Johannes Blaskowitz was a German General during WW2. He committed suicide in 1948 while being tried as a war criminal.

His action during the Polish offensive seem rather counter to this, to quote wikipedia:

As a traditional soldier, Blaskowitz kept a firm control on the men under his command in their dealings with civilians, Blaskowitz was opposed to the Army committing war crimes with the SS. Between November 1939 and February 1940 he wrote several memoranda to higher command, in which he detailed SS atrocities in Poland, their effects on Wehrmacht soldiers, and the insolent attitude of the SS to the army. However, his protests produced no condemnations of such behavior, and merely earned him the enmity of Hans Frank, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, and Adolf Hitler, while Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl dismissed them as naive and "uncalled for".[1]

*Commander-in-Chief Walther von Brauchitsch forwarded Blaskowitz's first memorandum to Hitler on 18 November, who launched a tirade against Blaskowitz, denouncing his concerns about due process as "childish" and poured scorn on his "Salvation Army attitude".[2] As a result, Blaskowitz found himself placed on a blacklist, and he was relieved of his command on 29 May 1940.**

[1] Robert B., Kane (2002). Disobedience and conspiracy in the German Army, 1918-1945. McFarland. p. 161. ISBN 0-7864-1104-X.

[2] Kitchen, Martin (2008). The Third Reich: Charisma and Community. Pearson Education. p. 247. ISBN 1-4058-0169-7.

So my question is was the justification for his inclusion in the Nuremberg Trials based on anything more than his rank in the German Army?

Because it seems to me he offered no more complicity than being in the German Army and remaining in it with at least some knowledge of what was going on (which seems a bit of an expansive definition of a war crime?). Is there any evidence that he endorsed the SS actions and had some other non-humanitarian for forbidding army troops from participating (seems unlikely given his complaint letters)? Or maybe there is evidence of disciplinary action taken by him against SS troops in the field?

  • Maybe what I've described as too expansive a definition is actually included in what a war crime is. I'm not a lawyer and I've tried to steer clear of legal related points. Nevertheless, it seems likely he was accused of specific things a layman like myself can understand.
    – Nathan
    May 5, 2013 at 16:09
  • German wikipedia goes into a little more detail than the English version. Including that he sentenced SS soldiers to death for their crimes against the polish population.
    – Nathan
    May 5, 2013 at 16:14
  • Just sending a memo doesn't make you "non complicit." He followed his orders and indeed was no "Salvation Army General." So he blew his brains out upon reflecting of said activities....out of concern I think for his German boys would be my view who he tried to save from a totally nutty 3rd Reich ideology which he executed on with ruthless efficiency. Definitely a General you wanted to avoid on the Battlefield. Nov 19, 2016 at 0:52
  • Sorry...threw himself from a balcony. Nov 19, 2016 at 0:54
  • Or maybe he was thrown...who knows... Nov 20, 2016 at 1:01

3 Answers 3


Okay, based on some more reading, the answer to the question "was Blaskowitz indicted just for being a senior German general?" seems to be "yes, but that was not necessarily wrong".

I'll try to explain what I mean. Blaskowitz was indicted as part of the Generals' Trial, together with 13 other senior commanders. The legal philosophy behind this case was the (essentially correct) notion that the German high command as a group was aware of and to a large degree complicit in the war crimes. Therefore, it made sense to indict all those who held senior positions in the Wehrmacht. As things stood, it seems that Blaskowitz had a good chance of acquittal (indeed, one can see on the wiki page that two other defendants were acquitted).

However, that was a thing for the court to figure out and so the decision to indict even those generals against whom no evidence of particular crimes was available prima facie seems to me to have made a lot of sense in the context of the times - the generals were indicted on the strength of being members of the high command, which was deemed to be guilty as a group, yet they stood a chance of acquittal on the individual merits of their case.

Here is an excerpt from the original indictment, which belabours this point in detail:

Numerous other members of the General Staff and High Command Group, including its other leaders, participated knowingly and willfully in these illegal plans and wars. Brauchitsch, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, and his Chief of Staff, Halder; Warlimont the deputy to Jodl and chief repository of plans-in the nature of things these men knew all that was going on, and participated fully, as the evidence has shown. Reichenau and Sperrle helped to bully Schuschnigg; Reichenau and von Schobert, together with Goering, were immediately sent for by Hitler when Schuschnigg ordered the plebiscite. At later date, Blaskowitz as an Oberbefehlshaber in the field knowingly prepared for the attack on Poland; Field Marshal List educated the Bulgarians for their role during the attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece; von Falkenhorst "gladly" accepted the assignment to command the invasion of Norway and Denmark. On the air side, Jeschonnek had proposed that Germany attack Norway, Denmark, and Holland, and simultaneously assured Belgium that there was nothing to fear. On the naval side, Admiral Carls foresaw at an early date that German policy was leading to a general European war, and at a later date the attack on Norway and Denmark was his brainchild; Krancke was one of the chief planners of this attack; Schniewindt was in the inner circle for the attack on Poland; Fricke certified the final orders for "Weseruebung" and a few months later proposed that Germany annex Belgium and northern France and reduce the Netherlands and Scandinavia to vassalage. Most of these 19 officers were at the time members of the Group, and the few who were not subsequently became members. At the final planning and reporting conference for "Barbarossa," 17 additional members were present. At the two meetings with Hitler, at which the aggressive plans and the contempt for treaties were fully disclosed, the entire group was present.

Note also that not all information we have today was easily available then; as a minor exmaple that shows this, American newspapers even got Blaskowitz's rank wrong when they reported his death, promoting him to field-marshal.

  • Hmmm. It turns out Hugo Sperrle and Otto Schniewind were acquitted. I had suspected that they were always going to indict everyone, but thank you for providing the text of the indictment.
    – Nathan
    May 5, 2013 at 20:35
  • 1
    "Sounds like a reasonable rough approximation to justice to me." - whether correct or not, this sounds like unnecessary editorializing in an otherwise excellent answer.
    – DVK
    May 6, 2013 at 0:49
  • @DVK: I'll edit this phrase out, you're right about it being too subjective. Thanks! May 6, 2013 at 5:29
  • I agree...great answer. Nov 20, 2016 at 1:04

Blaskowitz was indicted for involvement in preparing and waging an ‘illegal’ aggressive war against Poland, which led to war with the UK and France. His Affidavit [No. 5 in Volume I of the document book Exhibit Number USA-537.] was used as evidence against the High Command for involvement in aggressive war. The defence got him to add another affidavit ‘contruing’ his earlier affidavit to avoid implicating his colleagues but the damage was done. His affidavit tracks von Blomberg’s except he also said:

"After the annexation of Czechoslovakia we hoped that the Polish question would be settled in a peaceful fashion through diplomatic means, since we believed that this time France and England would come 'to the assistance of their ally. As a matter of fact, we felt that if political negotiations came to nothing the Polish question would unavoidably lead .to war, that is, not only with Poland herself but also with the Western Powers.

"When in the middle of June I received an order from the OKH to prepare myself for an attack on Poland, I knew that this war came even closer to the realm of possibility. This conclusion was only strengthened by the Fiihrer's speech on 22 August 1939 at the Obersalzberg when it clearly seemed to be an actuality. Between the middle of June 1939 and 1 September 1939 the members of my staff who were engaged in preparations participated in various discussions which went on between the OKH and the army group. During these discussions such matters of a tactical, strategical, and general nature were discussed as had to do with my future position as Commander-in-Chief of the 8th Army during the planned Polish campaign.

"During the Polish campaign, particularly during the Kutno operations, I was repeatedly in communication with the Commander-Chief of the Army; and he, as well as the Fuhrer, visited my headquarters. In fact, it was common practice for commanders-in-chief of army groups and of armies to be asked from time to time for estimates of the situation land for their recommendations by telephone, teletype, or wireless, as well as by personal calls. These front commanders-in-chief thus actually became advisers to the OKH in their own field, so that the positions shown in the attached chart embrace that group which was the actual advisory council of the High Command of the German Armed Forces."

He makes it clear in his affidavit that the military leaders knew of, approved, supported, and executed plans for the growth of the German Armed Forces beyond the Limits set by international treaties. Telford Taylor, the Prosecutor, used Blaskowitz’s signed document [Exhibit Number USA-539] dated 14 June 1939, in which he was planning the aggression on Poland. Blaskowitz at that time was Commander of the 3rd Army Group and he was made Commander-in-Chief of the German 8th Army.

Blaskowitz said in that document:

"The Commander-in-chief of the Army has ordered the working out of a plan of deployment against Poland which takes into account the demands of the political leadership for the opening of war by surprise and for quick success.

  1. "The order of deployment by the High Command of the Army, known as Fall Weiss, authorizes the 3rd Army Group (in Fall Weiss 8th Army headquarters) to give necessary directions and orders to all commands subordinated to it for Fall Weiss."
    "For the middle of July a conference is planned where details of the execution will be discussed. Time and place will be ordered later on. Special requests are to be communicated to 3rd Army Group before 10 July."

Blaskowitz stated the aims of Operation Fall Weiss as:

"The operation, in order to forestall an orderly Polish mobilisation, is to be opened by surprise with forces which are for the most part armoured and motorized, placed on alert in the neighbourhood of the border. The initial superiority over the Polish frontier guards and surprise, both of which can be expected with certainty, are to be maintained by quickly bringing up other parts of the Army as well as by counter-acting the marching up of the Polish Army. ... Accordingly, all units have to keep the initiative against the foe by quick action and ruthless attacks."

Additionally, he was indicted for involvement in the execution of the "Commando" Order. On 18 October 1942 Hitler issued this order, that

"all enemies on so-called Commando missions in Europe or Africa challenged by German troops, even if they are to all appearances soldiers in uniform or demolition troops, either armed or unarmed, in battle or in flight, are to be slaughtered to the last man. . even if these individuals ... should be prepared to give themselves up, no pardon is to be granted them on principle."

On 30 July 1944 this Commando Order was extended to members of other military missions. These orders resulted in the murder of Allied troops. Blaskowitz was charged that: On or about 7 July 1944 near Poitiers in France, troops of the LXXX Corps of the 18th Army, under Army Group G, commanded by Blaskowitz, executed 1 American prisoner of war and 30 British prisoners of war.

He was also indicted for involvement in the illegal use of prisoners of war for forced labour, contrary to the Geneva Conventions. In particular, it was alleged that in February 1945, BLASKOWITZ, he ordered that the use of prisoners of war for the construction of fortifications.

He was also charged with involvement in the deportation for slave labour of civilian populations from occupied territory. The Nazi slave labour programme of the Third Reich, involved approximately 5 million victims and caused much suffering and thousands of deaths. Slave labourers were seized and sent under guard to Germany, packed in trains without adequate heat, food, clothing or sanitary facilities.

Other civilians were seized and compelled to work in poor conditions in the occupied lands to assist the German war effort. The German army played a key role in the enslavement operation. In particular, on 1 August 1944 Blaskowitz directed units under his command to give all help and assistance to labour drafting agencies, since additional foreign workers were needed to speed up production in Germany. He also ordered every able-bodied male suspected of belonging to or being in sympathy with the resistance movement to be deported to Germany for forced labour, and on 10 August 1944 he ordered all units under his command to arrest all able-bodied males between 16 and 55 years in sectors where resistance forces were observed and ordered that they be forcibly deported to Germany.

When Blaskowitz was interrogated, he basically denied any interest in what the civilian authorities got up to. It is not a very convincing denial of involvement in atrocities in occupied territories and, of course, he was never cross-examined. It was, however, common knowledge that Blaskowitz, as commander in occupied Poland protested ainst the conduct of the police in the occupation and that, when this became known to Hitler, he was relieved of that particular command.

  • 2
    Wow - comprehensively written. I'd upvote if only there were sources/citations.
    – MCW
    May 8, 2013 at 11:58
  • Ugly business. "Tip of a very large iceberg" sad to say. I don't recall a "Polish Rebellion" on account of the news of the Barbarossa Campaign. Anyone else? Bueller? Nov 20, 2016 at 1:08

It seems Blaskowitz behaviour was similar to German commanders in WW1 who procured labour from occupied terriotories. There is a major document from British sources dated 1915 outlining the questionable treatment of prisoners of war by German troops. No prosecutions resulted from that official investigation. It seems in War there is a fine line between murder with rules and murder without rules.In suicide the General preserved his own moral code.

  • Socrates was a General. Germany was preemptively attacked by Russia in World War 1 so it wasn't like even mass murder wasn't the norm then...why not a little enslavement too I guess. "The Kaiser abdicated" so that was that as far as War Crimes were concerned. He was still alive just as the Second World War erupted. Von Runstedt wanted to meet him personally to celebrate the successful invasion of the Netherlands in 1940 if memory serves me right. Nov 20, 2016 at 1:16

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