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Kaminski Brigade Hardcover – 1 Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing Ltd (US) (1 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764337653
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764337659
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.5 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,688,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By adrian_hayes@dell.com on 26 April 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this book is very pro national socialist and overlooks the murderous actions the kaminski took part in. many of the kaminski brigade's victims were unarmed civilians. i am interested in the holocaust and military history but this book just air brushes and gilds what were in reality a bunch of criminals let loose in eastern europe.
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Amazon.com: 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Robert A. Lynn - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover

Tens of thousands of Russians served in Heer and police volunteer battalions. Others joined locally-raised units that were separate from normal German command channels, and had a degree of political autonomy. The best known of these was the Lokot Republic, which was based around the private army of Bronislav Kaminski in the Bryansk region southwest of Moscow.

In January, 1942, the town of Lokot fell under the jurisdiction of the Second Panzer Army. It stood on the edge of the Bryanask Forest, about halfway between Orec and Kursk in central Russia. Red Army units had been driven from the area, but large numbers of them lurked in the nearby forests, from where they carried out partisan attacks on German supply lines. The town's mayor sought, and was granted, permission from the Germans to raise a self-defense force of around 500 men to defend the area against these attacks. The unit was a great success and partisan activity in the area decreased dramatically. The volunteers were fervent anti-communists and pursued their enemy with great vigor. The mayor was eventually killed during combat with the partisans and so a replacement had to be sought. One candidate for the post was considered particularly suitable by the Germans: Bronislav Kaminski, a Red Army veteran of the Russian Civil War and educated man with a career in chemical engineering who spoke fluent German and had spent a period of imprisonment in a Soviet labor camp, which had engendered in him a fanatical hatred for all communists. He was given command of the self-defense force and proved himself a skilled organizer and administrator, if over ambitious and arrogant.

The town of Lokot became a model of self-sufficiency under his guidance, having its own newspapers, hospitals, banks, and even its own tax system devised by Kaminiski. The stipulated food supplies never failed to be delivered to the Wehrmacht on time, and the Germans found it necessary to maintain only a minimum liaison staff. The original defense force of 500 men was expanded into a small private army, which by September, 1943, had grown into a brigade of some 10,000 men in 14 rifle battalions, an anti-aircraft battery, and support companies. Each battalion consisted of four rifle companies, plus mortar and artillery platoons. It also had an armored element which had eight tanks (a KV-1, two T-34s, three BT-7s, twoT-5s), three armored troop carriers (a BA-10, two BA-20s), two tankettes and cars and motorcycles. Kaminski called himself the "Warlord of the Bryansk Forest" and was given a free hand to clear partisans from the area. He called his force the Russkaya Ovsoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armija (RONA-Russian Army of National Liberation). The RONA enforced security during harvesting, escorted special food trains, guarded railways and mounted "punitive" operations in partisan zones.

By the end of August, 1943, the situation in the Lokot district was deteriorating so Kaminski evacuated the RONA and its civilians to the town of Lepel in the Vitebsk region. The mission of the brigade in Belorussia was to guard the rear of the Third Panzer Army. In addition, because of high partisan activity at the start of 1944, the RONA was moved to the town of Djatlovo in western Belorussia.

In the spring, 1944, the Germans conducted some anti-partisan operations in the region between Minsk and Lepel. The RONA took part in these operations as part of a group headed by SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Gottberg, and had the status of assault brigade. By this time, it had been officially accepted into the Waffen-SS as SS-Sturmbrigade RONA, and Kaminski was commissioned a Waffen-Brigadefuhrer. The brigade acted with great ruthlessness, and Kaminski was awarded both the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd Class, for his efforts. In July, 1944, the brigade became the 29th SS Waffen Grenadier Division (Russische Nr 1), though it never actually reached divisional strength.

In August, 1944, two battalions of RONA volunteers, headed by SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Fromov, were dispatched to Warsaw to help crush the Polish uprising. They were sent to the district of Wola and committed so many atrocities, including the rape of German girls, that there were widespread demands (even from some SS commanders) for their withdrawal. This was done by order of SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski.

To be fair, the Kaminski Brigade was a relatively cohesive unit on its home soil, but once it was forced to evacuate westwards as a result of Operation BAGRATION, its morale quickly plummeted. Furthermore, the unit had received only rudimentary training and lacked sufficient junior leaders who could keep the men in hand. In Warsaw, the troops regarded themselves as unleashed to pillage and rape, rather than to conduct intensive house-to-house fighting and even Bach-Zelewski quickly recognized that this unit was more of a liability than an asset.

Kaminski was arrested and brought to trial. He was charged, not with the rapes committed by his troops, but with looting. Found guilty after a brief trial, he was quickly executed. In order to avoid a mutiny by the unit, a fake partisan ambush was staged in which Kaminski was reported to have been killed. The RONA then deteriorated into a lawless rabble, its morale destroyed by the loss of its chrismatic leader. The division was then disbanded, with personnel being sent to Vlassov's Army and others to the 30th SS Division. The less desirable elements of the division were either sent to concentration camps or shot. The 29th SS-Waffen Grenadier Division was dropped from the rolls of the Waffen-SS, and the title given to the new Italian division that was being formed.

THE KAMINSKI BRIGADE is both a well-researched and well-written account of this infamous unit. Fully illustrated with photographs, maps, and statistical data, author Rolf Michaelis' authoritative study makes this an indispensable source of reference to all with an interest in the different ethnic units utilized by the Germans during World War II.

Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard
Orlando, Florida
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