Army Group North
Army Group North was a German strategic echelon formation, commanding a grouping of field armies during World War II. The German Army Group was subordinated to the Oberkommando des Heeres, the German army high command, coordinated the operations of attached separate army corps, reserve formations, rear services and logistics, including the Army Group North Rear Area; the Army Group North was created on the 2 September 1939 by reorganization of the 2nd Army Headquarters. Commander in Chief as of 27 August 1939 was Field Marshal Fedor von Bock; the first employment of Army Group North was in the invasion of Poland of 1939, where in September it controlled: 3rd Army 4th Army a reserve of four divisions 10th Panzer Division 73rd Infantry Division 206th Infantry Division 208th Infantry Division. The Army Group was commanded by Fedor von Bock for the operation. After the end of the campaign, it was transferred to the Western Theatre and on the 10 October 1939 was renamed as the Army Group B, consisted of: 6th Army 4th Army In preparation for Operation Barbarossa, Army Group North was reformed from Army Group C on 22 June 1941.
Army Group North staged in East Prussia. Its strategic goal was Leningrad, with operational objectives being the territories of the Baltic republics and securing the northern flank of Army Group Centre in Northern Russia between Western Dvina River and Daugavpils-Kholm Army Group boundary. On commencement of the Wehrmacht's Baltic offensive operation the army group deployed into Lithuania and northern Belorussia, it served in Baltic territories and north Russia until 1944. Commander in Chief 22 June 1941: Wilhelm Ritter von Leeb, its subordinate armies were deployed with the following immediate objectives: 18th Army - from Koenigsberg to Ventspils - Jelgava 4th Panzer Group - Pskov 16th Army - Kaunas, Daugavpils Army Group troops Army-Group signals regiment 537 Army-Group signals regiment 639 All operational objectives such as Tallinn were achieved despite stubborn Red Army resistance and several unsuccessful counter-offensives such as the Battle of Raseiniai, the army group approached Leningrad, commencing the Siege of Leningrad.
However, while the Baltic states were overrun, the Siege of Leningrad continued until 1944, when it was lifted as a result of the Red Army Leningrad-Novgorod strategic offensive operation. In September 1941, the Spanish Blue Division was assigned to Army Group North. Composition: October 1941 16th Army 18th ArmyNevsky PyatachokOperation Nordlicht Commander in Chief 17 January 1942: GFM Georg von Küchler Composition: September 1942 11th Army 16th Army 18th ArmyDecember 1942 16th Army 18th ArmyDemyansk PocketKholm Pocket Soviet Toropets-Kholm OperationBattle of Velikiye LukiBattle of Krasny Bor Commander in Chief 9 January 1944: Field marshal Walter Model Commander in Chief 31 March 1944: Generaloberst Georg Lindemann Commander in Chief 4 July 1944: Generaloberst Johannes Frießner Commander in Chief 23 July 1944: GFM Ferdinand Schörner March 1944 Army detachment "Narwa" 16th Army 18th ArmyBattle of Narva, consisting of: Battle for Narva Bridgehead and Battle of Tannenberg LineCombat in South Estonia, 1944 Soviet Baltic OffensiveBattle of PorkuniBattle of Vilnius Battle of Memel After becoming trapped in the Courland Cauldron after 25 January 1945, the Army Group was renamed Army Group Courland.
On the same day, in East Prussia, a new Army Group North was created by renaming Army Group Center. On the 2 April 1945, the army group was dissolved, the staff formed the 12th Army headquarters. Army Group North, was driven into an smaller pocket around Königsberg in East Prussia. On April 9, 1945 Königsberg fell to the Red Army, although remnants of Army Group units continued to resist on the Heiligenbeil & Danzig beachheads until the end of the war in Europe. October 1944 16th Army Armee-Abteilung Grasser 18th ArmyNovember 1944 16th Army Armee-Abteilung Kleffel 18 ArmeeDecember 1944 16th Army 18th ArmySoviet East Prussian OffensiveBattle of KönigsbergHeiligenbeil pocket Commander in Chief 27 January 1945: Generaloberst Dr. Lothar Rendulic Commander in Chief 12 March 1945: Walter Weiss Composition: February 1945 Armee-Abteilung Samland 4th ArmySoviet East Pomeranian OffensiveBattle of KolbergCourland Pocket On the 25 January 1945 Hitler renamed three army groups. Army Group North became Army Group Courland, more appropriate as it had been isolated from Army Group Centre and was trapped in Courland, Latvia.
German order of battle for Operation Fall Weiss Police Regiment North Frieser, Karl-Heinz. Die Ostfront 1943/44 – Der Krieg im Osten und an den Nebenfronten. Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. VIII. München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt. ISBN 978-3-421-06235-2
The Generalplan Ost, abbreviated as GPO, was the Nazi German government's plan for the genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale, colonization of Central and Eastern Europe. It was to be undertaken in territories occupied by Germany during World War II; the plan was realized during the war, resulting directly and indirectly in the deaths of 9.4 to 11.4 million ethnic Slavs by starvation, ethnic cleansing, mass murder, or extermination through labor, including 4.5 million Soviet citizens, 2.8 to 3.3 million Soviet POWs, 1.8 to 3 million Slavic Poles, 300 to 600 thousand Serbs and 20 to 25 thousand Slovenes. Its full implementation, was not considered practicable during the major military operations, was prevented by Germany's defeat; the plan entailed the enslavement, forced displacement, mass murder of most Slavic peoples in Europe along with planned destruction of their nations, whom the'Aryan' Nazis viewed as racially inferior. The program operational guidelines were based on the policy of Lebensraum designed by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in fulfilment of the Drang nach Osten ideology of German expansionism.
As such, it was intended to be a part of the New Order in Europe. The master plan was a work in progress. There are four known versions of it, developed. After the invasion of Poland, the original blueprint for Generalplan Ost was discussed by the RKFDV in mid-1940 during the Nazi–Soviet population transfers; the second known version of GPO was procured by the RSHA from Erhard Wetzel in April 1942. The third version was dated June 1942; the final settlement master plan for the East came in from the RKFDV on October 29, 1942. However, after the German defeat at Stalingrad planning of the colonization in the East was suspended, the program was abandoned; the body responsible for the Generalplan Ost was the SS's Reich Main Security Office under Heinrich Himmler, which commissioned the work. The document was revised several times between June 1941 and spring 1942 as the war in the east progressed successfully, it was a confidential proposal whose content was known only to those at the top level of the Nazi hierarchy.
According to testimony of SS-Standartenführer Dr. Hans Ehlich, the original version of the plan was drafted in 1940; as a high official in the RSHA, Ehlich was the man responsible for the drafting of Generalplan Ost along with Dr. Konrad Meyer, Chief of the Planning Office of Himmler's Reich Commission for the Strengthening of Germandom, it had been preceded by the Ostforschung, a number of studies and research projects carried out over several years by various academic centres to provide the necessary facts and figures. The preliminary versions were discussed by Heinrich Himmler and his most trusted colleagues before the outbreak of war; this was mentioned by SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski during his evidence as a prosecution witness in the trial of officials of the Race and Settlement Main Office. According to Bach-Zelewski, Himmler stated openly: "It is a question of existence, thus it will be a racial struggle of pitiless severity, in the course of which 20 to 30 million Slavs and Jews will perish through military actions and crises of food supply."
A fundamental change in the plan was introduced on June 24, 1941 – two days after the start of Operation Barbarossa – when the'solution' to the Jewish question ceased to be part of that particular framework gaining a lethal, autonomous priority. Nearly all the wartime documentation on Generalplan Ost was deliberately destroyed shortly before Germany's defeat in May 1945, the full proposal has never been found, though several documents refer to it or supplement it. Nonetheless, most of the plan's essential elements have been reconstructed from related memos and other documents. A major document which enabled historians to reconstruct the Generalplan Ost was a memorandum released on April 27, 1942, by Erhard Wetzel, director of the NSDAP Office of Racial Policy, entitled "Opinion and thoughts on the master plan for the East of the Reichsführer SS". Wetzel's memorandum was a broad elaboration of the Generalplan Ost proposal, it came to light only in 1957. Adolf Hitler, in his attempt to reassure sceptics, mentioned the world's indifference towards the earlier Armenian Genocide as an argument that possible negative consequences for Germany would be minimal in this case.
In subsequent years, his declaration from Berghof has been referred to as Hitler's Armenian quote. Generalplan Ost was a secret Nazi German plan for the colonization of Eastern Europe. Implementing it would have necessitated genocide and ethnic cleansing on a vast scale to be undertaken in the European territories occupied by Germany during World War II, it would have included the extermination of most Slavic people in Europe. The plan, prepared in the years 1939-1942, was part of Adolf Hitler's and the Nazi movement's Lebensraum policy and a fulfilment of the Drang nach Osten ideology of German expansion to the east, both of them part of the larger plan to establish the New Order; the final version of the Generalplan Ost proposal was divided into two parts.
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, or the Knight's Cross, its variants were the highest awards in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II. The Knight's Cross was awarded for a wide range of reasons and across all ranks, from a senior commander for skilled leadership of his troops in battle to a low-ranking soldier for a single act of military valour. Presentations were made to members of the three military branches of the Wehrmacht The Oak Leaves with Swords clasp was similar in appearance to the Oak Leaves clasp with the exception that a pair of crossed swords were soldered to the base of the Oak Leaves; the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Diamonds was instit
The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe; the designation "Wehrmacht" replaced the used term Reichswehr, was the manifestation of the Nazi regime's efforts to rearm Germany to a greater extent than the Treaty of Versailles permitted. After the Nazi rise to power in 1933, one of Adolf Hitler's most overt and audacious moves was to establish the Wehrmacht, a modern offensively-capable armed force, fulfilling the Nazi regime's long-term goals of regaining lost territory as well as gaining new territory and dominating its neighbors; this required the reinstatement of conscription, massive investment and defense spending on the arms industry. The Wehrmacht formed the heart of Germany's politico-military power. In the early part of the Second World War, the Wehrmacht employed combined arms tactics to devastating effect in what became known as a Blitzkrieg, its campaigns in France, the Soviet Union, North Africa are regarded as acts of boldness.
At the same time, the far-flung advances strained the Wehrmacht's capacity to the breaking point, culminating in the first major defeat in the Battle of Moscow. The operational art was no match to the war-making abilities of the Allied coalition, making the Wehrmacht's weaknesses in strategy and logistics apparent. Cooperating with the SS and the Einsatzgruppen, the German armed forces committed numerous war crimes and atrocities, despite denials and promotion of the myth of the Clean Wehrmacht; the majority of the war crimes were committed in the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Italy, as part of the war of annihilation against the Soviet Union, the Holocaust and Nazi security warfare. During the war about 18 million men served in the Wehrmacht. By the time the war ended in Europe in May 1945, German forces had lost 11,300,000 men, about half of whom were missing or killed during the war. Only a few of the Wehrmacht's upper leadership were tried for war crimes, despite evidence suggesting that more were involved in illegal actions.
The majority of the three million Wehrmacht soldiers who invaded the USSR participated in committing war crimes. The German term "Wehrmacht" stems from the compound word of German: wehren, "to defend" and Macht, "power, force", it has been used to describes any nation's armed forces. The Frankfurt Constitution of 1849 designated all German military forces as the "German Wehrmacht", consisting of the Seemacht and the Landmacht. In 1919, the term Wehrmacht appears in Article 47 of the Weimar Constitution, establishing that: "The Reich's President holds supreme command of all armed forces of the Reich". From 1919, Germany's national defense force was known as the Reichswehr, a name, dropped in favor of Wehrmacht on 21 May 1935. In January 1919, after World War I ended with the signing of the armistice of 11 November 1918, the armed forces were dubbed Friedensheer. In March 1919, the national assembly passed a law founding a 420,000-strong preliminary army, the Vorläufige Reichswehr; the terms of the Treaty of Versailles were announced in May, in June, Germany signed the treaty that, among other terms, imposed severe constraints on the size of Germany's armed forces.
The army was limited to one hundred thousand men with an additional fifteen thousand in the navy. The fleet was to consist of at most six battleships, six cruisers, twelve destroyers. Submarines and heavy artillery were forbidden and the air-force was dissolved. A new post-war military, the Reichswehr, was established on 23 March 1921. General conscription was abolished under another mandate of the Versailles treaty; the Reichswehr was limited to 115,000 men, thus the armed forces, under the leadership of Hans von Seeckt, retained only the most capable officers. The American historians Alan Millet and Williamson Murray wrote "In reducing the officers corps, Seeckt chose the new leadership from the best men of the general staff with ruthless disregard for other constituencies, such as war heroes and the nobility". Seeckt's determination that the Reichswehr be an elite cadre force that would serve as the nucleus of an expanded military when the chance for restoring conscription came led to the creation of a new army, based upon, but different from, the army that existed in World War I.
In the 1920s, Seeckt and his officers developed new doctrines that emphasized speed, combined arms and initiative on the part of lower officers to take advantage of momentary opportunities. Though Seeckt retired in 1926, the army that went to war in 1939 was his creation. Germany was forbidden to have an air force by the Versailles treaty; these officers saw the role of an air force as winning air superiority and strategic bombing and providing ground support. That the Luftwaffe did not develop a strategic bombing force in the 1930s was not due to a lack of interest, but because of economic limitations; the leadership of the Navy led by Grand Admiral Erich Raeder, a close protégé of Alfred von Tirpitz, was dedicated to the idea of reviving Tirpitz's High Seas Fleet. Officers who believed in submarine warfare led by Admiral Karl Dönitz were in a minority before 1939. By 1922
A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, using child soldiers, declaring that no quarter will be given, violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, such as strategic bombing of civilian populations; the concept of war crimes emerged at the turn of the twentieth century when the body of customary international law applicable to warfare between sovereign states was codified. Such codification occurred at the national level, such as with the publication of the Lieber Code in the United States, at the international level with the adoption of the treaties during the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Moreover, trials in national courts during this period further helped clarify the law. Following the end of World War II, major developments in the law occurred.
Numerous trials of Axis war criminals established the Nuremberg principles, such as notion that war crimes constituted crimes defined by international law. Additionally, the Geneva Conventions in 1949 defined new war crimes and established that states could exercise universal jurisdiction over such crimes. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, following the creation of several international courts, additional categories of war crimes applicable to armed conflicts other than those between states, such as civil wars, were defined; the trial of Peter von Hagenbach by an ad hoc tribunal of the Holy Roman Empire in 1474 was the first "international" war crimes trial, of command responsibility. He was convicted and beheaded for crimes that "he as a knight was deemed to have a duty to prevent", although he had argued that he was "just following orders". In 1865, Henry Wirz, a Confederate States Army officer, was held accountable by a military tribunal and hanged for the appalling conditions at Andersonville Prison, where many Union prisoners of war died during the American Civil War.
The Hague Conventions were international treaties negotiated at the First and Second Peace Conferences at The Hague, Netherlands, in 1899 and 1907 and were, along with the Geneva Conventions, among the first formal statements of the laws of war and war crimes in the nascent body of secular international law. The Geneva Conventions are four related treaties adopted and continuously expanded from 1864 to 1949 that represent a legal basis and framework for the conduct of war under international law; every single member state of the United Nations has ratified the conventions, which are universally accepted as customary international law, applicable to every situation of armed conflict in the world. However, the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions adopted in 1977 containing the most pertinent and virulent protections of international humanitarian law for persons and objects in modern warfare are still not ratified by a number of States continuously engaged in armed conflicts, namely the United States, India, Iraq and others.
Accordingly, states retain different values with regard to wartime conduct. Some signatories have violated the Geneva Conventions in a way which either uses the ambiguities of law or political maneuvering to sidestep the laws' formalities and principles. Three conventions were revised and expanded with the fourth one added in 1949: First Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Second Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea. Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Two Additional Protocols were adopted in 1977 with the third one added in 2005, completing and updating the Geneva Conventions: Protocol I relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts. Protocol II relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts.
Protocol III relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem. A small number of German military personnel of the First World War were tried in 1921 by the German Supreme Court for alleged war crimes; the modern concept of war crime was further developed under the auspices of the Nuremberg Trials based on the definition in the London Charter, published on August 8, 1945. Along with war crimes the charter defined crimes against peace and crimes against humanity, which are committed during wars and in concert with war crimes. Known as the Tokyo Trial, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal or as the Tribunal, it was convened on May 3, 1946 to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for three types of crimes: "Class A", "Class B", "Class C", committed during World War II. On July 1, 2002, the International Crimi
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of conflict between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union and other Allies, which encompassed Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Northeast Europe, Southeast Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945. It has been known as the Great Patriotic War in the former Soviet Union and modern Russia, while in Germany it was called the Eastern Front, or the German-Soviet War by outside parties; the battles on the Eastern Front of the Second World War constituted the largest military confrontation in history. They were characterized by unprecedented ferocity, wholesale destruction, mass deportations, immense loss of life due to combat, exposure and massacres; the Eastern Front, as the site of nearly all extermination camps, death marches and the majority of pogroms, was central to the Holocaust. Of the estimated 70-85 million deaths attributed to World War II, over 30 million, the majority of them civilian, occurred on the Eastern Front.
The Eastern Front was decisive in determining the outcome in the European theatre of operations in World War II serving as the main reason for the defeat of Nazi Germany and the Axis nations. The two principal belligerent powers were Germany and the Soviet Union, along with their respective allies. Though never engaged in military action in the Eastern Front, the United States and the United Kingdom both provided substantial material aid in the form of the Lend-Lease to the Soviet Union; the joint German–Finnish operations across the northernmost Finnish–Soviet border and in the Murmansk region are considered part of the Eastern Front. In addition, the Soviet–Finnish Continuation War may be considered the northern flank of the Eastern Front. Germany and the Soviet Union remained unsatisfied with the outcome of World War I. Soviet Russia had lost substantial territory in Eastern Europe as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, where the Bolsheviks in Petrograd conceded to German demands and ceded control of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and other areas, to the Central Powers.
Subsequently, when Germany in its turn surrendered to the Allies and these territories were liberated under the terms of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 at Versailles, Soviet Russia was in the midst of a civil war and the Allies did not recognize the Bolshevik government, so no Soviet Russian representation attended. Adolf Hitler had declared his intention to invade the Soviet Union on 11 August 1939 to Carl Jacob Burckhardt, League of Nations Commissioner, by saying: Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine as happened in the last war; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939 was a non-aggression agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union. It contained a secret protocol aiming to return Central Europe to the pre–World War I status quo by dividing it between Germany and the Soviet Union.
Finland, Estonia and Lithuania would return to the Soviet control, while Poland and Romania would be divided. The Eastern Front was made possible by the German–Soviet Border and Commercial Agreement in which the Soviet Union gave Germany the resources necessary to launch military operations in Eastern Europe. On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II. On 17 September, the Soviet Union invaded Eastern Poland, and, as a result, Poland was partitioned among Germany, the Soviet Union and Lithuania. Soon after that, the Soviet Union demanded significant territorial concessions from Finland, after Finland rejected Soviet demands, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing its eastern parts in Karelia. In June 1940 the Soviet Union illegally annexed the three Baltic states; the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ostensibly provided security to the Soviets in the occupation both of the Baltics and of the north and northeastern regions of Romania, although Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union, cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germany's understanding of the Pact.
Moscow partitioned the annexed Romanian territory between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics. Adolf Hitler had argued in his autobiography Mein Kampf for the necessity of Lebensraum: acquiring new territory for Germans in Eastern Europe, in particular in Russia, he envisaged settling Germans there, as according to Nazi ideology the Germanic people constituted the "master race", while exterminating or deporting most of the existing inhabitants to Siberia and using the remainder as slave labour. Hitler as early as 1917 had referred to the Russians as inferior, believing that the Bolshevik Revolution had put the Jews in power over the mass of Slavs, who were, in Hitler's opinion, incapable of ruling themselves but instead being ruled by Jewish masters; the Nazi leadership, saw the war against the Soviet Union as a struggle between the ideologies of Nazism and Jewish Bolshevism, ensuring territorial expansion for the Germanic Übermensch, who according to Nazi ideology were the Aryan Herrenvolk, at the expense of