Nero Decree
The Nero Decree was issued by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 on March 19, 1945 ordering the destruction of German infrastructure to prevent their use by Allied forces as they penetrated deep within Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. It was officially titled Demolitions on Reich Territory and has subsequently become known as the Nero Decree, after the Roman Emperor Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

, who was supposed to have engineered the Great Fire of Rome
Great Fire of Rome
The Great Fire of Rome was an urban fire that occurred beginning July 19, AD 64.-Background:According to Tacitus, the fire spread quickly and burned for six days. Only four of the fourteen districts of Rome escaped the fire; three districts were completely destroyed and the other seven suffered...

 in 64 AD.


By 1945, Hitler's vision of a Nazi-ruled Europe had unraveled. Allied armies were advancing from both the East and the West. However, Hitler was not willing to lay down arms and accept the unconditional surrender.

This was not the first time Hitler had tried to destroy infrastructure before it could be taken. Shortly before the Liberation of Paris
Liberation of Paris
The Liberation of Paris took place during World War II from 19 August 1944 until the surrender of the occupying German garrison on August 25th. It could be regarded by some as the last battle in the Battle for Normandy, though that really ended with the crushing of the Wehrmacht forces between the...

, Hitler ordered explosives to be placed around important landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, and key transportation hubs. If the Allies came near the city, the military governor, Dietrich von Choltitz
Dietrich von Choltitz
General der Infanterie Dietrich von Choltitz was the German military governor of Paris during the closing days of the German occupation of that city during World War II...

 was to detonate these bombs, leaving Paris "lying in complete debris." von Cholitz, however, did not carry out the order and surrendered to the Allies, remarking later on that "If for the first time I had disobeyed, it was because I knew that Hitler was insane."

The Decree

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
Scorched earth
A scorched earth policy is a military strategy or operational method which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area...

 when he withdraws, without paying the slightest regard to the population. I therefore order:

"1) 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 on whom fell the responsibility for carrying it out was Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

, Hitler's Minister of Armaments and War Production. Speer was appalled by the order and lost faith in the dictator. Just as von Cholitz had several months earlier, Speer deliberately failed to carry the order. Upon receiving it, he requested to be given exclusive power to implement the plan, instead using his power to convince the generals and Gauleiters to ignore the order. Hitler remained unaware of this until the very end of the war, when Speer admitted to him that he deliberately disobeyed. Hitler, then confined to his bunker in Berlin, was angry with his minister, but there was little he could do at that point. Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, 42 days after issuing the order. Shortly afterwards, On May 7, 1945 General Alfred Jodl
Alfred Jodl
Alfred Josef Ferdinand Jodl was a German military commander, attaining the position of Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command during World War II, acting as deputy to Wilhelm Keitel...

 signed the German military surrender, and on 23 May Speer was arrested on the orders of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

, together with the rest of the provisional German government
Flensburg government
The Flensburg Government , also known as the Flensburg Cabinet and the Dönitz Government , was the short-lived administration that attempted to rule the Third Reich during most of May 1945 at the end of World War II in Europe...

 led by Admiral Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz
Karl Dönitz was a German naval commander during World War II. He started his career in the German Navy during World War I. In 1918, while he was in command of , the submarine was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner...

, Hitler's successor as head of state.
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