By Wilfried Heink – The following essays are based mostly on “Verbrechen der Sieger. Das Schicksal der deutschen Kriegsgefangenen in Osteuropa”(Crimes of the victors. The fate of German POWs in Eastern Europe, Druffel-Verlag, Leoni am Starnberger See, 1975). It begins with a foreword by Brigadier General Wolfgang Schall, retired, POW in the SU (Soviet Union) from 1945 to 1955, as well as a statement of intent by Wilhelm Anders. No actual author is mentioned; it is a compilation of documents and witness statements by the Verband der Heimkehrer und Bund der Vertriebenen (Organization of Returnees and Organization of the Dispelled). They decided to publish this book in 1975 – as preparation for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of Germany’s defeat, and the distortions of history affiliated with that defeat – were underway.
Since then, many books have been written defaming German soldiers, portraying them as brutal killers. The latest effort by Sönke Neitzel and Harald Welzer, simply titled “Soldaten” (Soldiers), features a collection of ‘newly discovered‘ British and American wiretaps, allegedly of conversations of German POWs in various camps. And of course there was the 1995-1999 exhibition,“Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1994”(War of Annihilation: Crimes of the German armed forces 1941-1945), produced by theHamburge Institut für Sozialforschung (Hamburg Institute for Social Research), with its many distortions and outright lies, addressed by Walter Post in “Die Verleumdete Armee” (The defamed army, Pour le Mérite, 1999). These are just two of many examples of German scribblers, who call themselves historians, distorting history. But all of them ignore the book under discussion.
W. Schall writes, on p.7:
“Was die Wissenschaftliche Kommission für deutsche Kriegsgefangenengeschichte in fünfzehn Bänden und mehreren Beiheften an Zeugnissen zusammengetragen hat, ist ein Epos des Grauens und Leidens, das oft jede Phantasie übersteigt. Und doch haben wir es erlebt und sind Zeugen — soweit wir die Heimat wiedersehen durften“.
(The fifteen volumes of testimonies, compiled by the Scientific Commission for Prisoner of War History, tell of an epoch of horror and sufferings straining the imagination. But we did experience it and are witnesses – those of us, at least, who were fortunate enough to return home.)
Mr. Schall tells us that an official body did gather evidence of crimes committed by the victors, consisting of documents as well as testimonies: a fifteen volume endeavor. Prof. Seidler writes that the Wehrmacht (Third Reich fighting force) investigations documented 8,000 cases, including crimes committed by partisans on German soldiers, the results are contained in 226 folders. The whole of it was taken to the USA and only returned in 1968, with many of the files missing (Franz W. Seidler, Die Wehrmacht im Partisanenkrieg, Pour le Mérite-Verlag für Militärgeschichte, Selent, Austria 1999, p. 87). Prof. Seidler also writes that at the end of the war the Allies were not able to prove that Germans violated that elusive “International Law”; Germans, however, had documented numerous cases of the Allies doing so (Ibid, p. 89). The President – during the IMT proceedings of May 16, 1946 – prevented the German defense counsel Dr. Laternser from pointing this out, stating:
“We are not trying whether any other powers have committed breaches of international law, or crimes against humanity, or war crimes; we are trying whether these defendants have.” (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/05-14-46.asp, p. 521)
Victor’s ‘justice’ at its finest. What happened to this fifteen volume magnum opus? W. Anders writes on p. 9:
After the End: Who Put the Bad in Bad Kreuznach?
There was no “peace treaty” in place at the end of the War. German POWs were labelled “disarmed enemy forces” (DEF) rather that “prisoners of war” in order to skirt provisions of the Hague Land Warfare Convention which mandated humane treatment, including that which stated: “After the peace treaty, prisoners of war should be dismissed into their homeland within shortest period”. By this manipulation of justice, German POWS could be taken to the lands of their former enemies and used as slave labor for extended periods, often at the cost of their lives due to grim hardships encountered before, during and after transit. Furthermore, a German soldier designated as DEF had no right to any food, water or shelter, and could, as many thousands did, die within days.
There were no impartial observers to witness the treatment of POWs held by the U.S. Army. From the date Germany unconditionally surrendered, May 8, 1945, Switzerland was dismissed as the official Protecting Power for German prisoners and the International Red Cross was informed that with no Protecting Power to report to, there was no need for them to send delegates to the camps.
Half of the German POWs in the West were imprisoned by the US forces, half by the British. The number of prisoners reached such a huge proportion that the British could not accept any more, and the US consequently established the Rheinwiesenlager from April to September of 1945 where they quickly built a series of “cages” in open meadows and enclosed them with razor wire. One such notorious field was located at Bad Kreuznach where the German prisoners were herded into the open spaces with no toilets, tents or shelters. They had to burrow sleeping spaces into the ground with their bare hands and in some, there was barely enough room to lay down.
In the Bad Kreuznach cage, up to 560,000 men were interned in a congested area and denied adequate food, water, shelter or sanitary facilities and they died like flies of disease, exposure and illness after surviving on less than 700 calories a day. There are 1,000 official graves in Bad Kreuznach, but it is claimed there are mass graves which have remained off limits to investigation.
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