Open main menu

The Severity Order or Reichenau Order was the name given to an order promulgated within the German Sixth Army on the Eastern Front during World War II by Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Reichenau on 10 October 1941.[1][2]


Text of the orderEdit

The order said, in part[3]:

The most important objective of this campaign against the Jewish-Bolshevik system is the complete destruction of its sources of power and the extermination of the Asiatic influence in European civilization.

In this eastern theatre, the soldier is not only a man fighting in accordance with the rules of the art of war, but also the ruthless standard bearer of a national conception and the avenger of bestialities which have been inflicted upon German and racially related nations. For this reason the soldier must learn fully to appreciate the necessity for the severe but just retribution that must be meted out to the subhuman species of Jewry. The Army has to aim at another purpose, i. e., the annihilation of revolts in hinterland which, as experience proves, have always been caused by Jews.
Das wesentlichste Ziel des Feldzuges gegen das jüdisch-bolschewistische System ist die völlige Zerschlagung der Machtmittel und die Ausrottung des asiatischen Einflusses im europäischen Kulturkreis.

Der Soldat ist im Ostraum nicht nur ein Kämpfer nach den Regeln der Kriegskunst, sondern auch Träger einer unerbittlichen völkischen Idee und der Rächer für alle Bestialitäten, die deutschem und artverwandtem Volkstum zugefügt wurden. Sie hat den weiteren Zweck, Erhebungen im Rücken der Wehrmacht, die erfahrungsgemäß stets von Juden angezettelt wurden, im Keime zu ersticken.

— Conduct of Troops in Eastern Territories

Implications of the orderEdit

The order paved the way for mass murder of Jews.[4][2]

All Jews were henceforth to be treated as partisans, and commanders were directed that they be either summarily shot or handed over to the Einsatzgruppen execution squads of the SS-Totenkopfverbände as the situation dictated.[4]

Other dispositions complain about feeding civilians and POWs, which is described as an "equally misunderstood humanitarian act"; indeed, the taking of partisans and women as POWs is criticised.

Finally, the civilian population is to be disarmed and buildings which have been set on fire by Destruction battalions are to be saved only when useful to the army.

History of the orderEdit

Upon enactementEdit

Upon hearing of the Severity Order, Reichenau's superior Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt expressed "complete agreement" with it, and sent out a circular to all of the Army generals under his command urging them to send out their own versions of the Severity Order, which would impress upon the troops the need to exterminate Jews.[5]


The order, along with the Commissar Order, was rescinded on 6 May 1942.[6]

After the warEdit

During the Nuremberg trials, however, Rundstedt denied any knowledge of that order before his capture by the Allies, although he acknowledged that Reichenau's orders "may have reached my army group and probably got into the office".[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "NS-Archiv : Dokumente zum Nationalsozialismus : Der "Reichenau-Befehl": Verhalten der Truppe im Ostraum". Retrieved 2018-09-24.
  2. ^ a b "10th October 1941: Secret Order on the 'Conduct of Troops in the Eastern Territories'". Retrieved 2018-09-24.
  3. ^ Craig, William. Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad. (1973)
  4. ^ a b von Reichenau, Walter (October 10, 1941). "It is difficult to read the Severity Order, must less appreciate its real-world consequences on innocent people. In essence, the Severity Order not only authorizes, the Severity Order actually compels the annihilation - mass execution - of anyone who opposes German rule". The soldier in the eastern territories is not merely a fighter according to the rules of the art of war but also a bearer of ruthless national ideology and the avenger of bestialities which have been inflicted upon German and racially related nations. Therefore the soldier must have full understanding for the necessity of a severe but just revenge on subhuman Jewry. The Army has to aim at another purpose, i.e., the annihilation of revolts in hinterland which, as experience proves, have always been caused by Jews
  5. ^ Mayer, Arno J. Why Did The Heavens Not Darken?, New York: Pantheon, 1988, 1990 page 250.
  6. ^ Jacobesn, Hans-Adolf "The Kommisssarbefehl and Mass Executions of Soviet Russian Prisoners of War" pages 505-536 from Anatomy of the SS State, Walter and Company: New York, 1968 page 512.
  7. ^ The Trial of German Major War Criminals, Nüremberg, 9 August to 21 August 1946, p. 102