Joseph Stalin’s Order Number 270

I’ve been listening to a really fantastic history podcast, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. The most recent episode is Ghosts of the Ostfront II. It is the second part of a show that deals with what the Russians refer to as The Great Patriotic War, the theatre of war between the German Third Reich and the old Soviet Union during World War Two.

I learned something I had never heard of before, something called Order No. 270.

At the onset of war between Germany and the Soviets, German troops, thanks to their blitzkrieg tactics, were making great strides deep into the Soviet Union. Large groups of Soviet soldiers were simply giving up and surrendering to the advancing Germans without putting up much of a fight.

On August 16, 1941, Joseph Stalin issued Order No. 270. It stated that any Soviet soldier that willingly surrendered to the Germans would be considered a “malicious deserter”.  Their family would be arrested as a family of an “oath breaker” and betrayer of the Motherland. Soviet soldiers that found themselves encircled by German soldiers were to fight to the death or to try to reach their own lines. Those who chose to be captured instead of escaping or committing suicide were to be killed if at all possible.  Family members of Soviet soldiers captured by the Germans would be totally cut off from all state allowances and assistance.

How completely crazy is that? Could you imagine if a soldier in Iraq was captured by insurgents and his or her family back home was rounded up by the FBI and thrown into jail?

Talk about not supporting the troops.