The governments of the German Empire and Nazi Germany ordered, organized and condoned a substantial number of war crimes, first in the Herero and Namaqua genocide and then in World War I and World War II. The most notable of these is the Holocaust in which millions of Jews and Romani were systematically murdered. Millions of civilians and prisoners of war also died as a result of German abuse, mistreatment, and deliberate starvation policies in those two conflicts. Much of the evidence was deliberately destroyed by the perpetrators, such as in Sonderaktion 1005, in an attempt to conceal the crimes.
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.
Documentation regarding German war crimes in World War I was seized and destroyed by Nazi Germany during World War II, after occupying France, along with monuments commemorating their victims.
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 retaliation for Belgian guerrilla warfare, (see francs-tireurs ). This action was in violation of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare provisions that prohibited collective punishment of civilians and looting and destruction of civilian property in occupied territories.
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, [ citation needed ]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 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.
Chronologically, the first German World War II crime, and also the very first act of the war, was the bombing of Wieluń, a town where no targets of military value were present.
More significantly, The Holocaust of the Jews and Poles, 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:
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."
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).
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German Navy December 1914 Hague Convention bombardment.
The Final Solution or the Final Solution to the Jewish Question was a Nazi plan for the genocide of Jews during World War II. The "Final Solution to the Jewish question" was the official code name for the murder of all Jews within reach, which was not restricted to the European continent. This policy of deliberate and systematic genocide starting across German-occupied Europe was formulated in procedural and geopolitical terms by Nazi leadership in January 1942 at the Wannsee Conference held near Berlin, and culminated in the Holocaust, which saw the killing of 90% of Polish Jews, and two thirds of the Jewish population of Europe.
Around six million Polish citizens, are estimated to have perished during World War II. Most were civilians killed by the actions of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. At the International Military Tribunal held in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945–46, three categories of wartime criminality were juridically established: waging a war of aggression; war crimes; and crimes against humanity. These three crimes in international law were for the first time, from the end of the war, categorized as violations of fundamental human values and norms. These crimes were committed in occupied Poland on a tremendous scale.
The massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, was a genocide carried out in Nazi German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army with the active and frequent support of the local Ukrainian population against the Polish minority in the area of Volhynia, Eastern Galicia, parts of Polesia and Lublin region, beginning in 1943 and lasting up to 1945. The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943. Most of the victims were women and children. UPA's methods were particularly brutal, with many of the victims being tortured and mutilated, and resulted in 40,000–60,000 Polish deaths in Volhynia and 30,000–40,000 in Eastern Galicia, with the other regions for the total about 100,000.
Einsatzgruppen were Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary death squads of Nazi Germany that were responsible for mass killings, primarily by shooting, during World War II (1939–45) in German-occupied Europe. The Einsatzgruppen were involved in the murder of much of the intelligentsia, including members of the priesthood and cultural elite of Poland, and had an integral role in the implementation of the so-called "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" in territories conquered by Nazi Germany. Almost all of the people they killed were civilians, beginning with the intelligentsia and swiftly progressing to Soviet political commissars, Jews, and Romani people as well as actual or alleged partisans throughout Eastern Europe.
The ArajsKommando, led by SS commander and Nazi collaborator Viktors Arājs, was a unit of Latvian Auxiliary Police subordinated to the German Sicherheitsdienst (SD). It was a notorious killing unit during the Holocaust.
The pacification actions in German-occupied Poland during World War II were one of many punitive measures designed to inflict terror on the civilian population of local villages and towns with the use of military and police force. They were an integral part of the war of aggression against the Polish nation waged by Nazi Germany since September 1, 1939. The projected goal of pacification operations was to prevent and suppress the Polish resistance movement in World War II nevertheless, among the victims were children as young as 1.5 year old, women, fathers attempting to save their families, farmers rushing to rescue livestock from burning buildings, patients, victims already wounded, and hostages of many ethnicities including Poles and Jews.
The Wola massacre was the systematic killing of between 40,000 and 50,000 Poles in the Wola suburb of Poland's capital city Warsaw by German Wehrmacht and fellow Axis collaborators in the Russian RONA forces during the early phase of the Warsaw Uprising. The genocide was ordered by Hitler who directed to kill "anything that moves".
During World War II, the Germans' combined armed forces committed systematic war crimes, including massacres, mass rape, looting, the exploitation of forced labor, the murder of three million Soviet prisoners of war, and participated in the extermination of Jews. While the Nazi Party's own SS forces of Nazi Germany was the organization most responsible for the genocidal killing of the Holocaust, the regular armed forces represented by the Wehrmacht committed war crimes of their own, particularly on the Eastern Front in the war against the Soviet Union.
The occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany started with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and ended in August 1944 with the Soviet Operation Bagration. The western parts of the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic became part of the Reichskommissariat Ostland in 1941, but in 1943 the German authorities allowed local collaborators to set up a client state, the Belarusian Central Rada, that lasted until the Soviets liberated the region.
War crimes perpetrated by the Soviet Union and its armed forces from 1919 to 1991 include acts committed by the Red Army as well as the NKVD, including the NKVD's Internal Troops. In some cases, these acts were committed upon the orders of the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in pursuance of the early Soviet Government's policy of Red Terror. In other instances they were committed without orders by Soviet troops against prisoners of war or civilians of countries that had been in armed conflict with the USSR, or they were committed during partisan warfare.
Crimes against the Polish nation committed by Nazi Germany and Axis collaborationist forces during the invasion of Poland, along with auxiliary battalions during the subsequent occupation of Poland in World War II, consisted of the murder of millions of ethnic Poles and the systematic extermination of Jewish Poles. The Germans justified these genocides on the basis of Nazi racial theory, which regarded Poles and other Slavic peoples as racially inferior Untermenschen and depicted Jews as a constant threat. By 1942, the Nazi Germans were implementing their plan to kill every Jew in German-occupied Europe, and had also developed plans to eliminate the Polish people through mass murder, ethnic cleansing, enslavement and extermination through labor, and assimilation into German identity of a small minority of Poles deemed "racially valuable". During World War II, the Germans not only murdered millions of Poles, but ethnically cleansed millions more through forced deportation to make room for “racially superior” German settlers. The genocides claimed the lives of 2.7 to 3 million Polish Jews and 1.8 to 2.77 million non-Jewish ethnic Poles, according to various sources such as Poland's Institute of National Remembrance
The Ponary massacre or Paneriai massacre was the mass murder of up to 100,000 people, mostly Jews, Poles, and Russians by German SD and SS and their Lithuanian collaborators, including Ypatingasis būrys killing squads, during World War II and the Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ostland. The murders took place between July 1941 and August 1944 near the railway station at Ponary, a suburb of today's Vilnius, Lithuania. Some 70,000 Jews were murdered at Ponary, along with up to 20,000 Poles, and 8,000 Russian POWs, most of them from nearby Vilna (Vilnius), and its newly-formed Vilna Ghetto.
The 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division "Reichsführer-SS" was a motorised formation in the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany during World War II.
The Holocaust in German occupied Lithuania resulted in the near total destruction of Lithuanian (Litvaks) and Polish Jews, living in Generalbezirk Litauen of Reichskommissariat Ostland within the Nazi-controlled Lithuanian SSR. Out of approximately 208,000–210,000 Jews, an estimated 190,000–195,000 were murdered before the end of World War II, most between June and December 1941. More than 95% of Lithuania's Jewish population was massacred over the three-year German occupation—a more complete destruction than befell any other country affected by the Holocaust. Historians attribute this to the massive collaboration in the genocide by the non-Jewish local paramilitaries, though the reasons for this collaboration are still debated. The Holocaust resulted in the largest-ever loss of life in so short a period of time in the history of Lithuania.
The Holocaust in Belarus in general terms refers to the Nazi crimes committed during World War II on the territory of Belarus against Jews. The borders of Belarus however, changed dramatically following the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939, which has been the source of confusion especially in the Soviet era as far as the scope of the Holocaust in Belarus is concerned.
The Holocaust in Ukraine took place in Reichskommissariat Ukraine, General Government, Crimean General Government and some areas under military control to the East of Reichskommissariat Ukraine as well as Transnistria Governorate and Northern Bukovina and Carpatho-Ukraine in World War II. Between 1941 and 1944 more than a million Jews living in the Soviet Union were murdered by Nazi Germany's Generalplan Ost and the Final Solution extermination policies. Most of them were killed in Ukraine because most pre-WWII Soviet Jews lived in the Pale of Settlement, of which Ukraine was the biggest part.
The Holocaust in Latvia refers to the war crimes committed by Nazi Germany and collaborators victimizing Jews during the occupation of Latvia.
The Intelligenzaktion, or Intelligentsia mass shootings, was a, not always secret, mass murder conducted by Nazi Germany against the Polish intelligentsia early in the Second World War (1939–45). The operations were conducted to realise the Germanization of the western regions of occupied Poland, before territorial annexation to the German Reich.
The Holocaust in Italy was the persecution, deportation, and murder of Jews between 1943 and 1945 in the Italian Social Republic, the part of the Kingdom of Italy occupied by Nazi Germany after the Italian surrender on September 8, 1943, during World War II.