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The Commissar Order (German: Kommissarbefehl) was a written order given by Adolf Hitler on 6 June 1941, prior to Operation Barbarossa. Its official name was OKW-Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars. It demanded that any Soviet political commissar identified among captured troops be shot immediately as an enforcer of the Communist ideology and the Soviet Communist Party line in military forces.

According to the order, all those prisoners who could be identified as "thoroughly bolshevized or as active representatives of the Bolshevist ideology" should also be killed.[1]

Many German military leaders criticized it and did not follow it. Field Marshal Erich von Manstein in his memoirs, while acknowledging that he gave his written assent to the order, states that he, along with some other field commanders, instructed the units under his command not to follow it. Obergruppenführer Felix Steiner said that the order was incompatible with soldierly conduct and stated that "no rational unit commander could comply with such an Order".

When the commissar order became known among the Red Army, it boosted morale and delayed or prohibited surrender to the Wehrmacht. 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. (Jacobsen p. 184)

See also

References

  • Hans–Adolf Jacobsen, Kommissarbefehl und Massenexekutionen sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener, in: Anatomie des SS–Staates, hg. v. H. Buchheim, M. Broszat, H.A. Jacobsen, H. Krausnick, Bd. II, Freiburg 1965, S. 163–283.

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