Judging by the scale and scope of civil-rights violations and atrocities committed, the Soviet Union under Lenin and Stalin was a terrorist state second probably only to Pol Pot’s Cambodia. The primary Soviet organization implementing and enforcing this rule of terror was the terrorist organization NKVD, later renamed to NKGB. Within the Red Army, the rule of terror against enemy soldiers and civilians as well as against Soviet soldiers of all ranks was monitored and enforced by the so-called Political Commissars.
Prior to and during the Second War, the Soviet Union was not a signatory to any conventions of international law. This was by design, as it “allowed” the Soviet leadership to employ maximum terror and cruelty during warfare. Germany, on the other hand, was a signatory to these conventions. However, in case of a war between nations where some are signatories and others are not, Article 82 of the 1929 Geneva Convention on the treatment of PoWs states:
“Au cas où, en temps de guerre, un des belligérants ne serait pas partie à la Convention, ses dispositions demeureront néanmoins obligatoires entre les belligérants qui y participent.“
This translates to:
“If, in times of war, one of the belligerents [= Soviet Union] is not a party to the Convention, its provisions shall nevertheless remain binding between the belligerents participating in it [the Convention].”
Therefore, Germany had to abide by the Geneva Convention during hostilities with all nations that were also signatories, but was not bound by them during hostilities with the Soviet Union as a non-signatory.
When German intelligence realized the aggressive intentions of the Soviet Union due to the massive Soviet troop buildup at its western border, Germany itself started preparing for war with an enemy that knew no mercy. On Hitler’s initiative, “Guidelines for the Treatment of Political Commissars” were issued on 6 June 1941, which is today referred to as the Commissar Order (Kommissarbefehl). These guidelines declared the Red Army’s Political Commissars as non-combatants acting outside of the rules of warfare. In today’s parlance, they would be considered terrorists rather than soldiers, and they were to face the fate that all governments reserve for terrorists such as Osama bin Laden: “they are to be finished off.”
While that Commissar Order was strictly speaking legal, it was certainly neither ethically defensible nor tactically smart. Although the German government tried to keep this Commissar Order a secret – it was to be conveyed only verbally – the Soviets quickly learned about it. They successfully used it to stiffen the resistance and increase the cruelty with which their commissars acted.
Realizing that this order was backfiring on the Germans, it met increasing resistance within the German military, whose leaders pressured Hitler to rescind it. It was finally rescinded on 6 May 1942.
Since the Soviets were both prosecutors and judges during the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, the Commissar Order was declared illegal at this show trial. This nonsense is parroted to this day by most mainstream historians, who can either not read French, or lack any courage, or both.
The Commissar Order has no direct bearing on the Holocaust, as it does not mention Jews in any way. But that did not stop the late historian Raul Hilberg – during his lifetime one of the most prestigious orthodox Holocaust experts – to falsely portray it as Hitler’s alleged first order to exterminate the Jews. In the 1961 first edition of his book The Destruction of the European Jews, Hilberg claimed that this order, “was given in the spring of 1941,” and issued to the Einsatzgruppen (Hilberg 1961, p. 177). During his testimony at the 1985 trial against German-Canadian Holocaust skeptic Ernst Zündel, Hilberg specified that this referred to the Commissar Order, although it does not mention Jews at all. Hilberg removed this reference in later editions of his book.
(For more details, see Mattogno 2021c, pp. 57-62.)