Georges Blind, a member of the French resistance, smiling at a German firing squad

Georges Blind, a member of the French resistance, smiling at a German firing squad, 1944

In the end, this turned out to be a mock execution intended to make him talk. Also it was staged for intimidation of other resistance fighters. He was forwarded to a concentration camp, where he was selected for termination on arrival, dying some time in late November 1944.

This was done to intimidate and let people in occupied Europe not to mess with the Germans. The Germans thought the best way to fight resistance movements was to be utterly brutal in putting it down. If a village housed ‘a few’ fighters, they would just take out the whole village. They had whole SS squads dedicated to this. They would also incorporate any local police forces, so they had a good lay of the land and a line to insider info. A lot of these local police forces helped the Germans because they were so scared themselves and got some preferential treatment.

This was Hitler’s strategy in the East from the start. Any village suspected of hosting partisans would have all of its men executed, at the very least. The extermination of Communist Party commissars and Jews was also ordered, and was mixed in with these “anti-partisan” activities in an effort to hide the reality of Hitler’s war of annihilation. This is identical to the French response against Spanish partisans after Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. The French troops could not fight the English/Portuguese while the Spanish terrorized their supply lines. For every French soldier killed by partisans, X number of civilians would be executed.

The firing squads are large so that no one man is solely responsible for the killing. In some cases one or more members of the firing squad may be issued a weapon containing a blank cartridge instead of one housing a live round. No member of the firing squad is told beforehand if he is using live ammunition. This is believed to reinforce the sense of diffusion of responsibility among the firing squad members, making the execution process more reliable. It also allows each member of the firing squad to believe afterward that he did not personally fire a fatal shot—for this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the “conscience round”. However a military firing squad in the field performing a martial execution ad-hoc, as seen here, is not likely to observe this nicety.

“We are both going to die, but I’m gonna die smiling. Because I know we are going to win” – Max Manus, Norwegian resistance fighter.