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 Jews, Poles, and Romani 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.
The German Empire, also known as Imperial Germany, was the German nation state that existed from the unification of Germany in 1871 until the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1918.
Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.
World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.
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.
Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people in whole or in part. The hybrid word "genocide" is a combination of the Greek word γένος and the Latin suffix -caedo. The United Nations Genocide Convention, which was established in 1948, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group".
German South West Africa was a colony of the German Empire from 1884 until 1919. With an area of 835,100 km², it was one and a half times the size of the mainland German Empire in Europe at the time. The colony had a population of around 2,600 Germans.
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia, is a country in southern Africa. Its western border is the Atlantic Ocean; it shares land borders with Zambia and Angola to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it does not border Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres of the Zambezi River separates the two countries. Namibia gained independence from South Africa on 21 March 1990, following the Namibian War of Independence. Its capital and largest city is Windhoek, and it is a member state of the United Nations (UN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU), and the Commonwealth of Nations.
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.
Well-poisoning is the act of malicious manipulation of potable water resources in order to cause illness or death, or to deny an opponent access to fresh water resources.
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.
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 of civilians and looting and destruction of civilian property in occupied territories.
The Schlieffen Plan was the name given, after the First World War, to German war plans and the influence of Field Marshal Alfred von Schlieffen and his thinking on the invasion of France and Belgium on 4 August 1914. Schlieffen was Chief of the General Staff of the German Army from 1891 to 1906. In 1905 and 1906, Schlieffen devised an army deployment plan for a war-winning offensive against the French Third Republic. After losing the First World War, German official historians of the Reichsarchiv and other writers described the plan as a blueprint for victory. Generaloberst (Colonel-General) Helmuth von Moltke the Younger, succeeded Schlieffen as Chief of the German General Staff in 1906 and was dismissed after the First Battle of the Marne. German historians claimed that Moltke had ruined the plan by meddling with it.
The German invasion of Belgium was a military campaign which began on 4 August 1914. Earlier, on 24 July, the Belgian government had announced that if war came it would uphold its historic neutrality. The Belgian government mobilised its armed forces on 31 July and a state of heightened alert was proclaimed in Germany. On 2 August, the German government sent an ultimatum to Belgium, demanding passage through the country and German forces invaded Luxembourg. Two days later, the Belgian Government refused the demands and the British Government guaranteed military support to Belgium. The German government declared war on Belgium on 4 August, troops crossed the border and began the Battle of Liège.
The Treaty of London of 1839, also called the First Treaty of London, the Convention of 1839, the Treaty of Separation, the Quintuple Treaty of 1839, or the Treaty of the XXIV articles, was a treaty signed on 19 April 1839 between the Concert of Europe, the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Belgium. It was a direct follow-up to the 1831 Treaty of the XVIII Articles which the Netherlands had refused to sign, and the result of negotiations at the London Conference of 1838–1839.
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:
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."
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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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 of 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 geo-political 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.
It's estimated that over six million Polish citizens, divided nearly equally between ethnic Poles and Polish Jews, perished during World War II. Most were civilians killed by the actions of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and their respective allies. At the Nuremberg Tribunal, three categories of wartime criminality were established: waging a war of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These three core crimes of international law were set apart from other crimes, and for the first time since the end of the war categorised as violations of fundamental human values and norms. They were committed in occupied Poland on a tremendous scale.
Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious or national group. The term was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin. It is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) of 1948 as "any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the groups conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."
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 Wola massacre was the systematic killing of between 40,000 and 50,000 people in the Wola district of Poland's capital city Warsaw by German Wehrmacht and Russian RONA collaborationist forces during the early phase of the Warsaw Uprising.
Crimes against the Polish nation committed by Nazi Germany and collaborationist forces during the invasion of Poland, along with auxiliary battalions during the subsequent occupation of Poland in World War II, consisted of the systematic extermination of Jewish Poles and the murder of millions of (non-Jewish) ethnic Poles. The Germans justified these genocides on the basis of Nazi racial theory, which depicted Jews as a constant threat and regarded Poles and other Slavs as racially inferior Untermenschen. By 1942 the Nazis 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 assimilation into German identity of a small minority of Poles regarded as racially valuable. During World War II the Germans not only murdered millions of Jewish and non-Jewish Poles, but ethnically cleansed millions more ethnic Poles through forced deportation, supposedly to make room for racially superior German settlers.
The so-called Jäger Report, also Jaeger Report was written on 1 December 1941 by Karl Jäger, commander of Einsatzkommando 3, a killing unit of Einsatzgruppe A which was attached to Army Group North during the Operation Barbarossa. It is the most detailed and precise surviving chronicle of the activities of one individual Einsatzkommando, and a key record documenting the Holocaust in Lithuania as well as in Latvia and Belarus.
The Ponary massacre or Paneriai massacre was the mass murder of up to 100,000 people 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 during the occupation of the Soviet Ukraine by Nazi Germany in World War II. Between 1941 and 1944 more than a million Jews living in Ukrainian SSR were murdered as part of Generalplan Ost and the Final Solution extermination policies.
The Holocaust in Latvia refers to the war crimes of Nazis and Nazi collaborators victimizing Jews during the occupation of Latvia by Nazi Germany.
Anti-partisan operations during World War II were counter-insurgency operations against the various partisan resistance movements. During World War II those operations were primarily carried out by the invading and occupying Axis powers, although with changing fortune of the wars, the Soviet Union and the Allied powers also had to deal with partisans.
Intelligenzaktion was a 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 the Independent State of Croatia refers primarily to the genocide of Jews, but sometimes also include that of Serbs and Romani (Porajmos), during World War II within the Independent State of Croatia, a fascist puppet state ruled by the Ustashe regime, that included most of the territory of modern-day Croatia, the whole of modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina and the eastern part of Syrmia (Serbia). 90% of Croatian Jews were exterminated in Ustashe-run concentration camps like Jasenovac and others, while a considerable number of Jews were rounded up and turned over by the Ustashe for extermination in Nazi Germany.
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.
The Holocaust in Chachersk was the ghettoization and genocide of the Jews and Romani people mainly in the Belarusian shtetl of Chachersk, as well as in the greater Chachersk District located inside the Gomel Oblast during the Holocaust. Invading Soviet-controlled Belarus as a part of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany subjected Chachersk and neighboring shtetls to systematic extermination. Entire Jewish and Romani populations in the region were rounded up in Nazi-organized ghettos and later executed, in one of the earliest phases of the Final Solution.