German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Discussions on the Holocaust and 20th Century War Crimes. Note that Holocaust denial is not allowed. Hosted by David Thompson.
David Thompson
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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by David Thompson » 10 Oct 2009 18:56

For interested readers -- Gen. Yaeger's strafing reminiscences are discussed at:

An American hero recalls his air force unit ordered to straf
viewtopic.php?t=68350
and
Allegations of atrocities made by General Yeager, US Army.
viewtopic.php?f=6&t=89735

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by Peter K » 26 Oct 2009 09:40

Photos from ebay.de:

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Palace in Kozienica after / before destruction:

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by Peter K » 27 Aug 2010 12:26

Partially a war crime for sure, few quotations:

Generalstab der Luftwaffe, 10 September 1939:

„Der Angriff ist als Vergeltung der an der deutschen Soldaten verübten Verbrechen anzusehen. Es kommt darauf an, bei dem 1. Angriff weitgehende Zerstörung in den dicht besiedelten Stadtteilen zu erreichen”

Wolfram von Richthofen, mid-September 1939:

„Beantrage dirgehend letzte Möglichkeit von Brand- und Terrorangriff al. groß angelegten versuch auszunutzen [...] Falls Fliegerführer z.b.V. damit beauftragt, wird mit allen Kräften völlige Tilgung Warschaus angesterbt, um so mehr, da in zukunft nur Grenzzollamt”

Source: Olaf Groehler, "Der strategische Luftkrieg und seine Auswirkungen auf die deutsche Zivilbevolkerung" published in: "Luftkreig im Zweiten Weltkrieg", Herford 1993

Btw - during the bombings of Dresden, Dresden was a major center of war industry defended by Anti-Aircraft artillery of the Wehrmacht. In other words - Dresden was a military target and bombing it was not a war crime. I know David Irving claimed there was no AA artillery by the time when Dresden was bombed, but this is completely not true. For example in 1983 in Dresden-Altfranken a wreck of a Flak 88 destroyed during the bombing was dug out.

We can apply the same logic to most cities bombed during WW2 - including all German cities.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by PFLB » 28 Aug 2010 10:40

Anti-aircraft artillery is not relevant, except to the extent that it is itself the target.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by LWD » 29 Aug 2010 16:05

PFLB wrote:Anti-aircraft artillery is not relevant, except to the extent that it is itself the target.

It's presence means that the city is defended, which I believe is relevant.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by PFLB » 31 Aug 2010 11:07

An 'undefended locality' is like a de-militarised zone - once validly declared it cannot be attacked, but it can be occupied. However, the fact that a place is not an undefended locality has never meant that it can be attacked without restraint. Therefore, the fact that there were anti-aircraft defences in Dresden isn't really relevant to the lawfulness of bombing the entire city. People often seem to think that because Dresden had anti-aircraft defences, the whole city could be razed to the ground. This is incorrect and seems to derive from a misunderstanding of the meaning and import 'undefended locality' in the Hague law, in particular, the assumption that the term is to be given its ordinary meaning, when in fact it is a technical term with a specific definition and legal effect.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by LWD » 31 Aug 2010 12:21

PFLB wrote:An 'undefended locality' is like a de-militarised zone - once validly declared it cannot be attacked, but it can be occupied. However, the fact that a place is not an undefended locality has never meant that it can be attacked without restraint. Therefore, the fact that there were anti-aircraft defences in Dresden isn't really relevant to the lawfulness of bombing the entire city. People often seem to think that because Dresden had anti-aircraft defences, the whole city could be razed to the ground. This is incorrect and seems to derive from a misunderstanding of the meaning and import 'undefended locality' in the Hague law, in particular, the assumption that the term is to be given its ordinary meaning, when in fact it is a technical term with a specific definition and legal effect.


The fact that they were there means that Dresden was not an "open" city. I.e. logisitcs and military targets within it were fair game. There for they are relevant. Now if someone wants to make an "excessive force" argument then we need to look at the distribution of targets in the city, bombing accuracies, and such, but that's another matter.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by PFLB » 31 Aug 2010 13:17

As we all know, it wasn't the flak defences that were targeted but the city as a whole, apparently for logistical reasons. The fact that there were flak defences there is beside the point unless the purpose of the raid was to attack them, and when would any bomber deliberately seek out flak defences to attack?

Anyway, I can see we are heading off on a tangent, and probably going over matters which have been dealt with many times before. As to the question the bombing of Poland was a war crime, it is interesting to note that (at least to my knowledge - no doubt I will be rounded on Penn for this) no Luftwaffe personnel were ever charged with war crimes in combat. Erhard Milch and Huge Sperrle were charged with crimes such as ill-treatment of POW's and slave labour, and the former was convicted. Hermann Goering's use of German air power also formed part of the conduct by which he participated in crimes against peace, in particular, his threats to raze Prague to the ground.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by David Thompson » 31 Aug 2010 15:02

For interested readers -- There are previous discussions of the Dresden bombings at:

Can the bombing of cities be considered as "Warcrimes"?
viewtopic.php?t=9136
Dresden 1945
viewtopic.php?t=1000
Dresden 1945
viewtopic.php?t=4838
Bombing of Dresden
viewtopic.php?t=20370
Destruction of Dresden
viewtopic.php?t=43901
Dresden bombing & post-liberation Euro gas chambers
viewtopic.php?t=33480
Dresden photos
viewtopic.php?t=27506
USAF Historical Analysis of the 14-15 February 1945 Bombings of Dresden
viewtopic.php?p=304620#304620
Surface and subterranean petroleum, oil and lubricant facilities in the Dresden area
viewtopic.php?p=395916#395916

See also:
Churchill & Harris Terror Raids
viewtopic.php?t=29691
Debate over UK WWII strategic bombing
viewtopic.php?t=25898
Terror bombing -- The Nazis started it
viewtopic.php?t=25592
US Strategic Bombing Survey (Europe) on bombing accuracy
viewtopic.php?p=395939#395939
Carpet-bombing towns and cities
viewtopic.php?t=44286

In this thread, let's stick to the subject at hand -- the bombings of Polish cities and towns by the Luftwaffe in 1939.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by Phil Nix » 01 Sep 2010 11:36

I wonder if it is possible to go back to the time when these events took place.We criticise these acts now but then it seemed a part of war as we saw it, to go futhrer back the Crusades were carried out at the order of the Pope and the butchery was appaling but it was natural to those living then. I was a child when the raids took place and the thought was we give them more than they give us and as well as attacking industry The attitudes of the common people was we give them more than they can give us and this helped get rid of depression. Most of what I read is taken from todays outlook which is totally different to 60 years ago.
Phil Nix

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by PFLB » 01 Sep 2010 13:02

The issue is more ambivalent than you claim. What we're taking about here is the law of armed conflict, and the relevant consideration is therefore the views of diplomatic representatives and military officers, not the public in general. Already in 1923 a commission of national representatives had drafted the Hague Rules of Aerial Warfare, which though not adopted were in substance simply an adaptation of the customary law of war on land and at sea to war in the air (and which, in any case, generally received public approval). In 1938, Chamberlain told the House of Commons that deliberate attacks on the civilian population were unlawful, and that reasonable care was to be taken to avoid bombing the civilian population. These principles were confirmed in a resolution of the assembly of the League of Nations. Also, even during World War Two military officers on all sides vacillated on whether bombing cities as such was permissible. As late as June 1940, the British Chief or Air Staff issued a circular to British commanders to the effect that bombing the civilian population was unlawful, and that air attacks were to be limited to particular targets. Germany and Japan both decided to treat bombing and strafing of civilian objects as war crimes. Moreover, the Allied strategic bombing campaign as a whole was always legally justified on the basis that the integration of the Axis war economies with urban areas made it permissible to target those areas, and that heavy air defences meant that attacks at night and with low accuracy could still be treated as what we would now call proportionate. Attacks on cities were not justified on the basis that 'we give them more than they give us'. The exceptions were the attacks on Mannheim, which was itself claimed to be a reprisal on Coventry, which was claimed to be a reprisal or previous British attacks and so on. But by categorising such attacks as belligerent reprisals, both the RAF and Luftwaffe implied that their actions would ordinarily be unlawful, and that they were undertaken to stop continued breaches of the law by the other side.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by Peter K » 01 Sep 2010 13:24

I wonder why there is entire bunch of threads about Dresden while not a single thread about Tokio.

Bombing of Tokio was much more a war crime than bombing of Dresden after all.

Just look at the number of victims in Dresden and Tokio, as well as methods of conducting both attacks.

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by Marcus » 01 Sep 2010 13:34

Please stay on topic, ie the bombings of Poland 1939, not Dresden or Tokyo.

/Marcus

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by Delwin » 12 Dec 2012 18:43

and memoires of gen Anders
The event described in his memoirs (attack of the German plane on the bunch of little kids) is also described by W. Lasocki (Polish cavalry officer - 25th Uhlan Regiment) in his book on the 25th Regiment (he was a witness of the event). Citation is in the book of R. Juszkiewicz "Wrzesień 1939 r. na Mazowszu Północnym" ISBN- 83 -907174-1-9, page. 630. The book is mostly about Battle of Mlawa but it also has a part on the war crimes during this period of war (including air attacks).

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Re: German Air War in Poland 1939: War Crime?

Post by BuddaBell123 » 16 Jul 2013 21:35

I heard that the Luftwaffe in Poland would bomb a residential area such as a Crossroads town so that the inhabitants of it were flushed out. Then fighters would strafe the columns of civilians as they ran from the bombing down the roads creating a blockage that would prevent the Polish military from retreating any further or would just slow it down. Whether this was a policy or just a tactic used by some Luftwaffe pilots I don't know. Has anyone else heard of this tactic?
-Oliver

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