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Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
Born March 1, 1899(1899-03-01)
Lauenburg, Pomerania, German Empire
Died March 8, 1972 (aged 73)
Munich, West Germany

Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski or Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (1 March 1899 - 8 March 1972), was a Nazi official and a member of the SS, in which he reached the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer (General).

Contents

Biography

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Slavic origin

He was born to Otto Jan Józefat von Zelewski, a Roman Catholic, and his Lutheran wife Elisabeth Eveline Schimansky. Born Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski, he legally added "von dem Bach" to the family name late in the 1930s. He went on to have "Zelewski" officially removed from his name in November 1941 because of its Polish sound.

His great-great-great-grandfather was Michał von Zelewski (c. 1700-1785), the owner of part of the village of Milwino, Niepoczołowice and Zakrzewo in Pomerania, who was Kashubian. Von Zalewski's marriage to Anna Zofia von Pirch produced a son, Franciszek von Zelewski (c. 1735-1788). The younger von Zelewski married Ewa von Kętrzyńska, who in 1778 gave birth to Andrzej Klemens von Zelewski. Andrzej married Konkordia Wilhelmina Henrietta von Grubba. Their eldest son, Otton August Ludwik Rudolf von Zalewski (born 1820 in Zakrzewo, died June 28, 1878 in Zęblewo), was von dem Bach's grandfather. Roman Catholic Church sources claim that in 1855 in Strzepcz Otton August von Zelewski married Antonia Fryderyka von Żelewska (apparently from another Zelewski family). One of their sons was Otton Jan von Zelewski (born May 19, 1859 in Zęblewo; died April 12, 1911 in Dortmund), who married Elżbieta Ewelina Szymańska about 1890. They had three daughters and three sons, one of whom was Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski.

Early life

He was born in Lauenburg, Pomerania, German Empire (now Lębork, Poland), on March 1, 1899, the son of a Junker. Despite his aristocratic genealogy, he seemed to have grown up in poverty; his father proved unable to establish a career and undertook a range of jobs, including agriculture. At the time of his death on April 17, 1911 in Dortmund he was employed as an insurance clerk. Otto's lack of success owed partially to his being the brother of Emil von Zalewski, who on August 17, 1891, while leading a colonial force armed with guns against Wehe insurgents in German East Africa (later named Tanganyika, now part of Tanzania), was speared to death as his force was annihilated in the battle of Rugarto. Being militarily outwitted by African blacks armed with spears against a well armed force was considered shameful, and the family was disgraced. Following his father's death, von dem Bach's uncle Oskar von Zalewski, a soldier, developed a very close relationship with the boy and encouraged him to also pursue a military career. In November 1914, Erich von Zalewski volunteered for the Prussian army, becoming one of the youngest recruits and serving until the end of World War I. He was wounded twice and won the Cross of Honor (Ehrenkreuz), then the Iron Cross.

After the war, he remained in the Reichswehr and, among other duties, fought in the Silesian Uprisings, where he earned a reputation and received several decorations. In 1924, von Zalewski transferred to the Grenzschutz (border guards). On October 23, 1925, he legally changed his surname to `von dem Bach-Zalewski`.

He left the Grenzschutz in 1930, when he joined the Nazi Party, becoming a member of the SS in 1931. He was rapidly promoted and, by the end of 1933, had reached the rank of SS-Brigadeführer (Major General). However, he quarrelled with his staff officer Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald.

A source of considerable annoyance for him was that three of his sisters married Jewish men, and in 1946, claimed under interrogation that this ruined his reputation in the army forcing him to leave the Reichswehr.

A Nazi party member of the Reichstag from 1932 to 1944, he participated in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, taking the opportunity to have Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald murdered. He served in various Nazi Party posts, initially in East Prussia and after 1936 in Silesia. By 1937, he had become the Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer (HSSPF - Higher SS and Police Leader) in Silesia.

World War II

After the war broke out, units under his command took part in reprisal actions and the shooting of POWs during the September Campaign, although von dem Bach was not personally present. On 7 November 1939, SS chief Heinrich Himmler offered him the post of Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom in Silesia. His duties included mass resettlements and the confiscation of private property. By August 1940, his units had forced more than 20,000 Żywiec families to leave their homes.

Moving up in rank

in Minsk

On 22 June 1941, von dem Bach-Zelewski became the Higher SS and Police Leader in the region of Silesia. He would provide the initial impetus of building a concentration camp at the Polish artillery barracks in the Zasole suburb of Oswiecim; a location scouted by his his Obergruppfuhrer Arpad Wigand. In July 1943, he became commander of the so-called "Bandenkämpfverbände" ("Band-fighting Units"), responsible for the mass murder of 35,000 civilians in Riga and more than 200,000 in Belarus and eastern Poland. The authorities designated him as the future HSSPF in Moscow; however, the Wehrmacht failed to take the city. Until 1943, von dem Bach-Zalewski remained the HSSPF in command of "anti-partisan" units on the central front, a special command created by Adolf Hitler. Von dem Bach-Zalewski was the only HSSPF in the occupied Soviet territories to retain genuine authority over the police after Hans-Adolf Prützmann and Jockeln lost theirs to the civil administration.

In February 1942, he was hospitalized, later claiming that this was due to a nervous breakdown connected with the ethnic cleansing in Belarus, especially the genocide of the Jews. Wireless intercepts decoded by British intelligence suggest, however, that his illness was strictly physical. He resumed his post in July, with no apparent reduction in his ruthlessness.

In June 1942, after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, 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 parts of Russia.

Ruthless tactics

Von dem Bach-Zelewski's tactics produced high civilian deaths and relatively minor military gains. German forces would more or less encircle partisan-controlled areas before closing in. Since deploying the necessary forces was time-consuming and conspicuous, the partisans would be forewarned and many would slip away, after hiding their heavier equipment and much of their supplies, while the remaining partisans would carry out a fighting withdrawal, picking off the lead German troops, often killing more men than they lost.

In fighting these irregular battles, the Germans wantonly slaughtered civilians in order to inflate the figures of "enemy losses"; indeed, far more fatalities were recorded than weapons captured. After an operation was completed, no permanent military presence would be maintained, allowing the partisans to slip back in, retrieve their hidden stocks and pick up where they had left off (occasionally, partisans would not return but would begin operating from the positions to which they had retreated). Even when successful, von dem Bach-Zalewski accomplished little more than forcing partisans to relocate, and swelling their numbers with enraged civilians.

Fighting on the front line

In 1944, he took part in front-line fighting in the Kovel area, but in March he had to go to Germany for medical treatment. Himmler assumed all his posts.

On 2 August 1944, he took command of all troops fighting against the Warsaw Uprising as Korpsgruppe Bach. Units under his command killed approximately 200,000 civilians (more than 65,000 in mass executions) and an unknown number of POWs. After more than two months of heavy fighting and the total destruction of Warsaw he finally managed to control the city. For his actions in Warsaw von dem Bach-Zalewski was awarded on September 30, 1944, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross by the Nazi regime. Despite the slaughter and destruction wrought on Warsaw, he is alleged to have personally saved Chopin's heart from destruction. The heart is preserved in within a Warsaw church. [1]

Between 26 January and 10 February 1945, von dem Bach-Zalewski commanded X SS Armeekorps, one of the "paper-corps", in Germany, but his unit was annihilated after less than two weeks.

Awards

After the war

Von dem Bach-Zelewski went into hiding and tried to leave the country. However, US military police arrested him on 1 August 1945. In exchange for his testimony against his former superiors at the Nuremberg Trials, von dem Bach-Zelewski never faced trial for any war crimes. Similarly, he never faced extradition to Poland or to the USSR. He left prison in 1949.

In 1951, von dem Bach-Zalewski claimed that he had helped Hermann Göring commit suicide in 1946. As evidence, he produced cyanide capsules to the authorities with serial numbers not far removed from the one used by Göring. The authorities never verified von dem Bach-Zalewski's claim, however, and did not charge him with aiding Göring's death. Most modern day historians dismiss von dem Bach-Zalewski's claim and agree that a U.S. Army contact within the Palace of Justice's prison at Nuremberg most likely aided Göring in his suicide. [2]

Also in 1951, von dem Bach-Zelewski was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp for the murder of political opponents in the early 1930s; however, he did not serve time until 1958, when he was convicted of killing Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald, an SS officer, during the Night of the Long Knives, and was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment.[3] In 1961, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years in home custody for the murder of 10 German Communists in the early 1930s. None of the sentences referred to his role in the East and his participation in the Holocaust, although he openly admitted to having murdered Jews. He died in a Munich prison on 8 March 1972.

Notes and references

In-line:
  1. ^ http://www.chopin-society.org.uk/articles/chopin-heart.htm
  2. ^ Guard 'gave Goering suicide pill', BBC News, February 8, 2005.
  3. ^ Hamburger Abendblatt 4 August 1962 (German)
General:
  • Blood, Philip W. - Hitler's Bandit Hunters - The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe. Potomac Books Inc. 2006

See also


Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-S73507, Erich von dem
Born March 1, 1899(1899-03-01)
Lauenburg, Pomerania, German Empire
Died March 8, 1972 (aged 73)
Munich, West Germany

Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski or Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (1 March 1899 - 8 March 1972), was a Nazi official and a member of the SS, in which he reached the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer.

Contents

Biography

Slavic origin

He was born to Otto Jan Józefat von Zelewski, a Roman Catholic, and his Lutheran wife Elisabeth Eveline Schimansky. Born Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski, he legally added "von dem Bach" to the family name late in the 1930s. He went on to have "Zelewski" officially removed from his name in November 1941 because of its Polish sound.

Erich's great-great-great-grandfather was Michał von Zelewski (c. 1700-1785), the owner of part of the village of Milwino, Niepoczołowice and Zakrzewo in Pomerania, who was Kashubian. Michał's marriage to Anna Zofia von Pirch produced a son, Franciszek von Zelewski (c. 1735-1788). Franciszek married Ewa von Kętrzyńska, who in 1778 gave birth to Andrzej Klemens von Zelewski. Andrzej married Konkordia Wilhelmina Henrietta von Grubba. Their eldest son, Otton August Ludwik Rudolf von Zalewski (born 1820 in Zakrzewo, died June 28, 1878 in Zęblewo), was von dem Bach's grandfather. Roman Catholic Church sources claim that in 1855 in Strzepcz Otton August von Zelewski married Antonia Fryderyka von Żelewska (apparently from another Zelewski family). One of their sons was Otton Jan von Zelewski (born May 19, 1859 in Zęblewo; died April 12, 1911 in Dortmund), who married Elżbieta Ewelina Szymańska about 1890. They had three daughters and three sons, one of whom was Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski.

Early life

He was born in Lauenburg, Pomerania, German Empire (now Lębork, Poland), on 1 March 1899, the son of a Junker. Despite his aristocratic genealogy, young Erich seemed to have grown up in poverty as his father proved unable to establish a career and undertook a range of jobs including agriculture. At the time of his death on April 17, 1911 in Dortmund he was employed as an insurance clerk. Otto's lack of success owed partially to his being the brother of Emil von Zalewski, who on August 17, 1891 while leading a colonial force against Wehe insurgents in Tanzania was speared to death while his force was annihilated in the battle of Rugarto. Being militarily outwitted by the racially despised African blacks was a cause of shame and the family was disgraced. According to Philip W. Blood, Erich lived to restore his family's reputation, which partly explains the ferocious passion he would bring to his own `counter-insurgency` campaigns. Following his father's death, his uncle Oskar von Zalewski, a soldier, developed a very close relationship with Erich and encouraged him to also pursue a military career. In November 1914 Erich von Zalewski volunteered for the Prussian army, becoming one of the youngest recruits and served there until the end of World War I. He was wounded twice, and won the Cross of Honor (Ehrenkreuz) and then Iron Cross.

After the war, he remained in the army and, among other duties, fought in the Silesian Uprisings, where he earned a reputation for courage and daring and earned additional decorations. In 1924, he transferred to the Grenzschutz (border guards). On October 23, 1925, he legally changed his surname to `von dem Bach-Zalewski`.

He left the Grenzschutz in 1930, when he joined the Nazi Party, becoming a member of the SS in 1931. He was rapidly promoted and, by the end of 1933, had reached the rank of SS-Brigadeführer. However, he quarrelled with his staff officer Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald.

A source of considerable annoyance for him was that three of his sisters married Jewish men, and in 1946, claimed under interrogation that this ruined his reputation in the army forcing him to leave the Reichswehr. This, along with his Slavic ancestry, may have driven him to ever-bloodier excesses in order to "prove himself" as a Nazi.

A Nazi party member of the Reichstag from 1932 to 1944, he participated in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, taking the opportunity to have Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald murdered. He served in various Nazi party posts, initially in East Prussia and after 1936 in Silesia. By 1937, he had become the Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer (HSSPF - Higher SS and Police Leader) in Silesia.

World War II

After the war broke out, units under his command took part in reprisal actions and the shooting of POWs during the September Campaign, although von dem Bach was not personally present. On 7 November 1939, SS chief Heinrich Himmler offered him the post of Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom in Silesia. His duties included mass resettlements and the confiscation of private property. By August 1940, his units had forced more than 20,000 Żywiec families to leave their homes.

Moving up in rank

On 22 June 1941, von dem Bach-Zelewski became HSSPF in the region of the Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Center); in July 1943, he became commander of the so-called "Bandenkämpfverbände" ("Band-fighting Units"), responsible for the mass murder of 35,000 civilians in Riga and more than 200,000 in Belarus and eastern Poland. The authorities designated him as the future HSSPF in Moscow; however, the Wehrmacht failed to take the city. Until 1943, von dem Bach-Zalewski remained the HSSPF in command of "anti-partisan" units on the central front, a special command created by Adolf Hitler. Von dem Bach-Zalewski was the only HSSPF in the occupied Soviet territories to retain genuine authority over the police after Hans-Adolf Prützmann and Jockeln lost theirs to the civil administration.

In February 1942, he was hospitalized, later claiming that this was due to a nervous breakdown connected with the ethnic cleansing in Belarus, especially the genocide of the Jews. Wireless intercepts decoded by British intelligence suggest, however, that his illness was strictly physical. He resumed his post in July, with no apparent reduction in his ruthlessness.

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 parts of Russia.

Ruthless tactics

von dem Bach-Zelewski's tactics produced high numbers of civilian deaths and relatively minor military gains. German forces would more or less encircle partisan-controlled areas before closing in. Since deploying the necessary forces was time-consuming and conspicuous, the partisans would be forewarned and many would slip away, after hiding their heavier equipment and much of their supplies, while the remaining partisans would carry out a fighting withdrawal, picking off the lead German troops, often killing more men than they lost.

In the process of fighting these irregular battles, the Germans wantonly slaughtered civilians in order to inflate the figures of "enemy losses"; indeed, there were far more fatalities recorded than weapons captured. After an operation was completed, no permanent military presence would be maintained, allowing the partisans to slip back in, retrieve their hidden stocks and pick up where they had left off. On other occasions, though, the partisans would not return but begin operating where they had retreated to before the operation. Even when successful, von dem Bach-Zalewski was not accomplishing much more than forcing the partisans to relocate periodically.

Fighting on the front line

In 1944, he took part in front-line fighting in the Kovel area, but in March had to go to Germany for medical treatment. Himmler assumed all his posts.

On 2 August 1944, he took command of all troops fighting against the Warsaw Uprising as Korpsgruppe Bach. Units under his command killed approximately 200,000 civilians (more than 65,000 in mass executions) and an unknown number of POWs. After more than two months of heavy fighting and the total destruction of Warsaw he finally managed to control the city. For his actions in Warsaw von dem Bach-Zalewski was awarded on September 30, 1944, the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross by the Nazi regime.

Between 26 January and 10 February 1945, von dem Bach-Zalewski commanded X SS Armeekorps, one of the "paper-corps", in Germany, but his unit was annihilated after less than two weeks.

Awards

After the war

Von dem Bach-Zelewski went into hiding and tried to leave the country. However, US military police arrested him on 1 August 1945. In exchange for his testimony against his former superiors at the Nuremberg Trials, von dem Bach-Zelewski never faced trial for any war crimes. Similarly, he never faced extradition to Poland or to the USSR. He left prison in 1949.

In 1951, von dem Bach-Zalewski claimed that he had helped Hermann Göring commit suicide in 1946. As evidence, he produced cyanide capsules to the authorities with serial numbers not far removed from the one used by Göring. The authorities never verified von dem Bach-Zalewski's claim, however, and did not charge him with aiding Göring's death. Most modern day historians dismiss von dem Bach-Zalewski's claim and agree that a U.S. Army contact within the Palace of Justice's prison at Nuremberg most likely aided Göring in his suicide. [1]

Also in 1951, von dem Bach-Zelewski received a sentence of ten years in a labor camp for the murder of political opponents in the early thirties; however, he did not serve time until 1958, when he was convicted of killing Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald, an SS officer, during the Night of the Long Knives and was sentenced to four and a half years imprisonment[2]. In 1961, he received an additional sentence of ten years in home custody for the murder of ten German Communists in the early 1930s. None of the sentences referred to his role in the East and his participation in the Holocaust massacres, though he openly admitted to having murdered Jews. He died in a Munich prison on 8 March 1972.

It has been said that Hitler particularly admired von dem Bach-Zalewski's ruthlessness and ingenuity, describing him as "so clever he can do anything, get around anything."[citation needed]

Notes and references

In-line:
  1. ^ Guard 'gave Goering suicide pill', BBC News, February 8, 2005.
  2. ^ Hamburger Abendblatt 4 August 1962 (German)
General:
  • Blood, Philip W. - Hitler's Bandit Hunters - The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe. Potomac Books Inc. 2006

See also


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I was the only SS leader in Russia who was not assassinated or upon whom an assassination was never attempted. I could walk anywhere without a bodyguard.

Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (March 1, 1899March 8, 1972), born Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski, was a Nazi official and a member of the SS, in which he reached the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer. In exchange for his testimony against his former superiors at the Nuremberg Trials, von dem Bach never faced trial for any war crimes. In 1961, he received an additional sentence of ten years imprisonment. None of the sentences referred to his role in the East and his participation in the massacres, though he openly admitted to having murdered Jews. He died in a Munich prison on March 8, 1972. It has been said that Hitler particularly admired von dem Bach's ruthlessness and ingenuity.

Contents

Sourced

Germany could not win this war because it was in league with the devil. This war would not have ended without revolution.
  • I was the only SS leader in Russia who was not assassinated or upon whom an assassination was never attempted. I could walk anywhere without a bodyguard.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (14 February 1946) from The Nuremberg Interviews (2004) by Leon Goldensohn and Robert Gellately
  • From May until August, I went on a search for Himmler. Finally, I gave myself up voluntarily in August 1945. I went from one village to another looking for Himmler in order to kill him. I also wanted to find my family, whose whereabouts I did not know. I didn't know what the future held in store for me. At that time, I thought it was certain that since I was an SS general, I would be taken prisoner and executed at once.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (14 February 1946) from The Nuremberg Interviews (2004) by Leon Goldensohn and Robert Gellately
  • Germany could not win this war because it was in league with the devil. This war would not have ended without revolution.
    • To Leon Goldensohn (14 February 1946) from The Nuremberg Interviews (2004) by Leon Goldensohn and Robert Gellately
  • I am the only living witness but I must say the truth. Contrary to the opinion of the National Socialists that the Jews were a highly organized group, the appalling fact was that they had no organization whatsoever. The mass of the Jewish people were taken completely by surprise. Never before has a people gone so unsuspectingly to its disaster. After the first anti-Jewish actions of the Germans, they thought now the wave was over and so they walked back to their undoing.
    • Quoted in Survivors, Victims, and Perpetrators : Essays on the Nazi Holocaust (1980) by Joel E. Dimsdale, p. 35

Unsourced

  • When for years a doctrine is foretold of the qualification that the Slavs are an inferior race and the Hebrew aren't quite human individuals, it is unavoidable that a similar outbreak will end like the preceding one.

About Bach-Zelewski

  • Von dem Bach is so clever he can do anything, get around anything.
    • Adolf Hitler, as quoted in The Simon and Schuster Encyclopedia of World War II (1978) by Thomas D. Parrish and Samuel Lyman Atwood Marshall, p. 45
  • I hardly recognize him here. He was very egocentric, tried to get ahead without considering others.
  • Bach-Zelewski is a liar and a criminal — a terrible man. I repeat, he is a liar, a criminal, and a killer. I have proof of what I am saying about myself, but I know that Bach-Zelewski is a frightful liar.
  • But to go back to Bach-Zelewski — I think Bach-Zelewski has the kind of personality that can't differentiate between the truth and lies. He gets himself so much into the whole thing he can't differentiate. He convinces himself and believes he has gone so far that he has to die for the cause. Originally it was not the truth, but he so convinces himself — he's ready to die for it.
  • That Swine.
    • Herman Goering upon seeing Von Dem Bach about to testify at the Nuremberg Trials.[citation needed]

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
March 1, 1899 – March 8, 1972

SS Obergruppenfuhrer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski
Place of birth Lauenburg, Pomerania, German Empire
Place of death Munich, West Germany
Allegiance Nazi Germany
Service/branch Waffen SS
Years of service 1931–1945
Rank Obergruppenführer
Unit Waffen-SS
Commands held SS and Police Leader for Silesia
Battles/wars Warsaw Uprising
Awards Iron Cross, German Cross, Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski or Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski (1 March 1899 - 8 March 1972), was a Nazi leader and a member of the SS, where he had the rank of SS-Obergruppenführer. Although he was involved in the killing of thousands of people in Poland and Russia, he was never charged with war crimes.

Contents

Biography

Early life

His parents were Otto Jan Józefat von Zelewski, a Roman Catholic, and his wife Elisabeth Eveline Schimansky, a Lutheran. His name when he was born was Erich Julius Eberhard von Zelewski, he later changed his last name to add "von dem Bach" in the 1930's[needs proof]. He removed "Zelewski" from his name in November 1941 because of its Polish sound.[needs proof]

He was born in Lauenburg, in Pomerania, in the old German Empire (now called Lębork, Poland), on 1 March 1899. His family did not have very much money during his childhood. His father was often out of work. When his father died on April 17, 1911 in Dortmund, he was employed as an insurance clerk. His father's lack of success was partly because he was the brother of Emil von Zalewski, the leader of a colonial force fighting in Tanzania. On August 17, 1891 he and his men were killed in the battle of Rugarto, described as being like a German Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn. [1] This death and defeat brought great shame to the family. Erich would later restore his family's position in the community.

Soldier

After his father's death, his uncle Oskar von Zalewski, a soldier, became very close to Erich and told Erich to become a soldier. In November 1914 Erich von Zalewski asked to join the Prussian army, and was one of the youngest soldiers and remained a soldier fighting for the army until the end of World War I. He was wounded twice, and was given the Cross of Honor (Ehrenkreuz) and then Iron Cross.

After the war, he stayed in the army and fought in the Silesian Uprisings, where he earned a reputation (what other people believe about a person) for courage was given more medals. In 1924, he joined Grenzschutz (border guards). On October 23, 1925 he changed changed his last name to `von dem Bach-Zalewski`.

Nazi

He left the Grenzschutz in 1930, when he joined the Nazi Party, becoming a member of the SS in 1931. He was quickly promoted and by the end of 1933 had reached the rank of SS-Brigadeführer. However, he quarreled with his staff officer Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald.

Three of his sisters married Jewish men, and in 1946 he said that this ruined his reputation in the army and he was forced to leave.

He was a member of the Reichstag from 1932 to 1944, he took part in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, and had Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald murdered. He served in many Nazi party jobs, first in East Prussia and after 1936 in Silesia. By 1937 he had become the Höherer SS- und Polizeiführer (HSSPF - Higher SS and Police Leader) in Silesia.

World War II

After the war started, units under his command took part in revenge and in the shooting of POWs during the September Campaign, but von dem Bach was not there in person. On 7 November 1939, the SS chief Heinrich Himmler asked him if he wanted the job of Commissioner for the Strengthening of Germandom in Silesia. His duty was to force people to leave and to take their property. By August 1940, his units had forced more than 20,000 Żywiec families to leave their homes.

In late 1939, he suggested starting a concentration camp for the non-German people who lived in the town of Oświęcim. Heinrich Himmler agreed to von dem Bach's suggestion and in May 1940 the Auschwitz concentration camp opened.

Getting higher rank

On 22 June 1941, von dem Bach-Zelewski became HSSPF in the Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Center); in July 1943, he became commander of the "Bandenkämpfverbände" ("Band-fighting Units"), that carried out the mass murder of 35,000 people in Riga and more than 200,000 in Belarus and eastern Poland. The government was going to make him the future HSSPF in Moscow; however, the Wehrmacht didn't get into the city. Until 1943, von dem Bach-Zalewski was the HSSPF in command of "anti-partisan" units on the central front, a special command created by Adolf Hitler. Von dem Bach-Zalewski was the only HSSPF in the Soviet areas taken over by the Germans to have real authority over the police after Hans-Adolf Prützmann and Jockeln lost theirs to the civil government.

In February 1942, he was put into hospital, which he would later say was due to a nervous breakdown because of the ethnic cleansing in Belarus, and the genocide of the Jews. Radio signals overheard by British intelligence say, however, that his illness was physical. He went back to his job in July, with no reduction seen in his actions.

In June 1942, after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Prague, Adolf Hitler wanted von dem Bach-Zelewski to take Heydrich's job as Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. When Himmler said that von dem Bach-Zelewski was needed due to the situation in Belarus, Hitler let him stay and gave the job to Kurt Daluege.

On 12 July 1943, von dem Bach-Zalewski was given command of all anti-partisan efforts in Belgium, Belarus, France, the General Government, the Netherlands, Norway, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, and parts of the Bezirk Bialystok. In reality he remained only in Belarus and the area of Russia near Belarus.

Fighting on the front line

In 1944, von dem Bach-Zalewski took part in front line fighting in the Kovel area, but in March had to go to Germany for medical treatment. Himmler took over all his jobs.

On 2 August 1944, he took command of all soldiers fighting against the Warsaw Uprising as Korpsgruppe Bach. Units under his command killed about 200,000 people including more than 65,000 executions, and an unknown number of POWs. After more than two months of heavy fighting and the total destruction of Warsaw he then was able to control the city. For what he did in Warsaw, the Nazi Government gave him the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross on September 30, 1944

Awards

After the war

Von dem Bach-Zelewski went into hiding and tried to leave the country. However, US military police arrested him on 1 August, 1945. Because he told the Allies what he known about his former bosses at the Nuremberg Trials, von dem Bach-Zelewski never went to trial himself for any war crimes. He also didn't have to go back to Poland or to the USSR to be tried. He left prison in 1949.

In 1951, von dem Bach-Zalewski said that he had helped Hermann Göring kill himself in 1946. To make people believe this he showed them the cyanide with serial numbers like the ones that were on the cyanide that Göring used. This was never proven. Today people who study history don't believe this happened.[2]

Also in 1951, von dem Bach was told he would go to a work prison for ten years for the murder of people in the early 1930s; but he did not go until 1958, when he was found guilty of killing Anton von Hohberg und Buchwald, an SS officer on the Night of the Long Knives and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.[3] In 1961, he received an extra ten years where he had to stay in his home all the time for the murder of ten German Communists in the early 1930s. He never went to prison for crimes during the war even though he openly said he murdered Jews. He died in a Munich prison on 8 March 1972.

It has been said that Hitler really liked von dem Bach-Zalewski's because he was very good at his job and said that von dem Bach was "so clever he can do anything, get around anything."

Notes and references

In-line:
  1. "Mass murderer Who Cheated The Executioner". Military History. August 17, 2009. http://krigshistoria.blogspot.com/. Retrieved August 26, 2009. 
  2. Guard 'gave Goering suicide pill', BBC News, February 8, 2005.
  3. Hamburger Abendblatt 4 August 1962 (German)
General:
  • Blood, Philip W. - Hitler's Bandit Hunters - The SS and the Nazi Occupation of Europe. Potomac Books Inc. 2006

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