Commissar Order
The Commissar Order was a written order given by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 on 6 June 1941, prior to Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

. Its official name was Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars (Richtlinien für die Behandlung politischer Kommissare). It demanded that any Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 political commissar
Political commissar
The political commissar is the supervisory political officer responsible for the political education and organisation, and loyalty to the government of the military...

 identified among captured troops be shot immediately as an enforcer of the Communist ideology and the Soviet Communist Party
Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Communist Party of the Soviet Union was the only legal, ruling political party in the Soviet Union and one of the largest communist organizations in the world...

 line in military forces.

According to the order, all those prisoners who could be identified as "thoroughly bolshevized
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 or as active representatives of the Bolshevist ideology" should also be killed.


The first draft of the Commissar Order was issued by General Eugen Müller
Eugen Müller
-Biography:Eugen Müller was born in Metz, Alsace-Lorraine, on 9 July 1891. He joined the German Army straight from school, at nineteen years of age. He began his military career in the Bavarian Army, joining the First Bavarian Artillery Regiment, in 1912. From 1914 to 1918, during the First World...

 on May 6, 1941 and called for the shooting of all commissars in order to avoid letting any captured commissar reach a POW camp in Germany. The German historian Hans-Adolf Jacobsen wrote:
"There was never any doubt in the minds of German Army commanders that the order deliberately flouted international law; that is borne out by the unusually small number of written copies of the Kommissarbefehl which were distributed".
The paragraph in which General Müller called for Army commanders to prevent "excesses" was removed on the request of the OKW. Field Marshal Walter von Brauchitsch amended the order on May 24, 1941 by attaching Müller's paragraph and calling on the Army to maintain discipline in the enforcement of the order. The final draft of the order was issued by OKW on June 6, 1941 and was restricted only to the most senior commanders, who were instructed to inform their subordinates verbally.

The enforcement of the Commissar Order led to thousands of executions. The German historian Jürgen Förster was to write in 1989 that it was simply not true as most German Army commanders claimed in their memoirs and some German historians like Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte
Ernst Nolte is a German historian and philosopher. Nolte’s major interest is the comparative studies of Fascism and Communism. He is Professor Emeritus of Modern History at the Free University of Berlin, where he taught from 1973 to 1991. He was previously a Professor at the University of Marburg...

 were still claiming that the Commissar Order was not enforced. On September 23, 1941, after several Wehrmacht commanders had asked for the order to be softened as a way of encouraging the Red Army to surrender, Hitler declined "any modification of the existing orders regarding the treatment of political commissars".

When the commissar order became known among the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, it boosted morale
Morale, also known as esprit de corps when discussing the morale of a group, is an intangible term used to describe the capacity of people to maintain belief in an institution or a goal, or even in oneself and others...

 and delayed or prohibited surrender
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

 to the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

. This unwanted effect was cited in German appeals to Hitler (e.g. by Claus von Stauffenberg), who finally cancelled the Commissar Order after one year, on 6 May 1942.

See also

  • Commando Order
    Commando Order
    The Commando Order was issued by Adolf Hitler on 18 October 1942 stating that all Allied commandos encountered by German forces in Europe and Africa should be killed immediately, even if in uniform or if they attempted to surrender...

  • Severity Order
    Severity Order
    The Severity Order was the name given to an order promulgated within the German Sixth Army on the Eastern Front during World War II by Field Marshal Walther von Reichenau on 10 October 1941....

  • Nazi crimes against Soviet POWs
    Nazi crimes against Soviet POWs
    The Nazi crimes against Soviet Prisoners of War relate to the deliberately genocidal policies taken towards the captured soldiers of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany...

  • German High Command orders for Treatment of Soviet Prisoners of War
    German High Command orders for Treatment of Soviet Prisoners of War
    These were the various orders sent out by the German High Command regarding the special treatment to be given to Soviet prisoners of war by the German military in World War II. The order was revised over time with amendments and alterations to previous versions.Among the notable instructions:* It...

External links

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