Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski

Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (born Erich von Zelewski ; Lauenburg , Pomerania , 1 of March of 1899 – Munich , Bavaria , 8 of March of 1972 ) was a military , a member of the Nazi party , and Obergruppenführer of SS .

During World War II he commanded some of the most bloody units of the SS dedicated to the genocide against the Jews (the final solution or the Holocaust ), in addition to other population groups, mainly Poles and Soviets. His was the initiative of the creation of the concentration camp and extermination of Auschwitz

Its youth and its beginnings in the Nazi Party

Erich von Zelewski was born on 1 March 1899, son of Otto von Zelewski. In 1916, at the age of 17, he enlisted as a volunteer in the Prussian Army , where he remained for the whole of World War I until 1918. During the war he was twice awarded the Iron Cross .

After the war, with the armistice signed at Rethondes on November of November of 1918 , decided to remain in the Reichswehr , the new German army of the Republic of Weimar limited to a strength of 100,000 men by the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles , where Remained until 1924. He immediately went to join a company of border guards (the Grenzschutz ), where he would remain until 1930, the date of his entry into the Nazi party .

In 1931 he joined the Nazi Praetorian Guard, the SS , and ascended rapidly in the ranks of the organization, until reaching in 1933 the rank of SS – Brigadeführer . Gradually he took the name of von dem Bach, instead of his real name, von Zelewski, in order to get a greater Germanic sonority of his surname. All this with the aim of proving that he was a “good German” and “a good Nazi,” while trying to forget that three of his sisters were married to Jews, or Slavic origin itself Of your last name.

He was a deputy of the Reichstag , the German parliament, between 1932 and 1944, at first democratically elected, but after the establishment of the Nazi dictatorship by direct appointment of the Party, always representing the district of Breslau (today the Polish city of Wroclaw ).

On June 30, 1934 he took part in the Long Knives Night , which mainly meant an internal purification within the Nazi movement, mainly focused on neutralizing the power of SA ( Sturmabteilung ). During the reckoning he sent two SS members to assassinate his rival in the race for the occupation of political positions, the commander of Cavalry Freiherr von Hohberg und Buchwald. He occupied several positions in the Nazi Party, initially in East Prussia , and later, after 1936, in Silesia , where he was appointed HSSPF (Höherer Schutzstaffel und Polizeiführer), that is to say, head of the German Police and the SS in the sector, as early as 1937.

His role in World War II

Bach-Zelewski presides a military stop of Ordnungspolizei in Minsk , Soviet Union in 1943 .

At the beginning of World War II , during the invasion of Poland in September 1939 , the units commanded in the campaign participated in reprisals against the civilian population and in the execution of Polish prisoners of war .

The 7 of November of 1939 was appointed by Heinrich Himmler commissary for the reinforcement of the Germanism in the region of Silesia . From his new position, organizes the so-called Jewish reinstallations that were genocidal screens of forced displacements of the population of Slavic origin, as well as the confiscation of its properties. In August 1940, before one year had passed since the beginning of the war, the SS units under his command had confiscated the houses of more than 20 000 families in the Zywiec region , forcing them from their homes .

At the end of 1939, he had the idea of ​​opening a concentration camp for the non-German inhabitants of the region, near the city of Oswiecim . Heinrich Himmler accepted the proposal, and in May 1940 the new camp was inaugurated , with the German name of the city of Oswiecim, called Auschwitz , which became infamous.

Shortly afterwards, on 28 November 1940, he officially eliminated his father’s surname from Slavic origin, Zelewski, thus becoming Erich von dem Bach.

The 22 of June of 1941 , during the Operation Barbarossa , the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Third Reich , Erich von dem Bach was appointed HSSPF of Army Group Centre or Heeresgruppe Mitte .

On July 8, 1941, after only two weeks of activity, one of his messages, intercepted by the secret services of the United Kingdom , said:

In the cleaning operation yesterday in Slonim, carried out by the Center of Police Regiments, 1,153 Jewish rogues were shot . 1

And on August 7, a month later, he sent a telegram to Kurt Daluege and Heinrich Himmler in which he stated:

The total number of executions in the territory of my jurisdiction is now more than 30,000 . 1 2

Barricade located in Napoleon Square in Warsaw , made up, among other things, of a captured German tank during the Warsaw Uprising .

In June 1943 he became commander of the Bandenkampfverbände , responsible, among other numerous crimes, of the murder of 35,000 civilians in the city of Riga and the deaths of more than 200,000 people in Belarus and eastern Poland . Although it was to become the new HSSPF of the city of Moscow , the Wehrmacht was defeated to few kilometers of the city, in the so-called battle of Moscow , with which von dem Bach maintained its previous position, although also it was in the control Of some units of the SS in charge of the fight against the Russian partisans in the rear of the Eastern Front , until 1943.

In February 1942 he was hospitalized, according to some accounts, for psychological problems stemming from the ethnic cleansing operations and mass executions of Jews to which his men had dedicated themselves in Belarus . However, other sources claim that it was a mere physical incapacity unrelated to the massacres. In any case returned to its functions in July, without manifesting any change in its previous conduct.

In 1944 he went to the front for the first time to fight against the Red Army in the Kovel region , but shortly after, in March, he returned to Germany to receive medical attention again. His responsibilities relating to the extermination of the Jews were directly assumed by Heinrich Himmler .


Erich van dem Bach-Zelewski presides over the capitulation of Warsaw (October 1944).

On August 2, 1944, he took command of all the troops, both the Schutzstaffel (SS) and some units of the Wehrmacht that were under the command of Heinz Guderian , 3 that fight against the Polish partisans of Armia Krajowa in The so-called Warsaw Uprising . After two months of fierce fighting that swept through the city, it finally managed to win back Warsaw , with a terrible balance in human losses, the troops under its command shot almost all the men survivors of the uprising. Guderian tried to put a stop to the SS by urging Bach-Zelewski to treat the captives as prisoners of war; But Himmler objected and Guderian’s management was unsuccessful: 4 the troops under his command had killed more than 200,000 civilians, including about 65,000 by “mass executions” as well as an unknown number of prisoners of war .

In the autumn of 1944 he left for Hungary to take command of the XIV SS Corps and try to prevent Hungary from changing camp and joining the Allies .

The end of the war and the Nuremberg process

Between January 26 and February 10, 1945, Bach-Zelewski was in command of one of the “paper-corps” (paper bodies, since they only existed on paper, not in reality) of the SS, An SS -Armeekorps on the front in Germany . However, after only two weeks of fighting, the remnants of units he commanded had suffered such grave losses that, seeing the defeat of the Third Reich in the war, deserted, hid and tried to leave the country, fleeing from the most foreseeable Criminal liability for their activities.

He was finally arrested on August 1, 1945 by the Military Police US . However, in exchange for testifying against his former superiors during the Nuremberg Trials (when he sought to recover his Slavic surname from Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski), 5 Bach-Zelewski was never tried or even tried Was molested for his crimes, not being extradited either to Poland or the Soviet Union , where he committed most of his crimes. He left the prison in 1949 . The management of Bach-Zelewski in the SS cost approximately the annihilation of about 450 000 people unwanted by the Nazi regime in Polish and Soviet soil.

During the Nuremberg trials, he stated:

Even today, when I look back … I have to answer that it was good that a few decent guys like me had influence in the SS, because that way we avoid terrible things. 6

In 1951 he publicly stated that he had helped Nazi leader Hermann Göring commit suicide by providing him with the cyanide capsules used by him for his suicide. However, this claim is not supported by any serious historian.

The end of his life

In March 1951, Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp for the murder of political opponents in the early 1930s. He served his sentence until 1958, when he was again sentenced to two and a half years for the murder of an SA officer during Long Knife Night . Later, in 1961, he received a further sentence of 10 years for the murder of 10 German Communists in the 1930s. In conclusion, in 1962, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of six German Communists in 1933. Were dictated against him took into account his role in the East nor his participation in numerous massacres, although he had publicly admitted to having murdered Jews, while insisting on his repentance and penance.

He died in the prison of Munich the 8 of March of 1972 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ Jump to:a b Miguel Ángel García Olmo. «The Holocaust Silences» (url) (in Spanish ) . Archived from the original on November 24, 2015 . Consulted on August 1, 2007 of 2007 .
  2. Back to top↑ Bernardo Kliksberg. “The New Evidence on the Holocaust .” In Holocaust Memorial Foundation. Revista Nuestra memoria , number 6 (in Spanish ) . Archived from the original on November 24, 2015 . Consulted on August 31, 2007, 2007 .
  3. Back to top↑ «Operation Burza – Warsaw Uprising» (url) (in Spanish ) . Consulted on August 1, 2007 of 2007 .
  4. Back to top↑ Juan Luis Jimeno (1999). «The liberation of Warsaw» (url) (in Spanish ) . Consulted on August 1, 2007 of 2007 .
  5. Back to top↑ The Nizkor Project (ed.). «Proceedings of the Nuremberg trial (statements by von dem Bach-Zelewski)» (url) . Judgment of Nuremberg, volume 4 (in Spanish ) . Consulted on August 1, 2007 of 2007 .
  6. Back to top↑ César Coca. Journal La Verdad ( Murcia ), ed. “Without forgiveness or repentance” (url) (in Spanish ) . Consulted on August 1, 2007 of 2007 .