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History Noble Wehrmacht Myth...is it a myth?

Lord Sovereign

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Now I'm not trying to lionise the German Army of World War II, as they did some rather horrible things throughout. When you're the war machine of a totalitarian state, you aren't going to be nice. There were even elements of it involved in the final solution, but one should distinguish "elements" from "massed divisions." But I feel there's been a bit of an "over correction" with the Wehrmacht's record in recent years, against this myth of them being clean, almost to the point where all the rank and file are depicted as Nazi true believers. Now the German Army was many things, but they just weren't the SS. Indeed, as I understand it, they hated the SS.

A myth it may be, but all myths are grounded in fact. And I myself think the simple truth is your bog standard German soldier was not a monster. As I understand it, most of them balked at the full details of the Final Solution. People who are fully on board with that don't have massed ritual burnings of Nazi uniform when they find out.
 

ParadiseLost

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Its kinda hard to argue that the Wehrmacht were all Nazis when a good portion of the Abwehr spent much of the early 1940s plotting to assassinate Hitler and trying to start peace talks with the allies.

The head of the Abwehr, literally the German equivalent to the Director of CIA, was executed for high treason.

As for the average soldier, I've always felt that "just following orders" absolutely should've been a legitimate offense.
 

sillygoose

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Yeah, ever since the 1970s, though particularly since the 2000s when the internet put the culture war into hyperdrive, there has been a huge push to 'correct the record' and demonize Germany in its entirety during WW2. Certainly the German army wasn't clean, but as you rightly point out no army in war was, certainly none of the Allied ones. Murdering prisoners was quite common in the US army for instance, more so than the British. IMHO it largely comes from the political left in academia both in Europe and the US because it is apologia for communist crimes against humanity, because if 'the fascists' are the pinnacle of evil then anything the communists did is entirely justified as fighting 'fascism'. See how Putin justifies his war in Ukraine as a 'de-nazification' drive despite Russia today being closer to nazism than any other ideology. There are of course elements of the the mainstream conservatives in the US that have also pushed that narrative as well, because it shines up America's rather dirty reputation since WW2, but the basis is largely from the left. Academics in particular know they can publish all sorts of nonsense about the war because there is ZERO pushback or accountability for anything they write on the subject.

What's so interesting is prior to the 2000s it was even acknowledged by upper level officers who had fought in WW2 in the Anglophone world who became historians that even the Waffen-SS weren't as dirty as portrayed either and much of what is negatively said about them either came from Soviet propaganda, applied to specific divisions, or came from western propaganda that didn't differentiate between the non-combat SS and the combat units or blew specific incidents way out of proportion (Malmedy) especially since the Americans in particular killed prisoners just as often if not more so.
 

ShieldWife

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There are good and bad on all sides of every war. One of the great horrors of war is that most soldiers are generally good young men who believe that they are fighting to protect their nation against the bad guys. War is having the innocent patriotic young men, sometimes even teenagers, kill each other.

World War II was like all wars in that there were shades of gray, good and bad and in between on all sides. But the study of WWII has gone far beyond history, it’s become a religion, a mythology even when pure Satanic evil manifested on earth and it was only stopped because a small band of plucky rebels managed to defeat the Evil Empire with courage, determination, and the America Way. Anybody who doesn’t completely accept this narrative is a heretic who must be punished.
 

Abhorsen

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Yeah, ever since the 1970s, though particularly since the 2000s when the internet put the culture war into hyperdrive, there has been a huge push to 'correct the record' and demonize Germany in its entirety during WW2.
Eh, there was also a pretty big push to separate "Nazism" from "Germans" in general, starting immediately after the war, and by the Allies. They needed those troops to defend against the USSR, so they didn't want to destroy the military. So there's a real reason for the time delay. Prior to this perceived necessity, the Germans were all viewed as Nazis by the Allies, then suddenly separation is made around 1950.

Look at the Himmerod Memorandum, for example.

But the myth is 100% a myth. The Commissar Order is the big piece of evidence, where the Wehrmacht were given full authority to execute anyone, including civilians, during Barbarossa, who were "thuroughly bolshivized".

About 600,000 were killed because of this order.

They also participated in the Holocaust, both rounding up jews and killing them.
 

sillygoose

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Eh, there was also a pretty big push to separate "Nazism" from "Germans" in general, starting immediately after the war, and by the Allies.
Not by the Americans or Brits. They did try to put the blame on the Nazis leaders hanged at Nuremberg, but punished all Germans all the same. That didn't change until 1947-48. It was only about 1948 when the Cold War came into focus that rehabilitation of the reputation regular army was allowed (only in official media) because it was clear they would need west Germany on their side. The idea to reestablish the army only came during the Korean War.

They needed those troops to defend against the USSR, so they didn't want to destroy the military. So there's a real reason for the time delay. Prior to this perceived necessity, the Germans were all viewed as Nazis by the Allies, then suddenly separation is made around 1950.
The German Army was disbanded. It was destroyed and abolished totally. It was only brought back in 1955. In 1951 a small border police force was established, but that was about it. The 1955 force was entirely created with the approval and intense oversight by the Americans. The Korean war really made that clear.

Look at the Himmerod Memorandum, for example.
Right, the Korean War forced the issue. Without that it is doubtful there would have been a Bundeswehr for quite some time.

But the myth is 100% a myth. The Commissar Order is the big piece of evidence, where the Wehrmacht were given full authority to execute anyone, including civilians, during Barbarossa, who were "thuroughly bolshivized".
The Commissar Order was only to shoot political agents in uniform, that is the Communist Party representatives who were not protected by the Geneva Convention. Loose rules were given to the anticipated guerrilla war that would be fought, but actual orders to massacre civilians only came 2 weeks into the war when it was clear the guerrilla war had spiraled out of control and they had to take extreme actions to prevent supply lines from collapsing. There was a series of escalating orders starting in July that increased the target list from just commissars to just about any government official to Jewish males of fighting age.

About 600,000 were killed because of this order.

They also participated in the Holocaust, both rounding up jews and killing them.
It is unclear how many were actually killed as there is a fair bit of evidence that the reports sent back to Himmler were inflated to gain his approval and promotion while the actual killing was avoided due to how psychologically stressful it was. Alcoholism and suicide were rampant in the executioners. Plus the numbers in the Einsatzgruppen reports don't actually tally with the final numbers given.

Manstein's British lawyer wrote a book about his trial and has a whole chapter on all the bullshit that went on and how when actually looking into the evidence things were much more murky that it seemed; for instance there was on massacre in Crimea that supposedly saw 10,000 Jews murdered in 12 hours, but when they looked into how many men were actually involved (100) it was physically impossible (long explanation for why) for that to have happened and based on all sorts of witness statements the actual number killed was about 300 and they were all related to the guerrilla war behind the lines, not non-combatants.

Anyway the deaths were not specifically due to the orders, but due to the horrific guerrilla war.
In general, during the war, the damage inflicted by the partisans is estimated at about 1 million destroyed, wounded and captured invaders and their accomplices from among the local population, about 20,000 railway echelon crashes were carried out, about 4,000 tanks and armored vehicles were destroyed and put out of action, more than 2,000 artillery pieces. , 65,000 vehicles, up to 12,000 bridges were destroyed (of which 1,600 were railway). But it is not even the damage inflicted that is of strategic importance, but the diversion from the front of a large number of troops of Germany and its allies (on average, about 10% of all troops operating on the Soviet-German front) and the disruption of most of the measures of the German occupation administration to supply the economy of the Reich for account of the occupied territories of the Soviet Union [137] .
So much havoc was created by it from the very beginning that the Germans basically decided to create deserts and call it peace. Since the Jews were the principles supporters of the guerrilla war, at least per the Germans, which actually does make sense given the hostility the Jewish community had to the Nazis and how the other borderlands ethnic groups were occupied people that hated the Soviets, they became the principle victims of the guerrilla war.

Fucked up, but then the war was brutal as fuck. See what the US did in Korea and Vietnam to guerrillas and other civilians.

Or the Russians did in Ukraine and the Baltics from 1944-54.
 

Abhorsen

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The German Army was disbanded. It was destroyed and abolished totally. It was only brought back in 1955. In 1951 a small border police force was established, but that was about it. The 1955 force was entirely created with the approval and intense oversight by the Americans. The Korean war really made that clear.
Eh, the OSS was pushing for it from the beginning.

The Commissar Order was only to shoot political agents in uniform, that is the Communist Party representatives who were not protected by the Geneva Convention.
They absolutely were protected by Geneva. They had guns, had a uniform, and thus were soldiers. Alternatively, they were civilians, at which point you still can't execute them.

Like that's not even a good argument.

So much havoc was created by it from the very beginning that the Germans basically decided to create deserts and call it peace. Since the Jews were the principles supporters of the guerrilla war, at least per the Germans, which actually does make sense given the hostility the Jewish community had to the Nazis and how the other borderlands ethnic groups were occupied people that hated the Soviets, they became the principle victims of the guerrilla war.
You are justifying murdering the entire population here. That bolded thing? That's evil, and also clearly against the rules of war (even at the time). The rest doesn't actually follow, as the Germans killed plenty of Slavs and Poles too.

Manstein maybe didn't do those specific things (Otto Ohlendorf disagrees, and he was hardly trying to save his own life). He definitely received regular reports about the commissar killings, which he lied about. But maybe he didn't actually do the evil, in which case fine, he's not guilty. But he is not the Wehrmacht. There's a whole Army of them, and many were guilty and did do atrocities.

The conditions USSR soldiers were kept in are also war crimes, along with the forced labor they were made to do.


I'd put the Wehrmacht basically even with the Red army in terms of atrocities. Not as bad as the SS, but still plenty of mass killings to go around.
 

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They absolutely were protected by Geneva. They had guns, had a uniform, and thus were soldiers. Alternatively, they were civilians, at which point you still can't execute them.

Like that's not even a good argument.
Yes, the entire point of the Geneva conventions defining combatants the way they do (uniformed, armed forces) was specifically so that a nation couldn't unilaterally decide that certain disliked units didn't count. The idea that it was legitimate for the Nazis to do so is absolute bullshit.
 

Abhorsen

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The thing is, the clean Wehrmacht is really one of those conspiracies that was blown wide open as the propaganda didn't hold up. The Wehrmacht did a shit ton of horrible things, enough horrible things that the truth became eventually became known, despite propaganda.

The key issue I have with someone saying that the army was all guilty, however, is that I despise the concept of collective guilt. Each soldier was responsible for what they did, and exactly that. So some members were clean. Some weren't. But as a whole, the Wehrmacht was pretty fucking dirty.

Comparing them to the US outside of WW2 plane bombins, however, is laughable. Yes, there were bad things the US did, but on nowhere near the scale as the Wehrmacht.
 
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bintananth

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The myth of a "noble Whermacht" is much the same as saying that Union abolitionists weren't racist assholes.

Sherman flat out said that sandbags were more valueable than colored troops and several northern states had, as a part of their State Constitutions (Oregon and Indiana among them), that it was outright illegal for a Negro to set foot within state lines.
 
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Battlegrinder

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I think there's definitely been a swing in perception for how the Wehrmacht was perceived in general. I'll mostly use military hardware as the example, because I know enough about that to make a mostly informed point, but the narrative holds true for other related topics.

In the 90s and earily oughts, there was a lot more the "massive German industrial war machine where we need 5 to one odds to take down thier tanks", a precepetion that was in part propaganda to make us look good, because we beat them in the end and the tougher they were, the more awesome we look. At some point around 2015 when everyone decided to become an expert in 1930s German politics so they could make cringy comparisons to bad orange man, the narrative swing around to "actually no one ever fought a tiger, because they all broke down on the way to battlefield, because nazis are stupid and can't build anything right", which a vast overcorrection in the other direction.

The truth is somewhere between those two points, though probably closer to the "defective POS that never worked right" side of things than anything else. Just because we got to that point via a severe overcorrection doesn't mean the answer is to swing back around to "awesome nazi super tank".
 

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I think there's definitely been a swing in perception for how the Wehrmacht was perceived in general. I'll mostly use military hardware as the example, because I know enough about that to make a mostly informed point, but the narrative holds true for other related topics.

In the 90s and earily oughts, there was a lot more the "massive German industrial war machine where we need 5 to one odds to take down thier tanks", a precepetion that was in part propaganda to make us look good, because we beat them in the end and the tougher they were, the more awesome we look. At some point around 2015 when everyone decided to become an expert in 1930s German politics so they could make cringy comparisons to bad orange man, the narrative swing around to "actually no one ever fought a tiger, because they all broke down on the way to battlefield, because nazis are stupid and can't build anything right", which a vast overcorrection in the other direction.

The truth is somewhere between those two points, though probably closer to the "defective POS that never worked right" side of things than anything else. Just because we got to that point via a severe overcorrection doesn't mean the answer is to swing back around to "awesome nazi super tank".
In terms of equipment Wehrmacht never really outmatched the Allies.

Their best tended to be fussy, hard to repair, and prone to breakdowns. Sure, it was often better than Allied gear ... when it worked.
 

ShadowArxxy

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The thing is, the clean Wehrmacht is really one of those conspiracy theories that was blown wide open as the propaganda didn't hold up. The Wehrmacht did a shit ton of horrible things, enough horrible things that the truth became eventually became known, despite propaganda.
That's really the thing. The "clean Wehrmacht" wasn't really a myth, in the sense that it was not something that arose out of bad historical research or post-war mythologization. Rather, it was a politically expedient act of propaganda and misinformation that was intentionally created and actively spread by the Western Allies, exactly paralleling the propaganda of a "clean" Emperor in Japan and for exactly the same reason.

At some point around 2015 when everyone decided to become an expert in 1930s German politics so they could make cringy comparisons to bad orange man, the narrative swing around to "actually no one ever fought a tiger, because they all broke down on the way to battlefield, because nazis are stupid and can't build anything right", which a vast overcorrection in the other direction.
It became reasonably well-known long before 2015 that Allied troops commonly misidentified lesser German panzers as Tigers, and that actual Tigers were relatively rarely encountered. Indeed, this was a known fact during the actual war, as it was one of the main reasons Sherman tanks continued to be built with the 75mm gun well into 1944 even though experimental fits with the 76mm gun had started being worked on by 1942.

The Panther was a bit of an unpleasant surprise, in terms of being produced on a much larger scale than the U.S. Army expected -- the expectation was that it was going to be essentially a lighter but more refined heavy that would still only be fielded in limited numbers like the Tiger, whereas the Germans actually intended it as their next-generation medium.
 
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sillygoose

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Eh, the OSS was pushing for it from the beginning.
I've never seen it claimed that the OSS was for rebuilding the German army in 1945. Besides even if true it wouldn't have mattered as literally no one else wanted that and once FDR was gone the OSS was on the chopping block. Truman disbanded them in September 1945, literally a month after the war ended.

They absolutely were protected by Geneva. They had guns, had a uniform, and thus were soldiers. Alternatively, they were civilians, at which point you still can't execute them.

Like that's not even a good argument.
Not according to Manstein's British lawyer. Their legal status was still not determined under international law at the time Manstein was being tried. They were political party members inserted into military units to maintain political control over the army. They did not have a command role and were solely there for political reasons. Having a gun and political party uniform doesn't make you a soldier. That that that mattered given what the Soviets themselves did to uniformed soldiers before and during WW2:

The nature of the Soviet regime and the start of their warcrimes immediately into the war (and well before it) effectively meant that for both side international law didn't matter, what mattered was who won in the end. After all there is a reason the German army mostly obeyed the rules of warfare in previous campaigns, but the Eastern Front turned into a horror show. Despite that the Germans actually did approach the Soviets to get an agreement to respect the Geneva Convention and exchange prisoner lists (which they had been sending to the Soviets), but were entirely ignored. You can't simply look at one side and their behavior without looking at the wider context of the conflict in which they were operating or expected to operate in based on previous conflicts that an anticipated enemy fought in.

Besides the Allies did the same thing when they repeatedly issued orders not to take the SS or paratroopers prisoner, the Soviets set up special camps for Nazi party members at least 80,000 of whom died, Eisenhower completely violated international law by declaring prisoners Disarmed Enemy Personnel so that they didn't have to abide by the Geneva Convention in their treatment, etc. WW2 was dirty as fuck all around, so the pretense of rules of war is little more than hypocrisy.

You are justifying murdering the entire population here. That bolded thing? That's evil, and also clearly against the rules of war (even at the time). The rest doesn't actually follow, as the Germans killed plenty of Slavs and Poles too.
Not at all, I'm explaining the context of the radicalization of warfare in the east. It is never justified to murder innocent civilians. The problem with the discussion of 'clean' or 'dirty' war is ignoring the context; usually it is claimed that the Germans were all evil racists who were just salivating at murdering Jews just because, aka the Goldhagen thesis. The reality is much more murky and largely a function of a brutal guerrilla war that escalated the atrocities from the very beginning. Remember the only order given pre-war that could be specifically regarded as criminal was the Commissar Order; the rest of the orders to start being indiscriminately murderous came weeks into the war. Before that though the guerrilla war kicked off and Stalin gave his Partisan War speech over the radio that ordered all occupied Soviet citizens become combatants:
Stalin: Brothers and Sisters!
IOSIF STALIN, RADIO ADDRESS TO THE SOVIET PEOPLE. JULY 3, 1941

Translated by James von Geldern
After weeks of silence following the German invasion, in which confused Soviet commanders and citizens awaited the word of their Leader, Stalin gave the following address over Soviet Radio. His invocation of Soviet citizens as his “Brothers and Sisters” was to set the tone for solidarity that held up throughout the difficult following few years.
In areas occupied by the enemy, guerrilla units, mounted and foot, must be formed, diversions groups must be organized to combat the enemy troops, to foment guerrilla warfare everywhere, to blow up bridges and roads, to damage telephone and telegraph lines, to set fire to forests, stores and transports. In the occupied regions, conditions must be made unbearable for the enemy and all his accomplices. They must he hounded and annihilated at every step, and all their measures frustrated.
This war with fascist Germany cannot he considered an ordinary war It is not only a war between two armies; it is also a great war of the entire Soviet people against the German-fascist forces. The aim of this national war in defense of our country against the fascist oppressors is not only elimination of the danger hanging over our country, but also aid to all European peoples groaning under the yoke of German fascism.
But the guerrilla war had stared before this and of course there was all the NKVD crimes that confirmed all Nazi propaganda about the Soviets:
Those started immediately and as many as 40,000 people executed in a matter of days all over the front.
That's not counting the atrocities of the Destruction Battalions, which often formed the basis for partisan groups:

The Soviets were massacring civilians and German PoWs from the beginning, which partisans or Soviet army stragglers who became partisans were ambushing and mutilating German prisoners and PoWs.

The Red Army was dirty as fuck since the Russian Civil War and rapidly brutalized the Wehrmacht as well. You can't expect one side to stay clean while the other immediately starts fighting a dirty war, including against civilians in occupied areas and their own country. Not that that makes any atrocities of the Germans or Nazis acceptable or appropriate, but the reality of the conflict is that the Soviets started the dirty war before the Commissar Order had even been carried out or indeed before the Germans even invaded if you look at the links, which could do nothing but cause the Axis forces to get brutalized and respond accordingly.

And it wasn't simply the Germans/Nazis either.


Even the Slavic Slovaks:
Slovak troops took part in Operation Bamberg, an anti-partisan action in which 5,000 alleged partisans, including 200 Jews, were shot.[3] Slovak soldiers participated in numerous pogroms and frequently robbed Jews during the first days and weeks of the occupation in the summer of 1941. However, there was no equivalent of the Barbarossa decree (which authorized Wehrmacht soldiers to execute civilians without trial) and some Slovak soldiers were tried for robbing or murdering Jews, receiving only very light sentences. Many Slovak soldiers and the army leadership nevertheless approved of the Holocaust.
Why was it that every Axis army that fought in the east in WW2 basically behaved the same way despite not having the same orders as the German army? Might it be the behavior of the Soviets and the nature of the guerrilla war in the East?

Hell even Manstein's British lawyer when researching the documents about the fighting in the East even said the German army (not the Einsatzgruppen or SS) fought about as reasonable a war as was possible given the nature of the conflict. To be clear he said the German army, NOT the SS or other non-army security services.

Manstein maybe didn't do those specific things (Otto Ohlendorf disagrees, and he was hardly trying to save his own life).
You should read what Pagent (Manstein's lawyer) said about Ohlendorf and how many times he changed his testimony depending on how hard he was trying to save his own life. He was not a reliable witness at all and Pagent was able to point out all the flaws in his testimony over and over, which in any other trial would have gotten his testimony disregarded. So yes, he was trying to save his own life, but that ultimately didn't work. Originally he was given immunity to testify to whatever the prosecution wanted at Nuremberg (same with Bach-Zelewski who was never prosecuted, but worked with the US military to give them counter-insurgency tips, much like how they used Klaus Barbie), but Ben Ferencz found the Einsatzgruppen reports and raised such a stink they let him put 22 picked officers on trial to shut him up. Then Ohlendorf changed his testimony and started talking about how the reports were flawed and all sorts of things that contradicted his other testimony. Ultimately he still rightfully hanged for his crimes.

Though Ben Ferencz had some interesting methods of getting confessions:
In a 2005 interview for The Washington Post, he revealed some of his activities during his period in Germany by way of showing how different military legal norms were at the time:
You know how I got witness statements? I'd go into a village where, say, an American pilot had parachuted and been beaten to death and line everyone one up against the wall. Then I'd say, "Anyone who lies will be shot on the spot." It never occurred to me that statements taken under duress would be invalid.[9]
He definitely received regular reports about the commissar killings, which he lied about. But maybe he didn't actually do the evil, in which case fine, he's not guilty. But he is not the Wehrmacht. There's a whole Army of them, and many were guilty and did do atrocities.
You have evidence of that? Because according to the British lawyer that was not true at all. When a corps commander he refused to pass the order on and he did not get convicted on that charge. When he became 11th army commander the order had already been issued earlier in the war and carried out, so there was little he could do about it since higher commanders had already put things into motion. Manstein wasn't convicted on that.

Some of the Wehrmacht did do it, but given the role of Commissars in instigation atrocities against German PoWs and their role in the guerrilla war (well documented by the Wehrmacht warcrimes bureau) the soldiers were going to do what they were going to do when they were caught. Which more similar to what US soldiers did during the Korean and Vietnam wars when dealing with insurgencies that most would like to admit. Or what happened in Iraq with the torture program the US set up. Or the Soviets did to deal with insurgencies in Poland, the Baltics, and Ukraine before and after the 'Great Patriotic War'. Why is it no one ever talks about the unclean US army or Red Army? Only the 'myth of the clean Wehrmacht'. The reality is when it comes to guerrilla warfare there is no such thing as a clean army. Orders or not everyone gets dirty, so it is silly to talk about 'clean' or 'dirty' regarding any military caught up in such a conflict. THAT is the entire point I'm getting at, the entire concept of the 'myth' is stupid sophistry among academics to sell books.

The conditions USSR soldiers were kept in are also war crimes, along with the forced labor they were made to do.
German PoWs had worse conditions. Until Spring 1943 the death rate of German PoWs was over 90% and they had to do forced labor. Special orders were issued by Stalin not to take prisoners in 1941 and the Red Cross was barred from their PoWs camps. Not only that, but the Germans tried to negotiate Geneva Convention treatment of PoWs on both sides and get Soviet help feeding the Soviet PoWs, but the Soviets ignored all the pleas. Since the Soviets had destroyed or removed most of the food supplies and agricultural equipment in the occupied territories there was a famine, but the Soviet government refused to help their own people, so they starved as the Germans lacked the food to feed them.
The details are all in "Stalin's War" by Sean McMeekin if you want.
According to the archival materials, Bogoslavsky said, the Axis powers offered to exchange lists of prisoners with the Soviets in December 1941. Molotov's deputy, Andrei Vyshinsky, wrote to his boss that a list of German prisoners had been compiled and advised that it be released to prevent harm to the Soviet Union's reputation.

"But Molotov wrote on the message, '...don't send the lists (the Germans are violating legal and other norms),'" Bogoslavsky said. "After that, almost all the letters and telegrams received from the Red Cross...were marked by Molotov as 'Do Not Respond.'"
The Soviet government adopted this policy as a result of a cold-blooded calculus.

"By the end of 1941, more than 3 million people had been taken prisoner, and one of the Soviet leadership's goals was to control this avalanche," Bogoslavsky said. "A Soviet soldier had to understand that if he was captured, he wouldn't be getting any food parcels from the Red Cross and he wouldn't be sending any postcards to his loved ones. He had to know that the only thing awaiting him there was inevitable death."
One Soviet document issued under Stalin's signature, the historian noted, asserted that "the panic-monger, the coward, and the deserter are worse than the enemy."

In addition, the Soviet government refused to allow any Red Cross representatives into its own notorious prison camps, where they might stumble on secrets of Stalin's prewar repressions.
"The distribution of food and medicine to prisoners was carried out by representatives of the Red Cross, and that would have meant allowing them access to camps in the Soviet Union," Bogoslavsky said. "The Soviet leadership was categorically opposed to that. Despite numerous requests, Red Cross representatives were never given visas to travel to the Soviet Union."

"Of course, the entire responsibility for the mass deaths of Soviet prisoners must fall on the leadership of the Third Reich," he added. "But Stalin's government, in my opinion, was guilty of not giving moral support or material assistance to its own soldiers, who were simply abandoned."
In 1942, Romania offered to release 1,018 of the worst-off Soviet prisoners in exchange for a list of Romanians being held by the Soviet Union.

"The Soviet leadership simply ignored that offer," Bogoslavsky said.

"The Soviet Union was the only country that refused to cooperate with the Red Cross and did not even allow Red Cross delegations onto its territory," he added. "Germany did not work with the Red Cross in connection with Soviet prisoners, but it did cooperate concerning those of its Western enemies -- the Americans, the British, and the French."
I'd put the Wehrmacht basically even with the Red army in terms of atrocities. Not as bad as the SS, but still plenty of mass killings to go around.
Sure, but again that was largely due to the brutality with which the Soviets fought the war from the beginning. I'd really recommend this book for the context of the war:

The Red Army was as bad as the SS and Einsatzgruppen if not even worse given what they did in German at the end of the war. The single largest ethnic cleansing in European history was conducted by the Red Army:


Not to mention the worst mass rapes which hit all of Eastern and Central Europe, including against Russian women in German captivity:
 
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ATP

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Now I'm not trying to lionise the German Army of World War II, as they did some rather horrible things throughout. When you're the war machine of a totalitarian state, you aren't going to be nice. There were even elements of it involved in the final solution, but one should distinguish "elements" from "massed divisions." But I feel there's been a bit of an "over correction" with the Wehrmacht's record in recent years, against this myth of them being clean, almost to the point where all the rank and file are depicted as Nazi true believers. Now the German Army was many things, but they just weren't the SS. Indeed, as I understand it, they hated the SS.

A myth it may be, but all myths are grounded in fact. And I myself think the simple truth is your bog standard German soldier was not a monster. As I understand it, most of them balked at the full details of the Final Solution. People who are fully on board with that don't have massed ritual burnings of Nazi uniform when they find out.
During 1939 campaign Wermacht murdered more then 500 polish POW - but others was treated well.Certainly they behaved better then soviets in 1939.And they do not genocided polish elites,SS did so.

So,they were no SS,but not knights,either,just average dudes.
Noble Wermacht is myth,but thet still never was on soviet level.
 
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sillygoose

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Comparing them to the US outside of WW2 plane bombins, however, is laughable. Yes, there were bad things the US did, but on nowhere near the scale as the Wehrmacht.
Because of the logistical difficulties of feeding all of the nearly two million of surrendered German soldiers at the levels required by the Geneva Convention during the food crisis of 1945,[4] the purpose of the designation, along with the British designation of Surrendered Enemy Personnel (SEP), was to prevent categorization of the prisoners as Prisoners of War (POW) under the 1929 Geneva Convention.
They changed the rules so they didn't have to feed their prisoners. War crime and crime against humanity by the Allies own rules, especially given the charges regarding the lack of food for Soviet PoWs in 1941 despite Germany being unable to feed them due to lack of food and Soviet assistance. The US had no lack of food even with transportation difficulties in 1945.

In the aftermath of the 1944 Malmedy massacre, in which 80 American POWs were murdered by their German captors, a written order from the headquarters of the 328th U.S. Army Infantry Regiment, dated 21 December 1944, stated: "No SS troops or paratroopers will be taken prisoner but [rather they] will be shot on sight."[60] Major-General Raymond Hufft (U.S. Army) gave instructions to his troops not to take prisoners when they crossed the Rhine in 1945. "After the war, when he reflected on the war crimes he authorized, he admitted, 'if the Germans had won, I would have been on trial at Nuremberg instead of them.'"[61] Stephen Ambrose related: "I've interviewed well over 1000 combat veterans. Only one of them said he shot a prisoner ... Perhaps as many as one-third of the veterans...however, related incidents in which they saw other GIs shooting unarmed German prisoners who had their hands up."[62]
The US army as a matter of policy completely tossed out the Geneva and Hague conventions as soon as the war was over and committed all sorts of crimes that would have gotten the leaders hanged. Shooting prisoners was a LOT more common that anyone wanted to admit.

A new document was drafted, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directive 1067 (JCS 1067). Here the US military government of occupation in Germany was ordered to "take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany [or] designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy" and it was also ordered that starvation, disease and civil unrest were to be kept below such levels where they would pose a danger to the troops of occupation.

The directive was formally issued to Eisenhower in the spring of 1945, and it applied only to the US zone (although attempts had been made to get the other Allies to accept it). The occupation directive remained secret until October 17, 1945. It was made known to the public two months after the US had succeeded in incorporating much of it into the Potsdam Agreement.[51]
On May 10, 1945, Truman signed JCS 1067.[52] Morgenthau told his staff that it was a big day for the Treasury, and that he hoped that "someone doesn't recognize it as the Morgenthau Plan".[53]
In occupied Germany Morgenthau left a direct legacy through what in OMGUS commonly were called "Morgenthau boys". These were US Treasury officials whom Dwight D. Eisenhower had "loaned" to the Army of occupation. These people ensured that the JCS 1067 was interpreted as strictly as possible. They were most active in the first crucial months of the occupation, but continued their activities for almost two years following the resignation of Morgenthau in mid-1945 and some time later also of their leader Colonel Bernard Bernstein, who was "the repository of the Morgenthau spirit in the army of occupation".[54]
Morgenthau had been able to wield considerable influence over Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1067. JCS 1067 was a basis for US occupation policy until July 1947, and like the Morgenthau Plan, was intended to reduce German living standards. The production of oil, rubber, merchant ships, and aircraft were prohibited. Occupation forces were not to assist with economic development apart from the agricultural sector.
In his 1950 book Decision in Germany, Clay wrote, "It seemed obvious to us even then that Germany would starve unless it could produce for export and that immediate steps would have to be taken to revive industrial production."[55] Lewis Douglas, chief adviser to General Lucius Clay, US High Commissioner, denounced JCS Directive 1067 saying, "This thing was assembled by economic idiots. It makes no sense to forbid the most skilled workers in Europe from producing as much as they can in a continent that is desperately short of everything."[56]
Another consequence of the Allied policy of "Industrial Disarmament" (see The industrial plans for Germany) was that there was a drastic fall in fertilizer available for German agriculture, thus further decreasing foodstuff production capacity.[26]

The German infant mortality rate was twice that of other nations in Western Europe until the close of 1948.[27]
The adequate feeding of the German population in occupied Germany was an Allied legal obligation[28][29] under Article 43 of The 1907 Hague Rules of Land Warfare.[30]
On March 20, 1945, President Roosevelt was warned that the JCS 1067 was not severe enough: it would let the Germans "stew in their own juice". Roosevelt's response was "Let them have soup kitchens! Let their economy sink!" Asked if he wanted the German people to starve, he replied, "Why not?"[31]

By August 1945 General Clay was becoming increasingly concerned about the humanitarian and political situation in the area under his responsibility. He stated "There is no choice between being a communist on 1,500 calories [6,300 kJ] a day and a believer in democracy on 1,000 calories [4,200 kJ]".
General Clay would later remark in his memoirs that "there was no doubt that JCS 1067 contemplated the Carthaginian peace which dominated our operations in Germany during the early months of occupation."[33]
The precise effect of the food crisis on German health and mortality has been a matter of some contention. Speaking of the Anglo-American zones, Herbert Hoover reported that in the fall of 1946, starvation produced a 40 percent increase in mortality among Germans over 70.[22]
During 1945 it was estimated that the average German civilian in the U.S. and the United Kingdom occupation zones received 5,000 kJ (1,200 kcal) a day.[15] Meanwhile, non-German Displaced Persons were receiving 9,600 kJ (2,300 kcal) through emergency food imports and Red Cross help.[16]
The historian Nicholas Balabkins notes that the Allied restrictions placed on German steel production, and their control over where the produced coal and steel was delivered, meant that offers by Western European nations to trade food for desperately needed German coal and machinery were rejected. Neither the Italians nor the Dutch could sell the vegetables that they had previously sold in Germany, with the consequence that the Dutch had to destroy considerable proportions of their crop. Denmark offered 150 tons of lard a month; Turkey offered hazelnuts; Norway offered fish and fish oil; Sweden offered considerable amounts of fats. The Allies were however unwilling to let the Germans trade.[25]
The conditions these prisoners had to endure were often harsh. A number of the camps in Western Germany, especially initially, were huge wired-in enclosures lacking sufficient shelter and other necessities.[10] (see Rheinwiesenlager) Since there was no longer a danger of German retaliation against Allied POWs, "less effort was put into finding ways of procuring scarce food and shelter than would otherwise have been the case, and, consequently, tens of thousands of prisoners died from hunger and disease who might have been saved".[10]
The International Red Cross and the few other allowed international relief agencies were kept from helping Germans through strict controls on supplies and on travel.[14]
On February 4, 1946, the Red Cross was permitted to visit and assist prisoners also in the U.S. occupation zone of Germany, although only with very small quantities of food. During their visits, the delegates observed that German prisoners of war were often detained in appalling conditions. They drew the attention of the authorities to this fact, and gradually succeeded in getting some improvements made.[12]
Not all that different from Nazi policy toward the East. The big difference is the Allies kept Germany starving for years AFTER the war and it was their armies in occupation that carried out those policies. Myth of the clean US army?
 
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Abhorsen

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I've never seen it claimed that the OSS was for rebuilding the German army in 1945. Besides even if true it wouldn't have mattered as literally no one else wanted that and once FDR was gone the OSS was on the chopping block. Truman disbanded them in September 1945, literally a month after the war ended.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rheinwiesenlager https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disarmed_Enemy_Forces They changed the rules so they didn't have to feed their prisoners. War crime and crime against humanity by the Allies own rules, especially given the charges regarding the lack of food for Soviet PoWs in 1941 despite Germany being unable to feed them due to lack of food and Soviet assistance. The US had no lack of food even with transportation difficulties in 1945.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_war_crimes#European_theater
.3% deathrate in the US camps versus 58% deathrate of Soviet POWs. Remember that thing I said about scale?

The US was bad, but nowhere near as bad as the Germans, this isn't a difficult concept, and you really haven't managed to give any counter evidence to this.

And that's not even counting the additional murders of civilians (also in the millions). And the Wehrmacht helped in this under military necessity.
 
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sillygoose

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.3% deathrate in the US camps versus 58% deathrate of Soviet POWs. Remember that thing I said about scale?
The US didn't keep track of the death rate. They claim only 1000 PoWs died in their custody in Europe, which is a complete joke. To the point that even Stephen Ambrose said those numbers are a farce. We don't know how many died. And no I don't buy James Bacque's 'Other Losses' argument that 1 million died. Maybe a couple hundred thousand, but not 1 million.

As to the Soviet PoW death rate, remember when I said the food situation was the major problem? The reason there was such a major difference in the death rate of British and American PoWs in German custody and Soviet ones was the American and British governments let the Red Cross feed their PoWs, the Soviets forbade it and destroyed any food that might help the Axis war effort during their 1941 Scorched Earth campaign. Food captured in the 1942 campaign meant the Soviet death rate dropped to very low levels after 1941 despite German civilians being hit with food shortages as early as 1941.

The US was bad, but nowhere near as bad as the Germans, this isn't a difficult concept, and you really haven't managed to give any counter evidence to this.
German army or SS/Nazis? I'd say the armies were roughly similar, the divergence was the Nazis/SS. Though the Morgenthau Plan/JCS 1067 was very bad and very deliberate. The Nazis at least had the excuse of not having enough food to feed their own people thanks to the British blockade and Soviet destruction of food, the Allies post-war willfully threw the Geneva Convention into the toilet and flushed, purposely starving occupied civilians until 1948. If you can't read that in the above links and quotes you're willfully ignoring the evidence.

And that's not even counting the additional murders of civilians (also in the millions). And the Wehrmacht helped in this under military necessity.
Murders by the SS and Nazi orgs, mostly not by the army. Einsatzgruppen and SS brigades fighting the partisan war in Belarus were not under army command. The army killings were highly limited and part of the partisan war and revenge killings for Soviet atrocities. The PoW starvation was about not having enough food to feed everyone and civilians were prioritized; the Soviet government meanwhile refused not only to help but banned the Red Cross from helping.

The extent to which the regular army participated in exaggerated in modern discourse. Certainly the German army wasn't clean, but then they fought an enemy the Wallies never did, so didn't have to respond in the same way. When they did the British and Americans were brutal as fuck:


The British authorities suspended civil liberties in Kenya. Many Kikuyu were forced to move. According to British authorities 80,000 were interned. Caroline Elkins estimated that between 160,000 and 320,000 were interned in detention camps also known as concentration camps.[219] Other estimates are as high as 450,000 interned. Most of the rest – more than a million Kikuyu – were held in "enclosed villages" as part of the villagisation program. Although some were Mau Mau guerrillas, most were victims of collective punishment that colonial authorities imposed on large areas of the country. Thousands were beaten or sexually assaulted to extract information about the Mau Mau threat.
Later, prisoners suffered even worse mistreatment in an attempt to force them to renounce their allegiance to the insurgency and to obey commands. Prisoners were questioned with the help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes". Castration by British troops and denying access to medical aid to the detainees were also widespread and common.[220][221][222] Among the detainees who suffered severe mistreatment was Hussein Onyango Obama, the grandfather of U.S. President Barack Obama. According to his widow, British soldiers forced pins into his fingernails and buttocks and squeezed his testicles between metal rods and two others were castrated.[223]


My point is the German army was no worse than their foes. There is a reason that the Eastern Front behavior of the German army was different than in the West and that due to the Red Army/NKVD behavior. The SS/Nazis are another topic altogether and yes they were dirty as can be.
 

Lord Sovereign

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I know that the Wehrmacht were quite anti-semitic and didn't at all treat Jews well when they fell under their power (even the Afrika Corps weren't exempt from this), but their behaviour strikes me a bit more as old fashioned thuggishness against an ancient scapegoat for the most part, instead of industrialised mass murder of the undesirables. If anything, their anti-semitism strikes me in the same way the Northern States were racist in the American Civil War: not at all nice and deeply unfair, but a far cry from the horrors of the plantations which they themselves abhorred.
 

Abhorsen

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The US didn't keep track of the death rate. They claim only 1000 PoWs died in their custody in Europe, which is a complete joke.
No, even if it was 10k, that's two orders of magnitude less than the Germans. And I was going off of the 3k-6k estimate.

The reason there was such a major difference in the death rate of British and American PoWs in German custody and Soviet ones was the American and British governments let the Red Cross feed their PoWs, the Soviets forbade it and destroyed any food that might help the Axis war effort during their 1941 Scorched Earth campaign.
Yeah, this also isn't true. The POWs in the same camps were treated different because the Slavs were Untermenchen. Hitler denied the Red Cross access to them, not the soviets. And there was deliberate starvation done despite available food as per the Hunger Plan.

These are the brits, I'm talking about the US. Also, there were about 10k deaths, including of enemy soldiers in the Mau Mau rebellion. Which again, brings us to the scale thing, that you seem to be ignoring. Or maybe not ignoring, because quite simply, the US didn't commit crimes on such a scale at least since the end of slavery.

And if you want to mention rapes, the German Army only bothered reporting it if a whole unit did it, because no one cared.


Look, quite frankly, none of your excuses is standing up to basic scrutiny.

I know that the Wehrmacht were quite anti-semitic and didn't at all treat Jews well when they fell under their power (even the Afrika Corps weren't exempt from this), but their behaviour strikes me a bit more as old fashioned thuggishness against an ancient scapegoat for the most part, instead of industrialised mass murder of the undesirables. If anything, their anti-semitism strikes me in the same way the Northern States were racist in the American Civil War: not at all nice and deeply unfair, but a far cry from the horrors of the plantations which they themselves abhorred.
There was deliberate murder though, beyond just thuggishness. The Wehrmacht maybe didn't set out to be mass murderers, but then deliberate orders came down to engage in murder, and they helped out because 'following orders'.
 
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