Hamburg Police Battalions during the Second World War
Major Wilhelm "Papa" Trapp, Commanding Officer of Police Battalion 101
trapp, trapp = the clip clop of a horse
2. IntroductionThe police-force stationed under quasi military criterion in Hamburg from 1890 did not consist of self contained units. When the need arose units were assembled from policemen from the various police stations. In 1910 they acquired a quantity of rifles, and in 1917 they were equipped with pistols.
Following riots disturbances in Hamburg and the subsequent entry of units of the German armed forces (Reichswehr), i.e. Korps Lettow-Vorbeck, on 1.07.1919, the necessity arose to establish better armed police units. The police-force remainded largely inactive during these riots. With the comprehensive financial assistance from the German state, that emphasized the importance of Hamburg as a port, within a short period of time a police-force ("Polizeitruppe") began to be formed. It was officially established as a "Security Police" ("Sicherheitspolizei") on 1.10.1919. Most of its recruits were former members of the Korps Lettow-Vorbeck (Freikorps Schleswig-Holstein, Schutztruppenregiment), members of the former "Volkswehr", and numerous volunteers.
The Kapp-Putsch of 1920 demonstrated that a section of this police-force was disloyal to the Republic. Significantly, the officer corps proved untrustworthy. The "Sicherheitspolizei" was disbanded by order of the allied powers, and was replaced by the "Order Police" ("Ordnungspolizei"). At the end of 1932, it consisted of 21 police units, with a total force of 2,100 men. In 1933 the Hamburg police-force had a total of circa 5,500 men, including the criminal and administrative police.
3. The 1933 "Transfer of Power"From 5.03.1933, several police officers, circa 10%, and many non-commissioned officers and men, circa 1·5-2%, were initially relieved from duty, and then dismissed, for political reasons. From mid 1933 the 21 police stations were organized militarily, and commanded as part of the "State Police" ("Landespolizei"), with a predominantly "military" independence in which police duties became of subordinate importance, as was the case with all police units quartered in barracks within the German Reich.
The entire "Landespolizei", which had come under centralized command from 1933/34, was transferred to the armed forces (Wehrmacht) in 1935/36, and constituted a substancial component of the process of rearmament. On 1.10.1935, a total of 56,000 members of the "Landespolizei" were incorporated into the Wehrmacht. From this date, temporarily, self-contained police units no longer existed.
4. The 1936 "Verreichlichung" of the PoliceThe Nazis regarded the "Verreichlichung" of the police, i.e. placing the police under the central command of the Reich, as the conclusion of the changes made to the police-force since 1933, whereby by the end of 1933 the SS had secured almost total control over the police in all German states. The law of 30.01.1934, concerning the reconstitution of the Reich, that transferred the sovereign power of the police from the individual states to the Reich, was preparitory to the "Verreichlichung". On 17.06.1936, Hitler signed the order appointing Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler to "Head of German Police in the Reich Home Office" ("Chef der Deutschen Polizei im Reichsministerium des Innern"). Therewith, the SS also took overall control of the regular/uniformed police, and quickly gained direct control over its personnel, and its ideological organization and alignment.
5. The part played by the Hamburg Police in the Annexation of Austria in March 1938, in the Occupation of the "Egerland" (Sudetenland) in 1938, and the Occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939On 12.01.1938 an order was given by the Main Office of the Order Police (Hauptamt Ordnungspolizei) for the preparation of a parade of the German police to take place in April/May 1938. The concealed purpose was the preparation of 20,000 police to form part of the operation in annexing Austria. Of the 2,614 Hamburg police circa 1,000 were employed in the operation. The "embarkation exercise" ("Verladeübung"), the official term used, was the preliminary stage of the complete operational readiness for war of the police.
Already on 30.05.1938, in a secret command, Hitler had ordered the armed forces (Wehrmacht) to the "smashing" ("Zerschlagung") of Czechoslovakia. At the conference in Munich on 20.09.1938 Hitler succeeded, with the active support of Mussolini, and essentially influenced by the compliant policy of appeasement of Great Britain under Chamberlain and France under Daladier, in attaining the cession of the German area of the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia to the German Reich, between 1. - 10.10.1938.
In autumn 1938, the successful extortion of the Sudetenland was carried out by German police units, including "Police Battalion Hamburg" consisting of companies under the command of Major Engelhaupt. With the occupation of Czechoslovakia on 15./16.03.1939 a Hamburg company, under the command of Captain Morawietz, was deployed in occupying Prague.
6. Preparation for the operational readiness for war of the Order Police (Ordnungspolizei), and the operational readiness for war of the Order PoliceThe deployment of the Order Police (Ordnungspolitei) in the annexation of Austria, and in the occupation of the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia was direct preparation of the police for war, and thereby for combat ("Kampfeinsatz"). From 1936, the police were systematically prepared for war.
At the beginning of the Second World War, the police had a total manpower of 130,000 men, of whom circa 121,000 (including the Fire Brigade) were ready for combat. The "reinforcement of uniformed police" ("verstarkte Polizeischutz" (VPS)) lead to the term "Police Reserve" ("Polizeireserve"), which reached a strength of 91,500 men. The Wehrmacht had allocated the birth cohort 1901-1909, for whom it had no use on grounds of age, for the Police Reserve. The vast majority of the Police Reserve were members of the lower or lower middle classes whose occupations were not required, or little required, for the purposes of war. The "training" was not uniform and took place, when at all, after work or on Sundays.
In autumn 1939, by order of Hitler, the police were strengthened by 26,000 police recruits ("Polizeirekruten"). These came predominantly from the birth cohorts 1918-1920 and 1909-1912. Those men of the birth cohort 1918-1920 with a university entry qualification (Abitur) were given preference when applying for a career as an officer. On 20.08.1940 the police had a total force of 244,500 men, of whom 1,376 officers and 57,800 men were in Police Battalion 101. In addition, older age groups ("ältere Jahrgänge") were also conscripted into the police, on grounds of military duty. Also, many superannuated policemen were called back to active police duty, including men over seventy years old.
7. The Invasion of Poland in 1939 and the first police operations in Poland in 1939/40A total number of 17 Police Battalions, stationed as active police, were deployed within the framework of the army high command (Armeeoberkommando (AOK)), in the invasion of Poland. These 17 police battalions were organized into six police groups, three Hamburg police battalions being among them: (I/2, II/2, III/3, later 101, 102, 103), within police group 2, under army high command 10 (AOK 10).
The three battalions, each with battalion staff and four companies, were assembled on 1.09.1939, and transported to Poland on 6.09.1939. They were preliminarily posted to Kielce, Tomaszow and Konskie. They were then transported by train to Breslau, and from there to Tschenstochau by Hamburg buses. All three battalions accompanied or followed the advance of the units of AOK 10. During this phase of the war the police battalions were active in the repressive measures taken against the civil population, including executions following drumhead court-martials held by the army, the SS or police, in combat against the Polish regular army, the guarding of prisoners of war, the support of units of the SS and SD (SS Security Service), the gathering of weapons, and in the "resettlement" of the native population ("Umsiedlungsaktionen").
This "Umsiedlungsaktionen" also involved the eviction of Poles and Jews from the areas within the "Generalgouvernement", e.g. from the "Warthegau", annexed to the German Reich. And so in October 1939, Police Battalion 103, among others, was transferred to Poznan (Posen), and took part in the expulsion of the civil population from the town and surrounding countryside. Numerous killings were carried out during this operation, as indicated by testimony given in later preliminary proceedings. These killings mostly took place when expelling people from their accommodation under orders from an SS Junker. Numerous elderly people were murdered, under orders, on the spot, to spare them the strain of the transport ("Belastung des Transport"). The German judiciary later regarded this involvement in the "resettlement" ("Umsiedlung"), when at all, as "wrongful deprivation of personal liberty" ("Freiheitsberaubung"), and judged it as coming under the statute of limitations (the legislative enactment prescribing the period of time within which proceedings must be instituted to enforce a right or bring an action at law), and therefore not sentenceable.
Police Battalion 102 was involved in the shooting of "hostages" during the advance on Rawa. There is also evidence that in the initial phase of the war policemen, particularly older men, refused to comply with orders, e.g. the arrest and shooting of priests. Major Asmus, as commanding officer of Police Battalion 101, ordered a special guard of Jewish ghettos as protection against attack by the Polish population.
Police Battalion 104, when stationed in Lublin in January 1940, and when transferred to Zamosc, was involved in drumhead court-martials and the ensuing executions. This is also true of Police Battalion 305. The battalion was transferred to Kielc in October 1940, and participated in the transport of Jews to Auschwitz in 1941. A section of the battalion temporarily guarded an interrogation camp ("Verhörlager") in Kamienna, run by the SD (SS Security Service), in which the SD and volksdeutsch "Hilfswillige" or "Hiwis" (willing helper) also carried out torture.
Police Battalion 101 was reorganized into Reserve Police Battalion 101 and transferred to Poznan (Posen) in May 1940, and participated once again in "resettlement" ("Umsiedlungsaktionen") missions, especially in the surrounding countryside, in order that Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans from the Baltic states and the Soviet Union) be assigned the accommodation and property of the evacuated Polish and Jewish population. Killings were carried out during this operation. In July 1940 the battalion was transferred to Lodz. Here a part of their duties was the guarding of the Lodz ghetto. In both Poznan (Posen) and Lodz members of the battalion were involved in drumhead court-martials and the ensuing executions. In April/May 1941 the battalion returned to Hamburg.
8. SD EinsatzgruppenClose co-operation took place between units of the SS and police and the SD "Einsatzgruppen". The first operation involving SD Einsatzgruppen together with the Order Police (Ordnungspolizei) took place with the annexation of Austria in 1938.
Six Einsatzgruppen were constituted under the code word "Tannenberg" for the occupation of Poland.
The "Einsatzgruppe for special duty in the Upper Silesian Industrial Area" ("Einsatzgruppe z.b.V. für das oberschlesische Industrialgebiet"), established by order of Hitler on 3.09.1939, under the command of SS Obergruppenführer Udo von Woyrsch,were reknown for their ruthlessness.
After the killing of General Roettig the army and Einsatzgruppe II carried out the shooting of "hostages" in Konskie. Police Battalion 6 (Berlin) and Einsatzkommandos of Einsatzgruppe IV were involved in the shooting of "hostages" in Bydgoszcz (Bromberg) on 10.09.1939.
In May 1941 in preparation for Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union which began in
June 1941, in order to conduct the genocidal campaign against the Jews, Himmler set up four mobile
"Einsatzgruppen", that would spearhead the wholesale slaughter. Each was subdivided into a number of
smaller units, called "Einsatzkommandos" and "Sonderkommandos".
9. "Expiatiatory Measures" ("Sühnemaßnahmen") and the Killing of "Hostages"In accordance with the Hague Rules of Land Warfare (Second Hague Conference held between 15.06.1907 and 18.10.1907 at the Hague in the Netherlands) occupying forces were not prohibited from:
· taking civilians as hostages
· threatening their shooting
· carrying out the shooting
when non-combatants had attacked members of the occupying forces, or their military installations.
The "Sühnemaßnahmen" of the German armed forces, the SS, the SD, the police and other units, during the Second World War, very frequently did not comply with the conditions of the Hague Convention. This applied, in particular, to the police battalions (and other units) involved in so-called "anti-guerilla warfare" ("Bandenbekämpfung"), i.e. operations against resistance groups in occupied territory. The operational reports of such action clearly demonstrate a policy of terror directed against the civil population.
10. The deployment of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 in Józefów on 13th July 1942On 27th March 1942 Joseph Goebbels made the following entry in his diary:
"Now begins the deportation to the East of the Jews in the Lublin district of the General Government. It will be a considerably barbaric measure, better not described in more detail, and few Jews will remain. By and large, it can be established that 60% must be eliminated, as only 40% can be employed in work. The former Gauleiter (District Leader) of Vienna (Odilo Globocnik), who is to implement this action, will carry it out with a fair amount of judiciousness, and with a method that is not too conspicuous ... The emptied ghettos in the towns of the Generalgouvernement will then be filled with the Jews deported from Germany, and after a certain period of time the process will be repeated".
The "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem" ("Endlösung der Judenfrage") , i.e. the extermination of
the indigenous Jewish population of the occupied eastern territories and of those Jews deported
from March 1942, began to be carried out in accordance with Göring's 31.07.1941 order to Heydrich,
and based upon the experience of the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union, where
the mass extermination of the Jews had begun immediately after the German occupation in the summer
These measures were carried out under the code name Operation Reinhard ("Aktion Reinhard").
SS Brigadeführer Odilo
Globocnik, who was appointed to implement the operation, named the following tasks in his
communication to Himmler on 5.01.1944:
The mass extermination of the Jews was implemented in the extermination camps of Belzec, from March 1942, Chelmno (Kulmhof), from the end of 1941, Sobibor, from April 1942, Treblinka, from October 1941, in the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, from October 1941, and in Majdanek, from the beginning of 1942, but also directly in the towns and villages in the occupied territory. Units of the Order Police (Ordnungspolizei comprising the Schutzpolizei = uniformed police and Gendarmerie = rural police) together with the SS, SD, and "Hilfswilligen" were involved in the transportation of Jews to the extermination camps. This action was known euphemistically as "resettlement" ("Aussiedlung"). The operation was supported by the local Polish police.
The Hamburg Reserve Police Battalion 101 participated in this operation of mass extermination. On 20.06.1942 the battalion was mobilized for a "special action" ("Sondereinsatz") and placed under the command of the Brigade des Ordnungspolizei Cracow, i.e. III/Police Regiment 25. The initial deployment was the town of Zamosc in the southern part of the Lublin District in the General Government. The battalion departed Hamburg on 21.06.1942 with a total of 11 officers, 5 administrators and 486 men, i.e. a total of 502 men. The battalion was divided into a battalion staff and three companies. The battalion was led by Major Wilhelm Trapp. Two of the companies were commanded by captains, the third by a lieutenant. In addition to the small company staffs, each company was composed of three platoons. Generally, two of the three platoons were led by lieutenants and the third by a non-commissioned officer. The platoons were further divided into groups of about ten men, with a non-commissioned officer in charge. The battalion was lightly armed, having only four machine guns per company to augment the rifles that its men carried. The battalion had its own transport, which included trucks and, for conducting patrols, bicycles.
Hamburg Reserve Police Battalion 101, 21.06.1942:
1st Company: Captain Julius Wohlauf
2nd Company: Lieutenant Hartwig Gnade
3rd Company: Captain Wolfgang Hoffmann
The battalion was stationed in Zamosc on 25.06.1942, in Bilograj on 30.06.1942, in Radzyn on 20.07.1942, and in the Luckow area from October 1942. The battalion was under the command of SS and Police Leader (SSPF) Lublin, Odilo Grobocnik. The "Hilfswillige" (Hiwis), mostly Ukranians and Galicians, frequently referred to as "Trawniki men" ("Trawniki-Männer") after the training camp in the town of Trawniki, in the Lublin District.
In 1968 the Hamburg District Court (Landgericht Hamburg) established the following in reference to
battalion's first action in the Józefów area:
The evacuation commandos of the 1st and 2nd companies had the mission of driving together all the inhabitants of the Jewish quarter, who could walk, into the market square... The uniformed police (Schutzpolizei) forced their way into, and searched the houses. They used their rifles in compliance with their issued orders. Those unable to walk were shot in their beds. The streets and houses were filled with the noise of the shootings and the bellowed commands of the police as they evicted the people from their houses. Dead bodies lay everywhere, in the houses and on the street of the Jewish quarter... With clubbings and yellings the Jews were gradually driven together into the market square... There began the selection of able-bodied young men. Those selected, a work force of at least 100 men, were separated from the rest, and, in the course of the afternoon, transported to Lublin...
Then began the transportation of the Jews. Around 30 Jews were loaded onto a lorry and driven, under guard, to the woods. There the Jews had to dismount and stand in a row, guarded by uniformed police (Schutzpolizei). Then began the shootings on one side of a clearing selected by the accused Wohlauf. While one commando carried out the shootings, the other collected new victims from the unloading point, where new lorries continuously arrived, laden with Jews...
The Jews were collected from the unloading point by the execution commandos. Each individual rifleman picked a new victim from the row of waiting victims and accommpanied him to the place of execution. There the Jews had to lie down facing the ground. They were killed with a rifle shot in the back of the neck. The riflemen were commanded to fix bayonets and to place them between the victim's shoulder blades to assist their aim. The places of execution in the woods were constantly changed... The shootings at close quarters produced terrible wounds... In spite of this the victims appeared... so calm and composed on their way to their executions that the witnesses still regarded this conduct with a mixture of incomprehension and admiration today. The victims were by no means exclusively Polish Jews. A large number were from Germany, having been forcibly expelled from places in northern Germany. The witness V. spoke with a Jewish woman, who exclaimed: `You can't do this, I'm also from Hamburg'. The accused B. reported that a Jewish woman had said to him: `What are you doing here, how is it possible that Germans are like this?' An elderly man informed the accused B. that he came from Bremen and that he had fought in the First World War. The, deceased, witness K. had recounted a conversation with a woman and her daughter from Kassel, which induced him to have himself released from the executions. The mission was completed by the late afternoon."
The execution with the rifle was "tried and tested" ("erprobt") over weeks in halls by a special police commando.
The sober words used to describe the crimes by the Hamburg District Court in its judgement are totally inadequate in the face of their appalling scale and heinousness. This is also the case with the numerous recorded testimonies. The actual events were far more atrocious. This is apparent, for example, in the testimony of one witness who had, together with a comrade, killed mothers and children. His comrade had shot the mother, and as a child cannot survive without its mother, it became easier for him to shoot the child. The killings in Józefów were carried out willingly and consciously in that each rifleman sought out and killed his own victim.
11. The deployment of the 2nd Company in Lomazy on 19th August 1942The battalion was transferred to the northern part of the Lublin District in connection with the operations carried out in the Zamosc area. The battalion staff and 1st Company were stationed in Radzyn, the 2nd Company in Biala-Podlaska, and the 3rd Company in Pulawy. The platoons of the individual companies were generally stationed in the various towns and villages.
A branch of the Commander of the Security Police Lublin (Kommandeurs der Sicherheitspolizei (KdS) Lublin), was stationed in Biala-Podlaska, which, under orders from the Head of SS and Police Lublin (SS- und Polizeifühers (SSPF) Lublin), directed operations within "Aktion Reinhard" in this area. The order to go into action was given by Lieutenant Gnade, commander of the 2nd Company, to his platoon leaders in Biala-Podlaska on 18th August 1942. The entire 2nd Company was sent to Lomazy on 19th August 1942 where a commando of the 3rd Platoon (circa 18 men) had been stationed for some time.
"The mission began early in the morning of the following day with Lieutenent Hartwig Gnade and the SD officer giving orders and distributing the tasks. 2nd Company had the task of securing the town by closing it off from the outside and inside, and then evacuating the Jewish quarter. This mission was a killing operation in which all the infirm, the ill, and small children were to be shot on the spot. The 2nd Platoon was chiefly deployed in this evacuation. The searching of houses was carried out with exceptional thoroughness. The men were divided into groups of 2 to 3 uniformed police. The witness H. reported that they were also ordered to search the cellars and attics. The Jews were aware of what was to take place. They had heard what had already been carried out against their "race" in the General Government. They, therefore, attempted to hide themselves and evade death. Shootings took place throughout the Jewish quarter. The witness H. saw around 15 dead Jews within his row of houses alone. The easily surveyed Jewish quarter was cleared within around two hours.
The Jews were gathered together in a schoolyard or sports field. They had to sit down in two groups separated by gender. They were forced to crouch down for several hours in the scorching sun. During this time around 50 Jewish men were forced to dig a mass grave. This was dug in a concealed area of woodland not far from the town...
Then began the herding of the Jews to an assembly point on the edge of the woods. Groups of 50 to 100 Jews were herded to the woods escorted by uniformed police. The length of the route was posted with uniformed police (Schutzpolizei). The area of woods containing the mass grave was isolated off by a thin cordon. The Jews had to assemble, once again, in an open space near the mass grave. With the majority of Jews having been delivered to the woods, there remained behind a group of around 200 people in the schoolyard. One of the uniformed police had the idea of enclosing them within a rope and herding them en masse to the assembly point at the edge of the woods. Rope was brought from several farmhouses and joined together to make a length of rope within which the group of Jews were enclosed. Those Jews standing on the outside of the group had to hold up the rope. In this manner the entire group was driven towards the woods. The people herded together in this manner fell into disorder. Some of the weaker individuals fell, hindering the others. Finally, the group was unable to proceed forwards any more. Thereupon, the accused B. commanded them to drop the rope. The Jews were treated with extreme cruelty during the entire operation. They were driven forwards with whips and clubs. Again the ill and the weak, who were unable to sustain the pace, were shot.
This assembly point, in a clearing in the woods, was around 40 to 50 metres from the mass grave. Here again the Jews were separated into two groups according to gender. The mass grave was hidden from the waiting groups by a copse of trees...
When all the Jews were assembled in the clearing in the woods they had to undress. The women were permitted to retain their slips, the men their underpants. Their clothes were collected into a huge pile. The accused B. supervised the undressing area. There was again a long period of waiting for the victims. Witnesses recount that the victim's bodies were burnt red by the scorching sun. Finally, the Jews had to undergo a search for valuables. They had to place jewellery, gold and other valuables in a box provided. This search was carried out by a group of uniformed police under the command of group leader B.
The shootings began after all the preparations were completed and the Hiwis had arrived at the mass grave. The Jews were herded into the mass grave in groups of around 10 people. This was principally the task of the Hiwis. They drove the Jews to move faster with shouts and blows from clubs and whips. The witness F. described their behaviour as bestial. With repeated deployment in genocidal missions the members of these units deteriorated into an amoral, dehumanized band. As the victims were being driven into the mass grave an incident occured that demonstrated that the behaviour of the Germans was no better than that of the Hiwis. Before the mission began Lieutenant Hartwig Gnade, commander of 2nd Company, together with the SD officer, promissed the Hiwis alcohol. Suddenly, as a group of elderly Jewish men were to be led to execution, the whim took Lieutenant Gnade to force them to lie on the ground and crawl towards the mass grave on their stomachs. At the same time he drove them foreward by beating them with a club while shouting: `Where are my N.C.O.s? Don't you have clubs yet?' Thereupon all the N.C.O.s went to the edge of the woods, got themselves clubs, and began savagely clubbing the Jews... It could not be established whether any of the accused had personally taken part in this cruelty.
The mass grave was dug to the depth of the height of a man. Along both the longer sides the thrown out earth was piled up to form walls. A sloping ramp-like entry was constructed on one of the shorter sides. The uniformed police drove the Jews, at running pace, to jump into the mass grave and to lie down. Initially they were shot by the execution commando from inside the mass grave, and later from the heaped up walls of the two longer sides. During the shootings around half a metre of ground water had collected in the bottom of the mass grave. The water was soon dyed red with the blood of the shot Jews. Corpses floated in the water. Those victims who were not killed when shot, drowned. The Jews that followed had to lie down on top of the corpses, or on the twitching, fatally wounded bodies, in order to be shot.
The Hiwis had been repeatedly given alcohol prior to the shootings and were soon hardly able to aim straight. They shot so wildly that the uniformed police became anxious that they would be shot. This increased the number of wounded Jews in the mass grave. The drunken riflemen stood up to their knees in the bloody water. The two drunken commanders began to argue over the situation. The SD leader repeatedly took part in the shootings despite the danger of him falling in the grave. Finally, he shouted at Lieutenant Gnade: `Your bloody police don't do any shooting!' Thereupon, Lieutenant Gnade summoned those N.C.O.s standing near the grave and ordered the uniformed police to continue the shooting. The N.C.O.s organized the men into execution commandos... While the Hiwis rested under the trees nearby, smoking cigarettes, or sleeping off their intoxication, the shootings were continued by the uniformed police (Schutzpoizei). In contrast to the Hiwis the uniformed police alternately shot from the two longer walled sides of the mass grave. Apart from a few indispensable men on guard duty, and some who disappeared into the woods, all the police were involved. They were relieved after around two hours. The Hiwis, who had somewhat recovered, continued the shootings for a further hour until the end. A work group of Jewish men filled in the mass grave. They were then shot and buried. The mission was concluded towards the evening. At least 800 Jewish inhabitants of Lomazy had been killed...".
12. "Resettlement" ("Aussiedlungen"), i.e. deportation to extermination camps, and other genocidal operations carried out by Reserve Police Battalion 101Members of the battalion were regularly involved in the so-called "resettlement" ("Aussiedlungen") of Jews from the ghettos in the Lublin District, especially the northern part, i.e. transporting Jews to the extermination camps, as a rule to Treblinka but also occasionally to Majdanek. More than 20,000 people were transported to extermination camps from the ghetto in Miedzyrec alone. Miedzyrec was referred to as "Menschenschreck" ("human horror") by the policemen as the actual place-name was too difficult for them to pronounce. These deportations - the trivializing term "resettlement" ("Aussiedlungen") was also adopted in the files of the police and the judiciary - were carried out with exceptional brutality and with countless killings. Elderly people, women with young children, the ill, and those not fit for transport were shot on the spot, which included being shot in bed, as far as it is possible so to describe sleeping conditions in the ghetto. In one instance members of the battalion killed the entire inmates of a hospital - dysentry had broken out in the ghetto. The Jews were rounded up in a chosen place and from there escorted to the railway station. Those that fell behind were immediately shot.
They deported them to Majdanek, where men of Reserve Police Battalion 101, and others slaughtered them in the November 1943 "Aktion Erntefest" ("Operation Harvest Festival").
When, as was frequently the case, there were insufficient waggons available for the deportation, hand grenades were thrown into the waggons, or people in the waggons were shot, or "surplus" ("überzähligen") individuals were shot. Body searches often took place prior to the transportation, these being carried out with exceptional violence and ruthlessness.
So-called "Jew hunts" ("Judenjagden"), i.e. search and destroy missions, that were nothing less than the hunting of people, were regularly carried out against Jews on the run or in hiding, partly with the support of the Polish population and the German army. These missions began in the autumn of 1942 and continued throughout 1943, together with the slaughter of Jews living in small groups in towns and on estates, and became the main operational activity of Reserve Police Battalion 101. There were so many of these missions that after the war, witnesses had difficulty recollecting the details of them. Mop-up operations were also carried out after mass executions. Almost daily stray Jews that were chanced upon were shot on the spot. The number ranged from two to twenty. It is impossible to assess the number of individuals so killed.
For example, a small detachment of around twenty men, under the command of Sergeant B., remained in Lomazy after the rest of 2nd Company had returned to garrison following the 19th August extermination of the city's Jews. A few days after the massacre this group of men combed through the ghetto and found about twenty Jews, men, women and children. They took them to the woods, forced them lie on the ground and shot them in the back of the neck with pistols.
There is an account of another incident in which Sergeant B's men were involved:
Members of the battalion also carried out the shooting of "hostages", for example in Talcyn on 26th September 1942.
13. A Summary of other operations carried out by Hamburg Police BattalionsThe Reserve Police Battalions 102 and 305 were, from 1942, deployed in "combat operations" ("Kampfeinsatz") on the Eastern Front outside Leningrad. Here they fought in the front line, whereas, for example, Reserve Police Battalion 105 (from Bremen, and a part from Hamburg) was deployed behind the frone line. These operations included, as was the case with all other police battalions, so-called "anti-guerilla warfare" ("Bandenkämpfung"), carried out against partisan groups in occupied territory. Operation reports show that the majority of the victims of such action were the civil population, especially the Jewish population. It is rarely the case that comprehensive investigations or legal proceedings were carried out against the perpetrators. The "Bandenkämpfung" has always been regarded as "typical police" ("polizeitypischer") action during the Second World War, and there has never been an objective investigation, a detailed analysis or critical assessment of this operation.
Reserve Police Battalion 103, and probably Reserve Police Battalion 101 too, became regular troops fighting at the front in 1944, or after the collapse of the centre army group. This was also the case with Reserve Police Battalion 104, that had been deployed in Hungary since April 1944. In December 1944 the battalion became surrounded in the "fortress" ("Festung") Budapest.
Little is known of the operations of the Police Battalion "East" ("Osten") (= I/Polizeiwachbatallon X). From some personal files of battalion members it has been established that the battalion was transferred to the Oder Front under the command of Police Regiment 50, where it was almost totally annihilated.
In April 1945 Police Battalion "Knolle", the section of the Hamburg police deployed as the "last contingent" ("letzten Aufgebot") in the defence of Hamburg, was formed from men of the uniformed police and anti-aircraft defence police. They were deployed under the Hamburg military command, with totally inadequate weapons, against the advancing British troops, in the area of what is today Harburg (metropolitan area of Winsen an der Luhe).
There is no uniform picture of the operations of the police battalions based in Hamburg during the war. Following their return to Germany after active duty abroad the battalions were virtually disbanded and the men placed on station duty, or, as a Company, stationed in other cities in Northern Germany, e.g. Wilhelmshaven, Kiel, Bremen, etc., and placed on active duty there. Besides station duty other duties included guarding, securing and rescue operations, for example in connection with the ever increasing aerial bombardment. Following the aerial bombardment on Lübeck on 28./29.03.1942, the first massive blanket bombing of a German city by the Royal Air Force, Reserve Police Battalion 101 were engaged in rescue and clear-up operations.
15. The Investigation of and Legal Proceedings against members of Hamburg Police BattalionsThe crimes perpetrated by members of the police battalions became known to the British and Polish authorities immediately after the end of the war. In 1946, both the British and Polish authorities carried out extensive investigations. The Polish Military Mission for the Investigations of War Crimes in Europe questioned, among others, the commander of Reserve Police Battalions 101, Major Wilhelm Trapp on 4.10.1946, in the Neuengamme Internment Camp (C.I.C.6). At the end of 1946, four members of Reserve Police Battalion 101, Trapp, Drewes, Bumann and Kadler, were extradited to Poland. The beginning and intensification of the tension between East and West prevented further members of the battalion from being extradited to Poland.
On 6th July 1948 the Siedlce District Court heard the case against Trapp, Drewes, Bumann and Kadler, and on the same day sentenced Trapp and Drewes to death, Bumann to an 8 year prison sentence, and acquitted Kadler. Trapp, and presumably Drewes too, was executed in Siedlce on 18th December 1948. Bumann was released from prison in Poland on 26.09.1952. As Second Lieutenant (Reserve) of 2nd Company, Reserve Police Battalion 101, in 1942 he refused to take part in the shootings, and was later ordered back to Hamburg.
Trapp was condemned to death for his participation in the shooting of "hostages" in Talcyn and Krzowka, in the municipality of Serokomla, in 1942, for his involvement in drumhead court-martials in 1939/40, and for the operations of 1st Company, Reserve Police Battalion 101, in the district of Kielce in 1939/40. Drewes was condemned to death for his direct participation in the executions in Talcyn, and in the "resettlement", i.e. deportation to extermination camps, of people from Lodz and the surrounding area. Bumann was sentenced to imprisonment for his involvement in the arrests and killings in Talcyn. Kadler who, as later came to light from investigations made in Germany, frequently acted ruthlessly, was acquitted for lack of evidence.
In 1961 and 1962, extensive investigations were carried out by the Hamburg criminal investigation department on grounds of "suspicion of murder or accessory to murder" ("Verdachts des Mordes bzw der Beihilfe zum Mord"), following preliminary proceedings carried out at the request of the judiciary in Ludwigsburg. Investigations were carried out against a total of 677 policemen who had been members of police battalions deployed in Poland. Police Battalions 101, 102, 103 and 305 were implemented. 302 of those policemen investigated were not members of Hamburg police battalions.
Legal proceedings were undertaken separately against the police battalions 101, 102, 104, and 305. It was established that Police Battalion 103 was deployed in Poznan (Posen), town and district, from mid October 1939 to 8.05.1940, and was involved in, among other missions, the arrest of "hostages", the deportation ("Umsiedlung") of the Jewish and Polish intelligentsia within the General Government, and in the shooting of the civil population, as members of execution commandos.
The judiciary and public prosecutor's office determined that, regarding the arrest of "hostages", and the "Evakuierung", the term was accepted, i.e. the deportation of people to the extermination camps, the crimes, if seen as crimes at all, were deemed as "wrongful deprivation of personal liberty" ("Freiheitsberaubung"), which in the meantime came under the statute of limitations, (the legislative enactment prescribing the period of time within which proceedings must be instituted to enforce a right or bring an action at law). No incriminating evidence was found regarding the participation in executions, even after investigations were carried out in Poland. No criminal proceedings were taken in connection with executions carried out following drumhead court-martials. Executions carried out without prior legal proceedings, which could not be proved, were regarded as possible accessory to murder/manslaughter. In 1965 the proceedings were discontinued "for lack of evidence of a punishable offence", or as the crimes had come under the statute of limitations.
In 1967/68 extensive legal proceedings were instigated against former members of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 at the Hamburg District Court. The two former company commanders, and later chief inspectors of police in Hamburg, Julius Wohlauf and Wolgang Hoffman, who had already been relieved from duty in January 1963, as were numerous other former battalion members who had remained in the police service, were arrested on 16.11.1964. They were held in custody for a long period of time.
30.10.1967 legal proceedings were instigated against 14 former members of Reserve Police Battalion
101. On 8.04.1968 the following verdicts were passed: Wolgang Hoffman, Julius Wohlauf and Kurt
Dreyer were each sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, Anton Becker to 6 years imprisonment, and
Heinrich Becker to 5 years imprisonment. Six further accused: Gathmann, Bräutigam, Bockelmann,
Doose, Dost and Giebel, were found guilty, but not sentenced. Therewith, only the five officers
and non-commissioned officers were sentenced. The "lowest ranks" ("untersten Diensgrade") as the
"recipients of orders" ("Befehlsempfänger"), and due to their "low intellectual capacity"
("einfachen geistigen Struktur") and thereby "reduced responsibility" ("geringen Schuld"), were
found guilty but went unpunished. According to contemporary press reports, chief judge,
Landesgerichtsdirektor Dr. Klaus-Dietrich Zimmermann in his summing up before presenting the
among other things, that:
The five officers and non-commissioned officers here accused ... had intelligence and opportunity enough ... to act other than in blind obedience. Their non-resistance ... set a distinct example to the rest of the battalion. The other six accused, due to their comparatively low intelligence, were not able to appreciate the consequences of their action. They were, even more so than their superior officers, mere henchmen, accomplices to murder ... The court imposes a warrant of arrest against all the accused who have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment. In these cases it awards suspended sentences ... ".
The so-called "Gehilfenrechtssprechung" , i.e. aiding and abetting, was applied in these proceedings. The German judiciary regarded those involved in the "Final Solution to the Jewish Problem" ("Endlösung der Judenfrage") as aiding and abetting in capital murder. The perpetrators: Hitler, Göring, Himmler, Heydrich and Globocnik made accomplices of all the others involved. An amnesty ("Entschuldigung") in respect of Paragraph 47 of the Military Criminal Code of 1940, or supposed ignorance of illegality (Verbotsirrtum) or supposed emergency situation (Notstand) according to Paragraph 54 of the Criminal Code (StGB) were denied, because the order itself was criminal. The phrase "an order is an order" ("Befehl ist Befehl") had no validity in this respect as such orders could not be reconciled with police or military purposes. A state of emergency or constraint were also denied. The "Gehilfenrechtssprechung", being merely a party to a crime, i.e. aiding and abetting, meant that the threat of punishment was distinctly reduced.
16. How could this have happened?The statements given under interrogation carried out by the police and public prosecutor, and from case files, almost exclusively form the basis of the debate over this theme. It should be made clear that, in general, the interrogations took place almost twenty years after the crimes took place, those questioned almost certainly knew how the German judicuary regarded the legal position, i.e. "Gehilfenrechtssprechung" (aiding and abetting), many of those questioned were by this time relatively elderly, with health problems, and the questioning was carried out by the police so that "colleagues" questioned "colleagues". The depth of questioning is vary varied, comprehensive information regarding personal background, private, professional and political is incomplete and determined by personal circumstances.
The German academic community generally neglected the opportunity of questioning contemporary witnesses under circumstances other than statements taken in the course of preliminary legal proceedings or trial proceedings, and thereby missed the opportunity of obtaining comprehensive knowledge of the crimes, the perpetrators, the sequence of events, and background. Today, the initial explanations are seen as insufficient, i.e. the evolution of antisemitism in Germany, the history of the Hohenzollern Empire, the Weimar Republic, and the effects of National Socialism from 1933 onward.
Besides the known influences, especially the consequences on German society and politics of the defeat in the First World War, the question of "command and obedience" ("Befehl und Gehorsam") is to be addressed. The statements given during investigation, or at the trial, do not disclose the socialization process of the perpetrators. It is difficult to gauge the effects of the permanent antisemitic propaganda, i.e. "the Jews are to blame for everything" ("Die Juden sind an allem schuld"). The "desire for vengeance" ("Rachegedanke") cannot be entirely excluded, for example due to the Nazi propaganda campaign of lies directed at the Jews, or due to personal experience, for example the allied bombing of German cities, or in connection with incidents occuring to comrades. Individual factors need also to be considered, for example the spectrum of behaviour from apathy to the pleasure of killing, the gradual slide into violence, or the exercise of power over weaker individuals. The process of group dynamics, and superiors and comrades as "role models" must also be taken into account. The perpetrator's, completely unfounded, mooted fear of possible consequences when not carrying out orders, regarded as a defence strategy, cannot, however, be entirely disregarded. The negation of every human emotion through military and ideological training must be likewise considered. Particularly younger police officers, who very often came directly from the SS, demonstrated a particular cruelty on missions.
After 1945, the majority of perpetrators chose to escape into a sham existence ("Lebenslüge"), which, however, varied according to the individual involved. Some were haunted by their crimes their entire lives, others totally repressed their crimes, and yet others retained momentos in their homes, e.g. photographs. Article 131 of the the BRD (West Germany) Constitution, applying to former members of the public services, and the "Gehilfenrechtssprechung" established the possibility for the perpetrators to flee their accountability to the past.
For decades, the police, and other institutions, e.g. the armed forces, banks, businesses, estate agents and lawyers profitting from the "aryanization" of businesses, companies using slave labour, etc., neglected a critical appraisal of their Nazi past. Numerous perpetrators were re-admitted to the police force in the 1950s as a result of the process of denazification, and especially through the implementation of Article 131 of the Constitution. The repercussions of this process on the police force have hardly been investigated. Since the mid 1980s the Hamburg Interior Ministry (Behörde für Inneres) has made a major effort to research the history of the police force in the Weimar Republic, and during the Third Reich.