Source: Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 507-509.
By Daniel Johnson (Filed: 24/01/2002)
THE Red Army's orgy of rape in the dying days of Nazi Germany was conducted on a much greater scale than previously suspected, according to a new book by the military historian Anthony Beevor.
Beevor, the author of the best-selling Stalingrad, says advancing Soviet troops raped large numbers of Russian and Polish women held in concentration camps, as well as millions of Germans.
The extent of the Red Army's indiscipline and depravity emerged as the author studied Soviet archives for his forthcoming book Berlin, to be published in April by Viking.
Beevor - who was educated at Sandhurst and served in the 11th Hussars (Prince Albert's Own), an elite cavalry regiment - says details of the Soviet soldiers' behaviour have forced him to revise his view of human nature.
"Having always in the past slightly pooh-poohed the idea that most men are potential rapists, I had to come to the conclusion that if there is a lack of army discipline, most men with a weapon, dehumanised by living through two or three years of war, do become potential rapists," he told The Bookseller.
He appears to echo the American feminist Marilyn French's notorious claim that "in their relations with women, all men are rapists, and that's all they are".
Any such resemblance is, however, superficial. Beevor is careful to qualify any suggestion that what happened from 1944 onwards is in any way typical of male behaviour in peacetime. But he admits that he was "shaken to the core" to discover that Russian and Polish women and girls liberated from concentration camps were also violated.
"That completely undermined the notion that the soldiers were using rape as a form of revenge against the Germans," he said.
"By the time the Russians reached Berlin, soldiers were regarding women almost as carnal booty; they felt because they were liberating Europe they could behave as they pleased. That is very frightening, because one starts to realise that civilisation is terribly superficial and the facade can be stripped away in a very short time."
Beevor's high reputation as a historian ensures that his claims will be taken seriously. Stalingrad was widely praised and awarded the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize, the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hawthornden Prize.
His account of the siege of Berlin, however, promises to be more controversial. "In many ways the fate of the women and the girls in Berlin is far worse than that of the soldiers starving and suffering in Stalingrad."
To understand why the rape of Germany was so uniquely terrible, the context is essential. Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941, began the most genocidal conflict in history. Perhaps 30 million inhabitants of the Soviet Union are now thought to have died during the war, including more than three million who were deliberately starved in German PoW camps.
The Germans, having shown no quarter, could expect none in return. Their casualties were also on a vast scale. In the Battle of Berlin alone more than a million German soldiers were killed or died later in captivity, plus at least 100,000 civilians. The Soviet Union lost more than 300,000 men.
Against this horrific background, Stalin and his commanders condoned or even justified rape, not only against Germans but also their allies in Hungary, Romania and Croatia. When the Yugoslav Communist Milovan Djilas protested to Stalin, the dictator exploded: "Can't he understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle?"
And when German Communists warned him that the rapes were turning the population against them, Stalin fumed: "I will not allow anyone to drag the reputation of the Red Army in the mud."
The rapes had begun as soon as the Red Army entered East Prussia and Silesia in 1944. In many towns and villages every female, aged from 10 to 80, was raped. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel laureate who was then a young officer, described the horror in his narrative poem Prussian Nights: "The little daughter's on the mattress,/Dead. How many have been on it/A platoon, a company perhaps?"
But Solzhenitsyn was rare: most of his comrades regarded rape as legitimate. As the offensive struck deep into Germany, the orders of Marshal Zhukov, their commander, stated: "Woe to the land of the murderers. We will get a terrible revenge for everything."
By the time the Red Army reached Berlin its reputation, reinforced by Nazi propaganda, had already terrified the population, many of whom fled. Though the hopeless struggle came to an end in May 1945, the ordeal of German women did not.
How many German women were raped? One can only guess, but a high proportion of at least 15 million women who either lived in the Soviet Union zone or were expelled from the eastern provinces. The scale of rape is suggested by the fact that about two million women had illegal abortions every year between 1945 and 1948.
It was not until the winter of 1946-47 that the Soviet authorities, concerned by the spread of disease, imposed serious penalties on their forces in East Germany for fraternising with the enemy.
Soviet soldiers saw rape, often carried out in front of a woman's husband and family, as an appropriate way of humiliating the Germans, who had treated Slavs as an inferior race with whom sexual relations were discouraged. Russia's patriarchal society and the habit of binge-drinking were also factors, but more important was resentment at the discovery of Germany's comparative wealth.
The fact, highlighted by Beevor, that Soviet troops raped not only Germans but also their victims, recently liberated from concentration camps, suggests that the sexual violence was often indiscriminate, although far fewer Russian or Polish women were raped when their areas were liberated compared to the conquered Germans.
Jews, however, were not necessarily regarded by Soviet troops as fellow victims of the Nazis. The Soviet commissars had commandeered German concentration camps in order to incarcerate their own political prisoners, who included "class enemies" as well as Nazi officials, and their attitude towards the previous inmates was, to say the least, unsentimental.
As for the millions of Russian prisoners or slave workers who survived the Nazis: those who were not executed as traitors or sent to the Gulag could count themselves lucky. The women among them were probably treated no better than the Germans, perhaps worse.
The rape of Germany left a bitter legacy. It contributed to the unpopularity of the East German communist regime and its consequent reliance on the Stasi secret police. The victims themselves were permanently traumatised: women of the wartime generation still refer to the Red Army war memorial in Berlin as "the Tomb of the Unknown Rapist".
15 June 1999: 'Stalingrad' wins prize for non-fiction
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Antony Beevor, author of the acclaimed new book about the fall of Berlin, on a massive war crime committed by the victorious Red Army.
"Red Army soldiers don't believe in 'individual liaisons' with German women," wrote the playwright Zakhar Agranenko in his diary when serving as an officer of marine infantry in East Prussia. "Nine, ten, twelve men at a time - they rape them on a collective basis."
The Soviet armies advancing into East Prussia in January 1945, in huge, long columns, were an extraordinary mixture of modern and medieval: tank troops in padded black helmets, Cossack cavalrymen on shaggy mounts with loot strapped to the saddle, lend-lease Studebakers and Dodges towing light field guns, and then a second echelon in horse-drawn carts. The variety of character among the soldiers was almost as great as that of their military equipment. There were freebooters who drank and raped quite shamelessly, and there were idealistic, austere communists and members of the intelligentsia appalled by such behaviour.
Beria and Stalin, back in Moscow, knew perfectly well what was going on from a number of detailed reports. One stated that "many Germans declare that all German women in East Prussia who stayed behind were raped by Red Army soldiers". Numerous examples of gang rape were given - "girls under 18 and old women included".
Marshal Rokossovsky issued order No 006 in an attempt to direct "the feelings of hatred at fighting the enemy on the battlefield." It appears to have had little effect. There were also a few arbitrary attempts to exert authority. The commander of one rifle division is said to have "personally shot a lieutenant who was lining up a group of his men before a German woman spreadeagled on the ground". But either officers were involved themselves, or the lack of discipline made it too dangerous to restore order over drunken soldiers armed with submachine guns.
Calls to avenge the Motherland, violated by the Wehrmacht's invasion, had given the idea that almost any cruelty would be allowed. Even many young women soldiers and medical staff in the Red Army did not appear to disapprove. "Our soldiers' behaviour towards Germans, particularly German women, is absolutely correct!" said a 21-year-old from Agranenko's reconnaissance detachment. A number seemed to find it amusing. Several German women recorded how Soviet servicewomen watched and laughed when they were raped. But some women were deeply shaken by what they witnessed in Germany. Natalya Gesse, a close friend of the scientist Andrei Sakharov, had observed the Red Army in action in 1945 as a Soviet war correspondent. "The Russian soldiers were raping every German female from eight to eighty," she recounted later. "It was an army of rapists."
Drink of every variety, including dangerous chemicals seized from laboratories and workshops, was a major factor in the violence. It seems as if Soviet soldiers needed alcoholic courage to attack a woman. But then, all too often, they drank too much and, unable to complete the act, used the bottle instead with appalling effect. A number of victims were mutilated obscenely.
The subject of the Red Army's mass rapes in Germany has been so repressed in Russia that even today veterans refuse to acknowledge what really happened. The handful prepared to speak openly, however, are totally unrepentant. "They all lifted their skirts for us and lay on the bed," said the leader of one tank company. He even went on to boast that "two million of our children were born" in Germany.
The capacity of Soviet officers to convince themselves that most of the victims were either happy with their fate, or at least accepted that it was their turn to suffer after what the Wehrmacht had done in Russia, is striking. "Our fellows were so sex-starved," a Soviet major told a British journalist at the time, "that they often raped old women of sixty, seventy or even eighty - much to these grandmothers' surprise, if not downright delight."
One can only scratch at the surface of the psychological contradictions. When gang-raped women in Königsberg begged their attackers afterwards to put them out of their misery, the Red Army men appear to have felt insulted. "Russian soldiers do not shoot women," they replied. "Only German soldiers do that." The Red Army had managed to convince itself that because it had assumed the moral mission to liberate Europe from fascism it could behave entirely as it liked, both personally and politically.
Domination and humiliation permeated most soldiers' treatment of women in East Prussia. The victims not only bore the brunt of revenge for Wehrmacht crimes, they also represented an atavistic target as old as war itself. Rape is the act of a conqueror, the feminist historian Susan Brownmiller observed, aimed at the "bodies of the defeated enemy's women" to emphasise his victory. Yet after the initial fury of January 1945 dissipated, the sadism became less marked. By the time the Red Army reached Berlin three months later, its soldiers tended to regard German women more as a casual right of conquest. The sense of domination certainly continued, but this was perhaps partly an indirect product of the humiliations which they themselves had suffered at the hands of their commanders and the Soviet authorities as a whole.
A number of other forces or influences were at work. Sexual freedom had been a subject for lively debate within Communist party circles during the 1920s, but during the following decade, Stalin ensured that Soviet society depicted itself as virtually asexual. This had nothing to do with genuine puritanism: it was because love and sex did not fit in with dogma designed to "deindividualise" the individual. Human urges and emotions had to be suppressed. Freud's work was banned, divorce and adultery were matters for strong party disapproval. Criminal sanctions against homosexuality were reintroduced. The new doctrine extended even to the complete suppression of sex education. In graphic art, the clothed outline of a woman's breasts was regarded as dangerously erotic. They had to be disguised under boiler suits. The regime clearly wanted any form of desire to be converted into love for the party and above all for Comrade Stalin.
Most ill-educated Red Army soldiers suffered from sexual ignorance and utterly unenlightened attitudes towards women. So the Soviet state's attempts to suppress the libido of its people created what one Russian writer described as a sort of "barracks eroticism" which was far more primitive and violent than "the most sordid foreign pornography". All this was combined with the dehumanising influence of modern propaganda and the atavistic, warring impulses of men marked by fear and suffering.
The novelist Vasily Grossman, a war correspondent attached to the invading Red Army, soon discovered that rape victims were not just Germans. Polish women also suffered. So did young Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian women who had been sent back to Germany by the Wehrmacht for slave labour. "Liberated Soviet girls quite often complain that our soldiers rape them," he noted. "One girl said to me in tears: 'He was an old man, older than my father'."
The rape of Soviet women and girls seriously undermines Russian attempts to justify Red Army behaviour on the grounds of revenge for German brutality in the Soviet Union. On March 29 1945 the central committee of the Komsomol (the youth organisation of the Soviet Union) informed Stalin's associate Malenkov of a report from the 1st Ukrainian Front. "On the night of 24 February," General Tsygankov recorded in the first of many examples, "a group of 35 provisional lieutenants on a course and their battalion commander entered the women's dormitory in the village of Grutenberg and raped them."
In Berlin, many women were simply not prepared for the shock of Russian revenge, however much horror propaganda they had heard from Goebbels. Many reassured themselves that, although the danger must be great out in the countryside, mass rapes could hardly take place in the city in front of everybody.
In Dahlem, Soviet officers visited Sister Kunigunde, the mother superior of Haus Dahlem, a maternity clinic and orphanage. The officers and their men behaved impeccably. In fact, the officers even warned Sister Kunigunde about the second-line troops following on behind. Their prediction proved entirely accurate. Nuns, young girls, old women, pregnant women and mothers who had just given birth were all raped without pity.
Yet within a couple of days, a pattern emerged of soldiers flashing torches in the faces of women huddled in the bunkers to choose their victims. This process of selection, as opposed to the indiscriminate violence shown earlier, indicates a definite change. By this stage Soviet soldiers started to treat German women more as sexual spoils of war than as substitutes for the Wehrmacht on which to vent their rage.
Rape has often been defined by writers on the subject as an act of violence which has little to do with sex. But that is a definition from the victim's perspective. To understand the crime, one needs to see things from the perpetrator's point of view, especially in the later stages when unaggravated rape had succeeded the extreme onslaught of January and February.
Many women found themselves forced to "concede" to one soldier in the hope that he would protect them from others. Magda Wieland, a 24-year-old actress, was dragged from a cupboard in her apartment just off the Kurfürstendamm. A very young soldier from central Asia hauled her out. He was so excited at the prospect of a beautiful young blonde that he ejaculated prematurely. By sign language, she offered herself to him as a girlfriend if he would protect her from other Russian soldiers, but he went off to boast to his comrades and another soldier raped her. Ellen Goetz, a Jewish friend of Magda's, was also raped. When other Germans tried to explain to the Russians that she was Jewish and had been persecuted, they received the retort: "Frau ist Frau."
Women soon learned to disappear during the "hunting hours" of the evening. Young daughters were hidden in storage lofts for days on end. Mothers emerged into the street to fetch water only in the early morning when Soviet soldiers were sleeping off the alcohol from the night before. Sometimes the greatest danger came from one mother giving away the hiding place of other girls in a desperate bid to save her own daughter. Older Berliners still remember the screams every night. It was impossible not to hear them because all the windows had been blown in.
Estimates of rape victims from the city's two main hospitals ranged from 95,000 to 130,000. One doctor deduced that out of approximately 100,000 women raped in the city, some 10,000 died as a result, mostly from suicide. The death rate was thought to have been much higher among the 1.4 million estimated victims in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia. Altogether at least two million German women are thought to have been raped, and a substantial minority, if not a majority, appear to have suffered multiple rape.
If anyone attempted to defend a woman against a Soviet attacker it was either a father trying to defend a daughter or a young son trying to protect his mother. "The 13-year old Dieter Sahl," neighbours wrote in a letter shortly after the event, "threw himself with flailing fists at a Russian who was raping his mother in front of him. He did not succeed in anything except getting himself shot."
After the second stage of women offering themselves to one soldier to save themselves from others, came the post-battle need to survive starvation. Susan Brownmiller noted "the murky line that divides wartime rape from wartime prostitution". Soon after the surrender in Berlin, Ursula von Kardorff found all sorts of women prostituting themselves for food or the alternative currency of cigarettes. Helke Sander, a German film-maker who researched the subject in great detail, wrote of "the grey area of direct force, blackmail, calculation and real affection".
The fourth stage was a strange form of cohabitation in which Red Army officers settled in with German "occupation wives". The Soviet authorities were appalled and enraged when a number of Red Army officers, intent on staying with their German lovers, deserted when it was time to return to the Motherland.
Even if the feminist definition of rape purely as an act of violence proves to be simplistic, there is no justification for male complacency. If anything, the events of 1945 reveal how thin the veneer of civilisation can be when there is little fear of retribution. It also suggests a much darker side to male sexuality than we might care to admit.
© Antony Beevor.
The British Ministry of Information dispached (2/29/44) a Top Secret letter to the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), and to high-ranking ministers of the Church of England on the need to divert public attention away from Red Army atrocities by faking Axis war crimes:
: "We know the methods of rule employed by the Bolshevik Dictator in Russia (U.S.S.R.) itself...from the writings and speeches of the prime minister himself during the last 20-years. We know how the Red Army behaved in Poland in 1920 and in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Galacia, and Bessarabia only recently.We must, therefore, take into account how the Red Army will behave when it overruns Central Europe. Unless precautions are taken, the obviously inevitable horrors which will result will throw an undue strain on public opinion in this country.
“ We cannot reform the Bolsheviks but we can do our best to save them and ourselves from the consequences of their acts. The disclosure of the last quarter century will render more denials unconvincing. The only alternative to denial is to distract public attention from the whole subject. Experience has shown the best distraction is atrocity propaganda directed against the enemy...your cooperation is therefore earnestly sought to distract public attention from, the doings of the Red Army by your whole hearted support of various charges against the Germans and Japanese which have and will be put into circulation by the Ministry.” : (ZUNDEL "HOLOCAUST TRIALS", Defense Exhibit, Toronto (1-7-85)).
It was with a sense of wonder that I read English writer Daniel Johnson’s piece "Red Army troops raped even Russian women as they freed them from camps."
What really knocked me out of my chair was this statement, "The Red Army's orgy of rape in the dying days of Nazi Germany was conducted on a much greater scale than previously suspected." I can only ask, "than previously suspected by whom"? The answer must be that public school graduates are as ill informed in the UK as they are here in never never land (as in Never Read, Never Think). That, coupled with the fact the in both countries the State-sponsored media conform to a leftist world view that eschews truth as anathema, has been enough to teach several generations of post modernist "deep thinkers" that all evil that exists in this world is a result somehow of either Christians with their annoying morality or political right wingers, real and alleged. Is not "Nazi" the worst insult that light weights like Madeleine Albright can pull out of their linguistic bag of tricks? Heard any commentator mention the crimes of the left lately?
Unbelievable as it seems, there are in this world many who remain convinced that the Soviet communists were really no worse than say, the Republicans. It should be obvious that there is no comparison between the two – the communists for all their sins were at least effective. No one can accuse the Republicans of that. How long has stopping the abortion holocaust been part of their alleged "platform"?
The Communist Party on the other hand dealt with the perceived problems of Russia with methods right out of Genghis Khan’s handbook. That millions died is not debatable – the numbers tossed around are between thirty and sixty million. That’s not counting the millions that died enjoying the dubious distinction of being "liberated" by the Red Army. Complaining about the Soviet Army’s predilection for rape seems almost silly in a way – like complaining about the Allied planes causing noise pollution flying over Hamburg or Dresden. Not knowing about the Soviet Army’s bad habits is on the other hand, downright dangerous.
That our media of today is staffed by writers and announcers who are essentially clueless is mortifying – one almost longs for the government controlled media of the many conspiracy theories – at least then there would be an excuse other than sheer ignorance.
Johnson’s admission of ignorance comes in his review of a book on the Battle of Stalingrad by one Anthony Beevor. Beevor apparently is either as ill-educated as Johnson or simply a shill for the radical feminists. Consider this quote, "I had to come to the conclusion that if there is a lack of army discipline, most men with a weapon, dehumanized by living through two or three years of war, do become potential rapists…" Is that so? Most men?
One might reasonably ask why other armies don’t turn into mobs of licentious brutes, which is not to say that some don’t but which is to say that most don’t. What is scary here, and particularly for writers of the politically correct genre, is the fact that armies take on the characteristics of the nations they are raised to defend. The Russian Army was known as a pack of rapists since long before the Napoleonic wars. The Prussians on the other hand are known for rather an indifferent almost casual brutality. The French Army has always been known for pillaging and plundering, the Polish for suicidal courage, and the British Army (perish the thought!) has come down through history with one of the worst of all reputations for drunkenness and rapine. "The scum of the earth, enlisted for drink" is how the Duke of Wellington put it.
And of course let’s not forget the Americans. Our boys, with some exceptions, like Sherman’s brigands, have been well known for their essential decency. Unless of course, you happen to be on the wrong map square when some politician starts worrying about his legacy and sends out the bombers and cruise missiles. Still, if you must be invaded, US troops are the ones you want. Nobody has any sayings about them like there are in Europe such as "May God deliver us from the Cossacks!" Those guys aren’t handing out chewing gum folks…
It might behoove us to consider history for a moment. Let’s focus on the Russian Army and strip away all the banal nonsense about "men as rapists" and consider Russian men as rapists because generalities are for the intellectually vapid – let’s look at specifics and see how facts intrude upon silly theories of the mythical "everyman".
In 1805 England seized upon the execution by Napoleon of the duc d’Enghien as a Bourbon terrorist to launch yet another war against the French. Chary as always of risking their own blood, the British deemed it best to wage war with money and let others pay the butcher’s bill. They enticed the Austrians and Russians into forming what came to be known as the Third Coalition. Once again, the armies would march to stamp out the hated Corsican usurper.
The usurper was quicker. His Grande Armee marched from the camps in Boulougne facing England all the way to Austria almost before the Austrians realized they were at war. "He makes war in a new way –with our feet not our blood." Napoleon’s army of 1805 was arguably the best, or one of the best in the history of war. He and his Marshals soon trounced the "unfortunate General Mack" at Ulm and chased the Austrians right out of their capital city of Vienna!
The much overrated General Katusov force marched his Russian Army to a juncture with that of the remaining Austrians. This force consisted of thousands of serfs impressed into uniform and commanded by the spoiled nobility of Czarist Russia. The "Little Father" of the Russians, Czar Alexander, and his ally the Austrian Emperor Francis had rather a chilly meeting. Francis was glad of the reinforcement but quietly horrified and greatly angered by the stories coming in from the countryside. It seems his allies, the Russians, had been looting, raping and plundering their way across his kingdom with a barbarity that shocked even the Austrian generals who had themselves seen some horrors in the endless wars against the Turk on the military frontier. What was worse, the Austrian citizenry were so terrified by the Russians that they were welcoming the French invaders as liberators!
Alexander was unimpressed by the news that his serfs in arms had been committing depredations. After all, they comported themselves in exactly the same way back in the Rodina, Holy Mother Russia herself. It was a long Russian tradition and harkened back to the Tatars and Mongols who had themselves subjected Russia to a string of brutal invasions. To this day the discerning eye can sense the cruelty of the east in the Russian apparatus of war – look carefully at one of their tanks and the spirit of the Mongol Horde can be discerned in the design.
Borders matter you see, and must be defended to the death. Countries who fail to do that will end up invaded and brutalized. Are you listening Dubya?!
For even after repelling or assimilating the last of the invaders, Russia remained always a land under the shadow of the brutal horseman who had rampaged across the steppes. The plight of the Russian peasant was always worse than that of their cousins in western Europe and remained so under the Czars.
A Russian serf could be sold along with an estate. Their situation was essentially slavery with no hope of manumission. Russian soldiers were "requisitioned" from the nobility who not surprisingly, often sent the dregs off to war, keeping the best to work the estates. Men who should perhaps, have graced a gallows or a drunk tank, found themselves marching through rich lands where they encountered women unlike any they had ever seen back home; places where even the peasants seemed to them to live like the nobility in rich homes boasting delicacies unheard of in the east. Ivan helped himself to whatever he wanted, and he wanted whatever he saw.
Napoleon saw off the Russians and Austrians at the Battle of Austerlitz, a classic example of a modern army destroying a peasant levy commanded by men whose only claim to command was blood. Blood was indeed the price of such folly and the Russians who survived the massacre on the ice marched sullenly back to their eastern lair, to the vast relief of all who’d had the misfortune to be in their line of march.
Fast forward to 1945. Meet the Red Army of kindly old US ally "Uncle Joe," beloved of Roosevelt, the Western intellectuals and the spiritual fathers of those liberals who today can be found in the teacher’s unions and the Democratic Party. The lot of the Russian peasant who served in the ranks had not improved appreciably since the days of the Czars. Conditions were if anything worse. The relentless German invaders had turned much of Russia into a zone of desolation. Behind the lines, in both directions, brutal secret political police tortured and murdered at will.
A recent movie called "Enemy at the Gates" gave us a fairly accurate and chilling glimpse of the beastly conditions of war on the Eastern front. A war so horrific, that Germany was in fact defeated beyond any hope of recovery before the first Western Allied soldiers set foot on the shores of Europe. Six million German soldiers had become casualties fighting in this most desperate of all wars and now the Red Army was poised to strike at Berlin. Their tanks sported catchy slogans such as "Forward to the lair of the fascist beast." Thousands of tanks and Stalin Organs (multiple rocket launcher trucks) were waiting to blast the husk of the Wehrmacht to pieces and end it.
The soldiers crouched behind the turrets of the huge T-34 tanks clutching their submachine guns and trenching tools had cold eyes and lived for revenge. For many of them, there was no home to go to; their homes had been destroyed by the Germans or simply obliterated during the huge battles of the early years of the war. They lived for the moment and knew that life was short at the front. Even the commissars had learned to walk softly around the steely eyed men of the Guards Divisions.
Propagandists like Ilya Ehrenberg stirred up their blood lust with chilling exhortations to revenge.
Attacks were fronted by penal troops – men grabbed by the NKVD or police for crimes as trivial as laughing or talking during political education and some for crimes as dreadful as murder. Many of them had simply had the misfortune to be captured by the Germans early in the war and had been arrested as "class traitors" upon being "freed" from the German POW camps. Together with the Mongolian troops whom Marshal Zhukov considered highly expendable, these men would fight their way through the mine fields under the fire of the crazed German defenders whose wives and families were often trekking westward just behind the thin screen of desperate fighters, in long columns of refugees. These columns were routinely strafed by the Red Air Force and on occasion, simply rolled over by the long lines of Stalin tanks. It got really ugly when the Russian foot soldiers caught up with these refugee columns.
Picture if you will, how such men will treat the civilians of the countries upon whom their dark shadow falls. Then remember their rich heritage of rapine and plunder and ponder this: even these men considered the rear area troops to be the truly dangerous fellows and often warned their own victims to beware the second wave!
Marshal Zhukov actually told Eisenhower that yes, his men did indeed rape grandmothers, in his words, "to their surprise and delight," and that this was an old Russian practice and was considered good luck. Really? I’m unaware of any other nation where this charming bit of mythology holds sway! I wonder if those who maintain that all cultures are morally equal would care to incorporate this practice into our less exotic western mores?
Ivan is a paradox – kind to children and possessed of almost a child like docility, he can turn into a monster with no warning. He treated the "liberated" countries of Eastern Europe just as he treated the Germans with whom he had at least a real grievance. He was brave beyond belief and fought in a war that offered him nothing more than a chance for survival under a brutal regime and an occasional issue of cheap army vodka. See the writings of General von Mellenthin and Colonel von Luck, both German panzer commanders who fought against the Red Army, for a surprisingly sympathetic view of these men.
In the end though, it is difficult to maintain a sympathetic view of them. It is interesting however, to note how the national characteristics shine through, even when cloaked with a dark blanket of ideology. The Prussians were their usual brutal selves in World War Two, the Russians raped everyone in sight. The British got everybody into the war that they could including the USA and supplied arms to anyone who would fight. Napoleon would have been surprised only by the scope of the conflict but not by the conduct of the warring nations.
What conclusions can we draw from all this? Let’s try a few and see what we find.
The one question that keeps coming back to me about this British writer is in reference to yet another of those pesky historical incidents that are considered best forgotten by post modern man. Will he be just as surprised when he hears about this? Perhaps he will be even more surprised, coming as he does from a country where all is pristine socialist perfection and men live to glorify a happy, classless diversity.
It is about a city that was literally torn to pieces in a three day orgy of rape and violence during the Napoleonic Wars. There wasn’t a Russian for hundreds of miles in any direction yet the atrocities were indeed committed by another supposedly friendly power against an ally. The city was called Badejoz and the victims were Spanish. The violence finally burned itself out only after the Duke of Wellington had a gallows erected in the center of town as a warning to his troops to desist.
Yes, it was done by British troops and they utterly trashed that Spanish town while terrified French and Hessian prisoners looked on in horror and British officers watched helplessly. Perhaps Misters Johnson and Beevor owe the Russians an apology?
January 28, 2002
Mr. Peirce [send him mail] fought with the Rhodesian freedom fighters (the Ian Smith side, of course).
Copyright 2002 LewRockwell.com
Reproduced gratefully from: LewRockwell.com
HOW ALLIES TREATED GERMAN POWs
NEWS DESK 24th JUNE 2000
MICHAEL WALSH: BEHIND THE HEADLINES
HOW ALLIES TREATED GERMAN POWs
"War crime trials for allied soldiers overdue." Says analyst
"British and allied troops appearing as defendants in war crimes trials with brutal Serbs and former Red Army thugs is well overdue", says 20th Century analyst, Michael Walsh. His research exposes allied genocide, enslavement and institutionalized ill treatment of axis prisoners-of-war both during and after World War 11.
He says, "the scale of abuse of prisoners-of-war was contrary to the Geneva and other conventions to which Britain and its allies were signatories. As late as 1948, three years after the war’s end, the British Government’s treatment of its foreign prisoners was subject to International Red Cross scrutiny and international condemnation. The IRC threatened to bring the British government before international tribunals for abuse and illegal enslavement. Typically, British administered prisoner-of-war camps were worse than Belsen long after the war had ended and war disruption ceased. Tragically even civilians were illegally held, deported and murdered in the tens of thousands whilst the evil killers responsible have so far evaded justice.
The respected Associated Press Photographer, Henry Griffin who had taken the pictures of corpses in Buchenwald and Dachau when visiting Allied POW camps agreed: "The only difference I can see between these men and those corpses is that here they are still breathing." (1)
"According to revelations by members of the House of Commons, about 130,000 former German officers and men were held during the winter of 1945-46 in British camps in Belgium under conditions which British officers have described as 'not much better than Belsen." (2)
TORTURE AND BRUTALITY
Adding to international outrage, Cyril Connolly, one of England’s most acclaimed writers reported: "British guards imprisoned German troops and tortured them." He described how "they were so possessed by propaganda about German 'Huns' that they obviously enjoyed demonstrating their atrocities to visiting journalists. A British reporter named Moorehead who was present at these ‘torture fests’ observed that 'a young British medical officer and a captain of engineers managed the Bergen-Belsen camp. "The captain was in the best of moods," he said. "When we approached the cells of gaoled guards, the sergeant lost his temper." The captain explained. 'This morning we had an interrogation. I'm afraid the prisoners don't look exactly nice.'
The cells were opened for the visiting journalists. "The German prisoners lay there, crumpled, moaning, covered with gore. The man next to me made vain attempts to get to his feet and finally managed to stand up. He stood there trembling, and tried to stretch out his arms as if fending off blows. "Up!" yelled the sergeant. "Come off the wall."
"They pushed themselves off from the wall and stood there, swaying. In another cell the medical officer had just finished an interrogation. "Up." yelled the officer. "Get up." The man lay in his blood on the floor. He propped two arms on a chair and tried to pull himself up. A second demand and he succeeded in getting to his feet. He stretched his arms towards us. "Why don't you kill me off?" he moaned.
"The dirty bastard is jabbering this all morning." the sergeant stated. (3)
SHOOTING PRISONERS ‘FOR FUN’
Former British Army veteran A.W Perkins of Holland-on-Sea described conditions in the ‘Sennelager’ British concentration camp, which shockingly held, not captured troops but civilians. He recounts; "During the latter half of 1945 I was with British troops guarding suspected Nazi civilians living on starvation rations in a camp called Sennelager. They were frequently beaten and grew as thin as concentration camp victims, scooping handfuls of swill from our waste bins."
This ex-guard described how other guards amused themselves by baiting starving prisoners. "They could be shot on sight if they ventured close to the perimeter fence. It was a common trick to throw a cigarette just inside the fence and shoot any prisoner who tried to reach it." (4).
"When Press representatives ask to examine the prison camps, the British loudly refuse with the excuse that the Geneva Convention bars such visits to prisoner-of-war camps." complained press correspondent Arthur Veysey from London on May 28th 1946.
"UNDERFED AND BEATEN" ADMITS TOP AMERICAN NEWSPAPER
Typically "The prisoners lived through the winter in tents and slept on the bare ground under one blanket each. They say they are underfed and beaten and kicked by guards. Many have no underclothes or boots." reported the Chicago Tribune Press Service on 19 May 1946 one year after the war’s end.
"In the summer of 1946 an increasing number of prisoners of-war were escaping from British slave camps often with British civilian aid. "Accounts of the chases by military police are reminiscent of pre-Civil War pursuits by fleeing Negro fugitives." stated an Associated Press dispatch (London, August 27th, 1946) more than sixteen months after the war ended.
CIVILIANS; WOMEN AND CHILDREN MACHINE-GUNNED
Tens of thousands of middle-European peoples, displaced by the war who fell into British hands were treated even worse in British controlled Austria and Yugoslavia. There, Britain and the NKVD ran the concentration camps jointly. The latter, forerunners to the evil KGB, were invited to assist the British in the capture and corralling, deportation and slaughter of their captives.
One British officer described how "The prisoners (civilians) were treated coarsely but not brutally. They were pushed and shoved but there was no resistance, no fighting or trying to get back or get away. They were all completely docile, resigned to their fate. The soldiers collected them all quickly into groups and marched them away to be machine-gunned in groups.'
The British officer added, 'some of them didn't get very far I'm afraid. At the back of the station there was a wood, a copse, and they seemed to be marched behind this copse. Shortly afterwards there were quite a number of sustained bursts of machine-gun fire. I can't say for certain what happened, because I couldn't see the shooting. But I am pretty sure that a lot of them were shot there and then, not on the siding itself but just around the corner of the wood."
This is typical of many accounts when units of the British Army working with Red Army NKVD officers, hunted down and butchered tens of thousands of Cossack civilian refugees including children in Austria, in summer, 1945 after the war had ended.
A BLOOD-SPATTERED BRITISH TRANSPORT TRAIN
Tens of thousands of people of many nationalities were hunted down and rounded up like cattle to be taken to the Red Army’s killing fields. One account described how ‘the whole train was bespattered with blood. They were open-plan carriages, and I remember the bloodstains where bodies had been dragged right down the corridor between the seats and down three of four steps. The lavatories were absolutely covered in blood...."
"Another such patrol, consisting of two Red Army officers and four British soldiers set off into the hills on horseback on June 8th. They captured one such group on the lower slopes.... "The Cossacks ran off, leaving just a few, mainly women and children who were too weak to move. One soldier spotted a Cossack in the distance, aimed his rifle at him, fired and saw him drop. .... As he was not seen to rise again it was assumed he had been killed."
Captain Duncan McMillan remembers, 'Being guided to a small railway station where there was a barbed-wire enclosure' He saw the Cossacks being unloaded from the trucks and described how they were stripped of their possessions, even food before being marched away. 'Many British soldiers who were there have testified that they heard the rattle of machine-guns nearby just moments after the prisoners were removed." James Davidson said: "We thought that machine-gunning must be the finish of them. We thought they were just taken back there and slaughtered."
These awful accounts were described in Nicholas Bethell’s book, The Last Secret published by Futura, (London) in 1974. The English legal apparatus suppressed further accounts.
SLAVE LABOUR IN THE CENTURY
In August 1946 15 months after the end of the Second World War, according to the International Red Cross, "Britain had 460,000 German prisoners slaving for her." This was in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention (Enslavement of Prisoners-of-War is a violation of the Geneva Convention. Article.75) which Britain was a signatory to. Arthur Veysey of the Chicago Tribune Press Service on May 28th 1946 reported "When they (German POWs) learned upon arrival in British and French ports they were to be worked indefinitely as slaves, they became sullen."
PROFITING FROM GERMAN SLAVES
Arthur Veysey appalled by the British government’s abuse of human rights and the illegality of its evil slave-ownership policies and defiance of the Geneva Convention said, "The British Government nets over $250,000,000 annually from its slaves. The Government, which frankly calls itself the 'owner' of the prisoners, hires the men out to any employer needing men, charging the going rate for such work, usually $15 to $20 a week. It pays the slaves from 10 to 20 cents a day. The prisoners are never paid in cash, but are given credits either in the form of vouchers or credits."
THE SOVIET UNION FOLLOWS BRITAIN’S SLAVE EMPIRE EXAMPLE
When American attempts were made to prevent Stalin from abducting five million Germans, many of them civilians including children, as slave laborers after Germany’s defeat, the Soviets made their point. They produced a proclamation signed by General Dwight Eisenhower a year earlier, which gave the Soviets complete freedom to do whatever, they wished with captured Germans. This included deportation, enslavement; to loot and destroy without restraint, even using German transport to do so. They reminded the US Government that they had an equal right to do as the Americans were doing and were exercising the same right.
Eyewitness accounts describe events when Berlin and Breslau surrendered. "The long grey-green columns of prisoners were marched east downcast and fearful towards huge depots near Leningrad, Moscow, Minsk, Stalingrad, Kiev, Kharkov and Sevastopol. All fit men had to march 22 miles a day. Those physically handicapped went in handcarts or carts pulled by spare beasts." This was reported in the Congressional Record on March 29th 1946.
STARVATION OF POWS IN FRANCE
By August 1946 France according to the International Red Cross had enslaved nearly three-quarters of a million former German servicemen. Of these 475,000 had been captured by the Americans who ‘in a deal’ had transferred them to French control for the expressed purpose of forced labour. Interestingly in a macabre way, the French returned 2,474 German POWs complaining that they were weaklings. (5)
Those returned must indeed have been in a bad way for the 472,526 remaining slaves had already been described by correspondents as; "a beggar army of pale, thin men clad in vermin infested tatters." All were pronounced unfit for work, three quarters of them due to deliberate starvation. Of this unfortunate ‘army’ of slaves 19% were so badly treated they needed to be hospitalized (6)
In the notorious camp in the Sarthe District for 20,000 prisoners, inmates received just 900 calories a day; thus 12 died every day in the hospital. Four to five thousand are unable to work any more. Recently trains with new prisoners arrived at the camp; several prisoners had died during the trip, several others had tried to stay alive by eating coal that had been lying in the freight train by which they came. (7)
On December 5th 1946 the American Government requested the repatriation (by October 1, 1947) to Germany of the 674,000 German prisoners-of-war it had handed over to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.
France agreed in principle but refused to abide by the release date stipulated. They pointed out, correctly, that a December 1st 1945 memorandum clearly stated that German prisoners handed over to the French by the US Government ‘were chattels to be used indefinitely as forced labour’. (8)
US ARMY SLAUGHTERED GERMAN POWS
The German armed forces invariably obeyed the Rules of War conventions to the letter. Speaking for himself and other allied military commanders, Major General Robert W. Grow, U.S.A. Commander 6th Armored Division in Europe conceded there was ‘no German atrocity problem’.
"My service during World War Two was in command of an armored division throughout the European campaign, from Normandy to Saxony. My division lost quite a number of officers and men captured between July 1944 and April 1945. In no instance did I hear of personnel from our division receiving treatment other than proper under the 'Rules of Land Warfare'. As far as the 6th Armored Division was concerned in its 280 days of front line contact, there was no 'atrocity problem'. Frankly, I was aghast, as were many of my contemporaries, when we learned of the proposed 'war crimes' trials and the fact that military commanders were among the accused. I know of no general officer who approved of them." (9)
Despite the German observance of convention the American forces response was often as summary and as brutal as those practiced by their Soviet allies. Only in cases where large numbers of captured soldiers had been taken were they to be enslaved. If captured in smaller groups the US Army policy was simply to slaughter their captured prisoners where they stood.
A specific study is now being made for the purpose of compiling evidence of such atrocities to which the author, Michael Walsh, would appreciate input.
One such case was the cold-blooded slaying of an estimated 700 troops of the 8th SS Mountain Division. These troops who had fought with honorable distinction had earlier captured a US field hospital. Although the German troops had conducted themselves properly they were, when subsequently captured by the US Army, routinely separated and gunned down in groups by squads of American troops.
US ARMY TURNS PEACEFUL DACHAU INTO CHARNEL HOUSE
A similar fate befell infantrymen of the SS Westphalia Brigade who were captured by the US 3rd Armored Division. Most of the German captives were shot through the back of the head. "The jubilant Americans told the locals to leave their bodies in the streets as a warning to others of US revenge" Their corpses lay in the streets for five days before the occupying forces relented and allowed the corpses to be buried. After the war the German authorities attempted, without success, to prosecute the GIs responsible. (10)
Ironically in the light of postwar research it has been revealed that the only atrocities committed at Dachau were those carried out by the victorious allies. Equally ironically this camp was an allied concentration camp (eleven years) for a longer period of time than it was a German administered camp. There, "Three hundred SS camp guards were quickly neutralized." on the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The term neutralized of course is a politically correct (or cowardly) way of saying that prisoners-of-war were rounded up and machine-gunned in groups. Accounts of the mass murder of prisoners-of-war at Dachau have been described in at least two books; 'The Day of the Americans by Nerin Gun, Fleet Publishing Company, New York, and, Deliverance Day - The Last Hours at Dachau by Michael Selzer; Lippincot, Philadelphia
These books describe how German prisoners were collected in groups, placed against a wall and methodically machine-gunned by American soldiers while some were still standing, hands raised in surrender. American soldiers casually climbed over the still twitching bodies, killing the wounded. Whilst this was happening, American photographers were taking pictures of the massacres that have since been published.
At Dachau, which was in the American zone of Germany, a shock force of American and Polish guards attempted to entrain a group of Russian prisoners from Vlasov's Army who had refused to be repatriated under the new American ruling.
'All of these men refused to entrain,' Robert Murphy wrote in his report of the incident. 'They begged to be shot. They resisted entrainment by taking off their clothes and refusing to leave their quarters.... Tear-gas forced them out of the building into the snow where those who had cut and stabbed themselves fell exhausted and bleeding in the snow. Nine men hanged themselves and one had stabbed himself to death and one other who had stabbed himself subsequently died; while twenty others are still in hospital from self-inflicted wounds. The entrainment was finally effected of 368 men." (11)
"The last operation of this kind in Germany took place at Plattling near Regensburg, where fifteen hundred men of Vlasov's Army had been interned by the Americans. In the early hours of February 24th, 1946, they were driven out of their huts wearing only their night-clothes, and handed over to the Russians in the forest near the Bavarian-Czech border. Before the train set off on its return journey the American guards were horrified to see the bodies of Vlasov's men who had already committed suicide hanging in rows from trees, and when they returned to Plattling even the German SS prisoners in the nearby POW camp jeered at them for what they had done." (13)
According to the Toronto Daily Star, March, 9th, 1968, "Former members of an illegal Israeli force which was given absolute freedom to slaughter Germans conceded that "More than 1,000 Nazi SS Officers died as a result of eating arsenic-impregnated bread introduced April, 13th, 1946, in an American-run prisoner-of-war camp near Nuremberg."
After the US victory (the battle for Remagen Bridge) Germans in the Rhineland surrendered en masse. Between April and July 1945, some 260,000 German prisoners-of-war were held under American guard in the boggy fields between Remagen and Sinzig. They were kept in the open air and their daily ration was one potato, a biscuit, a spoonful of vegetables and some water. Racked by disease, at least 1,200 died, according to German records." (14)
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH CONDEMNS US SLAVERY
In the USA where 140,000 German prisoners-of-war were shipped, the Catholic Bishops Conference described how, "Multitudes of civilians and prisoners of war have been deported and degraded into forced labor unworthy of human beings."
"Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, are put like slaves to forced labor, although the only thing with which they can be reproached is the fact that they were soldiers. Many of these poor fellows are without news from home and have not been allowed to send a sign of life to their dear ones."
GERMAN SLAVES HELD IN ALLIED COUNTRIES
United States 140,000 (US Occupation Zone of which 100,000 were held in France, 30,000 in Italy, 14,000 in Belgium. Great Britain 460,000 German slaves. The Soviet Union 4,000,000 - 5,000,000 estimated. France had 680,000 German slaves by August 1946. Yugoslavia 80,000, Belgium 48,000, Czechoslovakia 45,000, Luxembourg 4,000, Holland 1,300. Source: International Red Cross.
"AN EVIL PRECEDENT"
An outraged International Red Cross organization opined: "The United States, Britain and France, nearly a year after peace are violating International Red Cross agreements they solemnly signed in 1929. Although thousands of former German soldiers are being used in the hazardous work of clearing minefields, sweeping sea mines and razing shattered buildings, the Geneva Convention expressly forbids employing prisoners 'in any dangerous labour or in the transport of any material used in warfare.'
Henry Wales in Geneva, Switzerland on April 13, 1946 added, 'The bartering of captured enemy soldiers by the victors throws the world back to the dark ages when feudal barons raided adjoining duchies to replenish their human live stock. It is an iniquitous system and an evil precedent because it is wide open for abuse with difficulty in establishing responsibility. It is manifestly unjust and sell them for political reasons as the African Negroes were a century ago."
GERMAN TREATMENT OF POWs FAR MORE HUMANE
By contrast the German armed forces behaved impeccably towards their prisoners-of-war. "The most amazing thing about the atrocities in this war is that there have been so few of them. I have come up against few instances where the Germans have not treated prisoners according to the rules, and respected the Red Cross reported respected newspaper The Progressive February, 4th1945.
Allan Wood, London Correspondent of the London Express agreed. "The Germans even in their greatest moments of despair obeyed the Convention in most respects. True it is that there were front line atrocities - passions run high up there - but they were incidents, not practices, and misadministration of their American prison camps was very uncommon." Lieutenant Newton L. Marguiles echoed his words.
US Assistant Judge Advocate, Jefferson Barracks, April 27th1945. "It is true that the Reich exacted forced labour from foreign workers, but it is also true that, they were for the most part paid and fed well."
"I think some of the persons found themselves better off than at any time in their lives before." added Dr.James K.Pollack, Allied Military Government.
"What did the Germans do to get efficient production from forced labour that we were not able to do with Germans working down the mines? They fed their help and fed them well." Said Max H. Forester, Chief of AMG's Coal and Mining Division in July 1946.
WILL NEMESIS DELIVER?
Asked what were the chances of the evil perpetrators of such crimes being brought to justice, Michael Walsh said that the only thing that stood between the allied sadists and the hangman’s rope was the will to bring them to trial.
Precedent on retrospective justice is already a fact of life. Its failure is that war crimes justice is selective and so far applicable only to the defeated foe under highly questionable and internationally criticized legal procedures.
What is needed is to raise public awareness and a lead be given by those in public life whose voice is less likely to be censored. He added that the interests of justice must come before national pride, political expediency and military guilt. "How else." He added, "can human civilization progress than through the administration of justice that is blind to race, political dogma and national interests?
(1) Congressional Record, December 11, 1945 p. A-5816.
(2) Gruesome Harvest, R.F. Keeling, Institute of American Economics, Chicago, 1947.
(3) Cyril Connolly, The Golden Horizon, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London
(4) Daily Mail, London, 22nd, April, 1995
(5) John Thompson, Chicago Tribune Press Service, Geneva, August 24, 1946).
(6) Gruesome Harvest, R.F. Keeling, Institute of American Economics, Chicago, 1947).
(7) Louis Clair, The Progressive, 14 January, 1946).
(8) Gruesome Harvest, R.F. Keeling, Institute of American Economics, Chicago, 1947).
(9) Doenitz at Nuremberg: A Re-Appraisal, H.K Thompson/Henry Strutz, Amber Publishing Corp.
(10) Daily Mail, London, May 1, 1995.
(11) Douglas Botting, In The Ruins of The Reich, George Allen & Unwin, London
(12) Douglas Botting, In The Ruins of The Reich, George Allen & Unwin, London
(13) Douglas Botting, In The Ruins of The Reich, George Allen & Unwin, London
(14) Roger Boyes, The (London) Times, 7th March 1995
A MICHAEL WALSH SPECIAL REPORT
All this really happened -- but in reverse. It happened in Germany, and we, the British occupying forces, carried it out.
London, Augfust 25, 2001
TRY to imagine Britain occupied by a victorious Germany after World War II. A young boy is executed for displaying a picture of Churchill on his birthday.
Theft carries the death penalty, so does possession of any kind of firearm.
Firing squads are expensive. Hanging wastes time. The Nazi Penal Branch asks permission to use the guillotine, which can carry out six single executions in 14 minutes.
Meanwhile, internment camps have sprung up across the country. Almost 40,000 British civilians and prisoners of war, men and women aged 16-70 have been swept up into these camps and are held without charge or expectation of a trial.
They include not only 'war criminals', profiteers and anti-Nazi agitators, but anyone who 'ridicules, damages or destroys' German culture, along with any persons 'considered dangerous to the Occupation or its objectives', even if they have not committed any offence.
One English mother of four has been imprisoned for a year because she hid in a ditch to snatch a word with her husband who was out on a working party.
Conditions in these camps are brutal. Inmates sleep in their clothes, packed five at a time like sardines on beds constructed from old pieces of wood.
There is so little to eat that the majority of them are emaciated.
Family visits are restricted to 30 minutes every three months.
Internees are frequently kept in dark cellars to prepare them for interrogation. According to a report compiled by a courageous German bishop, they are 'terribly beaten, kicked, and so mishandled that traces can be seen for weeks afterwards.
'The notorious Third Degree methods of using searchlights on victims and exposing them to high temperatures are also applied.' All this really happened -- but in reverse. It happened in Germany, and we, the British occupying forces, carried it out.
According to a new book by Patricia Meehan, historian and former BBC TV producer and documentarist who worked in Germany in 1945, the first few years of our Occupation were tarnished by deeds which would not have seemed out of place in Hitler's Third Reich.
Besides internment centres and holding camps for returned prisoners of war, there were also secret camps known by the initials DIC -- Direct Interrogation Centres.
One day in February 1947, two of the inmates of No.74 DIC (Bad Nenndorf) were dumped at an Internee Hospital. One patient was skeletal, suffering from frostbite, unable to speak; the other was unconscious, with no discernible pulse -- cold, skeletal and covered in 'thick cakes of dirt; frostbite to arms and legs'.
BOTH men died within hours. A third, who had been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking, committed suicide while undergoing interrogation. The resulting investigation uncovered horror stories of deprivation amounting to torture. Men were treated for injuries without anaesthetic.
One prisoner, after eight days of solitary confinement, was put in an unheated punishment cell in midwinter. Buckets of cold water were thrown into the cell which the prisoner had to mop up with a rag.
His jacket and boots were removed, and he had to stand with bleeding feet for about ten hours in extreme cold on a concrete floor. Finally he had to crawl on hands and knees to interrogation.
The Camp Commandant, Medical Officer and three interrogators were suspended and charged. But charges were dropped or reduced to negligence.
All three courts-martial, including the Commandant's, petered out, and the men were allowed to leave the service.
True, Bad Nenndorf was an extreme case, which made the headlines. And after fighting Germany in two world wars, it was hardly surprising if there were outbreaks of vindictiveness among British officers who had fought and suffered in them.
CERTAINLY Hitler and Himmler would not have concerned themselves with the legality of such crimes.
Nevertheless, the very fact that this barbarism could have gone unnoticed or neglected by higher authorities for nearly two years is evidence of the chaos which engulfed defeated Germany, upon which no number of bureaucrats and administrators could at first impose order.
After Germany surrendered in May 1945, it was divided into sectors, with Russians in the east, Americans in the south, French in the west and the British occupying the northwest, from Bonn to Hamburg.
Millions of Germans were on the roads -- women, children and old people, pushing bicycles, prams and carts, or crowding into cattle wagons, to escape the Red Army which was killing and raping as it advanced, laying waste to millions of homes and driving soldiers and civilians alike back to forced labour in the USSR.
Meanwhile, thousands of Displaced Persons -- Germany's slave labourers from the East -- were roving the countryside, raping and pillaging, driven by hunger and vengeance.
Hatred for the Germans knew no bounds. Thousands of them died in Polish camps. In Czech camps, babies were drowned in latrines while their mothers were made to watch; German doctors were made to crawl and eat human excrement.
Hence the panic-driven migration to the western sectors, where 50 million Germans crowded into territory where 38 million had lived before the war.
Britain inherited the most heavily populated zone. Hamburg, the second biggest city after Berlin, lay in ruins. From July 24 to 29, 1943, five RAF raids had created a firestorm which rose two and a half miles above the city.
In those five nights, most of Hamburg was destroyed. Some 750,000 people were made homeless, and up to 150,000 killed -- many more than died from air raids in Britain in the whole of World War II.
When the occupying forces arrived in Hamburg, they discovered a land of cave-dwellers.
Thousands of people were living in windowless concrete air-raid shelters; thousands more crammed into cellars under the rubble or else climbed a ladder into rooms suspended in some teetering ruin, amid falling masonry.
Water supply was a standpipe in the ruins for a few hours a day, for those lucky enough to have a receptacle which could hold liquid. There were no knives, forks, pots, pans, needles, scissors, shoelaces, soap or household medicines.
Urban Germany had become a nation of rag-and-bone people, dragging little trailers after them in case they spotted something in the rubble, and rooting in dustbins for food which the newly-arrived occupying forces had thrown away.
The human response of British servicemen might have been one of sympathy, but by order of the London government, the C-in-C of the British Zone, Field Marshal Montgomery, was ordered to enforce a strict policy of 'non-fraternisation'.
'You must keep clear of Germans -- man, woman and child -- unless you meet them in the course of duty,' he instructed. 'You must not walk with them or shake hands or visit their homes.' There was to be no smiling, no playing with children; (soldiers were put on a charge for 'permitting children to climb on an Army vehicle').
General Eisenhower, in the U.S. sector, thought this self-defeating -- how were the Allies supposed to influence the Germans if they could not speak to little children?
It took Montgomery three months to persuade London of the sense of this, and it was another three months before the Cabinet cancelled the non-fraternisation order.
Relations immediately eased between the conquerors and the conquered, although a system of apartheid remained in place.
British and Germans travelled in separate carriages on the Under- ground. They did not worship together, or see films together, or sit together to listen to music. Officers' wives attending dances would have to be warned in advance if Germans were present.
It was unnatural; more than that, it put a brake on every aspect of administering Germany.
In May 1947 a new instruction was handed down: 'We should behave towards the Germans as the people of one Christian and civilised race towards another whose interests in many ways converge with our own and for whom we no longer have any ill-will.' The trouble was that it had been drummed into British personnel going out to the British Zone that the Germans were a race of pariahs.
In November 1945, the Foreign Office had set out the principles by which Germany should be governed: 'The primary purpose of the JACKBOOT Occupation is destructive and preventive, and our measures of destruction and prevention are only limited by consideration for (1) the security and wellbeing of the forces of Occupation, (2) prevention of unrest among the German people, (3) broad considerations of humanity.' The consequence was that in the early years all Germans were regarded as equally guilty, except by a handful of German specialists.
Ignorance started at the top. The new Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, had not forgotten his time as an infantry officer in the trenches of World War I.
He once confided in the late Lord Longford that he had always disliked Germans very much, but that he and his wife had once had a nice German maid.
His Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, explained: 'I try to be fair to them but I 'ates them, really.' Neither of them ever visited the British Occupied Zone.
British attitudes towards Germans had hardened since the pre-war maxim that: 'All Germans are intelligent, honourable and pro-Hitler, but never more than two of these three.' Media hostility played its part.
Several newspaper correspondents in Germany were under tacit instructions not to send back reports which were complimentary to the Germans -- a line which did not really change until the Queen's visit in 1965.
Three factors contributed to the failure of the British administration to get to grips with the situation in the Occupied Zone despite the efforts of the native population to help.
The first was a diktat laid down to the Allies by President Roosevelt that all Nazi party members were to be excluded from public office and from important positions in private enterprise.
HE WAS told that party membership had been virtually a condition of employment in most of the German civil service, and that whole new departments would have to be recruited and trained up. But Roosevelt was unyielding.
The second was that the existence of a genuine opposition to Hitler within Germany, which had culminated in the failed July 1944 plot on his life, had been concealed from the British public for propaganda reasons during the war; it was easier to rally arms against an undivided evil.
Nor did people recall the 20 million Germans who had voted against Hitler in the last election before the war. This left the Zone administrators with no more sophisticated a view of the German people than was provided in a booklet handed out to all new arrivals.
Entitled The German Character, it explained how the Germans 'stress fanatical willpower, work and sacrifice' and described their sadism, fatalism and sentimentality, warning that to 'try and be kind or conciliatory will be regarded as weakness'.
Thoughtful British officials might have raised an eyebrow at this, but -- which was the third factor -- recruits to the central administration of the British Zone, known as the Control Commission Germany (CCG), tended not to be of high calibre.
They included demobbed servicemen with nowhere to go, officers who could not find a good job in 'civvy street', and in the words of a Foreign Office memo, 'retired drain-inspectors, unsuccessful businessmen and idle ex-policemen'.
Very few of them could speak German. Encouraged to believe that non-Nazis were as dangerous as Nazis, they kept all Germans at arm's length.
No one could apply for public employment who had not been de-nazified, which meant they had to fill in a form demanding their record of employment and income, and their memberships of every party, group, club, union or institute since Hitler came to power.
More than one million of these forms were issued. Checking them became a nightmare for the CCG officials, who knew no German and could not conceive the reality of life under a dictatorship.
Anybody who had not risked death by openly resisting the Nazi authorities became liable to dismissal or even internment. The process meant that Germans with invaluable knowledge and experience were being removed from their posts.
The Germans joked about Hitler's 1,000-year Reich -- 12 years of Nazism and 988 years of de-nazification. The CCG took the point. Soon it was no longer necessary to de-nazify all the typists, only the head typist.
Finally, in October 1947, the task was handed over to the German Lander or local government areas, to sort out properly.
There was plenty left to administer. It was a condition of the peace treaty that swathes of German industrial plant had to be dismantled and equipment destroyed.
Meanwhile the CCG regulated matters which even the Nazis had never interfered with. And even songs came under scrutiny in case they had links to the Nazis.
By the end of 1946, the CCG numbered 24,785 personnel, their American opposite numbers merely 5,008.
Overmanning brought boredom, drunkenness and corruption to the CCG as well as to servicemen. They were, after all, living in a country where everything could be bartered.
German food rations averaged 1,500 calories a day: too much to die on but not enough to live comfortably. Cigarettes were the only viable currency and all sales were black market.
Even girls from good families found that they had nothing to offer except their bodies -- either that or join the 'rubble ladies' who cleared the roads and ruins and emptied basements of half-decomposed corpses.
There were three women to every man. In Berlin, by December 1946, half a million women were selling sex for Western goods.
In the British zone, where one cigarette was worth five marks and troops had a free weekly allowance of 50 (plus chocolate and soap), 80 per cent of the girls suffered from VD, and penicillin had to be flown in from Britain.
On the grounds that the standard of morality of German women was so low, the British Army and Government agreed that troops should officially be excused from paying maintenance for any offspring that they conceived.
The Army C-in-C responded to the scandal by organising 'Leadership Courses' and early morning runs.
So much negligence, and so much callousness. But it has to be weighed against the loathing that existed for all things German -- a loathing which was being deepened by revelations of Nazi atrocities.
Newsreel of the death camps had been seen across the Western world.
Unlike eastern Europeans, the British in occupied Germany had no bloodlust for revenge.
AND their behaviour, even the worst of it, has to be set against the plans Hitler had for Occupied Britain, which decreed that Britain's entire able-bodied male population aged 17-45 would be dispatched to the Continent, thus bringing the UK effectively to a standstill.
And, slowly, some of the right decisions were made.
With a gigantic effort, German education in the British Zone was put back on its feet and the years of Nazi indoctrination overcome.
In June 1948 the three Western allies introduced the new currency, the Deutschmark, thus in a stroke destroying the black market and allowing shopkeepers to put goods on their shelves for sale in real money.
Finally, in July 1951, after six years, came the formal announcement of the end of 'the state of war with Germany'. The Army stayed on, but the Occupation was at an end.
A STRANGE Enemy People: Germans Under The British 1945-50, by Patricia Meehan, will be published by Peter Owen Publishers in September at GBP 17.99.
Please visit our APOCALYPSE AT DRESDEN Page as well as our other Pages dealing with Allied Hypocrisy, Lies, Disinformation and outright anti-German Propaganda:
Dresden - The Real Holocaust
The Other Holocausts of World War 2
July 18, 2010
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