Occupation and Insurgency: A Selective Examination of The Hague and Geneva Conventions on the Eastern Front, 1939-1945

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9780875866093: Occupation and Insurgency: A Selective Examination of The Hague and Geneva Conventions on the Eastern Front, 1939-1945

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, they had an opportunity to "win the hearts and minds" of a population disaffected with their national leader. In Occupancy and Insurgency, a military history professor looks at Nazi racial, counter-partisan, and counterinsurgency policies in the context of The Hague and the Geneva Conventions and suggests that the way an occupation is carried out can create an insurgency where none existed before.

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About the Author:

Colin D. Heaton is a professor in history, military history and sociology at American Military University. 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.

Review:

Occupation and Insurgency is a wonderfully researched book about Nazi domestic policy in the Eastern European lands Germany conquered from 1941 to 1944, a topic relatively neglected until now by military historians and Holocaust experts. Heaton's argument shows how counterproductive the Nazis' brutal treatment of the Slavic population was. By giving racial policy in occupied territories higher priority than the fight against Stalin, millions of potential supporters and soldiers were turned into efficient guerilla fighters who disrupted Wehrmacht supply and communications.

Vlasov's Army, a Wehrmacht unit comprising Russian volunteers led by Russian Lt. General Andrei A. Vlasov, demonstrated how willingly and effectively many Russians would fight against Stalin if given the opportunity. Unfortunately for both the Slavs and most German commanders in the East, Berlin did not appreciate the value of this demonstration.

Consequently, German leaders in the Eastern territories were forced to pursue the contradictory policies of subjugating local populations and fighting Stalin's Soviet Army. Germany dedicated enormous amounts of personnel, supplies and planning resources to suppressing these partisans, tangible assets that would have made a significant impact on the battle against Soviet troops. Had Germany treated conquered Slavs as potential allies against the murderous rule of Stalin, Germany might have won the war. In retrospect, the modern world can be thankful that this illogical and counter-productive policy contributed to Hitler's defeat.

Contemporary military strategists and commanders can draw many rich lessons from German tactics in Russia from 1941 to 1944. UN forces face the challenge of garnering support, or at least minimizing hostility, among local populations in occupied territories every day in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Africa and possibly Iraq. Germany's treatment of the Slavic people in Eastern Europe during World War II provides an eloquent example of how soldiers on foreign soil can turn even potentially helpful locals into the bitterest of enemies by treating them as inferior human beings. History often repeats the lesson that people defending their homes and families from foreign aggressors are motivated to fight with a degree of intensity and for lengths of time inconceivable to soldiers far from home carrying out orders with which they may or may not agree. Underestimating the importance of local public opinion in occupied territories is a costly mistake in terms of time, energy, supplies and human lives. ----Bryan Mark Rigg (Author, Hitler's Jewish Soldiers: The Untold Story of Nazi Racial Laws and Men of Jewish Descent in the German Military, and Rescued from the Reich)

The German Wehrmacht expected a quick victory in the war launched against the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. But victory eluded the Germans. Stalin threw men, women, and children ('cogs') into delaying actions, caring not a whit about losses. Heaton (American Military Univ.), however, believes that the Germans carried the seeds of their eventual defeat with them from the start of the invasion: the arrogant Germans went east harboring a poisonous, racist ideology in which Slavic peoples were "subhuman." Consequently, the Germans at all levels ignored niceties such as The Hague and Geneva Conventions, turning the welcoming masses in western Russia into a massive force of bloodthirsty partisans waging a no-holds-barred war on the invaders who, in turn, used ever more Draconian measures to maintain their lines of communication. THIS IS AN APPALLING, INDEED CHILLING, SOLIDLY RESEARCHED STORY, told in brief compass (138 pages), featuring numerous block quotations, with 754 notes at the back of the book. Supporting Heaton's analysis is a 66-page bibliography, two appendixes, illustrations, and comments about the book by three authorities, one of them SS Brigadefiihrer Otto Kumm. This unusual book will interest WW II specialists and students of German and Russian history. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students, faculty. --CHOICE September 2009

The Nazi Ambassador Walter Hewel told a tale about Joachim von Ribbentrop that Adolf Hitler loved to hear. As a gift for von Ribbentrop s fiftieth birthday in 1943, senior officials decided to present their chief with an impressive mahogany box supposed to contain parchment copies of all treaties and international agreements negotiated under Ribbentrop since he had taken office in 1938. The trouble was, said Hewel, that we had a devil of a time rustling up any treaties that hadn' t been violated or denounced by Germany. The anecdote never failed to make Hitler double up with laughter.
The significance of this exchange is not lost upon the author. He shows that the German strategic objectives were not going to be held hostage to the alleged counterproductive precepts of international law. Hitler routinely flaunted the fact that he would sign anything in good faith one day, and unhesitatingly break it soon after in the name, and on behalf of, the future of the German people. Treaties and laws were mere scraps of paper that were observed as long as they legitimized Hitler's interests. Accordingly, The Hague and Geneva Conventions were carefully scrutinized by the Germans and selectively utilized when in harmony with Nazi ends and means.
The German legal advisors, as demonstrated in the following pages, were master manipulators of the law. They were adept at interpreting treaty provisions and laws which facilitated German purposes. Loopholes and caveats were their specialties. For instance, the Germans were quick to point out that Stalin never ratified either The Hague or Geneva Conventions, thus making German adherence to the same unnecessary in matters concerning the Soviet Union.
Good lawyers have the ability to craft definitions, create distinctions, find escape clauses, selectively enforce provisions, keyhole, pigeonhole and cleverly dilute existing law to the benefit of their client. They try their case before a judge and duly sworn jury, and await the verdict and react to the outcome accordingly. If they win they celebrate; if they lose, sometimes they appeal.
As Heaton describes, the good lawyers of the High Command practiced all of the above, but in a more deadly fashion. The pens became swords; the courtrooms became battlefields, streets and villages. The soldiers assumed the roles of judges and juries, as well as ultimately, executioners. There were no appeals. The Germans conveniently created a legal fiction which distorted accepted judicial principles and pretended to justify heinous acts of barbarism in the name of the law.
Colin Heaton has succeeded in analyzing this perversion of international law. He convincingly and succinctly demonstrates the initial shrewdness exercised by the German High Command in legal matters surrounding the occupation of the Eastern territories. He also correctly concludes that this legal manipulation and ingenuity served no legitimate purpose other than to undermine the German war effort. It emboldened the civilian populations to resist, and this stiff resistance successfully diverted German resources and manpower from other major fronts and duties.
In the German quest to subdue and manipulate the rules which provided the foundation for the international legal system, the High Command became blind to the victims of their so-called legally justifiable actions. The German mastery of this illegitimate rationalization and subsequent implementation, as Prof. Heaton documents, cost them the war.
Given the current international war on terror, the involvement of United States forces on many fronts, their problems with indigenous personnel, and the ever changing political climate which governs these actions, this book may provide a guideline for both sides: those choosing to remove terror, and those wishing to implement it. In the end, the rule of law decides who was moral and ethical. ----Albert H. Wunsch III, Esq.

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