“In late March or early April 1945, I was sent to guard a POW camp near Andernach along the Rhine. I had four years of high school German, so I was able to talk to the prisoners, although this was forbidden. Gradually, however, I was used as an interpreter and asked to ferret out members of the S.S. (I found none.)
In Andernach about 50,000 prisoners of all ages were held in an open field surrounded by barbed wire. The women were kept in a separate enclosure that I did not see until later. The men I guarded had no shelter and no blankets. Many had no coats. They slept in the mud, wet and cold, with inadequate slit trenches for excrement. It was a cold, wet spring, and their misery from exposure alone was evident.
Even more shocking was to see the prisoners throwing grass and weeds into a tin can containing a thin soup. They told me they did this to help ease their hunger pains. Quickly they grew emaciated. Dysentery raged, and soon they were sleeping in their own excrement, too weak and crowded to reach the slit trenches. Many were begging for food, sickening and dying before our eyes. We had ample food and supplies, but did nothing to help them, including no medical assistance.
Outraged, I protested to my officers and was met with hostility or bland indifference. When pressed, they explained they were under strict orders from “higher up.” No officer would dare do this to 50,000 men if he felt that it was “out of line,” leaving him open to charges. Realizing my protests were useless, I asked a friend working in the kitchen if he could slip me some extra food for the prisoners. He too said they were under strict orders to severely ration the prisoners’ food, and that these orders came from “higher up.” But he said they had more food than they knew what to do with, and would sneak me some.
When I threw this food over the barbed wire to the prisoners, I was caught and threatened with imprisonment. I repeated the “offense,” and one officer angrily threatened to shoot me. I assumed this was a bluff until I encountered a captain on a hill above the Rhine shooting down at a group of German civilian women with his .45 caliber pistol. When I asked, “Why?,” he mumbled, “Target practice,” and fired until his pistol was empty. I saw the women running for cover, but, at that distance, couldn’t tell if any had been hit.” – Martin Brech, Adjunct Professor, Mercy College
“While German soldiers from the British and Canadian zones were quickly regaining strength and were helping rebuild Europe, Germans taken by the Americans were dying by the hundreds of thousands – emaciated figures in diarrhea smeared clothing, huddling pitifully in watery holes with perhaps a scrap of cardboard over their heads and a rotten potato for supper. At times many of them were reduced to drinking urine and eating grass.” – Lt. Col. Gordon “Jack” Mohr, AUS Ret.
“My two comrades and I were put in cage 17, on the Rhine side; when we first entered, there was still grass and some clover on the ground but only for minutes — the hunger was too enormous! After that, there was mud and only mud all around! We had to scratch a new hole as a bed for the three of us.
Every morning a truck passed by the cages to pick up the dead from the previous night, those who were either shot within or on the fences, or dead from hunger or typhoid, dysentery and other sicknesses. Of every ten attempting to escape, eight were shot and two got through. The youngest inmates were 13 or 14 years old, the oldest around 80. Sometimes the Americans picked up everybody whom they could find in the streets. Our impression of the Americans was that of gangsters, even worse than the Nazis had described them in their propaganda.” – WERNER WILHELM LASKA (in a U.S. Death Camp)