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Lawlessness in the occupied Soviet territories during World War II

Hanson, Ben (2017) Lawlessness in the occupied Soviet territories during World War II. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Members of both the German counterinsurgency forces and Soviet partisans terrorised the civilians of the occupied Soviet territories during World War II. At times, fighters of either force robbed, sexually assaulted and killed civilians. The nature of the rear-area security war was such that these actions could be treated as legitimate acts of war rather than wanton crimes. This thesis seeks to explain these crimes by exploring its preconditions. Both the German and Soviet regimes can be understood to have deliberately undermined the restraints that would have helped prevent these crimes from occurring. Judicial restraints were nullified with the war on the frontlines distancing itself from international law and the norms of war. Psychological and moral restraint was undermined with both regimes' official ideologies conceiving of the occupied civilians as innately criminal. Finally, a further aspect of judicial restraint was countered as fighters were not heavily punished for individualistic crimes against the civilian population.

With these restraints removed, the overwhelming picture of the rear areas is one of lawlessness. Fighters from both forces of the security war had absolute authority over the occupied civilians and often exploited them to a horrific degree. Both forces can be seen as having converged against the civilian population and a full understanding of the occupied experience seems incomplete without recognition of this. This convergence also highlights similarities between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union with both, otherwise-opposed, ideologies manifesting themselves in comparable ways in the rear areas.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Webster, Andrew
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