A Warning to German Officers and Men

The following letter from General H. R. Alexander to commanders and men of the German army is from the British National Archives.

Unfortunately, it is undated. However, as the last of the atrocities listed in it allegedly occurred on October 2, 1944, it is apparent the letter was written sometime after that date and before the end of the war in Europe.

My access to the document is courtesy of British researcher Brian Sims.

Here is the full text of the letter:

WARNING to German officers and men

By General Sir H. R. Alexander, Commander-in-Chief, Allied Armies in Italy.

1. Reports of atrocities – killings of hostages, mass reprisals against innocent civilians, torturings and the like – committed by German troops in Northern Italy are becoming daily more frequent.

2. I therefore call the attention to all German officers and men in Northern Italy, who otherwise might give or carry out orders to commit such atrocities, to the following:

3. The fact that in, for example, a certain village Italian patriots – whether or not wearing uniforms, arm-bands or other recognizable insignia – may have attacked German soldiers is not, according to the Jus Gentium or any other Legal or moral code, a justification for collective reprisals upon the population of the village, nor for the killing or persons without due legal trial and conviction.

4. Officers or men giving or carrying out orders for such acts are war criminals.

5. In accordance with the agreement made between the governments of Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States of America at Teheran in November 1943, it is provided that all German officers and men who are accused of committing war crimes shall immediately after the war be returned to the countries in which they are accused of having committed these crimes, to be tried according to the laws of these countries.

6. I have ordered all Italian patriots and Italian civilians in German-occupied territory to make careful, written notes of the names, units and other particulars of German officers and men who have given or carried out orders for the commission of the crimes.

7. As a result of this order, names and particulars have been reported to my Headquarters of German officers alleged to have been accessories to, amongst many others, the following war crimes:

On March 24th 335 Italians taken from prisons in Rome were murdered by SS troops in the Ardeatine caves near the Via Appia Antica.

Between the 14th and 19th of April, 1944, troops or the Hermann Goering Division carried out a massacre in the commune of Stia. Of the 103 bodies which were recognisable on recovery; 50 were women, 15 children under 15 years old, and 5 children under 4 years old. An old woman of 84 and a baby of 6 months were among those shot.

On the 21st of June troops of the 85 Mountain Regiment murdered 15 civilians in Camerino.

On the 29th of June troops of the Hermann Goering Division entered the village of Civitella in the Val di Chiana and began a systematic destruction of the village with flame throwers and grenades. The villagers were mostly in the church at the time: the women and children were taken out and driven to the woods; the men, including the 80 year old priest, were machine-gunned, and their bodies thrown on the burning buildings.

On the 2nd of October German troops in the village of Roncastaldo hacked to death 8 Italians with axes.

8. All information received of such alleged atrocities or war crimes is recorded at my Headquarters, and is thence transmitted to the Italian Government and to the Allied War Crimes Commission.

/signed/ H. R. Alexander

Commander in Chief
Allied Armies in Italy.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s