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Occupation and Insurgency - A Selective Examination of The Hague and Geneva Conventions

Occupation and Insurgency - A Selective Examination of The Hague and Geneva Conventions

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by Colin D. Heaton, Steve Greer

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Occupation and Insurgency details German policies towards civilians and captured military forces in the Soviet Union from 1941-1945 and examines them in the context of the laws of war. The results of these policies illustrate how an occupying force can establish a sense of legitimacy or spur a stronger resistance among the local citizens. While focused upon World War


Occupation and Insurgency details German policies towards civilians and captured military forces in the Soviet Union from 1941-1945 and examines them in the context of the laws of war. The results of these policies illustrate how an occupying force can establish a sense of legitimacy or spur a stronger resistance among the local citizens. While focused upon World War II, the book is very relevant to today's war on terror and the handling of current counterinsurgency scenarios.

Evaluating certain actions by the Germans in the USSR from the standpoint of The Geneva and The Hague Conventions, the book also studies many actions that, while morally egregious, did not qualify as war crimes under the law. Some of the events analyzed prompted the 1949 revision of The Geneva Convention.

The German actions, as well as the Soviet responses, lend themselves to discussion as related to international law and military actions. There is no other book that uses chronicled events to address both the international legal conventions and analyzes these events in both a legal and historical paradigm.

The book is closely documented, including 20 photographs and numerous interview segments with SS officers, resistance fighters, and other primary persons involved in the war, and it provides as well the perspectives of other historians regarding the critical issues discussed.

Occupation and Insurgency is a book that will appeal to all levels of academia, as well as the general public with regard to general history, World War II, and legal studies. It complements and goes beyond works such as Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men, Omer Bartov's Hitler's Army: Soldiers, Nazis and War inthe Third Reich, Arad, Kurowski and Spector (eds), The Einsatzgruppen Reports, and Richard Rhodes' Masters of Death.

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Algora Publishing
Publication date:
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5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

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This book focuses upon German racial policy as instituted with the establishment of the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 and for the duration of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler until 1945. It shows how this policy and collective mindset amongst the German officer corps and the supreme leadership hindered the development of an effective, timely, and unilateral counterinsurgency policy for the German armed forces in the Soviet Union, as well as their violations of applicable international laws which governed the conduct of the war in the east.

The reader will become quite familiar with the terms "counterinsurgency" and "insurgent." Counterinsurgency is, simply put, the efforts by conventional military or paramilitary forces to counter the activities of "irregulars" (civilians operating in a paramilitary or terrorist role), whether they be "partisans," "terrorists" or "guerrillas" (see Colin D. Heaton, German Anti-Partisan Warfare in Europe, 1939-1945 for these legal distinctions) and to establish an environment of perceived stability according to existing civil or military law.1

The ruthless nature of the National Socialist racial policies and propaganda contributed heavily to the military's perception of the conquered Soviet peoples; their ingrained belief in the Rassenfeind (racial enemy) and German superiority were both factors which contributed to a false sense of security, thereby providing the military with a flawed self-perception and sense of invincibility.

The failure of the German military to address the core issues sparking insurgency actions against their forces, during both the initial invasion and the occupation that followed, were primarily due to theever-conflicting policies of segregation, forced labor, extermination, and the socially-accepted Untermenschen mentality which permeated the ranks of the Wehrmacht from top to bottom.

Whilst discussing certain portions of the German military and paramilitary actions and their contributions to the Holocaust in areas of immediate concern to this book (only in relation to counterinsurgency), this book does not focus upon the Holocaust in particular, but rather will provide new insights into the failure of the NSDAP 2 and Wehrmacht on a macro-scale to comprehend the problem of civilian unrest due to German policies, and adequately alter its overall operational methodology regarding the handling of the populations in resistance.

These failures in providing overt legitimacy for their actions and stabilizing the regions provided the necessary impetus for the continued and escalating resistance, forcing the Germans to re-evaluate their methods on a micro-scale in the field. This approach apparently met with some success, as opposed to the overall Armed Forces High Command macro-scale approach to reducing the threats through alternative yet conflicting actions. This book utilizes specific primary and secondary sources in the research, as well as examining German conduct towards these military and civilian populations under the existing international laws of the respective Hague and Geneva Conventions, which were both applicable. Most of the historians quoted in this book are cited for the relevance of their specific areas of research.

One major historian cited is Alexander Dallin, whose works on the German occupation of the USSR (in particular the Ukraine) constitute one of the most authoritative collections within the literature. However, while Dallin discusses specific examples during the occupation, such as Odessa, 1941-1944: A Case Study of Soviet Territory under Foreign Rule, he does not delve deeply into the legal aspects of German actions and thus is not cited as thoroughly as many others.3 Another author briefly noted is Daniel Jonah Goldhagen. Judging from small excerpts of his research, Goldhagen again does not approach the international legal aspect, which is the primary focus of this research. Goldhagen is more focused upon moral and social aspects of German anti- Semitic policy as opposed to the salient military and legal considerations.

This book also incorporates oral testimony from various subjects who were interviewed over the last twenty years, and who were themselves active during the war in the counterinsurgency as well as conventional military roles, thus providing individual perspectives from both Allied and Axis participants. This book also frequently cites the thesis of Dr. Benjamin Shepherd, which traverses similar terrain regarding German actions against insurgents.4 Where this work differs is in its extensive focus upon the existing international laws and its comparative analysis of German abrogation of those laws, as well as in the use of oral testimony as a supportive element to supplement the published sources.

The use of interviews in writing and researching history has proven itself important in the fact that the testimony of participants, when supported by primary source evidence, and the mutually corroborating testimony from other sources, often provides previously unknown details. This method assists in either corroborating or challenging previously-held beliefs, which may have a great impact upon historical understanding. It is important to remember that the interview itself is only as viable as the source, since memories fade and the interviewed subjects will often not provide self-incriminating evidence regarding their actions. Thus the very select nature of the interviews included within this book.

Meet the Author

Colin D. Heaton is a professor in history, military history and sociology at American Military University, where he has created many courses for all departments, specializing in European, African and military history, and laws of warfare. He is the senior Holocaust Studies professor in the History Department.

Prof. Heaton has also taught American history, European history, Soviet/Russian history, and military history at the University of Glasgow, Campbell University (primarily adult education and Commissioned Officer Degree Completion at Jacksonville/Camp Lejeune, NC), Cape Fear Community College, and other colleges in the United States and UK.

He earned his MPhil in modern European social and political history at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, where his research focused on German racial policy as a factor in German counterinsurgency doctrine in the USSR, 1941-45. Shefferton University, London, awarded Heaton an honorary postgraduate research degree in military history in 2002 for research and policy suggestions regarding the responsibilities, qualifications, and legal roles of civilian paramilitaries in conflicts according to The Hague and Geneva Conventions. This work included assisting in creating a petition to revise the Geneva Convention of 1949 to a more rational and timely legal document. He holds an MA in World History from Temple University and a BA with Honors in History from UNC-Wilmington, where he received the Thomas Mosely Award

Prof. Heaton is planning a series of military biographies and studies of the laws of war with Algora Publishing. His other books include German Anti-Partisan Warfare in Europe, 1939-1945 (Atglen, PA: SchifferPublishing, 2001), and Nachtkrieg: The Evolution of Nocturnal Aerial Warfare, 1939-1945 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, due Fall 2008).

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
turboguyMT More than 1 year ago
I read this book a few years ago and should have written a review before now, so I am catching up. I carried this book with me on active duty in paperback, and I rear and re-read many of the passges that Prof. Heaton wrote about regarding legal and illegal actions under The Hague and Geneva Conventions. What makes this book a great leadership tool are two factors; 1-The events described in the first person from participants and archives that identify those actions that are legal or illegal against insurgents, despite the situation under international law. This book can save your butt when you are in doubt. The individual examples of irregular actions, and the responses or preemptive actions by the Germans were compelling, chilling, yet arguably critical in making this book a useful tool. I have read Christopher Browning, Max Hastings and others, and this book is right up there with them. Great history, and a great learning curve. Highly recommended.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, while stating with authority the existing laws that existed in WW II, regarding The Hague and Geneva Conventions, is also a time capsule. This book outlines many egregious errors comitted by German forces against POWs and civilians, and states clearly, Article by Article, how and why these laws were broken. Reading these acts and the corresponding laws addressing these events brings the rule of law, and the ethics of conflict into complete focus. This is a very well done book, and should be required reading at every academic and military level. It is as relevant in todays modern conflicts as it was in WW II.