Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118
|Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118|
Ukrainian leaders of the Schutzmannschaft Battalions 102, 115, and 118, photographed at a training base in Minsk, spring 1942
|Active||Founded in spring of 1942|
|Country||occupied Poland and the USSR|
|Allegiance||Nazi Germany, the SS|
|Type||Paramilitary volunteer brigade|
Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 was a Schutzmannschaft auxiliary police battalion (Schuma) formed by the Nazis in the spring of 1942 in Kiev on the occupied territory of Ukraine. The battalion was split away from the Schuma Battalion 115, formed from the members of OUN-M's paramilitary forces. 100 members of the third company of the Battalion 115 formed the first company of Battalion 118; it was considered the elite of the battalion. Additional two new companies were composed of local nationalists and former Soviet POWs, mostly from central and eastern Ukraine. The German commander of the battalion was Sturmbannführer Erich Körner.
In 1944, the battalion, led by the former Red Army officer Hryhoriy Vasiura (aged 27, executed in 1986 by the USSR), was merged back to the Battalion 115 and transferred from East Prussia to France, where it joined the 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.
In November 1942 the newly-formed Battalion 118 was transferred to Minsk (occupied Belorussian SSR, now capital of sovereign Belarus) and from there for approximately one year to a new base on the outskirts of the former Second Polish Republic. It was active in the area until July 1944. During this time the battalion participated in the German pacification actions, part of the "dead zone" policy of annihilating hundreds of Belarusian villages in order to remove the support base for the alleged partisans. The 60 major and 80 smaller actions affecting 627 villages across occupied Belarus included Operation Hornung, Draufgänger, Cottbus (with 13,000 victims), Hermann (4,280) and Wandsbeck. Entire Jewish communities were exterminated on the general orders of Curt von Gottberg with the necessary backup provided by the Battalions 115 and 102, the Russian ROA, Baltic collaborators, Belarusian Auxiliary Police, and the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger. They also fought the Polish underground. Close to 50 men deserted from the 115th battalion in the winter 1942-43, while dozens of the members of 118th battalion joined the UPA in Volhynia.
In the spring of 1944 due to the Soviet counteroffensive Battalion 118 and Battalion 115 (Ukrainian only) were merged around East Prussia into a single battalion with up to 600 men. In August 1944, all of them were transported by train to Besançon in France to form the 30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS along with other Ukrainian formations. While in the village of Valderharn, some members made contact with the French partisans from FFI and one night the majority deserted to join them. They named themselves the 2nd Ukrainian "Taras Shevchenko" battalion of the French Forces of the Interior (le 2e bataillon ukrainien des Forces françaises de l'intérieur, Groupement Frontière, Sous-région D.2). However, the French after the war wanted to send them back to Russia in accordance with their international agreements, therefore many of the former volunteers continued service in the French Foreign Legion to avoid repatriation.
Accusation in atrocities and war crimes
Due to participation in a series of punitive actions, some members of Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 have been later accused of committing most brutal atrocities and war crimes during World War II. The Khatyn massacre occurred in Khatyn, a village in Belarus, in the Lahojsk district, Minsk Voblast. On March 22, 1943, the population of the village was massacred by Battalion 118.
In Khatyn, the members of the Battalion 118 filled a farmer's barn with civilians, set it on fire, and used a machine gun to kill the civilians who tried to escape the flames: "One witness stated that Volodymyr Katriuk was a particularly active participant in the atrocity: he reportedly lay behind the stationary machine gun, firing rounds on anyone attempting to escape the flames". A Soviet Union war-crimes trial in 1973 heard that three members of the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 killed a group of Belarusian loggers earlier that day, suspecting they were part of a popular uprising. "I saw how Ivankiv was firing with a machine-gun upon the people who were running for cover in the forest, and how Katriuk and Meleshko were shooting the people lying on the road," the witness said. The Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 was chiefly responsible for the creation of German "dead zones". The dead zone policy involved exterminating communities suspected, or capable of aiding the Soviet partisans who had launched ambushes against Nazi forces in Belarus.
The battalion consisted of 3 companies totaling 500 men, which in turn were divided into 3 platoons each:
- Erich Körner, deputies Konstantin Smolski (Smowski?) and Shudrya
- Company leaders
- First company: Hauptmann Hans Woellke (leader), Vinnitsky (deputy)
- Second Company: Herman (leader), Franczuk (deputy),
- Third company: Müller (leader), Naradko (deputy).
- Platoon leaders
- Known privates
Names of individuals on record include: I. Kozynchenko, G. Spivak, S. Sakhnо, O. Knap, T. Topchiy, I. Petrichuk, Lakustа (Лакуста), Lukovich (Лукович), Scherban, Varlamov, Khrenov, Yegorov, Subbotin, Iskanderov, Khachaturyan, and Vladimir Katriuk (Катрюк), implicated by witness along with Ivankiv, and Meleshko (Мелешко). Tried in the Soviet Union and sentenced to minor prison terms (for political reasons, as good citizens) were Fedorenko (Федоренко), Golchenko (Гольченко), Vertelnikov (Вертельников), Gontarev (Гонтарев), Funk (Функ), Medvedev (Медведев), Yakovlev (Яковлев), Lappo (Лаппо), Osmakov (Осьмаков), Sulzhenko (Сульженко), Trofimov (Трофимов), Sparrow (Воробья), Kolbasin (Колбасин), and Muravev (Муравьёв).
- Holocaust Genocide Studies (Spring 2012) 26(1): 29-58 The Khatyn Massacre in Belorussia: A Historical Controversy Revisited
- Marc Nadon (January 29, 1999). "Vladimir Katriuk Reasons for Judgement". Docket: T-2409-96. Chapter: The War in Ukraine: Phase One. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Retrieved 4 July 2014.
- Per A. Rudling, "Terror and Local Collaboration in Occupied Belorussia: The Case of Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118. Part One: Background" Historical Yearbook of the Nicolae Iorga History Institute (Bucharest) 8 (2011), p.202-203
- Registrar of Canadian Citizenship, Canada: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Katriuk. Reasons for Judgement. Docket: T-2409-96 including brief history of Battalion 118.
- Brian Daly, QMI Agency (April 25, 2012), New information links Montrealer to WWII massacre. Sun News, via Internet Archive.
- Zur Geschichte der Ordnungspolizei 1936—1942, Teil II, Georg Tessin, Dies Satbe und Truppeneinheiten der Ordnungspolizei, Koblenz 1957, s.172-173
- Rudling 2011, p. 11 (205).
- Євген Пінак. "Українці в інших арміях". Другі визвольні змагання (1938-1950) (in Ukrainian). Українське військо у ХХ-ХХІ сторіччі.
- Leonid D. Grenkevich; David M. Glantz (1999). The Soviet Partisan Movement, 1941-1944: A Critical Historiographical Analysis. London: Routledge. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0-7146-4874-4.
- Д.Жуков, И.Ковтун (15 April 2013). "Григорий Васюра: палач Хатыни". Частично цитируется по книге «Русские эсэсовцы», Жуков Дмитрий Александрович, и Ковтун Иван Иванович, изд-во Вече, 2010. Частный Корреспондент.
- Petrouchkevitch, Natalia. Victims and Criminals: Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118 (Belarus, Ukraine). Thesis, Department of History, Wilfrid Laurier University, 1999. http://scholars.wlu.ca/etd/35