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The Moscow Declaration on Atrocities

(November 1, 1943)

A series of twelve meetings took place between the foreign ministers of the United Kingdom (Anthony Eden), the United States (Cordell Hull), and the Soviet Union (Vyacheslav Molotov), resulted in the Moscow Declarations and the creation of the European Advisory Commission.

The Third Moscow Conference was one of the first times in which foreign ministers of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union could meet and discuss important global matters. Here, they discussed what measures needed to be taken in order to shorten and end the war with Germany and the Axis Powers, as well as how to effectively collaborate and cooperate peacefully through this period marking the end of the war.

The Moscow Declaration, officially issued by the foreign ministers of United States President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, and Premier Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, defined how to deal with the Axis. It included four sections, Declaration of Four Nations on General Security, Declaration Regarding Italy, Declaration on Austria, and Statement on Atrocities.

Also, during the Moscow Conference, agreements were made to establish a European Advisory Commission to make recommendations for the three joint governments and an Advisory Council regarding Italy – along with Greece and Yugoslavia.

In the case of Italy, the declaration stated that Fascism must be utterly destroyed in Italy, that all fascists should be barred from participation in public life and that “democratic organs” of local government should be created within Italy by the occupying powers.

In the case of Austria, the German annexation of Austria in 1938 was declared null and void. But the people of Austria were held responsible in the declaration for participation in the war on the side of Germany.

In the “Statement on Atrocities,” it was declared that after any armistice with the present or a future German government, that those German individuals suspected of involvement in wartime atrocities in various countries would be sent to those countries for trial and punishment.

The Moscow Declaration

The United Kingdom, the United States and the Soviet Union have received from many quarters evidence of atrocities, massacres and cold-blooded mass executions which are being perpetrated by the Hitlerite forces in many of the countries they have overrun and from which they are now being steadily expelled. The brutalities of Hitlerite domination are no new thing and all people or territories in their grip have suffered from the worst form of Government by terror. What is new is that many of these territories are now being redeemed by the advancing armies of the liberating Powers and that, in their desperation, the recoiling Hitlerite Huns are redoubling their ruthless cruelties. This is now evidenced with particular clearness by the monstrous crimes of the Hitlerites on the territory of the Soviet Union which is being liberated from the Hitlerites and on French and Italian territory.

Accordingly the aforesaid three Allied Powers, speaking in the interests of the 32 United Nations, hereby solemnly declare and give full warning of their declaration as follows: At the time of the granting of any armistice to any Government which may be set up in Germany, those German officers and men and members of the Nazi party who have been responsible for or have taken a consenting part in the above atrocities, massacres and executions will be sent back to the countries in which their abominable deeds were done in order that they may be judged and punished according to the laws of these liberated countries and of the Free Governments which will be erected therein. Lists will be compiled in all possible detail from all these countries having regard especially to the invaded parts of the Soviet Union, to Poland and Czechoslovakia, to Yugoslavia and Greece including Crete and other islands, to Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Italy.

Thus, Germans who take part in wholesale shootings of Italian officers or in the execution of French, Dutch, Belgian or Norwegian hostages or of Cretan peasants, or who have shared in the slaughters inflicted on the people of Poland or in the territories of the Soviet Union which are now being swept clear of the enemy, will know that they will be brought back to the scene of their crimes and judged on the spot by the peoples whom they have outraged. Let those who have hitherto not imbued their hands with innocent blood beware lest they join the ranks of the guilty, for most assuredly the three Allied Powers will pursue them to the uttermost ends of the earth and will deliver them to the accusers in order that justice may be done.

The above declaration is without prejudice to the case of the major criminals whose offences have no particular geographical location and who will be punished by a joint decision of the Governments of the Allies.

Sources: “Moscow Conference (1943),” Wikipedia;
Library of Congress.