As a result of an unfortunate incident on the island of Sark, a number of German soldiers were shot with their hands tied behind their backs. This apparent execution, by a Commando raiding party, incensed Hitler, who, shortly afterwards, issued his infamous Commando Order.
The Commando Order
Hitler's infamous Commando Order and the covering minute from German Army HQ are reproduced below. The order was a death sentence for any Commando participating in a raid who fell into the hands of German forces. There were strict controls over copying and retaining the order on file and above all the order was under "no circumstances to fall into enemy hands."
To understand the incident that instigated Hitler's order read the page on the Small Scale Raiding Force (SSRF) page.
The Fuhrer SECRET
No. 003830/42g.Kdos.OWK/Wst F.H. Qu 18.10.1942
1. For a long time now our opponents have been employing in their conduct of the war, methods which contravene the International Convention of Geneva. The members of the so-called Commandos behave in a particularly brutal and underhand manner; and it has been established that those units recruit criminals not only from their own country but even former convicts set free in enemy territories. From captured orders it emerges that they are instructed not only to tie up prisoners, but also to kill out-of-hand unarmed captives who they think might prove an encumbrance to them, or hinder them in successfully carrying out their aims. Orders have indeed been found in which the killing of prisoners has positively been demanded of them.
2. In this connection it has already been notified in an Appendix to Army Orders of 7.10.1942. that in future, Germany will adopt the same methods against these Sabotage units of the British and their Allies; i.e. that, whenever they appear, they shall be ruthlessly destroyed by the German troops.
3. I order, therefore:-
From now on all men operating against German troops in so-called Commando raids in Europe or in Africa, are to be annihilated to the last man. This is to be carried out whether they be soldiers in uniform, or saboteurs, with or without arms; and whether fighting or seeking to escape; and it is equally immaterial whether they come into action from Ships and Aircraft, or whether they land by parachute. Even if these individuals on discovery make obvious their intention of giving themselves up as prisoners, no pardon is on any account to be given. On this matter a report is to be made on each case to Headquarters for the information of Higher Command.
4. Should individual members of these Commandos, such as agents, saboteurs etc., fall into the hands of the Armed Forces through any means - as, for example, through the Police in one of the Occupied Territories - they are to be instantly handed over to the S.D.
To hold them in military custody - for example in P.O.W. Camps, etc., - even if only as a temporary measure, is strictly forbidden.
5. This order does not apply to the treatment of those enemy soldiers who are taken prisoner or give themselves up in open battle, in the course of normal operations, large scale attacks; or in major assault landings or airborne operations. Neither does it apply to those who fall into our hands after a sea fight, nor to those enemy soldiers who, after air battle, seek to save their lives by parachute.
6. I will hold all Commanders and Officers responsible under Military Law for any omission to carry out this order, whether by failure in their duty to instruct their units accordingly, or if they themselves act contrary to it.
HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY SECRET
No. 551781/42G.K. Chefs W.F.St/Qu. F.H. Qu. 19/10/42
The enclosed Order from the Fuhrer is forwarded in connection with destruction of enemy Terror and Sabotage-troops.
This order is intended for Commanders only and is in no circumstances to fall into Enemy hands.
Further distribution by receiving Headquarters is to be most strictly limited.
The Headquarters mentioned in the Distribution list are responsible that all parts of the Order, or extracts taken from it, which are issued are again withdrawn and, together with this copy, destroyed.
Chief of Staff of the Army
Nuremburg Trials consideration of Hitler's Commando Order (Session 28 in 10 parts).
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