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The term "debellatio" or "debellation" (Latin "defeating, or the act of conquering or subduing", literally, "warring (the enemy) down", from Latin bellum "war") designates the end of war caused by complete destruction of a hostile state. Israeli law-school professor Eyal Benvenisti defines it as "a situation in which a party to a conflict has been totally defeated in war, its national institutions have disintegrated, and none of its allies continue to challenge the enemy militarily on its behalf".[1]



In some cases debellation ends with a complete dissolution and annexation of the defeated state into the victor's national territory, as happened at the end of the Third Punic War with the defeat of Carthage by Rome in the 2nd century BC.[2]

Nazi Germany[edit]

The unconditional surrender of the Third Reich, in the strict sense only the German Armed Forces, at the end of World War II was at the time accepted by most authorities as a case of debellatio as:

Other authorities, supported in the judgements of the German Federal Constitutional Court, have argued that a German state remained in existence from 1945 to 1949, albeit dormant and without any institutional or organisational component, on the basis that:

  • Most of the territory that made up Germany before the Anschluss was not annexed.
  • A German population still existed and was recognised as having German nationality.
  • German institutions such as courts never ceased to exist even though the Allied Control Council governed the territory.
  • Eventually, a German government regained full sovereignty over all German territory that had not been annexed (see German reunification).
  • The Federal Republic of Germany sees itself as the legal continuation of the German Reich.[3][9][10]

The official position of the Allied-occupied government as well all subsequent German governments since has been and remains that the Nazi regime was "illegal"; with laws and verdicts imposed during the Third Reich regularly being declared facially invalid. The Allies did not consider the German people and the Nazis indistinguishable, rather the opposite.[11][12][13] Following the surrender, the Nazi party was and remains to this day outlawed; various restrictions were imposed on former Nazi party members including bans on running for or holding public office, though these laws were later scaled back. Following the end of the Allied occupation, West Germany assumed a certain degree of responsibility for the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and agreed to make major reparation payments to its victims.[14][15]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Benvenisti, Eyal (2012), The International Law of Occupation, OUP Oxford, p. 161, ISBN 978-0-19-958889-3
  2. ^ "No European state had come to an end, as Germany had, with a 'debellatio', with the dissolution of the enemy state by the victor, a term familiar from Roman history: after three terrible wars, Rome completely annihilated Carthage by means of a 'debellatio'." (Press and Information Office of the Federal Government (1995), Deutschland, Societäts-Verlag, p. 84, OCLC 29827150)
  3. ^ a b Eyal Benvenisti, The international law of occupation, Princeton University Press, 2004, ISBN 0-691-12130-3, pp. 92-95
  4. ^ Breven C. Parsons, (2009), Moving the law of occupation into the twenty-first century, Naval Law Review, published by U.S. Naval Justice School, the pp. 21, 28-30 (PDF page numbers 26, 33-35)
  5. ^ ICRC Commentaries on the Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War Article 5 "The German capitulation was both political, involving the dissolution of the Government, and military, whereas the Japanese capitulation was only military".
  6. ^ United Nations War Crimes Commission, Law reports of trials of war criminals: United Nations War Crimes Commission, Wm. S. Hein, 1997, ISBN 1-57588-403-8. p.13
  7. ^ The human rights dimensions of population (Page 2, paragraph 138) UNHCR web site
  8. ^ Yearbook of the International Law Commission 1993 Volume II Part Two Archived October 21, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Page 48, paragraph 295 (last paragraph on the page)
  9. ^ Detlef Junker et al. (2004). The United States and Germany in the Era of the Cold War, 1945-1990: A Handbook (Vol 2), Cambridge University Press and (Vol. 2) co-published with German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C., ISBN 0-521-79112-X p. 104
  10. ^ Lorenz-Meyer, Martin (2007), Safehaven: The Allied Pursuit of Nazi Assets Abroad, University of Missouri Press, p. 194, ISBN 978-0-8262-6586-9
  11. ^ Nicosia, Francis R.; Huener, Jonathan (2004). Business and Industry in Nazi Germany (1 ed.). Berghahn Books. pp. 130–131. ISBN 978-1-57181-653-5. JSTOR j.ctt1x76ff3.
  12. ^ Balfour, Michael Leonard Graham; Balfour, Michael (1988). Withstanding Hitler in Germany, 1933-45. Routledge. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-415-00617-0.
  13. ^ Balfour, pg 263
  14. ^ Art, David (2005). The Politics of the Nazi Past in Germany and Austria. Cambridge University Press. pp. 53–55. ISBN 978-0521673242.
  15. ^ "Gesetz zur Regelung der Rechtsverhältnisse der unter Artikel 131 des Grundgesetzes fallenden Personen – 11 May 1951 (Bundesgesetzblatt I 22/1951, p. 307 ff.)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on April 6, 2020. Retrieved April 15, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of debellation at Wiktionary