Archive/File: imt/ tgmwc/judgment/j-war-crimes-pows Last-Modified: 1997/09/13 Judgment of the International Military Tribunal For The Trial of German Major War Criminals London His Majesty's Stationery Office 1951 [Page 45] MURDER AND ILL-TREATMENT OF PRISONERS OF WAR Article 6 (b) of the Charter defines war crimes in these words: "War crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity." In the course of the war, many Allied soldiers who had surrendered to the Germans were shot immediately, often as a matter of deliberate, calculated policy. On the 18th October, 1942, the Defendant Keitel circulated a directive authorised by Hitler, which ordered that all members of Allied "Commando" units, often when in uniform and whether armed or not, were to be "slaughtered to the last man", even if they attempted to surrender. It was further provided that if such Allied troops came into the hands of the military authorities after being first captured by the local police, or in any other way they should be handed over immediately to the SD. This order was supplemented from time to time, and was effective throughout the remainder of the war, although after the Allied landings in Normandy in 1944 it was made clear that the order did not apply to "Commandos" captured within the immediate battle area. Under the provisions of this order, Allied "Commando" troops, and other military units operating independently, lost their lives in Norway, France, Czechoslovakia, and Italy. Many of them were killed on the spot, and in no case were those who were executed later in concentration camps ever given a trial of any kind. For example, an American military mission which landed behind the German front in the Balkans in January, 1945, numbering about twelve to fifteen men and wearing uniform, were taken to Mauthausen under the authority of this order, and according to the affidavit of Adolf Zutte [sic] the adjutant of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, all of them were shot. [Page 46] In March, 1944, the OKH issued the "Kugel" or "Bullet" decree, which directed that every escaped officer and NCO prisoner of war who had not been put to work, with the exception of British and American prisoners of war, should on recapture be handed over to the SIPO and SD. This order was distributed by the SIPO and SD to their regional offices. These escaped officers and NCO's were to be sent to the concentration camp at Mauthausen, to be executed upon arrival, by means of a bullet shot in the neck. In March, 1944, fifty officers of the British Royal Air Force, who escaped from the camp at Sagan where they were confined as prisoners, were shot on recapture, on the direct orders of Hitler. Their bodies were immediately cremated, and the urns containing their ashes were returned to the camp. It was not contended by the defendants that this was other than plain murder, in complete violation of international law. When Allied airmen were forced to land in Germany, they were sometimes killed at once by the civilian population. The police were instructed not to interfere with these killings, and the Ministry of Justice was informed that no one should be prosecuted for taking part in them. The treatment of Soviet prisoners of war was characterized by particular inhumanity. The death of so many of them was not due merely to the action of individual guards, or to the exigencies of life in the camps. It was the result of systematic plans to murder. More than a month before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the OKW were making special plans for dealing with political representatives serving with the Soviet Armed Forces who might be captured. One proposal was that "political Commissars of the Army are not recognized as Prisoners of War, and are to be liquidated at the latest in the transient prisoner of war camps." The Defendant Keitel gave evidence that instructions incorporating this proposal were issued to the German Army. On the 8th September, 1941, regulations for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war in all prisoner of war camps were issued, signed by General Reinecke, the head of the prisoner of war department of the High Command. Those orders stated: "The Bolshevist soldier has therefore lost all claim to treatment as an honorable opponent, in accordance with the Geneva Convention .... The order for ruthless and energetic action must be given at the slightest indication of insubordination, especially in the case of Bolshevist fanatics. Insubordination, active or passive resistance, must be broken immediately by force of arms (bayonets, butts, and firearms) .... Anyone carrying out the order who does not use his weapons, or does so with insufficient energy, is punishable .... Prisoners of war attempting escape are to be fired on without previous challenge. No warning shot must ever be fired .... The use of arms against prisoners of war is as a rule legal." The Soviet prisoners of war were left without suitable clothing the wounded without medical care; they were starved, and in many cases left to die. On the 17th July, 1941, the Gestapo issued an order providing for the killing of all Soviet prisoners of war who were or might be dangerous to National Socialism. The order recited: "The mission of the Commanders of the SIPO and SD stationed in Stalags is the political investigation of all camp inmates, the elimination and further 'treatment' (a) of all political, criminal, or in some other way unbearable elements among them, (b) of those persons who could be used for the reconstruction of the occupied territories .... Further, the commanders must make efforts from [Page 47] the beginning to seek out among the prisoners elements which appear reliable, regardless of whether there are Communists concerned or not, in order to use them for intelligence purposes inside of the camp, and if advisable, later in the occupied territories also. By use of such informers, and by use of all other existing possibilities, the discovery of all elements to be eliminated among the prisoners must proceed step by step at once .." "Above all, the following must be discovered: all important functionaries of State and Party, especially professional revolutionaries ..all People's Commissars in the Red Army, leading personalities of the State ..leading personalities of the business world, members of the Soviet Russian Intelligence, all Jews, all persons who are found to be agitators or fanatical Communists. Executions are not to be held in the camp or in the immediate vicinity of the camp .... The prisoners are to be taken for special treatment if possible into the former Soviet Russian territory." The affidavit of Warlimont, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Wehrmacht, and the testimony of Ohlendorf, former Chief of Amt III of the RSHA, and of Lahousen, the head of one of the sections of the Abwehr, the Wehrmacht's Intelligence Service, all indicate the thoroughness with which this order was carried out. The affidavit of Kurt Lindown, a former Gestapo official, states: " ... There existed in the prisoner of war camps on the Eastern Front small screening teams (Einsatz commandos), headed by lower ranking members of the Secret Police (Gestapo). These teams were assigned to the camp commanders and had the job of segregating the prisoners of war who were candidates for execution according to the orders that had been given, and to report them to the office of the Secret Police.' On the 23rd October, 1941, the camp commander of the Gross Rosen concentration camp reported to Mueller, Chief of the Gestapo, a list of the Soviet prisoners of war who had been executed there on the previous day. An account of the general conditions and treatment of Soviet prisoners of war during the first eight months after the German attack upon Russia was given in a letter which the Defendant Rosenberg sent to the defendant Keitel on 28th February, 1942: "The fate of the Soviet prisoners of war in Germany is on the contrary a tragedy of the greatest extent .... A large part of them has starved, or died because of the hazards of the weather. Thousands also died from spotted fever. "The camp commanders have forbidden the civilian population to put food at the disposal of the prisoners, and they have rather let them starve to death. "In many cases, when prisoners of war could no longer keep up on the march because of hunger and exhaustion, they were shot before the eyes of the horrified population, and the corpses were left. "In numerous camps, no shelter for the prisoners of war was provided at all. They lay under the open sky during rain or snow. Even tools were not made available to dig holes or caves." In some cases Soviet prisoners of war were branded with a special permanent mark. There was put in evidence the OKW order dated the 20th July, 1942, which laid down that: [Page 48] "The brand is to take the shape of an acute angle of about 45 degrees, with the long side to be 1 cm. in length, pointing upwards and burnt on the left buttock .... This brand is made with the aid of a lancet available in any military unit. The coloring used is Chinese ink." The carrying out of this order was the responsibility of the military authorities, though it was widely circulated by the Chief of the SIPO and the SD to German police officials for information. Soviet prisoners of war were also made the subject of medical experiments of the most cruel and inhuman kind. In July, 1943, experimental work was begun in preparation for a campaign of bacteriological warfare; Soviet prisoners of war were used in these medical experiments, which more often than not proved fatal. In connection with this campaign for bacteriological warfare, preparations were also made for the spreading of bacterial emulsions from planes, with the object of producing widespread failures of crops and consequent starvation. These measures were never applied, possibly because of the rapid deterioration of Germany's military position. The argument in defense of the charge with regard to the murder and ill-treatment of Soviet prisoners of war, that the U.S.S.R. was not a party to the Geneva Convention, is quite without foundation. On the 15th September,.1941, Admiral Canaris protested against the regulations for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war, signed by General Reinecke on the 8th September, 1941. He then stated: "The Geneva Convention for the treatment of prisoners of war is not binding in the relationship between Germany and the U.S.S.R. Therefore only the principles of general international law on the treatment of prisoners of war apply. Since the 18th century these have gradually been established along the lines that war captivity is neither revenge nor punishment, but solely protective custody, the only purpose of which is to prevent the prisoners of war from further participation in the war. This principle was developed in accordance with the view held by all armies that it is contrary to military tradition to kill or injure helpless people .... The decrees for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war enclosed are based on a fundamentally different view-point." This protest, which correctly stated the legal position, was ignored. The Defendant Keitel made a note on this memorandum: "The objections arise from the military concept of chivalrous warfare. This is the destruction of an ideology. Therefore I approve and back the measures."
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