The worst crimes of the Nazis on Soviet soil

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The war waged by Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union was a war of annihilation. If, in the occupied Western countries, the aggressors preserved a minimum of civility towards the local population, there was no such decorum towards the “untermenschen ” from the east.

Seven and a half million citizens were systematically murdered in the occupied territories of the USSR, including Jews, Gypsies, Communists and civilians suspected of helping the partisans. For every German soldier killed by the latter, an entire village with all its inhabitants could be set on fire in retaliation.

War crimes were committed not only by Einsatzgruppen – paramilitary death squads specially created for the extermination of Jews and Bolsheviks, but also by soldiers of the Waffen SS and the Wehrmacht. They were actively helped by Baltic, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian collaborators.

Babi Yar

On September 19, 1941, German troops captured Kiev, the capital of Soviet Ukraine, and eight days later mass executions began there. The first victims were 752 patients from a local mental hospital.

They were followed by the Jewish population of Kiev, who were ordered to report to the Babi Yar ravine in the northwestern part of the city at 8 a.m. on September 29, apparently for a count and resettlement. . Refusal to obey was punished with death.

Thousands of people packed their belongings and went to their deaths without realizing it. Those who guessed their fate and tried to escape were forcibly dragged into the ravine. “Mum tried to protect us as best she could, so that the shots didn’t hit us,” recalls Genya Batasheva, who miraculously survived: “People were tearing their hair out, screaming hysterically. , were going crazy. I saw a baby cry on the floor. A fascist came up and smashed his head with the butt of a rifle. I probably lost consciousness, I don’t remember what happened next.

At the place of execution, the condemned were lined up on the edge of the precipice in groups of 30 to 40 and executed with machine guns. The gunshots were drowned out by music and the sound of a plane flying over the ravine. Small children were pushed inside while they were still alive.

On September 29 and 30, 33,771 people were shot in this manner. Thus, in two days, the fascist invaders exterminated almost the entire Jewish population of Kiev. By the time the city was liberated by the Red Army in 1943, around 70 to 200,000 people had been murdered in Babi Yar.

Khatyn

On the morning of March 22, 1943, a unit of the 118th Schutzmannschaft The battalion in the Minsk region of Soviet Belarus was ambushed by the partisan “Uncle Vasya” brigade of Vasily Voronyansky. During the exchange of fire, several soldiers, including a favorite of Adolf Hitler himself, the 1936 Berlin Olympics shot put champion Hans Welke, were killed.

The partisans were found in the village of Khatyn by members of the battalion, mostly Ukrainian collaborators, as well as the infamous SS Dirlewanger battalion. After a brief skirmish, the village had to be abandoned and it was immediately surrounded by death squads.

Residents were driven from their homes and into a barn, where they were locked inside. When the Ukrainians set the thatched roof on fire, panic ensued. People were screaming, crying, begging for mercy and trying to break down locked doors.

When they finally managed to get the doors off their hinges and flee the burning hangar, they were greeted by machine gun fire. “My 15-year-old son Adam and I were near the wall, massacred people fell on top of me, those who were still alive rushed like a wave, blood flowed from the bodies of the wounded and the dead”, remembers Joseph Kaminsky. . “The flaming roof collapsed, the savage and terrible howling of the people intensified. Those below were burning alive, screaming and convulsing, the roof literally circling around.

Grigori Vasyura.

Having suffered severe burns, Kaminsky miraculously survived, but lost his son in this hell.

One hundred and forty-nine people were burned alive in this locked barn in the village of Khatyn, including 75 children, the youngest of whom, Tolik Yaskevich, was only seven weeks old. Following the murder of the people of Khatyn, the Germans and Ukrainians looted and then burned down the village itself.

Grigory Vasyura, leader of the 188th Battalion, who led the execution, managed to hide his wartime past and live peacefully in the Soviet Union for years afterward, posing as a veteran frontline soldier. It wasn’t until 1986 that the 71-year-old war criminal was unmasked and sentenced to death.

Khatyn was by no means the first or the last Soviet village to be destroyed by the Germans along with its inhabitants during World War II. But he has become one of the most powerful symbols of Nazi cruelty in the occupied territories.

Khatyn’s annihilation formed the screenplay for one of the most gruesome WWII films ever made, 1985’s Come and see by director Elem Klimov. “I said to myself: not everyone knows Khatyn! He knows about Katyn and the execution of Polish officers. But nothing about Belarus, although more than 600 villages were set on fire there! So I decided to make a film about this tragedy, ”explained the director.

Koryukovka

On the night of February 27, 1943, a group led by legendary Soviet partisan Alexei Fedorov attacked the Hungarian garrison stationed in the Koryukovka settlement in the Chernihiv region of Soviet Ukraine. The raid was successful: 78 enemy soldiers were killed and eight taken prisoner, and a sawmill, the commander’s office, the train station, a bridge and a fuel store were blown up. In addition, more than a hundred prisoners have been released from prison.

In retaliation, the occupiers targeted not the partisans but the residents of Koryukovka. On March 1, SS detachments and units of the 105th Hungarian Division and Ukrainian Auxiliary Police surrounded the colony in pincers.

Under the guise of document checks, death squads entered homes and shot residents. Others were locked inside their homes and burned to death, while those who managed to escape were shot dead. The local theater, school, restaurant and clinic have all become sites of mass executions. In the hope of escaping, some 500 people fled to the church, but they too were murdered, along with the priest.

“My little girl was lying on my chest when they started shooting at us in the restaurant. People were driven like cattle to a slaughterhouse … A fascist shot me in the eye … I didn’t. remember nothing else. Three of my children were killed. I couldn’t even bury them … The miserable murderers burned them, “remembers survivor Yevgeny Rymar.

For two days, death squads ravaged the colony, burning 1,390 houses and killing around 6,700 people (5,612 bodies could not be identified), making the Koryukovka massacre one of the worst war crimes of the United States. Nazis in World War II.

Two weeks later, the Red Army entered the colony. But there was hardly anyone left to greet the liberators.

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