The “Commissar Order” (3)

Soviet POW

A short message about every incident [i.e. the executed commissar] will be sent: (a) by divisional units to divisional headquarters (its Intelligence Officer); (b) by troops directly under the command of a corps, an army or an army group or a Panzer group, to the respective headquarters (also their Intelligence Officer).

[This clause makes sense; however, it was most likely added on order from Adolf Hitler himself. Consumed with hatred for “Bolshevist Commissars”, Der Führer wanted to know exactly how many of the latter were executed by his troops]

Commissars who are arrested in the communications zone [a part of the theater of war operations – behind but contiguous to the combat zone] on suspicion of a doubtful’ attitude will be handed over to the Einsatzgruppen and/or of the Security Police (Security Service)

[Which meant death sentence – and a swift execution without trial or any kind of due process]

The courts-martial and summary courts of the regimental and other commanders must not be entrusted with the execution of the abovementioned measures

[Which means that all activities under the Kommissarbefehl take place completely outside the military law and the legal system of the Wehrmacht]

The final text of the Kommissarbefehl included the following appendix (added by von Brauchitsch on May 24th, 1941 and appropriately called the Maintenance of Discipline order):

I expect that all counter intelligence measures of the troops will be carried out energetically, for their own security and the speedy pacification of the territory won. It will be necessary to take into account the variety of ethnic strains within the population, its overall attitude, and the degree to which they have been stirred up [by the Bolsheviks against the Germans].

[Makes complete sense – with the exception of the “ethnic strains”, of course]

Movement and combat against the enemy’s armed forces are the real tasks of the troops. It demands the fullest concentration and the highest effort of all forces. This task must not be jeopardized in any place. Therefore, in general, special search and mopping-up operations will be out of question for the combat troops.

[The shortened version of the last sentence found its way into the main body of the order. Which means that von Brauchitsch was not happy – to put it mildly – with combat troops being forced to do the police work (let alone perform executions)]

The directives of the Fuehrer [i.e. the Kommissarbefehl] concern serious cases of rebellion, in which the most severe measures are required

[In other words, death sentence is warranted only when the “commissar” in question was captured with literally “a smoking gun”. Less serious felonies committed by the latter (let alone suspicions) warrant far more lenient measures. This pretty much watered down the harsh order]

Under all circumstances it will remain the duty of all superiors to prevent arbitrary excesses of individual members of the Army and to prevent in time the troops becoming unmanageable. It must not come to it that the individual soldier commits or omits any act he thinks proper toward the native population; he must rather feel that in every case he is bound by the orders of his officers.

I consider it very important that this be clearly understood down to the lowest unit. Timely action by every officer, especially every company commander, etc., must help to maintain discipline, the basis of our successes.

[In other words, maintaining discipline and fighting the enemy is far more important than hunting down and executing “commissars”. Another powerful excuse to pretty much ignore the murderous and criminal order]


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