WAR CRIMES OF THE WEHRMACHT were those carried out by the German
armed forces during
World War II
Nuremberg Trials at the end of
World War II
Had it not been for these legalistic reasons, the OKW would have been judged a "criminal organization" by the IMT. This has often been misconstrued, not the least by German World War Two veterans that the IMT ruled that the OKW was not a "criminal organization" because the Wehrmacht committed no war crimes.
* 1 Before the war
* 2 Wehrmacht Rulings
* 3.1 Mass murder of Polish civilians * 3.2 Deliberate bombing of civilians * 3.3 Massacres of Polish POWs * 3.4 Rape of Poles * 3.5 Widespread plunder and theft
* 4 Invasion of Belgium
* 5 Invasion of the
* 5.1 Anti-Partisan and anti-Jewish actions * 5.2 Rapes
* 6 Persecution of Soviet POWs
* 6.1 POW Camps * 6.2 Massacres
* 7 Other Wehrmacht war crimes
* 8 Postwar views
* 9 Analysis of photos and letters * 10 See also * 11 Notes * 12 References
BEFORE THE WAR
Prior to the developments of the Second World War there was a history of the German Army committing violent acts against civilians in previous conflicts. During a rebellion by the Herero and Nama natives of a German African Colony in 1904, the German Army was tasked to quell the uprising. General Lothar von Trotha, the Commander tasked with eliminating the uprising, remarked "against 'nonhumans' one cannot conduct war "humanely'". This conflict resulted in the death of 66-75 percent of the entire native Herero population and 50 percent of the Nama population. By contrast, the German army lost only 676 soldiers in combat over the course of the conflict.
First World War
When the National Socialists (Nazis ) came to power, it was welcomed by almost the entire officer corps of the Reichswehr as a way of creating the Wiederwehrhaftmachung of Germany, namely the total militarization of German society in order to ensure that Germany did not lose the next war. As such, what both the Nazis and the German Army wanted to see was a totally militarized Volksgemeinschaft that would be purged of those perceived internal enemies like the Jews who it was believed had "stabbed Germany in the back" in 1918.
As such, many officers willingly embraced National Socialist ideology in the 1930s. Acting on his own initiative, the Defence Minister Werner von Blomberg had purged the Army of all its Jewish personnel in February 1934. On December 8, 1938, the Army leadership had instructed all officers to be thoroughly well versed in National Socialism and to apply its values in all situations. Starting in February 1939, pamphlets were issued that were made required reading in the Army. The content can be gauged by the titles: "The Officer and Politics", "Hitler's World Historical Mission", "The Army in the Third Reich", "The Battle for German Living Space", "Hands off Danzig!", and "The Final Solution of the Jewish Question in the Third Reich". In the last essay, the author, C.A. Holberg wrote:
The defensive battle against Jewry will continue, even if the last Jew has left Germany. Two big and important tasks remain: 1) the eradication of all Jewish influence, above all in the economy and in culture; 2) the battle against World Jewry, which tries to incite all people in the world against Germany.
Attitudes like the ones expressed above colored all the instructions that came to Wehrmacht troops in the summer of 1939 as a way of preparing for the attack on Poland.
Main article: Commissar Order
The order cast the war against the
ree itself from all elements among the prisoners of war considered Bolshevik driving forces. The special situation of the Eastern Campaign therefore demands special measures which are to be carried out free from bureaucratic and administrative influence and with a willingness to accept responsibility. While so far the regulations and orders concerning prisoners of war were based solely on military considerations, now the political objective must be attained, which is to protect the German nation from Bolshevik inciters and forthwith take the occupied territory strictly in hand.
As such, all Soviet POWs considered to be commissars together with all Jewish POWs were to be handed over to the Einsatzgruppen to be shot. The OKW attached great importance to the killings of POWs believed to be commissars as it was believed that if the captured commissars reached POW camps in Germany that they would stage another Dolchstoß like that believed to have caused Germany's defeat in World War I. Between July–October 1941, between 580 000–600 000 POWs in Wehrmacht custody were turned over to the SS to be killed. In September 1941, both Helmuth James von Moltke and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris wrote memos pointing out to the OKW that the order of July 17, 1941 was illegal under international law.
In particular, both Moltke and Admiral Canaris noted that the German
claim that Soviet POWs had no rights because the
In the summer of 1942, there was an illusory liberalization of the
treatment of captured political officers. On 10 June, the Gestapo
chief Heinrich Müller issued an order on the segregation of prisoners
and ordered that commissars be isolated from the rest of the prisoners
and sent to
Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. However, this did not
change the plight of commissars much, as Mauthausen was one of the
The background behind the Barbarossa Decree was laid out by Hitler during a high level meeting with military officials on 30 March 1941, where he declared that war against Soviet Russia would be a war of extermination , in which both the political and intellectual elites of Russia would be eradicated by German forces, in order to ensure a long-lasting German victory. Hitler underlined that executions would not be a matter for military courts, but for the organised action of the military.
The decree, issued by Field Marshal Keitel a few weeks before Operation Barbarossa , exempted punishable offenses committed by enemy civilians (in Russia) from the jurisdiction of military justice . Suspects were to be brought before an officer who would decide if they were to be shot. Prosecution of offenses against civilians by members of the Wehrmacht was decreed to be "not required" unless necessary for the maintenance of discipline.
The order specified:
* "The partisans are to be ruthlessly eliminated in battle or during attempts to escape", and all attacks by the civilian population against Wehrmacht soldiers are to be "suppressed by the army on the spot by using extreme measures, till annihilation of the attackers; * Every officer in the German occupation in the East of the future will be entitled to perform execution(s) without trial, without any formalities, on any person suspected of having a hostile attitude towards the Germans", (the same applied to prisoners of war); * "If you have not managed to identify and punish the perpetrators of anti-German acts, you are allowed to apply the principle of collective responsibility . 'Collective measures' against residents of the area where the attack occurred can then be applied after approval by the battalion commander or higher level of command"; * German soldiers who commit crimes against humanity, the USSR and prisoners of war are to be exempted from criminal responsibility, even if they commit acts punishable according to German law.
NIGHT AND FOG DECREE
A commemorative plaque to the French victims at Hinzert concentration camp , using the expressions "Nacht und Nebel" and "NN-Deported"
The Night and Fog Decree , issued by Hitler in 1941 and disseminated along with a directive from Keitel, was operated within the conquered territories in the West (Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands). The decree allowed those "endangering German security" to be seized and made to disappear without trace. Keitel's directive stated that "efficient intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminal and the population do not know his fate."
GUIDELINES TO SOLDIERS
The "Guidelines for the Conduct of the Troops in Russia" issued by the OKW on 19 May 1941 declared "Judeo-Bolshevism" to be the most deadly enemy of the German nation, and that "It is against this destructive ideology and its adherents that Germany is waging war". The guidelines went on to demand "ruthless and vigorous measures against Bolshevik inciters, guerrillas, saboteurs, Jews, and the complete elimination of all active and passive resistance." Influenced by the guidelines, in a directive sent out to the troops under his command, General Erich Hoepner of the Panzer Group 4 stated:
The war against Russia is an important chapter in the German nation's struggle for existence. It is the old battle of the Germanic against the Slavic people, of the defence of European culture against Muscovite-Asiatic inundation and of the repulse of Jewish Bolshevism. The objective of this battle must be the demolition of present-day Russia and must therefore be conducted with unprecedented severity. Every military action must be guided in planning and execution by an iron resolution to exterminate the enemy remorselessly and totally. In particular, no adherents of the contemporary Russian Bolshevik system are to be spared.
In the same spirit, General Müller, who was the Wehrmacht's senior liaison officer for legal matters, in a lecture to military judges on June 11, 1941 advised the judges present that "...in the operation to come, feelings of justice must in certain situations give way to military exigencies and then revert to old habits of warfare ... One of the two adversaries must be finished off. Adherents of the hostile attitude are not to be conserved, but liquidated". General Müller declared that, in the war against the Soviet Union, any Soviet civilian who was felt to be hindering the German war effort was to be regarded as a "guerrilla" and shot on the spot. The Army's Chief of Staff, General Franz Halder , declared in a directive that in the event of guerrilla attacks, German troops were to impose "collective measures of force" by massacring villages.
In November 1935, the psychological war laboratory of the Reich War
Ministry submitted a study about how best to undermine
Although this material was not used at the time, later in 1941 the
material the psychological war laboratory had developed in 1935 was
dusted off, and served as the basis not only for propaganda in the
Typical of the German Army propaganda was the following passage from a pamphlet issued in June 1941:
Anyone who has ever looked into the face of a Red commissar knows what the Bolsheviks are. There is no need here for theoretical reflections. It would be an insult to animals if one were to call the features of these, largely Jewish, tormentors of people beasts. They are the embodiment of the infernal, of the personified insane hatred of everything that is noble in humanity. In the shape of these commissars we witness the revolt of the subhuman against noble blood. The masses whom they are driving to their deaths with every means of icy terror and lunatic incitement would have brought about an end of all meaningful life, had the incursion not been prevented at the last moment;" .
German Army propaganda often gave extracts in newsletters concerning the missions for German troops in the East:
It is necessary to eliminate the red sub-humans, along with their Kremlin dictators. German people will have a great task to perform the most in its history, and the world will hear more about that this task will be completed till the end.
As a result of this sort of propaganda, the majority of the Wehrmacht
Heer officers and soldiers tended to regard the war in
The pitiful hordes on the other side are nothing but felons who are driven by alcohol and the threat of pistols at their heads ... They are nothing but a bunch of assholes! ... Having encountered these Bolshevik hordes and having seen how they live has made a lasting impression on me. Everyone, even the last doubter, knows today that the battle against these sub-humans, who've been whipped into a frenzy by the Jews, was not only necessary but came in the nick of time. Our Führer has saved Europe from certain chaos.
As a result of these views, the majority of the German Army worked
enthusiastically with the SS in murdering Jews in the Soviet Union.
Richard J. Evans wrote that junior officers tended
to be especially zealous National Socialists with a third of them
The order was in line with the interests of the Wehrmacht command, which was eager to secure logistical facilities and routes behind the front line for the divisions on the Eastern Front. On 24 May 1941, Field Marshal Walther von Brauchitsch , the head of the German Army High Command ( Oberkommando des Heeres – OKH), slightly modified the assumptions of the "Barbarossa Jurisdiction". His orders were to use the jurisdiction only in cases where the discipline of the army would not suffer.
Contrary to what was claimed after the war, the Wehrmacht generals such as Heinz Guderian , did not intend to mitigate the records of the jurisdiction of an order, or in any way violate Hitler's intentions. His command was intended solely to prevent individual excesses which could damage discipline within army ranks, without changing the extermination intentions of the order. As part of the policy of harshness towards Slavic "sub-humans" and to prevent any tendency towards seeing the enemy as human, German troops were ordered to go out of their way to mistreat women and children in Russia.
In October 1941, the commander of the 12th Infantry Division sent out a directive saying "the carrying of information is mostly done by youngsters in the ages of 11–14" and that "as the Russian is more afraid of the truncheon than of weapons, flogging is the most advisable measure for interrogation". The Nazis at the beginning of the war banned sexual relations between Germans and foreign slave workers. In accordance to these new racial laws issued by the Nazis; in November 1941, the commander of the 18th Panzer Division warned his soldiers not to have sex with "sub-human" Russian women, and ordered that any Russian women found having sex with a German soldier was to be handed over to the SS to be executed at once.
A decree ordered on 20 February 1942 declared that sexual intercourse between a German woman and a Russian worker or prisoner of war would result in the latter being punished by the death penalty. During the war, hundreds of Polish and Russian men were found guilty of "race defilement " for their relations with German women and were executed.
INVASION OF POLAND
LOCATION Palmiry Forest and other locations in Occupied Poland .
DATE Spring – summer 1940
TARGET Polish intellectuals and the upper classes.
ATTACK TYPE Massacres
WEAPONS Automatic weapons
Wehrmacht attitudes towards Poles were a combination of contempt, fear, and a belief that violence was the best way to deal with them.
MASS MURDER OF POLISH CIVILIANS
Wehrmacht units killed thousands of Polish civilians during the September 1939 campaign through executions and the terror bombing of cities. Any act of defiance was met with the most ruthless violence, although the Army leadership did seek to discourage so-called "wild" shootings where Wehrmacht troops would indiscriminately shoot all Poles on their own initiative. Court martial proceedings were begun against some of the junior officers who had led these shootings, but this was nullified on 4 October 1939, when Hitler pardoned all military personnel who had been involved in war crimes in Poland. After the end of hostilities, during the Wehrmacht's administration of Poland, which went on until 25 October 1939, 531 towns and villages were burned; the Wehrmacht carried out 714 mass executions, alongside many incidents of plunder, banditry and murder. Altogether, it is estimated that 16,376 Poles fell victim to these atrocities. Approximately 60% of these crimes were committed by the Wehrmacht. Wehrmacht soldiers frequently engaged in the massacre of Jews on their own, rather than just assisting in rounding them up for the SS.
In the summer of 1940,
Reinhard Heydrich , the chief of the Reich
Main Security Office (including the
DELIBERATE BOMBING OF CIVILIANS
In one of the Germany military's first acts of
World War II
MASSACRES OF POLISH POWS
See also: Massacre in Ciepielów About 300 Polish POWs executed by the soldiers of the German 15th motorized infantry regiment in Ciepielów on September 9, 1939.
Numerous examples exist in which Polish soldiers were killed after capture; for instance, at Śladów , where 252 prisoners of war (POW)s were shot or drowned , at Ciepielów , where some 300 POWs were killed, and at Zambrów , where a further 300 were killed . Polish POWs of Jewish origin were routinely selected and shot on the spot.
The prisoners in the POW camp in Żyrardów , captured after the Battle of the Bzura , were denied any food and starved for ten days. In many cases Polish POWs were burned alive. Units of the Polish 7th Infantry Division were massacred after being captured in several individual acts of revenge for their resistance in combat. On September 11, Wehrmacht soldiers threw hand grenades into a school building where they kept Polish POWs. According to German historian Jochen Böhler, the Wehrmacht mass murdered at least 3,000 Polish POWs during the campaign.
RAPE OF POLES
There were rapes committed by soldiers of the Wehrmacht forces against Jewish women and girls during the Invasion of Poland. Rapes were also committed against Polish women and girls during mass executions carried out primarily by the Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz , which were accompanied by Wehrmacht soldiers and on territory under the administration of the German military, the rapes were carried out before shooting the female captives.
Only one case of rape was prosecuted by a German court during the
military campaign in Poland, the case of gang rape committed by three
soldiers against women of the Jewish Kaufmann family in
however, the German judge sentenced the guilty for
WIDESPREAD PLUNDER AND THEFT
Throughout the campaign
Wehrmacht engaged in widespread theft and
plunder of Polish citizens' property. Until 3 November 1939 the
Wehrmacht sent to the
INVASION OF BELGIUM
Part of a series on
* Major perpetrators
* Jews during
World War II
* Europe * Germany
* Romani people (Gypsies) * Poles * Soviet POWs * Slavs in Eastern Europe * Homosexuals * People with disabilities * Freemasons * Jehovah\'s Witnesses
------------------------- Jewish ghettos in German-occupied Poland
* List of selected ghettos
"FINAL SOLUTION "
END OF WORLD WAR II
* Wola massacre * Death marches
NAZI EXTERMINATION CAMPS
* Auschwitz-Birkenau * Bełżec * Chełmno * Jasenovac * Majdanek * Maly Trostenets * Sajmište * Sobibór * Treblinka
NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS
* Gonars (Italy)
TRANSIT AND COLLECTION CAMPS
* Breendonk * Mechelen
* Gurs * Drancy
* Amersfoort * Westerbork
Allied response Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations
Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany
Deportations of French Jews to death camps
* Survivors of Sobibór * Timeline of Treblinka extermination camp * Victims of Nazism * Rescuers of Jews
* List of books about
The Destruction of the European Jews Functionalism versus intentionalism
* Days of remembrance * Memorials and museums
* v * t * e
Main article: Vinkt massacre
Between 25–28 May 1940, the Wehrmacht committed several war crimes in and near the small Belgian village of Vinkt. Hostages were taken and used as human shields. As the Belgian army continued to resist, farms were searched and looted, and more hostages were taken. In all, 86 civilians are known to have been executed. Besides Vinkt, other massacres and shootings happened with estimates of 600 victims.
INVASION OF THE SOVIET UNION
Some German officers had considered Communism in the
Ewald Banse , a leading German professor and a member of the
National Association for the Military Sciences (a group secretly
financed by the Reichswehr) wrote in a pamphlet calling for
"intellectual world domination" by Germany wrote that the Soviet
leadership was mostly Jewish who dominated an apathetic and mindless
Russian masses. In 1935, Colonel
Carl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel in a
report about the military capacity of the
ANTI-PARTISAN AND ANTI-JEWISH ACTIONS
Under the guise of "anti-bandit" (Bandenkampf) operations, the
Wehrmacht in the
Following the Heydrich-Wagner agreement on 28 April 1941, Feldmarshal
Walther von Brauchitsch ordered when
Operation Barbarossa began that
all German Army commanders were to identify and register all Jews in
the occupied areas in the
In August 1941, following the protests by two Lutheran chaplains about the massacre of a group of Jewish women and children at Byelaya Tserkov , General von Reichenau wrote:
The conclusion of the report in question contains the following sentence, "In the case in question, measures against women and children were undertaken which in no way differ from atrocities carried out by the enemy about which the troops are continually being informed".
I have to describe this assessment as incorrect, inappropriate and impertinent in the extreme. Moreover this comment was written in an open communication which passes through many hands.
It would have been far better if the report had not been written at all.
One SS man who saw the killings at Byelaya Tserkov described them as follows:
I went to the woods alone. The Wehrmacht had already dug a grave. The children were brought along in a tractor. I had nothing to do with this technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing around trembling. The children were taken down from the tractor. They were lined up along the top of the grave and shot so that they fell into it. The Ukrainians did not aim at any particular part of the body. They fell into the grave. The wailing was indescribable. I shall never forget the scene throughout my life. I find it very hard to bear. I particularly remember a small fair-haired girl who took me by the hand. She too was shot later ... The grave was near some woods. It was not near the rifle-range. The execution must had taken place in the afternoon at about 3.30 or 4.00. It took place the day after the discussions at the Feldkommandanten...Many children were hit four or five times before they died.
In the summer of 1941, the
SS Cavalry Brigade commanded by Hermann
Fegelein during the course of "anti-partisan" operations in the
Pripyat Marshes killed 699
The action, first scheduled as a training exercise was carried out under real-life conditions (ernstfallmässig) in the village itself. Strangers, especially partisans could not be found. The screening of the population, however resulted in 13 Jews, 27 Jewish women and 11 Jewish children, of which 13 Jews and 19 Jewish women were shot in co-operation with the Security Service.
Based on what they had learned during the Mogilev seminar, one Wehrmacht officer told his men "Where the partisan is, there is the Jew and where the Jew is, there is the partisan". The 707th Infantry Division of the Wehrmacht put this principle into practice during an "anti-partisan" sweep that saw the division shoot 10,431 people out of the 19,940 it had detained during the sweep while suffering only two dead and five wounded in the process.
In Order No. 24 dated 24 November 1941, the commander of the 707th Division declared:
5. Jews and Gypsies: ... As already has been ordered, the Jews have to vanish from the flat country and the Gypsies have to be annihilated too. The carrying out of larger Jewish actions is not the task of the divisional units. They are carried out by civilian or police authorities, if necessary ordered by the commandant of White Ruthenia, if he has special units at his disposal, or for security reasons and in the case of collective punishments. When smaller or larger groups of Jews are met in the flat country, they can be liquidated by divisional units or be massed in the ghettos near bigger villages designated for that purpose, where they can be handed over to the civilian authority or the SD.
At Mirgorod , the 62nd Infantry Division executed "the entire Jewish
population (168 people) for associating with partisans". At
Novomoskovsk , the 444th Security Division reported that they had
killed "305 bandits, 6 women with rifles (Flintenweiber), 39
prisoners-of-war and 136 Jews". In revenge for a partisan attack that
had killed one German soldier, the Ersatz-Brigade 202 "as an act of
retaliation shot 20 Jews from the villages of Bobosjanka and
Gornostajewka and burnt down 5 Jew-houses". Even more extreme was the
Šabac in DULAG 183, a German transit camp for POWs in World War
Wehrmacht also worked very closely with the
murdering members of the Jewish population of the Soviet Union. On
October 10, 1941 General
Walther von Reichenau drafted an order to be
read to the troops under his command stating that: "the soldier must
achieve full understanding of the necessity for a harsh but just
vengeance against Jewish subhumanity." Upon hearing of Reichenau's
Severity Order , Field Marshal
Gerd von Rundstedt , the commander of
Army Group South
Erich von Manstein
Jewry is the middleman between the enemy at our rear and the still
fighting remnants of the
On 6 July 1941
Einsatzkommando 4b of
Einsatzgruppe C – which was
Tarnopol at the time – sent a report which noted "Armed
forces surprisingly welcome hostility against the Jews". On 8
Einsatzgruppe D reported that relations with the German
Army were "excellent".
Franz Walter Stahlecker
Rapes were allowed in practice by the German military (officially
forbidden, however) in eastern and southeastern Europe, while northern
and western countries were relatively spared. In
Occupied Denmark ,
which initially agreed to collaborate with
German soldiers used to brand the bodies of captured partisan women
– and other women as well – with the words "Whore for Hitler's
troops" and rape them. Following their capture some German soldiers
vividly bragged about committing rape and rape-homicide. Susan
Brownmiller argues that rape played a pivotal role in
Examples of mass rapes in
Author Ursula Schele, estimated in the Journal "Zur Debatte um die
Ausstellung Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der
that in one of ten sexual intercourse with German soldiers would have
led to pregnancy and therefore its probable, while not provable that
up to ten millions women in the
Birgit Beck, in her work Rape: The Military Trials of Sexual Crimes Committed by Soldiers in the Wehrmacht, 1939–1944, describes the leniency in punishing sex crimes by German authorities in the East, at the same time pointing out heavy punishments applied in the West. If a soldier who committed a rape was subsequently convicted by a court-martial, he would usually be sentenced to four years in prison The German penal code was also valid for soldiers in war. However, until 1944 only 5,349 soldiers of the Wehrmacht on all fronts were sentenced because of indecency offence "Sittlichkeitsvergehen" or rape "Notzucht". Historian Mühlhäuser believe that sexual assault was not an exception but common, and that the actual number of rapes committed by German soldiers are without question much greater.
Other sources estimate that rapes of Soviet women by the Wehrmacht range up to 10,000,000 incidents, with between 750,000 and 1,000,000 children being born as a result.
In Soviet Russia rapes were only a concern if they undermined military discipline. Since 1941, rape was theoretically punishable with the death sentence, although, rapes were rarely prosecuted in practice and rapes by Germans of non-German women were not taken seriously, nor was it punishable by death, especially in the eastern European territories. :288 In October 1940 the laws on rape were changed, making it a "petitioned crime" – that is a crime for which punishment had to be requested. Historian Christa Paul writes that this resulted in "a nearly complete absence of prosecution and punishment for rape". :288 There were rape cases in the east where the perpetrators were sentenced if the rape was highly visible, damaging to the image of the German Army and the courts were willing to pass a condemning verdict against the accused. :289
According to the historian Regina Mühlhäuser, the Wehrmacht also used sexual violence and undressing in numerous cases of interrogations. Mühlhäuser adds that the number of illegitimate children born in the occupied regions did not exceed the prewar time. She comes to the conclusion that rapes on the Eastern front were not singular cases but has to admit that the state of source material is very poor.
PERSECUTION OF SOVIET POWS
The Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
had been signed by Germany and most other countries in 1929, while
the USSR and Japan did not sign until after the war (the final version
Third Geneva Convention of 1949). This meant that Germany was
legally obliged to treat all POWs according to it, while in turn,
Germans captured by the
By December 1941, more than 2.4 million Soviet
The Muslim POWs were shot because they were circumcised, and therefore might be Jewish; it was felt to be safer to simply shoot all circumcised POWs rather run the risk that a Jewish POW might escape execution by claiming to be a Muslim. Reflecting the close co-operation between the Wehrmacht and the SS was an Einsatzgruppen report, which read:
In Borispol, following a demand by the Commandant of the local P/W camp, a platoon of Sonderkommando 4 shot 752 Jewish prisoners of war on 14 October and 356 on 16 October 1941 including several commissars and 78 wounded Jews handed over by the camp medical officer.
According to a RHSA report of 5 December 1941, the Wehrmacht had since 22 June handed over to the Einsatzgruppen 16, 000 Soviet POWs to be "liquidated". A Typical of the Wehrmacht's treatment of Soviet POWs were the reports of the 11th Army commanded by Erich von Manstein on the "wastage" rates in the first half of 1942. According to the reports:
DATE DIED/SHOT ESCAPED Handed over to the SD DISCHARGED TOTAL WASTAGE
7.1.1942 135 181 140 26 507
6.2.1942 1,116 155 111 2,293 3,680
6.3.1942 1,115 36 66 298 1,522
Between the launching of Operation Barbarossa in the summer of 1941 and the following spring, 2.8 million of the 3.2 million prisoners taken died while in German hands. The German failure to attain their anticipated victory in the East led to significant shortages of labor for German war production and, beginning in 1942, prisoners of war in the eastern POW camps – primarily Soviets – were seen as a source of slave labor to keep Germany's wartime economy running.
On 6 August 1941, the OKW declared that Soviet POWs capable of work were to receive 2,200 calories/day and those not capable of work 2,040 calories/day. On 21 October 1941, the OKW ordered a huge reduction in the food rations for Soviet POWs, with POWs incapable of work henceforth to receive only 1,490 calories/day. In a meeting of senior generals called at Orša on 13 November 1941, the Army's First quarter-master General Eduard Wagner stated "Non-working prisoners of war in the camps are to starve".
A grand total of 5.7 million Soviet soldiers were taken prisoner during the war, of whom at least 3.3 million (58 percent of the total) died in captivity.
The killing of POWs by Wehrmacht soldiers started during the September 1939 Poland campaign. In many cases large groups of Polish soldiers were murdered after capture. Hitler's Commando Order , issued in 1942, provided "justification" for the shooting of enemy commandos , whether uniformed or not.
The massacres include that of at least 1500 black French POWs of West
African origin and was preceded by propaganda depicting the Africans
as savages. From October 1942 onwards, the
Wehrmacht carried out the
On 26 March 1944, 15 uniformed US Army officers and men were shot
without trial at
OTHER WEHRMACHT WAR CRIMES
WEHRMACHT BROTHEL SYSTEM
Under the German occupation, a widespread system of sexual slavery (forced prostitution) was instituted. The Wehrmacht also ran brothels where women were forced to work. The reason for establishing these brothels was the German officials' fear of venereal disease and onanism (masturbation). The Oberfeldarzt der Wehrmacht (Chief Field Doctor of the Wehrmacht) drew attention to "the danger of spread of homosexualism ".
On 3 May 1941, the Foreign Ministry of the Polish Government in Exile in London issued a document describing the mass raids carried out in Polish cities with the aim of capturing young women, who were later forced to work in brothels attended by German officers and soldiers.
The Nuremberg trials did not prosecute anyone for rape or other sexual violence; rape was defined as a crime against humanity, but prosecutors deemed that such crimes had "no nexus to war".
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A German soldier in front of a sign erected after the razing of
Kandanos , in
In Yugoslavia and Greece, many villages were razed and their inhabitants murdered during anti-partisan operations. Examples in Greece include: Alikianos , Distomo , Drakeia , Kalavryta , Kali Sykia , Kallikratis , Kleisoura , Kondomari , Kommeno , Lyngiades , Mesovouno , Mousiotitsa and Paramythia ; the razings of Kandanos and Anogeia ; the holocausts of Viannos and Kedros .
In occupied Poland and the USSR, hundreds of villages were wiped out and their inhabitants murdered. In the USSR, captured Soviet and Jewish partisans were used to sweep fields of land mines . In a number of occupied countries, the Wehrmacht's response to partisan attacks by resistance movements was to take and shoot hostages. Examples are: Putten (Netherlands), Oradour-sur-Glane (France), Telavåg (Norway) and Lidice (Czech Republic). As many as 100 hostages were murdered for every German killed. In 1944, prior to and after the D-Day invasion, the French Resistance and the Maquis increased their activities against all German organisations, including the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS .
In issuing orders for hostage-taking, Keitel stated that "it is
important that these should include well-known personalities or
members of their families." A
Wehrmacht commander in
DESTRUCTION OF WARSAW
World War II
Up to 13,000 soldiers and between 120,000 and 200,000 civilians were
killed by German-led forces during the
See also: Doctors\' trial
Throughout the war Germany engaged in numerous experiments on human prisoners and POWs. The Wehrmacht had full knowledge of those experiments, and performed some of its own. It provided assistance regarding:
* High altitude tests * Drinking seawater * Freezing of the human body * typhus research.
In many cases the test subjects, even if they survived, were murdered afterwards to study any changes within their bodies that happened during the experiment.
Examples of experiments conducted by the Wehrmacht include:
* Experiments on homosexuals: Wehrmacht doctors wanted to "cure" homosexuality by hormone treatments and putting homosexuals into battle. * Experiments on prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau by doctor Emil Kaschub . Kaschub came from Upper Silesia and was an ensign in the Wehrmacht (he was not a member of the SS). He performed experiments on the limbs of middle-aged and young prisoners; they would deliberately be infected with various toxic substances, which caused sores, abscesses and pain. The condition of the patients would be photographed by Kaschub every few days and liquid from their wounds collected. The probable motive for those experiments was to find out how soldiers made themselves sick in order to escape service in the Wehrmacht. * In August 1941. the staff doctor assigned to the Sixth Army, Gerhart Panning , learned about captured Russian dumdum bullets by using Jewish POWs. To determine the effects of this type of ammunition on German soldiers, he decided to test them on other human beings after asking SS - Standartenführer (Colonel) and a member of the SD Paul Blobel for some "guinea pigs", (Jewish POWs).
During the war members of the Wehrmacht attempted to influence Hitler's decision to study biological warfare only regarding defense. The head of the Science Division of the Wehrmacht, Erich Schumann, urged the Führer that "America must be attacked simultaneously with various human and animal epidemic pathogens, as well as plant pests." Laboratory tests were prepared for the use of plague , anthrax , cholera and typhoid . The possibility of using foot and mouth disease against Britain was also studied.
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At the end of the war in 1945, several
Wehrmacht generals made a
statement that defended the actions against partisans, the executions
of hostages and the use of slave labor as necessary to the war effort.
The generals contended that the
However, individual high-ranking
Wehrmacht officers stood trial for
war crimes. The Oberkommando der
Wehrmacht (OKW) commander-in-chief,
Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, and chief of operations staff Alfred
Jodl were both indicted and tried for war crimes by the International
Military Tribunal at
The prosecution of war crimes lost momentum during the 1950s as the
Operation Barbarossa had been portrayed in Germany as a
"preventive war" forced on Germany by Soviet attack alleged to be
planned for July 1941. This claim was widely believed in the Reich
during the war, and indeed was so popular that as late as the 1950s
some West German historians were still arguing Operation Barbarossa
was a "preventive war". As a result of this view of Operation
Barbarossa, for many Germans, violence inflicted by the
Soviet civilians and POWs was seen as something that the Soviets had
brought down on themselves, hence the absence of any guilt on the part
of many Germans.
In their memoirs, German Army generals claimed that the war had been a "clean war" on their part with the Army fighting because of the noble Prussian-German traditions, patriotism and a deep sense of honour and duty and that National Socialism had virtually no influence on the Army. In this version, almost all German war crimes were the work of the SS and any "excesses" committed by the Army were only the product of a long and bitter war and were no different from Allied war crimes. Very typical were the claims of one Infantry commander, who stated in his memoirs that all of the battles fought by his men were "always fairly conducted, though tough and bitter." Such claims were widely believed not only in Germany but abroad, with the British military historian Captain Basil Liddell Hart writing that "the German Army in the field on the whole observed the rules of war better than in 1914–18".
On 11 December 1979, the West German television show Report aired a documentary entitled "Crimes of the Wehrmacht in World War Two". The public's reaction was almost overwhelmingly negative, with World War II veterans leading a campaign to have the producer of Report fired for the "defamation" of German soldiers. This despite the fact – as the German historian Jürgen Förster was to write in 1989 – that the producers of the documentary had gone out of their way to be fair and unbiased.
The leadership of the Wehrmacht rather willingly made themselves into accomplices in the policy of extermination. It did this by generating the "criminal orders" and implementing them. By no means did they merely passively support the implementation of their concept, although there was a certain reluctance for reasons of military discipline and a few isolated protests. To construct a "casual nexus" over all this amounts in fact to steering away from the decisive responsibility of the military leadership and the bureaucratic elites.
In 1989, the British historian
Richard J. Evans wrote that right from
the beginning of the war against the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht
fought a genocidal war of "extreme brutality and barbarism". Evans
noted that the
Wehrmacht officers regarded the Russians as
"sub-human", were from the time of the invasion of Poland in 1939
telling their troops that war was caused by "Jewish vermin", and
explained to the troops that the war against the
Such views helped to explain why 3,300,000 of the 5,700,000 Soviet POWs taken by the Germans died in captivity. In 1992, Omer Bartov noted that the three leaders of the "new revisionism" in German history that sparked the Historikerstreit of the late 1980s were all in some ways seeking to promote the image of the Wehrmacht as a force for the good, and seeking to portray the Wehrmacht as a victim of the Allies rather the victimizer of the peoples of Europe, writing of "...the bizarre inversion of the Wehrmacht's roles proposed by all three exponents of the new revisionism, whereby overtly or by implication the Army is transformed from culprit to saviour, from an object of hatred and fear to one of empathy and pity, from victimizer to victim". Specifically, Bartov noted that:
Michael Stürmer 's geographical interpretation of German history
meant that Germany's "mission" in Central Europe was to serve as a
bulwark against the Slavic menace from the East in both World Wars.
Bartov wrote that all three historians had in varying ways sought to
justify and excuse
Wehrmacht war crimes by depicting the
engaging in a heroic battle for Western civilization, often using the
same language as the Nazis such as referring to the
Förster argues the
Wehrmacht played a key role in the
In his 2004 essay "Celluloid Soldiers" about post-war German films,
the Israeli historian
Omer Bartov wrote that German films of the 1950s
showed the average German soldier as a heroic victim: noble, tough,
brave, honourable and patriotic, while fighting hard in a senseless
war for a regime that he did not care for. The 08/15 film trilogy of
1954–55 concerns a sensitive young German soldier named Asch
Joachim Fuchsberger ). No mention is ever made of the genocidal
aspects of Germany's war in the East with instead the German soldiers
being shown as the victims of a war that they can not fathom the
reasons for. Bartov commented that given the intense indoctrination
Wehrmacht about how the war against the
The war on the Eastern Front was portrayed in a manner that suggested that all who fought in the war were equally victims, but since the focus in the 08/15 films is on the unit commanded by Asch inevitably the impression is given that it was German soldiers who were the primary victims of the war. The term 8/15 refers to a type of German machine gun used in World War I that was manufactured in such quantities that 8/15 became German Army slang for anything was standard issue, which implied that Asch and the soldiers under his command were Everyman characters of the war on the Eastern Front.
The last of the 08/15 films ends with Germany being occupied by a
gang of American soldiers portrayed as bubble-gum chewing, slack-jawed
morons and uncultured louts, totally inferior in every respect to the
heroic German soldiers. The only exception is the black-marketing
Jewish American officer, who is shown as both hyper-intelligent and
unscrupulous, which Bartov noted seems to imply that the real tragedy
World War II
In Der Arzt von
Bartov argues the need to show German soldiers as manly war heroes
meant they could never be shown as war criminals. Bartov wrote that
the portrayal of the Soviet guards as mostly Asian shows disturbing
affinities to war-time
This period also saw a number of films that depicted the military
resistance to Hitler . In
Des Teufels General (The Devil's General) of
1954, a Luftwaffe general named Harras (
Curd Jürgens ), loosely
This impression is further reinforced by the comic exchanges between the decent and upright Harras and various thuggish Nazis. Officers such as Harras may have served a criminal regime, but Des Teufels General seems to suggest that there never a part of that regime. Bartov wrote that no German film of the 1950s showed the deep commitment felt by many German soldiers to National Socialism, the utterly ruthless way the German Army fought the war and the mindless nihilist brutality of the later Wehrmacht.
Bartov also wrote that German film-makers liked to show the heroic
last stand of the 6th Army at Stalingrad, but none has so far showed
the 6th Army's massive co-operation with the
murdering Soviet Jews in 1941 during its march across the Ukraine.
Likewise, Bartov commented that German films tended to dwell on the
suffering of the 6th Army during the Battle of
Only with Jenseits des Krieges (released in the US as East of War) in 1996, a documentary directed by Ruth Beckermann dealing with the public's reaction to the exhibition "War of Extermination" in Vienna in 1995, did a German film admit to Wehrmacht war crimes being commonplace instead of an exception to the rule. Some veterans in Jenseits des Krieges denied that the German Army committed any war crimes at all while others express relief at long last that the truth has been told. One critic wrote of the veterans in Jenseits des Krieges that "Some are sorry for their brutality, while others rationalize such acts as shooting POWs, raping women and butchering Jewish people as part of what soldiers were expected to do".
Main article: Wehrmachtsausstellung
The Wehrmachtsausstellung (German : German Army exhibition) was the name for two exhibitions focusing on war crimes of the Wehrmacht committed on the East Front from 1941 to 1944. They ran from 1995 to 1999 in the original form, and (following extensive criticism) from 2001 to 2004 in a revised form. Since then, it has permanently been at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin. The exhibition was the subject of a documentary, Der unbekannte Soldat ("The Unknown Soldier") by Michael Verhoeven , in 2006. It compares the two versions of the exhibition, and its maker, Jan Philipp Reemtsma .
EXHIBITION ABOUT THE WEHRMACHT IN POLAND IN 1939
One criticism was that both exhibitions only covered the German
presence in the
ANALYSIS OF PHOTOS AND LETTERS
German soldiers photographing the hanging of Soviet citizens accused of being partisans
“ Rumors immediately began circulating of appalling crimes committed in the occupied territories – wholesale deportations and systematic massacres ... A story solemnly made the rounds of the world's newspapers that storks migrating from Holland to South Africa had been found with messages taped to their legs that read, " Help us! The Nazis are killing us all!" ”
The attitude of German soldiers towards atrocities committed on Jews
and Poles in
World War II
German soldiers as well as police members took pictures of Jewish executions, deportations, humiliation and the abuse to which they were also subjected. According to researchers, pictures indicate the consent of the photographers to the abuses and murders committed. "This consent is the result of several factors, including the anti-Semitic ideology and prolonged, intensive indoctrination ". Archival evidence as to the reaction to policies of racial extermination can also be traced in various letters that survived the war. Many letters from Wehrmacht soldiers were published in 1941 and entitled "German Soldiers See the Soviet Union"; this publication includes authentic letters from soldiers on the Eastern front. To give an example of the intensive indoctrination "that transcends the mere results of military service", researchers Judith Levin and Daniel Uziel quote a German soldier writing:
The German people is deeply indebted to the Fuehrer, because if these animals, our enemies here, had reached Germany, murders of a nature not yet witnessed in the world would have occurred ... No newspaper can describe what we have seen. It verges on the unbelievable, and even the Middle Ages do not compare with what has transpired here. Reading Der Stuermer and observing its photos give only a limited impression of what we have seen here and of the crimes committed here by the Jews.
Judith Levin and Daniel Uziel state that this type of writing and opinion was very common in correspondence left by German soldiers, especially on the Eastern Front . Other samples of German soldiers' letters were sent home and copied during the war by a special Polish Home Army cell that infiltrated the German postal system. These letters have been analyzed by historians and the picture they paint is similar to views expressed by Levin and Uziel. Many soldiers wrote openly about the extermination of Jews and were proud of it. Support for "untermensch " and "master race " concepts were also part of the attitude expressed by German soldiers. Presented examples reflecting this trend include samples such as:
I'm one of those who are decreasing number of partisans. I put them against the wall and everyone gets a bullet in his head, very merry and interesting job.
...My point of view: this nation deserves only the knaut , only by it can they be educated; a part of them already experienced that; others still try to resist. Yesterday I had possibility to see 40 partisans, something like that I had never encountered before. I became convinced that we are the masters, others are untermenschen.
Much more evidence of such trends and thoughts among Wehrmacht soldiers exists and is subject to research by historians.
The historians responsible for the exhibition assume that the
anti-Semitic climate and propaganda in
* ^ Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum. "The
* Bartov, Omer (1991). Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in
the Third Reich. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN
* Bartov, Omer (1999). "Soldiers, Nazis and War in the Third Reich
(pages 129–150)". In Christian Leitz. The Third Reich The Essential
Readings. London: Blackwell. ISBN 978-0-631-20700-9 .
* Bartov, Omer (2001). The Eastern Front, 1941–45 : German Troops
and the Barbarisation of Warfare (2nd ed.). London: Palgrave
Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-94944-3 .
* Bartov, Omer (2004). "Celluloid Soldiers: Cinematic Images of the
Wehrmacht (pages 130–143)". In Ljubica & Mark Erickson. Russia War,
Peace and Diplomacy. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN
* Beck, Birgit (2002). "Vergewaltigungen. Sexualdelikte von Soldaten
vor Militärgerichten der deutschen Wehrmacht, 1939–1944". In Karen
Hagemann/Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (Hrsg.). Heimat-Front. Militär
und Geschlechterverhältnisse im Zeitalter der Weltkriege. Frankfurt:
Campus. ISBN 978-3-593-36837-5 .
* Böhler, Jochen (2006). Auftakt zum Vernichtungskrieg: Die
Wehrmacht in Polen 1939 (in German). Frankfurt: Fischer Taschenbuch
Verlag. ISBN 3-596-16307-2 .
* Davies, Norman (2006). Europe at War 1939–1945: No Simple
Victory . London: Pan Books. ISBN 978-0-330-35212-3 .
* Evans, Richard J. (1989). In Hitler's Shadow West German
Historians and the Attempt to Escape the
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