The means of execution

    The following extracts are from Alan Clark's book, Barbarossa and detail the methods to be adopted when the security of the German forces were threatened by resistance to their presence in Russia during the early days of their occupation. Comments are in italics.

    "The leading principle in all actions and for all measures that must be resorted to, is the unconditional security of the German soldier…

    The necessary rapid pacification of the country can be attained only if every threat on the part of the hostile civil population is ruthlessly taken care of. All pity and softness are evidence of weakness and constitute a danger…

    In every instance of active opposition against the German occupation authorities regardless of the specific circumstances, Communist origin must be assumed.

    For the life of one German soldier, a death sentence of from fifty to one hundred Communists (i.e. Russians) must be generally deemed commensurate. The means of execution must increase the deterrent effect still further".

Alan Clark adds a footnote, "To this end it was ordered that firing squads should aim at or below the waist".

The practical justification for taking such a low aim was so that:

    "Where children are included among the hostages, aiming at the normal height (means that) such persons may escape execution altogether and would have to be dispatched by hand of officer in charge of the burial party".

The above order comes from, Erlaß des chefs die OKW, 16 September 1941.


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© Michael Williams: revised February 2004