Anton Dostler

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Anton Dostler
Dostler (right) with his interpreter, Albert O. Hirschman, at his trial, 1945
Birth name Anton Dostler
Born (1891-05-10)10 May 1891
Munich, Germany
Died 1 December 1945(1945-12-01) (aged 54)
Aversa, Italy
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch Army (Wehrmacht)
Years of service 1910–45
Rank General of the Infantry
Commands held
Battles/wars Second World War

Anton Dostler (10 May 1891 – 1 December 1945) was a German general during World War II. In the first Allied war crimes trials after the war, Dostler was found guilty of war crimes and executed by firing squad.

Military career[edit]

Dostler joined the German army in 1910 and served as a junior officer during World War I. From the start of World War II to 1940, he served as chief of staff of the 7th Army. Subsequently he commanded the 57th Infantry Division (1941–42), the 163rd Infantry Division (1942) and, after some temporary stand-ins at corps, was appointed commander of 75th Army Corps (Jan-July 1944) in Italy and then commander of the Venetian Coast (Sept-Nov 1944), when its name was reassigned to 73rd Army Corps, where he finished the war.

Execution of U.S. soldiers[edit]

On 22 March 1944 15 soldiers of the U.S. Army, including two officers, landed on the Italian coast about 15 kilometers north of La Spezia, 400 km (250 miles) behind the then established front, as part of Operation Ginny II. They were all properly dressed in the field uniform of the U.S. Army and carried no civilian clothes.[1][2] Their objective was to demolish a tunnel at Framura on the important railroad line between La Spezia and Genoa. Two days later the group was captured by a party of Italian Fascist soldiers and members of the German Army. They were taken to La Spezia, where they were confined near the headquarters of the 135th Fortress Brigade, which was under the command of German Col. Almers. His immediate superior was the commander of the 75th Army Corps--Dostler.

The captured U.S. soldiers were interrogated and one officer revealed the story of the mission. The information, including that it was a commando raid, was then sent to Dostler at the 75th Army Corps. The following day he informed his superior, Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, commanding general of all German forces in Italy, about the captured U.S. commandos and asked what to do with them. According to Dostler's adjutant, Kesselring responded by ordering the execution. Later that day Dostler sent a telegram to the 135th Fortress Brigade ordering that the captured soldiers be executed. This order was an implementation of the Commando Order of 1942, which required the immediate execution without trial of commandos and saboteurs.

German officers at the 135th Fortress Brigade contacted Dostler in an attempt to achieve a delay of their execution. Dostler sent another telegram ordering Almers to carry out the execution. Two last attempts were made by the officers at the 135th to stop the execution, including some by telephone, because they knew that executing uniformed prisoners of war was a direct violation of the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. These efforts were unsuccessful and the 15 Americans were executed on the morning of 26 March 1944, at Punta Bianca, south of La Spezia, in the municipality of Ameglia. Their bodies were buried in a mass grave that was afterwards camouflaged. Alexander zu Dohna-Schlobitten, a member of Dostler's staff who was unaware of the Commando Order and who had refused to sign the execution order, was dismissed from the Wehrmacht for insubordination.[3][third-party source needed]

Dostler tied to a stake before the execution
Dostler's body immediately after.

Trial and execution[edit]

Dostler became a prisoner of the Americans on 8 May 1945 and was tried before a military tribunal at the seat of the Supreme Allied Commander, the Royal Palace in Caserta, on 8 October 1945.[4] In the first Allied war crimes trial, he was accused of carrying out an illegal order. In his defense he maintained that he had not issued the order but had only passed along one to Col. Almers from supreme command, and that the execution of the OSS men was a lawful reprisal. Dostler's plea of superior orders failed because by ordering the execution, he had acted on his own outside the Führer's order. The military commission also rejected his plea, declaring that Dostler's execution of U.S. soldiers was in violation of Article 2 of the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War, which prohibited acts of reprisals against prisoners of war.[5] The commission stated that "no soldier, and still less a Commanding General, can be heard to say that he considered the summary shooting of prisoners of war legitimate even as a reprisal."[6]

Under the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare,[7] it was legal to execute spies and saboteurs disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms, but not those captured in proper uniform.[8][9][10] Because the 15 U.S. soldiers were properly dressed in U.S. uniforms behind enemy lines, and not disguised in civilian clothes or enemy uniforms, they should not have been treated as spies but as prisoners of war, a principle which Dostler had violated.[2][10]

The trial found Gen. Dostler guilty of war crimes, rejecting the "superior orders" defense. He was sentenced to death, and executed in Aversa by a 12-man firing squad at 0800 hours on 1 December 1945.[11] The execution was photographed on black and white still and movie cameras.[12] Immediately after the execution Dostler's body was lifted onto a stretcher, shrouded inside a white cotton mattress cover and driven away in an army truck. His remains were buried in Grave 93/95 of Section H at Pomezia German War Cemetery.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b International Military Tribunal (1946). The trial of German major war criminals: proceedings of the International military tribunal sitting at Nuremberg, Germany, Volume 4. H.M. Stationery. p. 8. 
  3. ^ Alexander Fürst Dohna-Schlobitten (2006). Erinnerungen eines alten Ostpreußen (in German). ISBN 3-8003-3115-2. 
  4. ^ Anthony Cave Brown (1984). The last hero: Wild Bill Donovan. Vintage Books. 
  6. ^ Annemieke Van Verseveld (November 5, 2012). Mistake of Law: Excusing Perpetrators of International Crimes. T.M.C. Asser Press. p. 106. ISBN 90-6704-867-4. 
  7. ^ "Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land. The Hague, 18 October 1907". International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  8. ^ Wilbur Redington Miller (June 29, 2012). The Social History of Crime and Punishment in America: An Encyclopedia. SAGE Publications. p. 186. ISBN 0-7618-6137-8. 
  9. ^ David Churchman (May 9, 2013). Why We Fight: The Origins, Nature, and Management of Human Conflict. University Press of America. p. 186. ISBN 0-7618-6137-8. 
  10. ^ a b "Rule 107. Spies". International Review of the Red Cross. Retrieved July 15, 2013. 
  11. ^ Associated Press, "Nazi General Executed For Ordering Deaths of G.I.'S [sic] - Dostler Falls Before U. S. Firing Squad", The San Bernardino Daily Sun, San Bernardino, California, Sunday 2 December 1945, Volume 52, page 2.
  12. ^ Film of execution from three camera angles on YouTube

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Generalleutnant Oskar Blümm
Commander of 57. Infanterie-Division
26 September 1941 – 9 April 1942
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Oskar Blümm
Preceded by
General der Artillerie Erwin Engelbrecht
Commander of 163. Infanterie-Division
15 June 1942 – 28 December 1942
Succeeded by
Generalleutnant Karl Rübel
Preceded by
General der Infanterie Franz Mattenklott
Commander of XXXXII. Armeekorps
22 June 1943 – July 1943
Succeeded by
General der Infanterie Franz Mattenklott