Kaminski Brigade

Bronislav Kaminski

Bronislav Vladislavovich Kaminski (Ками́нский Бронисла́в Владисла́вович, 16 June 1899, Vitebsk - 28 August 1944, Litzmannstadt) was the commander of the Kaminski Brigade (also known as the Russian National Liberation Army - Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya, RONA) unit, a Russian armed force that fought against the Soviet forces in alliance with Nazi Germany and was later incorporated into the Waffen-SS as the 29th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS RONA (1st Russian). He was covertly tried and executed by an SS court for misconduct in battle.

Birth and early life

Bronislav (also spelled Bronislaw) Kaminski was born in Vitebsk to a Polish father and German mother in Tsarist Russia. He served in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War, then studied at a polytechnical university in St. Petersburg.

As an engineer, Kaminski was accused of "belonging to a counter-revolutionary group" and arrested and imprisoned in 1930 and again later in 1937, serving his sentence at a Gulag-network distillery in the Bryansk region of Russia, near Belarus. He was released from prison in 1941 and sent to internal exile to Lokot.

Militia leader

When the Nazi Germans occupied the Bryansk region during Operation Barbarossa campaign, Kaminski's classmate, engineer Constantine Voskoboinik (who had also been a political prisoner), was placed by them in charge of the city Bryansk. Kaminski became Voskoboinik's assistant, and the two of them immediately organized several thousand volunteers to combat the Soviet partisans who were raiding from the forests of Bryansk. This formation soon grew to 10,000 men and was called by them the Russian National Liberation Army (abbreviated in Russian as "RONA").

By an arrangement with the German authorities, the RONA was able to control several raions of Russia, within which they proclaimed the Lokot Autonomy, under the German suzerainty. The government administration was run by Russians, the presence of Axis troops was minimal, and relations with Nazi German authorities carried on almost an allied character. Private enterprise was permitted and collective farming was abolished.

When Constantine Voskoboinik was killed in action against the partisans, Bronislaw Kaminski was appointed the head leader or "burgomeister" of the Bryansk region as well as commander of the RONA. Through his recruitment and draft he raised the RONA's ranks to 20,000 men. The Soviet partisans nicknamed him the "master of the Bryansk forests".

The Soviets made attempts at getting Kaminski and his men to defect, with promises of an amnesty and re-enlistment. Kaminski adamantly refused, although several hundred of his men managed to desert or defect to the Soviet side.

SS general

By the end of 1943, Kaminski had to evacuate to Belarus, where he set up another autonomous region around Lepel. The Germans filled the RONA's ranks with Belarusian police, prisoners of war, and ex-convicts, then reclassified the unit into the Waffen-SS as "Russian SS Division No. 1". Kaminski himself was promoted to SS Major General. He was also awarded with the Iron Cross for Eastern Peoples.

In August 1944, Himmler ordered Kaminski to assist the SS security forces in the quelling of the Warsaw Uprising. Kaminski sent about 1,700 volunteers from his ranks to Warsaw under commander Frolov, who gave his men full permission to rape and loot, which many of them did. In fact Kaminski's brigade soon lost any combat worthiness and Kaminski himself focused entirely on collecting valuables stolen from civilian homes. Est. 10,000 residents of Warsaw were killed in Ochota massacre, most of them murdered by Kaminski's men.


The misconduct of the Warsaw group was used by Heinrich Himmler as a pretext for having Kaminski and his head group of men executed after trial by court martial in Litzmannstadt (Łódź). They were tried for stealing the property of the Reich, as the stolen property was to be delivered to Himmler, while Kaminski and his men planned to keep it for themselves.

The men of RONA were given a false explanation, that Kaminski had been killed by Polish partisans. When this initial explanation was rejected by Kaminski's men, the Gestapo took Kaminski's car, pushed it into a ditch, shot it up with a machine gun, and smeared goose blood all over it — offering that as evidence. The demoralized brigade was soon moved out of town and stationed to the north of it, far from any partisan activity.


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