Wednesday 29 July 2009

Crimes against the Germans

This is a tragic story, one that deserves to be better known; and, yes, it was a crime against humanity, which involved, sad to say, the western powers as well as the Soviets. Anyway, you will find all of the details in Giles MacDonogh's After the Reich: from the Liberation of Vienna to the Berlin Airlift (London, 2007), specifically in Chapter 15, headed Where are our Men? Briefly, of the eleven million soldiers taken prisoner on or before May 1945 a million and a half never returned; most from captivity in the east, but also well over 100,000 in the west.

When Germany surrendered the Allies decided that the state had ceased to exist, so newly captured soldiers were defined as 'Surrendered Enemy Persons' or 'Disarmed Enemy Persons', which meant in practice that they had no protection as POWs under the Geneva and the Hague Conventions. Therefore almost half the soldiers taken by the British and Americans, both of whom had signed the Geneva Convention (the Russians had not), had no right to the same levels of subsistence and shelter. They were used, quite freely, as slave labour; and many died as such, while the likes of Fritz Sauckel and Albert Speer stood indicted at Nuremberg for this very crime. While the Americans were seeking to prosecute the perpetrators of the Malmedy massacre, where some hundreds of POWs had been killed by advancing SS units, anything up to 40,000, yes, 40,000, Germans were allowed to die of starvation, exposure and neglect in muddy, open-air camps scattered along the banks of the Rhine. A tragic story indeed.


  1. Hi Anastasia,

    Wouldn't it be right -- for the sake of balance -- if you would have mentioned also the German atrocities committed against Russian peaceful civilians: women, children and elderly people? Thirteen million (13,000,000) of them were killed by the German invaders from 1941 till 1944.

    What do you think?

    Michael Kuznetsov

  2. Thanks for your comment, Michael. You are absolutely right to highlight the German atrocities in Russia. Over that I have no dispute with you whatsoever. But that is a well-known story. This one far less so. You will find other pieces I have written here on the crimes of the Nazis.

  3. Have a look at Heinrich Himmler and the Nazi Millenium posted in September. You might also care to trawl through the items I've tagged under Nazism.

  4. Hi Anastasia,

    Yours seem to be interesting articles, yet I have not read all of them. Will give them a read as soon as possible.

    Have you visited my website?

    Your opinion would be much appreciated, for I believe you to be an outstanding personality judging by the range of your topics.



  5. Thanks, Michael. I love Russian history and literature. I'll check out your site over the weekend and get back to you. :-)

  6. I think your site is very interesting, Michael, well set out with some fascinating posts. That's not to say that I agree with everything you say, though. :-) Anyway, you may be interested in a new piece I intend to post tonight on the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

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