The History Place - World War II in Europe

The Night and Fog Decree

On December 7, 1941, Hitler issued "Nacht und Nebel" – the Night and Fog Decree.

This decree replaced the unsuccessful Nazi policy of taking hostages to undermine Underground activities. Suspected Underground agents and others would now vanish without a trace into the night and fog.

SS-Reichsführer Himmler issued the following instructions to the Gestapo.

"After lengthy consideration, it is the will of the Führer that the measures taken against those who are guilty of offenses against the Reich or against the occupation forces in occupied areas should be altered. The Führer is of the opinion that in such cases penal servitude or even a hard labor sentence for life will be regarded as a sign of weakness. An effective and lasting deterrent can be achieved only by the death penalty or by taking measures which will leave the family and the population uncertain as to the fate of the offender. Deportation to Germany serves this purpose."

Field Marshall Keitel also issued a letter stating…

"Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminals do not know the fate of the criminal…The prisoners are, in future, to be transported to Germany secretly, and further treatment of the offenders will take place here; these measures will have a deterrent effect because: A. The prisoners will vanish without a trace. B. No information may be given as to their whereabouts or their fate."

Victims of the Night and Fog Decree were mostly from France, Belgium and Holland. They were usually arrested in the middle of the night and quickly taken to prisons hundreds of miles away for questioning and torture, eventually arriving at the concentration camps of Natzweiler or Gross-Rosen, if they survived.

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