The governments of the German Empire and Nazi Germany ordered, organized and condoned a substantial number of war crimes in World War I and World War II respectively. The most notable of these is the Holocaust in which millions of people were systematically murdered or died from abuse and mistreatment. Millions also died as a result of other German actions in those two conflicts. The true number of victims may never be known, since much of the evidence was deliberately destroyed by the perpetrators in an attempt to conceal the crimes.
Pre-World War I
Considered to have been the first genocide of the 20th century, the Herero and Namaqua Genocide was perpetrated by the German Empire between 1904 and 1907 in German South-West Africa (modern day Namibia), during the scramble for Africa. On January 12, 1904, the Herero people, led by Samuel Maharero, rebelled against German colonialism. In August, General Lothar von Trotha of the Imperial German Army defeated the Herero in the Battle of Waterberg and drove them into the desert of Omaheke, where most of them died of thirst. In October, the Nama people also rebelled against the Germans only to suffer a similar fate.
In total, from 24,000 up to 100,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama died. The genocide was characterized by widespread death by starvation and thirst because the Herero who fled the violence were prevented from returning from the Namib Desert. Some sources also claim that the German colonial army systematically poisoned desert wells.
World War I
Documentation regarding German war crimes in World War I were subsequently seized and destroyed by Nazi Germany during World War II, after occupying France, along with monuments commemorating their victims.
Chemical weapons in warfare
Poison gas was first introduced as a weapon by Imperial Germany, and subsequently used by all major belligerents, in violation of the 1899 Hague Declaration Concerning Asphyxiating Gases and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare, which explicitly forbade the use of "poison or poisoned weapons" in warfare.
In August 1914, as part of the Schlieffen Plan, the German Army invaded and occupied the neutral nation of Belgium without explicit warning, which violated a treaty of 1839 that the German chancellor dismissed as a "scrap of paper" and the 1907 Hague Convention on Opening of Hostilities. Within the first two months of the war, the German occupiers terrorized the Belgians, killing thousands of civilians and looting and burning scores of towns, including Leuven, which housed the country's preeminent university, mainly in fear of Belgian resistance fighters, or francs-tireurs. This action was in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare provisions that prohibited collective punishment on civilians and looting and destruction of civilian property in occupied territories.
Bombardment of English coastal towns
The raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby, which took place on December 16, 1914, was an attack by the Imperial German Navy on the British seaport towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby. The attack resulted in 137 fatalities and 592 casualties. The raid was in violation of the ninth section of the 1907 Hague Convention which prohibited naval bombardments of undefended towns without warning, because only Hartlepool was protected by shore batteries. Germany was a signatory of the 1907 Hague Convention. Another attack followed on 26 April 1916 on the coastal towns of Yarmouth and Lowestoft but both were important naval bases and defended by shore batteries.
Unrestricted submarine warfare
Unrestricted submarine warfare was instituted in 1915 in response to the British blockade of Germany in the North Sea. Prize rules, which were codified under the 1907 Hague Convention—such as those that required commerce raiders to warn their targets and allow time for the crew to board lifeboats—were disregarded and commercial vessels were sunk regardless of nationality, cargo, or destination. Following the sinking of the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915 and subsequent public outcry in various neutral countries, including the United States, the practice was withdrawn. However, Germany resumed the practice on 1 February 1917 and declared that all merchant ships regardless of nationalities would be sunk without warning. This outraged the U.S. public, prompting the U.S. to break diplomatic relations with Germany two days later, and, along with the Zimmermann Telegram, led the U.S. entry into the war two months later on the side of the Allied Powers.
World War II
The Holocaust of the Jews, the Action T4 killing of the disabled and the Porajmos of the Gypsies are the most notable war crimes committed by Nazi Germany during World War II. Not all of the crimes committed during the Holocaust and similar mass atrocities were war crimes. Telford Taylor (The U.S. prosecutor in the German High Command case at the Nuremberg Trials and Chief Counsel for the twelve trials before the U.S. Nuremberg Military Tribunals) explained in 1982:
The Holocaust: ghettos, concentration and extermination camps during World War II across Europe
Polish hostages preparing for mass execution 1940
Executions of Kiev
Jews by German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivangorod
, 1942. The photo was mailed from the Eastern Front to Germany and intercepted at a Warsaw post office by Polish resistance member, Jerzy Tomaszewski
who collected documentation on Nazi war crimes. The original German inscription on the back of the photograph reads, "Ukraine 1942, Jewish Action [operation], Ivangorod." 1942
Polish teachers from Bydgoszcz
guarded by members of Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz
it should be noted that, as far as wartime actions against enemy nationals are concerned, the  Genocide Convention added virtually nothing to what was already covered (and had been since the Hague Convention of 1899) by the internationally accepted laws of land warfare, which require an occupying power to respect "family honors and rights, individual lives and private property, as well as religious convictions and liberty" of the enemy nationals. But the laws of war do not cover, in time of either war or peace, a government's actions against its own nationals (such as Nazi Germany's persecution of German Jews). And at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, the tribunals rebuffed several efforts by the prosecution to bring such "domestic" atrocities within the scope of international law as "crimes against humanity."
- German mistreatment of Soviet prisoners of war — at least 3.3 million Soviet POWs died in German custody, out of 5.7 million captured; this figure represents 57% POW casualty rate.
- Le Paradis massacre, May 1940, British soldiers of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, captured by the SS and subsequently murdered. Fritz Knoechlein tried, found guilty and hanged.
- Wormhoudt massacre, May 1940, British and French soldiers captured by the SS and subsequently murdered. No one found guilty of the crime.
- Lidice massacre after assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942, when the Czech village was utterly destroyed, and inhabitants murdered.
- Ardenne Abbey massacre, June 1944 Canadian soldiers captured by the SS and Murdered by 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. SS General Kurt Meyer (Panzermeyer) sentenced to be shot 1946; sentence commuted; released 1954
- Malmedy massacre, December 1944, United States POWs captured by Kampfgruppe Peiper were murdered outside of Malmedy, Belgium.
- Wereth massacre. 17 December 1944, soldiers from 3./SS-PzAA1 LSSAH captured eleven African-American soldiers from 333rd Artillery Battalion in the hamlet of Wereth, Belgium. Subsequently, the prisoners were shot and had their fingers cut off, legs broken, and at least one was shot while trying to bandage a comrade's wounds.
- Gardelegen (war crime) of April 1945 when Nazi concentration camp prisoners were herded into a barn, which was the set alight, killing all inside
- Massacre of Kalavryta
- Unrestricted submarine warfare against merchant shipping.
- The intentional destruction of major medieval churches of Novgorod, of monasteries in the Moscow region (e.g., of New Jerusalem Monastery) and of the imperial palaces around St. Petersburg (many of them were left by the post-war authorities in ruins or simply demolished).
- The campaign of extermination of Slavic population in the occupied territories. Several thousand villages were burned with their entire population (e.g., Khatyn massacre in Belarus). A quarter of the inhabitants of Belarus did not survive the German occupation.
- Commando Order, the secret order issued by Hitler in October 1942 stating that Allied combatants encountered during commando operations were to be executed immediately without trial, even if they were properly uniformed, unarmed, or intending to surrender.
- Commissar Order, the order from Hitler to Wehrmacht troops before the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941 to shoot Commissars immediately on capture
- Nacht und Nebel decree of 1941 for disappearance of prisoners
Massacres and war crimes of World War II by location
- 26 March – 6 April, Operation Bamberg (Hłusk, Bobrujsk; 4,396 people, including children)
- 9 – 12 May, Kliczów-Bobrujsk massacre (520 people, including children)
- Beginning of June, Słowodka-Bobrujsk massacre (1,000 people, including children)
- 15 June Borki (powiat białostocki) massacre (1,741 people, including children)
- 21 June Zbyszin massacre (1,076 people, including children)
- 25 June Timkowiczi massacre (900 people, including children)
- 26 June Studenka massacre (836 people, including children)
- 18 July, Jelsk massacre (1,000 people, including children)
- 15 July – 7 August, Operation Adler (Bobrujsk, Mohylew, Berezyna; 1,381 people, including children)
- 14 – 20 August, Operation Greif (Orsza, Witebsk; 796 people, including children)
- 22 August – 21 September, Operation Sumpffieber (White Ruthenia; 10,063 people, including children)
- August, Bereźne massacre
- 22 September – 26 September, Małoryta massacre; 4,038 people, including children)
- 23 September – 3 October, Operation Blitz (Połock, Witebsk; 567 people, including children)
- 11 – 23 October, Operation Karlsbad (Orsza, Witebsk; 1,051 people, including children)
- 23 – 29 November, Operation Nürnberg (Dubrowka; 2,974 people, including children)
- 10 – 21 December, Operation Hamburg (Niemen River-Szczara River; 6,172 people, including children)
- 22 – 29 December, Operation Altona (Słonim; 1,032 people, including children)
Mass murder of Soviet civilians near Minsk
- 6 – 14 January, Operation Franz (Grodsjanka; 2,025 people, including children)
- 10 – 11 January, Operation Peter (Kliczów, Kolbcza; 1,400 people, including children)
- 18 – 23 January, Słuck-Mińsk-Czerwień massacre (825 people, including children)
- 28 January – 15 February, Operation Schneehase; Połock, Rossony, Krasnopole; 2,283 people, including children); 54; 37
- Until 28 January, Operation Erntefest I (Czerwień, Osipowicze; 1,228 people, including children)
- Jaanuar, Operation Eisbär (between Briańsk and Dmitriev-Lgowski)
- Until 1 February, Operation Waldwinter (Sirotino-Trudy; 1,627 people, including children)
- 8 – 26 February, Operation Hornung (Lenin, Hancewicze; 12,897 people, including children)
- Until 9 February, Operation Erntefest II (Słuck, Kopyl; 2,325 people, including children)
- 15 February – end of March, Operation Winterzauber (Oświeja, Latvian border; 3,904 people, including children)
- 22 February – 8 March, Operation Kugelblitz (Połock, Oświeja, Dryssa, Rossony; 3,780 people, including children)
- Until 19 March, Operation Nixe (Ptycz, Mikaszewicze, Pińsk; 400 people, including children)
- Until 21 March, Operation Föhn (Pińsk; 543 people, including children)
Memorial. The sculpture depicts Yuzif Kaminsky, the only adult to survive the massacre, holding his dead son Adam.
- 21 March – 2 April, Operation Donnerkeil (Połock, Witebsk; 542 people, including children)
- 1 – 9 May, Operation Draufgänger II (Rudnja and Manyly forest; 680 people, including children)
- 17 – 21 May, Operation Maigewitter (Witebsk, Suraż, Gorodok; 2,441 people, including children)
- 20 May – 23 June, Operation Cottbus (Lepel, Begomel, Uszacz; 11,796 people, including children)
- 27 May – 10 June, Operation Weichsel (Dniepr-Prypeć triangle, South-West of Homel; 4,018 people, including children)
- 13 – 16 June, Operation Ziethen (Rzeczyca; 160 people, including children)
- 25 June – 27 July, Operation Seydlitz (Owrucz-Mozyrz; 5,106 people, including children)
- 30 July, Mozyrz massacre (501 people, including children)
- Until 14 July, Operation Günther (Woloszyn, Lagoisk; 3,993 people, including children)
- 13 July – 11 August, Operation Hermann (Iwie, Nowogródek, Woloszyn, Stołpce; 4,280 people, including children)
- 24 September – 10 October, Operation Fritz (Głębokie; 509 people, including children)
- 9 October – 22 October, Stary Bychów massacre (1,769 people, including children)
- 1 November – 18 November, Operation Heinrich (Rossony, Połock, Idrica; 5,452 people, including children)
- December, Spasskoje massacre (628 people, including children)
- December, Biały massacre (1,453 people, including children)
- 20 December – 1 January 1944, Operation Otto (Oświeja; 1,920 people, including children)
- 14 January, Oła massacre (1,758 people, including children)
- 22 January, Baiki massacre (987 people, including children)
- 3 – 15 February, Operation Wolfsjagd (Hłusk, Bobrujsk; 467 people, including children)
- 5 – 6 February, Barysz (near Buczacz) massacre (126 people, including children; see pl:Zbrodnie w Baryszu)
- Until 19 February, Operation Sumpfhahn (Hłusk, Bobrujsk; 538 people, including children)
- Beginning of March, Berezyna-Bielnicz massacre (686 people, including children)
- 7 – 17 April, Operation Auerhahn (Bobrujsk; c. 1,000 people, including children)
- 17 April – 12 May, Operation Frühlingsfest (Połock, Uszacz; 7,011 people, including children)
- 25 May – 17 June, Operation Kormoran; Wilejka, Borysów, Minsk; 7,697 people, including children)
- 2 June – 13 June, Operation Pfingsrose (Talka; 499 people, including children)
- June, Operation Pfingstausnlug (Sienno; 653 people, including children)
- June, Operation Windwirbel (Chidra; 560 people, including children)
The relatives and helpers of Czech resistance fighters Jan Kubiš
and Josef Valčík
executed en masse on October 24, 1942
Burned out cars and buildings still litter the remains of the original village in Oradour-sur-Glane
, as left by Das Reich SS division
- Massacre of Kondomari (Crete, 60 men, mainly elder)
- Razing of Kandanos (Crete, 180, including women children)
- Holocaust of Viannos (Crete, 500+, including women children)
- Distomo massacre (Central Greece, 218, including women children)
- Drakeia massacre (Thessaly, 118 men)
- Holocaust of Kedros (Crete, 164, including women children)
- Kommeno (Epirus, 317, including women children)
- Massacre of Kalavryta (Peloponnese, 1,200+, including women children)
- Lyngiades massacre (Epirus), 92, mostly infants, children, women and elderly
- Massacre of the Acqui Division (Kefalonia, 5,000, Italian anti-fascist troops)
- Mesovouno massacre (Macedonia, 268, including women and children)
- Paramythia executions (Epirus, 201, including women children)
- The Massacre of Chortiatis (Macedonia, 146, including women children)
- Executions of Kaisariani (Athens, 200+, all civilians)
- Massacre of Mousiotitsa (Epirus, 153, including women children)
- Executions of Kokkinia (Athens, 300+, all civilians, assisted by Security Battalions)
- Alikianos executions (Crete, 118, all civilians)
- Razing of Anogeia (Crete, unknown, including women and children)
In addition, more than 90 villages and towns are recorded from the Hellenic network of martyr cities. During the triple German, Italian and Bulgarian, occupation about 800,000 people lost their lives in Greece (see World War II casualties).
A body lies in the via Rasella
during the round up of civilians by Italian collaborationist soldiers and German troops after the partisan bombing on 13 March 1944.
- List of massacres in Italy
- 29 September – 5 October 1944, Marzabotto massacre (Marzabotto, Emilia-Romagna; between 770 and 1,830 civilians killed)
- 12 August 1944, Sant'Anna di Stazzema massacre (Sant'Anna di Stazzema, Tuscany; 560 people, including children)
- 29 June 1944, Civitella-Cornia-San Pancrazio massacre (Abruzzo; 203 people, including children)
- Ardeatine massacre (Rome, Lazio; 335 prisoners executed)
- Boves massacre (Cuneo, Piedmont; 189 civilians and partisans killed in two separate massacres)
- Padule Fucecchio massacre (Fucecchio, Tuscany; 176 civilians killed on 23 August 1944)
- Cavriglia-Castelnuovo dei Sabbioni massacre (Tuscany; 173 civilians killed on 4 July 1944)
- Vinca massacre (Fivizzano, Tuscany; between 160 and 178 civilians executed on 24 August 1944)
- Fosse del Frigido massacre (Massa, Tuscany; 146-149 prisoners murdered on 10 September 1944)
- Pietransieri massacre (Roccaraso, Abruzzo; 128 civilians killed on 21 November 1943)
- Stia massacre (Stia, Tuscany; 122 civilians killed between 12 and 15 April 1944)
- San Terenzo Monti massacre (Fivizzano, Tuscany; 110 civilians and 52 political prisoners killed on 21 August 1944)
- Valla massacre (Fivizzano, Tuscany; 103 civilians killed on 19 August 1944)
- Serra di Ronchidoso massacre (Gaggio Montano, Emilia-Romagna; over 100 civilians killed on 28–29 September 1944)
Three men executed by public hanging in a street of Rimini
- Verghereto massacre (Verghereto, Emilia-Romagna; 96 civilians killed between 22 and 25 July 1944)
- Massacre of Monchio, Susano and Costrignano (Palagano, Emilia-Romagna; between 79 and 136 civilians killed on 18 March 1944)
- Leonessa and Cumulata massacre (Leonessa, Lazio; 51 civilians killed between 2 and 7 April 1944)
- Cumiana massacre (Cumiana, Piedmont; 51 civilians killed on 3 April 1944)
- Tavolicci massacre (Verghereto, Emilia-Romagna; 64 civilians killed on 22 July 1944)
- Forno massacre (Massa, Tuscany; 72 civilians killed on 13 June 1944)
- Gubbio mssacre (Gubbio, Umbria; 40 civilians executed on 22 June 1944)
- Valdine massacre (Fivizzano, Tuscany; 52 hostages executed in August 1944)
- Casaglia massacre (Marzabotto, Emilia-Romagna; 42 civilians killed on 29 September 1944)
- Bergiola Foscalina massacre in Carrara (Carrara, Tuscany; 72 civilians killed on 16 September 1944)
- Madonna dell'Albero massacre (Ravenna, Emilia-Romagna; 56 civilians killed on 27 November 1944)
- "La Romagna" massacre (Molina di Quosa, San Giuliano Terme, Tuscany; 75 civilians killed on 11 August 1944)
- San Polo di Arezzo massacre (Arezzo, Tuscany; 65 civilians killed on 14 July 1944)
- Certosa di Farneta massacre (Lucca, Tuscany; 60 civilians killed between 2 and 10 September 1944)
- Guardistallo massacre (Guardistallo, Tuscany; 46 civilians killed on 29 June 1944)
- Massaciuccoli-Massarosa massacre (Massaciuccoli, Massarosa, Tuscany; 41 civilians killed between 2 and 5 September 1944)
- Fossoli-Carpi massacre (Carpi, Emilia-Romagna; 67 civilians killed on 12 July 1944)
- Turchino Pass massacre (Fontanafredda, Liguria; 59 civilians executed on 19 May 1944)
- Pedescala massacre (Valdastico, Veneto; 82 civilians killed between 30 April and 2 May 1945)
The anti-Jewish pogrom in Kaunas
, in which thousands of Jews were killed in the last few days of June 1941
- 13 July – 21 August Daugavpils massacre by Einsatzkommando 3 (9,585 people, including children)
- July–August 1944, Ponary massacre (c. 100,000 people, including children)
- 18 August – 22 August, Kreis Rasainiai massacre (1,020 children)
- 19 August, Ukmerge massacre (88 children)
- Summer-autumn-winter, Complete murder of native Jewish population in Estonia (900 individuals, including 101 children)
- 1 September, Marijampolė massacre (1,404 children)
- 2 September, Wilno massacre (817 children)
- 4 September, Čekiškė massacre (60 children)
- 4 September, Seredžius massacre (126 children)
- 4 September, Veliuona massacre (86 children)
- 4 September, Zapyškis massacre (13 children)
- 6 September – 8 September, Raseiniai massacre (415 children)
- 6 September – 8 September, Jurbork massacre (412 people, including children)
- 29 October, Kaunas massacre (4,273 children)
- 25 November, Kauen-F.IX massacre (175 children)
- 14 May, Rotterdam bombing (nearly 1,000 people were killed and 85,000 made homeless.)
Man showing corpse of a starved infant in the Warsaw ghetto
A column of Polish civilians being led by German troops through Wolska Street in early August 1944.
German police shooting women and children from the Mizocz Ghetto
, 14 October 1942
Film footage taken by the Polish Underground
showing the bodies of women and children murdered by SS troops in Warsaw, August 1944.
- 28 February, Huta Pieniacka massacre
- 28 – 29 February, Korosciatyn Massacre (c. 150 people, including children)
- 2 June, Murder of Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam's children (9 children)
- 4–August 25, Ochota massacre (c. 10,000 people, including children)
- 5 – 8 August, Wola massacre (40,000 up to 100,000 people, including children)
Asperg. Sinti and Roma children about to be deported, 22 May 1940.
Iaşi. Jewish bodies, 29 June 1941.
Reichskommissariat Moskau. Jewish women and children been forced out of their homes. A soldier in Romanian uniform is marching along as a guard, 17 July 1941.
Members of the 21st Latvian Police Battalion assemble a group of Jewish women for execution on a beach near Liepāja, 1941.
Eichmann and his officers were responsible for the murder of most of the Jewish population in the ghettos of the territory of Czechoslovakia, and for the transport of men, women and children of all nationalities to extermination camps, for example KZ Auschwitz-Birkenau, May–June 1944.
Collecting bodies after bombing, during Warsaw Uprising. Picture of the courtyard of Tamka 23 street where Tomaszewski was taken after being wounded on 8 September 1944.
This boy's dead, burning body shows damage done by a V-2 on a main intersection in Antwerp, on a main supply line to the Netherlands, 1944.
The bodies of Belgian men, women, and children, killed by the German military during their counter-offensive into Luxembourg and Belgium, await identification before burial, 1944.
Memorial to the murdered children of Lidice.
||Wikimedia Commons has media related to War crimes.
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