Open city

In war, an open city is a settlement which has announced it has abandoned all defensive efforts, generally in the event of the imminent capture of the city to avoid destruction. Once a city has declared itself an open city, the opposing military will be expected to peacefully occupy the city rather than destroy it. The concept aims to protect the city's civilians and cultural landmarks from a battle which may be futile.

Attacking forces do not always respect the declaration of an "open city". Defensive forces will use it as a political tactic as well.[1] In some cases, the declaration of a city to be "open" is made by a side on the verge of defeat and surrender; in other cases, those making such a declaration are willing and able to fight on but prefer that the specific city be spared.

According to the Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, it is forbidden for the attacking party to "attack, by any means whatsoever, non-defended localities".[2]


Several cities were declared open during World War II:

Postwar Japan

In 1977, a far-left group in Japan—called the "National Open City Declaration Movement Network"—began organizing activists to make cities preemptively declare themselves "defenseless" under the Geneva Convention, so that in the event of war, they would be legally forced to welcome any invasion.[15] This was rejected by nearly all of Japan's political parties and the ruling government as inherently absurd, since Japan was not in a war, and in the event of war such a decision would have to be approved by the national government.[16] However, the Social Democratic Party—which was the junior party of the ruling coalition from 1994 to 1996—supported it.[17]

Nevertheless, four wards of Tokyo and Kagoshima City, Japan's southernmost port, among many other cities, are considering legislation to be declared "open cities".[18]

See also


  1. Murphy, Paul I. and Arlington, R. Rene. (1983) La Popessa: The Controversial Biography of Sister Pasqualina, the Most Powerful Woman in Vatican History. New York: Warner Books Inc. ISBN 0-446-51258-3, p. 210
  2. Protocol I. 1977 via Wikisource.
  4. Veranneman, Jean-Michel (2014). Belgium in the Second World War. Pen and Sword. p. 35. ISBN 1783376074.
  5. de Gaulle, Charles (1968). Ratni memoari: Poziv, 1940–1942 [War Memoirs: Call to Honour, 1940–1942] (in Serbian). 1. Belgrade/Ljubljana: Prosveta, Državna založba Slovenije. p. 53.
  6. "Paris Declared Open City As Nazis Reach Suburbs". The Virgin Islands Daily News (2642): 1. 13 June 1940.
  7. Petranović, Branko (1987). Istorija Jugoslavije 1918-1978 [History of Yugoslavia 1918-1978]. Belgrade: Nolit. p. 184.
  8. "Manila Declared 'Open City'". Chicago Daily Tribune. C (309): 1. 26 December 1941.
  9. "Japanese Bombs Fire Open City Of Manila; Civilian Toll Heavy; Invaders Gain In Luzon". The New York Times. XCI (30, 654): 1. 28 December 1941.
  10. Chronology and Index of the Second World War, 1938-1945. Royal Institute of International Affairs. 1947. p. 112. ISBN 9780887365683.
  11. "Rome Declared Open City". The Morning Bulletin (24, 926): 1. 16 August 1943.
  12. Katz, Robert (2007). "An Excerpt from The Battle for Rome: 'Open City'". Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  13. World War II Chronology 1944 Archived October 2, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Hamburg Declared Open City; British Occupy It". The Morning Bulletin (25, 442): 1. 4 May 1945.
  15. Hiromichi Ikegami et al. "Let's protect Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution by declaring ourselves Defenseless Cities!" Municipality Research Company, 2006. ISBN 4880374504 (無防備地域宣言で憲法9条のまちをつくる) (in Japanese)
  16. Prime Minister of Japan. Is it possible for a city to declare itself an "defenseless"? (in Japanese)
  17. 月刊社会民主(Social Democrat Monthly), vol. 620, p. 8. 社会民主党全国連合機関紙宣伝局 (Social Democratic Party, National Alliance Communications Department)
  18. 月刊社会民主(Social Democrat Monthly), vol. 596, p. 2. 社会民主党全国連合機関紙宣伝局 (Social Democratic Party, National Alliance Communications Department)
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