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Liveblogging World War II: August 27, 1944: S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A.


S.S. Sturmbrigade R.O.N.A. (also known as the Kaminski Brigade) was an anti-partisan formation composed of people from the so-called Lokot Autonomy territory in the Nazi Germany-occupied areas of Russia during World War II.

First appearing in late 1941 as auxiliary police, the unit initially numbered 200 personnel. By mid-1943, its numbers had increased to 10-12 thousand and were equipped with captured Soviet tanks and artillery. The unit's leader Bronislav Kaminski named it Russian National Liberation Army (Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya, RONA).

After Operation Citadel, personnel of the R.O.N.A. retreated to Belarus and the Lepel area of Vitebsk, where they were involved in anti-partisan activities, committing numerous atrocities against the civilian population. In March 1944, the unit was briefly renamed to Volksheer-Brigade Kaminski (Peoples- Brigade Kaminski), before it was absorbed into the Waffen-SS in June 1944.

With its transfer to the Waffen-SS, the brigade was renamed to Waffen-Sturm-Brigade RONA, and Kaminski was given the rank of Waffen-Brigadeführer der SS (the only man with such a rank). After Operation Bagration, the R.O.N.A retreated further west, and by the end of July 1944, the remains of the Kaminski unit (3-4 thousand--some sources estimate 6-7 thousand) were assembled at the SS training camp Neuhammer. On the Kaminski unit base, SS leaders planned to create a SS Division - 29.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Russische Nr.1).

However, the Warsaw Uprising began on the same day as Himmler's signing of an order for the establishment of the division. The division formation was never implemented and part of the “RONA”-Brigade was forwarded to Warsaw, where the unit was again involved in committing numerous war-crimes. On August 18, 1944, Bronislav Kaminski was killed. According to various sources, either an SS court found him guilty or he was simply executed outright by the German Gestapo.

By August 27, deciding the brigade was too undisciplined and unreliable, the German commanders removed it from Warsaw. Having suffered heavy losses, the remaining members of the brigade were forwarded farther West, where remnants of the brigade were used against Slovak partisans. After the end of October 1944, the brigade was disbanded and the remaining personnel absorbed into General Andrey Vlasov's Russian Liberation Army.