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German efficiency

“Starting in 1942, the predominant Nazi reaction to partisans was to kill and burn, with careful planning and horrible precision. One of the earliest casualties of these assaults in the Reichskommissariat [Ukraine] was the village of Kortelisy near Ratne in Polissia. In May 1942, a partisan unit of some fifty locals and former Red Army soldiers destroyed the local police station. In the summer, a German unit called a village meeting and shot several relatives of partisans and Eastern Worker refugees. Still deeming the village a partisan stronghold, the Nazis dealt it a final blow some months later. One September day, peasants from surrounding villages who owned carts received an order to go to Kortelisy the next day. Early that September 23, a police company and Schuma [police auxiliaries] surrounded Kortelisy. Everybody, including all of the children, had to assemble and had to bring along their money and identity papers. A man said that he needed some time, for his children were not dressed yet and it was cold. A Schuma told him not to ‘waste’ the clothes: the meeting would be short and it would get hot, he said. Disabled villagers were taken to the square on carts. There they saw Kovel District Commissar Kassner, who told everyone through an interpreter that, because of their resistance to the German authorities, he had orders to burn them alive in their homes. But, he said, he had decided instead to shoot them. Somebody read out loud the names of those who would be spared: the village elder, the priest, the local Eastern Labor officials, the local Schuma, and the spouses and children of these villagers; all but the local Schuma were locked up in the school. Then the intruders forced the local men to dig a long and deep ditch and to undress. They started up car engines so as to muffle the sounds to come and started killing, first the men, and then the women and children. Thus nearly 2,900 people were shot with submachine guns and pistols, drowned, or bayoneted to death. . . . While the chosen locals were directed to the town of Ratne, the cart owners from the nearby villages were told to remove the possessions from the homes of those killed. The next day Kortelisy was burned to the ground and ceased to exist.” – Karel C. Berkhoff,  in Harvest of Despair

Published inThe Second World War

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