Military Wiki

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising – Photo from Jürgen Stroop Report to Heinrich Himmler from May 1943. The original German caption reads: "Forcibly pulled out of dug-outs". The only person identified with certainty in the photograph is Josef Blösche the SS soldier with the gun.[1]

The government of Germany ordered, organized and condoned innumerable war crimes in both World War I and World War II. The most notable of these is the Holocaust in which millions of people were murdered or died from abuse and neglect, 60% of them (approximately 6 million out of 10 million)[citation needed] Jews. However, millions also died as a result of other German actions in those two conflicts. The true number of victims may never be known, since much of the evidence was destroyed by the perpetrators, by burning of bodies, murder of witnesses and destruction of documentation in an attempt to conceal the crimes.

Pre-World War I

The Herero and Namaqua Genocide is considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th century.[2][3][4][5][6] It took place between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa (modern day Namibia), during the scramble for Africa.

On January 12, 1904, the Herero people, led by Samuel Maharero, rebelled against German colonial rule. In August, German general Lothar von Trotha defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them into the desert of Omaheke, where most of them died of thirst. In October, the Nama people also rebelled against the Germans only to suffer a similar fate.

In total, from 24,000 up to 100,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama died.[7][8][9][10][11] The genocide was characterized by widespread death by starvation and thirst because the Herero who fled the violence were prevented from returning from the Namib Desert. Some sources also claim that the German colonial army systematically poisoned desert wells.[12][13]

World War I

Chemical weapons in warfare

Poison gas was introduced by Imperial Germany, and was subsequently used by all major belligerents in the war against enemy soldiers, in violation of the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which explicitly forbade the use of "poison or poisoned weapons" in warfare.[14][15]


In August 1914, as part of the Schlieffen Plan, the German Army invaded and occupied the neutral nation of Belgium without explicit warning, which violated a treaty of 1839 that the German chancellor dismissed as a "scrap of paper" and the 1907 Hague Convention on Opening of Hostilities.[16] Within the first two months of the war, the German occupiers terrorized the Belgians, killing thousands of civilians and looting and burning scores of towns, including Leuven, which housed the country's preeminent university, mainly in fear of Belgian resistance fighters, or francs-tireurs. This action was in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare provisions that prohibited collective punishment on civilians and looting and destruction of civilian property in occupied territories.[17]

Bombardment of English coastal towns

The raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, which took place on December 16, 1914, was an attack by the German navy on the British seaport towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby. The attack resulted in 137 fatalities and 592 casualties. The raid was in violation of the ninth section of the 1907 Hague Convention which prohibited naval bombardments of undefended towns without warning,[18] because only Hartlepool was protected by shore batteries.[19] Germany was a signatory of the 1907 Hague Convention.[20] Another attack followed on 26 April 1916 on the coastal towns of Yarmouth and Lowestoft but both were important naval bases and defended by shore batteries.[citation needed]

Unrestricted submarine warfare

Unrestricted submarine warfare was instituted in 1915 in response to the British blockade of Germany in the North Sea. Prize rules, which were codified under the 1907 Hague Convention—such as those that required commerce raiders to warn their targets and allow time for the crew to board lifeboats—were disregarded and commercial vessels were sunk regardless of nationality, cargo, or destination. Following the sinking of the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915 and subsequent public outcry in various neutral countries, including the United States, the practice was withdrawn. However, Germany resumed the practice on 1 February 1917 and declared that all merchant ships regardless of nationalities would be sunk without warning. This outraged the U.S. public, prompting the U.S. to break diplomatic relations with Germany two days later, and, along with the Zimmermann Telegram, led the U.S. entry into the war two months later on the side of the Allied Powers.

Attempts to destroy evidence of German crimes

During World War II, after occupying France, Nazis seized Allied documentation regarding German war crimes in World War I and destroyed monuments commemorating them.[21]

World War II

The Holocaust: ghettos, concentration and extermination camps during World War II.

Man showing corpse of a starved infant in the Warsaw ghetto, 1941

Polish hostages preparing for mass execution 1940

Destruction of Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Cracow, Poland by German forces on August 17, 1940.

Executions of Kiev Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivangorod, Ukraine, 1942. The photo was mailed from the Eastern Front to Germany and intercepted at a Warsaw post office by Polish resistance member, Jerzy Tomaszewski who collected documentation on Nazi war crimes. The original German inscription on the back of the photograph reads, "Ukraine 1942, Jewish Action [operation], Ivangorod." 1942.

Polish farmers killed by German forces, German-occupied Poland, 1943

Polish teachers from Bydgoszcz guarded by members of Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz before execution

  • The Holocaust of the Jews, the Action T4 killing of the disabled and the Porajmos of the Gypsies. Not all the crimes committed during the Holocaust and similar mass atrocities were war crimes. Telford Taylor (The U.S. prosecutor in the German High Command case at the Nuremberg Trials and Chief Counsel for the twelve trials before the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunals) explained in 1982:

it should be noted that, as far as wartime actions against enemy nationals are concerned, the [1948] Genocide Convention added virtually nothing to what was already covered (and had been since the Hague Convention of 1899) by the internationally accepted laws of land warfare, which require an occupying power to respect "family honors and rights, individual lives and private property, as well as religious convictions and liberty" of the enemy nationals. But the laws of war do not cover, in time of either war or peace, a government's actions against its own nationals (such as Nazi Germany's persecution of German Jews). And at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the tribunals rebuffed several efforts by the prosecution to bring such "domestic" atrocities within the scope of international law as "crimes against humanity."

—Telford Taylor[22]
  • Le Paradis massacre, May 1940, British soldiers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, captured by the SS and subsequently murdered. Fritz Knoechlein tried, found guilty and hanged.
  • Wormhoudt massacre, May 1940, British and French soldiers captured by the SS and subsequently murdered. No one found guilty of the crime.
  • Lidice massacre after assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, when the Czech village was utterly destroyed, and inhabitants murdered.
  • Ardenne Abbey massacre,[23] June 1944 Canadian soldiers captured by the SS and Murdered by 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. SS General Kurt Meyer (Panzermeyer) sentenced to be shot 1946; sentence commuted; released 1954
  • Malmedy massacre, December 1944, United States POWs captured by Kampfgruppe Peiper were murdered outside of Malmedy, Belgium.
  • Wereth massacre. 17 December 1944, soldiers from 3./SS-PzAA1 LSSAH captured eleven African-American soldiers from 333rd Artillery Battalion in the hamlet of Wereth, Belgium. Subsequently the prisoners were shot and had their fingers cut off, legs broken, and at least one was shot while trying to bandage a comrade's wounds.
  • Gardelegen (war crime) of April 1945 when concentration camp prisoners were herded into a barn, which was the set alight, killing all inside
  • Oradour-sur-Glane
  • Massacre of Kalavryta
  • Unrestricted submarine warfare against merchant shipping.
  • The intentional destruction of major medieval churches of Novgorod, of monasteries in the Moscow region (e.g., of New Jerusalem Monastery) and of the imperial palaces around St. Petersburg (many of them were left by the post-war authorities in ruins or simply demolished).
  • The campaign of extermination of Slavic population in the occupied territories. Several thousand villages were burned with their entire population (e.g., Khatyn massacre in Belarus). A quarter of the inhabitants of Belarus did not survive the German occupation.
  • Commando Order, the secret order issued by Hitler in October 1942 stating that Allied combatants encountered during commando operations were to be executed immediately without trial, even if they were properly uniformed, unarmed, or intending to surrender.
  • Commissar Order, the order from Hitler to Wehrmacht troops before the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 to shoot Commissars immediately on capture
  • Nacht und Nebel decree of 1941 for disappearance of prisoners

War criminals

Massacres and war crimes of World War II by location


  • Murders of children by Heinrich Gross



  • 28 September – 17 October, Pleszczenice-Bischolin-Szack (Šacak)-Bobr-Uzda (White Ruthenia) massacre (1,126 children)


  • 26 March – 6 April, Operation Bamberg (Hłusk, Bobrujsk; 4,396 people, including children)
  • 9 – 12 May, Kliczów-Bobrujsk massacre (520 people, including children)
  • Beginning of June, Słowodka-Bobrujsk massacre (1,000 people, including children)
  • 15 June Borki (powiat białostocki) massacre (1,741 people, including children)
  • 21 June Zbyszin massacre (1,076 people, including children)
  • 25 June Timkowiczi massacre (900 people, including children)
  • 26 June Studenka massacre (836 people, including children)
  • 18 July, Jelsk massacre (1,000 people, including children)
  • 15 July – 7 August, Operation Adler (Bobrujsk, Mohylew, Berezyna; 1,381 people, including children)
  • 14 – 20 August, Operation Greif (Orsza, Witebsk; 796 people, including children)
  • 22 August – 21 September, Operation Sumpffieber (White Ruthenia; 10,063 people, including children)
  • August, Bereźne massacre
  • 22 September – 26 September, Małoryta massacre; 4,038 people, including children)
  • 23 September – 3 October, Operation Blitz (Połock, Witebsk; 567 people, including children)
  • 11 – 23 October, Operation Karlsbad (Orsza, Witebsk; 1,051 people, including children)
  • 23 – 29 November, Operation Nürnberg (Dubrowka; 2,974 people, including children)
  • 10 – 21 December, Operation Hamburg (Niemen River-Szczara River; 6,172 people, including children)
  • 22 – 29 December, Operation Altona (Słonim; 1,032 people, including children)


  • 6 – 14 January, Operation Franz (Grodsjanka; 2,025 people, including children)
  • 10 – 11 January, Operation Peter (Kliczów, Kolbcza; 1,400 people, including children)
  • 18 – 23 January, Słuck-Mińsk-Czerwień massacre (825 people, including children)
  • 28 January – 15 February, Operation Schneehase; Połock, Rossony, Krasnopole; 2,283 people, including children); 54; 37
  • Until 28 January, Operation Erntefest I (Czerwień, Osipowicze; 1,228 people, including children)
  • Jaanuar, Operation Eisbär (between Briańsk and Dmitriev-Lgowski)
  • Until 1 February, Operation Waldwinter (Sirotino-Trudy; 1,627 people, including children)
  • 8 – 26 February, Operation Hornung (Lenin, Hancewicze; 12,897 people, including children)
  • Until 9 February, Operation Erntefest II (Słuck, Kopyl; 2,325 people, including children)
  • 15 February – end of March, Operation Winterzauber (Oświeja, Latvian border; 3,904 people, including children)
  • 22 February – 8 March, Operation Kugelblitz (Połock, Oświeja, Dryssa, Rossony; 3,780 people, including children)
  • Until 19 March, Operation Nixe (Ptycz, Mikaszewicze, Pińsk; 400 people, including children)
  • Until 21 March, Operation Föhn (Pińsk; 543 people, including children)
  • 21 March – 2 April, Operation Donnerkeil (Połock, Witebsk; 542 people, including children)
  • 1 – 9 May, Operation Draufgänger II (Rudnja and Manyly forest; 680 people, including children)
  • 17 – 21 May, Operation Maigewitter (Witebsk, Suraż, Gorodok; 2,441 people, including children)
  • 20 May – 23 June, Operation Cottbus (Lepel, Begomel, Uszacz; 11,796 people, including children)
  • 27 May – 10 June, Operation Weichsel (Dniepr-Prypeć triangle, South-West of Homel; 4,018 people, including children)
  • 13 – 16 June, Operation Ziethen (Rzeczyca; 160 people, including children)
  • 25 June – 27 July, Operation Seydlitz (Owrucz-Mozyrz; 5,106 people, including children)
  • 30 July, Mozyrz massacre (501 people, including children)
  • Until 14 July, Operation Günther (Woloszyn, Lagoisk; 3,993 people, including children)
  • 13 July – 11 August, Operation Hermann (Iwie, Nowogródek, Woloszyn, Stołpce; 4,280 people, including children)
  • 24 September – 10 October, Operation Fritz (Głębokie; 509 people, including children)
  • 9 October – 22 October, Stary Bychów massacre (1,769 people, including children)
  • 1 November – 18 November, Operation Heinrich (Rossony, Połock, Idrica; 5,452 people, including children)
  • December, Spasskoje massacre (628 people, including children)
  • December, Biały massacre (1,453 people, including children)
  • 20 December – 1 January 1944, Operation Otto (Oświeja; 1,920 people, including children)


  • 14 January, Oła massacre (1,758 people, including children)
  • 22 January, Baiki massacre (987 people, including children)
  • 3 – 15 February, Operation Wolfsjagd (Hłusk, Bobrujsk; 467 people, including children)
  • 5 – 6 February, Barycz (near Buczacz) massacre (126 people, including children)
  • Until 19 February, Operation Sumpfhahn (Hłusk, Bobrujsk; 538 people, including children)
  • Beginning of March, Berezyna-Bielnicz massacre (686 people, including children)
  • 7 – 17 April, Operation Auerhahn (Bobrujsk; ca. 1,000 people, including children)
  • 17 April – 12 May, Operation Frühlingsfest (Połock, Uszacz; 7,011 people, including children)
  • 25 May – 17 June, Operation Kormoran; Wilejka, Borysów, Minsk; 7,697 people, including children)
  • 2 June – 13 June, Operation Pfingsrose (Talka; 499 people, including children)
  • June, Operation Pfingstausnlug (Sienno; 653 people, including children)
  • June, Operation Windwirbel (Chidra; 560 people, including children)



  • 2 November, Mass murder of children in Pärnu synagogue (34 children)


  • 27 March Murder of Pliner children (Holocaust in Estonia; 3 children)


Burned out cars and buildings still litter the remains of the original village in Oradour-sur-Glane, as left by Das Reich SS division


The internment camp at Drancy, outside Paris, where Jews were confined until they were deported to the death camps.



Hartheim Euthanasia Centre, where over 18,000 people were killed in Action T4






A body lies in the via Rasella during the round up of civilians by Italian collaborationist soldiers and German troops after the partisan bombing on 13th March, 1944.






  • 13 July – 21 August Daugavpils massacre by Einsatzkommando 3 and Lithuanian partisans (9,585 people, including children)[25]
  • July – August 1944, Ponary massacre (ca. 100,000 people, including children)
  • 18 August – 22 August, Kreis Rasainiai massacre (1,020 children)
  • 19 August, Ukmerge massacre (88 children)
  • Summer-autumn-winter, Complete murder of native Jewish population in Estonia (900 individuals, including 101 children)
  • 1 September, Marijampolė massacre (1,404 children)
  • 2 September, Wilno massacre (817 children)
  • 4 September, Čekiškė massacre (60 children)
  • 4 September, Seredžius massacre (126 children)
  • 4 September, Veliuona massacre (86 children)
  • 4 September, Zapyškis massacre (13 children)
  • 6 September – 8 September, Raseiniai massacre (415 children)
  • 6 September – 8 September, Jurbork massacre (412 people, including children)
  • 29 October, Kaunas massacre (4,273 children)
  • 25 November, Kauen-F.IX massacre (175 children)



  • 1 October, Putten raid (552 deaths)
  • 5 November, Heusden Town Hall Massacre (134 people, including 74 children)


  • Murder of children of Jewish Children's Home in Oslo



  • 2 July, murder of children of Lidice in the Kulmhof extermination camp (82 children)



Film footage taken by the Polish Underground showing the bodies of women and children murdered by troops of the SS-Sturmbrigade Dirlewanger in Warsaw, August 1944.

A column of Polish civilians being led by German troops through Wolska Street in early August 1944.

  • 28 February, Huta Pieniacka massacre
  • 28 – 29 February, Korosciatyn Massacre (ca. 150 people, including children)
  • 2 June, Murder of Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam's children (9 children)
  • 4–August 25, Ochota massacre (ca. 10,000 people, including children)
  • 5 – 8 August, Wola massacre (40,000 [26] up to 100,000 [27] people, including children)






  • June, Czechow massacre (6 children)
  • 29 – 30 September, Babi Jar massacre (33,771 people, including children: List of victims of the Babi Yar massacre)


  • 1 – 2 March 1943, Koriukivka massacre
  • 29 September, Wola Ostrowiecka massacre (220 children)




This article incorporates text from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and has been released under the GFDL.

See also


  1. Maltz, Judy (Mar. 3, 2011). "A picture worth six million names". Retrieved 2013-07-20. 
  2. Olusoga, David and Erichsen, Casper W (2010). The Kaiser's Holocaust. Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-23141-6
  3. Levi, Neil; Rothberg, Michael (2003). The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings. Rutgers University Press. p. 465. ISBN 0-8135-3353-8. 
  4. Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2001, p. 12
  5. Allan D. Cooper (2006-08-31). "Reparations for the Herero Genocide: Defining the limits of international litigation". Oxford Journals African Affairs. 
  6. "Remembering the Herero Rebellion". Deutsche Welle. 2004-11-01.,1564,1084266,00.html. 
  7. Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century: The Socio-Legal Context of Claims under International Law by the Herero against Germany for Genocide in Namibia, 1904-1908 (PSI Reports) by Jeremy Sarkin-Hughes
  8. Empire, Colony, Genocide: Conquest, Occupation and Subaltern Resistance in World History (War and Genocide) (War and Genocide) (War and Genocide) A. Dirk Moses -page 296(From Conquest to Genocide: Colonial Rule in German Southwest Africa and German East Africa. 296, (29). Dominik J. Schaller)
  9. The Imperialist Imagination: German Colonialism and Its Legacy (Social History, Popular Culture, and Politics in Germany) by Sara L. Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, and Susanne M. Zantop page 87 University of Michigan Press 1999
  10. Walter Nuhn: Sturm über Südwest. Der Hereroaufstand von 1904. Bernhard & Graefe-Verlag, Koblenz 1989. ISBN 3-7637-5852-6.
  11. Marie-Aude Baronian, Stephan Besser, Yolande Jansen, "Diaspora and memory: figures of displacement in contemporary literature, arts and politics", pg. 33 Rodopi, 2007,
  12. Samuel Totten, William S. Parsons, Israel W. Charny, "Century of genocide: critical essays and eyewitness accounts" pg. 51, Routledge, 2004,
  13. Dan Kroll, "Securing our water supply: protecting a vulnerable resource", PennWell Corp/University of Michigan Press, pg. 22
  14. Telford Taylor (November 1, 1993). The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-3168-3400-9. Retrieved 20 June 2013. 
  15. Thomas Graham, Damien J. Lavera (May 2003). Cornerstones of Security: Arms Control Treaties in the Nuclear Era. University of Washington Press. pp. 7–9. ISBN 0-2959-8296-9. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  16. Robinson, James J., ABA Journal 46(9), p. 978.
  17. World War I: A Student Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. October 25, 2005. pp. 1074. ISBN 1-8510-9879-8. 
  18. Logan Marshall (1915). Horrors and atrocities of the great war: Including the tragic destruction of the Lusitania: A new kind of warfare: Comprising the desolation of Belgium: The sacking of Louvain: The shelling of defenseless cities: The wanton destruction of cathedrals and works of art: The horrors of bomb dropping: Vividly portraying the grim awfulness of this greatest of all wars fought on land and sea: In the air and under the waves: Leaving in its wake a dreadful trail of famine and pestilence. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  19. Chuter, David (2003). War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World. London: Lynne Rienner Pub. p. 300. ISBN 1-58826-209-X. 
  20. Willmore, John (1918). The great crime and its moral. New York: Doran. p. 340. 
  21. France: the dark years, 1940-1944 page 273 Julian Jackson Oxford University Press 2003
  22. Telford Taylor "When people kill a people" in The New York Times, March 28, 1982
  23. "Home - Veterans Affairs Canada". 2012-03-29. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  24. "Complete tabulation of executions carried out in the Einsatzkommando 3 zone up to 1 December 1941". Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  25. "Gesamtaufstellung der im Bereich des EK. 3 bis zum 1. Dez. 1941 durchgeführten Exekutionen". 2002-09-28. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  26. Muzeum Powstania otwarte, BBC Polish edition, 2 October 2004, Children accessed on 13 April 2007
  27. O Powstaniu Warszawskim opowiada prof. Jerzy Kłoczowski, Gazeta Wyborcza – local Warsaw edition, 1998-08-01. Children accessed on 13 April 2007

Further reading

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).