There were several sets of orders issued by the Commander-in-Chief West, Field Marshal of the Luftwaffe, Hugo Sperrle. The best known of which came into effect on 3 February 1944 and they are shown in part below: comments are in italics.
"1) We (the German armed forces) are not in the occupied western territories to allow our troops to be shot at and abducted by saboteurs who go unpunished. The countermeasures taken up to now, despite undenied successes, will not alter the situation substantially if immediate self protection is not undertaken in instances where we are attacked or presented with insubordination
2) If troops are attacked in any manner, their commander is obliged to take his own countermeasures immediately, these include:
A report will not be made until these or similar immediate steps have been taken.
4) In the judgement of the actions of troop commanders, the decisiveness and speed with which they act are to be regarded as the primary aspects. A slack and indecisive troop commander deserves to be severely punished because he endangers the lives of the troops under his command and produces a lack of respect for the German armed forces.
Measures that are regarded subsequently as too severe, cannot in view of the present situation, provide reason for punishment".
The following orders came into force on 8 June 1944 and were passed on to the German troops as an order of the day:
"The operations staff of the Wehrmacht expect undertakings against the guerrilla (the German word used here is 'banden' which usually translates as 'gangs' and implies criminality) units in southern France to proceed with extreme severity and without any leniency. This constant trouble spot must be finally eradicated. The outcome of these undertakings is of great significance for further developments in the west (remember that the Allied invasion of Normandy began 2 days earlier). Partial successes are of no use. The forces of resistance are to be crushed by fast and all out effort. For the restoration of law and order the most rigorous measures are to be taken to deter the inhabitants of these infested regions who must be discouraged from harbouring the resistance groups and being ruled by them and as a warning to the entire population. Ruthlessness and rigour at this critical time are indispensable if we are to eliminate the danger that lurks behind the backs of the fighting troops and prevent even greater bloodshed amongst the troops and the civilian population in the future".
On the same day Sperrle also announced:
"The Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht has decided that members of the French resistance movement are to be treated as guerrillas" (This was the day that the Allies broadcast the demand that members of the French Resistance were to be regarded as being regular combatants and treated according to the terms of the Geneva Convention on land warfare. The Germans quite rightly objected to this one-sided declaration, especially as the Resistance did not wear any distinguishing uniforms, or themselves abide by the Convention).
The above quotes come from, Tulle and Oradour a Franco-German Tragedy, by Otto Weidinger.
It is worth noting that Sperrle stayed loyal to Hitler and played no part in the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt. He died in Munich of natural causes on 4 April 1953 and so lived to see the end of the trial in Bordeaux (which he did not attend).
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© Michael Williams: revised February 2004