The Twelfth (previously Second) Battalion
This bloodthirsty group was responsible for the largest number of murders of Jews, far more than any of its counterparts. It started as a company of the First Battalion and then split to become a separate unit named the Second Battalion later renumbered the Twelfth. Its commander was the infamous Lithuanian major Antanas Impulevicius who was originally deputy commander of the First Battalion and became infamous as a vicious sadist and the executor of the bloody orders issued jointly by the Provisional Government and SS. He remained commander of the unit until it disbanded shortly before the Red army reoccupied Lithuania.
At the peak of its activities the battalion had a complement of more than 1,000 men, 80 of who were officers. Impulevicius was born in 1907 and served in the staff headquarters of the Lithuanian army during the Smetona regime, reaching the rank of major. As soon as it had been formed, the battalion began its murderous killing spree against the Jews of Kaunas, carrying out mass murders at the Fourth, Seventh and Ninth Forts.
After approximately three months, during which it murdered thousands of Jews and gained experience in conducting organized acts of genocide, the battalion was transferred to Minsk in Belarus. Its mission there was to conduct ‘secret operations’ beginning October 6, 1941. By this time the battalion comprised 487 men, including 23 officers. On October 4, before they left Lithuania, Impulevicius issued a directive to his men, which read as follows:
“Soldiers, I address you, as former partisans. On the instructions of our great leader Adolf Hitler, you will participate in the final solution and the liquidation of the Jewish Bolsheviks. On October 6, you will be stationed in the region of Minsk-Borisov-Slutzk where you will represent the people of Lithuania.”
The first mission of the battalion was the murder of the Jews of Minsk who had been arrested and imprisoned in the city ghetto. The work was carried out with extreme cruelty and within a number of days, 11,000 Jews had been murdered. The battalion did not waste time and once its work in Minsk was complete, several companies moved on to other towns and cities in Belarus (although the battalion headquarters remained in Minsk).
On October 8, they murdered the Jews of the town of Doker (Pukhovitz District); on October 10-11 they murdered around 1,300 Jews in the town of Smilvitz. They then moved on to murder almost 1,000 Jews in Keidanova on October 21 and moved on from there to the ghetto at Slutzk, where on October 28-29, they murdered around 5,000 Jews. They then moved on to the town of Nasviz where over the following two days, they murdered around 1,500 local Jews. On November 10, they murdered nearly 8,000 Jews at the Borisov Ghetto (in the Minsk region) and then went on to murder a further 3,000 Jews at the Kletzk Ghetto and 1,000 Jews from the town of Berezin (both in the Minsk region).
In addition to murdering Jews, the battalion also killed more than 2,000 communists, prisoners of war and partisans, hanging scores of them. According to documents introduced at war crimes trials held at the end of the war, during the five weeks from October 6 through November 15, 1941, the battalion murdered 34,401 men, women and children. These murders were carried out with such extreme cruelty that even local German officers were nauseated by them and objected to the battalion’s presence, complaining profusely to their superiors. The German commissar wrote a strongly worded letter to the German high command describing the barbaric behavior of the battalion during the murder of Slutzk Jews and concluded his letter with a request, “in future, I beg you, keep this battalion away from me.”
Despite these protests, the work of the Lithuanian battalions, particularly the Twelfth Battalion, was a source of great satisfaction to senior officials in Berlin, especially Himmler and Heydrich who ordered that the battalions be expanded and integrated into the framework of SS and German security units. Having already achieved notoriety in Germany for its “efficiency” the Twelfth Battalion was cited for its work and transferred from the local command of Captain Lecthaler to the direct command of General Engel, head of the German security service in Lithuania.
The battalion spent more than a year outside Lithuania, leaving a trail of devastation throughout the cities of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Eventually, it was stationed permanently at Minsk where the Germans continued to bring thousands of Jews from countries across Europe to be killed. This was a task for the “experienced” executioners of the Twelfth Battalion who went about their task with a gruesome efficiency, murdering everyone down to the last man. Most of the officers and soldiers of the battalion never stood trial for their horrendous crimes. Some were killed in clashes with Soviet partisans and others were tried in Soviet Lithuania. The rest fled with retreating German forces and made their way to countries in the West after the war. Among them was the arch murderer Impulevicius. He eventually settled in the United States and despite attempts by the Soviet Union to extradite him, he lived undisturbed in comfort for many years until his death of old age.
SECRET COPY/ T The Commissioner General for White Ruthenia Dept Gauleiter/Ka Minsk, 1 November 1941 Personal To t h e Reich Commissioner for the Eastern Territories Gauleiter Hinrich LOHSE Riga Enclosed I submit a report of the Commissioner for t h e terri- tory of Sluzk, party member Carl, with the request not to let this matter rest. Herewith I propose to prosecute the guilty officers commencing with the battalion commander of the security police to t h e last lieutenant. For about the last three weeks, I have discussed the Sluzk ac- tion against the Jews with t h e responsible SS-Brigadier General and Brigadier-General of the Protection Police, Zenner, Member of t h e Reichstag, and I have pointed out t h a t the tradesmen should be spared by all means and t h a t the commissioner responsi- ble for the territory should be contacted prior to the action. Above all, any act lowering the prestige of the German Reich and its organizations in the eyes of the White Ruthenian population should be avoided.
The police battalion No 11 from Kauen has as a unit, directly subordinate to the armed forces, taken independent action with- out informing me, the SS-Brigadier-General or any other office of the Commissariat General, thereby impairing most seriously the prestige of the German nation. I request to have the commis- sioner of the territory Carl and all his officials and collaborators from Riga questioned under oath and to record the hearing. Then, in order to set an example, I request to grant my motion to prosecute the entire staff of officers of the police battalion 11. I a m submitting this report in duplicate so that one copy may be forwarded to the Reich Minister. Peace and order cannot be maintained in White Ruthenia with methods of that sort. To bury seriously wounded people alive who worked their way out of their graves again, is such a base and filthy act that this incident assuch should be reported to the Fuehrer and Reich Marshal. The civil administration of White Ruthenia makes very strenuous ef- forts to win the population over to Germany in accordance with the instructions of the Fuehrer. These efforts cannot be brought in harmony with the methods described herein. The Commissioner General for White Ruthenia signed: KUBE
Riga 11 November 1941 Original with two enclosures to the Reich minister for the Occu- pied Eastern Territories Berlin with the request for consideration. I t is deemed necessary that higher authority take immediate steps. By order of The Reich Commissioner for the Eastern Territories signed : WICHMANN
The Commissioner of the Territory of Sluzk Sluzk, 30 October 1941 SECRET To the Commissioner General Minsk Subject: Action against Jews Referring to the report made by phone on 27 October 1941 I now beg to inform you in writing of the following: On 27 October in the morning a t about 8 o'klock a first lieu- tenant of the police battalion No 11 from Kauen (Lithuania) ap- peared and introduced himself as the adjutant of the battalion commander of the security police. The first lieutenant explained that the police battalion had received the assignment to effect the liquidation of all Jews here in the town of Sluzk, within two days. The battalion commander with his battalion in strength of four companies, two of which were made up of Lithuanian partisans, was on the march here and the action would have to begin instantly. I replied to the first lieutenant that I had to discuss the action in any case first with the commander. About half a n hour later the police battalion arrived in Sluzk. Im- mediately after the arrival the conference with the battalion com-mander took place according to my request. I first explained to the commander that it would not very well be possible to efTect the action without previous preparation, because everybody had been sent to work and that i t would lead to terrible confusion. At least i t would have been his duty to inform me a day ahead of time. Then I requested him to postpone the action one clay. However, he rejected this with the remark that he had to carry out this action everywhere and in all towns and that only two days were allotted for Sluzk. Within these two days, ,the town of Sluzk had to be cleared of Jews by all means. I immediately protested violently against it, pointing out that a liquidation of Jews must n o t b e allowed to take place in an arbitrary manner. I explained that a large part of the Jews still living in the towns were tradesmen and families of tradesmen respectively. But these Jewish tradesmen were not simply expendable because they were indispensable for maintaining the economic life. Fur- thermore, I pointed out that White Ruthenian tradesm,an are so to say non-existent, that therefore all vital plants had to be shut down all a t once, if all Jews would be liquidated. At the end of our conference, I mentioned that all tradesmen and specialists, inasmuch as they were indispensable, had papers of identification and that these should not be pulled out of the factories. Fur- thermore, i t was agreed that all Jews still living in the town should first be brought into the ghetto in order to segregate them, especially with regard to the families of tradesmen which I did not want to have liquidated either. Two of my officials should be assigned to segregate them. The commander did not in any way contradict my idea and I had therefore the firm belief that t'ne action would be carried out accordingly. However, a few hours after the beginning of the action the greatest difficulties already developed. I noticed that the commander had not a t all abided by our agreement. All Jews without exception weye taken out of the factories and shops and deported in spite of our agree- ment. It is true that part of the Jews was moved by way of the ghetto where many of them were processed and still segregated by me, but a large part was loaded directly on trucks and liqui- dated without further delay outside of the town. Shortly after noon complaints came already from all sides that the factories could not function any more because all Jewish tradesmen had been removed. As the commander had proceeded on his way to Baranowitschi I got in touch with the deputy commander, a captain, after searching a long time, and demanded to stop the actlon immediately because rny instructions had been disregardedand the damage done so f a r with respect to the economic life could not be repaired any more. The captain was greatly sur- prised a t my idea and stated that he had received orders from the commander to clear the whole town of Jews without excep- tion in the same manner as they had done in other towns. This mopping up had to be executed on political considerations and economic reasons had never played a role anywhere. However, due to my energetic intervention, he finally halted the action toward evening. For the rest, as regards the execution of the action, I must point out to my deepest regret that the latter bordered already on sadism. The town itself offered a picture of horror during the action. With indescribable brutality on the part of both the German police officers and particularly the Lithuanian partisans, the Jewish people, but also among them White Ruihenians, were taken out of their dwellings and herded together. Everywhere in the town shots were to be heard and in different streets the corpses of shot Jews accumulated. The White Ruthenians were in greatest distress to free themselves from the encirclement. Regardless of the fact that the Jewish people, among whom were also tradesmen, were mistreated in a terribly barbarous way in the face of the White Ruthenian people, the White Ruthenians themselves were also worked over with rubber clubs and rifle butts. There was no question of a n action against the Jews any more. I t rather looked like a revolution. I myself with all my officials have been in i t without interruption all day long in order to save what could yet be saved. In several instances I literally had to expel with drawn pistol the German police officials a s well as the Lithuanian partisans from the shops. My own police was employed for the same mission but had often to leave the streets on account of the wild shooting in order to avoid being shot themselves. The whole picture was generally more than ghastly. In the afternoon a great number of abandoned Panje carriages with horses were standing in the streets so t h a t I had to instruct the municipal administration to take care of the ve- hicles immediately. Afterwards it was ascertained that they were Jewish vehicles ordered by the armed forces to move am- munition. The drivers had simply been taken off the carriages and led away, and nobody had worried i11 the least about the ve- hicles. I was not present a t the shooting before the town. Therefore I cannot make a statement on its brutality. But i t should suffice, if I point out that persons shot have worked themselves out oftheir graves some time after they had been covered. Regarding the economic damage I want to state that the tannery has been affected worst of 'all. 26 experts worked there. Of them, fifteen of the best specialists alone have been shot. Four more jumped from the truck during the transport and escaped, while seven others were not apprehended after they fled. The plant barely continues to operate today. Five wheelwrights worked in the wheelwright shop. Four of them have been shot and the shop has to 'keep going now with one wheelwright. Additional trades- men such a s carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. are still missing. Up till now i t was impossible for me to obtain a n exact survey. I have mentioned already in the beginning, that the families of tradesmen should be spared too. But now i t seems that almost in all families some persons are missing. Reports come in from all over, making i t clear that in one family the tradesman himself, in another family the wife and in the next one again the children are missing. In that way, almost all families have been broken up. I t seems to be very doubtful whether under these circum- stances the remaining tradesmen will show any interest in their work and produce accordingly, particularly as even today they are running around with bloody and bruised faces due to the brutality. The White Ruthenian people who had full confidence in us, are dumbfounded. Though they are intimidated and don't dare to utter their free opinion, one has already heard that they take the viewpoint that this day does not add to the glory of Germany and t h a t i t will not be forgotten. I am of the opinion that much has been destroyed through this action which we have achieved during the last months and that i t will take a long time until we shall regain the confidence of the population which we have lost. I n conclusion I find myself obliged to point out that the police battalion has looted in a n unheard of manner during the action, and that not only in Jewish houses but just the same in those of the White Ruthenians. Anything of use such as boots, leather, cloth, gold and other valuables, has been taken away. On the basis of statements of members of the armed forces, watches were torn off the arms of Jews in public, on the street, and rings were pulled off the fingers in the most brutal manner. A major of the finance department reported that a Jewish girl was asked by the police to obtain immediately 5,000 rubles to have her father released. This girl is said to have actually gone everywhere in order to obtain the money. Also within the ghetto, the different barracks which had beennailed up by the civil administration and were furnished with Jewish furniture, have been broken open and robbed. Even from the barracks in which the unit was quartered, window frames and doors have been forcibly removed and used for campfires. Although I had a discussion with the adjutant of the commander on Tuesday morning concerning the looting and he promised in the course of the discussion that none of the policemen would enter the town any more; yet I was forced several hours later to arrest two fully armed Lithuanian partisans because they were apprehended looting. During the night from Tuesday to Wednes- day the battalion left the town in the direction of Baranowitschi. Evidently, the people were only too glad when this report circu- lated in the town. So far the report. I shall come to Minsk in the immediate future, in order to discuss the affair personally once again. At the present time, I am not in a position to continue with the action against the Jews. First, order has to be established again. I hope that I shall be able to restore order as soon as possible and also to revive the economic life despite the difficulties. Only, I beg you to grant me one request: "In the future, keep this police battalion away from me by all means." signed: CARL TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENT 1 107-PS