Original Russian-Language Author – Lina Zernova (Лина Зернова)
(Research & Translation Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)
Translator’s Note: Around 300,000 Polish died as a result of the 1944 ‘Warsaw Uprising’ and Nazi German terror-tactics. This followed Hitler’s order to totally destroy the city. Atrocity after atrocity was carried-out on the Poles – many of them perpetuated by the ill-disciplined Kaminski (Russian) Brigade – referred to by Alexander Werth as nothing more than an armed ‘gang’! The following short paragraphs included in this ‘Note’ are extracts from history books written about the Soviet-German War (1941-1945) covering the antics of the supposed Soviet traitor ‘Bronislav Kaminski’:
‘One example, perhaps from many, of the mixed loyalties of the Soviet population that did not escape the attention of Soviet authorities occurred in the Lokot rayon, south of Bryansk. There, in the heart of partisan territory, an anti-Soviet Russian engineer of Polish extraction, Bronislav Kaminiski, had organised a force of nearly fifteen-hundred volunteers who had fought the Soviet partisans throughout the winter under the tsarist emblem, the tsarist emblem, the St. George’s Cross. The Kaminiski organisation also grew and reached a strength of 9,000 by late-spring. In the early Summer, the Germans, who themselves who themselves were able to do little against the partisan in this area, turned the entire rayon over to Kaminiski as the Selbstuerwaltungsbezirk (‘autonomous district’) Lokot. The History of the Second World War lists the task of convincing the people to boycott such autonomous areas as being among the priority missions of the party underground.’
EF Ziemke: Moscow to Stalingrad – Decision in the West, Military Heritage, (1988), Page 216
Another history book covering the same subject describes the activities of Bronislav Kaminiski as:
‘It is said that Hitler refused to entrust to the German Army the quelling of the uprising, but gave the task to Himmler who delegated it to Von dem Bach-Zelewski. Twelve SS police companies. Dirlewanger’s regiment of convicted German criminals, and Kaminski’s White Russian brigade formed for the most part of Red Army prisoners of war, who committed under their German master’s indescribable atrocities on the Polish population. German troops sheltered behind crowds of women and children who were herded towards the Polish lines. Polish sick and wounded, irrespective of sex, were taken out of hospitals and hot in masses. Rape and the cutting of throats were common-place. Guderian, according to what he himself said, protested to Hitler that the units should be withdrawn, and in his subsequent account he attempted to deny the responsibility of both the Army and Armed SS. Meanwhile the patriot Home Army continued to fight on in the cellars and sewers through the whole of August and September, the remnants not surrounding until 1st October.’
Albert Seaton: The Russo-German War 1941-45, Arthur Baker, 1971), Page 456
The translated text below – is a conversation with the grandson (Alexander Kaminski) of Bronislav Kaminski. This man has an odd history. The histories above contradict (to a certain extent) the version of events given by Alexander Kaminski – but this should not be used to devalue what is to follow. On the contrary, Alexander Kaminski – provides highly valuable and important data on this subject that definitely requires a bigger audience. I do not agree with all his views on the subject, purpose or history of the USSR, but I do respect his knowledge and welcome his input. We must not forget that Joseph Stalin was a great leader who defeated world fascism, and loyally represented the needs of the working-class until his death in 1953. Alexander Kaminski is alive today because Stalin won the war and that the Soviet government looked after his family. As there is no reliable evidence that the Soviet regime (or the ‘Red Army’) committed any atrocities – I thoroughly ‘reject’ the allegation. The USSR, on the contrary, enriched the history of the world. There is definitely something ‘strange’ about the life of ‘Bronislav Kaminski. The Western historian above make no mention about him being a NKVD Agent. Alexander Kaminski seems to attempt to turn his grandfather’s armed ‘gang’ of cut-throats into a freedom fighting organisation – but the objective evidence does not support this view. I do accept that the Lokot area could well have been the centre of a Trotskyite insurgency within the USSR. Alexander Kaminski explains that his grandfather led a re-establishment of capitalism in the USSR – but the documents he cites are ‘Socialist’ in origin, as are the regulations through which the Lokot district was administered. They supposedly instigated ‘private property’ – but then declared all land to still be held in collective ownership by the ‘State’. The administrative official language of Lokot is also ‘Socialist’ – and all in all – none of this evidence, (although interesting), is not compelling or convincing. It is as if Kaminiski did not ‘understand’ what exactly ‘capitalism’ it! Still, this is a fascinating document that can assist in building a broader picture about the extraordinary life of Bronislav Kaminski. ACW (7.11.2020)
From August 1st – October 2nd, 1944, Hitler’s fanatical military formations (led by SS Obergruppenfuehrer Erich von dem Bach), drowned the city in the blood of the rebels. During interrogation (at the Nuremberg Trials), Erich von dem Bach placed all the blame for this cruelty shown to the rebels – on the Combined Regiment of the Russian People’s Liberation Army (RONA) – which was headed by the Soviet traitor ‘Bronislav Kaminski’.
The story of Bronislav Kaminsky is a little-known page of the Second World War. One of the founders of the Independent Russian Republic on the territory occupied by the Germans – Lokotsky District self-government – he was the creator and leader of RONA from August 1st, 1944 – holding the Nazi German rank of Waffen Brigadeführer – he was awarded the Iron Cross – First Class personally by Heinrich Himmler – who was finally exposed as being a NKVD double-agent code-named ‘Ultramarine’ – tasked with infiltrating the Nazi German military establishment. Although many historians repeat the information of him being an anti-Soviet (Russian) Partisan leader – most choose to ‘ignore’ the part about him possibly being a very clever Soviet double-agent!
Who is he really? A ‘Secret Agent’ of two intelligence services – or a devious traitor to the Motherland? Bloody killer or victim of historical circumstances? What follows is a conversation with the grandson of Bronislav Kaminski – Alexander Kaminski – who is the owner of a unique family archive based in St Peterburg (or ‘Leningrad’). The invaluable historical information contained within this archive is used as the basis for this investigation.
– August-September 1944 is a tragic date in the history of Poland.
According to averaged data, about ten thousand insurgents and up to two-hundred thousand civilians were killed during sixty-three days of the Uprising. The main ‘suppressor’ of the Warsaw Uprising, was the Wehrmacht appointed Erich von dem Bach, who had already gained a wealth of experience in the mass executions of Jews in the territory of Belarus. The grouping of forces under his command in Warsaw numbered sixteen thousand fighters. It also included the ruthless (Catholic) Ukrainians, Belarusian and certain Islamic Formations – says Alexander Kaminsky. – The consolidated Regiment of Kaminski contained just one thousand seven-hundred fighters. The balance of power is obvious. It is possible to compare the RONA fighters, for example, with criminals (they were recruited from prisons) of the Dirlewanger SS brigade, which stained itself with extreme harshness in the suppression of the Soviet Partisan movement in Russia, Poland, Belarus …
-In addition, the combined RONA regiment was in Warsaw for only 10 days – from 9th to 19th August 1944.
During the fighting, signals began to come from frontline Nazi German soldiers that in appeared that certain members of the RONA Regiment were shooting their Nazi German allies in the back (and openly assisting the Polish Rebels). This was confirmed during the interrogation by the Commander of the RONA Consolidated Regiment, Ivan Denisovich Frolov (hereinafter, V.S. Khristoforov – data is quoted from ‘The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 in documents from the archives of the special services.’ – SR)
On August 19th, the German Commission arrived in the area and ordered the withdrew the Russian Regiment from Warsaw – after which it was sent to suppress the Polish Partisans in the Kampinos Forest (ibid., P. 136). But even here, the Combined Russian Regiment refused to fight, citing fatigue and malfunctioning weapons. The arriving German Commission was satisfied with the explanations, and the Regiment was sent to the city of Ratibor, where the main units of the RONA were located. The Nazi Germans pursued a policy of attempting to blame the USSR for all its atrocities and crimes (including ‘Katyn’) – and Erich von dem Bach did exactly as he was briefed to do so by the Nazi German High Command. Everything was the fault of the USSR. It is obvious that even today – many Western historians would prefer that this lie was the truth.
-But many studies also speak of your grandfather as one of the main executioners of the Warsaw Uprising …
– I’ll clarify right away: in my investigation I rely only on documents and facts, most of which are in the public domain.
In addition, I use documents published in the books of historians, who certainly cannot be suspected of sympathizing with the VOC. For example, such as writers-historians and simultaneously employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation Ivan Kovtun and Dmitry Zhukov.
And now I will quote an excerpt from the book of memoirs by
Vladimir Samarin – a Russian journalist, writer, public figure, and teacher at Yale University, who worked for the collaborationist newspaper Rech during the war; “Firstly, I am a Pole by birth, and secondly, I am a Russian patriot. I and my soldiers are fighting only against Bolshevism, for the freedom of Russia. Polish rebels are fighting for the freedom of their homeland. I cannot participate in the fight against them.”
I will say more, studying the documents, I came to the conclusion that the Kaminski Regiment was able to withdraw about one-hundred thousand Warsaw residents from Warsaw. Some historians call the figure one-hundred and fifty thousand. Perhaps, for von dem Bach, it was precisely this circumstance that was the evidence of Kaminski’s crimes? In a book about the Warsaw Uprising, the head of the registration and archival funds of the FSB of Russia, Lieutenant General Vasily Khristoforov, published an interrogation of the Commander of the Consolidated Regiment Ivan Frolov, who spoke about tens of thousands of residents being withdrawn. On August 28th, 1944, Kaminski’s car was returning from the Headquarters of the German troops when it was attacked. On this day, a shot-up, blood-soaked car was found. The bodies of the dead – and three more people were traveling with Kaminski – were not in it. The order for the execution of Kaminski ‘for the cruelty shown during the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising’ was personally given by Erich von dem Bach. By the way, Kaminski and von dem Bach were irreconcilable enemies.
– But at the same time, there is a version that the Nazi Germans themselves executed Kaminski for his ‘special cruelty’ and ‘for atrocities against the civilian population during the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising.’
This is the ‘reason’ for the execution of Kaminski – as given in evidence at the Nuremberg Trial by Erich von dem Bach.
-But why then, was everyone who Kaminski was ‘shot’, when returning from the German Headquarters in Litzmanstadt (Lodz)? The chief of staff – Ilya Shavykin – the Chief Physician – Philip Zabora – the translator German Sadovsky, and the driver were all shot. And they were shot after Hitler’s order not to spare the civilian population, to wipe Warsaw off the face of the earth.
And this is his general for carrying out the order?
Where is the verdict of the Court? He is now gone. In fact, the reason for the execution was different: for refusing to carry out the order of the German Command. This is clearly recorded during the interrogations of both German Generals and members of the RONA Consolidated Regiment who took part in the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising. The documents were published in a separate publication edited by the Head of the Registration and Archival Funds Directorate of the FSB of Russia – Lieutenant General, V.S. Khristoforova – in his book ‘The Warsaw Uprising of 1944 Documents from the Archives of the Secret Services’.
– How did your grandfather, a Pole by birth, end up in Russia?
– The Kaminskys are a family of hereditary Polish nobles who moved to St. Petersburg at the end of the 19th century.
We lived in the city centre on Telezhnaya Street. Bronislav’s mother – Evva-Yadviga – was proud until the end of her life she claimed that ‘she did not work for this government for a single day.’ When he fought for the Red Army during the Russian Civil War (1918-1922), Bronislav considered himself Russian, and believed in the (Communist) future of Russia. After demobilization, he returned home, married Voitovich Anna Bronislavovna, who gave birth to three daughters and a son.
From a letter from Anna Kaminskaya to the Prosecutor’s Office, written after her husband’s arrest (January 1939) we read: ‘Coming from the front, I entered the technical school, from there I was sent to practice at the Respublika plant. I worked for the plant for six years; At the plant, it is still being fired by the method (we are talking about blue – a means for bluing linen – SR) … For good performance in work, he was sent to study at the Leningrad Chemical-Technological Institute as a ‘set of industrialization’.
– That is, he received a higher education due to his efforts?
– It allowed him to work as a Chief Engineer at different enterprises. But on August 11th, 1937, all NKVD Departments of the USSR received a closed letter (No. 59098) signed by the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs Yezhov, in which the entire Polish population of the USSR was declared (fascist) ‘foreign spies’ that had penetrated the NKVD control bodies (as allies of Nazi Germany), as well as the Intelligence Department of the Red Army with the aim of overthrowing the Soviet State. After the assassination of Sergei Kirov on December 1st, 1934, the Great Terror was declared in the country. Together with the Closed Letter, the NKVD sent out specific orders to the local bodies of the NKVD to neutralize the ‘harmful elements.’
The letter also included the name of Philip Medved, Head of the NKVD Department of the USSR in the Leningrad region, Kirov’s closest friend.
In December 1934, in his office on Uritsky Square (Palace Square), the husband of Anna Kaminskaya’s sister, was shot dead.
On all counts, Bronislav Kaminski fell under the ‘Polish Case’: both a Pole (a country that was ‘fascist’ between 1930-1939), as well as being from a Polish ‘noble’ family with links to reactionary movements. Collectively, all these problems pointed toward the possibility of‘shooting’…
-A loyal participant of the Civil War, an intelligent engineer (a specialist in higher education in the USSR in the late 1930s who was appreciated), a patriot – and marked for execution?
For the Stalin era, this was the norm. My aunt (as we called her) Antonina, Bronislava’s sister, said: ‘During one of the August days of 1937, the family was going to have dinner. Suddenly, a motor car arrived and NKVD Officers and Troops deployed around the area and roughed-up a number of our family as well as other locals.’ If you were marked as an enemy of the Soviet State – this type of treatment was to be expected. Various members of my family were subjected to arrest and rough treatment – including beatings and losing consciousness through the abuse.
Bronislav Kaminiski – my grandfather – was arrested and beaten at least three times (at least that is what we were led to believe). However, on August 27th, 1937, after the third arrest, he never returned home – he was instead sent into exile in Shadrinsk, without the right to settle in large cities. There, on the eve of the war, he was recruited. ‘… 28.03.40 by the Shadrinsky NKVD Kaminski was recruited as a NKVD Intelligence Officer working under the code-name Ultramarine …’
-Ultramarine – a colouring pigment used to dye linen. Probably, Bronislav’s nostalgia for his scientific activity affected the choice of this code-name?
‘I don’t know if it’s scientific.’
This all sounds like a complex mix of contradictions. A Soviet Patriot suspected of counter-Revolutionary activity, followed by harassment and arrests justified on the grounds of his nationality – who then joins the NKVD – a police force tasked with defending the Revolution! He then betrays the USSR (proving the suspicions against him to be ‘true’), establishes an ‘Independent’ Republic in the USSR, and then founds a cut-throat group of Russian discontents who fought on the side of the Nazi Germany during WWII!
– The village of Lokot, and the entire Brasov region, was historically the estate of the brother of the Emperor of the Russian Empire – Mikhail Alexandrovich Romanov. It is located in Central Russia, not far from the cities of Bryansk, Orel and Kursk. Historically, industry, agriculture, and public education were developed here. The local peasant differed from the typical Russian “draft serf”, more like a rural bourgeois. There is rumours that this population had a ‘hidden’ resistance to the Soviet regime, and my grandfather simply co-opted, focused and strengthened this movement.
Before the war and in the first months after it began, a large number of former exiles and kulaks, (the intelligentsia repressed in the thirties), began to gather in Lokot and the surrounding area. This, in particular, is evidenced by the memorandum of the First Secretary of the Oryol Regional Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, Major of State Security Matveyev, to the Chief of the Central Staff of the Partisan Movement (TsSHPD) – To Lieutenant General Ponomarenko: ‘In the very first months of the Patriotic War, several dozen dispossessed and exiled returned to Komarichny, and especially to Brasovsky districts. the occupied areas of the Oryol, and in the recent past the Kursk regions, was from the very first days of the occupation the village of Lokot, Brasovsky district, Oryol region.’
– How did your grandfather end up here?
– Agent Ultramarine arrived at the settlement in Lokot in the early summer of 1940 with an assignment from the NKVD to reveal the hidden Trotskyists. He got a job as a Chief Technologist at a local distillery. Soon he met Konstantin Voskoboinik, a teacher at the local wood-chemical technical school and, as it later turned out, the Head of an Anti-Soviet underground organization.
Between them, two political prisoners beaten by life, taught not to trust anyone or anything, friendly relations were immediately established. I do not believe in instant friendship, especially people with such a life baggage. The events in Lokte suggest that Voskoboinik and Bronislav were recommended to one another. But whom remains a question. By the way, both Voskoboinik and the German Command knew that Kaminski was an Agent of the NKVD.
– So, by chance, an ‘Anti-Soviet element’ was gathering in Lokt.
– And here you still need to figure out whether it was all by chance. The concentrated accumulation of Anti-Soviet forces at one time, in one place, and just before the war, suggests the intentional creation of a potential for resistance to Soviet power in this territory. Moreover, the very formation of the Russian enclave went like clockwork. And there were, according to some estimates, one and a half million of those who did not accept the advice that became the basis for collaborationist formations on the territory of the USSR. It is reasonable to believe that this may well have been the ‘key’ Trotskyite staging-point for his intended campaign to overthrow the Soviet government announced in 1938. In other words, it was all planned down to the smallest detail.
On the 20th of September 1941, the elected village elders and Deputies of the Brasovsky district gathered in Lokta for the Veche gathering. It was attended by representatives of all settlements and several villages of adjacent areas of the Oryol region. Of the six applicants, Konstantin Voskoboynik was elected head of local government, and Bronislav Kaminsky was his Deputy. I will clarify: it is impossible to hold the Veche gathering on an area of 10 thousand square kilometre’s with a population of almost half a million without preliminary preparation. The event was being prepared.
The power elected at the meeting formed a people’s militia (according to various sources, numbering from 200 to 500 people). Self-protection units were formed in each village. Armament and ammunition were collected from the battle sites. At the same time, it was announced that Communist ideology and propaganda were banned in the Lokotsky District Self-Government (LOS). Subsequently, a government was elected, consisting of 19 district departments serving as ministries. There were no Germans or emigrants in the government. The posts were held by Russians, Ukrainians, Belarusians – former citizens of the USSR.
The elected authorities revived (the capitalist) practices of private property and entrepreneurship (a transition also association with Trotsky’s plan for returning the USSR to the capitalist system – and what Gorbachev actually achieved in 1991). The collective farms were dissolved, dividing the land into sections of privately owned property between the peasants. Each peasant was allocated 10 hectares of land. Each inhabitant of the Russian self-government was endowed with an estate plot of 1 hectare. The land remained in State ownership, but was transferred for eternal and hereditary use with the right of exchange. Sale of land was prohibited.
Lokt had its own State Bank and the unit of account was the Soviet rouble, not the German occupation mark.
Labour legislation was strictly observed, the supervision of which was entrusted to the workers Exchange, hiring and firing workers and labour disputes were resolved only by agreement with the inspectors of the Labour Exchange. School education was not interrupted for a single day.
– Was there a pre-developed program of action?
– It was set forth in the Manifesto of the People’s Socialist Party of Russia (NSPR) “Viking” (“Vityaz”) , established in the Lokot Republic on January 7, 1942. I will cite a small excerpt from this document: ‘The People’s Socialist Party was created underground in Siberian Concentration Camps … It takes responsibility for the fate of Russia. … undertakes to create a government that will provide peace, order and all the conditions necessary for the prosperity of peaceful labour in Russia, to maintain her honour and dignity.’
Apparently, the concept of Russian self-government was fostered by the exiled intelligentsia, among which there were many political figures, leaders who were rooting for the fate of their fatherland. So, the Lokot Republic is a kind of fact of succession by the descendants of pre-Revolutionary political thought.
– How viable was it?
– According to the data published in the newspaper ‘Voice of the People’, in November 1942, 249 mills were restored and operated in the district, including 32 steam mills. The dam, the railway, the pumping station, the bathhouse were repaired, the water supply was restored. In the city of Sevsk, for example, there was a creamery with a production capacity of 1500 tons of products per year. Two power plants and two mechanical workshops operated in Lokte. There were a blacksmith and foundry, a wheel, a sledge, a cooper’s workshops, a soap-making and brick factories. According to the ‘Dmitrievskaya Gazeta’ dated October 26, 1942, sidewalks were asphalted in the city. Workers and employees received wages and were provided with apartments. The VOC had its own taxation system and developed according to a two-year economic development plan that was not integrated into Germany’s four-year development plan. The budget consisted of taxes on the population of the district.
– And what salaries did they have?
– An experienced teacher received 500 roubles a month, as did the Commander of the RONA unit.
An ordinary soldier – 300 roubles. He was also entitled to free allowance and 400 grams of flour a day for each family member. The fighters were exempted from paying all taxes and duties. They were given the best plots of land free of charge. Heads of villages and villages received from 300 to 450 roubles a month, a village clerk – from 200 to 300 roubles. Employees with wages below 250 roubles were considered a low-paid category of the population and were exempt from paying taxes.
– And where were the Germans all this time?
– On October 4th, 1941, the 17th Panzer Division of the 2nd Panzer Army of Heinz Guderian entered Lokot . On the building of the former City Committee of the Party, the tricolour of the Russian Empire was developed with the image of St. George the Victorious sewn in the upper left corner of the flag. The German Command was surprised that the Russian National Authority was operating in the area. But on October 16th, the German occupation authorities officially approved the administration of the Lokot volost. It should be clarified that self-government was a typical form of interaction between the occupation forces and the local population. However, the occupied territories were not only tightly controlled by the German occupation authorities, but were also headed by representatives of the occupation administration. Everything was different in Lokot self-government.
I will quote an excerpt from Ivan Gribkov’s book ”
The Master of the Bryansk Forests: ‘At the end of December 1941, Guderian was replaced at his post by Colonel-General Rudolf Schmidt, who, on September 18th, 1941, wrote a memorandum ’The relative possibility of undermining the Bolshevik resistance from within’, the main idea of which was as follows: without the internal collapse of Bolshevism, that is, without the maximum support of anti-Communist forces on the ground, it will be difficult to achieve victory. After his inauguration, Schmidt actually gave the local government freedom of action. Thus, the local anti-Communist forces that formed these bodies, received full support from the German Command. On July 19th, 1942, the Commander of the 2nd Tank Army, Colonel-General Schmidt, issued an order securing the sovereign rights of Lokot self-government. German institutions were ordered to ‘limit their activities to help and advice.’
– And yet, many military historians consider RONA to be an army of traitors who swore allegiance to Hitler.
– Otherwise, it cannot be. The war divided everyone into friend and enemy. There was no one to delve into the details of why someone ended up on a different front line, what the goals they set. A huge country has risen to a mortal struggle against the aggressor. However, today, more than 70 years later, we must, sort things out. Here, it is important to take into account that neither the Commanders nor the RONA fighters swore allegiance to Hitler and Germany, which was mandatory in all collaborationist formations in all the occupied territories of the USSR. RONA was not integrated into the Wehrmacht, did not obey his orders, did not stand on his allowance.
RONA, numbering up to twenty thousand fighters, was recruited mainly from the local population. The combat strength of the units and the ranks of its servicemen corresponded to the ranks of the Workers ‘and Peasants’ of the Red Army. The creator of RONA, Bronislav Kaminsky, until August 1st, 1944, bore the rank of Brigade Commander. This title was awarded to him by Order 1023-42, that is, awarded by a German General. This rank was not in the Wehrmacht or in the Waffen SS. In addition, the Soviet government was vitally interested in creating the most sinister image of the Lokot Republic. For the USSR, an example of the successful development of, albeit a small, alternative State entity that renounced Communist ideology and revived private property, was mortally dangerous. Kaminski proved in practice that the Russian people are enterprising, initiative and capable of creation without being ‘guided and lead’. Industry was restored, the peasants produced goods in abundance. The Wehrmacht paid two million marks for the delivered products!
The fact that more than one and a half million Soviet citizens fought against the Stalinist regime with arms in hand was also perceived extremely painfully by the Soviet leadership. Thus, it was necessary to admit the fact of the existence of the national liberation movement on the territory of ‘Victorious Socialism.’ Therefore, the destruction of Russian self-government was the main task of the Partisans.
– Military actions against Partisans and parts of the Red Army are blamed on Bronislav Kaminski. However, like all collaborators.
– Here it would be fair to ask the question: why did collaborationism appear? Let us recall the division of society into classes and the destruction of the nobility, officers, intellectuals, landowners, and manufacturers. Isn’t this class genocide? Let us also recall the surplus appropriation system, the famine, dispossession of kulaks, decossackization, the use of heavy military equipment, military aircraft, poisonous gases against peasant riots … Let us recall the Small and Big Terrors, extrajudicial executions, night arrests. An atmosphere of fear and denunciation. Our ancestors lived through all these ‘local excesses’ in their own skin. It was them who were shot at the Butovo training ground, in Sandormokh. There are places of mass executions all over the country. The collaborators saw no other opportunity to overthrow the humanist Stalinist regime, as soon as with the help of foreign intervention. In fact, collaboration is a response to the genocide of its own population.
– And yet, many studies of those events say that the RONA units formed by Kaminski deliberately took an active part in punitive actions against the civilian population –and that these ‘actions’ were brutal and terrible. The following figures are given: in total, on the territory of the Bryansk and Vitebsk regions in 1941-1943, the RONA Brigade murdered more than ten thousand people, 24 villages were burned and 203 people were burned alive. At the same time, it is emphasized that RONA acted with particular cruelty. RONA behaved exactly the same as the Nazi German invaders they so admired and behaved in a barbaric manner.
-This is Soviet data on the investigation of the ‘crimes of the RONA Brigade in the Bryansk region” (now I do not remember exactly what this document is called). RONA units did take part in anti-Partisan operations. But precisely in the anti-Partisan, and not against the civilian population. In general, from the very moment of the formation of the Lokotsk regional self-government (LOS), and it was formed even BEFORE the Germans arrived in the Oryol region, the institute of surety functioned, i.e. if the Partisan was taken prisoner on the battlefield with weapons in hand, but someone from the local population vouched for him, they took a signature from him that he would no longer fight against the VOC. Another norm was enshrined in the Manifesto of the NSPR (People’s Socialist Party) “Vityaz (” Viking “). It promised:
‘… Amnesty for all Komsomol members.
Amnesty for rank-and-file Party members who have not stained themselves with mockery of the people.
Amnesty for all Communists who participated in the overthrow of the Stalinist regime with arms in hand.
Amnesty for the Heroes of the Soviet Union …’
These norms gave a large influx of Partisans into the ranks of the RON
The German historian Sebastian Stopper, in his dissertation based on German archival documents, wrote that the RONA Brigade, when conducting anti-Partisan operations, was mainly involved in the general resettlement of the population from the combat zone.
And so, all questions remain:
1. who killed these ten thousand people?
2. whether some of these ten thousand people victims of battles during the offensives of the Red Army?
3. were these 203 people burned alive victims of the German troops?
4. were these ten thousand people Partisans or civilians?
There are no answers to all these questions yet.
– How long did the Lokot Republic last?
– About two years. After the defeat of the Germans at the Kursk Bulge in the summer of 1943, a decision was made to evacuate the LOS. On August 10th, 1943, the newspaper ‘Voice of the People’ published an ‘Appeal from Kaminsky to the residents of Lokotsky District in connection with resettlement to Belarus’: ‘… staying here means putting yourself in danger … It’s no secret that the Red Army and the NKVD will cruelly deal with all those who lived in the territory liberated from … the Bolsheviks, not to mention those who worked for the benefit of New Russia …’ By the end of August, the bulk of the LOS population had left their homes. For another whole year, RONA, participating in defensive battles, retreated along with the Wehrmacht troops to the West, ending up in Warsaw in August 1944.
– Kaminski was never officially recognized as a traitor to the Motherland, as, for example, the famous General Vlasov and other collaborators. Why?
– Here again we touch on the mystery. True, we can only judge about it by facts, since the documents are still classified. So, the NKVD knew perfectly well who Bronislav Kaminski was: a former Agent, a fascist henchman, a bloody killer, and so on. What was the Soviet punitive system supposed to do with his family? According to the ‘Operational Order of the People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs of the USSR’ No. 00486 of August 15th, 1937, ‘… the wives of traitors to the Motherland are subject to arrest … property … is confiscated, apartments are sealed … socially dangerous children over 15 years old … are subject to imprisonment in camps or correctional labour colonies of the NKVD, or the placement of the Republic’s People’s Commissariat of Education in special regime orphanages …’
However, members of the Bronislav family in besieged Leningrad did not lose a hair from their heads.
To begin with, at the height of the blockade, at the end of December 1941, my aunt Antonina was hired at the closed food base of the Leningrad City Party Committee. It is not clear how a member of the family of an enemy of the people (ČSVN) got a job at all, not to mention that it was a ‘closed’ vegetable warehouse …
– How is this known?
– From the work book, preserved in my archive.
The evacuation of Kaminski’s daughters was no less interesting.
In the winter of 1942, Regina, Vika and Helena were evacuated with the school to the city of Shebarukl, Omsk region, a teacher and two NKVD majors were waiting for them. Two weeks before permanent settlement in an orphanage, they lived in the apartment of the First Secretary of the Omsk regional Party Committee. Before returning to Leningrad, in April 1944, the situation repeated itself. They returned to Leningrad via Moscow in the same escort. The girls were told that an important meeting was taking place in Moscow and that they needed to take a picture for their father against the background of the Kremlin wall.
– Maybe Bronislav’s daughters were used as hostages?
– Without a doubt. But these facts also testify for certain about the connection between the NKVD organs and the Agent Ultramarine. One more fact: in the midst of anti-Partisan operations, in April 1943, Antonina was thrown into the Belarusian city of Lepel, as follows from the documents of the NKVD, ‘as a means for carrying out Operation T (Terrorist attack).’ Her task was to convince her brother to go over to the side of the Soviet regime, together with the RONA and the self-government apparatus of the LOS. For this, all soldiers and members of their families were guaranteed personal inviolability, the preservation of military ranks, and servicemen were guaranteed a salary. Bronislav himself was promised the epaulettes of the Major General and the Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union. In case of refusal, Antonina was to carry out Operation T – to kill her brother. She did not fulfil either the first or the second point. How she justified herself before the NKVD is unknown.
– It turns out that Agent Ultramarine has not lost contact with Moscow?
– It turns out like this. Only he, figuratively speaking, ‘changed the colour from heating’ – he began to work at a qualitatively different level – in the highest echelon of the German Command. To begin with, Bronislav possessed a very serious resource: a trusting relationship with the leadership of the Wehrmacht. Speaking German, he communicated directly with Reichminister of the Eastern Occupied Territories Alfred Rosenberg, commander of the 2nd Panzer Army Rudolf Schmidt, SS Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler. As a sign of confidence, Heinrich Himmler presented Kaminski with an Iron Cross in gold on August 1st, 1944, conferring the title of Waffen SS Brigadeführer, and RONA was transformed into the 29th Waffen SS Grenadier Division (First Russian).
I believe that the reformatting of RONA was a necessary measure.
The families of the army soldiers lost not only their property, but were left without a livelihood. The inclusion in the Waffen SS automatically put the Brigade on Nazi German rations. True, all these titles and awards turned out to be short-lived: Bronislav died four weeks later, and RONA, after his death, was subjected to a phased disbandment. But I wanted to say something else: perhaps the Soviets believed him, he had access to classified information. And, perhaps, he took advantage of this in the interests of … the Red Army.
– Is this your personal version?
– My personal version. I am haunted by a strange combination of historical events. So, on April 12th, 1943, the text of directive No. 6 ‘On the plan of Operation Citadel’, endorsed by all services of the Wehrmacht, but not yet signed by Hitler, lay on Stalin’s table. And after 2.5 months Moscow received intelligence about the impending large-scale offensive of German troops in the area. They reported that 70% of tanks, 30% of motorized, more than 20% of infantry divisions, 65% of Wehrmacht combat aircraft located on the Eastern Front were concentrated in a sector that accounted for 14% of the entire front line. Citadel took place in the highest level of secrecy. The lion’s share of the equipment was transported by rail, passing through the territory of the VOC. One of the motives for choosing a territory could be the security factor. After all, the transport highways passed through the territory of a friendly Russian state entity, which reliably protected railroad traffic and accumulations of equipment from partisans.
– So maybe Partisan intelligence officers gave the information to Stalin?
The Partisans could count the number of echelons that passed along a certain segment of the route in both directions. But they could not know about the nature of the goods, their quantity, the destination. Only a person who was aware of all traffic on the territory of the VOC, who had confidence and communicated with the top political leadership of Germany, could own all the completeness of the data. Such was Bronislav Kaminski… Thanks to the information received, the Soviet side began the construction of fortifications. In three months, more than 4200 kilometres of ditches were dug, 3572 echelons were brought up, including 1410 with artillery, tanks, about 150,000 cars with materiel. More than 300 thousand civilians were involved in the fortification work. This is how the Battle of Kursk was won.
– But all this can be finally understood, of course, only on the basis of documents.
While they are classified as secret. But it is precisely Kaminski’s role as a source of invaluable data that removes many questions. And first of all, concerning members of his family. Moreover, even after the death of Bronislav, they were not subjected to repression and pressure.
– What is the fate of his daughters?
– Immediately after the war, during Stalin’s lifetime, two of them married officers of the Soviet Army. This did not affect the military career of the spouses. The eldest daughter, Regina, worked as a freed secretary of the party committee at one of the largest Leningrad factories.
– Have you personally tried to find out from the FSB what the special services have on your grandfather?
– In August 2014, I submitted a request to the St. Petersburg FSB with a request to get acquainted with my grandfather’s personal file. In the official reply, I was told: ‘We have no information about BV Kaminsky.’ And they offered to contact the Central Archives of the FSB in Moscow. Having contacted the Central Asia FSB, I received the following answer: ‘At the same time we inform you that there is no criminal case or any information about the conviction of B.V. Kaminski in 1937 in the Central Asia FSB of Russia. The information and analytical centre of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia has no information about repressions against BV Kaminski. Deputy Archive Chief AP Cherepkov.’ In other words, the Soviet government had no complaints about Bronislav Kaminski.
– And this is for the Waffen SS Brigadeführer, awarded the Iron Cross personally by Himmler …
– Once I had a visit to the historian and writer Sergei Verevkin. During our conversation, he called the already mentioned head of the Registration and Archival Funds Department of the FSB of Russia, Lieutenant General Vasily Khristoforov, and asked the question:’When will Bronislav Kaminski’s grandson be able to get acquainted with his grandfather’s investigation file?’ Khristoforov’s answer was extremely short: ‘Never.’
Russian Language Reference: