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German Einsatzkommando murder Polish civilians in Leszno, Poland on 21 October 1939
Hitler ordered the SD and the Security Police to suppress the threat of native resistance behind the Wehrmacht's fighting front. Heydrich met with General Eduard Wagner representing Wilhelm Keitel, who agreed to the activation, commitment, command, and jurisdiction of Security Police and SD units in the Wehrmachts table of operations and equipment (TOE); in the rear operational areas, the Einsatzgruppen were to function in administrative sub-ordination to the field armies in order to effect the tasks assigned them by Heydrich. Their principal task (during the war), according to SS General Erich von dem Bach, at the Nuremberg Trials: "was the annihilation of the Jews, Gypsies, and Soviet political commissars". They were a key component in the implementation of the "Final Solution of the Jewish question" (German: Die Endlösung der Judenfrage) in the conquered territories. These killing units should be viewed in conjunction with the Holocaust.
The military commanders knew the task of the Einsatzgruppen. The Einsatzgruppen depended upon their sponsoring army commander for billet, food, and transportation. Relations between the regular army and the SiPo and the SD were close. Einsatzgruppen commanders reported that the understanding by Wehrmacht commanders of Einsatzgruppen tasks made their operations considerably easier.
For Operation Barbarossa (June 1941), initially four Einsatzgruppen were created, each numbering 500-990 men to comprise a total force of 3,000. Each unit was attached to an army group: Einsatzgruppe A to Army Group North; Einsatzgruppe B to Army Group Center, Einsatzgruppe C to Army Group South, and Einsatzgruppe D to the 11th German Army. Led by SD, Gestapo, and Criminal Police (Kripo) officers, Einsatzgruppen included recruits from the regular police (Orpo), SD and Waffen-SS, augmented by uniformed volunteers from the local auxiliary police force. When occasion demanded, German Army commanders bolstered the strength of the Einsatzgruppen with their own regular-army troops who assisted in rounding up and killing Jews of their own accord.
The first eight Einsatzgruppen of World War II were formed in 1939 for the invasion of Poland. They were composed of the Gestapo, Kripo and SD functionaries, and deployed during the classified Operation Tannenberg (codename for murder of Polish civilians) and the Intelligenzaktion lasting till the spring of 1940; followed by the German AB-Aktion which ended in late 1940. Long before the attack on Poland, the Nazis prepared a detailed list identifying more than 61,000 Polish targets by name, with the help of German minority living in the Second Polish Republic. The list was printed as a called Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen (Special Prosecution Book-Poland), and composed only of names and birthdates. It included politicians, scholars, actors, intelligentsia, doctors, lawyers, nobility, priests, officers and numerous others - as the means at the disposal of the SS paramilitary death squads aided by Selbstschutz executioners. By the end of 1939 already, they summarily killed around 50,000 Poles and Jews in the annexed territories, including over 1,000 POWs.
The SS operational groups were assigned Roman numerals for the first time on 4 September 1939. Before that, their names were derived from the names of their places of origin in the German language.
Einsatzkommando 16 or EK-16 Danzig (under SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Tröger), deployed in Pomerania (Polish: Pomorze) after the withdrawal of EG-IV and EG-V. The Commando was involved in the massacres in Pia?nica known as "Pommern Katy?" between the fall of 1939 and spring of 1940 conducted in Piasnica Wielka(pictured). The civilian shooters belonged to Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz aiding EK-16. During that period approximately 12,000 to 16,000 Poles, Jews, Czechs, and Germans were murdered. Not to be confused with Einsatzkommando 16 of EinsatzgruppeE deployed in Croatia(see below)
Einsatzgruppe A, attached to the Army Group North, was formed in Gumbinnen in East Prussia on 23 June 1941. Stahlecker - its first commander - deployed the unit toward the Lithuanian border. His group consisted of 340 men from the Waffen-SS, 89 from the Gestapo, 35 from the SD, 133 from the Orpo, and 41 from the Kripo. Soviet troops withdrew from the Lithuanian temporary capitalKaunas (Kovno) the day before, and the city was taken over by Lithuanians during the anti-Soviet uprising. On 25 June, the Einsatzgruppe A entered Kaunas with the forward units of the German army.
Einsatzgruppe A in 1941
Map included in Stahlecker's report from October 1941, summarizing murders committed by Einsatzgruppe A under his command: Estonia is "Judenfrei" (963 killed); Latvia (35,238 killed); Lithuania (138,421 killed); Russia (3,800 killed); Byelorussia (41,828 killed, see below)
The Jäger Report is the most precise surviving chronicle of the activities of one Einsatzkommando. It is a tally sheet of the actions of Einsatzkommando 3 -- a running total of their killings of 136,421 Jews (46,403 men 55,556 women, 34,464 children), 1,064 Communists, 653 persons with mental disabilities, and 134 others, from 2 July-1 December 1941. A second, major sweep occurred in 1942, before death camp killing replaced Einsatzkommando open-pit executions. Einsatzkommando 3 operated in the Kovno (Kaunas) district, west of Vilna (Vilnius) in contemporary Lithuania.(See also Rollkommando Hamann)
The operational command of Einsatzgruppe B, attached to the Army Group Center, was established under the command of Arthur Nebe a few days after the German attack on the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. Einsatzgruppe B departed from the occupied city of Pozna? (Posen) on 24 June 1941, with 655 men from the Security Police, Gestapo, Kripo, SD, Waffen-SS and the 2nd Company of Reserve Police Battalion 9. On 30 June 1941 Himmler visited the newly formed Bezirk Bialystok district 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.
Map of the Einsatzgruppen operations with the location of the first shooting of Jewish women and children (along with the men) in Vileyka, July 30, 1941.
Scrambling to meet the "new threat", Gestapo headquarters in Zichenau (Ciechanów) formed a lesser known unit called Kommando SS Zichenau-Schroettersburg, which departed from the sub-station Schröttersburg (P?ock) under the command of SS-ObersturmführerHermann Schaper, with the mission to kill Jews, communists and the NKVD collaborators across the local villages and towns in the Bezirk. On 3 July additional formation of Schutzpolizei arrived in Bia?ystok from the General Government. It was led by SS-HauptsturmführerWolfgang Birkner, veteran of Einsatzgruppe IV from the Polish Campaign of 1939. The relief unit, called Kommando Bialystok, was sent in by SS-ObersturmbannfuhrerEberhard Schöngarth on orders from the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), due to reports of Soviet guerrilla activity in the area with Jews being of course immediately suspected of helping them out. On 10 July 1941, Schaper's unit was split into smaller Einsatzkommandos due to requirements of Operation Barbarossa.
In addition to mass shootings, Einsatzgruppe B engaged in public hangings used as a terror tactic on the local population. An Einsatzgruppe B report, dated 9 October 1941, described one such hanging. Due to suspected partisan activity in the area around the settlement of Demidov, all males aged fifteen to fifty-five in Demidov were detained in a camp for screening. The screening produced seventeen people identified as 'partisans' and 'communists'. Thereafter, 400 local residents were assembled to watch the hanging of five members of the group; the rest were shot.
On 14 November 1941, Nebe told Berlin that, up until then, 45,000 persons had been eliminated. A further report, dated 15 December 1942, established that the Einsatzgruppe B had shot a total of 134,298 people. After 1943, the mass killings of Einsatzgruppe B diminished, and the unit was decommissioned in August 1944.
SS-Gruppenführer und Generalmajor der PolizeiArthur Nebe (June-November 1941)
SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der PolizeiErich Naumann (November 1941 - March 1943)
SS-StandartenführerHorst Böhme (12 March-28 August 1943)
SS-Oberführer und Oberst der PolizeiErich Ehrlinger (28 August 1943 - April 1944)
On 5 August, Nebe moved his Einsatzgruppen command to Smolensk, where the Vorkommando Moskau was concentrated. On 6 August, Einsatzkommando 8 reached Minsk, remaining there until 9 September 1941. From Minsk, it reached Mogilev, which became its general headquarters, and from there Einsatzkommando 8 effected successive killings in Bobruisk, Gomel, Roslavl, and Klintsy systematically attacking the local Jewish communities, and killing the inhabitants.
Meanwhile, Einsatzkommando 9 was put to work; they had left Treuburg, in eastern Prussia, and reached Vilna on 2 July. Their main theater of mass killing operations were Grodno and Bielsk-Podlaski (Biala-Podlaska). On 20 July it moved its headquarters to Vitebsk, and then exterminated the citizens of Polotzk, Nevel, Lepel, and Surazh. The command progressed to Vtasma, and from there they killed the communities of Gshatsk and Mozhaisk in the Moscow vicinity. The Soviet counter-offensive forced the Einsatzkommando to withdraw to Vitebsk on 21 December 1941. Anticipating the fall of Moscow, the Vorkommando Moskau advanced to Maloyaroslavets, earlier captured by the Wehrmacht on 18 October 1941. In practice, Sonderkommandos 7a and 7b operated behind the vanguard of the army. The actions were fast, in order to prevent the Jews from escaping the advancing German Army. To the south and east of Smolensk and Minsk, the two Sonderkommandos left a wake of dead civilians, from Velikiye Luki, Kalinin, Orsha, Gomel, Chernigov and Orel, to Kursk.
SS-Sturmbannführer Werner Kämpf (October 1943 - March 1944)
The Vorkommando--also known as Sonderkommando 7c--was to operate in Moscow, until it became apparent that Moscow would not fall; it was incorporated to Sonderkommando 7b, where it was active in Smolensk and executed 4,660 people.
SS-Brigadeführer Professor Dr. Franz Six (20 June-20 August 1941)
SS-Sturmbannführer Friedrich Sühr (August-November 1943)
The Einsatzgruppe D, as a whole, was attached to the 11th Army. It was established in June 1941 and operated until March 1943. Einsatzgruppe D conducted operations in northern Transylvania, Cernauti, Kishinev and across the Crimea. In March 1943 it was re-deployed in Ovruch as an anti-partisan unit called Kampfgruppe Bierkamp, named after its new commander Walther Bierkamp. The Einsatzgruppe D was responsible for the killing of over 91,728 people.
^ abcdRossino, Alexander B. (2003-11-01). ""Polish 'Neighbours' and German Invaders: Anti-Jewish Violence in the Bia?ystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa."". In Steinlauf, Michael C.; Polonsky, Antony (eds.). Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 16: Focusing on Jewish Popular Culture and Its Afterlife. The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization. pp. 431-452. doi:10.2307/j.ctv1rmk6w.30. ISBN978-1-909821-67-5. JSTORj.ctv1rmk6w.
^University Center for International Studies (1982). Histoire Russe, Volume 9. University of Pittsburgh. Up to 15 December 1942, Einsatzgruppe B reported executing a total of 134,298 persons (see Prestupleniia Belorussii, pp. 68-69), but the "bandits" included in these totals are probably incorporated in the German army reports. These changes, largely the work of "Fremde Heere Ost" chief Colonel Reinhard Gehlen, included the granting of prisoner-of-war status to captured partisans and offered guerrilla deserters the option of enlistment in Soviet defector Gen. Andrei Vlasov's "Russian Army of Liberation." The relevant material is located on T-78/489/64750995144.