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Hryhoriy Mykytovych Vasiura
File:Vasiura Hryhoriy.jpg
Hryhoriy Vasiura during the trial. Minks, 1986
Native name

Ukrainian language: Григорій Микитович Васюра

Nickname Executioner of Khatyn
Born (1915-02-15)February 15, 1915
Died October 2, 1987(1987-10-02) (aged 72)
Place of birth Chyhyryn,
Kiev Governorate,
Russian Empire
(now Ukraine)
Place of death Minsk,
Belorussian SSR
Soviet Union
Allegiance  USSR
 Nazi Germany
Service/branch Soviet Union signal corps, artillery
Nazi Germany auxiliary police, grenadiers
Years of service 1936–1945
Rank Soviet Union senior lieutenant
Nazi Germany untersturmführer
Unit Soviet Union 67th Rifle Division
Nazi Germany Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118
30th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS
Commands held Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118

World War II

Awards deprived of all awards
Other work state farm economic director

Hryhoriy Mykytovych Vasiura (ukr. Григорій Микитович Васюра, rus. Григорий Никитович Васюра, February 15, 1915, Chyhyryn – October 2, 1987, Minsk) was a war criminal who participated in the Khatyn massacre.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Pre-war years[edit | edit source]

He was born on February 9, 1915 (according to other data, in 1913) in the city of Chyhyryn (now Cherkasy Region, Ukraine). Before the World War II he worked as a school teacher. In 1936, he graduated from the Kiev Military School of Communications.

By the beginning of the Nazi invasion to the USSR in June 1941, Vasiura commanded a communication squad of the 67th Rifle Division (according to data of his war prisoner card, he served in the artillery forces). During the battle of Liepāja on June 28, he was wounded in the thigh and voluntarily surrendered to captivity.

Vasiura was imprisoned in the camp Stalag III-A. While in captivity he agreed to collaborate with the Germans, and in February 1942 he was sent to the school of propagandists (first in Wustrau, later in Wutzetz) organized within the camp Stalag III-D and ruled by the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories.

Service in the ranks of punitive forces[edit | edit source]

After graduating from the school of propagandists in October 1942, Vasiura was sent to Kiev, where he joined the 118th Schutzmannschaft battalion composed of former Soviet soldiers and Ukrainian nationalists.[1] Some sources state that along with other members of the unit he took part in executions of Jews in Baby Yar.[2]

Vasiura was quickly advancing in the service. From the platoon commander, he turned into a chief of staff instead of his predecessor who turned the corner in December 1942. In fact, the unit had a double leadership: the German Major Erich Körner was in charge, while Vasiura supervised the battalion on a daily basis.[3] In the same month, the unit was transferred to the occupied Belorussian SSR for conducting punitive operations against partisans. Firstly the battalion came to Minsk, and then to the town of Pleshchenitsy.

From January 1943 to July 1944, Vasiura with his battalion conducted dozens of pacification actions – including operations Hornung, Draufgänger, Cottbus, Hermann and Wandsbeck[4] – that were part of the "dead zone" policy of annihilating hundreds of Belarusian villages in order to remove the support base for the alleged partisans.[5] 60 major and 80 smaller actions have affected 627 villages across occupied Belarus.

Khatyn massacre[edit | edit source]

In the morning of March 22, 1943, three vehicles with the 118th battalion stuff were ambushed by "Uncle Vasya's" partisan squad near the village Khatyn. Partisans killed Hans Woellke, the hauptmann of the auxiliary police and commander of the first battalion's company, who was on his way to the Minsk airport. He was well-known as the shot-put champion of the 1936 Olympics.[6] Hitler personally knew him.

Wilke's death enraged the policemen, who suspected local peasants in helping the partisans. On the road Pleshchenitsy-Logoysk they stopped 50 inhabitants of the village Kozyri, and killed 26 of them.[7][8] Soon the 118th battalion and SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger surrounded the village Khatyn.

Following the order of the 118th battalion commander Erich Körner the soldiers under Vasiura's direction began to drive the peasants into the barn and set fire on it. They shot everybody who tried to escape.[8][9][10][11] In total, 149 people died (including 75 children).

Later war crimes in Belarus[edit | edit source]

Vasiura continued serving in the 118th battalion in Belarus.

On May 13, 1943, he commanded the unit in the battles against partisans for the village Dalkovichi, and on 27 May his battalion executed 78 people in the village Osovi.[9] Then, within the punitive operation Cottbus, the unit committed the massacre of residents of the village Vileika and its suburbs.[12] Afterwards they burned the villages Makovie and Uborok, where nobody left alive, and then they executed 50 Jews in the village Kaminska Sloboda.

Later Vasiura transferred to the 76th Waffen Grenadier Regiment of the 30th Grenadier SS-Division, where he fought until the end of the war. Supposedly, his regiment was smashed in France, where some part of the 118th Schutzmannschaft battalion went over to French partisans.

Erich Körner, the battalion commander, hid the fact of civilians’ deaths reporting to the superiors that the 118th battalion fought only against numerous partisan squads. It happened due to the decree, issued on November 18, 1942, that forbade to involve locals in criminal liability because many villages were "under partisans’ oppression".

Post-war times[edit | edit source]

Being at the Soviet filtration camp Vasiura hid the fact of his service in the auxiliary police and SS. In 1952, the Kiev Military Tribunal sentenced him to 25 years of imprisonment but already on September 17, 1955, he was amnestied in accordance to a decree issued by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet.[13] Usually, Vasiura explained his post-war imprisonment by the fact that he had previously been taken prisoner by the Germans, he even got an official certificate confirming this.

Vasiura moved to the village Velyka Dymerka (Brovary District, Kyiv Region) and became the economic director of the state farm Velikodymersky. The farm was quite successful under his rule. However, farm-workers sometimes complained Vasiura's hardstyle management – he could cruelly beat the employees. He built a big house, was encouraged several times for conscientious work, got a membership of the CPSU. In 1984, he was awarded the medal Veteran of Labour. He got married, two of his daughters were school teachers.

Vasiuta became a honorary cadet of the Kiev Military School of Communications. He exclusively liked giving patriotic speeches in front of cadets and pioneers about his fictional battle feats pretending that he is a Red Army veteran.[4]

Detention and trial[edit | edit source]

In 1985, Vasiura as a veteran demanded the Order of the Patriotic War. In the archives, employees found only the fact that he went missing in June 1941. Further searches in the archives forced them to review some results of the interrogation of Vasiliy Meleshko, Vasiura's former fellow soldier who was executed in 1975 because of collaboration with the Nazis and participation in burning the village Khatyn. A criminal case was opened "due to the newly discovered circumstances". In November 1986, Vasiura was arrested and transferred to Minsk.

Almost no survivors of the Khatyn massacre left, that's why 26 witnesses were former soldiers of the 118th Schutzmannschaft battalion most of whom had already served their sentences in the Soviet camps and prisons.

Vasiura denied his guilt. He claimed that he didn't participate in the punitive operation and didn't kill any civilians. But this contradicted the witnesses’ testimony: all of them proved that Vasiura gave them orders to kill the villagers. The court case totalled 14 volumes, and the investigators managed to reconstruct the events of March 22, 1943, accurate to minutes. Irrefutable evidence of his participation in the military crimes, particularly in the episode of Khatyn, was found.[9]

When Vasiura realized that there was no point denying it, he confessed, crying:

Yes, I burned your Khatyn!

On December 26, 1986, the Tribunal of the Belorussian Military District headed by the judge Viktor Glazkov sentenced the Nazi-collaborator Hryhoriy Vasiura to death penalty by shooting. Executed on October 2, 1987.

The trial was not public, only two correspondents – of the newspaper Izvestiya and the agency BelTA – were assigned to report on it. They completed their articles, but later the authors were informed that the materials would not be published at all. Viktor Glazkov claimed that it happened due to direct involvement of the general secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party, Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, and the Belorussian Communist Party first secretary Mikalai Sliunkov. Both were concerned that a public trial against a Ukrainian war criminal would undermine the official discourse of the brotherhood between Soviet peoples.[9]

The Belarusian government released the records of the trial of Hryhoriy Vasiura in March 2008.[14]

See also[edit | edit source]

Bibliography[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Registrar of Canadian Citizenship, Canada: Minister of Citizenship and Immigration v. Katriuk. Reasons for Judgement. Docket: T-2409-96 including brief history of Battalion 118.
  2. ""Khatyn" – Genocide policy | Punitive operations | The 118th police battalion". http://www.khatyn.by/en/genocide/expeditions/polic118/. 
  3. Oushakine, Serguei Alex (2013). "Postcolonial Estrangements: Claiming a Space between Stalin and Hitler." (in en-US). https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/mla:581/. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rudling, Per Anders (2011). "Terror and Local Collaboration in Occupied Belarus: The Case of Schutzmannschaft Battalion 118. Part I: Background." (in en). Bucharest: Romanian Academy "Nicolae Iorga" Historical Institute. pp. 195–214. https://www.academia.edu/1211423/_Terror_and_Local_Collaboration_in_Occupied_Belarus_The_Case_of_Schutzmannschaft_Battalion_118._Part_I_Background_Nicolae_Iorga_Historical_Yearbook_Romanian_Academy_Bucharest_Vol._VIII_2011_195-214. 
  5. ""Khatyn" – Genocide policy | Genocide policy". http://khatyn.by/en/genocide/. 
  6. "Hans Woellke Bio, Stats, and Results" (in en). https://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/wo/hans-woellke-1.html. 
  7. "Belarus Marks 75th Anniversary of Khatyn Tragedy. 5 Facts You Should Know" (in en-US). BelarusFeed. March 22, 2018. http://belarusfeed.com/belarus-khatyn-tragedy/. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Witness testimonies on Nazi collaborator Vladimir Katriuk's (1921–2015) involvement in Khatyn Massacre". https://canada.mid.ru/web/canada-en/witness-testimonies. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Rudling, P. A. (April 1, 2012). "The Khatyn Massacre in Belorussia: A Historical Controversy Revisited" (in en). pp. 29–58. Digital object identifier:10.1093/hgs/dcs011. ISSN 8756-6583. http://www.templerodefshalom.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Rudling-PA.-The-Khatyn-Massacre.pdf. 
  10. Singh, Shantanu (April 23, 2017). "Khatyn Massacre: One of The Worst Nazi Atrocities" (in en-US). Catharsis Magazine. https://catharsismagazine.com/2017/04/23/khatyn/. 
  11. Dsygowbrodski, Dmitri (June 21, 2016). "Wer waren die mörder von Chatyn?" (in de-DE). Sascha's Welt. https://sascha313.wordpress.com/2016/06/21/wer-waren-die-moerder-von-chatyn/. 
  12. Walke, Anika (August 13, 2015) (in en). Pioneers and Partisans: An Oral History of Nazi Genocide in Belorussia. Oxford University Press. pp. 109. ISBN 9780190463588. https://books.google.es/books?id=cxsOCgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=ru#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  13. Hately-Broad, Barbara (February 1, 2005) (in en). Prisoners of War, Prisoners of Peace: Captivity, Homecoming and Memory in World War II. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 131. ISBN 9781845207243. https://books.google.es/books?id=EYdmCgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=ru#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  14. Matas, David (April 17, 2012). "Is reconciliation for the Holocaust possible?". Searching for Raoul Wallenberg. https://www.raoul-wallenberg.eu/articles/reconciliation-holocaust/. 

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