When World War Two came to an end many of senior members of the Nazi party escaped punishment - they fled across the world under new identities so they would not have to stand on trial for the war crimes they committed. However, in an attempt to bring them to justice - particularly for the atrocities of the Holocaust - Jewish Revenge Squads were formed which would try and hunt these Nazis down.
The squads actually began this mission before the end of the war; when France was reclaimed from the Nazis in 1944 they set about their work before the Germans were able to get out of the country.
The Jewish Revenge Squads would essentially acts as vigilantes, taking the laws into their own hands. The efforts continued right up until 1960 and it is estimated that 1,500 high-ranking Nazi officials were brought to justice and made to stand on trial as a result of these squads.
At their inception the Jewish Revenge Squads consisted mainly of Jewish Allied soldiers although when the war came to an end other Holocaust also joined the cause. Working together in groups of three of four, the squads would commonly calls themselves ‘Din’ squads, this being the word for revenge in Hebrew.
While they usually operated outside of the knowledge of governments and army leaders (which included ignoring the laws of the Geneva convention that stated that war criminals would be protected and made to stand on a proper trial), Winston Churchill, made the decision in 1944 to create the Jewish Brigade. Churchill commented:
“It seemed to me indeed appropriate that a special unit of the race which has suffered indescribable treatment from the Nazis should be represented in a distinct formation among the forces gathering for their final overthrow.”
Around 6,000 volunteers signed up to join the Jewish Brigade some of whom would also be part of the revenge squads.
One member of the Jewish Revenge Squads said: “When the bastards realised we were Jews, you could almost smell the funk. I did take a great deal of pleasure in making them kneel and pointing my gun at them. I made more than one member of the master race mess his pants with fright.”
Dr. Ernst-Robert Grawitz, who was the chief medical officer of the SS, was perhaps the best known of all the Nazis who were killed at the hands of the revenge squads. Nazis claim that Grawitz took his own life, but a revenge squad has also taken credit for his death. Other major scalps for the Din squads include Paul Giesler, the Nazi who had been in charge of Munich, and the two men who had overseen the ovens at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp: SS Lieutenant Kurt Mussfeld and SS Colonel Dr. Hans Geschke.
Aleksander Laak is believed to have been the last person killed by a Jewish Revenge Squad. Laak had been in charge of the concentration camp at Jagala, in Estonia, where he oversaw the death of 100,000 prisoners. He was found in Canada and hanged in 1960.
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