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German war crimes

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

The government of 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, between 50 and 60% of them (approximately 6 million out of 11 million) 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 1
  • World War I 2
    • Chemical weapons in warfare 2.1
    • Belgium 2.2
    • Bombardment of English coastal towns 2.3
    • Unrestricted submarine warfare 2.4
    • Attempts to destroy evidence of German crimes 2.5
  • World War II 3
  • War criminals 4
  • Massacres and war crimes of World War II by location 5
    • Austria 5.1
    • Belarus 5.2
      • 1941 5.2.1
      • 1942 5.2.2
      • 1943 5.2.3
      • 1944 5.2.4
    • Estonia 5.3
      • 1941 5.3.1
      • 1942 5.3.2
    • France 5.4
    • Germany 5.5
      • 1945 5.5.1
    • Greece 5.6
    • Italy 5.7
      • 1944 5.7.1
    • Latvia 5.8
      • 1941 5.8.1
    • Lithuania 5.9
      • 1941 5.9.1
    • Netherlands 5.10
      • 1940 5.10.1
      • 1944 5.10.2
    • Norway 5.11
    • Poland 5.12
      • 1942 5.12.1
      • 1943 5.12.2
      • 1944 5.12.3
    • Russia 5.13
    • Serbia 5.14
      • 1941 5.14.1
    • Ukraine 5.15
      • 1941 5.15.1
      • 1943 5.15.2
      • 1944 5.15.3
      • Sources 5.15.4
      • Notes 5.15.5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
  • External links 9

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 colonialism. In August, General Lothar von Trotha of the Imperial German Army 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 Imperial 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.

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
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]

War criminals

Massacres and war crimes of World War II by location











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



(see also List of massacres in Greece)

In addition, more than 90 villages and towns are recorded from the Hellenic network of martyr cities.[24] During the triple German, Italian and Bulgarian, occupation about 800,000 people lost their lives in Greece (see World War II casualties).


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 13 March 1944.




  • 30 November and 8 December, Rumbula massacre (25,000 people, including children)[25]





  • 14 May, Rotterdam bombing (nearly 1,000 people were killed and 85,000 made homeless.)


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






Film footage taken by the Polish Underground showing the bodies of women and children murdered by SS troops in Warsaw, August 1944.
A column of Polish civilians being led by German troops through Wolska Street in early August 1944.









  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum – Article Children during the Holocaust; and online exhibitions Life in the Shadows; and Give Me Your Children
  • Holocaust Memorial Album Honoring more than 1.5 Million Souls Under 12 years of age that never returned ... from Holocaust Survivors and Remembrance Project: "Forget You Not"
  • Children and the Holocaust
  • Nazis kidnap Polish children


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

See also


  1. ^
  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. ^
  4. ^ Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2001, p. 12
  5. ^
  6. ^
  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. Bernard & 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. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Robinson, James J., ABA Journal 46(9), p. 978.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  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. ^
  24. ^ Δήμος Λαμιέων: Δίκτυο μαρτυρικών πόλεων & χωριών της Ελλάδος | Δήμος Λαμιέων, accessdate: 19. Oktober 2015
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Muzeum Powstania otwarte, BBC Polish edition, 2 October 2004, Children accessed on 13 April 2007
  28. ^ O Powstaniu Warszawskim opowiada prof. Jerzy Kłoczowski, Gazeta Wyborcza – local Warsaw edition, 1998-08-01. Children accessed on 13 April 2007

Further reading

  • The War Crimes of Dr Josef Mengele
  • German War Crimes of World War I
  • The Reich's forgotten atrocity

External links

  • Movie (on-line)
  • Poland under German occupation 1939-1945 on YouTube
  • The Atrocities committed by German-Fascists in the USSR
  • Stills from Soviet documentary "The Atrocities committed by German Fascists in the USSR" ((1); (2); (3))
  • Slide show "Nazi Crimes in the USSR (Graphic images!)"
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