Entries in diaries and different reports found in archives testify to Hitler sodliers and officers awesome outrage.
Wehrmacht Ober-Gefreite (lance-corporal) Iohannes Gerder used to write in his diary during the first months of staying in Belorussia:
"August, 25. We throw grenades at houses where people live. The houses easily catch fire and burn down fast. Fire jumps over to other log huts. What a spectacular view! People cry and we laught at their tears. We have burnt about 10 villages this way.
August, 29. We grabbed 12 people who we came across in a village and took them to a cemetery. We made them dig a deep and ample grave for themselves.
There is no and there can be no mercy for the Slavs. Damned humanity is alien to us."
Annihilation of settlements together with their inhabitants became a characteristic feature of the genocide policy and of the "scorched earth" policy. There were held more than 140 major punitive operations in Belorussia during the years of occupation (1941 — 1944).
Thousands of villages were wiped off the face of the earth, the population was annihilated, brought to death camps or turned into slaves. Security forces of Wehrmacht, SS divisions and police troops carried out all punitive operations. An SS battalion under the head of a former SS prisoner Dirlewanger was distinguished as particularly cruel.
Punitive operations against partisans and the population itself were conducted from the very first days of occupation. A police regiment "Center" organized a punitive operation in the natural reserve of "Belovezhskaia Puscha" and on adjacent territories in July 1941. Many settlements were annihilated in the course of it. More punitive operations were held in August in Ivatsevichy region and close to the town of Lepel by the 221st and the 286th security divisions. Elements of the 162nd and of the 252nd infantry divisions outraged in Bogushevsky region. The report containing the results of the operations in Bogushevsk read that 13788 civilians were shot. At the same time the villages of Goloschakino, Zastenky, Sprugy, Naviazky and Tsesny were burnt by Nazis.
1943 was known as the year of large-scale pacificatory operations. Motor divisions, tanks and aviation took an active part in them. Fascists cruelly killed civilians, seized their cattle and grain, robbed them of their property, by force sent able-bodied citizens for penal servitude in Germany. Those who stayed were burnt alive or shot. Fire was set to all dwellings turning vast territories into a "desert". Fascists burned dozens of villages, annihilated about 10 thousand people and sent more than 6 thousand people to Germany during the punitive operation which bore the name of "Kottbus" in May and June 1943. They had mercy neither for women, nor for children, not even for the old. In July and August of 1943 a punitive operation "German" was carried out in the regions of Korelichy, Novogrudok, Ivie, Volozhin, Stolbtsy and others. A particular feature of it was that together with mass annihilations of people and burnings of villages, fascists also largely captured labour force for sending them to serve the German Reich. There were many children among these people as well.
In autumn and winter of 1943 — 1944 the policy of
'scorched earth' became more widely spread. There were special crews of
incendiaries who had to totally devastate the occupied lands at the command of
Wehrmacht during the last period of fascist occupation. Their task was to ravage
the land when German troops were retreating. The population was killed or taken
to Germany. Mass annihilation of settlements together with inhabitants was one
of the main ways of implementing the policy of total devastation and of
'scorched earth'. As a rule, people were driven in a shed or a house or a barn,
which was then locked and put to fire. Thus, a village of Dalva in Logoisk region was burnt with all its inhabitants some days before the liberation of Belorussia.
Vast territories were turned into deserts.
But Belorussians did not put up with fascist occupation. First partisan detachments gained the rear of the enemy already in June and July of 1941. They showed courage and heroism, they spared neither effort nor their own life. They crushed the enemy with stubborn and obstinate resistence. By November 1942 partisan movement became widely spread in Belorussia. By 1943 partisans already started to dislodge occupants not only from separate villages, but also from certain territories of Belorussia. 60% of the territory was under partisan control. Partisans saved many thousands of peaceful citizens from annihilation and slavery. Partisan actions threatened German defense on the eastern front, it badly affected fascist soldier supply, it distracted the attention of Wehrmacht.
Punitive detachments were ordered to combat partisans. These detachments consisted of those who betrayed the Motherland, joined the enemy armed forces and candidly cooperated with fascists. They were bribed, they were promised priviliges and welfare, but fortunately there was just a small number of them in comparison with those who put their lives under threat and helped partisans. Partisans were fought against very severely. The most ruthless orders were given by high command regarding partisan movement. However, very often these orders were never fulfilled and it was a failure for fascists. Therefore they had to burn down entire villages together with all their inhabitants to show that they "make progress". The destruction of the village of Khatyn is a tragic and vivid example. The village was annihilated by the thugs from the 118th police battalion which was stationed in a small town of Pleschinitsy and the thugs from the SS battalion "Dirlewanger" which was stationed in Logoisk.
During the Great Patriotic War fascists burned down 21
villages together with all the inhabitants in Logoisk region. After the war,
only 11 of them were restored. 10 others remained forever in ashes.
Fascists outraged in Belourussia during the three years of occupation.
The following figures are further proof to the scale of crimes.
The number of annihilated settlements with the inhabitants during punitive operations:
The number of settlements destroyed together with only part of the inhabitants:
In all: 5295.
Thus, over 5295 settlements were destroyed by fascists together with all or part of inhabitants during punitive action (out of 9200 settlements, burnt and annihilated in Belorussia during the Great Patriotic War). 243 villages were burned down twice, 83 villages thrice and 22 villages were burned down 4 times and more in Vitebsk region. 92 villages were burned down twice, 40 villages thrice, 9 villages four times and 6 villages five and more times were burned in Minsk region.
3% of all 5295 villages were destroyed in 1941. 16% — in 1942. 63% — in 1943. 18% — in 1944.
The outcome of the genocide policy and of the "scorched earth" policy was that 2 230 000 people were killed in Belorussia within the three years of occupation. Every fourth person died.
In August 1945 the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition (the USSR, the USA, Great Britain and France) signed an agreement in London concerning war criminals prosecuting and punishment. On November 20, 1945 fascist high standing statesmen and military leaders appeared before the International War Crimes Tribunal in Nurnberg. The leaders of the German National Socialist Party, SS squadrons, the secrete state police (Gestapo) were all found guilty and criminal. Nurnberg trial exposed the essense of German fascism, of their plans to gain domination of the world and annihilation of a wide range of states and peoples, the danger of fascism revival in any form. The case went down in history as a true Nations Trial.
On December 11, 1946 the UNO General Assembly ratified the principles of international law, which were declared by the Tribunal Charter. Belarus is a full member of the UNO and the organization admits that an aggressive war, war crimes and crimes against humanity are the gravest international crimes. Documents which contained data about the war crimes committed by fascists in Belorussia were of significant help in the matter of indicting fascism.
"Genocide is one of the most serious crimes against humanity aimed at complete or partial destruction of some nationality, ethnic, racial or religious minority."
Mass genocide crimes were committed by fascists during the Second World War on the occupied territories especially against the Slavs (Russians, Belorussians, Ukranians, Czechs, Poles, Serbs) and ethnic Jews.
Millions of people of different nationalities were killed in death camps and prisons during punitive action. Massacres were part of the Nazi programme to annihilate Slavonic nations and reduce their biological potential.
In conformity with the UNO General Assembly resolution of December 3, 1973 all war criminals are subject to criminal investigation, arrest, legal liability and punishment in case of being found guilty. There is no time limitation for them and no one can grant them asylum.