Babi Yar, Rumbula and Stanislaviv. And then Charkov, Berdicev, Kamenec Podol'skij, Rovno...
These are some places where apocalyptic slaughters were perpetrated during summer 1941. Maybe it would be enough to remember these names, to give an idea of the involvement of the police battalions in the ideological war broken out on the eastern front. From June 27, 1941, this war erased, like a hurricane, most of the Jewish communities in the Baltic area, in Galicia, in Belorussia and in Ukraine, with hundred thousands of victims.
But round-ups in the ghettos and the persecution of Jews were not the only tasks in which the Ordnungspolizei was involved.
All along the eastern front, police units were steadily engaged in a fierce anti-partisan warfare, as well as in security activities behind the lines and in the surveillance of prisoners of war. In several occasions and in adverse conditions, police battalions were moved to the front line, where they ended up suffering heavy losses; moreover, many policemen were involved in activities that, using a current term, we could define as "civil defense", especially in the German cities targeted by air bombing.
All these roles required the involvement of dozens of thousands of policemen. But the most unsettling aspect is the way - efficient and scrupulous - in which these men acted, whether they were called to carry out a reprisal or to remove the debris after a bombing, perpetrate the round-up of a ghetto or accomplish guard services, burn down a village or perform ordinary garrison tasks.
The Ordnungspolizei did not have all those characteristics needed to become a symbol of the Nazi regime; it was instead a versatile and ruthless instrument, mostly formed with reservists: "ordinary men" very similar to the people that we meet in our everyday life, very similar to each of us, yet capable of unspeakable atrocities. The book has 500 pages, in which every police battalion formed in the period September 1939 through July 1942, has been examined. Each chapter deals with a single battalion, so there are 145 chapters with 145 battalions, including the Series "200" and the "esoteric" territorial battalions in the Protectorate Bohmen und Mahren (Polizei-Bataillone "Prag", "Klattau", "Jung Bunzlau" and so on). Two "special" battalions are also examined: that is, the Reserve-Polizei-Bataillon "Leipzig" and the Polizei-Bataillon "Ostland."
The text has 3,867 footnotes and 42 tables, a bibliography with more than 200 volumes, the index of the peoples with about 800 names and the index of places, with more than 1,500 entries. Moreover there are 100 pictures, including 33 never-published pictures of the PB 72 in Slovenia, taken from the massive photo-album of a platoon leader of the 2/72.