Andrey Vlasov was eventually put in charge of the 2nd Shock Army after its commander fell ill. However, his new command was cut off and encircled as it advanced towards Leningrad, and was destroyed in June, 1942. Vlasov managed to escape temporarily, but he was captured 10 days later. In captivity, he agreed to switch sides. Taken to Berlin, he and other Soviet traitors began drafting plans for a Russian provisional government, and for recruiting a Soviet turncoat army. That sealed his and their fates should Germany lose the war. The Soviets marked them down for vicious payback.
In 1943, Vlasov wrote an anticommunist leaflet, millions of copies of which were dropped on Soviet positions. Using Vlasov’s name, the Nazis recruited hundreds of thousands of Soviet defectors, forming them in a so-called Russian Liberation Army. However, although they were nominally under Vlasov’s command, they were kept strictly under direct German control, with Vlasov exercising little or no authority.
Andrey Vlasov’s first combat against the Red Army took place during the war’s closing stages, in February, 1945, while he was in charge of a turncoat division near the Oder River. He was then forced to retreat to German-controlled Czechoslovakia. There, in May of 1945, a few days before war’s end, Vlasov’s division turned coat once again, this time against the Germans and in support of a Czech uprising.
At war’s end, Vlasov tried to escape to the Western Allies’ lines, but was captured by Soviet forces, who discovered him hiding under blankets in a car. He was flown to Moscow, and Stalin’s henchmen began extracting payback by torturing Vlasov for months in the dreaded Lubyanka Prison. He was tried for treason in the summer of 1946, along with 11 of his leading subordinates. All were found guilty and sentenced to death. Vlasov and his fellow turncoats were hanged on August 1st, 1945.
8. “Cherry Nose” Stuck His Nose Where It Didn’t Belong
Charles “Cherry Nose” Gioe was a high ranking Chicago mobster. A specialist in extortion and blackmail, he was sent to Des Moines in 1936, to expand the mafia’s activities there. From his base in Iowa, Gioe bankrolled a Hollywood extortion scheme, which shook down studio executives, by threatening them with costly labor strikes and disruptions by a mob-controlled union. The racket was eventually busted, and Gioe was convicted of extortion and locked up for four years, before getting paroled in 1947.
In 1954, a fellow Chicago mobster, Joseph “Joey” Glimco, dynamited a Chicago Howard Johnson restaurant then under construction, in a bid to shake down the building contractor. When Gioe was asked to intercede on the contractor’s behalf, he foolishly agreed. Totally misreading the situation and the dynamics involved, he asked Glimco to “lay off”. That invited payback. On the evening of August 18th, 1954, Gioe left a business meeting and got into his car. Soon as he sat down, another vehicle pulled up, and its occupants opened fire. A bullet to Gioe’s temple killed him instantly.
7. Payback for (Some) of the Armenian Genocide’s Perpetrators
In 1915, during the First World War, the Ottoman Turk authorities decided to end to the restiveness of their oppressed Armenian citizens by putting an end to the Armenians via genocide. Under the guise of “relocating” them from border regions to the interior of their empire, the Ottomans subjected the Armenians to massacres and death marches, interrupted by widespread and horrendous abuses. Somewhere between 1 million to 1.5 million were killed.
After Turkey’s defeat and surrender at war’s end, desultory efforts were made to bring those responsible to account. However, no international tribunal existed to try the criminals, and their prosecution in Turkish courts eventually petered out due to domestic political pressures. As a result, those who had orchestrated the genocide escaped formal justice, and were able to travel relatively freely throughout much of Europe and Central Asia. That is, until the Armenians decided to take matters into their own hands, and visit payback upon some of the genocide’s architects, vigilante style.
Once WWI had ended, an Ottoman military tribunal sentenced the principal leaders responsible for planning the Armenian Genocide to death. However, the condemned were freed at the end of the trial, and fled to Europe, where they lived under assumed names. Disgusted at such a miscarriage of justice, some members of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), a nationalist party, sought payback, and set out to bring the guilty to account.
The ARF passed a secret resolution known as “The Special Mission” to punish the main perpetrators of the genocide. The result was Operation Nemesis, named after the ancient Greek goddess of divine retribution. Between 1920 – 1922, Armenian avengers stalked those responsible for the genocide throughout Europe and Asia, to deal them lethal justice.
The first target for payback claimed by the avengers of Operation Nemesis was the first prime minister of independent Azerbaijan, Fatali Khan Khoyski. He was accused of having played a prominent role in the massacre of tens of thousands of Armenians in Baku in 1918.
Azerbaijan’s independence did not last for long, and the Bolsheviks overran and incorporated it into the Soviet Union in 1920. That April, Khoyski fled to Tiflis, Georgia, to escape the advancing Red Army. On June 19th, Armenian revolutionary Aram Yerganian opened fire on Khoyski in Tiflis’ Yerevan Square, killing him on the spot.
The next payback target to fall to Operation Nemesis was Mehmed Talaat Pasha. One of a triumvirate known as the Three Pashas who had ruled the Ottoman Empire during WWI, Talaat had initiated the Armenian Genocide in 1915 while serving as Minister of Interior Affairs. He fled the Ottoman Empire in a German submarine in early November of 1918, and settled in Berlin.
Talaat Pasha was tried in absentia by a Turkish court martial, and sentenced to death. However, the Turks were not that eager to have him extradited, and the Germans denied knowledge of his whereabouts. In reality, Talaat’s presence in Germany was an open secret, and he travelled throughout much of Central Europe and Scandinavia without hindrance. That state of affairs lasted until 1921, when Operation Nemesis caught up with him.
The impunity enjoyed by Talaat Pasha ended in 1921. An Armenian revolutionary named Soghomon Tehlirian had discovered Talaat’s Berlin address, and rented an apartment nearby to study his every move. On March 15th, 1921, Tehlirian shadowed Talaat when he left his house, and waited for the right moment to dish out payback. Upon confirming his target’s identity, Tehlirian pulled out a Luger pistol, shot Talaat dead in broad daylight, then waited over the corpse for the police to arrive and arrest him.
Tehlirian’s subsequent trial for murder was a sensation, which he used as a platform to draw attention to the Armenian Genocide. His lawyers focused on the impact the genocide had on Tehlirian’s mental state. He testified that he had acted after his mother – killed during the atrocity – had appeared to him in a dream, berating him for not having avenged her. It took a Berlin jury one hour to acquit him, returning a verdict of not guilty on grounds of temporary insanity.
The most vile and abhorrent of Operation Nemesis’ targets was probably Cemal Azmi, known as “The Butcher of Trebizond”. A founder of the Teskilat-i-Mahsusa (Special Organization), a unit created to suppress dissent and separatism in the Ottoman Empire, Azmi was serving as governor of Trebizond province when the Armenian Genocide began in 1915. An enthusiastic participant, he massacred Armenians by the tens of thousands.
Azmi was particularly vicious towards Armenian children and women, and had thousands of them drowned in the Black Sea. Witnesses testified that he had turned a local hospital into a “pleasure dome”, where he indulged in sexual orgies with young Armenian girls, before murdering them. Reminiscing about it, Azmi told an acquaintance: “Among the most pretty Armenian girls, 10 – 13 years old, I selected a number of them and handed them to my son as a gift; the others I had drowned in the sea“. That made him a prime target for payback.
Following Turkey’s defeat and surrender, Cemal Azmi fled to Germany. The organizers of Operation Nemesis eventually tracked him down in Berlin. Aram Yerganian, who had already killed one of the retribution campaign’s targets, was tasked with visiting payback upon Azmi, plus another genocide accomplice, a Dr. Behaeddin Shakir. Another Armenian revolutionary, Arshavir Shirakian, partnered with Yerganian.
On April 17th, 1922, Yerganian and Shirakian came upon Cemal Azmi and Behaddin Shakir as the two murderers were strolling with their families on Berlin’s Uhlandstrasse. Shirakian opened fire, killing Azmi, but only wounding Behaddin, who took off running. Yerganian took off after the fleeing genocidier, caught up with him, and finished him with a bullet to the head. Neither shooter was apprehended.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading