By September 1941, Belarus (the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic,
BSSR) was occupied by the "Centre" Army Group of the German Wehrmacht. The
invaders divided Belarus's territory as follows (the territorial-administrative division
of Belarus is given as at 21.06.1941):
- Rear Section of the "Centre" Army Group. Included the Vitebsk and Mogilev regions, the major part of the Gomel Region, the eastern districts of the Minsk Region and some districts of the Polesie Region;
- General Okrug "Belarus". Consisted of 68 out of 192 rural districts and 9 urban districts of pre-war Belarus with a population of 3.1 million people, and it was divided into 10 Okrugs (germ. Gebiet) – the Baranovichi, Borisov, Vileika, Gantsevichi, Glubokoe, Lida, Minsk, Novogrudok, Slonim & Slutsk okrugs and the city of Minsk having the same status as Okrug.
- Okrug "Bialystok" (Province of "East Prussia"). Included the Bialystok Region and the northern part of the Brest Region;
- Reichs Commissariat "Ukraine". Comprised the southern districts of Brest, Gomel, Pinsk and Polesie regions, which were united into 4 Okrugs - Vasilevichi, Elsk, Mozyr and Pinsk;
- General Okrug "Lithuania". Comprised the North-Western districts of the Vileika Region and some part of the Baranovichi Region (now Voronovo District).
The general Okrugs "Belarus", "Lithuania", "Latvia" and "Estonia" formed the Reichs Commissariat "Ostland". The administrative centre was in Riga.
The Occupation power in Belarus was exercised by the military and civilian authorities with the support of the military and police troops, and was organised in the following way:
The senior government bodies in the occupied territories
The senior military authority in the rear section of the Wehrmacht Army Group Centre, which operated in the central zone of the Soviet-German front, was the Army Group Centre Headquarters.
The civilian administrative authorities:
- Imperial Ministry of the Occupied Eastern Territories (germ. Reichsministerium) – the highest civilian administrative authority in the occupied territories of the USSR. It was formed in Berlin on July 17, 1941, and was headed by Reichsminister A. Rosenberg;
- Reichs Commissariat "Ostland" – the highest civilian administrative authority in the territory of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and some parts of Belarus;
- General Commissariat of Belarus – the highest authority of the German civilian administration in the General Okrug "Belarus". By Hitler's order dated July 17, 1941, Gauleiter W. Kubbe was appointed as General Commissar of Belarus General Okrug. He arrived in Minsk on Sept. 1, 1941. From September 1943 after Kubbe's death, the duties of General Commissar were fulfilled by police general-lieutenant, Gruppenfuhrer SS K. von Gottberg (from June 1944 – Obergruppenfuhrer SS).
The auxiliary advisory bodies under the General Commissar of Belarus:
- Nebenbureau, which in fact fulfilled the functions of Minsk Okrug Council duplicating to a great extent the activities of municipal and district institutions. Later, when specialised organisations and departments were formed and became active, Nebenbureau reverted to being a nominal authority, with only limited power.
- Belarusian Trust Rada, Belarusian Central Rada – central institutions of the Belarusian collaboration acting under the direction of the German occupation authorities.
Local authorities of the Occupation administration and institutions of self-government
The military administration and military inspection bodies in the occupied territory were commandant's offices. In the Army's Rear Section, the power was held by the army unit headquarters, and the local and field commandant's offices. In Belarus General Okrug, the Wehrmacht Commander was in charge of the chief field commandant's offices in Minsk and Baranovichi & the local commandant's offices in Baranovichi, Gantsevichi, Glubokoe, Lida, Minsk, Molodechno and Slutsk, which supervised the territory of all okrugs.
The civilian administrative bodies in the occupied territories were commissariats (divided into chief commissariats in Minsk and Baranovichi (until March 1943), okrug, district, town and amtscommissariats) and district chiefs (the Occupation administration officials who supervised the institutions of local government). The Okrug Commissar (germ. Gebietskommissar) was directly subordinate to the General Commissar; Town Commissar (germ. Stadtskommissar) was simultaneously the head of the Town Council, and the chief of the commissariat department was also chief of the corresponding council department. The police chiefs, the police institutions and formations in each territory were subordinate to their Commissars. In some cases this subordination was only nominal. The Reichsfuhrer SS and police chief H. Himmler had stipulated special rights for "police security" in the Occupied Territories & as a result, Commissariats were staffed almost exclusively by Germans.
Institutions of local government included councils, village communities and village starostas. Councils (auxiliary local institutions of the Occupation authorities) were divided into okrug, town, district, district-town, volost (usually within territorial limits of the former selsovet) and village councils. They were headed by burgomasters or chiefs. The councils were either submitted to the Okrug, Town Commissariats and the district chiefs or they were submitted to the corresponding commandant's office. If the German garrison was located in the territory of a Volost, the Council also became subordinate to the commandant's office of the garrison. The councils usually consisted of several departments (administrative, finance, health, school, and land depts). The Ordnungsdienst (local auxiliary police) was subordinate to the councils. Village communities were communities based on the collective farms that existed before the Occupation. Several village communities were united into one volost. Villages that comprised a village community were headed by Starostas (they were subordinate to the Volost Council but did not have any administrative or other power). The work of the District and Volost Councils was supervised by specially assigned chiefs – "commissars", "commandants", "Kreislandwirts", "Sonderfuhrers".
Military and Police bodies
The Wehrmacht – the armed forces of Nazi Germany – were represented in the Occupied Territory by the land forces and the SS troops.
Defence divisions were the armed support of the Occupation regime. There were 5 of them in the territory of Belarus in 1941. They guarded communications and other military objects, POW camps, fought against partisans and the local population. The headquarters of these troops were the field and local commandant's offices, which supervised the territory of regional commissariats. The commandant's offices held total power within their territory. The local commandant's offices (germ. Ortskommandantur) were subordinate to the field commandant's offices (germ. Feldkommandantur). They were formed in towns, district Centres, large railway and highway junctions, or wherever garrisons were located. The municipal authorities, numerous garrisons, groups of secret field police, gendarmerie squads were also subordinate to the field commandant's office. The commandant's offices had the following objectives: to combat partisans; to organize punitive expeditions against partisans and local population; to protect communications, military objects, & POW camps; to provide intelligence and counter-intelligence service; to confiscate agricultural goods; to disseminate propaganda.
All Occupation troops in the territory of Belarus General Okrug were subordinate to the Wehrmacht Commander. The advanced German armies were followed by the special action einsatzgroups "B" and "A" (germ. Einsatzgruppen), which carried out mass executions and punitive expeditions. Einsatzgroups were divided into einsatzcommands and sondercommands, which were subdivided into so-called teilcommands. Einsatzcommands operated in the strategic region of the armies, and sondercommands – in a special zone. Einsatzcommands were controlled by the corresponding army commander.
The military intelligence and counter-intelligence of the German Wehrmacht (germ. Abwehr) is known in Belarus as abwehrgroups. They were located in the largest towns. As a rule, all abwehrgroups had specified numbers and were strictly ciphered. They operated in secret, using the cover of local trade & industry. The main function of the abwehrgroups was to combat the intelligence activity of the Red Army agents, paratroopers, radio operators and members of Underground organisations.
The Gendarmerie (military police) was subordinate to the field and local commandant's offices and later to commissariats. Each Okrug had its own Okrug gendarmerie administration. District Centres had gendarmerie posts. Villages had defensive posts. Sometimes, field gendarmerie detachments were subordinate to Councils. In the rear section of the Centre Army Group, the gendarmerie functioned in the corresponding army formations and administrative structures.
The Secret Field Police (GFP - Geheimfeldpolizei) played an important role in the structure of the Occupation administration in the rear section of the Centre Army Group. As part of the Wehrmacht, it carried out military-police functions and was staffed by German police, Gestapo and other punitive bodies' officials. The GFP sub-units were represented by the groups in the army and army group headquarters, and in the field commandant's offices, as well as by commissariats and detachments in the army corps, divisions and some local commandant's offices. The GFP groups were subordinate to the field police chief in the Centre Army Group and to the Abwehr officer in 1z department of the headquarters of the corresponding army or field commandant's office. Each group had 80-100 employees and soldiers and was divided into 2 - 5 "external detachments" and "external departments". Each GFP unit had a group of regular agents and a small army sub-unit, which carried out round-ups, punitive expeditions against partisans and the escorting and guarding of prisoners. The GFP groups and detachments were the executive bodies in the field and local commandant's offices. The GFP groups were subordinate to Wehrmacht Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence & to the field and local commandant's offices. They fulfilled Gestapo functions in war zones and in the rear of the army. The GFP detachments in the local commandant's offices and defence divisions had contacts with SD, security police and field gendarmerie.
In addition to military authorities, there were SS bodies (germ. SS - Schutzstaffeln - defence detachments), which supervised the various police forces. The police and SS chiefs were under the command of the General and Okrug commissars and controlled the SS troops which fulfilled police functions; the Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei); the Security Service (SD - Sicherheitsdienst); the Defence Police (Schutzpolizei); and the OrPo German Police (Ordnungpolitzei). In the Occupied territory of Belarus there were also the Field Police, subordinate to the field commandant's offices, and the Railway Police.
The Security Police and SD Security Service formed a part of the intelligence and punitive bodies in the territory of Ostland Reichs Commissariat. The SD and security police administration of Belarus General Okrug was seated in Minsk, and its departments were located in okrugs and districts. The rear section of each army had SD and security police commissioner administration, which coordinated its activities with Abwehr and the GFP secret field police. The task of SD and security police was to find the Nazi regime's enemies, investigate public opinion, organise punitive expeditions and deal with police personnel problems.
The local auxiliary police, later renamed OD - Ordnungsdienst was established in July 1941. It was staffed by local inhabitants and had similar functions to those of the OrPo German Police, such as public order, patrolling, guard duty, road traffic, etc. The OD activities were supervised by defence police departments, local commandant's offices, and garrison commandants. The OD units consisted of one police officer for every 100 rural inhabitants and one police officer for every 300 urban inhabitants. The OD was in charge of guard duty, and included both stationary & mobile posts and groups of orderlies. It was subordinate to the defence police leadership.
The structure and functions of the police institutions were repeatedly changed.