Are reprisals always war crimes?

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Narrative
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Are reprisals always war crimes?

Post by Narrative » 25 Aug 2004 15:25

I apologise if this point has been made before but given the truly enormous amount of information on this site a quick recovery of more specific info' is difficult.

I have a very keen interest in the SOE particularly its activities in France. This has led me on to a close study of the use of reprisals as a means of control and subjugation. I am often told by the French that the SOE were in some cases the rationale if not the direct cause of reprisals against the French people. With the obvious exception of examples like Oradour what is the standpoint today of such reprisals?

It seems to me that since Germany was, whether one liked it or not, the occupying power so they had some sort of 'victors right' to exercise the "law" as they saw it. On the other hand the practise of dragging innocent women and sometimes children out of their houses and shooting them against a local wall was clearly barbaric. This was of course the Germans often-exercised means of a punishment for local resistance activities, and their (the Germans) atrocities have seemed generally to have gone unpunished despite the records, eyewitnesses and other available evidence. But were these actually war crimes?

I make the clear distinction between those activities in the Vercors and the Massif where pitched battles took place and also Oradour sur Glane and Lidice where large-scale genocide was undertaken because of quite specific reasons. What I am really trying to establish is whether any legal retribution has ever been employed to find and sentence those German officers and men who, as I have heard from first hand evidence, took a particular pleasure in dispatching countless numbers of innocent civilians because of established reprisal policy.

Thanks


Narrative.

JariL
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Post by JariL » 26 Aug 2004 06:58

Hi,

In Nuremberg reprisals were not considered war crimes per se. They became war crimes first when the measures taken were in no proportion to the deed. For example shooting 100 hostiges for the death of one own soldier was excessive. I don't remember if the tribunal actually took any stand on what was the correct "ratio". Similarily levelling a whole village would be excessive.

But perhaps someone has the documentation from Nuremberg?

Regards,

Jari

David Thompson
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Post by David Thompson » 26 Aug 2004 07:28

Readers who would like to learn more about this subject may find these threads of interest:

Anti-partisan warfare and the "Hostage case"
viewtopic.php?t=54441
The Summary Execution of Partisans
viewtopic.php?t=56058
Partisan activity in Europe a violation of International law
viewtopic.php?t=45997
The Hague and Geneva Convention on the Eastern Front
viewtopic.php?t=56059
Western Allies hostage-takings in West Germany 1945-1947
viewtopic.php?t=45841
Is revenge shooting allowed?
viewtopic.php?t=28438
Nazi Anti-Partisan Reprisals in Italy 1944
viewtopic.php?t=34951
The crime of Erich Priebke
viewtopic.php?t=32883
The Nazi in Rome -the Ardeatine Caves massacre
viewtopic.php?t=27453

Narrative
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Post by Narrative » 26 Aug 2004 12:00

Many thanks for the threads.

The reason for the question is that whilst on recent trip to the Limousin region of France I got into an interesting conversation with some "Les Vieux" French who described a well known and apparantly locally well documented event which happened on June 9th 1944.

A Major of Das Reich Division ,3rd Battalion, Der Fuhrer Regiment, Helmut Kampfe, had been apparently abducted whilst driving towards Limoges ahead of his unit. He had fatally stumbled on an active resistance unit (apparently)and was summarily abducted. (He was never seen again and his remains were never found). This whole episode is shrouded in mystery as the Resistance Unit has never been properly identified ( maybe due to the rationale outlined in my last paragraph).

His friend Major Otto Dickmann commanding 1st battalion immediately conducted a search for him. According to first hand accounts it was during a sweep of the countryside around the area that two hapless officials believed to be post-office employees who were chatting on the footpath were machine gunned and killed by a passing german armoured vehicle. The vehicle never even stopped! As it was described to me as just random, like seeing a rats from your car and shooting them.

Unfortunately, the officer commanding (Dickmann) was killed later in Normandy but this to me is an act which is nothing less than murder. According to the French I spoke to and the records kept by the Germans themselves the identities of the perpetrators were probably known but were never brought to court.

It was incidentally this act of abduction which has been given as the major reason for the Oradour massacre since it was thought at that time that Kampfe had been imprisoned somewhere in the village.


Narrative

Manstein
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Re:

Post by Manstein » 27 Aug 2004 04:42

I believe hostage taking was considered legal as long as it was a 1:1 ratio and the hostages actually had some connection with the perpetrators.

Rob - wssob2
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Post by Rob - wssob2 » 28 Aug 2004 02:08

hostages actually had some connection with the perpetrators


How does one make sure the hostages have a connection with the prerpetrators?

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Post by Panzermahn » 28 Aug 2004 06:09

Narrative,

A bit of correction. The SS-Sturmbahnfuhrer's name who led the unit to Oradour sur Glane was Adolf Dieckmann, not Otto Dickmann. This confusion was caused (most probably from Max Hasting's error prone book Das Reich) by the fact that it was Otto Kahn's 3rd company of the 1st Battalion of the Regiment Der Fuhrer

although the figure of hostages taken was considered excessive (Mike William's term "an excess of zeal"), it was universally agreed that the bolshevik FTP partisans was indirectly responsible for the atrocity at Oradour sur Glane. This fact is strengthen by the fact that only one member from the FTP partisans testified at the Oradour Trial in the 50s, Sergeant Cance if i'm not mistaken. He was part of the team that abducted Major Kampfe..If truly that the FTP did not violate Geneva convention which resulted the Germans conducting reprisals at Oradour, why reluctant to testify in a trial where there no one from FTP except one to prove that what they did (against the Germans) are correct?

Besides, the illegality way of conducting warfare were shown by the FTP bolsheviks in favoring tactics such as abduction of German officers and killing them (which contravening the Geneva Convention) such as the abduction of Helmut Kampfe and Horst Gerlach (who escaped to report back to the Der Fuhrer HQ)
Last edited by Panzermahn on 02 Sep 2004 07:55, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Panzermahn » 28 Aug 2004 06:14

also, Mike williams (the author of the best website about Oradour tragedy) postulated that Obersturmfuhrer Gerlach was mistaken about the location of his abduction when he reported back to Slyvester Stadler and Dieckmann. Gerlach reported he was abducted and brought to Oradour -sur-Glane when all evidence pointed that he was actually brought to Oradour-sur-Vayres (sorry if i get the name wrong) a few miles away. This error led Dieckmann and his force went to the wrong location

Manstein
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Re:

Post by Manstein » 30 Aug 2004 06:46

How does one make sure the hostages have a connection with the prerpetrators?


If it was a partisan organization that had some sort of small form of identification (like some sort of badge, pin, or symbol) then whoever has that and is in captivity is up for being shot, since they are almost certainly in the same organization as the perpetrators. If this is not the case, it is difficult.

Rob - wssob2
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Post by Rob - wssob2 » 30 Aug 2004 11:48

If it was a partisan organization that had some sort of small form of identification (like some sort of badge, pin, or symbol) then whoever has that and is in captivity is up for being shot,


What if you take the badge off?

BTW I thought that partisan groups without identification can be shot as "bandits" (at least this is the German WWII security logic)

However, if if a WWII-era insurgent wears some sort of identifiable armband or pin or brassard or whatever - I believe they are legally subject to certain protections under the Geneva Conventions in effect at the time - such as prisoner of war status and the protection against being summarily shot without due process.

SS-Sturmbahnfuhrer's name who led the unit to Oradour sur Glane was Adolf Dieckmann, not Otto Dickmann


It's a mistake, but it's an Anglization of a German name.


it was universally agreed that the bolshevik FTP partisans was indirectly responsible for the atrocity at Oradour sur Glane


It is not universally agreed. It is complete neo-nazi hogwash, used to whitewash the deliberate mass murder of hundreded of innocent French civilians killed "in reprisal" to stop the French resistance in June 1944.

It is also a perfect example of how reprisals are a complete and total failure as a security policy. The 2nd SS Panzer division could have arrived in Normandy within 3 days of D-Day. Instead it wasted 17 days driving up the back roads, killing over 700+ civilians in cold blood. So in effect:

The "Das Reich" division would have had a chance to throw back the Allies at Normandy within days of the invasion, but blew it.

Oradour, Tulle and the other massacres perpetuated by the 2nd SS division did not destroy, pacify, or deminish the activities of the French Resistance. In fact, it had the completely opposite effect, galvanizing and increasing resistance against the German occupation forces.

The massacres completely exposed the powerlessness and absolute moral abasement of the Vichy regime. And the absolute cruelty and moral abasement of the Germans occupiers.

They even prompted a Wehrmacht war crimes investigation.

From purely military standpoint, the activities of the 2nd SS division had a detrimental effect on the German war effort, completely opposite of their intention. In short, the actions of the Waffen-SS were not just immoral, but military stupid.


BTW My hypothesis is that Dieckmann was "fragged" by the SD.

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Georg_S
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Post by Georg_S » 30 Aug 2004 12:10

Hello,

I have to contribute myself to this discussion, because I saw Tulle
was mentioned.
About Tulle, I think it was more the french resistance fault that event occured, and the Members of the SS-Pz.A.A.2 "Das Reich" only did
what they was ordered to, and reprisials wasn´t forbidden by the
German authorities, and when you look and see what the Recistance
did to the eldarly German soldiers of the Tulle Garnision, I can understand
that Lammerding (or who it was) to order reprisials, the resistance commited
in my point of view war crimes, when they humiliated the Bodies of
the German soldiers and did care for the wounded.

And during the postwar trials against the members of the SS-Pz.A.A.2
some was convicted to death, SS-Oscha (?) Otto Hoff (later awarded with DKiG) as an example
was condemned in 1953 but pardoned and released just a year later?
Why can you say, I think and as a Franch recistance member also have admitted
to the writer Max Hastings, that the Recistance comitted warcrimes, but if you make my
name public I wil deny any connection to you and say that i have never
said that.

And today, there isn´t so much talk about Tulle, I think much because of
that the French goverment doesn´t want the affair to become public.

Just my thoughts about the Tulle (Not Oradour sür glane) incident.

//Georg

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Post by Panzermahn » 30 Aug 2004 14:05

It's a mistake, but it's an Anglization of a German name.


Dickmann was an anglization of the name dieckmann..But the first name Otto was certainly confused with Adolf as it was Otto Hahn's 3rd company.


It is not universally agreed. It is complete neo-nazi hogwash, used to whitewash the deliberate mass murder of hundreded of innocent French civilians killed "in reprisal" to stop the French resistance in June 1944.

It is also a perfect example of how reprisals are a complete and total failure as a security policy. The 2nd SS Panzer division could have arrived in Normandy within 3 days of D-Day.


It is inaccurate to that it neo-nazi hogwash, Rob..As earlier in my post, i just had one question, why did the FTP bolsheviks had only one man to testify at the Oradour Trial in the 50s if they think what they did against the Germans are correct? The FTP bosses could have come forward and testify about the fascist beast brutality, why wouldn't they take a more better chance to do that with this trial.

Your notion of reprisals are as a complete and total failure as a security policy is inaccurate either..Physical, after the reprisals at Oradour, there is no more incident of FTP bolsheviks daring to ambushed the 2nd SS Panzer Division..So this in effect, makes the reprisals at Oradour a feasible success from the 2nd SS Panzer Division's military point of view..I believe if the Das Reich did not conduct the reprisals, there certainly will be more FTP treacherous ambushes and bandit tactics against the 2nd SS Panzer division which will make them complete their military objective (to repel the Allied invasion at Normandy) much harder to achieved..

But i agreed if you said that the reprisals are a total failure as a security policy FROM A PROPAGANDA POINT OF VIEW. After the tragedy at Oradour, the FTP bolsheviks achieved their objective of the asymmetrical warfare as the reprisals by the Das Reich proved the Allied propaganda that the Germans were indeed fascists beasts were true

And today, there isn´t so much talk about Tulle, I think much because of
that the French goverment doesn´t want the affair to become public.


Otto Wiedinger's book, Comrades to the End stated that German Red cross men, members of the Organization Todt as well as German security troops in Tulle were brutally mutilated and left in places that they were easily found to provoked the German reprisals which would alienate the occupied populace

Also the 1942 Sperrle Decree ordering reprisals for any terrorist acts against German military forces in France were allowed by the geneva convention and the Hague Law if the correct procedures were applied..

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Universally accepted fact??

Post by Narrative » 01 Sep 2004 17:37

I read Mr Chan's response to both my and other contributors with interest. Rather than rush into print I thought I would consult my bibliography about the french resistance and in particular the role played by the different factions in the Oradour atrocity.

I find myself agreeing with him on the Oradour-sur -Vrayes connection. This is indeed the view espoused by Professor M.R.D.Foot in his encyclopaediac SOE in France who also reports that there was some confusion between that place and the "sur-Glane" location. They are close enough to confuse and some small apparant evidence exists to suggest that the luckless Herr Kampfe was hidden there.

This brings me to the point of disagreeing with Mr Chan. There is absolutely no proof that has come to light about who or what perpetrated the abduction nor indeed the likely murder of Her Kampfe. Opinions and circumstantial evidence abound but facts, no!

Mr Chan cites the absence of any witnesses save one as a kind of testimony to his opinion. But if he would care to read Professor Foot's detailed research on that episode he will find, like I did, that nothing exists to say who did the dastardly deed. The SD, his driver who possibly hated him, the communists, the free french nor indeed a trigger-happy farmer who found him having a piss on his land.

Given the dreadfull repercussions I would bet that no one will ever come forward with any good evidence since that can only have been obtained by some sort of participation in the fateful abduction. Best to let sleeping dogs lie.

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Post by Panzermahn » 02 Sep 2004 07:39

Hi Narrative,

I find myself agreeing with him on the Oradour-sur -Vrayes connection. This is indeed the view espoused by Professor M.R.D.Foot in his encyclopaediac SOE in France who also reports that there was some confusion between that place and the "sur-Glane" location. They are close enough to confuse and some small apparant evidence exists to suggest that the luckless Herr Kampfe was hidden there.

This brings me to the point of disagreeing with Mr Chan. There is absolutely no proof that has come to light about who or what perpetrated the abduction nor indeed the likely murder of Her Kampfe. Opinions and circumstantial evidence abound but facts, no!



This picture shows the memorial about 2½ miles east of St. Léonard de Noblat on the N141 to the kidnapping of Sturmbannführer Helmut Kämpfe. The inscription reads, "Close to this place on 9th June 1944 at 21:00 hours, the section of Sergeant Canou of the brigade of Colonel Guingouin captured Sturmbannführer Kämpfe, Number 1 Hero of the SS armoured Division Das Reich. By this exploit the resistance contributed to a delay of 48 hours in the march of this division toward the Normandy beachhead. General Eisenhower recognised before Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie (French resistance leader, known as "Bernard") in July 1944 that the actions of the resistance had saved the allied bridgehead. This homage is addressed to all men who love Liberty".

This inscription is the closest thing to an admission that I have seen by the Resistance that it was their action in killing Kämpfe that led to the destruction of Oradour.




http://www.oradour.info/images/kampfe05.htm

Image

what a surprising fact..You're the first poster that claims there is no proof that the FTP bolsheviks kidnapped and murdered Sturmbahnfuhrer Kampfe..

I hope any French poster here could provide some links to the testimony of Sergeant Canou back in the Oradour trials in the 50s...

It is undeniable that the 3rd company, 2nd Battalion of the Der Fuhrer Regiment is physically responsible for the destruction of Oradour-sur-Glane and the killing of its 600+ inhabitants including women and children. Anybody who deny this is a total lunatic. But one must understand that why the SS panzergrenadiers of the Das Reich division resorted to such excesses because there is not even a case of massacre of French civillians by any German troops prior to the tragedy of Oradour. This is why the French government still restrict some its archives of the Oradour tragedy because it was the FTP bolsheviks were indirectly responsible for the destruction of Oradour Sur Glane by their barbaric ways of kidnapping German officers instead of come out in open and fight a pitch battle like any other honorable soldiers...

i rest my case :?

Narrative
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Humm...

Post by Narrative » 02 Sep 2004 12:42

Joachim,

Your case would appear to be a good one except that as far as war is concerned the views, "facts" and evidence at large at the time can be altered as time progresses. There are many instances of so-called unquestionable events that occurred during those dark times that have, with benefit of emergent information (see below) changed people's perception of events. The Katyn massacre is a very good example where one side was the unquestioned villain for many years until the truth emerged later.

The British Govt like others has many of it wartime files locked up - some it seems forever. Other bits of info' come to light every now and then. Professor Foot's tome was published in 1966 twenty years after the war and access then to many secret files hitherto out of the public domain.

He cannot ascertain or will not give a clear view on the events despite full availability of SOE files which do provide a mass of very detailed information on the activities of all the resistance groups in France at that time.

War memorials are emotive things and serve to provide the reader with information but that they are not a primary source. There is a very poignant war memorial in Arras which serves to show how and where some resistance leaders were killed. I know from a witness statement that all that is said on the memorial is not exactly the truth.

You may well be right but proof, well, that's not exactly what we have been given, is it?

Narrative

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