* Dedicated to all those who took part in World War II *
Massacres and Atrocities of World War II - page 2 of 4 - within the countries of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Russia.
This 4 page series reports on some occurrences within:
"Western" Europe - Belgium, France, Greece, Holland
"Eastern" Europe - Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia
the "Axis" Countires - Germany and Italy, and
the vast Pacific Region.
THE LIDICE MASSACRE (June 10, 1942)
Two Czech patriots, Jan Kubis and Joseph Gabeik, serving with the Polish forces in Britain, volunteered to be dropped by parachute near Prague. Their mission, to assassinate SS Gruppenfuher Reinhard Heydrich, the Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. The ambush took place on May 27, 1942, as Heydrich drove to his office. 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.
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.
(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
In retaliation for the 213,000 of its citizens murdered during the Nazi occupation, the Czechs lost no time in squaring the account. 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. For two whole weeks, night after night, this mass rape continued. Without decent food and medicines, babies 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. Many of these Germans were totally innocent and in no way sympathetic to Hitler's regime. It is estimated that about 200,000 Germans were murdered during the Czech reprisals.
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 fleeing Polish soldiers and their civilian followers. 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 civilian irregulars, were responsible for the deaths of around 6,000 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. 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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
SLAUGTER 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. Abo ut 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 19th to May 16th, 1943 )
During these four weeks, 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".
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 center 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.
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 Russian soldiers, members of the Vlassov Army. 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 in their thousands, were driven to the cliffs overlooking the sea, and there mercilessly machine-gunned. In all, 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 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 northeastern 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. Approximately 1,600 Jewish residents were herded into the town's square where they were stoned, beaten and mutilated with clubs and axes. Those left alive were then marched outside the village to a large barn where they were locked inside 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 the Nazis, but by their fellow Poles. 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. (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.
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. Anti-Semitism in Poland was alive and well 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 the police they were set upon by a local mob of onlookers and 41 of them were killed (39 Jews and 2 Gentiles) 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.
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 rumors 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 theater. 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.
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 (3,910 men) and at Ostashkov (6,500 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. 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).
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 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 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, 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.
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. (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).
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.
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. 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 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.
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.
THE UKRANIAN MASSACRES (September 2, 1942)
Due to partisan activity around the village Kortelisy , in the 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 97 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.
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 Staline. It was discovered that the children were being evacuated from 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. 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, Maj. Gen. 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, 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.
In the months that followed, thousands of Gypsies and Russian P.O.W.s were slaughtered here. In August, 1943, as the Red 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 from the nearby slave camp at Syretsk began the task of digging up the bodies and cremating them. 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. Nobody was ever brought to trial specifically for this atrocity. In 1976, a 15 metre high memorial was unveiled on the site to commemorate the Russian P.O.W.s who were killed there. However, no reference is made to the Jews or number of Jewish dead.
THE KORSUN SLAUGHTER (USSR, February 16/17, 1944)
During a violent blizzard on the night of February 16, five divisions of General Hube's 8th 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. 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. For the next three hours Soviet tanks drove into the German columns crushing hundreds under their tracks. Fleeing in panic, the troops were then confronted by units of Cossack cavalry who started hacking them to pieces with their sabres, hands were lopped off of those who approached with their arms raised in surrender. There was no time to take prisoners and the carnage continued till it was all over. To reach Lysyanka the troops had first to cross the freezing Gniloy-Tikich river. Reaching the opposite side they were transformed into blocks of ice their uniforms frozen to their bodies. In the short space of three hours, thousands of German soldiers lay dead (some reports say 20,000) A few 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, 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 kilometers). 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.
Lesser-Known Facts of WWII 1: during Pre-War to 1939, 1940 2: during 1941 3: during 1942 4: during 1943 5: during 1944, 1945 6: More Lesser-Known Facts
Maritime Disasters of WWII 1: during 1939, 1940, 1941 2: during 1942, 1943 3: during 1944, 1945
More Maritime Disasters of WWII 1: during 1939, 1940, 1941 2: during 1942 3: during 1943 4: during 1944, 1945, plus notes
Massacres and Atrocities of WWII 1: in Belgium, France, Greece, Holland 2: in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia 3: in Germany and Italy 4: in the Pacific Region
Women of the Third Reich
Assassination Attempts on Hitler's Life
All text researched and compiled by George Duncan. Website by Columbus.