Document - Aktion Fliegermorde/Lynchmorde
Even before British and American air force prisoners arrived at Stalag XVII B, they already knew to fear for their lives if German civilians caught them. The document shown above outlines Aktion Fliegermorde/Lynchmorde (Operation death to airmen by lynching), a secret order issued by the Nazi government on 30 May 1944 that declared it was legal for German citizens to kill any British and American airmen they found. The actual number of lynchings is unknown, but there were 150 confirmed cases of Allied airmen killed by German civilians during WW II.
A translation of the document is as follows:
(not for publication)
Regarding: Citizen justice against English and American murderers.
In the past several weeks, English and North American airmen have repeatedly bombed and murdered children in our playgrounds, women and children working in the fields, farmers tending animals, people working on country roads, railroad trains, etc., and have machine-gunned to death at low altitude in the meanest way defenseless civilians, especially women and children.
Several times it has happened that airmen of enemy aircraft that were shot down or crash-landed have been captured by the outraged local people and lynched immediately on the spot.
Those citizens who take part in such activities will not be sought by the police or face legal prosecution.
German propaganda posters also added to German civilians' the fear and anger.
Besides Aktion Fliegermorde/Lynchmorde, the Nazi government issued another secret order a few months earlier, on 4 March 1944, named Aktion Kugel-Erlass (Operation Bullet Decree) that declared that certain escaped prisoners who were caught would not be returned to a prisoner of war camp; instead, they were to be either given to the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) to be executed, or sent secretly to the concentration (extermination) camp at Mauthausen, Austria, to die. At first, British and American prisoners were exempt from this decree; however, after "The Great Escape" in late March 1944, the decree was changed to include them. The exact number of prisoners executed under this decree is unknown, but estimates vary between 1,300 and 5,000, mostly Russians.
A translation of the order is as follows:
SECRET STATE POLICE-STATE POLICE OFFICE COLOGNE
Branch Office, Aachen
To be transmitted in secret - To be handled as a secret government matter.
DOR. BERLIN NUE 19 507 March 4 1944 1430-WF -
To all State Police Directorates except PRAGUE and BRUNN - Inspectors of the Security Police and of the Security Service.
Subject: Measures to be taken against captured escaped prisoners of war who are officers or not working non-commissioned officers, except British and American prisoners of war.
The Supreme Command of the Army has ordered as follows:
1. Every captured escaped prisoner of war who is an officer or a not working non-commissioned officer, except British and American prisoners of war, is to be turned over to the Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service under the classification "Step III" regardless of whether the escape occurred during a transport, whether it was a mass escape or an individual one.
2. Since the transfer of the prisoners of war to the security police and security service may not become officially known to the outside under any circumstances, other prisoners of war may by no means be informed of the capture. The captured prisoners are to be reported to the Army Information bureau as "escaped and not captured". Their mail is to be handled accordingly. Inquiries of representatives of the Protective Power of the International Red Cross, and of other aid societies will be given the same answer.
3. If escaped British and American prisoners of war who are officers or not working non-commissioned officers, respectively, are captured they are to be detained at first outside the prisoners of war camps and out of sight of prisoners of war; if Army owned buildings are unavailable they are to be placed in police custody. In every instance, the Corps Area Command will request speedily for a decision by the Supreme Command of the Army (Chief, Prisoner of War Section) as to whether they are to be turned over to the Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service.
In reference to this, I order as follows:
1. The State Police Directorates will accept the captured escaped officer prisoners of war from the prisoner of war camp commandants and will transport them to the Concentration Camp Mauthausen following the procedure previously used, unless the circumstances render a special transport imperative. The prisoners of war are to be put in irons on the transport - not on the station if it is subject to view by the public. The camp commandant at Mauthausen is to be notified that the transfer occurs within the scope of the action "Kugel" [translator's note: the literal translation of "Kugel" is "bullet"] The State Police Directorates will submit semiannual reports on these transfers giving merely the numbers, the first report being due on 5 July 1944 (promptly). The report is to be made under the reference "Treatment of Captured Escaped Prisoners of War who are officers within the Scope of the Action 'Kugel'." In the case of special events, reports are to be submitted immediately. The State Police Directorates will maintain exact records.
2. For the sake of secrecy, the Supreme Command of the Armed Force has been requested to inform the prisoner of war camps to turn the captured prisoners over to the local State Police Office and not to send them directly to Mauthausen.
3. Captured escaped British and American officers and not working non-commissioned officers are to be detained in police custody in a city in which a State Police office is located provided the Army has no suitable quarters. In view of the existing crowding of police prisons, the State Police officer will accept captured prisoners only if the Army actually does not have any suitable space. The prisoner of war camp commandants are to be contacted in reference to their quarters immediately after the receipt of this order. In the interest of the secrecy of this order, confinement outside of police jails, e.g. in Labor Education Camps, is not permissible.
4. If escaped prisoners of war who are officers and not working non-commissioned officers except British and American prisoners of war are captured by police authorities, reasons of practicability render it unnecessary to return the prisoner to the prisoner of war camp commandant once the facts have been clarified adequately. The prisoner of war camp is to be informed of the capture and is to be requested for a transfer under the classification "Step III". Captured escaped British and American prisoners of war who are officers and non-commissioned officers are always to be turned over to the Army.
5. The city and county police authorities are not to be informed of this order.
Chief of the Security Police and of the Security Service
IV D5d-B.NR. 61/44 GRS.-For the Chief-(signed) Mueller.
Branch Office Aachen. Aachen 6 March 1944
IV D No. 26/44 g Rs
1. Two extract copies were made of this order.
1st Copy to IV A-6 March.
2nd Copy to IV D-2 March.
2. To be filed with IV C.-IV 3 Noted.
ROSCHER 19 June
[two illegible signatures]