Jewish women and children removed from a bunker by Schutzstaffel (SS) units during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising for deportation either to Majdanek or Treblinka extermination camps (1943)

The governments of the German Empire and Nazi Germany (under Adolf Hitler) ordered, organized, and condoned a substantial number of war crimes, first in the Herero and Namaqua genocide and then in the First and Second World Wars. The most notable of these is the Holocaust, in which millions of European Jewish, Polish, and Romani people were systematically abused, deported, and murdered. Millions of civilians and prisoners of war also died as a result of German abuses, 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 their crimes.

Herero Wars

Main article: Herero and Namaqua genocide

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),[1] during the Scramble for Africa.[1][2][3][4][5][6] 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.[7][8][9][10][11] 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 wells in the desert.[12][13]

World War I

Further information: War crimes in World War I § German war crimes

Aerial photograph of a German gas attack on the Eastern Front of World War I. Lethal poison gas was first introduced by Germany and subsequently utilized by the other major belligerents in violation of the Hague Convention IV of 1907.

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.[14]

Chemical weapons in warfare

Main article: Chemical weapons in World War I

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.[15][16]


Main article: Rape of Belgium

Depiction of the execution of civilians in Blégny by Évariste Carpentier

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.[17] 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.[18]

Bombardment of English coastal towns

Main article: Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby

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,[19] because only Hartlepool was protected by shore batteries.[20] Germany was a signatory of the 1907 Hague Convention.[21] 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.[citation needed]

Unrestricted submarine warfare

Main article: U-boat Campaign (World War I)

Unrestricted submarine warfare was instituted in 1915 in response to the British naval blockade of Germany. 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.

World War II

Main articles: Consequences of Nazism, The Holocaust, and War crimes of the Wehrmacht

Further information: Holocaust victims, Romani Holocaust, and The Holocaust in Poland

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.[22][23]

More significantly, the Holocaust of the European Jews, the extermination of millions of Poles, the Action T4 killing of the disabled, and the Porajmos of the Romani 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:

The Holocaust: ghettos, concentration camps, and extermination camps during World War II across German-occupied Europe
Polish hostages preparing for mass execution by Nazi Germans, 1940
Destruction of Adam Mickiewicz Monument in Kraków, Poland, by Nazi German forces on August 17, 1940
Ivanhorod Einsatzgruppen photograph: murdering of Jewish civilians by Nazi German army mobile killing units (Einsatzgruppen) near Ivanhorod, Ukraine, 1942.
Polish farmers killed by Nazi German forces, German-occupied Poland, 1943
Polish teachers from Bydgoszcz guarded by members of Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz before execution, 1 November 1939

as far as wartime actions against enemy nationals are concerned, the [1948] 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."

— Telford Taylor[24]

War criminals

Massacres and war crimes of World War II by location

Main articles: The Holocaust, Einsatzgruppen, and Nazi human experimentation



Mass murder of Soviet civilians near Minsk, 1943






The relatives and helpers of Czech resistance fighters Jan Kubiš and Josef Valčík executed en masse on October 24, 1942




Burned out cars and buildings still litter the remains of the original village in Oradour-sur-Glane, as left by Das Reich SS division.


Hartheim Euthanasia Centre, where over 18,000 people were killed in Action T4


Main article: List of massacres in Greece

Massacre of Kondomari in Greece, June 1941

In addition, more than 90 villages and towns are recorded from the Hellenic network of martyr cities.[32] During the triple German, Italian and Bulgarian, occupation about 800,000 people lost their lives in Greece (see World War II casualties).


A body lies in the via Rasella, Rome, during the round up of civilians by Italian collaborationist soldiers and German troops after the partisan bombing on 13 March 1944.

Main article: German war crimes in Italy during World War II




The anti-Jewish pogrom in Kaunas, in which thousands of Jews were killed in the last few days of June 1941





Main articles: World War II crimes in Poland and Nazi crimes against ethnic Poles

Man showing corpse of a starved infant in the Warsaw ghetto, 1941
A column of Polish civilians being led by German troops through Wolska Street in early August 1944
German police shooting women and children from the Mizocz Ghetto, 14 October 1942
Film footage taken by the Polish Underground showing the bodies of women and children murdered by SS troops in Warsaw, August 1944


A victim of starvation in besieged Leningrad in 1941







See also


  1. ^ a b Steinhauser, Gabriele (28 July 2017). Tucker, Emma (ed.). "Germany Confronts the Forgotten Story of Its Other Genocide". The Wall Street Journal. New York City. ISSN 0099-9660. OCLC 781541372. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2023.
  2. ^ Olusoga, David and Erichsen, Casper W (2010). The Kaiser's Holocaust. Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0-571-23141-6
  3. ^ Levi, Neil; Rothberg, Michael (2003). The Holocaust: Theoretical Readings. Rutgers University Press. p. 465. ISBN 0-8135-3353-8.
  4. ^ Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2001, p. 12
  5. ^ Cooper, Allan D. (2006-08-31). "Reparations for the Herero Genocide: Defining the limits of international litigation". Oxford Journals African Affairs. Archived from the original on 2009-08-30.
  6. ^ "Remembering the Herero Rebellion". Deutsche Welle. 2004-11-01.
  7. ^ Colonial Genocide and Reparations Claims in the 21st Century: The Socio-Legal Context of Claims under International Law by the Herero against Germany for Genocide in Namibia, 1904–1908 (PSI Reports) by Jeremy Sarkin-Hughes
  8. ^ Empire, Colony, Genocide: Conquest, Occupation and Subaltern Resistance in World History (War and Genocide) (War and Genocide) (War and Genocide) A. Dirk Moses -page 296(From Conquest to Genocide: Colonial Rule in German Southwest Africa and German East Africa. 296, (29). Dominik J. Schaller)
  9. ^ The Imperialist Imagination: German Colonialism and Its Legacy (Social History, Popular Culture, and Politics in Germany) by Sara L. Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, and Susanne M. Zantop page 87 University of Michigan Press 1999
  10. ^ Walter Nuhn: Sturm über Südwest. Der Hereroaufstand von 1904. Bernard & Graefe-Verlag, Koblenz 1989. ISBN 3-7637-5852-6.
  11. ^ Marie-Aude Baronian, Stephan Besser, Yolande Jansen, "Diaspora and memory: figures of displacement in contemporary literature, arts and politics", pg. 33 Rodopi, 2007,
  12. ^ Samuel Totten, William S. Parsons, Israel W. Charny, "Century of genocide: critical essays and eyewitness accounts" pg. 51, Routledge, 2004,
  13. ^ Dan Kroll, "Securing our water supply: protecting a vulnerable resource", PennWell Corp/University of Michigan Press, pg. 22
  14. ^ France: the dark years, 1940–1944 page 273 Julian Jackson Oxford University Press 2003
  15. ^ Taylor, Telford (November 1, 1993). The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-3168-3400-9. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  16. ^ Thomas Graham, Damien J. Lavera (May 2003). Cornerstones of Security: Arms Control Treaties in the Nuclear Era. University of Washington Press. pp. 7–9. ISBN 0-2959-8296-9. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  17. ^ Robinson, James J., ABA Journal 46(9), p. 978.
  18. ^ Spencer C. Tucker; Priscilla Mary Roberts (October 25, 2005). World War I: A Student Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 1074. ISBN 1-8510-9879-8.
  19. ^ Marshall, Logan (1915). Horrors and atrocities of the great war: Including the tragic destruction of the Lusitania: A new kind of warfare: Comprising the desolation of Belgium: The sacking of Louvain: The shelling of defenseless cities: The wanton destruction of cathedrals and works of art: The horrors of bomb dropping: Vividly portraying the grim awfulness of this greatest of all wars fought on land and sea: In the air and under the waves: Leaving in its wake a dreadful trail of famine and pestilence. G. F. Lasher. p. 240. Retrieved 5 July 2013. German Navy December 1914 Hague Convention bombardment.
  20. ^ Chuter, David (2003). War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World. London: Lynne Rienner Pub. p. 300. ISBN 1-58826-209-X.
  21. ^ Willmore, John (1918). The great crime and its moral. New York: Doran. p. 340.
  22. ^ Kulesza, Witold (2004). ""Wieluń polska Guernica", Tadeusz Olejnik, Wieluń 2004 : [recenzja]" ["Wieluń Polish Guernica", Tadeusz Olejnik, Wieluń 2004 : [review]] (PDF). Rocznik Wieluński (in Polish). 4: 253–254.
  23. ^ Gilbertson, David (14 August 2017). The Nightmare Dance: Guilt, Shame, Heroism and the Holocaust. Troubador Publishing Limited. p. 27. ISBN 978-1-78306-609-4.
  24. ^ Telford Taylor "When people kill a people" in The New York Times, March 28, 1982
  25. ^ "Home - Veterans Affairs Canada". 2012-03-29. Archived from the original on 2008-03-29. Retrieved 9 July 2012.
  27. ^ Šašić, Tijana (25 March 2017). "Ivanci – selo kojeg više nema". Privrednik. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  28. ^ Kozlica, Ivan (2012). Krvava Cetina [Bloody Cetina] (in Croatian). Zagreb: Hrvatski centar za ratne žrtve. p. 155. ISBN 978-953-57409-0-2.
  29. ^ "List of victims". Retrieved 21 March 2021.
  30. ^ Danica Maljavac, Marica Gaberšnik (2011). "Spomen-muzej Lipa". Zbornik Liburnijskog krasa. Svezak 1: 42.
  31. ^ Ivan Kovačić; Vinko Šepić Čiškin; Danica Maljavac (2014). Lipa pamti. Rijeka: Naklada Kvarner, Općina Matulji, SABA Primorsko-goranske županije. p. 189.
  32. ^ Δήμος Λαμιέων: Δίκτυο μαρτυρικών πόλεων & χωριών της Ελλάδος | Δήμος Λαμιέων, accessdate: 19. Oktober 2015
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Buzzelli, S.; De Paolis, M.; Speranzoni, A. (2012). La ricostruzione giudiziale dei crimini nazifascisti in Italia: questioni preliminari. G. Giappichelli. p. 119. ISBN 9788834826195. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
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  35. ^ a b c d e Biacchessi, D. (2015). I carnefici. SPERLING & KUPFER. ISBN 9788820092719. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
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