The evidence that backs up World War II stereotypes

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by BikerBabe, Apr 25, 2011.

  1. BikerBabe

    BikerBabe Active Member

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    #1 BikerBabe, Apr 25, 2011
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2011
    BBC News - The evidence that backs up World War II stereotypes

    The evidence that backs up World War II stereotypes

    By Stephen Evans
    BBC News, Berlin


    24 April 2011

    We all know the cliches of World War II - that the German military was ruthless and brutal, for example, and Italian soldiers gave up without a fight.

    But sometimes cliches are true. New evidence published this month in Germany indicates that the stereotypes were not mere propaganda but accurate pictures of reality.

    The evidence comes from recorded conversations between prisoners of war in bugged cells. The British had special camps near London for prisoners from Germany and Italy and the Americans had similar camps in Virginia and in San Francisco for Japanese prisoners.

    All had been selected because they were thought to have useful information, and informers were inserted among them to prompt them to talk.

    The transcripts of those conversations, buried in British and American archives, reveal the private voices of prisoners talking to each other. They show very different attitudes towards fighting - and dying.

    One of the authors, Professor Sonke Neitzel, cites, for example, a captured Italian admiral who tells a fellow prisoner that "everyone was running away and I couldn't defend Sicily". Then he adds tellingly, "I had the idea of running away as well".

    Professor Neitzel says no German officer would ever have said that.

    He told the BBC that the attitude of the Italian soldiers revealed in the transcripts was that they thought their state was corrupt and that their leadership was corrupt, so their view was: "Why should we, small soldiers, risk our lives for this corruption?"

    Accordingly, Professor Neitzel said, "they decided it might be better not to fight to the last shell. So they surrendered very soon".

    Shame

    Professor Neitzel's work is published as Soldaten - Soldiers - with the subtitle, "Transcripts of Fighting, Killing and Dying."

    He and his fellow author, Harald Welzer, examined more than 150,000 pages of transcripts of recordings made secretly by their British and American captors, and now stored in the British Public Records Office in Kew in London and in the National Archives of the United States.

    [​IMG]


    An American eavesdropper listens in


    Professor Neitzel says attitudes to the state and authority determined what a soldier did at the "point of surrender". Italians were most likely to surrender and the Japanese least. The German attitude, as revealed in the conversations, was: "I fought well but I lost so now I go into British captivity".

    In contrast, the Japanese attitude was one of deep shame to have been captured, a shame which British and American intelligence exploited.

    Professor Neitzel described the interrogators' technique: "They would say: 'If you don't tell me military secrets, I will tell your family you are here in this camp'. They would respond: 'I'll tell you everything, but don't tell my family'."

    German 'certainty'

    Professor Neitzel told the BBC he doesn't believe any nation had soldiers, who were "naturally" more brutal than any other. The Allies, he said, took no prisoners in the early days of the Normandy landings.

    But the transcripts reveal a picture of brutality that is uncomfortable for Germans today.

    This, Professor Neitzel thinks, may stem from the great certainty about the worth of their cause, that the German soldiers revealed in their private conversations.

    [​IMG]

    German soldiers were not "naturally" brutal - but
    German society abhorred weakness, say the authors.



    "German society had a special attitude to military behaviour which was, 'Never be weak'. You have to obey orders, so German counter-insurgency depended on extreme violence at the beginning in the belief that this would save German blood in the long term. Only winning matters."

    In the transcripts, ordinary German soldiers relate how they raped and then killed their female victims, for example.

    They tell of the casual way in which they killed civilians, in one case simply shooting a man to get his bike.

    The accounts express joy at the death of civilians. A pilot tells of a raid on Ashford in Kent in south-eastern England: "There was an event on the market square, crowds of people, speeches being given. We really sprayed them! That was fun!"

    In another transcript a submariner boasts of how a ship carrying children had been sunk.

    Another captured pilot told of a raid on Eastbourne on the coast of the South of England. He spotted a castle where a party was taking place: "We attacked and really stuck it to them. Now that, my dear friend, was a lot of fun."

    ------------------------
     
  2. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I read an article about this in the German magazine "Stern" a few days ago (maybe was Der Spiegel). Very very interesting subject.
     
  3. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    I dont think it was just a sense of the rightnessof their cause. I think that the experineces of many German units also brutalized those men. Iread a book (I think the title was "Fighting In Hell _ The german experinces on the Eastern Front"). The book looks in detail at the German combat experiences and how they were forced to often watch their comrades die needlessly. They watched as human life was cheapened beyond anything that could be reasoned away. This brutalization process had its effect on otherwise decent men, to the point that they could be made to do anything really

    There were similar experiences for the Australians in the Jungle. As they realized that the Japanese were not taking prisoners, there was a retaliation by the "boots on the ground" Many more Japanese surrendered than are shown in the published figures. An unknown percentage were simply summarily executed by their captors, because of the Japanese behaviours

    It was disturbing reading.
     
  4. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    My dad was in the 1st Marines at Guadalcanal.
    In his opinion the Japanese when trapped with no likely way out, would commit suicide too soon out of fear of capture. They would take absolutely no chanch of being incapacitated so bad they couldn't resist capture, so they'd kill themselves early in a engagement. Where, maybe, if they had resisted longer they may have inflicted more casualties on us.

    Another reason for few captures was a rumour that Japanese would fake a surrender, but have a hidden grenade. That's why you see so many pictures of Japanese troops surrendering in just a loincloth.
    Plus the Marines were short on men, and rations, as were the Japanese. Guarding a prisioner takes men from the fight, and food that was in very short supply.

    War is brutal.
     
  5. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Anyone who has been in any war can confirm all of the above. All soldiers dehumanize their opponents, i.e. a G**k is not human and therefore is much easier to kill. It is even worse in a guerrilla war where women, children, old men can and often are the enemy and you see friends who stopped to have their shoes shined killed by the 8YO shoeshine boy.
    German soldiers had been throughly brainwashed by their governments. They were the Herrenvolk totally superior to all others. Do you worry, torment yourself, cry, have conscience attack because you've killed a dog?
     
  6. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    Interesting find Maria, thanks for posting!
     
  7. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I've read in a book about early German invasion of Russia. The Soviets saw way too many Russian soldiers were surrendering, in their opinion, too easily.

    So they had NKVD units brutally kill German prisoners, and leave the evidence for all to see. Knowing the Russian troops seeing this would know they would be in turn brutalized by the Nazis, so less likely to surrender.

    I wish I could remember the book, I've always wondered if it was truth or bs.
     
  8. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    tyro, I've always heard the opposite. The Germans looked upon the Slavic people as less than animals. The Slaves looked upon the Germans as liberators. German brutalization turned what might have been a useful ally into an enemy.
    In Vietnam, the NVA had been thoroughly brainwashed that the Americans would kill/torture/rape them so no surrender was possible. Most NVA POWs were amazed we didn't. Some food, clothes, good treatment, money and you couldn't stop them from talking
     
  9. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    I'm not disagreeing with what the affect of Nazi indoctrination on German troops. But early in the invasion the Russian military command might not have known that. This was their muddleheaded remedy to too many Russian soldiers surrendering.
     
  10. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

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    I wonder what the Italians and Germans thought of the Americans and UK troops? The probably did the exact same thing to the allied POW's.
     
  11. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I have been wondering the same thing too, and I am sure it was done as well. Would be very interesting if there is any info about this out there. Anyone heard of anything like this done by the Germans?
     
  12. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    I have nothing substantive to back this up but somewhere I recall reading that initially the Germans regarded them as a joke, as did the British: 'our Italians'.
    Later, the Germans learned more respect, but rather for their resources than for their fighting qualities or those of their generals except for Patton. The Americans were almost criminally badly deployed before the Ardennes offensive.
     
  13. tyrodtom

    tyrodtom Well-Known Member

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    Underestimating your opponent is a big mistake to make in any competitive event, and war is the ultimate competitive event.
     
  14. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    There were instances of mistreatment of Allied (western) troops by the germans, and some completely illegal orders issued concerning the tratment of commandos, however, it was not generally systematic. In contrast, the treatment of Soviet POWs by the germans, and conversely German POWs by the Soviets, was sytematically brutal, illegal and inhumane.
     
  15. psteel

    psteel Member

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    #15 psteel, May 2, 2011
    Last edited: May 2, 2011
    I was reading Adam Tooze "Wages of Destruction", which goes at length into genocidal policies of the nazi regime. Its well known that Hitler’s main aim to invade Russia was firstly to exterminate the Jews and Slavs and secondarily to grab the extensive resource base of that country. In effect to make it into a colony to support German empire.

    But Tooze has a interesting take on this whole process. He argues that the main reason they went in, was to do to Eastern Europe and Western Russia what the USA did to the American continent. That is to say they displaced the local population in favor of German immigration.... however rather than leaving the killing of the '1 million Indians' to the settlers, they would do it themselves and do it completely the first time. This would speed up the whole process in a matter of years instead of decades. I guess that would be like the "Germanizing" the region or forming a "United States of German"?

    OK that was in bad taste, but he makes a compelling argument.
     
  16. mikewint

    mikewint Well-Known Member

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    Lebensraum was an oft stated Nazi policy, in addition they had hoped to secure the Russian oilfields. it turned potential allies into enemies
     
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