The one thing I find the most difficult doing these blogs is to remain as objective as possible and to try to keep emotions like anger out of it. It is nearly impossible, especially when you come across a story like the story of Reserve Police Battalion 101.
As the name implies these men were reserves, not professional soldiers or policemen.In a similar fashion as the National Guard in the United States, these German battalions were organized regionally. The 101 consisted mostly of often ordinary middle aged men from working- and lower-middle-class neighborhoods in Hamburg, many with families.
Their commander was Major Wilhelm Trapp, he was a career police man, a WWI veteran who had joined the Nazis in December 1932.
In June 1942 the battalion was sent to Poland to partake in the rounding up of Jews.
On July 13,1942, just three weeks after their arrival, the men were sent to the village of Józefów, home to 1,500 Jews.
Prior to departure from Biłgoraj, where they had been stationed,they were given large amounts of extra ammunition and a generous supply of alcohol was procured.
Major Wilhelm Trapp, stood up in front of the men. As he began to speak they noticed he was emotional.
He told his men to round up all the Jews living in this village as reportedly they were involved with the local partisans.
Trapp ordered that they should separate the Jewish men so they could be sent off to a work camp. But, the woman, children and the elderly should be taken aside and shot – and although he did not like what they had been asked to do, it would make it easier if they remembered that, back home in Germany, bombs were falling on women and children.
Trapp then said if any of the older men among them did not feel up to the task that was put before him, he could decline to so. He paused, and after a few moments, one man stepped forward. One of the officers began to reprimand the man. The major told the officer to be quiet. Then 13 or 14 other men stepped forward also. They turned in their rifles and were told to await a further assignment from the major.
Of the 500 men standing there that day only 14 or 15 chose to opt out of the killing. The rest went on to massacre all the Jewish women, children and elderly people in the village.
The massacre lasted for 17 hours.By afternoon, the men were being offered bottles of vodka to “refresh” themselves.
It is said that some of the uniforms were dripping wet with brain matter and blood.
Trapp did not take part in the shootings himself, he spent the rest of the day in his headquarters, which was a converted school building in town. He also went to the homes of the Polish mayor and the local priest. Witnesses who had seen him during the day described him as complaining about the orders he had been given and “crying like a child.”
Trapp later remarked to his driver: “If this Jewish business is ever avenged on earth, then have mercy on us Germans … But orders are orders”, he said
For nearly all men, Jozefow was the first time where they had to kill. All of the platoons conducted at least one more mass shooting . Most found that these subsequent murders were easier to perform.
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