Members of the “Greatest Generation” enjoying the “Good War” by defecating on the bodies of recently murdered German prisoners.
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“We felt powerless before the immeasurable material superiority of the Americans, without which the Russians and British would have capitulated long since… ,” revealed one German officer.
Nevertheless, the hard-pressed Landser was still more than a match for the American “GI” and the British “Tommy.” Whenever the two sides met on anything approaching equal numbers, the results were always the same. Defending its homeland reinvigorated the German Army, of course, but during the fighting in Italy and North Africa, the outcome was similar. Asked his opinion of American troops during the fighting in North Africa—a campaign where Germany’s ally, the Italian Army, had scattered and surrendered like sheep—one captive Landser told his US interrogators bluntly: “The Americans are to us what the Italians are to you.”
In a desperate bid to shore up crumbling resistance, Dr. Goebbels’s propaganda office warned citizens that “these Americans were combat troops whose only function was to fight; but after them come the rearguard service troops and especially the Jews, who have in all other cases acted ruthlessly against the population.” Unfortunately, the truth in these words became apparent once the front-line troops pushed on.
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Unlike the wild and almost unmanageable Red Army, US military commanders might have prevented much of the excesses committed by their men against helpless civilians had they so willed it. In most cases, however, they did not. On the contrary, the words of some high-ranking officers seemed designed to encourage atrocities.
“We are engaged in a total war, and every individual member of the German people has turned it into such,” US general Omar Bradley announced. “If it had not been Hitler leading the Germans, then it would have been someone else with the same ideas. The German people enjoy war and are determined to wage war until they rule the world and impose their way of life on us.”
“[T]he German is a beast,” echoed Supreme Allied Commander, Dwight David Eisenhower, a man whose hatred of all things German was well known. In much the same vein as Soviet premier Josef Stalin and American president Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower advocated the outright massacre of German army officers, Nazi Party members and others. In all, according to the American general, at least 100,000 Germans should be “exterminated.”
“In heart, body, and spirit . . . every German is Hitler!” faithfully trumpeted the US Army newspaper, Stars and Stripes. “Hitler is the single man who stands for the beliefs of Germans. Don’t make friends with Hitler. Don’t fraternize. If in a German town you bow to a pretty girl or pat a blond child … you bow to Hitler and his reign of blood.”
In many towns, the invaders unlocked jails, prisons and concentration camps and invited the inmates to join the revelry. “They just opened up the camps and let them go,” noted Amy Schrott, a young German raised in New Jersey. “The Russians and Poles were looting the houses and killing the shopkeepers. Then they began raping the girls.”
When a prison camp at Salzwedel was thrown open, a mob of various nationalities literally tore the town to pieces. Locating the mayor, a gang of Russians dragged the man, his wife and daughter to the cemetery. After lashing the mayor to a tombstone, a line of laughing men began taking turns with his naked wife as she screamed on her hands and knees. When a Mongolian started to rape his daughter, the father, in a final fit of rage, tore the tombstone from the ground, then fell over dead.
While Moroccan and other French colonial troops had an especially bad reputation and raped on a massive scale in Germany and Italy, American and British soldiers were not above reproach. “Our own Army and the British Army . . . have done their share of looting and raping… ,” a US sergeant admitted. “[W]e too are considered an army of rapists.”
The Dachau Massacre
Though perhaps the worst, the incident at Dachau was merely one of many massacres committed by US troops. Unaware of the deep hatred the Allies harbored for them, when proud SS units surrendered they naively assumed that they would be respected as the unsurpassed fighters that they undoubtedly were.
When the fury had finally spent itself in Czechoslovakia, over 200,000 people had been butchered. Similar purges of German minorities occurred in Rumania, Hungary and Yugoslavia where men, women and children, by the hundreds of thousands, were massacred in cold blood. The slaughter throughout Europe was not confined to ethnic Germans alone. Following the Allied occupation of France, over 100,000 French citizens were murdered by their countrymen because of collaboration with the Germans or anti-communist activities. Similar, though smaller, and less bestial, reckonings took place in Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Norway.
With the final capitulation on May 8, the allied chief found himself in control of over five million ragged, weary, but living, enemy soldiers. “It is a pity we could not have killed more,” muttered the general, dissatisfied with the body-count of the greatest blood-bath in human history. And so, Eisenhower (picture above) settled for next best: If he could not kill armed Germans in war, he would kill disarmed Germans in peace. Because the Geneva Convention guaranteed POWs of signer nations the same food, shelter and medical attention as their captors, and because these laws were to be enforced by the International Red Cross, the American leader simply circumvented the treaty by creating his own category for prisoners. Under the general’s reclassification, German soldiers were no longer considered POWs, but DEFs— Disarmed Enemy Forces. With this sleight-of-hand, and in direct violation of the Geneva Convention, Eisenhower could now deal in secret with those in his power, free from the prying eyes of the outside world.
Even before war’s end, thousands of German POWs had died in American captivity from starvation, neglect or, in many cases, out-right murder.
American Death Camp
Like the Americans, the French starved their prisoners. Unlike the Americans, the French drained the last ounce of labor from their victims before they dropped dead.
The enslavement of German soldiers was not limited to France. Although fed and treated infinitely better, several hundred thousand POWs in Great Britain were transformed into virtual slaves.
Ultimately, at least 800,000 German prisoners died in the American and French death camps. “Quite probably,” one expert later wrote, the figure of one million is closer to the mark. And thus, in “peace,” did ten times the number of Landsers die than were killed on the whole Western Front during the whole of the war.
Unlike their democratic counterparts, the Soviet Union made little effort to hide from the world the fate of German prisoners in its hands. Toiling by the hundreds of thousands in the forests and mines of Siberia, the captives were slaves pure and simple and no attempt was made to disguise the fact. For the enslaved Germans, male and female, the odds of surviving the Soviet gulags were even worse than escaping the American or French death camps and a trip to Siberia was tantamount to a death sentence. What little food the slaves received was intended merely to maintain their strength so that the last drop of energy could be drained from them.
And so, with the once mighty Wehrmacht now disarmed and enslaved, and with their leaders either dead or awaiting trial for so-called “war crimes,” the old men, women and children who remained in the dismembered Reich found themselves utterly at the mercy of the victors. Unfortunately for these survivors, never in the history of the world was mercy in shorter supply.
One man opposed to the vengeance-minded program was George Patton. “Evidently the virus started by Morgenthau and [Bernard] Baruch of a Semitic revenge against all Germans is still working … ,” wrote the general in private. “I am frankly opposed to this war-criminal stuff. It is not cricket and it is Semitic….I can’t see how Americans can sink so low.”
When a smattering of accounts began to leak from Poland of the unspeakable crimes being committed, many in the West were stunned.
Posted by BRADFORD HANSON
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