|TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENT 728-PS
Source:Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression. Volume III. USGPO, Washington, 1946/pp.526-528
Foreign Office Memorandum Concerning
1. To Chief of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces With reference to your correspondence of 15 June 1944, Nr. WFSt/ Qu. (Verw.) Nr. 771793/ 44 gKChefs. II. Ang., concerning the treatment of enemy terror-aviators.
In spite of the obvious objections, founded on international law and foreign politics, the Foreign Office is basically in agreement with the proposed measures. In the examination of the individual cases a distinction must be made between the cases of lynching and the cases of special treatment by the S. D. [Security Service].
I. In the cases of lynching, the precise establishment of the circumstances deserving punishment, according to points l-4 of the communication of 15 June, is not very essential. First, the German authorities are not directly responsible, since death had occurred, before a German official became concerned with the case. Furthermore, the accompanying circumstances will be such, that it will not be difficult to depict the case in an appropriate manner upon publication. Hence, in cases of lynching, it will be of primary importance correctly to handle the individual case upon publication.
II. The suggested procedure for special treatment by the S. D. including subsequent publication, would be tenable, only if Germany, on this occasion simultaneously would openly repudiate the commitment of International Law, presently in force and still recognized by Germany. When an enemy aviator is seized by the Army or by the Police, and is delivered to the Air Forces (P. W.) Reception Camp Oberursel, he has received, by this very fact, the legal status of a prisoner of war. The Prisoner of War Treaty of 27 July 1929 establishes definite rules on the prosecution and sentencing of the Prisoner of War, and the execution. of the death penalty, as for example in Article 66 : Death sentences may be carried out only three months after the protective power has been notified of the sentence; in Article 63: a prisoner of war will be tried only by the same courts and under the same procedure as members of the German Armed Forces. These rules are so specific, that it would be futile to try to cover up any violation of them by clever wording of the publication of an individual incident. On the other hand, the Foreign Office cannot recommend on this occasion a formal repudiation of the Prisoner of War Treaty.
An emergency solution would be to prevent suspected fliers from ever attaining a legal Prisoner of War status, that is, that immediately upon seizure they be told that they are not considered Prisoners of War but criminals, that they would not be turned over to the agencies having jurisdiction over Prisoners of War; hence not to go to a Prisoner of War Camp; but that they would be delivered to the authorities in charge of the prosecution of criminal acts and that they would be tried in a summary proceeding. If the evidence at the trial should reveal that the special procedure is not applicable to a particular case, the fliers concerned may subsequently be given the status of Prisoner of War by transfer to the Air Forces (P. W.) Reception Camp Oberursel. Naturally, not even this expedient will prevent the possibility that Germany will be accused of the violation of existing treaties and maybe not even the adoption of reprisals upon German prisoners of war. At any rate this solution would enable us clearly to define our attitude, thus relieving us of the necessity of openly having to renounce the present agreements or of the need of having to use excuses, which no one would believe, upon the publication of each individual case.
Of the acts deemed crimes listed under l-4 by the letter of 15 June, we note that those listed under 1 and 4 are legally unobjectionable. Those under 2 and 3 are not. The Foreign Office, however, would be willing to disregard this. Perhaps it would be preferable to combine Nos. 1, 3, and 4 to the effect that all strafing attacks on the civilian population by an aviator will be dealt with as crimes. The various facts under 1, 3 and 4 would then be significant only as especially outstanding examples. The Foreign Office sees no reason why such attacks should not be expiated, when they are directed against the civilian population in ordinary dwelling houses, in automobiles, on riverboats, etc.
The Foreign Office bases its opinion on the fact that it is altogether forbidden to German fliers to strafe the civilian population during their attacks in England. According to information received by the Foreign Office, such an order was issued some time ago by the Supreme Commander of the Air Forces. In case of general publication, the existence of such an order could be pointed out.
III. It follows from the above, that the main weight of the action will have to be placed on lynchings. Should the campaign be carried out to such an extent that the purpose, to wit: "the deterrence of enemy aviators" is actually achieved, which goal is favored by the Foreign Office, then the strafing attacks by enemy fliers upon the civilian populations must be stressed in a completely different propagandist manner than heretofore; if not in the publicity for home consumption, then certainly in the propaganda directed to foreign countries. The pertinent German local departments, most likely the police, would have to be informed immediately to submit a short, truthful report to a central depository in Berlin giving particulars as to place, time, number of dead and wounded.
This central depository would at once forward these reports to the Foreign Office for exploitation. Since similar strafing attacks upon civilian populations have occurred in other countries, for ex-mple, in France, Belgium, Croatia and Rumania, the pertinent German departments or the governments in these countries are to be directed to collect the instances of such strafing attacks against the civilian population in the same manner and to exploit them propagandistically in foreign countries, in collaboration with German offices.
IV. In the letter of 15 June the intention was communicated that until further notice, an understanding with the Foreign Office would have to be reached prior to any publication. The Foreign Office attaches particular value to this point and also to the fact that this understanding be reached, not only until further notice, but for the entire duration of the campaign.
(signed) RITTER [crossed out]
Faculty of Humanities, Languages and Social Sciences