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Zeppelin Field

The next two blogs (including this one) are a result of our recent river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam. Along the way, we floated up and down three different rivers, one big canal, and went through sixty-eight locks (yes, you read this correctly—68 locks). One of the primary reasons we chose this trip was the day-visit to Nuremburg, Germany and the “World War II Excursion.” The alternate excursion was to the Nuremburg Toy Museum so you can guess it wasn’t a hard choice for us.

We visited two historical sites: Zeppelin Field where the massive pre-war night-time Nazi rallies were held and the interior of the courtroom where the highest surviving Nazi leaders were tried in 1945/46 on four counts, including crimes against humanity.

Nazi Party Rally Grounds

Nuremberg Congress Party Demonstration. Photo by anonymous (8 September 1938). German Federal Archives. Bundesarchive, Bild 183-H11954/CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.
Nuremberg Congress Party Demonstration. Photo by anonymous (8 September 1938). German Federal Archives. Bundesarchive, Bild 183-H11954/CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Located southeast of the old town of Nuremberg, Zeppelinfeld (Zeppelin Field) is part of a larger complex known as the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. In August 1909, Count von Zeppelin landed one of his airships on this location thereby giving the field its name. Other buildings on the grounds included the Luitpoldarena (deployment area), the Luitpold Hall (“Old Congress Hall”—damaged during the war and later demolished), the Kongresshalle (“Congress Hall”—still standing but never fully completed), the Märzfeld (March field—demolished), the Deutsche Stadion (“German Stadium”—only its foundations were built), the Stadion der Hitlerjugend (“Stadium of the Hitler Youth”—today it’s the Frankenstadion), and the Große Straße (“Great Road”—completed but never used). Only the Zeppelin Field, the Luitpoldarena, and the Große Straße were completed by the Nazis. By 1939, the focus of the Nazi party was on obtaining the labor and materials needed to support the German war efforts and not on the completion of their rally grounds (the last rally, “The Party Rally of Peace” scheduled for 2 September 1939, was abruptly cancelled when Hitler attacked Poland on 1 September 1939). Read More Zeppelin Field

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Hitler’s Commando Order

During the late summer and early fall of 1942, two relatively obscure Allied commando raids led an enraged Hitler to issue an order that directly violated the rights of the wounded and prisoners of war under the “1929 Geneva Convention for Prisoners of War.” The aftermath of the order resulted in the executions of hundreds of Allied soldiers, the post-war executions of the German officers who carried out Hitler’s orders, and cited as evidence for war crimes in the trial of the Nazi leadership at Nuremberg.

Two Minor Raids 

Shortly after the August 1942 raid on Dieppe, France, a copy of Allied operating orders fell into Hitler’s possession. The orders called for the binding of prisoners. When Hitler was told that German prisoners were found shot with their hands tied he went into a rage. Two months later, British commandos were dropped onto the German occupied island of Sark for the purpose of reconnaissance and to capture some soldiers for interrogation. Unfortunately, four of the five German prisoners the commandos captured were killed before being sent to London. The official German account was that the soldiers’ hands were tied when shot. This put Hitler over the top and several days later, he ordered Allied prisoners to be shackled.

Three days after the raid on Sark, Hitler issued the following communique to the Wehrmacht:

“In future, all terror and sabotage troops of the British and their accomplices, who do not act like soldiers but rather like bandits, will be treated as such by the German troops and will be ruthlessly eliminated in battle, wherever they appear.”

Kommandobefehl or the Commando Order

On October 18, 1942, Hitler issued the Kommandobefehl or Commando Order. The order was to execute any Allied commando prisoner caught in the act of a raid, sabotage, or acting as a foreign agent even if they were in military uniform. This was in direct violation of the Geneva Convention and the Nazis knew it. Read More Hitler’s Commando Order