‘On the Trail of the Perpetrators’

Even today, the public is largely unaware of the role played by Germany’s ordinary uniformed police, the Ordnungspolizei, in perpetrating the Holocaust. Our EVZ project with the Villa ten Hompel historical site provided a deeper education opportunity to the police themselves.

As early as 2021, Andreas Kahrs was already involved in developing the Villa ten Hompel pilot project entitled ‘On the Trail of the Perpetrators’, where police cadets from various German cities embarked for the first time on a tour of the crime scenes of the Holocaust in Poland. It was there they met up with their Polish colleagues. A video about the trip can be seen here. The follow-up project took place in 2022, under the management of ‘what matters’, working once again with Villa ten Hompel. Both times, participants were taken to sites where the Ordnungspolizei, Germany’s ordinary uniformed police, participated directly in the regime’s crimes. During the German occupation of Poland, police units guarded the ghettos and also organized deportations to the death camps of Operation Reinhardt. Beyond that, German policemen shot dead hundreds of thousands of Jews, in the towns and villages as well as the fields and forests. One of the trip’s most important stops was at a small memorial site in a forest near the village of Józefów, Biłgoraj County. On 13 July 1942, nearly fifteen hundred Jews were shot dead by Police Battalion 101 from Hamburg. During the tour, the participants kept returning to the issues affecting today’s society. What does the repeated discovery of police officers joining far-right chat groups mean for these young cadets, and how can the police be better sensitized to the antisemitism and Holocaust-distortion they may encounter on the job? How can the police as an institution do justice to the memory of these crimes? Both years of the pilot project were supported by the ‘Youth Remembers’ program of the EVZ Foundation.