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General of the Higher SS and Police Leader Corps

Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski

Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski

General of the Higher SS and Police Leader Corps, responsible for anti-partisan warfare

on the Eastern Front during World War Two.




Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski

Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski was born on 1 March 1899 in Lauenburg, Pomerania. A professional soldier from a Junker military family, handsome and typically East Prussian in manner, he served in World War One, then in the Freikorps and as a Reichswehr officer. In 1924 he transferred to the border guards' units (Grenzschutz), where he remained until 1930.


After quitting the Grenzschutz he joined the German Nazi Party (I.D. card No. 489101) in 1930 and became a member of the SS in 1931. He gained rapid promotion and by the end of 1933 had reached the rank of SS-Brigadeführer.


From 1932 until 1944 he was a member of the Reichstag, representing the Breslau electoral district, and after 1934 he commanded SS and Gestapo units in East Prussia and Pomerania. It was at this point he began using his mother's maiden name "Bach", in order to sound more Germanic.

In 1939 Bach-Zelewski was promoted to the position of SS General and two years later he became a General of the Waffen-SS assigned to the Central Army Group on the Russian front until the end of 1942.

In this period Bach-Zelewski was responsible for many atrocities in which he took a personal part. On 31 October 1941 after 35,000 people had been executed in Riga, he proudly wrote: “There is not a Jew left in Estonia.”

He also participated actively in massacres of Jews in Minsk and Mogilev in White Russia, his headquarters was based in Mogilev. Himmler visited Minsk on the 15 August 1941 and witnessed an execution of Jews.

Von dem Bach-Zelewski claims to have lectured Himmler after the Minsk executions, telling him that the firing squad were now ruined for life, that they were destined to become either nervous wrecks or ruffians.  After the speech Himmler, Nebe, von dem Bach and Wolff inspected an insane asylum at Novinki.


Himmler ordered Nebe to end the suffering of these people as soon as possible, yet at the same time Himmler asked Nebe “to turn over in his mind” to various other killing methods more humane than shooting. Nebe asked permission to try out dynamite on the mentally ill people.


Von dem Bach and Wolff protested that the sick people were not guinea pigs, but Himmler decided in favour of the attempt. Much later Nebe confided to von dem Bach that the dynamite had been tried on the inmates with woeful results.


Arthur Nebe

Unique film of one of the gassings undertaken by Nebe at Novinki was found in Nebe’s flat in Berlin after the capitulation in 1945.


In June 1942, after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, Adolf Hitler wanted von dem Bach-Zelewski to take Heydrich's place as Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. When Himmler argued that von dem Bach-Zelewski could not be spared due to the prevailing military situation, Hitler relented and appointed Kurt Daluege to the position.

On 12 July 1943, von dem Bach-Zalewski received command of all anti-partisan actions in Belgium, Belarus, France, the General Government, the Netherlands, Norway, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, and parts of the Bezirk Bialystok. In practice, his activities remained confined to Belarus and contiguous Russia, s
ubsequently he claimed that in this role he had tried to protect Jews from the Einsatzgruppen.

Bach- Zelewski was in command of the German units which suppressed the Warsaw uprising in the summer of 1944, being awarded the Knights Cross in connection with these operations. The uprising concluded with the surrender of Polish General T. Bor –Komorowski to the Germans.


Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/einsatz/bach-zelweski.html


The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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