYN FOREST (Smolensk, 1939-40)
In 1939, during the Russian invasion of Poland, some 14,500 Polish officers were captured and interned in three P.O.W. camps in the Soviet Union. The next time the world heard of these prisoners was a news broadcast on April 13, 1943, from Radio Berlin. It stated that the German Army had discovered mass graves at Katyn, 18 kilometres north-west of Smolensk, near the village of Gneizdovo and containing the bodies of Polish officers. Eight graves were opened and 4,253 bodies exhumed. All were dressed in Polish uniforms, with badges of rank and medals intact. No watches or rings were found on the corpses. It was established that the bodies were of Polish officers from the camp at Kozielsk, situated in the grounds of a former Monastery, near Orel. Two other camps, at Starobielsk (3,891 men) and at Ostashkov (6,311 men) were wound up and closed in the first days of April, 1940. Whatever happened to these 10,000 odd officers has never been established. They were never seen alive again. From evidence obtained after the war, all prisoners of Kozielsk camp were shot by Stalin's NKVD.
On April 13, 1990, fifty years after the massacre, the USSR for the first time admitted its responsibility for the murders. The whole controversy was finally laid to rest when Boris Yeltsin, handed over the secret files on Katyn to the Polish president, Lech Walesa, on October 14, 1992. In May 1992, in a wood near Kharkov, a Russian private investigation team discovered a mass grave containing 3,891 bodies of Polish officers from the camp at Starobielsk in the Ukraine. In June of that year, Soviet authorities discovered 30 mass graves at Miednoje, one hundred miles north-west of Moscow. They contained the remains of 6,287 Polish prisoners from the Ostashkov island camp on Lake Seliguer. Before the massacre, 245 officers from Kozielsk, 79 from Starobielsk and 124 from the camp at Ostashkor , were transferred, for no apparent reason, to a camp at Pavlishchev Bor, a hundred miles north-west of the Kozielsk camp. These 448 officers proved to be the only survivors of the Katyn massacre. KGB files state that 21,857 Poles were shot as a result of Stalin's order. In other parts of the Katyn Forest, other graves were discovered containing the bodies of Russian political prisoners who were executed in pre-war days by the NKVD. It seems that the Katyn Forest was the main execution site for Stalin’s secret police. (Not to be confused with the Khatyn murder site near Minsk) All mention of the Katyn atrocity has been removed from Soviet history textbooks.
MURDER AT BRONIKI, UKRAINE
On July 1st 1941, around 180 German soldiers of the 2nd and 6th Infantry Regiments and the 5th Artillery Regiment were taken prisoner by the Red Army in the town of Broniki. Most were suffering from battle wounds. Next day, the 2nd of July, advancing Wehrmacht troops discovered 153 bodies in a clover field near the town. All had been brutally murdered. According to the twelve survivors of the massacre, they were taken to the field just off the main road and forced to undress. All valuables such as money, rings, watches as well as their uniforms, shirts and shoes were stolen. Standing there naked, the prisoners were then fired upon by machine guns and automatic rifles. A few managed to escape by fleeing to the nearby woods. Similar reports from other regiments gave rise to the suspicion that the Soviets, in the early stages of the war, were not taking any prisoners. There was a division order, according to which every Russian soldier who shoots twenty German soldiers, received a three day leave pass to go home. He also was decorated and raised in rank.
THE GRISCHINO MASSACRE (February 18, 1943)
The area of Grischino lies to the north-west of Stalino (now Donets) an important industrial region in the Ukraine. Occupied by German forces, it was recaptured by a Soviet armored division and again recaptured by the German 7th Armored Division during a counteroffensive in February, 1943. What they found was the bodies of 406 German soldiers, (P.O.W.s) 58 were members of the Todt Organization, 89 Italian soldiers, 9 Romanian soldiers, 4 Hungarian soldiers and some civilian workers, Ukrainian volunteers and German nurses. A total of 596 souls had been killed. Most were shot after being dragged from their hiding places in cellars. Many of the bodies were horribly mutilated, ears and noses cut off and genital organs amputated and stuffed into their mouths. Breasts of some of the nurses were cut off, the women being brutally raped. In the cellar of the main train station around 120 Germans were herded into a large storage room and then mowed down with machine guns. It was realized that the Russians had killed every single German they had found there. As with most massacres, there were survivors and in this case, civilian witnesses.
THE PRISON MASSACRES (June 22-29, 1941)
During the week of 22/29 June, 1941, thousands of Ukrainian and Polish political prisoners were murdered in their cells by the Soviet NKVD (KGB). The Soviets' hurried retreat had tragic consequences for all political prisoners in the jails of Western Ukraine. Soon after the German attack on the Soviet Union, the retreating Soviets had no time to care for their prisoners locked up in prisons in the Ukraine, so they were simply killed. In some cities the whole prison was set on fire and the helpless prisoners burned to death. In Lutsk, 2,800 out of the 4000 inmates in the NKVD prison, were murdered. When the German 49th Army Corps occupied the Polish-Ukrainian city of Lvov, (now Limberg) around 2,400 dead bodies were found by German troops in the NKVD prison. Some were killed by hand-grenades thrown into their cells, most were killed by a shot in the neck. In the cellars of the Brygidky Prison on Palczymska Street, 423 bodies were recovered. Hundreds more were piled up in the courtyard. In the military prison at Samarstinov, which had been set on fire, 460 charred bodies were found, many showing signs of brutal torture. In the cellars, bodies were piled up layer upon layer almost to the ceiling. Owing to the stench of the decomposing corpses, the German commander of Lvov ordered all doors to the cellars bricked up after the bodies were covered with lime. On June 26-27, 1941, some 520 Ukrainians were shot at Sambor, and at Zlochev, another 700, including the entire local intelligentsia, were arrested and shot on July 16, 1941. At Kremenets, between 100 and 150 were killed and when the bodies were recovered some bodies were without skin, having been thrown into boiling water.
Altogether, in the Ukraine, around 10,000 Ukrainian and Polish political prisoners were killed in their prisons. It is a sad fact that many members of the NKVD execution squads in the Ukraine, were Jewish collaborators. These collaborators were hated by other Jews more than the German SS. (A memorial plaque at the former headquarters of the NKVD/KGB in Simferpol, Ukraine, is engraved with the names of thirty NKVD agents who gave their lives in the Great Patriotic War (the Soviet name for World War II). The amazing thing is that all thirty names are Jewish! About half a million Jews served in the Red Army and approximately 200,000 were killed. A total of 160,000 Jewish soldiers were decorated with Soviet awards, 145 receiving the highest Soviet award, 'Hero of the Soviet Union'. Two Jewish women were also awarded this honour. (Many Soviet soldiers, after capture, joined the Waffen SS. The 30th SS Division was composed of such troops.)
MURDER IN LVOV (July 3-4, 1941)
A total of 45 professors at the University of Lvov (now Lviv) were executed by an Einsatzkommado unit after the city was captured by the Germans on June 30. Aided by the Ukrainian 'Nachtigall' battalion, they started the roundup of the professors their families and relatives. Most of the Jewish inhabitants of the city were simply shot on the spot. Some 38 professors were taken to a place of execution in the Wulka hills outside the city and there shot to death. Another seven, including Professor Dr. Bartel, a former Prime Minister of Poland, were shot in the courtyard of the Brygidki Prison, the same courtyard where days previously they found the murdered bodies of the prison inmates.
THE HORROR OF VINNITSA
Shortly after the occupation of the town of Vinnitsa in July, 1941, the German troops discovered a mass grave in the courtyard of the town's prison. The grave, twenty metres long by six metres wide, contained the bodies of 96 Ukrainian political prisoners. They were killed when it was found impossible to evacuate them prior to the arrival of the German troops. Behind the prison, in another courtyard, a second mass grave was found but the bodies were not exhumed. However, persistent rumours among the civilian population of Vinnitsa resulted in the discovery of more graves at three different locations. In a pear orchard, 2kms outside the town, 38 mass graves were found, in the old cemetery 40 graves were discovered and in the People's Park another 35. Digging began on May 25, 1943 and it was soon established that the victims had died some five years before. The digging was interrupted some time later by adverse weather conditions. It was never resumed because the Red Army re-occupied the area soon after. By the time the Soviets entered the town, a total of 9,439 corpses had already been counted. All had a bullet wound in the neck. Ukrainian witnesses testified that since 1938 until the arrival of the German troops in 1941, trucks kept coming and going day and night bringing dead bodies to the burial ground from the NKVD prisons in the area. Most of the victims were farmers and field workers (Kulaks) who were classed as 'enemies of the people' and who had resisted Stalin's collectivization policies.
MASSACRE AT PINSK (August 6-8, 1941)
Pinsk (Belarus) was under Soviet rule for seven months and under the German occupation from July 4, 1941 to 1943. At the start of the Nazi occupation around 26,000 Jews lived in Pinsk. A month later the first 'Aktion' against the Jewish inhabitants took place. Helped by their Polish police accomplices, the SS murder squads rounded up between 7 and 8,000 male Jews. All were executed. The rest, numbering some 18,287 including 6,400 women and children were incarcerated in the newly established ghetto ten persons to a room and forced to work for the occupation forces. The ghetto, encompassed some 240 houses on 23 streets, all enclosed by a barbed wire fence 2,345 meters long. On October 27, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. At 6.30am, all Jews in the ghetto were ordered to gather near the Jewish cemetery at Karlin near the village of Posenich about four kilometres from town. All were deprived of their money and valuables before being led in groups to the execution site guarded by members of Police Battalion 310 of the 15th Police Regiment. Those left behind in the ghetto, about 1,200 sick Jews and sick children, were simply shot. In the three days of slaughter around 11,000 Jews were murdered. On July 14, 1944, Pinsk was liberated by the Red Army. They found only 17 half starved Jews alive after hiding in cellars for 620 days and nights. Almost the entire Gentile population of Pinsk did little to help their Jewish neighbours but waited passively for the opportunity to steal their possessions and move into their houses. Today, only about 500 Jews live in Pinsk.
THE TRAGEDY OF UKRAINE
Known as the 'Unknown Holocaust'. In 1933, the communist leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, in a bid to crush Ukraine's growing spirit of nationalism, ordered millions of independent farmers (Kulaks) into collective farms. Any resistance to the order was dealt with by the OGPU (KGB) who executed all those who disobeyed. All roads leading out of Ukraine were blocked by Red Army troops, nothing came in and nothing went out. The farms were then deprived of all seed stocks, grain and farm animals. In a short while the Ukrainian farmers began dying of hunger, cold and sickness. In an attempt to stay alive they ate their pets, leather boots, belts and bark from the trees. It is recorded that some parents even ate their youngest children. According to KGB archives at least seven million, a quarter of Ukraine's population, starved to death. The OGPU had made quota, shooting 10,000 victims weekly. Ukrainian party member Nikita Khrushchev helped supervise the executions. In other parts of the Soviet Union another six million peasant farmers were disposed of during collectivization. Many of the OGPU officers were Jews and during the Nazi occupation in World War II, Jews became the target of revenge by Ukrainians, Balts and Poles. Stalin murdered four times more people than Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao or Pinochet combined.
Ukraine was to suffer much more during and after the German invasion. As the Soviet Army retreated in front of the Nazi hordes, wholesale evacuation of Ukrainian industry, including 197 factories, were ordered by the Soviets. Between November, 1943, and March, 1944, everything was being looted, destroyed and burned again as the German troops retreated in front of the victorious Soviet Army. Some 150 museums, 62 drama theatres and around 600 movie theatres were destroyed by the Germans. Around 28,000 villages and 714 towns were razed to the ground leaving ten million people without shelter. (Over 700 rare books, looted by the Nazis, were returned to the Ukraine by Germany on April 28, 1995). What the Soviets failed to destroy on their retreat in 1941 the Germans destroyed in their retreat in 1943/44. This scorched earth policy by two opposing armies caused devastation and suffering beyond belief. A total of 460,000 German soldiers were killed in Ukraine, most by partisans. Retaliation was to be 200 civilians executed for every soldier killed. In Kiev alone, 700 citizens were put to death in November, 1941. All over the Ukraine the German Wehrmacht was treated as liberators and over 25,000 Ukrainians volunteered to fight on the German side against the Soviets as the 'Galicea Division SS'.
THE UKRAINIAN MASSACRES (September 2, 1942)
Due to partisan activity around the village Kortelisy in Ukraine, its entire population of 2,892 men, women and children were put to death by SS and SD execution squads helped by local pro-German Ukrainian police. The village was then razed and burned to the ground, the fires of which blazed for four days. All over Ukraine around 459 villages were destroyed with all or part of their population massacred. In the Volhynia province, villages suffered the same fate and in the Zhitomir province 32 villages were destroyed. There were at least 27 villages, in which every man, woman and child was killed and their houses completely destroyed. Most of the SS and SD units operating in the Ukraine consisted of locally recruited pro-German Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Estonians and White Russians. In all of central Russia there were only two regiments of German security police. The village of Bajki, in Belarus, whose inhabitants had originally welcomed the German troops as liberators from communist oppression, was burned to the ground when the Nazis retreated on January 22, 1944. Of the 1,011 inhabitants of the village, 987 were shot and the 120 houses of the village set on fire. (About one and a quarter million Jews perished in Ukraine during the Nazi occupation.)
MASSACRE AT KAMENETS-PODOLSK
The first five-digit figure of murdered Jewish victims occurred at Kamenets-Podolsk in South-Western Ukraine, the first in Holocaust history. Around 23,600 Jews were brutally put to death in August 27/28. 1941. In July of that year, Hungary deported 14,000 of its Jews to Kamenets-Podolsk, all of whom were murdered by the SS. The other 19,600 were local Jews who were marched ten miles to their place of execution and guarded by a unit of the Ukrainian Militia. There, they were shot to death by the SS under the leadership of Friedrich Jeckeln. Later, the town was over-taken by Hungarian troops, who were fighting alongside the German Wehrmacht against the Soviet Union. After the war, Jeckeln was tried by a military court, sentenced to death and hanged.
ATROCITY AT ILJA (March 17, 1942)
At Ilja, a small town in western Russia, a number of Jews were sent to work on a small farm near the town. They escaped into the forests and joined up with a group of partisans who had set up their headquarters there. Next day, the two Jewish leaders of Ilja, who had refused to name the escapees, also fled to the woods to join the partisans. The reprisal was horrific. All the old and sick Jews of the town were shot in the streets or in their homes and around 900 more were rounded up and locked inside a building which was then put to the torch. All 900 were burned to death.
DUBNO MASSACRE (October 5, 1942)
The town of Dubno in western Ukraine was the scene of a horrifying massacre of Jews. Near the town's airstrip, the SS and Ukrainian troops herded scores of Jewish men. women and children into three previously dug deep pits each 30 metres long and 3 metres deep, and then shooting them to death. For days the grizzly work of the SS continued, killing 1,500 persons daily until over 5,000 helpless victims had been shot. In the pits, the bodies were piled up row upon row and then covered with layers of earth. At one point, this massacre was witnessed by Captain Axel von dem Bussche an officer in the elite 9th Infantry Regiment which had no Nazi officers in its ranks. Distressed by what he had seen at Dubno, Bussche immediately volunteered to personally assassinate Hitler when Colonel Claus Von Stauffenberg recruits him into the Conspiracy. This attempt on the Führer's life fails. (see Assassination Attempts on Hitler's Life).
MASSACRES IN VOLHYNIA (February, 1943)
In the Volhynia (Volyn) area of north western Ukraine, local Ukrainian nationalists formed themselves into a resistance army, the Ukrainian Uprising Army (UPA) to fight the Nazi occupiers. Unfortunately their anger turned against the local Polish minority. (In the area lived some 346,000 Poles) In an attempt to drive all Poles out of Wolhynia and Ukraine, in anticipation of an independent Ukrainian state after the war, the UPA started a war of ethnic cleansing that was to prove disastrous for both populations. The UPA marched from village to village and killed all civilians of Polish nationality. Some 167 towns and villages were entered in this orgy of slaughter. In the village of Poryck, 157 Polish civilians were shot while attending mass in the local Catholic church. These massacres continued for a year in the rural areas until all Polish residents were either killed or expelled from their homes. These ethnic massacres were completely ignored by the German occupation forces. The exact number of Poles murdered remains unknown but is estimated by a number of historians to be in the region of 35 to 60 thousand. In this ethnic strife period around 20,000 Ukrainians were killed by Poles. In July, 2003, on the 60th anniversary of the massacres, the presidents of the two nations, Poland and Ukraine, called for a move towards reconciliation and mutual forgiveness. Today, there are over 600 mass grave sites in Volhynia containing the bodies of murdered Polish civilians.
THE BALTIC EXECUTIONS
Within two weeks of the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on August 1, 1940, almost the entire intelligentsia of these countries had been liquidated. The German attack on these provinces forced the withdrawal of the Soviet troops and paved the way for Hitler's Einsatzgruppen to start their roundup of all resident Jews. About 3,000 had already fled with the retreating Red Army but the 57,000 left behind in Vilna, faced a terrifying future. When the Germans ocupied Lithuania they found thousands of Jews were already killed, murdered by their own neighbours, the non-Jews. Einsatzgruppen 'A' operated in the Baltic Provinces under the command of SS Major General Stahlecker who, after five months, reported to Himmler (Document 2273-PS) that 229,052 Jews had been shot. Thousands more were housed in ghettos as they were urgently needed for slave labour. In Duenaburg, on November 9, 1941, a total of 11,034 Jews were executed. At Libau, two weeks later, another 2,350 fell victim to SS bullets. In Lithuania, under the Nazi's, 136,421 Jews were put to death in numerous single actions by Lithuanian mercenaries with the help of the German police squads. In this total were 55,556 women and 34,464 children all shot to death in a deep moat surrounding the 19th century Tsarist Ninth Fort outside Kovno. In the White Russian Settlement Area, around 41,000 executions had taken place. In Vilna, around 32,000 Jews were murdered during the first six months of German occupation. When Vilna was liberated by the Red Army on July 13, 1944, a few hundred Jews who had been hiding in the surrounding forests suddenly appeared in the city square. Altogether, between three and four thousand Jews out of the original 57,000, survived in the concentration camps in Germany. (The Einsatzgruppen, which followed behind the four German armies, consisted of 3,000 men. Their orders were to hunt down and kill Russia's five million Jews. The Wehrmacht could not intervene as these murderers were under the control of Himmler. By the end of the 1941-42 winter the SS had reported that 481,887 Jews had been liquidated in Russia.) Pre-war Vilnius had 105 Synagogues and houses of prayer. Today, only one survives, it was used by the SS as a medical store. Ninety percent of Vilnuis Jews were murdered, only 24,000 survived.
THE PONARY EXECUTIONS
From July, 1941 to July 1944, between 70,000 and 100,000 people were executed in a mass extermination site at Ponary, near Vilna in Lithuania. Most of the victims were the Jews from Vilna. The site, in a wooded area some ten kilometres from the city, was intended to be a fuel storage depot. Huge pits were dug by the Russians for the fuel tanks but the Red Army had to pull out before the project was completed. When the Nazis occupied Vilna on June 24, 1941, these pits at Ponary were used for the massacre of most of the 57.000 Jews of Vilna and thousands of Soviet prisoners of war. The victims were brought to the murder site on foot and by truck and then shot to death by the SS who were assisted by Lithuanian collaborators. The pits were then covered by a layer of soil. Late in 1943, the SS began opening the mass graves and burning the bodies in an effort to destroy the evidence of their crime from the approaching Red Army. This task was forced on about eighty Jewish prisoners who were later executed.
MASSACRES IN LITHUANIA (August 28, 1941)
On this day SS units murdered 710 Jewish men, 767 Jewish women and 599 Jewish children. The day after, SS General Franz Jaecleln reported the execution of 23,600 Hungarian Jews who had been deported from Hungary. The slaughter took almost a week and took place at Kamenets Podolsk about 200 miles behind the German front line. At Minsk, an SS Cavalry Brigade put to death a total of 7,819 men, women and children in the ravine at Ratomskaya. Encoded reports of these massacres were transmitted to Berlin by Enigma machines. These signals were intercepted and deciphered at Bletchley Park and were read by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He warned the world of these executions but could not reveal the source. The protection of Enigma was paramount. Virtually all knowledge of these atrocities was unknown to the ordinary German people or to the outside world until the German occupied territories were overrun by the Allied armies.
In Lithuania, under the Nazis, 136,421 Jews were put to death in numerous single actions by Lithuanian mercenaries with the help of the German police squads. In this total were 55,556 women and 34,464 children all shot to death in a deep moat surrounding the 19th century Tsarist Ninth Fort outside Kovno. (These forts were part of a string of fortifications surrounding the town.) In 1939, around 40,000 Jews lived in Kovno, Lithuania. The town was occupied by German troops on June 24, 1941, and soon after the Kovno Ghetto was established. A few days later, hundreds of Jews were murdered by Lithuanian policemen and by convicts newly released from the town's jails, all spurred on by an unbridled hatred of their Jewish neighbours. With the arrival of the SS Einsatzgruppen, the 'Great Action' began on October 28th. The Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto were assembled on Democrats Square and all those fit for work were allowed back into the Ghetto. The others, over 9,000 men, women and children were marched to the SS execution centre in the Ninth Fort and there, stripped of their clothes and in the freezing cold, they awaited their fate. In groups of 200, they were stood on the edge of large pits, dug previously by Russian P.O.W.s, and were systematically machine-gunned to death.
These mass graves were later re-opened and all the bodies burned in an attempt to conceal the crime. This work was done by 72 men and women from the ghetto. While working, the prisoners were chained together to prevent escapes but all were later put to death when their work was finished. In July, 1944, the Ghetto was burned down, blown apart and completely destroyed.
THE LIETUKIS GARAGE KILLINGS. (June 27, 1941)
As German Einzatzgruppen 'A' entered the town of Knovo the Lithuanian population took the first action against their Jews. In the forecourt of the local petrol station next to the Kovno Cemetery, groups of Jews who had been chased off the streets or gragged from their own homes, only to assamble in the yard of the Lietukis Garage. Large crowds gathered around the garage to see what was going on. Well dressed and seemingly well educated men started to beat up the Jews untill they lay sensless on the ground. One young Lithuanian using a thick iron rod shattered the skull of every Jew brought before him. In less than an hour over a dozen bodies lay dead around him. After each killing the spectators clapped and cheered. This was the same crowd of Lithuanians that welcomed the German killing squads as they entered the town hours before. More brutal punishments were suffered by these Jews as water hoses were pushed down their throats or into the rectum and the water turned on. The stomaches and institines of the victims extended untill they burst. All this was witnessed by soldiers of the Einzatzgruppen who stood by silently but did nothing to stop it.
THE SKAUDVILE MASSACRE (September 15, 1941)
Situated on the Ancia river in western Lithuania, the town of Skaudvile had a Jewish population of 1,590 in 1941. In September, units of the Nazi SS Einzatsgrupen 'A' attached to the Army Group North, entered the town. Their orders were to kill all Jews "infected with communism". In conjunction with Lithuanian paramilitary units and civilians, who displayed a willingness and a passion for the killing of their fellow Jewish neighbours, all Jews were herded into the town's square. There the men were separated from their wives and children and marched the four kilometres to the Puzai Forest where they were all shot and killed. A few days later, all the women and children (about 800) were loaded onto trucks and driven to the Gryblaukis Forest to be murdered in a most brutal fashion. There were about a dozen survivors of the Skaudvile Jews.
About 240,000 Jews lived in Lithuania prior to the German invasion, only between six and seven thousand survived. Today, Skaudvile has a population of around 3,000 but none are Jewish.
MASSACRE AT SKEDE (December 14th to 16th, 1941)
During the German occupation of Latvia in 1941 the Jewish citizens of the town of Liepaja were ordered to stay indoors for the next two days. During this time around 2,700 Jews were forced into trucks and transported to the nearby village of SKEDE where they were all shot by members of the German Einsatzkammando No 2. The perpetrators were assisted by the local Latvian militia. German sources state that the shootings took place to "clean Eastern European territories as completely of Jews as possible". It has been established that a total of 2,731 Jews and 23 communists from Liepaja were murdered at Skede.
ATROCITY AT FEODOSIA (December 29, 1941)
On the shores of the Black Sea, on the Crimean Peninsula, stands the port city of Feodosia. On the 3rd of November the city was captured by the German 46th and 170th Infantry Divisions. As the attack on Sevastopol was about to take place, most of the German forces were withdrawn to concentrate on the forthcoming battle. Left behind in the city were a small detachment of troops and all the wounded soldiers convalescing in the city's hospitals. On the afternoon of December 29, the city was bombarded by the Soviet Black Sea Fleet and a landing was made by Soviet marines followed by infantry. On the 18th of January, 1942, after their failure to capture Sevastopol, the German Wehrmacht was able to return and recapture Feodosia. They found that most of the German military personnel had been murdered. Wounded soldiers had been thrown out of the windows of the hospital to make room for Russian wounded. Water was then poured on the near dead bodies and then left to freeze. On the beach, piles of bodies were found where they were thrown from a wall several metres high after being beaten and mutilated, their bodies left in the surf so that the sea water froze and covered them with a sheet of ice. There were some twelve survivors who had hidden in cellars when the Russian troops arrived. Their testimony before a German court of inquiry confirmed that some 160 wounded soldiers were liquidated this way.
CHARTSYSK MASSACRE (September 18, 1941)
During the Soviet army retreat in the direction of Yeletsk, the retreating soldiers came upon a small ravine between Chartsysk and Snizhy stations about sixty kilometres from the city of Stalino (Donetsk) The horrible sight that befell their eyes was the dead bodies of many children aged from 14 to 16 years that partly filled the ravine. They were dressed in the black uniform of the F.S.U. Trade and Craft School in Stalino. It was discovered that the children were being evacuated from the school as the German army neared the city. After walking nearly 60 kilometres they became utterly exhausted and had begged for transport. Their guardians promised to send trucks but instead a detachment of Russian political police (NKVD) arrived. Carrying machine-guns, they starting shooting the children in cold blood and throwing the bodies into the ravine. The Soviet soldiers counted the bodies of 370 slain children.
BABI YAR (September 29-31, 1941)
A picturesque ravine situated in the Syrets suburb of the city of Kiev (Kyiv). It was about three kilometres long, over fifty metres deep and separated from the residential area by the local Jewish cemetery and a civilian prison. Soon after the German takeover a series of horrific explosions rocked the city demolishing a number of buildings that housed the German administration and the army hierarchy. On September 26, the military governor, Major General Friedrich Georg Eberhardt, decided that in retaliation for the atrocity all the Jews in Kiev were to be put to death. There, on September 29/30, the SS Einsatzgruppe C, with the help of the Ukrainian police, herded the whole Jewish population of Kiev and the surrounding area into the ravine and systematically began to slaughter the entire 33,771 souls. The killings took two whole days and nights the victims being machine-gunned and their bodies hurled into the ravine. A layer of sand then covered the corpses before the next batch of naked victims were brought in. All Monies, valuables and clothing from the victims were distributed among the ethnic Germans living in the area.
In the months that followed, thousands of Gypsies and Russian P.O.W.s were slaughtered here. In August, 1943, as the Soviet Army began its march westwards the decision was taken to erase all evidence of the mass killings, in fact, to efface it from history. Russian prisoners and 327 men, including 100 Jews, from the nearby slave camp at Syretsk began the task of digging up the bodies. The remains were then burned in pyres, built on slab gravestones taken from the Jewish cemetery, each pyre containing around 2,000 corpses. This gruesome task ended on September 19, 1943. Only fourteen of the 327 slave labourers survived by escaping from Babi Yar. Later, the SS brought in excavators and bulldozers and the ravine was again filled in. In early October, Moscow informed the outside world of the discovery of the mass graves. The West, mistrustful of the Russians, dismissed the news as 'products of the Slavic imagination'. During the 778 days of the German occupation of Kiev, many thousands of Russian P.O.W.s, Ukrainians, Gypsies and other nationalities, were murdered at Babi Yar. Of a total population of around 900,000, only 180,000 were living in Kiev at the end of the German occupation. SS Brigdefuhrer Paul Blobel, commander of Sonderkomando 4a was later brought to trial and at Nuremberg and sentenced to death. He was hanged in June 1951. In 1976, a 15 metre high bronze memorial 'To the victims of Fascism' was unveiled on the site to commemorate the Russian P.O.W.s and the 'People of Kiev' who were killed there. However, no reference is made to the Jews or number of Jewish dead.
THE KORSUN SLAUGHTER (February 16-17, 1944)
During the freezing cold night of February 16, five divisions of General Hube's 1st SS Panzer Army, (54,000 men) including the 5th SS Division Viking and the Belgian Volunteer Brigade Wallonie, made a last desperate bid to break out of the Russian encirclement around the towns of Korsun and Shandrerovka in the lower Dnieper south-west of Kiev (Kyiv). At 4am, elements of the 8th Army formed up into two marching columns of around 14,000 men each and flocked into two parallel ravines in the surrounding countryside, and where the two ravines met, the troops, now in complete disorder, then emerged into open country and headed out towards the town of Lysyanka. There, disaster struck as troops of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, under General Konev, were waiting. Soon after 6am, the slaughter began. Soviet tanks drove into the two German columns crushing hundreds under their tracks. Fleeing in panic, the troops were then bombed and shelled before being confronted by units of Cossack cavalry who started hacking them to pieces with their sabres, There was no time to take prisoners and in the short space of three hours around 20,000 German soldiers lay dead, their bodies later dumped in holes dug in the ground. The hundreds of wounded and medical personnel left behind were butchered by the Cossacks. Only a few officers survived, most had fled the scene by plane some days before. (Russian sources put the number of dead during the two weeks of fighting at over 70,000) To reach Lysyanka the troops had first to cross the raging Gniloy-Tikich river. Reaching the opposite side many were transformed into blocks of ice their uniforms frozen to their bodies. About eight thousand others, who had fled the scene and were hiding in the woods, were rounded up during the next few days and taken prisoner. For this great victory, General Konev was awarded the title 'Marshal of the Soviet Union'.
During the month of September, 1941, Action Group A, consisting of around eight hundred men, and commanded by SS General Otto Ohlendorf, was operating on the Russian southern front. In the period, 16th to 30th September, in the area around Nikolaev, and including the town of Cherson, they rounded up and massacred 35,782 Soviet citizens, mostly Jews. This was the figure reported to Hitler from the SD office, in a letter dated October 2, 1942.
RUSSIAN P.O.W. MASSACRES
Second only to the extermination of the Jews, the massacre of Russian prisoners of war must rank as the greatest of tragedies of World War II. During the first seven months of the Russian campaign, over three million Soviet soldiers were captured. By February, 1942, only 1,020,531 were still alive. Some two million had died of starvation and cold during their forced march to the rear (up to 400 kilometres). Out in the open, day and night, they fell by the wayside in their thousands. When finally they reached their P.O.W. enclosures and given their first real meal, they 'simply collapsed and lay dead on the floor'. Starved to death in their P.O.W. cages, they died in the open, having eaten the last blade of grass. Many were reduced to a state of cannibalism after begging for a scrap of food or a cigarette. In one camp a German guard was killed and eaten and a dead dog, thrown over the wire fence, was pounced upon and torn to shreds with their bare hands, so desperate were the prisoners for food. Thousands were tortured and then shot in concentration camps, or, as slave labourers, worked till they dropped in quarries and in factories. Of the 9,000 prisoners sent to the Buchenwald camp only 800 were alive when US troops liberated the camp in 1945. In the notorious Dachau camp, of the 10,000 Russian P.O.W.s who arrived there in 1941, only 150 were alive by mid-1942. By 1944, it is estimated that around 3,299,000 Russian prisoners of war were disposed of in this way. At the end of May, 1944, there were a total of 5,160,000 Soviet soldiers in German custody. Of these, only 1,053,000 survived the war.
In the Hungarian occupied part of Yugoslavia, local partisans were conducting a low key guerrilla war against the occupiers. On January 23, 1942, seventeen Hungarian soldiers were gunned down near the town of Novi Sad. The commander of the Hungarian troops, General Ferenc Teketehalmi-Czeydner, retaliated by unleashing his troops and Arrow Cross militia on the town. Rounding up 550 Jews and 292 Serbians, they forced them to march across the frozen river Danube at Novi Sad until their weight broke the ice plunging them into the icy waters where they all drowned or were shot by the Hungarian fascists. Over a six day period, another 2,467 Serbs and 700 Jews and anti-fascist Magyars were massacred. The General was later court-martialled but the charges were quashed by the head of state, Admiral Horthy. After the war, General Frenec was extradited to Yugoslavia where he was sentenced to death in the Vojvodina Supreme Court on October 31, 1946.
THE SERBIAN MASSACRES
On April 28, 1941, Units of the Croatian Ustashi Army, a militia created by the Croat Prime Minister, Ante Pavelic, surrounded the villages of Gudovac and Brezovica and killed 234 inhabitants who held Serbian nationality. They were told to go home to Serbia or convert to Roman Catholicism, refusal to do so ended in death. In the village of Blagaj, 520 men, women and children, were murdered in the most cruel way by being hit over the head. In the Koprivnica Forest near Livno, around 300 souls were subjected to the most unspeakable acts of brutality before being killed. Hands and legs were cut off, eyes gouged out, heads of small children were severed and thrown onto their mothers laps, breasts were severed and children's hands pulled through and tied together. In the Livno area alone, the Ustashi killed 1,243 Serbs including 370 children. In the Risova Greda Forest, over 800 Serbs were killed and their bodies hurled into ravines. On July 10 in the town of Glina, around 700 Serbs were gathered in the local Serbian Orthodux church, ostensibly for conversion to Catholicism. Locked inside the church, all were beaten with wooden mallets, clubs, rifle butts and stabbed with bayonets and knives before being left to die as the church was set on fire and burned to the ground.
The Ustashi commander, General Dragutin Rumler, filed a report stating that so far, around 10,000 Serbs, Jews and Gyspies had been killed to date. The German occupation forces at that time turned a blind eye to the slaughter, after all, the Ustashi were doing what the Nazi Gestapo and S.D. units had come here to do. By far the worst crime committed by the Ustashi was the murder of children from the Mount Kozara region. The Serb children were separated from their parents and taken to various interment camps set up by the Ustashi. In the camp at Sisak, 6,693 children were housed in filthy conditions and soon 1,600 died. At the camp at Jastrebarko, 3,336 children were housed in the same pitiful condition. Soon after their arrival the local cemetery caretaker had buried 768 boys and girls. In Plot 142 in the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb lie the remains of 862 children who had died after being rescued by the Red Cross. Hundreds of families in Zagreb adopted 938 of these children without even knowing their names or identity. Fifty years after this tragedy, a final count was made. The crimes committed by the Ustashi troops in 1941 and 1942 took the lives of 11,176 children (6,302 boys and 4,874 girls) The average age of these children was 6.5 years.
This crime of Genocide, committed by the pro-German Catholic Croatians on the Orthodox Serbian population during World War Two is something the outside world knows little about. (On December 12, 1941, the Independent State of Croatia declared war on the United States following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor)
Ante Pavelic, fugitive war criminal, escaped the slaughter of Bleiburg only to surface several years later in Argentina. After an attempt on his life in April, 1957, Pavelic moved lock, stock and barrel to the safety of fascist Spain. There, on December 28, 1959, he died from complications relating to injuries received during the assassination attempt.
On March 27, 1944, troops of the 7th SS Prinz Eugen Division massacred 834 Serbian civilians and set fire to around 500 houses in the villages of Ruda, Cornji, Dorfer Otok and Dalnji in Dalmatia. The troops were engaged in fighting the Yugoslavian communist guerrilla forces and the massacre was a collective punishment for those supporting the partisans. Earlier, in May 1943, the Prinz Eugen Division marched into Montenegro and occupied the Niksic district. In one village, 121 persons, mostly women, were brutally murdered. They included 29 children under 14 and 30 persons between the ages of 60 and 92. In 1943, the Prinz Eugen Division was made up mostly of ethnic Germans from Serbia and Croatia. On July 28, 1944, the Division, supported by the Albanian 21st SS Skanderberg Division, made up mostly of Muslims from Kosovo and engaged in a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing against the Kosovo Serbian and Jewish populations, surrounded the village of Velika and in an orgy of looting and killing massacred 428 Serbs, looted and burned down 300 houses. In the village of Blagaj, 520 men, women and children killed in a most cruel way by being hit over the head. In the village school at Prebilovci the Ustashi removed infants from their cradles and dashed their heads against the school walls in front of their mothers. In the Livno area, the Ustashi murdered 1,243 Serbs, including 370 children during 1941. On October 9, 1941, some 2,000 communists and Jews were shot on the basis of Hitler's 100 to 1 order. This happened in a village near Topola after the killing of 22 men of the 2nd Battalion of the 421st Army Signal Communication Regiment. The shooting was carried out on the orders of General Franz Boehme, the German Commanding General in Serbia. After the war Boehme committed suicide while awaiting trial.
In 1940, approximately 700,000 ethnic Germans were living in Yugoslavia and Romania. Many thousands of their menfolk were recruited into the Waffen SS after Germany invaded the country on April 6, 1941.
THE HELL OF JASENOVAC
After the Axis invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, the Nazis created the pro-German Independent State of Croatia. Ruled by the Croatian Security Police the 'Ustasha' they commenced on a policy of racial genocide against all Serb, Jewish and Gypsy nationals living within its borders. The Jasenovac extermination camp, with its sub-camps, was set up by the Ustasha and became the third largest camp in Europe and undoubtedly the most bloodiest. Established on the banks of the Sava River 100 kilometres south of Zagreb, it occupied an area of one and a half square kilometres and included the women's camp at Stara Gradiska. It soon became a slaughterhouse and the horrible crimes perpetrated by the Ustasha in Jasenovac equalled, even surpassed, anything the Nazis ever did in Poland. It soon became known as the 'Auschwitz of the Balkans'. Its victims were mainly Serbs, Jews and Gypsies, all doomed to extinction simply because of their race. The barbarity and sadism of the Ustasha knew no bounds and even German officers such as Field Marshal Wilhelm List were shocked by the conduct of their 'allies'. Latest research gives the number of victims murdered at the Jasenovac camp alone at 85,000 as a minimum. The Simon Weisenthal Center estimates that around 600,000 Serbs fell victims to the Ustasha in the Independent State of Croatia. This was about a third of the pre-war Serbian population of Croatia. After the war, one of the commanders at Jasenovac during 1944, Dinko Sakic, was traced and arrested in 1998 in Argentina where he had lived for the past fifty years. At his trial, he received a sentence of twenty years imprisonment. He died on July 20, 2008, at age 86. Today, the Jasenovac Memorial lists the names of 69,842 victims.
THE MASSACRES AT KRAGUJEVAC AND KRALJEVO (October 20-21, 1941)
The town of Kragujevac in central Serbia was the scene of one of the most brutal reprisals during the German occupation of Yugoslavia. A directive from Hitler himself stated that for every German soldier killed by partisans one hundred civilians were to be executed. For every soldier wounded, fifty residents were to be executed. Two days previously ten German soldiers were killed and twenty wounded in an ambush by communist partisans.
Sumarice, in Kragujevac, was chosen as the massacre site because more hostages could be found here than elsewhere. In the villages of Meckovac, Grosnica, Milatovac and Marsic a total of 427 civilians were executed. In the two villages of Draginac and Loznica 2,950 hostages were massacred in retaliation for German losses in the fighting against partisans around Kraljevo. In the town of Kraljevo itself 1,736 hostages, including 19 women, were shot by units of the German Wehrmacht including the the 1,400 men of the 717th Infantry Division and the 749th and 737th Infantry Regiments. In the roundup of hostages in Kragujevac even high school students and their teachers were taken from the school to be shot. The 53 inmates of the town's jail were also murdered. Communists and their sympathizers were specifically targeted as were Jews and Gypsies. In Serbia, there was little, if any, anti-jewish feeling by Serbians towards their Jewish neighbours.Within a week, over 4,000 innocent civilians were slaughtered in two of the largest massacres committed on Yugoslavian soil for what the German commander, General Franz Boehme, believed would give such a lasting impression on the partisans that they would willingly give up their struggle.
MASSACRE AT SIROKI BRIJEG (February 7, 1945)
The twenty-five resident Franciscan monks in the monastery at Siroki Brijeg, a village in Bosnia-Hercegovina, received a warning that Tito's partisans were approaching the village with orders to destroy the sanctuary. In the afternoon of the 7th, communist partisans occupied the village and surrounded the monastery. With menaces and curses, the partisans tried to convince the friars to abandon their faith, shouting 'God is dead, there is no Pope, go out into the world and work'. As the monks refused to leave, one angry partisan ripped the Crucifix from the alter and threw it on the ground. In response to the request 'chose between life and death' the monks kneeled down and kissed the Cross after which they were dragged outside the monastery and shot. Some of the Friars, sick in bed with Typhoid fever, were carried outside in their blankets to be executed. The corpses were sprinkled with petrol and set alight. The monastery was then turned into a stable for horses and the name of the village changed. It was not until 1971 that the remains of the monks were recovered and given a proper burial.
ATROCITY ON KORCULA ISLAND
In 1943, German troops were engaged in the clearing of partisan forces on the Island of Korcula, off the Yugoslavian coast. The German Commander-in-Chief, Southeast, Field Marshal von Veichs, received a report on the shooting of twenty-eight German officers and men by the 29th Partisan Division near the town of Mostar in Hercegovina. In reprisal, 220 prisoners taken by the Division were executed on the order of von Veichs. During the rounding up of partisans on the island (Operation Herbsgewitter. 'Spring Thunder') the partisans lost around one thousand men killed or wounded. The strong concentrations of partisans in the Balkans could not be stopped in spite of the wholesale slaughter of hostages. (F.M. von Weichs was too ill to attend his trial at Nuremberg and after a long illness died on September 27, 1954)
REVENGE KILLINGS IN VOJOUDINA
In the wake of the retreating German and Hungarian forces in Yugoslavia, Hungarian and German civilians living in Serbia were subjected to a horrific spate of killings by Tito's communist partisans. During October/November, 1944, Tito's partisans, aided by the local Serbian population and Serbian execution squads, invaded the regions of Bacska and Vajdasag (Vojuodina, the southern part of Hungary then an autonomous state under Serbian authority) Revenge on the Hungarians and German civilians living in the area caused the deaths of 34,491 persons, mostly ethnic Hungarians. Brutally put to death during the two month period the victims were bound together in groups of ten and twenty and shot into a previously dug pit. To save ammunition, other groups of twenty were tied together around stacks of corn and wheat sheaves and the stack set alight. Partisan women participated in these murders giving particular attention to Catholic priests who, before being killed, had their testicles torn from their body by pincers. Another favourite method of these women killers was to tie the victim to a plank and slowly kill him by jumping from a table on to the belly, chest and sexual organs. In one case, a mine was strapped to the back of a eight year old boy who was allowed to run away while the perpetrators fired their pistols until the bullets hit the mine causing it to explode. In a nearby sawmill the victims were held in front of the spinning saw blade and cut up just like sawing a tree trunk for firewood. Impalement was another method used by the partisans to kill their victims. A pointed three metre long wooden pale was greased by oil and forced into the anus of the unfortunate captive and pushed in until the tip emerged around the collar bone. The wide end of the stake was then placed in a hole on the ground and the victim, impaled on the stake, was left to die before a crowd of revengeful spectators. Similar mass murders took place in Temarin (480) Mohol (760) Szenitfulop (212) and in Zomber the total executed was 5,650.
Unfortunately, the lessons of history were ignored, as in 1991 the same type of killings and mass murders were repeated again during the recent fighting in Bosnia.