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Reserve Police Battalion 101
File:Polizeibataillon 101 in Łódź.jpg
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), 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 language: 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]


The Nazi German Order Police had grown to 244,500 men by mid-1940,[2] tasked with controlling civilian populations of the conquered or colonized countries.[5] After the German attack on the Soviets 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 July 12, 1941 in the formerly Russian zone of occupied Poland.[6] The shootings in Russia proper culminated in the Battalion 45 massacre of 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar.[7] The Order Police battalions became indispensable in the implementation of the Final Solution after the Wannsee Conference of 1942.[8] 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.[9] 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 43,000 victims shot in the execution pits over the bodies of others.[2]

Expulsion from Warthegau. Poles led to cattle trains as part of the ethnic cleansing of western Poland, utilizing Battalion 101

Battalion 101 operations

A total number of 17 police battalions were deployed by 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 December 17, 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, has conducted mass expulsions of Poles,[10] 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.[11]

The expulsions of Poles along with kidnappings of Polish children for the purpose of Germanization,[12] were managed by two German institutions, VoMi, and RKFDV under Heinrich Himmler.[13] 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.[14] 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 before the war's end, with two-thirds killed),[15] but also committed murders among civilians according to postwar testimonies of at least one of its former members.[10]

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 [10]

For the next half-a-year beginning November 28, 1940 the Police Battalion 101 guarded the new ghetto in Łódź crammed with 160,000 Jews eventually.[16] 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.[17] Battalion 101 commanded by career policeman Major Wilhelm Trapp,[18] returned to Hamburg in May 1941 and again, the more experienced servicemen were dispatched to organize more units. Brand new battalions numbered 102, 103 and 104 were formed by them and prepared for duty.[19] Training of new reservists included deportation of 3,740 Hamburg and Bremen Jews to the East for execution.[20] Meanwhile, the killing of Jews from the Łódź Ghetto using gas vans began at Chełmno in December 1941.[21]

Return to Poland, June 1942 – November 1943

The Reserve Battalion 101 with three detachments of heavy machine-guns returned to occupied Poland in June 1942, composed of 500 men in their thirties who were too old for the regular army.[22] 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.[23] 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 11,000–12,000 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.[24]

Memorial in the forest of Winiarczykowa Góra near Józefów, southeast of Warsaw, commemorating the Jewish victims of the 1942 massacre committed by the Reserve Police Battalion 101. The inscription omits the name of the Nazi German formation

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.[25] The killing of 1,500 Jews from Józefów ghetto southeast of Warsaw on July 13, 1942 was performed mostly by the three platoons of the Second Company. Prior to departure from Biłgoraj they were given backpacks full of extra bullets and therefore claiming to have had no idea what the purpose of the mission was would have been a lie. Generous amounts of alcohol were distributed.[26] Twelve out of 500 soldiers opted out when allowed to leave freely.[26] 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.[27] 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)[28] were left unburied. Watches, jewelry and money were taken.[29] The battalion left for Biłgoraj at 9pm.[30] Only a dozen Jews are known to have survived the slaughter.[29] Two members of the Mart family from the German minority residing in Józefów were shot by Polish underground thereafter for cooperation with the enemy.[31]

The next ghetto liquidation action took place less than a month later in Łomazy lacking a rail line.[32] The infants, the old and sick unable to move, where shot by Battalion 101 already during the early morning roundups on August 17, 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,[33] where the stronger Jewish men prepared a trench with entrance on one side.[32] 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 blood.[34]

More deportations

In the following weeks, the Police Battalion 101 pacified towns with direct lines to Treblinka therefore the mass shooting operations were not scheduled. On August 19, 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 25–26 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 September 22 in Serokomla, than in Talczyn and in the Kock ghetto four days later, by the Second Company.[35] The treatment of condemned prisoners was getting increasingly more terrifying as the time went on.[36] In Izbica, the makeshift ghetto reached a breaking point packed by Gnade with Jewish inhabitants of Biała Podlaska, Komarówka, Wohyń, Czemierniki. The October and November deportations to Bełżec and Sobibór led to a week of mass killings at the cemetery beginning November 2, 1942. Several thousand Jews (estimated at 4,500)[37] from the transit ghetto were massacred by the Sonderdienst battalion of Ukrainian Trawnikis in an assembly-line-style and dumped in hastily-constructed mass graves under total police control. All men drank heavily.[38][39]

File:Majdanek - Aktion Erntefest (1943).jpg

Mass graves of the Aktion Erntefest, the single largest German massacre of Jews in the entire war

In Międzyrzec "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."[38] 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 face to face.[40] 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).[41] Approximately 43,000 Jews were killed. It was the largest single-day massacre of the Holocaust under direct German occupation, committed on November 3, 1943 on the orders of Christian Wirth. Trawniki men provided the necessary manpower.[2]

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.

Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men[2]

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,[42] 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 July 6, 1948 and executed on December 18, 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.[43][44] 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.[45]

Summary of genocidal missions

In most part the following table is based on the 1968 verdict of the Hamburg District Court,[46] 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 Victims
  Józefów July 1942 Mass shooting / entire battalion 1,500 Jews  
  Łomazy August 1942 Mass shooting / 2nd Company, Hiwis 1,700 Jews  
  Parczew [47] August 1942 Extermination, death trains / 1st & 2nd Company, Hiwis 5,000 Jews  
 Międzyrzec Podlaski Ghetto [48]  August 1942 Extermination / 1st Co., 3rd Pl. 2nd Co., 1st Pl. 3rd Co., Hiwis 12,000 Jews  
  Radzyń October 1942 Extermination, death trains /1st Company, Hiwis 2,000 Jews  
  Parczew October 1942 Mass shooting / 1st & 2nd Company, Hiwis 5,000 Jews  
  Biała Podlaska & its county October & November 1942  Międzyrzec Ghetto extermination, death trains 10,800 Jews  
  Komarówka October & November 1942 Międzyrzec Ghetto 600 Jews  
  Wohyń October & November 1942 Międzyrzec Ghetto 800 Jews  
  Czemierniki October & November 1942 Międzyrzec Ghetto 1,000 Jews  
  Radzyń October & November 1942 Extermination, death trains 2,000 Jews  
  Międzyrzec Ghetto October & November 1942 Death camps 15,200 Jews  
  Międzyrzec Ghetto [49] May 1943 Death camps; Majdanek, Treblinka 3,000 Jews  
  Aktion Erntefest November 3, 1942 Two days of mass shooting / entire battalion 43,000 Jews  
  Total July 1942 – May 1943 Battalion 101 in occupied Poland (83,000)[2] Jews  


Upon its return to occupied Poland, on June 21, 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. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Struan Robertson. "Hamburg Police Battalions during the Second World War" (Internet Archive). Retrieved 2009-09-24. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Christopher R. Browning (1992; 1998) (PDF file, direct download 7.91 MB). Arrival in Poland. Retrieved 27 June 2014. "also: PDF cache archived by WebCite." 
  3. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen (1997, 2007) (Google Books preview). Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Ordinary Germans and Holocaust. Random House, New York. pp. 203, 232–233. ISBN 0307426238. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Anna Nowak (2014). "Działania eksterminacyjne batalionu policyjnego 101" (in Polish). Police Battalion 101 extermination actions. Uniwersytet Marii Curie Skłodowskiej. 
  5. Gordon Williamson (2004). The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror. Zenith Imprint. p. 101. ISBN 0-7603-1933-2. 
  6. Browning 1998, p. 9–12.
  7. Browning 1998, p. 18.
  8. Goldhagen 1997, pp. 533–534.
  9. Historian Christopher R. Browning in his Ordinary Men monograph devoted to Battalion 101 wrote that Hiwis "were screened on the basis of their anti-Communist (and hence almost invariably anti-Semitic) sentiments." (Browning 1998, p. 52.)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Browning 1998, p. 38.
  11. Richard C. Lukas (2001), Did the Children Cry? Hitler's War against Jewish and Polish Children, 1939–1945. Chapter IV, Part I. Project InPosterum (book excerpt). ISBN 0781802423.
  12. A. Dirk Moses (2004), Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children..., Berghahn Books (Google Print), p.260. ISBN 1571814108
  13. Valdis O. Lumans (1993), Himmler's Auxiliaries: The Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle and the German National Minorities of Europe, 1933–1945. Univ of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0807820660
  14. Richard C. Lukas (2001). Chapter IV, Part II. Germanization. Hippocrene Books. Retrieved June 8, 2014. "Project InPosterum. Preserving the Past for the Future (reprint)." 
  15. Jerzy Jan Lerski (1996). Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966–1945. Greenwood Publishing. p. 642. ISBN 0313260079. 
  16. Holocaust Encyclopedia (2014). "Ghettos". United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 
  17. Browning 1998, p. 41.
  18. Browning 1998, pp. 45–48.
  19. Goldhagen 1997, p. 204.
  20. Browning 1998, p. 44.
  21. Main Commission for Investigation of German Crimes in Poland, German Crimes in Poland (Warsaw: 1946, 1947), Archive of Jewish Gombin Genealogy, with introduction by Leon Zamosc. Institute of National Remembrance investigation group's history at the Wayback Machine (archived February 12, 1997).
  22. Browning 1998, pp. 5–6. "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 – group not as yet subject to the military draft ... gradually extended to still older men." (— Christopher Browning)
  23. Browning 1998, p. 27.
  24. Browning 1998, pp. 51–53.
  25. Browning 1998, pp. 64–68.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Browning 1998, pp. 57–64.
  27. Browning 1998, p. 66.
  28. Robert Kuwalek, Chris Webb (2007). "Jozefow". Holocaust Research Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 Marta Kubiszyn (2014). "Józefów. Lata okupacji". Virtual Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich.,historia/?action=view&page=1. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  30. Browning 1998, p. 69.
  31. 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 June 27, 2014.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Browning 1998, p. 80.
  33. Marta Kubiszyn et al (2014). "Jewish history of Łomazy". Virtual Shtetl. Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich.,historia/. Retrieved 22 June 2014. 
  34. Browning 1998, p. 84.
  35. Browning 1998, pp. 90–100.
  36. Aleksandra Bielawska, Marta Kubiszyn, Jewish community of Zamość. Page 4 of 4. Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
  37. Izbica Jewish Cemetery Commemoration Project. Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage in Poland. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  38. 38.0 38.1 Browning 1998, pp. 106–108.
  39. Hanan Lipszyc, Jewish Community of Izbica. Page 4 of 5. Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
  40. Browning 1998, pp. 126–131.
  41. ARC (2004). "Erntefest". Occupation of the East. ARC. Retrieved 2013-04-26. 
  42. 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. 
  43. "About Simon Wiesenthal". 2013. Section 11. Retrieved 17 November 2013. 
  44. Hartmann, Ralph (2010). "Der Alibiprozeß" (in German). Den Aufsatz kommentieren. Ossietzky 9/2010. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  45. Jose Raymund Canoy (2007), The Discreet Charm of the Police State: The Landpolizei and the Transformation of Bavaria, 1945–1965, BRILL, p. 70. ISBN 9004157085
  46. Struan Robertson, A History of Jews in Hamburg Chapter: Hamburg Police Battalions during the Second World War. Publisher: University of Hamburg.
  47. Statistical data: "Glossary of 2,077 Jewish towns in Poland" by Virtual Shtetl Museum of the History of the Polish Jews  (English), as well as "Getta Żydowskie (Jewish Ghettos)," by Gedeon,  (Polish) and "Ghetto List" (deportations) by Michael Peters at ARC  (English). Accessed June 15, 2014.
  48. "Międzyrzec Podlaski (Mezritch) in the Jewish sources" and "The History of Miedzyrzec Podlaski." Association of Immigrants of Mezritch Depodalsia. Accessed June 15, 2014.
  49. Browning 1998, p. 40.


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