It is generally believed that the Nazis were the worst criminals of the 20th century (if not of the whole modern history). Some even think that they were the only ones who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the previous century (or at least in its first half).
None of this is true. In reality, the 20th century was very appropriately dubbed “the Genocide Age” as more than twenty (!) genocides and democides (extermination of social groups) have been committed since 1900. Still are being committed, actually (e.g. in the Darfur region in Wester Sudan).
Consequently, the Germans and their European allies (Croats, Latvians, Lithuanians, Romanians, etc.) were not the only ones who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Such heinous crimes were committed by the British, the Americans, the Belgians, the Japanese, the Soviets, the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Czechs, the Serbs, the (North) Koreans, the Indonesians, the (North) Vietnamese, the Rwandans, the Cubans, etc., etc.
As for being the worst mass murderers of the 20th century, this whole issue is akin to determining, who was worse – Jack the Ripper with five confirmed murders or Gary Ridgway (the infamous Green River Killer) with 49.
In the eyes of the criminal law, both are essentially the same – both would have been sentenced to death in jurisdictions that have the death penalty on the books and to LWOP – life in prison without the possibility of parole – in those that do not.
Consequently, the Nazis are at most the “worst among the equals”. However, even that is in doubt because the total number of victims of Communist crimes appears to exceed the number of victims of the Nazis (I will present the most realistic estimate in the corresponding section of this chapter).
Still, compared to each separate nation, the Third Reich was, indeed, the “worst among the equals” – as no other individual regime murdered more human beings than Nazi Germany.
The latter was very appropriately labeled “Der Führerstaat” – the Fuhrer’s State. Which from the legal perspective meant that Adolf Hitler was legally responsible for all crimes committed by the Nazis – by the SS (mostly), Wehrmacht, etc. Which automatically makes him the worst mass murderer of the 20th century (compared to each individual country leader).
Therefore, this book is essentially a very long profile of a mass murderer (and I am a criminal profiler of sorts). And Adolf Hitler – had he been captured and brought before the International War Crimes Tribunal (or an entity of a similar nature) would have had no legal choice other than to plead “Guilty” to the following horrific and monstrous crimes (arranged in a rough chronological order):
- Internment in concentration camps of tens of thousands of Germans and millions of citizens of other nationalities without trial (or any kind of due process)
- Murder of his political opponents and potential troublemakers (SA leaders) during the Night of the Long Knives (June 30th, 1934)
- Aktion T4 involuntary euthanasia program – mass murder of mentally and/or severely physically sick and deemed incurable by the appropriate medical doctors
- The Holocaust (Shoah) – murder of about six million (!) individuals of Jewish nationality
- Mass murder of individuals in occupied territories of Poland, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and other nations – mostly as reprisals during anti-guerilla campaigns
- The Commissar Order issued by the German High Command (OKW) on 6 June 1941 (two weeks before the start of Operation Barbarossa). This order instructed the Wehrmacht officers that any Soviet commissar (political officer) identified among captured troops be summarily executed as a purported carrier enforcer of the “Judeo-Bolshevism” ideology in military forces.
- Forced labor (essentially slavery) in Nazi Germany and throughout German-occupied Europe during World War II. At its peak, one of four (!) workers in German-controlled territories was a slave and about 15 million men and women were forced laborers at some point during the Second Great War
- Extermination through labor – the practice of concentration camps in Nazi Germany to kill prisoners (Jews and other “undesirables”) literally by working them to death
- Murderous medical experiments in Nazi concentration camps
- Mass murder of Soviet prisoners-of-war in POW camps. Although Geneva convention that regulated the treatment of POWs was signed by Weimar Germany, Nazi Germany officially stated that it will honor these obligations. Hence, it was legally liable for providing humane conditions for the Soviet POWs. Which it did not – and over 3.5 Soviet prisoners-of-war died as the result
- Plunder of occupied territories. In other words, theft of art and other valuable items – public and private property – in the occupied territories of Europe and of the Soviet Union. To this day, no one really knows how much was stolen, how much was recovered and how much (and what exactly) is missing
- “Scorched Earth” practices in Germany and abroad (in Poland, Finland, Norway, the Soviet Union, etc.).
In any criminal court these crimes would have earned Adolf Hitler death by hanging (at best by a firing squad) – if the death penalty was in its charter (in 1945, it would have undoubtedly been). I am a firm opponent of death penalty, so my choice would have been LWOP – life in prison without the possibility of parole.