Byelorussian Home Defence
|Belarusian Home Defense|
Беларуская Краёвая Абарона|
Bielaruskaja Krajovaja Abarona'
|Active||February 23, 1944 – April 28, 1945|
|Engagements||The Axis Battle of Monte Cassino, Aftermath of World War II|
The Belarusian Home Defence, or the Byelorussian Home Guard (Belarusian: Беларуская краёвая абарона, Bielaruskaja Krajovaja Abarona, BKA) was a name of the collaborationist volunteer battalions formed by the Belarusian Central Council (1943-1944), a pro-Nazi Belarusian self-government within Reichskommissariat Ostland during World War II.
The BKA operated from February 23, 1944 to April 28, 1945. The 20,000 strong Belarusian Home Defence Force was formed under the leadership of Commissioner-General Curt von Gottberg, with logistical help from the German 36th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS known as the "Poachers' Brigade" commanded by Oskar Dirlewanger.
Creation of BKA
After the Wehrmacht suffered two major strategic defeats at Stalingrad (in February 1943) and at Kursk (in August 1943) the Germans made some concessions to the Belarusian collaborators by proposing a Belarusian quasi-state. Assistance was offered by the local administrative governments from the Soviet era, and former members of public organizations including the Soviet Belarusian Youth.
On March 6, 1944 the general mobilization of all healthy men born between 1908 and 1924 into the BKA started. Some 40,000 individuals reported to recruitment bureaus set up in seven cities; although 30% of them were sent back home on German orders for overcrowding. From each region (Uezd) about 500 to 600 men were recruited, for the total of 28,000 soldiers ready for training.
On March 26, all men already enlisted to the BKA gave their oath at Freedom Square in Minsk: "I swear, that arm to arm with the German soldier, I will not lay down my weapons until there is peace and security in our farms and cities, until in our land the last enemy of the Belarusian people is destroyed."
The oath was accepted by the BKA Belarusian commander Ivan Yermachenka, in the presence of the SS and Police Leader Curt von Gottberg. The president of the Belarusian Central Rada Radasłaŭ Astroŭski had concerns that some Soviet partisans might have infiltrated the new BKA structures and that therefore it would need a thorough inspection afterwards.
On March 31, 1944, the BKA battalions received their individual designations. In total, there were 45 battalions formed, mostly infantry. However, to prevent possible staged desertions to "forest people" weapons were handed out only during training exercises with nothing to spare. The German SS didn't have enough officers to train all of them, therefore a few thousand members of the Belarusian Auxiliary Police, not older than 57 years and Unteroffiziers not older than 55 years of age (except those protecting the collaborationist government), were brought into the fold of BKA. Organization was controlled by the German Police and SD commandants.
Participation in the Holocaust
Members of the Belorussian Shuma were known as Ravens among their victims. Some 20,000 auxiliaries of the BKA operated in formerly Polish territory of Kresy (also known as Western Belorussia), and a similar number of them in BSSR, assisting Germans in mass shootings and ghetto liquidation actions since October 1941 for the following three years.[p.153] By that time, more than 80 percent of the Jewish population in the area was dead.
After training, the main assignments of the BKA battalions were the so-called anti-partisan missions in which some 30,000 Jews were killed during 'pacifications' of villages. The 'anti-partisan struggle' was a mask for the second wave of genocide against the Jews, wrote Raul Hilberg, which was led by Dirlewanger and von Gottberg beginning with Operation Cottbus. [p. 24] A number of Belarusian auxiliary battalions took part in Operation Cottbus launched on May 20, 1943 in the areas of Begoml, Lepel and Ushachy; including the 46th Byelorussia Battalion from Novogrodek, the 47th Byelorussia Battalion from Minsk, the 51st Byelorussia Battalion from Volozhin, and the 49th Byelorussia Battalion also from Minsk. The same BKA battalions were later used in Operation Hornung against the Red Army. Belarusian Central Rada sent the BKA throughout Belarus except the Pripyat River and around the town of Lida.
The Soviet Counteroffensive
By setting up a quasi-state under the Nazis in 1943–1944, Belarusian nationalists – wrote Professor Andrew Wilson – discredited themselves more thoroughly than their Ukrainian counterparts. In mid-June 1944 an officer school for BKA volunteers was started by the German SS in Minsk, but the city was overrun by the Soviets only two weeks later. After evacuating Rada to Königsberg and soon to Berlin in November 1944 along with upper echelon, the 1st personnel battalion was formed. Meanwhile, battalions of BKA on Belarusian territory, were mainly used in anti-partisan operations and later at the front against the Red Army, but the BKA ceased to exist after Soviets took over Belarus. Some BKA units retreated to the West. Many conscripts quietly went back home to their Belarusian villages.
The BCR formed under occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany existed till late 1980s in the US and president Radasłaŭ Astroŭski worked till 1960. Most of its members, as members of other organizations, received political asylum as immigrants. In April and May 1945, most of the BKA and SBM submitted to Russian Liberation Army surrendered to the western Allies, knowing that in their motherland a long and difficult death by NKVD awaited them. Later propagandists hold that the Belarusian Liberation Armies 1st personnel battalion in Berlin in fact was a reserve for the 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (2nd Russian). Eleven its officers, including B. D. Rahula and others entered the 1st Grenadier Sturm Brigade SS "Belarus", formed in Nazi Germany; it was sent to the Battle of Monte Cassino, and acted against the II Corps (Poland) of General Władysław Anders (Anders Army). BKA soldiers were not trusted by the Germans, which explains why Russian Liberation Army formations weren't sent to the Eastern Front, and combat at Western Front.
- Wilson 2011, pp. 109-113.
- Eugeniusz Mironowicz (2014). "Okupacja niemiecka na Białorusi" [German occupation of Belarus]. Historia Białorusi od połowy XVIII do XX w. [History of Belarus, mid 18th century until the 20th century] (in Polish and Belarusian). Związek Białoruski w RP, Katedra Kultury Białoruskiej Uniwersytetu w Białymstoku (Internet Archive). Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Wilson 2011, also: Home Defence Force.
- Abbott 1983, p. 16.
- Wilson 2011, p. 113.
- Andrew Wilson (2011). "The Traumatic Twentieth Century" (PDF). Belarus: the last European dictatorship. Yale University Press. pp. 109–110. Archived from the original (PDF file, direct download) on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
- Axis Freiwillige (2000) . "Belarusian State-Defense Army 23.II.1944-28.IV.1945". National Volunteer formations in Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS. Вторая Мировая Война. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
Национальные Добровольческие формирования в Вермахте и Ваффен-СС.
- Wilson 2011, p. 109.
- Tadeusz Piotrowski (1998). Belorussian Collaboration. Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. McFarland. p. 155. ISBN 0786403713. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- Frijtag, Geraldien; Künzel, Drabbe (2015). Hitler’s Brudervolk. Routledge. p. 116. ISBN 1317622480.
- Blood, Philip W. (2006). Hitler's Bandit Hunters: The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe. Potomac Books. p. 181. ISBN 1597970212.
- Wilson, Andrew (2011). Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship. Yale University Press. pp. 109, 110, 113. ISBN 0300134355. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- Abbott, Peter (1983). Byelorussian Home Guard (BKA). Partisan Warfare 1941-45. Osprey Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 0850455138. Retrieved 6 February 2015.
- Biełaruskaja Krajovaja Abarona. Uniforms and Insignia.
- Nichtangriffsvertrag. "100(0) Schlüsseldokumente" (facsimile). DE. Retrieved 17 September 2009.
- Lance Ackerfeld (20 Sep 2007). "From materials of the Extraordinary Commission (Ch.G.K. USSR)". Yizkor Book Project. Holocaust in Belorussia. JewishGen. Retrieved 7 July 2014.