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Directives for the Treatment of Political Commissars ("Commissar Order") (June 6, 1941)

That Hitler did not see the pending invasion of Russia as a conventional war of territorial conquest was clear, not least from the following “Commissar Order” of June 6, 1941. As early as the 1920s, Hitler had identified the Soviet Union as the Bolshevist command center of the alleged Jewish world conspiracy. His intention now was to crush this supposed racial-ideological archenemy of the German Volk through a war of annihilation that would involve the extermination of the Jews as well as the decimation and enslavement of “inferior” Slavic peoples. The following order, the so-called Commissar Order, which instructed the German military leadership – in clear violation of international law – to engage in the systematic persecution and murder of Soviet political commissars, sealed the cooperation of the Wehrmacht with the annihilation campaign of the SS. Hitler’s formal repeal of the order on March 6, 1942 – partly an attempt to accommodate the opposition of some military commanders – did not change anything about the way Germany conducted war during “Operation Barbarossa.”

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High Command of the Armed Forces
WFSt. (Armed Forces Operational
Staff) Department L (IV Q)
No 44822/41 Top Secret for general
officers only

Fuehrer Headquarters, 6 June 1941

In addition to the Fuehrer’s decree of 14 May regarding Military jurisdiction in the “Barbarossa” zone (Supreme Command of the Armed Forces/Armed Forces Operational Staff/Department L (IV Q) (Intelligence) No 44718/41, (Top Secret, for General Officers only), the enclosed “directives for the treatment of political commissars” are being transmitted herewith:

You are requested to limit the distribution to Commanders in Chief of Armies or of Air Commands, respectively, and to inform the Junior commanders by word of mouth.

The Chief of the Supreme Command
Of the Armed Forces
By Order.

Signed: Warlimont


Enclosure to Supreme Command of the Armed Forces/Department L IV Q (Intelligence)
No. 44822/41 Top Secret
For General Officers only.

Directives for the treatment of political commissars.

When fighting Bolshevism one can not count on the enemy acting in accordance with the principles of humanity or International Law. In particular it must be expected that the treatment of our prisoners by the political commissars of all types who are the true pillars of resistance, will be cruel, inhuman and dictated by hate.

The troops must realize:

1.) That in this fight it is wrong to trust such elements with clemency and consideration in accordance with International Law. They are a menace to our own safety and to the rapid pacification of the conquered territories.

2.) That the originators of the asiatic-barbaric methods of fighting are the political commissars. They must be dealt with promptly and with the utmost severity.

Therefore, if taken while fighting or offering resistance they must, on principle, be shot immediately.

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