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Anti Partisan Op Bamberg

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The following text was translated from Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, pages 884 and following. The numerous source notes in the original were left out 9.3 Step II: The “Major Operations” (Spring 1942 to spring 1943) a) Introduction and Functioning of the New Tactic In the first months of the year 1942 it turned out that the Belorussian partisans had not only made it through the winter, contrary to some predictions, but increased their activities despite reduced ranks and focused on new ta
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  The following text was translated from Christian Gerlach,  Kalkulierte Morde , pages 884and following. The numerous source notes in the srcinal were left out 9.3 Step II: The “Major Operations”(Spring 1942 to spring 1943)a) Introduction and Functioning of the New Tactic In the first months of the year 1942 it turned out that the Belorussian partisans had not onlymade it through the winter, contrary to some predictions, but increased their activitiesdespite reduced ranks and focused on new targets. First locally and starting from the east of the country, then ever more powerfully towards the summer they tried to paralyze thecollaboration administration as the key instrument of German exploitation of the countryand German administrative action. Due to the German defeat before Moscow and theSoviet counterattack, which had brought the Red Army to the north eastern border of Belorussia, the strategic and political position of the partisan movement had considerablyimproved. The Germans reacted to this development with a new tactic. It was worked outmainly by the regional military leadership in the rear area of Army Group Center, which inthis respect also counseled the Army Supreme Command (OKH) and worked in co-ordination with it. SS and police had little part in this, from what becomes apparent fromthe sources. This was partially due to a weakness in leadership, because the Higher SS andPolice Commander for Central Russia, Bach-Zelewski - later a leading strategist of thefight against the partisans - was absent due to disease between the end of January and the beginning of May 1942. No significant impulses from Einsatzgruppe B can be verifiedeither. The secondary role of SS and police also showed in v. Schenckendorff accordingthem only a certain area to be secured.The Army Supreme Command had in the second half of February required the commander of the rear area of Army Group Center to present a “program for the annihilation of the partisans”, apparently i.a. as a reaction to a memorandum by the Supreme Commander of Army Group Center, von Kluge. The short-term goal was the “Annihilation of thePartisans until the beginning of the mud period in April, at least in the area of therailroads, main roads and in the Brjansk area. Von Schenkendorff called for measures intwo directions: “propagandistic influencing of the Russian population” and “militaryannihilation of the partisans”. Beside the political measures he declared the bringing in of troops to be necessary - pointing out that in the previous three months units making upthree divisions and two SS-brigades had been taken away from him -, furthermore arestructuring of the “leadership organs and troops” for an “offensive conduction of operations” and the allocation of means for offensive fighting (heavy weapons, planes,vehicles). He also called for building up the local order police, the creation of fighting unitmade up of collaborators, the continuation of training courses and exchanges of experience,and intensification of the communications network and the fight against those alien to alocality. Von Schenkendorff submitted his suggestions orally to Halder, Wagner and v.Kluge. Due to the efforts of the Department of War Economy and Armament at theWehrmacht Supreme Command (OKW), the General Quarter Master and the leader of hissection for war administration, Schmidt v. Altenstadt, who in connection with this matter repeatedly visited the rear area of Army Group Center in the spring of 1942, the problemwas also forwarded to Hitler. The Pilot Operation “Bamberg” The pilot project for offensive “anti-partisan fighting” was the operation “Bamberg” in the  area of Glusk-Paritschi-Oktjabrski to the south of Bobruisk, in the eastern Polesje. Theoperation had already been prepared since 26 February from the southerly GeneralCommissariat Shitomir by actions of the Slovakian infantry regiment with the subordinatedGerman police battalion 325 in the area Mosyr-Shitkovichi, which probably claimed morethan 1,000 lives. This action seems to have been held up by the fact that the commander of the police battalion, a major of the order police (Schutzpolizei) didn’t mobilize his troopsfor some time. From the north the operation was to be conducted not by the 203rd securitydivision, responsible for the area, but by the 707th infantry division, which had beentransferred specifically for this purpose from the General Commissariat White Ruthenia.During a preliminary meeting on 8 March von Schenkendorff thanked the security policeand the SD for their support so far and assured them that for the “success” of the “greataction” they were “absolutely necessary”. The operation plan of the 203rd security divisiondefined as “tasks” a) annihilation of the main partisan bands, b) pacification of the countryc) collection of grain and livestock. While this division, which also foresaw a bombing of four villages from the air, still recommended to make a distinction between the guilty andthe innocent, demanding that “only the truly guilty and elements alien to the localities areto be shot”, the 707th division from the start planned no “broad development”, i.e. againstthe partisans in the forest areas, which was said to be impossible due to snow and ice andthe beginning of the mud period soon to be expected, but a proceeding along the streets andmainly against the villages in the area of operation, where most partisans could in themeantime have “established” themselves. The commander v. Bechtolsheim ordered thatduring this action the crimes against Jews and people alien to a locality, “as carried outwith success in White Ruthenia, especially in the autumn months of 1941”, were to beimitated “with all harshness”: “The respective instructions for ruthless action against men,women and children also apply for the new operation area.”The operation “Bamberg” already showed all essential tactical elements and proceduresthat were to become typical of the later actions and fateful for the population of the affectedareas. Between 26 March and 6 April 1942, within 12 days, the reinforced 707th infantrydivision, the Slovakian infantry regiment and the German police battalion 315 destroyed aseries of villages in a broken through forest area between Oktjabrski and Kopakevichi andmurdered their inhabitants. In Chwoineja (Choino) 1,350 people were among other thingslocked into their houses and killed by hand grenades and burning, in Rudnja 800 personswere collected and shot in groups (the men first had to undress), in Oktjabrski 190 personswere burned alive inside the club house, the inhabitants of Kurin were in part shot, in part burned alive, similar as in Kovali, where the children were burned. The number of Belorussian dead was officially put at about 3,500 by the Germans, but the actual number was much higher. The partisans estimated it at 5,000, and according to the listing byRomanowski et all 4,396 people died in 15 localities alone.The actions that took place before and afterwards in the surrounding areas are not includedin these figures, which means it must be assumed that at least 6,000 people were murdered.The great majority of them were locally residing peasants and non-fugitive Jews, who werealso targeted by the operation. It is justified to speak of people “murdered”, for there washardly any fighting, there was “no greater resistance to be broken”, which is not surprisingfor actions against villages. The losses of the German and allied troops during the coreaction were merely seven dead and eight wounded, 47 rifles and machine pistols werecaptured. The partisans in the area, whose number was estimated at 1,200 to 2,000 men, gotaway.Like almost all later major actions against partisans or those around them, the operation  “Bamberg” consisted of four phases:Phase 1: Marching up and forming a great cauldron, in this case with a diameter of 25-30kilometers, until 28 March inclusively,Phase 2: Tightening the cauldron - in this case until 31 March inclusively,Phase 3: The so-called clearing out of the cauldron in the form of the “last concentricattack” - in this case on the 1st and 2nd of April, andPhase 4: The so-called mopping up backwards - here the “repeated thorough cleaning andcrossing of the area in backward direction up to the second initial position”, during whichthe villages and farmsteads lying inside the inner target area were destroyed together withthe majority of their inhabitants, in this case between 3 and 6 April (see figure 4).Fighting with the partisans and losses on the German side were most frequent in the third phase. The infamous mass crimes, the destruction of villages and the murder of their inhabitants, occurred in phase 3 and mainly in phase 4, when after conclusion of thecoordinated military advance with “daily objectives” to be reached under all circumstancesmore time was left therefor. This depopulation was always planned in advance. Onlythereafter was the operation considered as concluded. In phase 4 there also commenced themore or less organized plundering of agricultural products of the affected area, the so-called collection.The key importance of the 4th phase becomes apparent from several sources aboutoperations of so-called fighting against bandits, such as a passage in the diary of Bach-Zelewski wherein the “operation of so-called mopping up” is criticized, which wouldalways lead to “a great number of destroyed bandit subjects” as its object was “toannihilate the population sympathizing with the Bolsheviks” rather than the partisans. Thiscan be proven not only for the operations mentioned in this context, “Nürnberg” and“Erntefest II”, but also for instance for “Sumpffieber”, “Franz” and “Hornung”. Thenumber of victims accordingly went up during the respective final phase, like in operation“Bamberg”. It is not without reason that the SS and Police Commander of White Ruthenia,v. Gottberg, wrote the following about the final phase of operation “Nürnberg”: “Whatfollowed was then more or less a hare hunt.”Another typical feature of such operations was the setting of “daily objectives” practicedduring Operation “Bamberg”. Certain units had to cover a certain distance until anestablished final point during a day while “mopping up” all localities. The further away thedaily objective was, the greater the probability, that there was no time for an exactinvestigation as to who supported the partisans (and for the “collection” of agricultural products) and thus the tendency was to kill everyone around. The possibility of allowingmany people to run away was often not considered the executing units because theinhabitants of the affected areas were generally seen as sympathizers of the partisans. Toneed to set such “daily objectives” resulted from the inner logic of such an operation under  participation of various units for a coordinated proceeding. Thus the remote message postof Combat Group von Gottberg during the Operation “Frühlingsfest” sent and received3,500 remote messages. The determination of what distance was to be covered until therespective “daily objectives”, however, contained a conscious preliminary decision on the procedure inside the villages. The troops were thus put under pressure. Daily distances of up to 30 kilometers with a “crossing and mopping up, i.e. a march with combat actions andsearching of the villages”, such as Himmler considered possible, indicated an annihilationintention present from the very start. Sometimes the closing of the cauldron failed whollydue to a too stretched target area, to great daily objectives and too splintered Germanforces. If - as during later operations such as “Weichsel” - more laborers were to becollected, on the other hand, a “most thorough” searching and short daily objectives wereordered.  Yet another typical feature was the carrying out of “investigations and verifications”,examinations and interrogations in the villages, mainly by “GFP (Geheime Feldpolizei =Secret Field Police) and SD”, as in the case of “Bamberg”. Given the great marchingdistances their anyway dubious activity was reduced to identify not persons, but villagessuspect of partisan activity and suggesting the next targets of “verification”. Thesecommandos often also carried out a part of the executions. The support by the Luftwaffe inthe form or reconnaissance and combat flights, which later became a rule, also existedalready during Operation “Bamberg”.The same applied to the activity of agriculture officials (in this case 24), given that anessential goal of the action was the confiscation of agricultural products. “The task was thetotal encirlement and annihilation of the partisan groups and the securing and pacificationof this area, in order to collect the great stocks of agricultural products and take themaway”, reported General Major v. Bechtolsheim. Instead of the expected “at least 10-20,000 units of cattle” the reported booty consisted of only 2,454 cattle, 2,286 sheep, 115tons of grain, 120 tons of potatoes and more. In this respect fundamental difficulties for theGermans showed up, which were also characteristic of later actions. The affected area haduntil then delivered no agrarian products to the Germans (“no collection at all so far due to partisan activity”). The economy staff in Bobruisk had prior to the operation suggested toeither occupy the area militarily on a constant basis or to carry out a “total collection”including the last cow and the seed grain, which would lead to a “deterioration of the moodof the population”. For a longer occupation there were not enough troops, however, and the“total collection” was “a task almost impossible to solve” due to transportation difficultiescaused by the weather. From the point of view of the agriculture authorities the operationwas thus condemned to fail as a collection operation, given that the confiscation remained a partial success and the so-called pacification as a pre-condition for a long-term exploitationdid not occur. As will be shown, the agrarian administration could nevertheless consider the strategy of the great operations against partisans to make sense due to other reasons.The development and results of Operation “Bamberg” were followed with attention by highand highest authorities. The commander of the rear area of Army Group Center, for instance, constantly kept himself informed. While he internally remarked that the result had been “not fully satisfactory” because the partisans had got away and “among those reported by the division as partisan helpers there seem to have been many who had only very looseconnections to the partisans”, he congratulated the 707th infantry division nevertheless onits having “annihilated 3,000 partisans”. Army Group Center and its supreme commander v. Kluge also let themselves be informed on a regular basis. Also informed where the headof the war administration department at the Army Supreme Command/General Quarter Master, Schmidt v. Altenstedt, General Quarter Master Wagner himself and through himalso Hitler.The “Major Actions” were not invented with Operation “Bamberg”. An action near Sewsk (Sjwosk) to the south of Lokot in the Brjansk area, apparently in support of the local “self administration district” of Russian collaborators and claiming 1,936 lives, had been carriedout shortly before by an Hungarian unit. (Here also the Germans thus tried to transfer theresponsibility to allied troops.) It was the Operation “Bamberg”, however, that became amodel in many respects.

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Apr 29, 2018
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