Early in the morning of July 13, 1942, police battalion 101 arrived in the small village of Jozefow in south-eastern Poland. The commander Major Wilhelm Trapp gathered his men around him and told, very badly affected, that the battalion had received a very unpleasant order which meant that the village’s Jews would be executed, women and children too. He told me that he did not like the order at all but that it still had to be executed. In order to legitimize the content of the order, he informed that German women and children die during allied airstrikes and that the village’s jews had dealings with partisans. He told them that the Jews would be picked up and gathered together and that young Jewish men would be deported to work. The others would be shot.

Then Trapp asked if there was anyone within the group who did not want to carry out the order and asked them to register. After a while, about ten men had signed up and given up their weapons. Stairs asked them to step aside and wait for new orders. When no more people signed up, Trapp then gathered together his company managers and handed out the orders. Some were given the task of establishing a ring around the village and making sure that no one smeared out. Anyone who tried to escape would be shot inexorably. The rest were tasked with picking up the Jews and bringing them to the village marketplace, the Jews who for one reason or another could not be brought to the marketplace would be shot on the spot. When this was done, the working Jews were taken away while the other Jews were ordered to get up on the trucks and transported to a forest area west of the village. There, the Jews were shot in pre-digged pits.

Those who committed the murders found it easier to kill those who looked weak and sick while they found it more difficult to shoot, for example, children. Some of the members solved this moral psychological dilemma by first shooting the child’s mother and then the child. This made it easier for them to shoot the baby if the mother was dead because a child would not be able to cope without their mother. Several officers motivated their men to continue, but those who were no longer able to cope with the task and asked to be redeemed were granted this.

Instead, they were given other duties such as guarding the Jews at the assembly point before they were brought to the execution site, other information could be to bring the Jews to the execution site where they were then handed over to the shooter. Those who no longer wanted to take part in the action were not penalised by their superiors. The massacre lasted all day and by the time it was completed, about 1,500 Jewish men, women and children had been murdered by what author Christopher Browning describes as ordinary men.

Current status: Monument (2013).

Location: 50° 28' 55.64" N 23° 02' 00.82" E

Get there: Car.

My comment:

Police battalion 101 consisted of men from Hamburg and its surroundings, before the war they worked as police officers, they were middle-aged men and thus a group that the Nazi propaganda did not target, they were considered unsuitable for military service, most had families, they were not dedicated Nazis although about 25 % of them were members of the nazi party. They were also not criminally burdened or had signs of suffering from any mental illness. In other words, there was nothing in these men that fit the nid picture of the bloodthirsty Nazi, rather they were just ordinary men like you and me.

The reason why they nevertheless participated both directly and indirectly in the killings was largely due to something as simple as group pressure. Several members felt that there was a group pressure and therefore participated. For many of them, it was an unpleasant feeling to possibly end up outside the group in a hostile country far from home. Browning’s investigation into police battalion 101 also shows that the threat of the death penalty for those who refused to commit murder is not true. The conclusion of Browning is that a person, regardless of origin, background and political beliefs, cannot know in advance how he will act in an extreme environment, the answer we only know when we are placed in such an environment and it is not at all certain that it will be as we wish.

Follow up in books: Browning, Christopher: Ordinary men (1992).