Reserve Police Battalion 101

Reserve Police Battalion 101
Inspection of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 at Łódź in occupied Poland, tasked upon arrival with service at the Litzmannstadt Ghetto
Active Founded 6 May 1940 (1940-05-06)
Country occupied Poland
Allegiance Nazi Germany, the SS
Type Paramilitary police reserve

Reserve Police Battalion 101 was a Nazi German paramilitary formation of Ordnungspolizei (Order Police, abbreviated as Orpo), serving under the control of the SS by law.[1] Formed in Hamburg, it was deployed in September 1939 along with the Wehrmacht army in the invasion of Poland. Initially, the Police Battalion 101 (German: Polizeibataillon 101) guarded Polish prisoners of war behind German lines, and carried out expulsion of Poles, called "resettlement actions", in the new Warthegau territory around Poznań and Łódź.[2] Following the personnel change and retraining from May 1941 until June 1942,[3] it became a major perpetrator of the Holocaust in occupied Poland.[1][4]


Between 1939 and 1945, the Ordnungspolizei maintained battalion formations, trained and outfitted by their main police offices within Germany.[5][6] Specific duties varied widely from unit to unit and from one year to another,[7] but one task was that of controlling civilian populations of the conquered or colonized countries.[8] After the German attack on the Soviet positions in Operation Barbarossa of 1941, the Order Police joined the SS Einsatzgruppen in the massacres of Jews behind the Wehrmacht lines. The first mass killing of 3,000 Jews by the German police occurred in Białystok on 12 July 1941 in the formerly Russian zone of occupied Poland,[9] followed by the Bloody Sunday massacre of 10,000-12,000 Jews by the Reserve Police Battalion 133, perpetrated in Stanisławów (now Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine) on 12 October 1941 with the aid of SiPo and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police.[10][11][12]

The shootings in Russia proper culminated in the Battalion 45 massacre of 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar.[13] The Order Police battalions became indispensable in the implementation of the Final Solution after the Wannsee Conference of 1942.[14] They rounded up tens of thousands of Nazi ghetto inmates for deportations to extermination camps during the liquidation of the Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland, but also participated themselves in the killing of Polish Jews along with the Holocaust executioners known as Trawnikis.[15] During Operation Reinhard mass murders were committed by Battalion 101 against women, children and the elderly in various locations including forced-labour camps and subcamps, most notably during the Aktion Erntefest of 1943, the single largest German massacre of Jews in the entire war, with 42,000 victims shot in the execution pits over the bodies of others.[16]

Battalion 101 operations

A total number of 17 police battalions were deployed by the Orpo during the invasion of Poland in 1939. Battalion 101 was one of three from the city of Hamburg.[1] After a few months of active duty the battalion was transported from Kielce, Poland, back to Germany on 17 December 1939 to undergo a major expansion after Christmas. Servicemen were tasked with organizing additional ground units. The already enlarged battalion was deployed to Poland again in May 1940, and for the next five months, conducted mass expulsions of Poles[17] to make room for the German colonists brought in Heim ins Reich from the areas invaded by their Moscow ally as well as from the Third Reich.[18]

The expulsions of Poles, along with kidnappings of Polish children for the purpose of Germanization,[19] were managed by two German institutions, VoMi, and RKFDV under Heinrich Himmler.[20] In settlements already cleared of their native Polish inhabitants, the new Volksdeutsche from Bessarabia, Romania and the Baltics were put, under the banner of Lebensraum.[21] Battalion 101 "evacuated" 36,972 Poles in one action, over half of the targeted number of 58,628 in the new German district of Warthegau (the total was 630,000 by the war's end, with two-thirds of the victims being killed),[22] but also committed murders among civilians according to postwar testimonies of at least one of its former members.[17]

During the early period we endeavored to fetch all people out of the houses, without regard for whether they were old, sick, or small children. The commission quickly found fault with our procedures. They objected that we struggled under the burden of the old and sick. To be precise, they did not initially give us the order to shoot them on the spot, rather they contented themselves with making it clear to us that nothing could be done with such people. — Bruno Probst [17]

For the next half-year, beginning 28 November 1940, Police Battalion 101 guarded the new ghetto in Łódź, eventually crammed with 160,000 Jews.[23] The Łódź Ghetto was the second-largest Jewish ghetto of World War II after the Warsaw Ghetto where the policemen from Battalion 61 held victory parties on the days when a large number of desperate prisoners were shot at the ghetto fence.[24] Battalion 101, commanded by career policeman Major Wilhelm Trapp,[25] returned to Hamburg in May 1941 and again the more experienced servicemen were dispatched to organize more units. New battalions, numbered 102, 103, and 104, were formed by them and prepared for duty.[26] Training of new reservists included escort duty of 3,740 Hamburg and Bremen Jews deported to the East for execution.[27] Meanwhile, the killing of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto using gas vans began at Chełmno in December 1941.[28]

Return to Poland, June 1942 – November 1943

The Reserve Battalion 101 composed of 500 men in their thirties, who were too old for the regular army, returned to occupied Poland with three heavy machine-gun detachments in June 1942.[29] By that time, the first two extermination camps of Operation Reinhard in General GovernmentBełżec and Sobibór – were already gassing trainloads of Jews from all over Europe.[30] The most deadly of them, Treblinka, was about to start operations. Globocnik gave Battalion 101 the task of deporting Jews from across Lublin reservation. Between mid-March and mid-April 1942, about 90% of the 40,000 prisoners of the Lublin Ghetto were loaded by Order Police and Schupo onto Holocaust trains destined for Bełżec extermination camp. Additional 11,00012,000 Jews were deported from ghettos in Izbica, Piaski, in Lubartów, Zamość and Kraśnik with the aid of Trawnikis from the Sonderdienst battalions of Karl Streibel.[31]

The first mass murder known to have been committed entirely by Battalion 101 was the most "messy" for lack of training; uniforms dripping wet with brain matter and blood.[32] The killing of 1,500 Jews from Józefów ghetto, approximately 100 kilometers south of Lublin in southeastern Poland, on 13 July 1942 was performed mostly by the three platoons of the Second Company. Prior to departure from Biłgoraj they were given large amounts of extra ammunition and therefore claiming to have had no idea what the purpose of the mission was would have been a lie. A generous supply of alcohol was procured.[33] Twelve out of 500 soldiers opted out when allowed to leave freely.[33] Those of them who felt unable to continue shooting at point-blank range of prisoners begging for mercy, were asked to wait at the marketplace where the trucks were loaded.[34] The action was finished in seventeen hours. The bodies of the dead carpeting the forest floor at the Winiarczykowa Góra hill (about 2 km from the village, pictured)[35] were left unburied. Watches, jewelry and money were taken.[36] The battalion left for Biłgoraj at 9pm.[37] Only a dozen Jews are known to have survived the slaughter.[36] Two members of the Mart family from the German minority residing in Józefów were shot by Polish underground thereafter for cooperation with the enemy.[38]

The next ghetto liquidation action took place less than a month later in Łomazy lacking a rail line.[39] The infants, the old, and the infirm were shot by Battalion 101 during the early morning roundups on 17 August 1942. Later that day, the Hiwi shooters arrived at the main square, and some 1,700 ghetto prisoners were marched on foot to the Hały forest outside the town,[40] where the stronger Jewish men prepared a trench with entrance on one side.[39] The killings of stripped naked Jews lasted till 7pm. The Ukrainian Trawnikis got so drunk that the policemen from the First, Second and Third Platoon under Lieutenant Hartwig Gnade had to continue shooting by themselves in half-a-metre of groundwater and blood.[41]

More deportations

In the following weeks, Police Battalion 101 pacified towns with direct lines to Treblinka and therefore mass shooting operations were not scheduled. On 19 August 1942 – only two days after Łomazy – 3,000 Jews were deported from Parczew (2,000 more several days later); from Międzyrzec 11,000 Jews were sent to Treblinka on August 2526 amid gunfire and screams. From Radzyń 6,000 prisoners, then from Łuków (7,000), Końskowola (2,000 coupled with massacre at the hospital), Komarówka, Tomaszów; all those unable to move or attempting to flee were shot on the spot.[1] At the end of August death transports were temporarily halted. After a brief respite, shootings of Jews resumed on 22 September in Serokomla, than in Talczyn and in the Kock ghetto four days later, by the Second Company.[42] The treatment of condemned prisoners was getting increasingly more terrifying as the time went on.[43] In Izbica, the makeshift ghetto reached a breaking point packed by Gnade with Jewish inhabitants of Biała Podlaska, Komarówka, Wohyń, and Czemierniki. The October and November deportations to Bełżec and Sobibór led to a week of mass killings at the cemetery, beginning on 2 November 1942. Several thousand Jews (estimated at 4,500)[44] from the transit ghetto were massacred by the Sonderdienst battalion of Ukrainian Trawnikis under police control in an assembly-line manner and dumped in hastily excavated mass graves. All men drank heavily.[45][46]

In Międzyrzec the "strip-search" of young Jewish women was introduced by Gnade before executions dubbed "mopping up" actions by the Germans. Gnade's first sergeant later said: "I must say that First Lieutenant Gnade gave me the impression that the entire business afforded him a great deal of pleasure."[45] By the spring of 1943 most towns of the Lublin reservation were Judenfrei therefore the battalion was tasked with "Jew hunts" in the deep local forests, or in the potato fields and around distant farmlands. Thousands of Jews were shot at point blank range.[47]

The participation of Reserve Police Battalion 101 in the Final Solution culminated in the Aktion Erntefest massacres of Jews imprisoned at the Trawniki, Poniatowa and Majdanek concentration camps with subcamps in Budzyn, Kraśnik, Puławy, Lipowa and other slave-labor projects of the Ostindustrie (Osti).[48] Approximately 43,000 Jews were killed. It was the largest single-day massacre of the Holocaust under direct German occupation, committed on 3 November 1943 on the orders of Christian Wirth. Trawniki men provided the necessary manpower.[16]

At the conclusion of the Erntefest massacres, the district of Lublin was for all practical purposes judenfrei. The murderous participation of Reserve Police Battalion 101 in the Final Solution came to an end... For a battalion of less than 500 men, the ultimate body count was at least 83,000 Jews.[49]

Postwar history

Soon after the war ended, Major Wilhelm Trapp was captured by the British authorities and placed at the Neuengamme Internment Camp. After questioning by the Polish Military Mission for the Investigations of War Crimes in October 1946,[50] he was extradited to Poland along with Drewes, Bumann and Kadler. Subsequently, Trapp was charged with war crimes by the Siedlce District Court, sentenced to death on 6 July 1948 and executed on 18 December 1948 along with Gustav Drewes.[1] However, with the onset of the Cold War, West Germany did not pursue any war criminals at all for the next twenty years.[51][52] In 1964 several men were arrested. For the first time the involvement of German police from Hamburg in wartime massacres was investigated by the West German prosecutors. In 1968 after a two-year trial 3 men were sentenced to 8 years imprisonment, one to 6 years, and one to 5 years. Six other policemen – all lower ranks – were found guilty but not sentenced.[1] The rest went on to live their normal lives.[53]

Summary of genocidal missions

In most part the following table is based on the 1968 verdict of the Hamburg District Court,[54] and compared with relevant data from the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews and other searchable databases.[4]

Murder operations of the Reserve Police Battalion 101 in occupied Poland
Location Date Operation type and participants Jewish victims
JózefówJuly 1942Mass shooting / entire battalion1,500      
ŁomazyAugust 1942Mass shooting / 2nd Company, Hiwis1,700      
Parczew[55]August 1942Extermination, death trains / 1st & 2nd Company, Hiwis5,000      
 Międzyrzec Podlaski Ghetto[56] August 1942Extermination / 1st Co., 3rd Pl. 2nd Co., 1st Pl. 3rd Co., Hiwis12,000      
RadzyńOctober 1942Extermination, death trains /1st Company, Hiwis2,000      
ParczewOctober 1942Mass shooting / 1st & 2nd Company, Hiwis5,000      
Biała Podlaska & its countyOctober & November 1942 Międzyrzec Ghetto extermination, death trains10,800      
KomarówkaOctober & November 1942Międzyrzec Ghetto600      
WohyńOctober & November 1942Międzyrzec Ghetto800      
CzemiernikiOctober & November 1942Międzyrzec Ghetto1,000      
RadzyńOctober & November 1942Extermination, death trains2,000      
Międzyrzec GhettoOctober & November 1942Death camps15,200      
Międzyrzec Ghetto[57]May 1943Death camps; Majdanek, Treblinka3,000      
Aktion ErntefestNovember 3, 1943Two days of mass shooting / entire battalion43,000      
Total[49]July 1942 – November 1943Battalion 101 in occupied Poland(83,000)     


Upon its return to occupied Poland, on 12 June 1942 the Reserve Police Battalion 101 had the following command structure:[1]

  • 1st Company: Captain, Hauptsturmführer Julius Wohlauf (until October 1942, then Captain Steidtmann)
  • 1st Platoon: Second Lieutenant Boysen
  • 2nd Platoon: Reserve Second Lieutenant Bumann
  • 3rd Platoon: Zugwachmeister Junge
  • 2nd Company: Oberleutnant Hartwig Gnade (until May 1943, then Lieutenant Dreyer)
  • 1st Platoon: Second Lieutenant Schürer
  • 2nd Platoon: Reserve Second Lieutenant Kurt Dreyer
  • 3rd Platoon: Hauptwachmeister Starke
  • 3rd Company: Captain Wolfgang Hoffmann (until November 1942)
  • 1st Platoon: Second Lieutenant Pauly
  • 2nd Platoon: Second Lieutenant Hachmeister
  • 3rd Platoon: Hauptwachmeister Jückmann


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Struan Robertson. "Hamburg Police Battalions during the Second World War". Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
  2. Browning 1998, p. 39.
  3. Goldhagen 1996, pp. 203, 232–3.
  4. 1 2 Anna Nowak (2014). "Działania eksterminacyjne batalionu policyjnego 101" [Police Battalion 101 extermination actions] (in Polish). Uniwersytet Marii Curie Skłodowskiej. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014.
  5. Goldhagen 1996, p. 204.
  6. Browning 1998, p. 38.
  7. Breitman, Richard (1998). Official Secrets. Hill and Wang: NY. p. 5. ISBN 0809001845. Also in:
  8. Gordon Williamson (2004). The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror. Zenith Imprint. p. 101. ISBN 0-7603-1933-2.
  9. Browning 1998, pp. 9-12.
  10. Dieter Pohl. Hans Krueger and the Murder of the Jews in the Stanislawow Region (Galicia) (PDF file from Yad pp. 12/13, 17/18, 21. It is clear that a massacre of such proportions [committed on 12 October 1941] under German civil administration was virtually unprecedented.
  11. Browning 2004, pp. 349-50.
  12. Westermann, Edward B. (2004). "'Ordinary Men' or 'Ideological Soldiers'? Police Batallion 310 in Russia, 1942". In Martel, Gordon. The World War Two Reader. Routledge. p. 218. ISBN 0415224020. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  13. Browning 1998, p. 18.
  14. Goldhagen 1996, pp. 533–4.
  15. Browning 1998, p. 52: "[Hiwis] were screened on the basis of their anti-Communist (and hence almost invariably anti-Semitic) sentiments."
  16. 1 2 Browning 1998, pp. 135-42.
  17. 1 2 3 Browning 1998, p. 40.
  18. Lukas 2001, Chapter IV (Part I).
  19. A. Dirk Moses (2004), Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children..., Berghahn Books (Google Print), p.260. ISBN 1571814108
  20. Valdis O. Lumans (1993), Himmler's Auxiliaries: The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National Minorities of Europe, 19331945. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807820660
  21. Lukas 2001, Chapter IV (Part II).
  22. Jerzy Jan Lerski (1996). Historical Dictionary of Poland, 9661945. Greenwood Publishing. p. 642. ISBN 0313260079.
  23. Holocaust Encyclopedia (2014). "Ghettos". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 30 June 2014.
  24. Browning 1998, p. 41.
  25. Browning 1998, pp. 45-8.
  26. Goldhagen 1996, p. 204.
  27. Browning 1998, pp. 42-4.
  28. Central Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland. "German Crimes in Poland (Warsaw: 1946, 1947) - Chelmno Extermination Camp". JewishGen. Introduction by Leon Zamosc.
  29. Browning 1998, pp. 3–6. "How did a battalion of middle-aged reserve policemen find themselves facing the task of shooting some 1,500 Jews in the Polish village of Józefów in the summer of 1942? [...] Order Police received authorization to conscript 91,500 reservists born between 1901 and 1909 – an age group not as yet subject to the military draft [...] gradually extended to still older men."
  30. Browning 1998, p. 27.
  31. Browning 1998, pp. 51-3.
  32. Browning 1998, pp. 64-8.
  33. 1 2 Browning 1998, pp. 57-64.
  34. Browning 1998, p. 66.
  35. Robert Kuwalek, Chris Webb (2007). "Jozefow". Holocaust Research Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved June 17, 2014.
  36. 1 2 Olga Skorupka; et al. (2014). "Józefów. Lata okupacji". Virtual Shtetl. Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  37. Browning 1998, p. 69.
  38. Zygmunt Puźniak, Eksterminacja ludności cywilnej i zagłada Żydów józefowskich [Killing of civilians and the annihilation of Jews of Józefów] Rzeczpospolita, see: Zygmunt Klukowski, Dziennik z lat okupacji, "17 lipca"; and T. Bernstein, Martyrologia, opór i zagłada ludności żydowskiej w dystrykcie lubelskim. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
  39. 1 2 Browning 1998, pp. 79-80.
  40. Patrycja Kamionek; et al. (2014). "Łomazy". Virtual Shtetl. Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
  41. Browning 1998, pp. 83-4.
  42. Browning 1998, pp. 90-100.
  43. Aleksandra Bielawska, Marta Kubiszyn, Jewish community of Zamość. Page 4 of 4. Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
  44. Izbica Jewish Cemetery Commemoration Project. Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
  45. 1 2 Browning 1998, pp. 106-8.
  46. Hanan Lipszyc, Jewish Community of Izbica. Page 4 of 5. Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
  47. Browning 1998, pp. 126131.
  48. ARC (2004). "Erntefest". Occupation of the East. ARC. Retrieved 2013-04-26.
  49. 1 2 Browning 1998, pp. 141-2.
  50. שדלץ (Siedlce) (2014). "The Investigation of and Legal Proceedings against members of Hamburg Police Battalions". Hamburg Police Battalions. The Law. Jewish Siedlce. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  51. "About Simon Wiesenthal". Simon Wiesenthal Center. 2013. Section 11. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  52. Hartmann, Ralph (2010). "Der Alibiprozeß". Den Aufsatz kommentieren (in German). Ossietzky 9/2010. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2013.
  53. Jose Raymund Canoy (2007), The Discreet Charm of the Police State: The Landpolizei and the Transformation of Bavaria, 19451965, BRILL, p. 70. ISBN 9004157085
  54. Struan Robertson, A History of Jews in Hamburg Chapter: Hamburg Police Battalions during the Second World War. Publisher: University of Hamburg.
  55. Statistical data: "Glossary of 2,077 Jewish towns in Poland" Archived 8 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine. by Virtual Shtetl Museum of the History of the Polish Jews (in English), as well as "Getta Żydowskie (Jewish Ghettos)," by Gedeon, (in Polish) and "Ghetto List" (deportations) by Michael Peters at ARC (in English). Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  56. "Międzyrzec Podlaski (Mezritch) in the Jewish sources" and "The History of Miedzyrzec Podlaski." Association of Immigrants of Mezritch Depodalsia. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  57. Browning 1998, p. 40.


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