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Old 04-11-2011, 08:17 AM
 
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Default Curious Why German General Dostler Was Executed By Firing Squad and Not at Nuremberg?

I reciently discovered on youtube the execution video of German general Dostler by firing squad as i've never heard of him before and so who was he and why was he not allowed to be tried Nuremberg as were Keitel and Jodl?
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Old 04-11-2011, 08:38 AM
 
Location: St. Augustine
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As I recall he was tried for crimes against Allied soldiers and so was treated like a soldier. I also think it pretty early after the end of the war before the big political trials.
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Old 04-11-2011, 10:11 AM
 
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Dostler was the commander of the 75th German Army Corp in Italy. One of his subordinate commands captured 15 American soldiers who were on a mission to destroy a rail tunnel outside Genoa 250 miles behind the front line. Dostler ordered the men executed despite several protests from his subordinates to keep them as prisoners.

He was sentenced for committing war crimes, primarily the execution of prisoners as covered under the Geneva Convention. He was sentenced to die by firing squad. He routinely stated that he was simply passing on orders from his superiors.

As for why he wasn't tried at Nuremberg, my only guess would be that he was too minor an official in a limited role with an open and shut case to be included in the larger proceedings.
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Old 04-13-2011, 03:43 AM
Status: "Even the losers get lucky sometimes" (set 10 days ago)
 
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Well, were it not for this incident, it is quite likely that few people would have ever heard of General Anton Dostler. His military career was not particularly noteworthy and until June 1943, he never commanded anything larger than an infantry division. On December 1, 1944, Dostler was given command of LXXIII Army-Corps, which was part of General Gustav von Zangen’s “Army Group Zangen”, that was in turn subordinated to Field Marshal Albert Kesselring’s “Army Group South”. By all accounts, Dostler did not take his assignment very seriously and spent most of his time absent from headquarters in order to be with his mistress. Despite his rather lax approach to his duties, the one characteristic Dostler did display was a deep admiration for Hitler and unwavering support of the Nazi cause. Dostler was extremely intolerant of officers or men that expressed even a hint of disloyalty to Hitler, and he did not hesitate to remove those from his command that were foolish enough to speak ill of the Fuhrer. It was this blind faith in Hitler which helped create the situation that earned him the label of “war criminal” and ultimately cost him his life.

To understand things a bit better though, one needs to look back to October 18, 1942, which was the day Hitler issued his infamous “Commando Order”. The order seems to have been in reaction to a British commando raid in the Channel Islands during which five German soldiers were captured then summarily executed. Hitler viewed this as clear evidence that the British had chosen (at least in regard to commando operations) to function outside the norms of international law, and thus decided to act in kind. The legal basis cited by Reich military lawyers for issuance of the Commando Order was the Hague Conventions. Though not specifically mentioned within the conventions, international law that resulted from it regarding the conduct of war did recognize the right to take “reprisals” for acts committed which were deemed to fall under the category of “illegitimate warfare”. From Hitler’s perspective, commando operations constituted “illegitimate warfare”. The decision to draft and implement the Commando Order was not greeted warmly by many members of the German High Command, in particular General Jodl. When Hitler’s army adjutant, Major Rudolf Schmundt, approached Jodl and informed him of what the Fuhrer wanted, Jodl’s response was “Please give him my best regards, but I will not issue an order like that”. Despite Jodl’s objections, Hitler drafted the order himself and instructed it be distributed selectively and secretly. From that point forward, any Allied commando that was captured, either in or out of uniform, faced the prospect of an immediate death sentence.

The fifteen Americans that were captured on March 24, 1944 were part of an OSS operation codenamed “Ginny” that was an offshoot of an Allied strategic bombing campaign called “Operation Strangle”. The intent of “Strangle” was to disrupt and cut communication and supply lines between German forces in northern Italy and those in the central part of the country. The target of “Ginny” was a railway tunnel located approximately fifteen miles northwest of La Spezia near a small rail stop named “Stazione di Framura”. Aerial bombardment of the tunnel had proved ineffective, so the decision was made to send in an OSS team to demolish it with explosives. The men selected were Americans of Italian descent who spoke the language with varying degrees of fluency. This created quite a bit of confusion when they were first taken prisoner because they did not identify themselves immediately as Americans, but instead spoke to their captors in Italian. The clothing they wore was stated to have been U.S. Army field uniforms, but they bore no markings or insignia indicating they were in fact American soldiers. When under interrogation they admitted to being American, the Germans thought they might be members of a scouting party seeking possible landing sites for an invasion force. One of the interrogators, a German naval intelligence officer, managed to trick one of the Americans into revealing the true mission; that being sabotage. Unfortunately for the Americans, when General Dostler was informed of this, his mind immediately went to the Commando Order. A debate began among Dostler’s staff as to whether the Commando Order should be implemented or not, largely because the order stated that if any commando was not killed in action but instead captured, they were to be turned over to the SD. In any event, an order was issued to execute the Americans and this took place on March 26th.

After the surrender of German forces in Italy on May 2, 1945, General Dostler ended up in the custody of American forces on May 8th. Dostler’s stay with the Americans may well have passed unremarkably were it not for two separate but connected events that took place in Britain and the U.S. First, a secret message sent shortly after March 26, 1944 from Kesselring’s headquarters to Berlin regarding the execution of American “terror troops”, had been intercepted via ULTRA and decoded. It wasn’t until over a year later when Allied forces moved into the area where the Americans had been killed and their remains were uncovered that the message could finally be linked to the fate of the OSS operatives. Second was the decision by President Roosevelt to pursue war crimes prosecution against any member of the Axis military forces suspected of committing such acts, and who came to be in the hands of American forces. There was much discussion as how these defendants should be tried; either by court martial or military tribunal. Ultimately, military tribunal was chosen, mainly due to the fact that the burden of proof on the prosecution was less strict, hearsay testimony was admissable, and redress to a higher court was not permitted. And so it was General Dostler’s great misfortune that on October 8, 1945, he became the first person selected by the U.S. to be tried for war crimes by military tribunal. The successful “test run” of the tribunal in the Dostler case led to the adoption of this system by the other Allies for war crimes prosecution against various German soldiers and officers they had in custody.

Prosecuting Dostler turned out to be somewhat problematic since there was no direct evidence linking him to the order to execute the Americans. Dostler maintained that the Americans were not in fact in uniforms of any kind but were instead disguised as Italian civilians; a claim that was disputed by the American military. Dostler also stated that while he had issued an order of execution, he revoked it once he learned the men were actually Americans, and then referred the matter to General von Zangen and Field Marshal Kesselring. Dostler was insistent that von Zangen transmitted an order to him from Kesselring to execute the Americans. Both von Zangen and Kesselring denied they gave any such order to Dostler.

Dostler’s defense also attempted to make the case that Dostler was simply following orders of a superior officer and therefore was not culpable in the death of the Americans. They based their argument first on the fact that both the British and American army field manuals at the time stated that a soldier could not be prosecuted for war crimes if the act in question had been ordered by a superior officer. This point was especially telling when one looks at the case of Captain John T. Compton who faced a court martial for ordering the execution of thirty-six German and Italian POW’s in Sicily on July 14, 1943. Compton stated that standing orders from General Patton were that any snipers who fired at wounded men or the medics treating them, were to be shot upon capture. Even though it could not be proven that any of the thirty-six men were in fact snipers, the court martial found Compton not guilty based on his claim to have been following orders, despite both the Judge Advocate and investigating officer having determined that Compton had acted unlawfully.

The second part of the defense’s argument dealt with the Commando Order itself. Beyond its’ apparent grounding in international law dealing with the issue of reprisals, there was the fact that it had been drafted and signed by Hitler, the Head of State and Supreme Commander of the German military. Thus, it did constitute an order from a superior officer and it stipulated that any officer who failed to comply with it would face punishment. When a copy of the original Commando Order was entered into evidence, Dostler contended that it did not accurately reflect the order which he had in his possession in March 1944. Dostler claimed that the order he saw had been expanded and set out further activities like those undertaken by the OSS team which were punishable by death. Although General von Zangen testified that he too had seen the order to which Dostler referred, no copy of the document could be found, so the prosecution was able to successfully argue that it never existed. In the end, the military tribunal rejected all of the defense’s claims and found Dostler guilty of war crimes on October 12, 1945, and sentenced him to death. The sentence was carried out on December 1, 1945.

As to why Dostler was not tried at Nuremberg, it was simply because the main trial was aimed at prosecuting major war crimes said to have been committed by or caused to be committed by key figures of the Nazi government and related entities. It is quite possible General Dostler would have found himself a defendant in the “High Command Trial” which took place after the main war crimes trial and sought to prosecute those generals who had implemented either the Commando Order or Commissar Order. However, of the one hundred thirty-four originally considered for trial, only thirteen actually were put before a military tribunal, so there is a good chance Dostler may never have been prosecuted at all.
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Old 04-13-2011, 07:51 AM
 
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TonyT as always a fascinating and detailed post. I'm starting to think they keep you locked away in the basement of the Library of Congress trolling the internet to set the record straight, lol.
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Old 04-13-2011, 02:29 PM
 
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Informative postings here and thanks again everyone !!!
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Old 04-15-2011, 09:59 PM
Status: "Even the losers get lucky sometimes" (set 10 days ago)
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
TonyT as always a fascinating and detailed post. I'm starting to think they keep you locked away in the basement of the Library of Congress trolling the internet to set the record straight, lol.
Thank you. Actually, I think that would be a pretty awesome job to have. Too bad it probably doesn't exist....ha ha.
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Old 04-16-2011, 04:43 AM
 
Location: Miami, FL
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Recall Germans at the Battle of the Ardennes were shot because they were dressed in American uniforms. The Germans claim this is not a violation of the conduct of war as deception is allowed so long as the soldiers do not engage in combat wearing the other country's uniform. The Germans in this instance wore their German uniforms beneath the American ones and were to discard the G.I. clothing if combat were to ensue. The Americans executed the Germans as the Germans executed the Americans. Eisenhower authorized the executions.

The OSS personnel in this mission do not appear to have been wearing any insignia. I believe they actually could have been executed under the existing rules of warfare. Commandos wore uniforms but plain clothes saboteurs did not. There is a difference.

Last edited by Felix C; 04-16-2011 at 04:53 AM..
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:11 AM
 
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Actaully he wqs shot haqs was the denied request of those at Nurenburg. They were hung because their crime were not consider the actions has soldiers;but as criminals.You can deabte it but it was the conclusio at the time.
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:25 AM
 
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Originally Posted by texdav View Post
Actaully he wqs shot haqs was the denied request of those at Nurenburg. They were hung because their crime were not consider the actions has soldiers;but as criminals.You can deabte it but it was the conclusio at the time.
In regards to Nuremberg, many of the proceedings have been called into question even at that time as more a form of sham/show trial than actually being grounded in real legal standings. Even the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Harlan Stone felt that it was setting a horrible precedent and was too "sanctimonious".

The chief U.S. prosecutor even went on to state that many of the things we are finding the Germans guilty of are things we ourselves have committed and noted that the French were shredding the Geneva Convention with their current treatment of POW's. Not to mention the exclusions that were granted to the Soviets and even British for committing the same acts the Germans were being tried for.

TonyT mentioned some of these same things regarding the Dostler trial. Essentially Germany and it's leadership were put on trial for committing "crimes" that were only crimes according to international treaties that Germany in many cases was not a signatory on. Additionally, most of the legal minds involved felt that they were simply creating laws to find the German's guilty of things ex post facto to answer to popular pressure.

Basically the Germans were tried for committing crimes that weren't defined as crimes when they were carried out. The victors write the history books...and apparently the laws.
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