World War II Soviet Resistance: NAZI Anti-Partisan Campaigns


Figure 1.-- The Soviet Partisans were at first poorly equipped and had no central direction. As Stavka recovered from the initial Barbarossa blow, it recognized the potenial of the resistabce forces already forming and began to establish control and direct the Partisans groups as well as supply them. Here is a photograph of a young Soviet partisan, Vasya Borovik. Unfortunately we have no details on his individual exploits. Notice how well uniformed and even equipped with pistol. Vasya served in the Chernigov-Volyn partisan army, commanded by Major General A.F.Fedorov. In the same partisan squad was another boy, Vasya Korobko. Vasya ws the most famous of all the boy partisans. He blew up nine German supply trains and killed more than 100 Germans during summer 1944 when the Red Army struck its major blow at Army Group Center.

German anti-Partisan activities varied over time. The orders issued by OKW were very brutal--The Commissar Order and Barbarossa Decree. The propensity for violence on the part of German officers varied. One author describes a prevalent "guerrillaphobia". [Shepherd] Many officers were convinced that partisans could divert the Wehrmacht from the Schwerpunk and could only be defeated by the most ruthless application of force. This was a prevalent belief within the Reichwehr even before Hitler seized power. And after seizing power, he moved to polticize the Wehrmacht. NAZI supporters were promoted and officers of the Imperial Army that believed in chilverous conduct were shunted aside. Added to this, the anti-Semetic and anti-Slavic NAZI ideology set up a condition in which anti-partisan operations would be waged with unprecedented barbarity. Some authors suggests that the anti-partisan operations were conducted at least in part as pat of the NAZI goal of reducing Jewish and Slavic populations. Another factor that has to be considered is the limited resources that the Germans devoted to anti-partisan activities and the huge area involved. This set up very different circustances than in the West. Three groups were involved in the anti-partisan operations: the Wehrmacht, the SS, and the Reich Labor Front. The Wehrmacht placed its anti-partisan operations in the hands of Security Divisions not prepared for front line operations. In additions, units resting behind the frontlines might be attached temporarily to SS units for anti-partisan operations. The SS Einsatzgruppen after annihilating Jewish communities were deployed for anti-partisan units. SS combat units were also deployed for anti-partisan units. These units included formations recruited from anti-Soviet local people, and Muslims. Another major participant in the anti-partisan operations was Fritz Sauckel's Reich Plenipotentiary for the Mobilization of Labor. The three groups often independently without any coordination. One author believes that the Wehrmact Security Divisions and SS units often cooperated, but there was little cooperation with the Sauckel's Labor Organization. German anti-parisan operations can be divided into three periods in which anti-partisan operatins varied. First was Barbarossa (June-December 1941). Here Soviet partisans were weak and poorly organized. The Germans expecting a quick victory acted brutally without any consideration of the long-term impact of their actions. Second was the 1942 campaign. After the Soviet offensive before Moscow (December 1941), it became clear that the Eastern campaign would not be a short one. Some Wehrmacht commanders began to defy orders and attempted a degree of moderation to pacify thir areas. [Shepherd] Third, during the retreat west following Stalingrad, retreating units often acted brutally, both killing large numbers of people, but destroying any thing that might be useful. At the same time, expanding Soviet partisan actions brought vicious reprisals. German anti-partisan operations were especially severe in 1944. SS orgganized operations would sweep areas designated as "band infested". They would descend on towns and villages, in some cases killing the entire population and burning the community to the ground. Depending on the commander, the children and in some cases the women would be spared. The survivors were transported west to the Reich where they were interned in concentration camps, including camps like Auschwitz. Many of the children the Allies found when they liberated the camps were the survivors from these anti-partisan sweeps. These sweeps while barbaric apparently did effectively reduce partisan activity.

Hitler's Orders

NAZI Führer Adolf Hitler from the outset of preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union made it clear that Barbarossa would be different. He instructed OKW to issue standing orders that spelled out just how the war in the East would be pursued. And unlike World War I, it would not be just severe. This time it would be genocidal. The Whrmacht issues a series of brutal standing orders, primarily associated with the Eastern Front. The orders issued by OKW that mostly affected the anti-partisan operations were -- The Commissar Order and Barbarossa Decree. Note that the initial orders were issued before the actual invasion. And OKW made it clear that the War in the Est would not be like the campaigns in the West. It would be a war of anialation. Civilians resisting military occupation are a violation of the rule of law. But the Germans treatment of civilians premessed on Generalplan Ost left the civilians little choice, but to resist, including the children.

Propensity for Violence

German anti-Partisan activities varied over time. The propensity for violence on the part of German officers varied. One author describes a prevalent "guerrillaphobia". [Shepherd] Many officers were convinced that partisans could divert the Wehrmacht from the Schwerpunk and could only be defeated by the most ruthless application of force. This was a prevalent belief within the Reichwehr even before Hitler seized power. And after seizing power, he moved to polticize the Wehrmacht. NAZI supporters were promoted and officers of the Imperial Army that believed in chilverous conduct were shunted aside. Added to this, the anti-Semetic and anti-Slavic NAZI ideology set up a condition in which anti-partisan operations would be waged with unprecedented barbarity. Some authors suggests that the anti-partisan operations were conducted at least in part as pat of the NAZI goal of reducing Jewish and Slavic populations. Another factor that has to be considered is the limited resources that the Germans devoted to anti-partisan activities and the huge area involved. This set up very different circustances than in the West.

Anti-Partisan Forces

Three groups were involved in the anti-partisan operations: the Wehrmacht, the SS, and the Reich Labor Front. The Wehrmacht placed its anti-partisan operations in the hands of Security Divisions not prepared for front line operations. They also included some non-German units made up of Cossacks and Muslims. In additions, units resting behind the frontlines might be attached temporarily to SS units for anti-partisan operations. The SS Einsatzgruppen after annihilating Jewish communities were deployed for anti-partisan units. SS combat units were also deployed for anti-partisan units. These units included formations recruited from anti-Soviet local people, and Muslims. Another major participant in the anti-partisan operations was Fritz Sauckel's Reich Plenipotentiary for the Mobilization of Labor. The three groups often independently without any coordination. One author believes that the Wehrmacht Security Divisions and SS units often cooperated, but there was little cooperation with the Sauckel's Labor Organization.

German Campaigns

German anti-parisan operations in the Soviet Union can be divided into three periods in which anti-partisan operatins varied. The First period og German anti-partisan operations was Barbarossa (June-December 1941). Here Soviet partisans were weak and poorly organized. The Germans expecting a quick victory acted brutally without any consideration of the long-term impact of their actions. And Whermacht commanders at the higest echelon as well as occupation authorities knew about Generalplan Ost which set as a goal of Barbarossa, the destruction of much of the population. On paper the Einsatzgruppen which followed in the wake of the Whermacht was to destroy any insipient resistance and the Soviet infrastructure around which resisdtance could organize. In practice, the Einstazgruppen spend most of their time killing Jews and the enormity of this task asorbed most of their efforts. The Einsatzgruppen were attached to Whermacht, but in fact operated independently on SS ordes. The Wehrmacht set up Security Divisions were set up as plans for Barbarossa were being finalized (eaky-1941). Their assign ment was policing, security and anti-partisan duties in the rear of the main German field armies. Inlike the Einsatzgruppen, they were under the direction of the respective army rear area command, or Korück. They also behave brutally toward the civilian population. The brutality of the Germans only acted to turn civilians into partisans. Some fkled into the fiorests. Many more were willing to aid the partisans. When Red Army units began liberating towns and villages westv of Moscow they began finding evidence of attricities committed against civilians, leaving no doubt about the character of the enmeny they faced. The Second period of anti-partisan operations were the 1942 campaigns. After the Soviet offensive before Moscow (December 1941), it became clear that the Eastern campaign would not be a short one or easy one. This did not change Hitler's mindset. It dfod, however, change the minset of the German officer's whjo had to actuallfight the Ear. Some Wehrmacht commanders began to defy orders and attempted a degree of moderation to pacify thir areas. [Shepherd] Large number of healthy young adults were transported gto the Reich for slave in thec German war economy. Generalplan Ost envisioned enslaving killing much of the population or driving the people beyons the Urals where they would slowly operish. With the failure of the Whermacht to destroy the Red Army, rather than enslaving the population in the East, they were being brought back to thec Reich for slave labor to support the German war economy--esentially replacing the workers drafted for military srvice.. The Third period of anti-partisan operations occurred during the German retreat west following Stalingrad. The retreat in 1943 primarily ioccurred in the Ukraine. retreating units often acted brutally, both killing large numbers of people, but destroying any thing that might be useful. At the same time, expanding Soviet partisan actions brought vicious reprisals. The front in the north was more stable. Army Group Center held ans the Red Army concentrated on the Ukraine. Thus Bylorussia annd Poland remained in German hands whikle the strength iof the partisans grew. German anti-partisan operations were severe in 1943 and only increased in early 1944. The SS organized operations would sweep areas designated as 'band infested'. They would descend on towns and villages, in some cases killing the entire population and burning the community to the ground. Depending on the commander, the children and in some cases the women would be spared.

Participants

The German anti-partisan operations involved a variety of players. The Germans not only used German troops, but also troops allied with them. Thus Germans, German allies (Hungarians and Romanians), and anti-Soviet formatiins recruited by the Germans which included Russians, Ukranians, Cosacks, and Muslims. The Germans did recruit Poles, but ethnic tensions such as the dufferences between Ukranianbs and Poles played into their hands. Anti-partisan operations were conducted primarily in the Ukraine, Belorussia, and Poland and thus targeted those ethnic groups. The Red Army offensive before Miscow drove the Germans west away from the Russian Hearland. This the German anti-partisan campaign was cobnducted primarily kin the Ukraine and Belprussia and then later in Poland.

Transports

The survivors were transported west to the Reich where they were interned in concentration camps, including camps like Auschwitz. Many of the children the Allies found when they liberated the camps were the survivors from these anti-partisan sweeps. These sweeps while barbaric apparently did effectively reduce partisan activity.

Sources

Shepherd, Ben. War in the Wild East: The German Army and Soviet Partisans. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 368p.

Slepyan, Kenneth. The War behind the Eastern Front: The Soviet Partisan Movement in North-West Russia, 1941-1944

Westermann, Edward B. The War Behind the Eastern Front: The Soviet Partisan Movement in North-West Russia 1941-44.






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Created: 11:04 AM 5/27/2008
Last updated: 9:43 PM 2/8/2012