Bezirk Bia%C5%82ystok
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Bezirk Bia%C5%82ystok
Bezirk Bialystok
Okr?g Bia?ostocki
Bezirk of Nazi Germany
1941-1944
Flag of Bialystok
Flag
Okreg bialystok 1942.png
Bezirk Bialystok in 1942
CapitalBia?ystok
Area
 o Coordinates53°08?N 23°09?E / 53.133°N 23.150°E / 53.133; 23.150Coordinates: 53°08?N 23°09?E / 53.133°N 23.150°E / 53.133; 23.150
History 
o Established
June 27 1941
o Disestablished
July 27 1944
Political subdivisions8 Kreiskommissariate
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Today part of Poland
 Belarus
 Lithuania

Bezirk Bialystok (German for District of Bia?ystok, also Belostok)[1] was an administrative unit of Nazi Germany created during the World War II invasion of the Soviet Union. It was to the south-east of East Prussia, in present-day northeastern Poland as well as in smaller sections of adjacent present-day Belarus and Lithuania.[2]

The territory lay to the east of the Molotov-Ribbentrop line and was consequently occupied by the Soviet Union and incorporated into the Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republic. In the aftermath of the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the western portion of Soviet Belarus (which, until 1939, belonged to the Polish state), was placed under the German Civilian Administration (Zivilverwaltungsgebiet). As Bezirk Bialystok, the area was under German rule from 1941 to 1944 without ever formally being incorporated into the German Reich.[2]

The district was established because of its perceived military importance as a bridgehead on the far bank of the Memel.[3] Germany had desired to annex the area even during the First World War, based on the historical claim arising from the Third Partition of Poland, which had delegated Bia?ystok to Prussia from 1795 to 1806 (see New East Prussia).[4]

In contrast to most other territories that lay east of the Molotov-Ribbentrop line and which were permanently annexed by the Soviet Union following the Second World War, most of the territory was later returned to Poland.[2]

History

After the start of Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet forces in eastern Poland, the invading Wehrmacht soldiers first murdered 379 people, 'pacified' 30 villages, burned down 640 houses and 1,385 industrial buildings in the area.[5]

Police Battalion 309 burned about 2000 Jews in Great Synagogue, Bia?ystok on 27 June 1941.

The first decree for the implementation of Civil Administration in these newly occupied eastern territories was issued on 17 July 1941. The borders of this area ran from the southeastern protrusion of East Prussia (the Suwalki triangle) following the Neman river up to Mosty (excluding Grodno), including Volkovysk and Pruzhany up to the Bug River to the west of Brest-Litovsk and then following the border of the General Government to East Prussia.[2]

Map of Nazi Germany dated March 1944 which includes Bezirk Bialystok (top-right, light blue)
Personalausweis of Bezkirk Bialystok (1943)

The establishment of Bezirk Bialystok followed on 1 August 1941; it was simultaneously excluded from the operational zones of the German Army in the Soviet Union. From then until 1944, Gestapo and SS engaged in executions in the area, for example in the Nowosió?ki forests near Choroszcz, where 4,000 people were executed. At the same time, some small areas to the east of the 1939-1941 German-Soviet border were incorporated into the East Prussian district of Scharfenwiese. With this the city of Scharfenwiese henceforth held more hinterland to the east.[2]

The center of administration for Bezirk Bialystok was the Polish city of Bia?ystok. The East Prussian Higher President and Gauleiter Erich Koch from Königsberg (modern-day Kaliningrad) was appointed Civilian Commissioner for the area, later Chief of Civil Administration (Chef-der-Zivilverwaltung).

The rear troops of the "Middle" Army Group commanded by General Max Schenckendorff played a shameful role in the Bezirk Bialystok. Behind the Wehrmacht troops entered the battalions that were part of the 'Middle' police regiment, commanded by Colonel Max Montua. On July 25, 1941, he embarked on a great pacification operation of the village in the Bia?owie?a Forest: Bud, Pogorzelec, and Teremisek. From these places 183 families were taken and taken to Pruzhany. The next day, the villages were displaced from around Narewka, driving out 1,240 people. In the following days the population was displaced from towns currently located in the Republic of Belarus and the inhabitants of Le?na, Mik?aszew, Olchówka and Zabrod, 1133 people were displaced to the vicinity of Zab?udów. The most famous crime of battalion 322 was the burning of twelve Polish and Belarusian villages and shooting of 42 people in the Lacka Forest near Waniek. The place of execution was also the Osuszek forest near the village of Piliki.[5]

Murder operations

Heinrich Himmler visited the newly formed Bezirk Bialystok district on 30 June 1941 and pronounced that more forces were needed in the area, due to potential risks of partisan warfare. The chase after the Red Army's rapid retreat left behind a security vacuum, which required urgent deployment of additional personnel.[6] Scrambling to meet this "new threat", Gestapo headquarters formed Kommando SS Zichenau-Schroettersburg which departed from sub-station Schröttersburg (P?ock) under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Hermann Schaper (born 1911) with express mission to kill Jews, communists and the NKVD collaborators across the local villages and towns. On July 3 additional formation of Schutzpolizei arrived in Bia?ystok, summoned from the General Government. It was led by SS-Hauptsturmführer Wolfgang Birkner, veteran of Einsatzgruppe IV from the Polish Campaign of 1939. The relief unit, called Kommando Bialystok,[7] was sent in by SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Eberhard Schöngarth on orders from the Reich Main Security Office, due to reports of Soviet guerrilla activity in the area with Jews being of course immediately suspected of helping them out.[8] The first stage of the Nazi persecutions mainly involved applying collective punishment to various villages where any form of real-or-imagined threat had been identified. Terror operations were enacted to prevent assistance to independence movements but mostly to round-up and persecute local Jews. Targeted buildings were being destroyed, possessions robbed, communities mass murdered or sent to labor camps or prisons. Gruppenführer Nebe reported to Berlin on 14 November 1941 that, up until then 45,000 persons had been eliminated.[5]

The situation of the local population did improve after the Raid on Mittenheide. The Germans introduced the policy of finding and forcing anyone who could be of the German ancestry, even based on the "pure German looks" in some cases, to accept the German ancestry card (usually 4th category "The Traitors of the German Nation," in spite of the ominous-sounding name, it meant elevation above the rest of the population). The Germans were harkening back to the times of the New East Prussia.[2]

On 1 November 1941 the city of Grodno (location of the Grodno Ghetto set up at the same time)[9] including its surroundings, were transferred from the Reichskommissariat Ostland to Bezirk Bialystok.

Resistance

There existed Bia?ystok Region of the Home Army, which prepared an uprising, later known as Operation Tempest. The organization run intelligence and propaganda networks. The partizans collected a V2-rocket, parts of which were transported to London.

During the night of 15-16 August 1943, the Bia?ystok Ghetto Uprising began. This was an insurrection in Poland's Bia?ystok Ghetto by several hundred Polish Jews who began an armed struggle against the German troops finishing off the liquidation of the 15,000 people still living in the Ghetto. This Ghetto's victims were ultimately destined for the Treblinka extermination camp. It was organized and led by Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa, an organisation that was part of the Anti-Fascist Block, and was the second largest ghetto uprising, after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II.[2]

On 20 October 1943 the southern border between the East Prussian district Sudauen (Suwa?ki) in the Province of East Prussia and Bezirk Bialystok was adjusted and moved back to the northern side of the Augustów Canal.

In July and August 1944 Bezirk Bialystok was taken over by the Red Army up to the Narew-Bobr line. The government seat for the Chief of Civil Administration was then moved to Bartenstein. In January 1945 the Red Army overrun the last areas of Bezirk Bialystok, namely the remaining parts of the districts ?om?a and Grajewo, driving the Germans completely out of the territory.

A July 1944 German map of Bezirk Bialystok, labelled "South East Prussia"

Administrative structure

At the time of its establishment, Bezirk Bialystok had a population of 1,383,000 inhabitants, of whom 830,000 were of Polish, 300,000 of White Ruthenian (Belarusian), 200,000 of Ukrainian, 50,000 of Jewish and 2,000 of German origin.

Bialystok District was divided into eight county-level administrative units, called district police stations (German: kreiskommissariate, Polish: komisariatów powiatowych). These were the police stations Bialystok (Kreiskommissariat Nikolaus), Bielsk-Podlaski (Kreiskommissariat Tubenthal), Grajewski (Kreiskommissariat Piachor, then Knispel), Grodno (Kreiskommissariat Plötz), ?om?a (Kreiskommissariat Gräben), Sokolski (Kreiskommissariat Seiler), Volkovysk (Kreiskommissariat Pfeifer) and the city of Bia?ystok.

Erich Koch was appointed "civil commissioner" (Zivilkommissar) on August 1, 1941, and later appointed as Chief of Civil Administration (Chef der Zivilverwaltung) of Bezirk Bialystok until 27 July 1944. During this period, he was the Gauleiter of East Prussia and Reichskommissar in Reichskommissariat Ukraine. Day-to-day activities were handled by his permanent deputy head of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) in Königsberg, East Prussia, Waldemar Magunia from 15 August 1941 until 31 January 1942. He was replaced on 1 February 1942 until 27 July 1944 by Friedrich Brix, Landrat (District Mayor) of Tilsit.

References

  1. ^ Ostland Atlas, at Libx.BSU.edu
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Marcin Markiewicz, Bezirk Bialystok (in) Represje hitlerowskie wobec wsi bia?ostockiej, (PDF file, direct download 873 KB) Biuletyn IPN nr 35-36 (12/2003-1/2004), ISSN 1641-9561. Internet Archive.
  3. ^ Förster 1998, p. 1239.
  4. ^ Kroener, Bernhard R.; Müller, Rolf-Dieter; Umbreit, Hans (2000). Germany and the Second World War:Organization and mobilization of the German sphere of power. Wartime administration, economy, and manpower resources 1939-1941. Oxford University Press. p. 172. ISBN 0-19-822887-2.
  5. ^ a b c Marcin Markiewicz, "Represje hitlerowskie wobec wsi bia?ostockiej" (Nazi Repressions Against the Bia?ystok Countryside) in Bulletin of the Institute of National Remembrance (Biuletyn Instytutu Pami?ci Narodowej), issue: 121, pages: 65-68. (in Polish)
  6. ^ Alexander B. Rossino, Polish 'Neighbors' and German Invaders: Contextualizing Anti-Jewish Violence in the Bia?ystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa, Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 16 (2003). Internet Archive. Referenced citations: #58. The Partisan: From the Valley of Death to Mount Zion by Yitzhak Arad; #59. The Lesser of Two Evils: Eastern European Jewry under Soviet Rule, 1939-1941 by Dov Levin; and #97. Abschlussbericht, 17 March 1964 in ZStL, 5 AR-Z 13/62, p. 164.
  7. ^ Tomasz Szarota (December 2-3, 2000). "Do we now know everything for certain? (translation)". Gazeta Wyborcza. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved 2011.
  8. ^ (in Polish) Thomas Urban, "Poszukiwany Hermann Schaper", Rzeczpospolita, 01.09.01 Nr 204
  9. ^ Encyklopedia PWN (2015). "Okupacja sowiecka ziem polskich 1939-41" [Soviet occupation of Poland in 1939-41]. Przywracanie Pami?ci (in Polish). Polscy Sprawiedliwi. Archived from the original on 2016-04-15. Retrieved .
  • Gnatowski M., ,,Bia?ostockie Zgrupowanie Partyzanckie". Bia?ystok 1994
  • Förster, Jürgen (1998). "Securing 'Living-Space'". In Boog, Horst; Förster, Jürgen; Hoffmann, Joachim; Klink, Ernst; Müller, Rolf-Dieter; Ueberschär, Gerd R. (eds.). The Attack on the Soviet Union. Germany and the Second World War. IV. Translated by McMurry, Dean S.; Osers, Ewald; Willmot, Louise. Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt (Military History Research Office (Germany) ). Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 1235-1244. ISBN 0-19-822886-4.

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