Crime and Punishment: The Collaborators – Part III

Dear Readers:

Still working through this historical piece from Russian RT.  Where we left off, historian Alexander Diukov was explaining the three principles by which the German/Nazi government picked their collaborationist cadre to help them rule over the occupied territories.  Using tried and tested methods inherited from their predecessor governments, the Nazis selected the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) as their main instrument for ruling over the Ukrainian territory, including those Western parts only recently attached to the Soviet Ukraine.

Melnik and Bandera

The Abwehr was the organ of German Foreign Intelligence.  Post-war interrogations of captured Abwehr leaders revealed that the Germans, even prior to the war, had recruited two main players from among the Ukrainian Nationalists:  Andrei Melnik and Stepan Bandera.  Those two men were political competitors of each other; and this also shows the German practice of (a) not putting all their eggs in one basket, and (b) picking rivals who hated each other, that way you could pit them against each other, and not worry that the underlings might gang up against the master.  A worthy tactic employed by every comic-book villain.

Of the two men, the Germans had more respect for Melnik than Bandera.  The latter they privately deemed a “criminal, an amoral demagogue and an amoral human being”.  That’s a harsh appraisal, especially coming from Nazis.  Nevertheless, they employed him, while putting a clothespin on their nose.

Bandera himself was completely delusional, he believed that he was equal to the Germans.  He believed that the Germans would permit him to create, and head, a puppet Ukrainian government, under Hitler’s personal protection.  The Germans themselves had no such plans.  Their actual plan was to absorb all of what was known as “Ukraine” into a Greater Germany.  Ukrainian Slavs themselves, along with Jews, were marked for ultimate extinction, but just had to wait their turn.

Starting way back in 1933, members of the OUN routinely underwent training in Nazi training camps.  They learned the German way of warfare, so by the time the Eastern War broke out, they were ready to rock and roll.  A year earlier, in 1940, the German Abwehr were already starting to send diversionary groups into the territory of the Ukrainian SSR and Moldavia.  A special regiment called Brandenburg 800 was formed.  It included two Ukrainian battalions called Roland and Nachtigall.

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris

According to wiki, these two Ukrainian battalions were built by Wilhelm Franz Canaris, head of the German Abwehr.  Approximately 350 of Bandera’s OUN followers were trained for the Roland Battalion at the Abwehr training centre at the Seibersdorf under command of former Polish Army major Yevhen Pobiguschiy.  Quoting liberally from wiki:  Whereas Nachtigall soldiers wore the ordinary Wehrmacht uniform, the Roland troops wore the Czechoslovak uniform with yellow armband with text “Im Dienst der Deutschen Wehrmacht” (In the service of the German Wehrmacht). They were given Austrian helmets from World War I. The Battalion had arms consisting of 2 Czechoslovakian light machine guns and Germans light weaponry.

Once again, the delusional Bandera, despite the uniforms and the armbands, believed that he was creating the core of a new Ukrainian army and a new independent Ukrainian state, allied with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union.  To this day, Bandera’s followers, both in the Ukraine and the diaspora, continue to promulgate this insane myth!

During the summer of 1941, the Roland and Nachtigall troops conducted diversionary forays on the territory of the USSR, making sure to kill all Jews they encountered in the areas of the front line.  However, just a couple of months later the Germans pulled them out, brought them back to Germany and reorganized them into Auxiliary “punitive” units of the police.  That must have been quite a demotion:  from front-line soldiers to auxiliary cops.  At this time Hauptman Roman Shukhevich (a close associate of Bandera and the future leader of the OUN) was appointed Deputy Commander of the 201st Guardian Battalion of the Auxiliary Police.  Diukov again:  “Shukhevich displayed satisfactory intellectual capacities [especially compared to other OUN’ites], and the Germans felt comfortable dealing with him.  Without any doubt, Shukhevich was, in his own way, a quite talented individual, quite a good deal smarter than Bandera.”

Roman Shukhevich: Looked like a dummy, but was actually smart

At a certain point, the Germans arrested Bandera when they caught him with sticky fingers taking money intended for the state treasury.  Shukhevich was not affected by this development, and continued to serve the Germans as an officer.  To this day you will hear Ukrainian Nationalists point to Bandera’s arrest as proof that “he fought against the Nazis as well as against the Soviets”.  That old Dual Totalitarianisms gag!  Too funny for words.

You can’t judge by appearances:  in his photo, Roman Shukhevich looks like the Idiot Banjo-Boy from “Deliverance”.  But Diukov assures us that he was actually quite a smart man.  By education, he was an engineer, an above-average student, and shared the “technological” approach of the Nazis themselves.  Bandera, on the other hand, who had been a poorly-performing below-average pupil in the Lvov Polytechnic, had only an agronomist diploma, and his whole way of thinking was that of a farmer.

Die Schutzmannschaften

Returning to the summer of 1941:  the Germans set about organizing local militias in occupied Ukraine.  The OUN supplied the core cadres, naturally.  These were shortly supplemented by POW’s, Soviet soldiers captured in the first wave, whom the Germans worked through and picked out the ones they liked.  Based on these two core groups, the Germans organized battalions of the Auxiliary Police, which they called Schutzmannschaft.  In German this word means, literally, “Protective Unit”.  This structure was created by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler on July 25, 1941, primarily to operate in the Ukraine and Baltics.  By the end of 1941, some 45,000 men served in these units, expanding in 1942 to a whopping 300,000 men!

The Mission Statement of the Schutzmannschaft would have gone something like:  “Primary task to combat the anti-Nazi Resistance” and secondarily to kill all Jews; except that the two priorities sometimes got switched.  These aren’t really “police” as we think of the word, like people who chase burglars.  Always sensitive to ethnicity issues, the Germans split the units up by nationality, so you had: The Belarusian Auxiliary Police, the Estonian Auxiliary Police, the Latvian Auxiliary Police, the Lithuanian Auxiliary Police, and, of course, the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police.

Again quoting liberally from wiki, and showing how these units consisted mainly of ordinary guys, insert Hannah Arendt quote about “the banality of evil”:

Battalion 118 of the Schutzmannschaft: just a bunch of ordinary guys

Local men joined Schutzmannschaften due to a variety of reasons.  A number of them had prior police or military experience and wanted a job which paid steady wages and provided food rations. Joining the German war apparatus also provided certain privileges and protections for the men and their families (for example, exemption from forced labor). Pensions were available to family members of those killed in anti-partisan operations. Others were motivated by ideological reasons (antisemitism, anticommunism, nationalism) or by opportunities to loot property of murdered Jews.  Captured Soviet POWs saw Schutzmannschaften as a way to avoid concentration camps. Such considerations attracted criminals and other opportunists.  Most of them were young: in 1944, about half of Schutzmannschaften near Mir were under 25 years of age.  Germans complained about their lack of training, discipline, and in some cases refused to supply them with weapons.

With such a force at their disposal, the Germans now had the technical capability to kill anybody on the occupied territories whom they didn’t like:  Jews, Communists, and anybody in the civilian population who did not like the Nazis.  Faced with such a force, Resistance was literally futile…

[to be continued]

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