HISTORIANS Many examples of war crimes committed by 1914-1918 are known. Thus, one of the first cases taken into production was the investigation into the circumstances of the capture and defeat of the Polish city of Kalisz by German troops.
In the summer of 1914, because of the announcement of mobilization and under the influence of rumors about the possible beginning of the war between Germany and Russia, residents of Kalisch, located in 3-4 versts from the German border, became alarmed. However, the majority of the indigenous population was not afraid of the onset of the German troops, since everyone considered Germany a cultural country. It was believed that civilians would not suffer and hostile actions would take place only between the fighting armies and outside the city, from which almost all officials of the Russian Empire left for 18 and 19 July (dates are given according to the old style. - SP) state property. The last to leave were Russian troops and border guards.
At dawn on 20 July (2 August), departing Russian soldiers set fire to railway structures, customs and military food warehouses and blew up the bridges across the Prosnu River. The city was left to itself, and there was not a single Russian soldier left in it.
At about 2 hours on that day, a small Germanic reconnaissance squad and an Ulan regiment named after Alexander III entered the city, and then gradually other military units began to arrive. The appearance of German troops, according to eyewitness observations, was greeted most of the Polish population with restraint, and the other part, especially the local Germans, enthusiastically - the cries of "Ura", the German "Nosn" and tossing their hats up.
Around midnight, a battalion of the 155 Infantry Regiment of Prussia entered the city under the command of Major Preysker, who had declared himself the commandant of the city. He ordered the mayor of the city of Bukovsky to prepare food for thousands of people and forage for 7 horses by 150 in the morning, threatening to kill every tenth person (this is in a city with a few tens of thousands!).
The whole day of July 21 was calm. But around 11 hours of the evening the shooting started, which lasted until one in the morning.
On the morning of July 22, in Kalish, one could see a terrible picture: there were traces of shots on the houses, blood on the panels; the windows in the windows were broken; in the streets there were wounded and killed civilians, to whom even German soldiers, who roamed the streets with revolvers and rifles in their hands, did not allow them to approach. It was forbidden not only to take the wounded to hospitals, but even to provide them with medical assistance. It was forbidden to take away the corpses of the murdered residents for several days and bury them.
WITNESSES, interrogated by the investigative commission subsequently created by Russia, saw not only single corpses, but also on 15, 20 and more shot. Atrocities, violence, looting of the city, burning houses lasted a few more days.
Vasily Petrovich von Egert, one of the active initiators of the investigation of the crimes of the enemy, wrote:
"The court will make история. She will say: the war was started not by the Russians, but by the Germans, and they started so that the image of their actions bristles their hair even when reading about it after many years. They occupied an open Russian border town and, not seeing a single Russian soldier yet, having only civilians in front of them, immediately began bloodshed, moreover, without anything hostile, accomplished before from the Russian side in relation to their country or their compatriots.
An official was shot for, before the Germans entered the city, he burned Russian paper money he had stored as the treasurer on the orders of his superiors and, therefore, fulfilled his lawful service duty.
Having not received any money here, they beat and tortured the burgomaster of the city for eight hours, extorting money from him as well. They left him lying barely alive in the street, and when a servant of the magistrate came up and, with pity, planted a pillow under the hapless one, they shot him as well.
Then they started on women and raped them, and in two cases they shot fathers who stood up for their daughters. In the evening they got drunk, and some of the mischief was fired into the air, to which others came running from the opposite end of the city, in the dark they began to shoot at their own people, imagining that the Cossacks were coming, and several German soldiers were killed.
We decided to cover up the scandal and take advantage of what happened to perpetrate the bloodbath between the residents. Under the pretext that the shots were supposedly made from their surroundings, many were captured and shot, including nine women and several children. Then, in addition, they went a short distance from the city and subjected the latter to bombardment, from which people were also killed and many buildings destroyed.
For the head of the doctor, who, by inspecting the killed German soldiers and extracting bullets from their corpses, certified that they had fallen from the German rifle shots, they appointed a prize when he fled in anticipation of the shooting as an unwelcome witness.
Such was the beginning of the war, which at the same time was accompanied by the most savage violence against the Russians caught up in the war in Germany. And after that a long and uninterrupted series of atrocities went wherever the Germans and the Austrians went. ”
SO STARTED "Civilized" Germany war with Russia. Already in 1914, the government of Russia, the State Council, the State Duma, the top commanders of the army, and the judiciary were presented with a report on the need to create an emergency investigation commission to investigate the criminal activities of the enemy in the current war. The report emphasized that "Germans and Austrians are committed in terrifying forms and dimensions of violence, incompatible with elementary concepts of war between cultural nations."
Meanwhile, it became known that in Germany, Austria-Hungary, they spoke in full about the barbarism and savagery of the Russian troops. Moreover, under the supervision of special higher commissions, an investigation was conducted there on the facts allegedly confirming these rumors. This justified the need for Russia to investigate the criminal actions of the Germans and their allies. It was proposed to create for this purpose special investigative bodies, the subject of the proceedings of which were to be primarily war crimes committed by state bodies, troops and individual citizens.
The legal relations between the belligerents during the First World War were to be based on the Geneva Convention 1864 of the Year, the St. Petersburg Declaration of the 1868 of the Year, the Hague Convention of the 1907 of the Year, and the London Declaration of the 1909 of the Year.
The following actions were considered criminal, firstly, directed directly against the fortifications of the enemy and his troops:
- failure to comply with the requirements of the siege and bombardment of protected settlements spared, as far as possible, temples, buildings serving the purposes of science, art and charity, historical monuments, hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are gathered;
- fraudulent use of the parliamentary flag or flag, signs and uniforms of the enemy troops, as well as signs of the Red Cross;
- use of explosive bullets;
- treacherous murder, such as raising the flag for surrender and then shooting at the officers or soldiers of the enemy as they approach without a fight;
- the use of poisons.
Secondly, the violation by the adversary of the rules of the Geneva Convention on the Wounded and Sick:
- Shooting at camp hospitals and Red Cross wagons;
- finishing after the battle of the wounded enemy, their torture, robbery, and leaving without help;
- deprivation of selected wounded due care.
Thirdly, the violation of the rules on prisoners of war:
- the direction of prisoners of war to work related to military action, non-payment of their work or payment of the calculation below local prices, forcing officers to work;
- The bad content of prisoners of war that does not correspond to the contentment of food, accommodation, clothing and officer salary, which is appropriate in their own military units;
- with the exception of the necessary measures to restrict the liberty of prisoners of war, all violence and actions of a general criminal nature against them - murder, torture, deprivation of property (except weapons, horses and war papers), insult, etc.
Fourthly, any encroachment on the life, health, honor and property of the non-belligerent population (except in the case of the deprivation of its guarantees of immunity by an armed attack on the troops or individuals):
- attack or bombardment of unprotected cities, villages, dwellings and buildings;
- requisition from the population of products and things in sizes exceeding the means of a given locality, circulation of the collected objects not for the needs of the army, but sending or taking home. Requisitions without payment in cash or receipts. Imposing on the population of services without payment or obligations obliging the population to take part in military operations against their homeland;
- acts against non-combatants who are crimes under general criminal laws.
None of these provisions was not violated by the German forces.
The investigation was asked to establish both the facts themselves and the perpetrators. Moreover, this should have been done with the interrogation of witnesses and victims, necessarily under oath, with inspection of the crime scene, inspection and seizure of material and written evidence, medical or technical examinations, interrogation of the accused, where possible. So that drawn up protocols on legal force are equated to evidentiary acts, so that later on without a new investigation it would be possible to indict criminals after the termination - it was assumed victorious - of war.
The work was supposed to be entrusted both to acting judicial investigators, military and civil, and to entrust it to those specially appointed to investigate military crimes. It was also suggested that an Emergency Investigation Commission be created as the highest body in charge of overall management of the investigation and synthesis of established data on the crimes of the enemy.
REQUIREMENTS to investigate hostile war crimes took effect. 9 April 1915, the highest approved Emergency Commission of Inquiry to investigate violations of the laws and customs of war by Austro-Hungarian and German troops, began its action. She was supposed to work under the chairmanship of one of the senators of the criminal cassation department of the Governing Senate, consisting of seven members, including one member of the State Council for Elections and one member of the State Duma.
In December 1915, the commission expanded the scope of its investigation by including cases of violation of the laws and customs of war against the Russian army and Russian subjects by Turkish and Bulgarian troops.
Sworn Attorney Nikolai Platonovich Karabchevsky became the Chairman of the Emergency Investigation Commission. The paperwork of the commission was opened in the building of the Governing Senate (entrance from the English Embankment). Visitors were received daily. Information journalists received on weekdays. When the commission opened a museum. Information on the activities of CSK periodically appeared in print. Newspapers, on the other hand, were informed about where to turn in case of need and where to provide information about the riots of the enemy.
Finally, in 1916, the “Review of the actions of the Extraordinary Commission of Inquiry from April 29 1915 on January 1 and 1915” was published. Evidence of the use of explosive bullets prohibited for use and the circumstances conducive to the commission of these crimes opened the first volume. It was indicated that even in 1868, in St. Petersburg, representatives of many powers, including Germany and Austria-Hungary, had signed a declaration, according to which “the contracting parties ... undertake to refuse, in case of war between themselves, mutually from use by both land and sea troops, shells, which, with weight in 400 c. have the property of explosiveness or are equipped with a shock or flammable composition. "
At the meeting in The Hague in 1899, this provision was supplemented by the obligation “not to use bullets easily unfolding or flattening in the human body, such as shell bullets, of which the hard shell does not cover the entire core or has cuts”.
Finally, the Geneva Convention 1907 of the year banned the use of all weapons, projectiles or other materials capable of causing unnecessary suffering.
The Obzor emphasized that in many communications from the theater of war it was reported that from the very beginning of military operations German and Austrian troops began to use explosive bullets to fire at Russian troops. The first case of their use by the Germans was recorded on August 7, and by the Austrians on August 12 of the year 1914.
ALREADY FROM AUGUST 1914, the use of explosive bullets against Russian troops has become systematic. By 1 January 1916, the Emergency Commission of Inquiry (ČSK) identified 5.178 cases of injuries by explosive bullets. It should be borne in mind that their hit in the head, chest or stomach almost always led to death. And not all of the soldiers wounded by them were interrogated and subjected to medical examination.
The testimony of the captured Austrian soldiers and officers, collected by CSK, says that since the beginning of the war, the cartridges with explosive bullets were distributed to all soldiers without exception. Shooting them at the Russian troops was not only not prohibited by the military command, but was encouraged in every possible way. The captured officer testified that some officers of the Austrian rifle regiment shot explosive bullets at Russian soldiers from boredom and betting. A number of prisoners of lower ranks certified that cartridges with explosive bullets were distributed to them exclusively for firing at Russian officers and in general at commanders.
Captured Austrian officers showed soldiers wounded by explosive bullets. As a result, they sent protests to the war ministry in Vienna: “... the injuries caused by these bullets are terrible. In the name of philanthropy, we protest against the further use of them and ask to stop using these sights (as they were officially called in the Austrian army - SP) cartridges. They explained to us that the use of sighting cartridges is a violation of the Geneva Convention, and that later in the event of a repetition of the captured officers they will shoot with the same cartridges. ”
18 February 1915, commanded by the Austrian 3 army, General Svetozar Boroevich von Boin, was handed an ad through one of the Russian armies. It was caused by the fear of reprisals against the Austrian military personnel, exposed in the use of explosive bullets and read: “If punished with death, Austro-Hungarian soldiers, who were officially introduced into the army, and only for determining distances, the“ U ”patrons will be used to determine 2 Russian soldiers were immediately shot from being in captivity. ”
Recognition of an official belonging to the highest commanding staff of the Austro-Hungarian army, the presence of prohibited ammunition in the troops indicates that long before a military clash with Russia, the enemy was filled with the determination to use the means of warfare prohibited by international law. Marking of cartridges showed that they were produced at the Austrian state-owned plant from 1912, as well as at factories in Karlsruhe and Budapest.
Since the fact that cartridges with such bullets were found was impossible to disprove, the Austrians put forward a version that these cartridges were handed out to military units solely for the purpose of shooting - “to determine the distance”.
But in Russia, an examination was carried out, which showed that, by exploding, these bullets give insignificant smoke and weak flames, and therefore it is extremely doubtful that they can serve for zeroing in a combat situation. In addition, they were used in the fog, and at close range, at direct range, including machine guns.
Careful manner in Russia were investigated and other war crimes of the armies of the German bloc. Special indignation was caused by the use of suffocating gases by the Germans. The fact is that the use of all kinds of fumes and gases, observed in ancient and middle ages, by the beginning of the First World War was almost stopped. Contributed to this and the Hague Declaration of 1899 of the year, prohibiting the use of projectiles that have the purpose to distribute asphyxiating or harmful gases.
From time to time before the war, numerous reports that scientists in Germany are working in laboratories on the nature of asphyxiating gases and searching for measures to combat them, did not cause alarm either in public circles or in the military spheres of European powers. Such studies were explained by the Germans seeking ways to ease breathing during diving, mining and caisson work.
But already in the spring of 1915, it turned out that the work of German scientists had served to create a banned weapon. 8 on May 1915 of the year at the rivers Pisse and Skrode against the 3 and 4 battalions of the 38 Tobolsk Infantry Regiment was released a suffocating gas, which affected the 3 officer and the 4 lower rank telegraph operator.
For the first time on a large scale, it was used against the Russian troops 18 in May. Over the course of the 30 versts, parts of the North-Western Front were stifling gases. In the materials of ČSK, according to eyewitnesses and victims, the picture of this battle near the river Bzura was recreated. The commission sought medical advice from the infirmaries, extracts from the medical history and copies of mournful sheets on 951 samples poisoned with gas. In all, 747 of the lower ranks who certified the use of asphyxiating gases by the enemy were interviewed.
The effect of chlorine was not only testified to the soldiers, but also to all living things that fell within the range of the gas. The corpses of the German soldiers were also found, who went on the attack after a cloud of gas and carelessly laid down on the ground to hide from rifle fire.
In those days, the Petrograd Telegraph Agency issued the following message from Warsaw: “Those who came from positions convey a curious order issued by the German headquarters for troops on Bzura. The order says, among other things: “God himself is with us and for us. Struggling with the whole world, by the will of Him they received into the hands a new powerful weapon - gases, with which we will defeat the enemies. The power and domination of great Germany over Europe is the only goal of our German struggle, and therefore we must stop at nothing and must fight until the final, already secured victory. It will not take two months, as our enemies will be defeated. "
Familiar motives? Were the future Nazi “heroes” of World War II brought up on these orders?
CERTIFICATES Crimes against Russian troops began to appear more often in specially published brochures on the pages of newspapers. Thus, the “Russian invalid” 28 of May 1915 of the year reported: “Among the wounded soldiers brought from the Galician front there are victims of poisonous gases”.
The same newspaper wrote to 4 of June: “The Emperor Sovereign ordered to deign to deign, to the exemption from law, to the junior noncom, officer Aleksey Makukha, and noncommissioned officer, Parasyuk, to dismiss them from military service, increased pensions for 518 rubles 40 kopecks a year each reward their heroic valor and loyalty to the military oath. These lower ranks have received such royal favor because, despite the torture inflicted on them by the Austrians and Germans, expressed in cutting out Makukha’s language and disfiguring Panasyuk’s ears and nose, they refused to tell the enemy about the number and location of Russian troops. ”
On June 7, it reported on the arrival in Petrograd of those who had fled from captivity. They, “being questioned by the ranks of the gendarme patrol, showed that they lived in captivity in extremely poor conditions, in a bestial barn, and some of them stayed 20 days in the open air, the Germans treated them very badly, they were given poor quality food and a very limited number of why epidemic diseases have developed among the Russian prisoners, often with death ... ”
In August, the illustrated brochure entitled “How our prisoners live in Germany and Austria-Hungary” approved by the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander was 1915. It said that the beating of our wounded and captured prisoners involved not individuals, but entire units headed by their commanders.
Prince Ruprecht of Bavaria and General Stenger (commander of the 58 Brigade of the 14 Bavarian Corps), other German officers issued orders for the execution of prisoners. The order of General Stenger was given: “From today, prisoners are no longer taken. All prisoners, even in significant numbers, immediately shoot. It is the same with the wounded, whether it is with them or not. ”
Soon there was evidence of the execution of these criminal orders. The headquarters of the General Staff reported through the press that “prisoners of the sixth Austrian corps, taken in the first days of July in the Kholmsk direction, according to the replenishment who arrived, insist that the lower ranks saw the 5.000 of the Russian prisoners in Rawa Russian the cemetery where those shot were buried. ”
Witnesses were among those who fled from captivity. Here is the story of one of them - the ordinary Siberian regiment Ignatius Kalinin:
“On that day, as we were captured, many of us witnessed the heinous atrocities of the Germans. I, along with other lower ranks, sat behind a hill near the German reserve. We see how the 8 of our Orenburg Cossacks left the forest, which was very close to the Germans, and immediately ran close to the Germans. The eldest of them grabbed the sword, but then a shot rang out, he fell. The Germans ran up, surrounded the Cossacks and hurried the rest. They were lined up near the ditch. A noncommissioned officer approached them, then an officer. He ordered something. Several Germans came out, lined up against the Cossacks, took their guns to the ready. Aim at the Cossacks. The elder waved his handkerchief, a volley rang out; Cossacks fell; they began to be brutally beaten with rifle butts, pin up with bayonets.
There was one Cossack with us, he wept and said: "Look, brothers, you are taken prisoner, and we are brutally murdered."
On the way to the borders of Germany and in the camps of prisoners of war, we envied the fate of the Cossacks, who were killed by the Germans, because life in captivity was full of torment. Overworking, hard work, hunger and various diseases every day claimed a lot of victims. We all died of slow starvation. Some did not endure these torments, shouting: "Shoot, kill us or let us eat!".
One of the captured Austrian officers, the lieutenant of the infantry regiment, on the 6 survey on June 1915, said the following:
“German officers constantly teach their and our Austrian soldiers cruelty to Russian prisoners, wounded and dead bodies. I myself saw with my own eyes how the Germans forced our lancers to exercise in the cabin of the wounded and killed Russian soldiers stuck in the swamp. I looked with horror as the uhlans crawled carefully through the swamp, chopped off Russian heads, of which, probably, many were still alive, since the battle in this place ended only two days ago. ”
WORK The Emergency Investigation Commission was reduced not only to a statement of violations of the laws and customs of war. In the end, the abundance of material made us think about who was the organizer of the criminal military activities. The answer was obvious. For example, Professor N. Lazarevsky in the brochure “Causes and Task of War (1914-1915)” noted: “Germany declares that all its promises are not obligatory for it, unless its military interests require it. And the established rules of war are violated not only by soldiers and officers, but also by the government: it decides to attack Belgium and Luxembourg immediately after promising not to attack them; it supplies its army with explosive bullets; it orders the destruction of the churches; Reims Cathedral has been bombarding for more than four months now under that false excuse, as if an observation post had been set up there by the French at one time; it orders to throw bombs on Notre Dame de Paris without any justification; it orders the destruction of the University of Louvain and its library; not daring to attack the English fleet, it sends the German fleet to bombard the unprotected cities (Libau, Scarborough), which Germany undertook not to do.
The point is not only that the Germans believe that everything is allowed by need; they savor their cruelty, admire it, they are proud when they are called barbarians, Huns; Wilhelm calls himself the scourge of God, Attiloa. "
The preface to the book “Customs of the Land War” translated from the German (official edition of the German General Staff) stated: “Since the creative thought of the last century completely took over humanitarian considerations, which often degenerated into attempts to lead the development of military customs in a way that completely diverged from the nature of war and its purpose. Attempts of this kind are completely undesirable, and in the future, especially ...
Studying military history, the officer will be able to protect himself from too strong humanitarian ideas, this study will show him that some severity is inevitable in war, especially since true humanity consists in their ruthless application. ”
PUBLIC opinion of Russia pointed to the main war criminals: the German and Austro-Hungarian general staffs, the highest command of the armies and the supreme leadership of the enemy countries. Above them, in the first place, there should have been a trial.
And for this it was required to win. The inevitability of the court in the event of a defeat was also realized in the German General Staff.
... After October, 1917 in Petrograd strangely "forgot" about the victims of the criminal activities of Germany and its allies. The materials of the Emergency Investigation Commission disappeared, the museum exposition was destroyed.
As a result, there are no traces of its activity in the post-revolutionary works on the history of the First World War. There is no indication of her documents either in military encyclopedias or in special editions. Even experts on this war are not aware of how preparations were made for the trial of the German and Austro-Hungarian war criminals.