Commissar Order


Commissar Order
An alleged Jewish Commissar in 1941; the photo was taken after he was captured and the original German archive caption claims 'He shot from ambush on our invading troops.'

The Commissar Order (German: Kommissarbefehl) was a written order given by Adolf Hitler on 6 June 1941, prior to Operation Barbarossa. Its official name was Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars (Richtlinien für die Behandlung politischer Kommissare). It demanded that any Soviet political commissar identified among captured troops be shot immediately as an enforcer of the Communist ideology and the Soviet Communist Party line in military forces.

According to the order, all those prisoners who could be identified as "thoroughly bolshevized or as active representatives of the Bolshevist ideology" should also be killed.[1]

Contents

History

The first draft of the Commissar Order was issued by General Eugen Müller on May 6, 1941 and called for the shooting of all commissars in order to avoid letting any captured commissar reach a POW camp in Germany.[2] The German historian Hans-Adolf Jacobsen wrote:

"There was never any doubt in the minds of German Army commanders that the order deliberately flouted international law; that is borne out by the unusually small number of written copies of the Kommissarbefehl which were distributed".[2]

The paragraph in which General Müller called for Army commanders to prevent "excesses" was removed on the request of the OKW.[3] Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch amended the order on May 24, 1941 by attaching Müller's paragraph and calling on the Army to maintain discipline in the enforcement of the order.[3] The final draft of the order was issued by OKW on June 6, 1941 and was restricted only to the most senior commanders, who were instructed to inform their subordinates verbally.[3]

The enforcement of the Commissar Order led to thousands of executions.[4] The German historian Jürgen Förster was to write in 1989 that it was simply not true as most German Army commanders claimed in their memoirs and some German historians like Ernst Nolte were still claiming that the Commissar Order was not enforced.[4] On September 23, 1941, after several Wehrmacht commanders had asked for the order to be softened as a way of encouraging the Red Army to surrender, Hitler declined "any modification of the existing orders regarding the treatment of political commissars".[5]

When the commissar order became known among the Red Army, it boosted morale and delayed or prohibited surrender to the Wehrmacht.[6] This unwanted effect was cited in German appeals to Hitler (e.g. by Claus von Stauffenberg), who finally cancelled the Commissar Order after one year, on 6 May 1942.[7]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Soviet Prisoners of War: Forgotten Nazi Victims of World War II
  2. ^ a b Jacobesn, Hans-Adolf "The Kommisssarbefehl and Mass Executions of Soviet Russian Prisoners of War" pages 505-536 from Anatomy of the SS State, Walter and Company: New York, 1968 pages 516-517
  3. ^ a b c Jacobesn, Hans-Adolf "The Kommisssarbefehl and Mass Executions of Soviet Russian Prisoners of War" pages 505-536 from Anatomy of the SS State, Walter and Company: New York, 1968 page 519.
  4. ^ a b Förster, Jürgen "The Wehrmacht and the War of Extermination Against the Soviet Union" pages 494-520 from The Nazi Holocaust page 502
  5. ^ Jacobesn, Hans-Adolf "The Kommisssarbefehl and Mass Executions of Soviet Russian Prisoners of War" pages 505-536 from Anatomy of the SS State, Walter and Company: New York, 1968 page 522.
  6. ^ Holocaust Encyclopedia: Commisar Order
  7. ^ Jacobesn, Hans-Adolf "The Kommisssarbefehl and Mass Executions of Soviet Russian Prisoners of War" pages 505-536 from Anatomy of the SS State, Walter and Company: New York, 1968 page 512.

References

  • Förster, Jürgen "The Wehrmacht and the War of Extermination Against the Soviet Union" pages 494-520 from The Nazi Holocaust Part 3 The "Final Solution": The Implementation of Mass Murder Volume 2 edited by Michael Marrus, Westpoint: Meckler Press, 1989 ISBN 0-88736-255-9
  • Jacobesn, Hans-Adolf "The Kommisssarbefehl and Mass Executions of Soviet Russian Prisoners of War" pages 505-536 from Anatomy of the SS State, Walter and Company: New York, 1968, 1972 ISBN 0586080287 ; first publisehd as "Kommissarbefehl und Massenexekutionen sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener" pages 163–283 by Hans–Adolf Jacobsen in: Anatomie des SS–Staates, by Hans Buchheim, Martin Broszat, Hans-Adolf Jacobsen, and H. Krausnick, Bd. II, Freiburg 1965.

External links


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