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Nero_Decree

Nero Decree

The Nero Decree was issued by Adolf Hitler on March 19, 1945 ordering the destruction of German infrastructure to prevent their use by Allied forces as they penetrated deep within Germany. It was officially titled Demolitions on Reich Territory and has subsequently become known as the Nero Decree, after the Roman Emperor Nero, who was supposed to have engineered the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD. Its most pertinent section reads as follows:

It is a mistake to think that transport and communication facilities, industrial establishments and supply depots, which have not been destroyed, or have only been temporarily put out of action, can be used again for our own ends when the lost territory has been recovered. The enemy will leave us nothing but scorched earth when he withdraws, without paying the slightest regard to the population. I therefore order:

All military transport and communication facilities, industrial establishments and supply depots, as well as anything else of value within Reich territory, which could in any way be used by the enemy immediately or within the foreseeable future for the prosecution of the war, will be destroyed.

The decree was in vain. The man most responsible for carrying it out was Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments and War Production. Appalled at the order, Speer deliberately failed to carry it out, shrewdly persuading Hitler that his planned - albeit imaginary - recovery of the lost territory could be done without the destruction of its assets. Hitler committed suicide on April 30 1945, 32 days after issuing the order. Speer handed himself to the allied authorities on 7 May 1945, on which date Admiral Karl Dönitz, Hitler's successor, signed an unconditional surrender.

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