By Nigel Jones
How three million Germans died after VE Day
Giles MacDonogh is a bon viveur and a historian of wine and gastronomy, but in this book, pursuing his other consuming interest – German history – he serves a dish to turn the strongest of stomachs. It makes particularly uncomfortable reading for those who compare the disastrous occupation of Iraq unfavourably to the post-war settlement of Germany and Austria.
MacDonogh argues that the months that followed May 1945 brought no peace to the shattered skeleton of Hitler’s Reich, but suffering even worse than the destruction wrought by the war. After the atrocities that the Nazis had visited on Europe, some degree of justified vengeance by their victims was inevitable, but the appalling bestialities that MacDonogh documents so soberly went far beyond that. The first 200 pages of his brave book are an almost unbearable chronicle of human suffering.
His best estimate is that some three million Germans died unnecessarily after the official end of hostilities. A million soldiers vanished before they could creep back to the holes that had been their homes. The majority of them died in Soviet captivity (of the 90,000 who surrendered at Stalingrad, only 5,000 eventually came home) but, shamingly, many thousands perished as prisoners of the Anglo-Americans. Herded into cages along the Rhine, with no shelter and very little food, they dropped like flies. Others, more fortunate, toiled as slave labour in a score of Allied countries, often for years. Incredibly, some Germans were still being held in Russia as late as 1979.
The two million German civilians who died were largely the old, women and children: victims of disease, cold, hunger, suicide – and mass murder.
Apart from the well-known repeated rape of virtually every girl and woman unlucky enough to be in the Soviet occupation zones, perhaps the most shocking outrage recorded by MacDonogh – for the first time in English – is the slaughter of a quarter of a million Sudeten Germans by their vengeful Czech compatriots. The survivors of this ethnic cleansing, naked and shivering, were pitched across the border, never to return to their homes. Similar scenes were seen across Poland, Silesia and East Prussia as age-old German communities were brutally expunged.
Given that what amounted to a lesser Holocaust was unfolding under their noses, it may be asked why the western Allies did not stop this venting of long-dammed-up rage on the (mainly) innocent. MacDonogh’s answer is that it could all have been even worse. The US Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, favoured turning Germany into a gigantic farm, and there were genocidal Nazi-like schemes afoot to starve, sterilise or deport the population of what was left of the bombed-out cities.
But the surviving inmates were soon replaced by German captives – Dachau, Buchenwald, Sachsenhausen and even Auschwitz stayed in business after the war, only now with the Germans behind the wire.
Building up West Germany and saving Berlin from Soviet strangulation with the 1948 airlift became the first battles of the Cold War – even if that meant overlooking Nazi crimes and enlisting Nazi criminals in the ‘economic miracle’ of reconstruction.
MacDonogh has written a gruelling but important book. This unhappy story has long been cloaked in silence since telling it suited no one. Not the Allies, because it placed them near the moral nadir of the Nazis;
VIDEO: Post WWII “The Living Dead” 1995 by Adam Curtis (video.google.com).
Episode 1 – On the Desperate Edge of Now
Episode 2 – You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough
Episode 3 – The Atti
From the quotes below taken from a 1946 speech by Winston Churchill you can see, that like Hitler, he also had desires of a “United States of Europe” and used the end of WWII as an excuse.
“We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”
“The fighting has stopped; but the dangers have not stopped. If we are to form the United States of Europe, or whatever name it may take, we must begin now.”
“The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honor by their contribution to the common cause. The ancient states and principalities of Germany, freely joined together for mutual convenience in a federal system, might take their individual places among the United States of Europe.”
“I must now sum up the propositions which are before you. Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of the United Nations Organization. Under and within that world concept we must re-create the European Family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. And the first practical step would be to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can.”
– Winston Churchill, 1946