Why was it an issue?

The orders given by General Albert Kesselring on 17th june 1944

This order, signed by Kesselring,  is also referred to by historians as the “impunity clause”. With this order Kesselring inaugurated a new phase in the fight against the partisans (or ‘bandits” as the SS chose to call them). This “impunity clause” simply reiterated orders that had been given  previously to German forces on the eastern front (11.11.1942) for dealing with bandits or partisans and the order given by  Hitler to integrate operations against partisans with the extermination of the Jews‘ (16.11.1942). This last order forbade the punishment of any German soldier for his actions during the fight against the “bandits”.




First page:


Top secret

New measures in connection with operations against partisans.


(..) The fight against the bandits must be carried on with all the  means at our disposal and with the utmost severity. I  will protect any commander who exceeds our usual restraint regarding the choice and severity of the methods he adopts against partisans. In this connection the old principle holds good: that a mistake in the choice of methods when executing one's orders is better than failure or neglect to act. Only the most prompt and severe handling will be sufficient deterrence to nip in the bud other outrages on a greater scale (..)

17th June 1944. Commander in Chief South West.  General Albert Kesselring.


Source: National Archives London, (GB), War Office, 235/586