The Truth About Hitler's “Commissar Order”:
The Guilt of the German Generals
ON FEBRUARY 6, 1959, two former SS guards from the Sachsenhausen concentration camp were sentenced to life imprisonment by a German court in Bonn. Outside Germany this belated war-crimes trial excited only the barest interest; it was no novelty in the postwar world for the murder of prisoners of war in 1941 to be the subject of a judicial verdict pronounced more than seventeen years later. The two SS men had been repatriated to West Germany with other war criminals by the Soviet government in 1956, on the condition that they would continue to serve their sentences. The Bonn Ministry of Justice had ordered a retrial to satisfy the public conscience: it had been asserted that duress alone could have procured the monotonous replies of “Jawohl” which followed every one of the public prosecutor’s inconceivable charges at the huge open trial held by the Russians in East Berlin in 1947.
Surprisingly, nearly all the implausible admissions made at this trial were repeated at Bonn twelve years later. The defendants, Gustav Sorge and Wilhelm Schubert, made no attempt to deny that they had taken part in the slow and systematic murder, night after night, for six weeks, of 10,800 mainly invalid Russian prisoners of war-murders for which they had questioned neither the motive nor the necessity.
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