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The Kings and the Pawns

The Kings and the Pawns: Collaboration in Byelorussia during World War II

Leonid Rein
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 458
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  • Book Info
    The Kings and the Pawns
    Book Description:

    For many years, the history of Byelorussia under Nazi occupation was written primarily from the perspective of the resistance movement. This movement, a reaction to the brutal occupation policies, was very strong indeed. Still, as the author shows, there existed in Byelorussia a whole web of local institutions and organizations which, some willingly, others with reservations, participated in the implementation of various aspects of occupation policies. The very sensitivity of the topic of collaboration has prevented researchers from approaching it for many years, not least because in the former Soviet territories ideological considerations have played an important role in preserving the topic's "untouchable" status. Focusing on the attitude of German authorities toward the Byelorussians, marked by their anti-Slavic and particularly anti-Byelorussian prejudices on the one hand and the motives of Byelorussian collaborators on the other, the author clearly shows that notwithstanding the postwar trend to marginalize the phenomenon of collaboration or to silence it altogether, the local collaboration in Byelorussia was clearly visible and pervaded all spheres of life under the occupation.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-043-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    As early as 1972, the British historian David Littlejohn remarked that “[t]he literature of resistance is prolific; that of collaboration sparse indeed.”¹ This statement is still accurate today. The very sensitivity of the topic has prevented researchers from approaching it for many years. Yet, as regards collaboration in the former Soviet territories, ideological considerations have also played a paramount role in preserving the topic’s “untouchable” status. Immediately after World War II, when the Cold War threatened to turn into a hot one, a trend in Western historiography sought to draw lessons from the war, especially from the German experiences in...

  6. Chapter 1 Collaboration in Occupied Europe: Theoretical Overview
    (pp. 11-56)

    A study that aims to analyze the various forms of collaboration in Byelorussia under Nazi occupation requires two preliminary steps by way of introduction: the first is to define the term collaboration, and the second, to compare the phenomenon of collaboration in various countries under German occupation during World War II. Both of these goals are pursued in the brief description provided in this chapter, since a detailed comparative analysis is beyond the scope of this volume.

    “Was Kollaboration ist, weiß jedermann,” wrote German historian Hans Lemberg ironically in an article published in 1972.¹ Yet, to this day, historians focusing...

  7. Chapter 2 Historical Background
    (pp. 57-82)

    To understand the events of World War II in Byelorussia, it is worth casting a brief look at the period that preceded it. But first, we must provide some general information about Byelorussia, since, to this day, the country is still virtuallyterra incognitato most people outside its borders.

    Today Byelorussia is an independent state in Eastern Europe, and a member of the Community of Independent States (CIS), the body formed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In the country’s 207,600 square kilometers reside more than ten million inhabitants. On the west, Byelorussia is bordered by Poland; to...

  8. Chapter 3 German Policies in Byelorussia (1941–1944)
    (pp. 83-128)

    The preparation of military plans for the German invasion of the Soviet Union began under the Supreme Command of the Army (Oberkommando des Heeres), during the period of general euphoria that followed the quick victory over France. Initiated in the summer of 1940, these plans received their final form at the end of that year. The campaign against the Soviet Union was codenamed after the medieval German Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa, who led the Third Crusade in the twelfth century but drowned in a river on his way to the Holy Land. The attack on the Soviet Union was to proceed...

  9. Chapter 4 Byelorussian “State-Building”: Political Collaboration in Byelorussia
    (pp. 129-190)

    When the Germans arrived in Byelorussia in 1941, they found the potential for collaboration. The Stalinist politics of forceful collectivization and repression only increased this potential. At the same time, the readiness to collaborate with the invaders was not something constant and, to a very large degree, it depended upon the fulfillment of expectations, which ranged from the dream of one’s own piece of land to the creation of some form of statehood or, as was the case of the Poles, even returning to the status quo that existed before 1939. As shown in the previous chapter, on the eve...

  10. Chapter 5 The Cross and the Hooked Cross: The Church’s Collaboration in Occupied Byelorussia
    (pp. 191-226)

    The Church in Byelorussia, primarily the Orthodox one, constituted a potential source for collaboration. This collaborative role was particularly pertinent given both the Polish and the Soviet religious policies during the interwar period. The Orthodox Church in the Polish part of Byelorussia had become the main object of the Polonization policies officially adopted by Warsaw in the 1920s and 1930s. As was mentioned in Chapter 2, the Polish State did not consider the Byelorussians to be a distinct nation, but rather a kind of “lost Polish tribe” that must be restored to the bosom of the Polish nation. It is...

  11. Chapter 6 Ideological Collaboration in Byelorussia: The “Legal” Press as a Propagandist Tool of the Nazis’ “New Europe”
    (pp. 227-252)

    When Nazi Germany started the war against the Soviet Union, it already had a very powerful propaganda machine, created by Josef Goebbels, that applied the newest achievements of technological progress.¹ Upon arriving in the Soviet territories, the Germans understood fairly quickly that the stick alone would not suffice to rule the peoples there and that some explanatory work would also be needed. As time passed, propaganda became one of the most important elements of occupation policies. The occupation authorities also soon came to the conclusion that their aimes would be best achieved if the propaganda were carried out in the...

  12. Chapter 7 Collaboration in the Politics of Repression
    (pp. 253-324)

    This chapter deals mainly with the repressive politics of the Nazi regime in Byelorussia and the role that the local collaborationist bodies played in it. Since Byelorussian Jewry was the main target of such politics, a substantial part of this chapter will focus on the genocide of the Jewish people. Other categories of people were also defined by the Nazis as “undesirables”: Soviet soldiers straggling through the countryside, communists, Roma andOrtsfremde(“strangers”). In this context it is impossible not to mention other phenomena, such as the “anti-partisan warfare” and the atrocities committed in its course, which became one of...

  13. Chapter 8 Military-Police Collaboration in Byelorussia
    (pp. 325-390)

    For quite a long time military collaboration on the part of various Soviet nationalities during World War II was perceived by many historians as the only form of collaboration worth studying in depth. However, as the cold war threatened to turn into a “hot” one, especially during the 1950s and 1960s, the interest in this topic ceased to be a purely academic one; instead, it now pertained to the political sphere. It was almost axiomatically accepted that Hitler’s failure in the war against the Soviet Union was due to his inability to attract and make proper use of the large...

  14. Summary
    (pp. 391-404)

    Collaboration in Byelorussia, as well as in other German-occupied Soviet territories, was hardly a marginal phenomenon. The local self-administration apparatus together with the local auxiliary police—the two most noticeable forms of collaboration and the most important ones for the implementation of occupation policies—encompassed several thousands of people, while the ruralSchutzmannschafteninthe GK Weißruthenienalone included nearly 7,000 people. Local collaboration in Byelorussia was therefore an important element in the Nazi occupation policy of the country.

    The occupation authorities did not have a set program regarding Byelorussian collaboration; their approach to the matter varied in accordance with...

  15. Appendix: SS and Military Ranks
    (pp. 405-406)
  16. Glossary
    (pp. 407-410)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 411-422)
  18. Index of Places
    (pp. 423-428)
  19. Index of Persons
    (pp. 429-434)