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Did any German soldiers refuse to obey orders to commit atrocities, and what happened to them ?

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by Justin Smith, Jan 15, 2012.

  1. Justin Smith

    Justin Smith Member

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    I was watching "World At War" the other day and wondering how German soldiers could obey some of the orders they were given to commit atrocities. Personally I really can`t see how I could ever done some of those things so, following on from that, what would have happened to me ?.
    This set me thinking how many German soldiers refused to obey orders to commit atrocities, and what happened to those who stood by their consciences ?
    Have I got a false memory or did I once hear that very few German soldiers who refused to obey illegal orders were shot ?
    I`m talking in the mainstream German forces here, not the SS or the Gestapo.
     
  2. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I have read accounts about German soldiers who did refuse. For the most part little was done as punishment as there were always someone willing. Some good examples can be found in the book Ordinary Men about Reserve Police Battalion 101. Men who objected to the outright killing of Jewish civilians were posted at the perimiter of an operation. Still they helped make the atrocity a reality even though. A couple of men claim to have turned a blind eye to stragglers who fled but of course no way to confirm this other than thier word.
     
  3. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

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    There are countless accounts form both soldiers and civilians . Unfortunately not many survivors are there today to witness this.

    One instance is the one of the NJG2 men who refused to fight as infantry when there was no more petrol for their aircrafts.
    They refused to die for nothing during the last days of the war. The SS came to ge their Squadron leader, but they forced the SS to retreat . This testimony can be read in Herr Rökker's bibiography.
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Johannes Blaskowitz - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    General Blaskowitz was one of them. I recall we have a thread on them years back, I´ll try to find it. Hitler pardoned all the German soldiers who did atrocities in Poland, and later on probably sent those who opposed to civilian life ( top officers that is ).
     
  5. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Not my area of expertise but I do remember some accounts where the "objector" were shot for refusing orders, retaliation against the nen's families were also mentioned but I have no primary sources. I immagine the commanders would do what they could (like asking for volunteers or selecting the men they knew would not refuse) to avoid that sort of situation tha would be destructive to the unit's morale.
     
  6. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Don't know about individuals...but turn it around...How many were punished for committing them by German armed forces? Then we can join the dots.
     
  7. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I just saw a thread (perhaps over on the axis history forum if not here) where someone mentioned that a Wehrmacht battalion was assigned the duty of shooting a number of civilians. The commander allowed anyone who prefered not to participate to opt out and about a dozen took him up on it. Not sure if this quite qualifies or not. If I find the thread again I'll try to remember to post it here.
     
  9. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Given that it was the German Army where absolute obedience to orders was absolutely expected, and its culture of "Kamradschaft" I'm suprised that there were 12 who actually thought for themselves! Heck, if you take a bunch of impressionable young men, brutalize and indoctrinate/condition them to obey orders and kill, most will obey orders and kill. No suprise there. Chuck Yeager, in his autobiography, tells of the time towards the end of the war where his group was given verbal orders to strafe civilians. He made it very clear that they obeyed that order. Fortunately, the order was recinded in the next day or so, but it was issued and was obeyed. So even in the forces from the USA, the society with probably the least respect for "authority", it held true.

    Gottlob Bidermann in his account of the war on the Eastern Front and the 132nd Inf. Division, of which he was a part, tells of their commanding general, Fritz Lindermann. Lindermann refused to let his men take part in atrocities and was later involved in the July 20th Plot. He was killed by a Gestapo agent while trying to escape. This illustrates my belief that commanding officers hold most of the responsibility for their men's behavior-good or bad.

    It's ironic that at least in the early years of the war, each member of the Wehrmacht had in his paybook, a very clear and concise summary of the conduct expected of them under Geneva Convention.
     
  10. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    "The Final Solution was not a matter of massacre and wild destruction as other great crimes in history have been. It was the application of advanced modern science to evil ends. Anti-Semitism and all the talk about race were supposed to be scientific. Hence science was to be applied to racial ends and to produce a "pure" people. Chemists devised the most scientific forms of extermination. Doctors tortured the Jews for allegedly medical ends and ransacked the bodies. Skilled technicians built the death camps and perfected the incinerators. Even those who hesitated soon felt, as Oppenheimer said about the hydrogen bomb, that the problems of the final solution were beautifully sweet. Perhaps consciences were less tender in the general holocaust of war. At any rate no one in high places protested. German resources were diverted from war to the murder of innocent people. How many will never be known, perhaps four million, perhaps six. Far away in Russia a lone German sergeant called Anton Schmid systematically helped Jews to escape, until he was detected and shot. He was the good German of the Second World War."

    - AJP Taylor, "The Second World War"


    Along with his tremendous "Origins", Taylor also wrote other works, "The Hapsburg Monarchy", "The Course of German History", "The Struggle for Mastery in Europe", and "The Second World War" - with all his research and expertise involving Germany, he was also a noted Germanophobe.
     
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  11. DocCasualty

    DocCasualty Member

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    And in the opinion of many, a revisionist.

    I really can't buy into many of his theories, but I do appreciate the quote you posted. As I've tried in my mind to answer the question of who was responsible for Germany's role in WWII, your posted quote is in keeping with Ahrednt's concept of "The banality of evil, the thesis that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal."
     
  12. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    ... thanks for the salute, it's very much appreciated. Taylor's most revisionist bent, such as it was, was his "Origins", from the early 60's, much of what he wrote has since been accepted. Not without controversy, he nonetheless remains one of the most readable historians of his generation.

    Good thing I didn't quote anything from Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners"!
     
  13. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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    It is not the question whether they have obeyed or whether Germans are obedient nation in general. German nation conceived Hitler and not opposite. He was an elected leader and he was elected because he has explained his plans publicly in detail, people knew his plans and wanted him to lead them into the war they wanted, to fulfill their intentions.

    And finally a question to think about: why Nazi Mosley has failed in England and Hitler became an elected Substitute Emperor in Germany?
     
  14. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Yes they did but very occassionally one or two had a real conscience.

    I read that one Bayer chemist in IG Farben had found that a particular drug he was working on caused chemical castration in mice.

    The SS thought this would be extremely useful on Russian prisoners. However the Chemist in question refused to carry out the experiments and the subject was dropped.


    I don't think he was imprisoned but no doubt his decision was career limiting in the 3rd Reich madhouse.
     
  15. lost knight

    lost knight Member

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    Alot of ordinary people opposed Hitler and fascist demands. There were 'hidden Jews', trade unionists, communists, and others that ended up in the German forces. Many were opposed to Hitler from the early Brown Shirt days when people were beaten in the streets for not giving the Nazi salute. These people often continued to resist, and I'm sure that large numbers must have refused to carry out 'orders'.

    That said, I seem to recall reading somewhere that some were shot for this, but I have no idea of where or when I saw it. It could just have been some propaganda somewhere.
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  17. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I have little doubt that some people suffered imprisonment or even death as a result of 'not following orders' but the vast majority did not. Usually reassigned or relieved. In a society that cherished order above all else, a few examples were enough to ensure that things got done even if a few refused to act.
     
  18. Tamino

    Tamino Doc - The Deplorable

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  19. lost knight

    lost knight Member

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    Quite true. The Gestapo wasn't as powerful at finding opposition as they were at creating fear. Hidden groups resisted the entire regime throughout the war, and if careful were never caught. At first, being sent to a concentration camp was not an automatic death sentance for religious leaders, communists, trade unionists, opposition politicians, etc., rather an effort to intimidate into 'being good'. On release these people often found each other, and even in the army, some continued their activities. If there was no problem there wouldn't be a 'shoot the defeatist' thing.

    see: Anne Nelson "Red Orchestra" for the history of 1 of these groups.
     
  20. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Resistance: Quite a few senior officers know of the plot headed by Stauffenberg, Beck, etc. Yet dispite knowing of a plot that was plainly treasonous, not one turned the plotters in.
     

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