"Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

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Skarpskytten
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"Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Skarpskytten » 29 Apr 2016 12:20

In his book Battle. A History of Combat and Culture Johan A Lynn contrasts the fact that the US army executed one soldier for destertion during WW2 (Eddie Slovik) "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion and other infractions". This piqued my curiosity, but irritatingly, Lynn does not use footnotes in this otherwise excellent book.

My simple question is if this piece of information is correct, and if someone knows a good book or other source that can confirm this, or otherwise give the correct figure for Wehrmacht exetutions for desertions and such.

NB. I read german.

ljadw
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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by ljadw » 29 Apr 2016 13:08

There were 9372 executions at the end of 1944 .

A good source is "German military law in the second world war" by Manfred Messerschmidt ,as part of " The German military in the age of total war "

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by ljadw » 29 Apr 2016 13:21

From WW2 Stats
Number of executions in the WM

September 1939 - September 1940 : 515

Sept 1940 - Sept 1941 : 445

Sept 1941 - Sept 1942 : 1648

Sep 1942 - Sept 1943 : 2748

Sept 1943 - Sept 1944 : 4039

Sept 1944 - November 1944 : 82

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by ljadw » 29 Apr 2016 14:18

2 other points :

Not all deserters were executed .

Not all executed soldiers were deserters :

from WW2 Stats :

Between september 1939 and september 1941 960 soldiers were executed,of whom 554 for desertion;for the period october 1941 march 1942,the numbers are :668 executions of whom 446 for desertion .

In the first period deserters constitued some 60 % of the executed, for the second period it was 66 %.

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Knouterer » 29 Apr 2016 22:10

Other works on the subject:

http://www.amazon.de/Die-Milit%C3%A4rge ... htsbarkeit

http://www.amazon.de/Soldaten-Wehrkraft ... aten+Haase

Both out of print and only available second hand it seems.
"The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man's observation, not overturning it." Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

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Sheldrake
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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Sheldrake » 29 Apr 2016 22:36

ljadw wrote:There were 9372 executions at the end of 1944 .

A good source is "German military law in the second world war" by Manfred Messerschmidt ,as part of " The German military in the age of total war "
This article quotes a source as estimating 7,000-8,000 soldiers and civilians summarily executed by flying courts martial in the last four months of the war.
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-13526309.html

Add these to the 9372 and you reach a figure in the order of the 15,000 in the OP.

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Linden Lyons
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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Linden Lyons » 02 May 2016 16:31

Steven R. Welch, '"Harsh but Just"? German Military Justice in the Second World War: A Comparative Study of the Court Martialling of German and US Deserters', German History, vol. 17 (1999), no. 3, pp. 369-399.

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Skarpskytten » 02 May 2016 18:34

Thank you all for your help! Welch's article looks to be spot on.

ML59
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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by ML59 » 04 May 2016 22:46

The figure of about 9300 German soldiers executed is a partial one. First of all, it refers only to soldiers condemned by an official military court; second, it doesn't cover the whole war period, missing completely 1945 and reporting very incomplete data about the last quarter of 1944; third, it does not include the very high number of soldiers executed by "flying courts" in late 1944 and 1945, variously estimated between 5000 and 7000 men (for some German researchers much more than that); fourth, all along the war soldiers were occasionally killed in the field directly by their superiors for refusing to obey orders or other serious infringements of military discipline in front of the enemy, as permitted by the military war code. Overall, studies performed by German academics in the 90s put the total figure of German military service men executed along the war at around 50.000.

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Michate » 05 May 2016 07:24

Overall, studies performed by German academics in the 90s put the total figure of German military service men executed along the war at around 50.000.
These numbers are emtpy speculations based on no data whatsoever, and probably way too high. 15,000 is a much more realistic number.

As has already been pointed out, the number of also 9,372 includes convictions of soldiers to death that were not executed.

But yes, the nice thing about such speculations is that any phantasy figure that is to one's liking cannot be falsified in the strict sense.
all along the war soldiers were occasionally killed in the field directly by their superiors for refusing to obey orders or other serious infringements of military discipline in front of the enemy, as permitted by the military war code.
This was exceptionally rare. Officers drawing a pistol was normally enough to reinstall discipline (happened frequently in other armies as well).

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by ML59 » 05 May 2016 20:09

Soldiers were "occasionally" killed by their superiors in the field, albeit it was a very extreme punishment indeed, there are numerous war time witnesses telling it. No other army, except the very ruthless RKKA, applied this kind of measures to maintain discipline or to punish infringements to military code. Examples of the harshness of German military discipline are reported in a vast array of essays, including the well known works of Omer Bartov, Guido Knopp and others. I cannot say if the the figure of 50.000 soldiers shot or hanged is a true one or "thrown in the air", but I know this figure is reported by several German works. In his book "the Eastern Front, 1941-1945, German troops and the Barbarization of warfare" Bartov reports some statistics about three German division, including the 12 ID. In that division, only in May 1943, during a lull in the fighting when there were no major military operation, 7 soldiers were shot because accused of self-inflicted injuries, an offense that in any western army was punished with a sentence to prison. In the same book are reported and detailed some cases of soldiers shot at the front that do not figure in the overall statistic of military tribunals, leaving open to speculation how many such cases have been hidden or not properly reported to the higher commands. An order issued on July 1943 by the HQ of the 18 PzD, citing recent "tank panic" episodes among the troops, incite all officers and NCO to use against panic mongers, without any scruple, the harshest measures including the use of personal weapons. A report to HQ of Grossdeutschland PzD of April 1945 from a company commander describes how the men, shocked by a very heavy soviet bombardment, completely apathetic, preferred to be shot in the back by their superiors than to stay on the line.
So, there is no doubt that military discipline in the German Army under the Nazi was always extremely harsh, at least 300 times harsher than in the German Imperial Army of WW1. (all along WW1 less than German 50 soldiers were shot for cowardice or other capital infringements of military law, including a few cases of murders).
Last edited by ML59 on 06 May 2016 17:44, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Jan-Hendrik » 06 May 2016 07:31

Please, forget omar Bartov.....

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ML59
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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by ML59 » 06 May 2016 18:02

Michate wrote: These numbers are emtpy speculations based on no data whatsoever, and probably way too high. 15,000 is a much more realistic number.
Could be, I've no hard fact to put on the table, just sentences from a couple of books.
Michate wrote:As has already been pointed out, the number of also 9,372 includes convictions of soldiers to death that were not executed.
The number of sentenced to death not executed is extremely low, in region of few tens. And the total figure you recall is incomplete, figures of the last quarter of 1944 and of first quarter of 1945 are missing and they must be very substantial: look at the progression of death sentences from September 1943 to September 1944.

A point Bartov highlighted in his book is that he was able to track down in the records of a few wartime units he examined (namely PzD Grossdeutschland, 12 ID and 18 PzD ) reference to a number of executions that are not present in the general archives of military justice (and presumably not accounted for).

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by Michate » 09 May 2016 11:03

Discipline certainly was harsh, and examples of death sentences issued can certainly be found in the literature, as well as examples of officers drawing weapons or shooting over the heads) (which is not the same as actually killing people) to stop a panic or make their men to continue fighting.

There was a also progression of death sentences, as can be seen by the data posted above, but nothing that would point to a jump to the five-fold in a few months.

Self mutilation was considered a serious crime, no surprise here about harsh sentences issued, in particular in an incident where several cases at once occurred, in order to achieve a signal effect. Sometimes the medical officers however deliberately closed their eyes towards it - see e.g. Peter Bamm, "Die unsichtbare Flagge".

Bartov often treats data in such a disingeniuous way and makes some silly errors, so I would treat many of his "claims" as suspect in the absence of additional confirmation.
IMHO no further word is merited on the kind of books cramped together by people like Guido Knopp.

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Re: "Wehrmacht executed 15,000 troops for desertion"

Post by ML59 » 09 May 2016 21:38

I agree that Guido Knopp, even if a graduate in history, is a completely different beast from Omer Bartov. Knopp is more the kind of info-entertainment star that became so popular all over the western world in the past 20-30 years, Bartov is purely an academic. I know a lot of people don't like Bartov and his opinion, for my part I appreciate his efforts to glimpse some light in the murky matter of WH involvement in the nazi genicidial war and racially pure society project.

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