I was wondering how long it would take Mr Wear and his friends to focus on the POW situation in Germany in the weeks and months surrounding the German surrender.
At the end of the war, 5 million German soldiers surrendered to the Allies. The numbers were far greater than the Americans could actually manage in those first chaotic weeks of April and May. Mr Wear, using the work of Canadian journalist James Bacque, would have us believe that the Americans and the French deliberately allowed over 1 million German POWs to die by not feeding them and not allowing them medical treatment. The main area of focus for these deaths seems to be the Rhine camps.
The friends of Mr Wear seem to have us believe that Mr Wear’s book:
…address[es] WWII in such a unique way.
There is nothing in Mr Wear’s book that is unique. In this case, everything relies heavily on Mr Bacque’s book, “Other Losses”.
Before starting my rebuttal of Mr Wear/Mr Bacque’s theories, let us have some background regarding the real conditions for German POWs in April 1945.
Because of the vast amount of German POWs taken in April 1945, the Americans were forced to build enclosures to contain the men. These were overcrowded and in the first weeks lacked any shelter. POWs were forced to dig holes in the ground for shelter. Food was very difficult to come by in those first days and weeks and no doubt some men, already weakened by months of deprivation on the front line will have died of illness and starvation. According to the GERMAN Maschke commission set up to examine the German POW situation more than 4,000 men died in these camps. As an absolute maximum, the figure could never have gone above 56,000 for deaths in US and French captivity. So what do all historians agree on?
- Conditions in the camps were horrendous.
- Food was in short supply.
- The US forces were overstretched.
- Some POWs died of malnutrition, disease and other causes in those first hectic weeks.
Conditions in the Rhine camps did improve relatively quickly as the Americans got themselves organised. By 4 August 1945 2 million German POWs had been released and around 1.2 million had been transferred to french control. Around 1.6 million were still in US hands. By September 1945 all but 2 of the camps had been closed down. Most German POWs had been released although many were transferred to France to help repair French infrastructure destroyed during the occupation. Of these men, around 23,000 are known to have died: 3.05% of the POW population. (source: Francois Cochet: University of Metz)
James Bacque and Mr Wear would have us believe that somewhere between 600,000 and over 1 million men dies in these US and French camps. To prove this, Mr Bacque points to a US document where around 600,000 men have been noted down as “other losses”. He concludes that these losses are dead POWs.
Unfortunately for Mr Bacque and Mr Wear, the August 1945 report of the Military Governor of the US zone made it quite clear what “other losses” were:
An additional group of 663,576 are listed as “other losses” consisting largely of members of the Volkssturm released without formal discharge.
So…having put the real historical facts in perspective, let us turn to Mr Wear’s article.
American Witnesses to the American and French Prisoner of War Camps
…numerous American soldiers and officers have come forth to witness the atrocious death rate in the American and French POW camps.
Actually this is a false statement. ALL eyewitness testimony regarding the POW camps on the Rhine and in France testify to the horrendous conditions in the camps. They mention some deaths and the horrendous conditions as well as brutality of some of the US guards, but they do not mention the numbers of dead that would have been required, to have fulfilled numbers beyond the 1 million mark.
Here, Mr Wear, is what the prisoners and US servicemen would have been describing if 1 million men had been dying over such a short period of time:
The conditions and scale of the Allied extermination camps for German POWs defies belief. We know that Elie Wiesel & his father decided to evacuate Birkenau & travel to Buchenwald with the Germans rather than be liberated by the Russian army. Why? Were the “evil” German guards kinder than the Allies? Germany had been devastated by extreme bombing. Food and medicines were scarce or non-existent, disease was rampant. Why would the “sadistic” German guards help and share what they had with Jews like the Wiesels while retreating from the enemy? Are any of these kind men in this extermination camp?
Nothing unbelievable at all. 5 million German soldiers surrendered to the US forces in a matter of days. Perhaps Mr Wear might like to tell us what the Americans could have actually done with these men that flooded the US zone.
As for the Wiesel rubbish. I busted this Nazi apologist myth in this article:
Still…what on earth the evacuation of Wiesel has to do with German POWs at the end of WW2 is beyond me.
One of the most credible and informative American witnesses is Martin Brech.
Mr Brech is the mainstay of James Bacque’s eyewitnesses. The problem is that Mr Bech has a history of dabbling in Holocaust denial and Nazi apologia. His story seems to have unsubstantiated embellishments.
In late March or early April, 1945, I was sent to guard a POW camp near Andernach along the Rhine.
So Brech was in the camp when conditions in the camp were at their worst.
The men I guarded had no shelter and no blankets; many had no coats. They slept in the mud, wet and cold, with inadequate slit trenches for excrement. It was a cold, wet spring and their misery from exposure alone was evident.
So far so good. His description corresponds with the known facts.
Even more shocking was to see the prisoners throwing grass and weeds into a tin can containing a thin soup. They told me they did this to help ease their hunger pains. Quickly, they grew emaciated. Dysentery raged, and soon they were sleeping in their own excrement, too weak and crowded to reach the slit trenches.
Pure hyperbole. Men would not be in that condition in such a short time. Photos taken of the camps at the same time do not show masses of walking skeletons as were seen by allied soldiers in camps like Ebensee concentration camp or Belsen.
We had ample food and supplies, but did nothing to help them, including no medical assistance.
That is not true. Where they could, Americans distributed food, but adequately feeding 50,000 men (in just one of 20 approx camps) in such a short period of time was impossible.
…they explained they were under strict orders from “higher up.”
There is absolutely no evidence for this claim. Indeed, soldiers such as Nicholas Gordon who was the Remagen communications officer testify that no orders were received from “higher up” to withhold food and water.
But he said they had more food than they knew what to do with and would sneak me some.
There is no evidence to that fact. Food was a major problem and concern for the Allies at the end of the war…as was its transportation.
They were mowed down.
There is no evidence for this. The only serious shooting incident at the camp was when it was taken over by the French. On 23 August 1945, 20 German POWs were shot by French guards.
German civilians were not allowed to feed, nor even come near the prisoners
Not true either. At Andernach The US authorities allowed the local villagers to bring food, clothing and blankets to the men. Photos exist of women feeding prisoners from outside the fences at places like Milspe as early as 18 April 1945.
On May 8, V.E. Day, I decided to celebrate with some prisoners I was guarding who were baking bread the other prisoners occasionally received. This group had all the bread they could eat, and shared the jovial mood generated by the end of the war.
So, after just a few weeks the camp was now supplying food to the men. The conditions had improved dramatically.
We were in what was to become the French zone, where I soon would witness the brutality of the French soldiers when we transferred our prisoners to them for their slave labor camps.
Why would Mr Brech be witness to the activities of French soldiers when the camp no longer had US soldiers in it. Mr Brech would no longer have been around to witness anything.
Shortly afterwards, some of our weak and sickly prisoners were marched off by French soldiers to their camp.
Not true. The French did not take over the camp until July 1945. Food supplies were being solved as early as May 1945. Mr Brech’s account seems to not quite fit the timeline.
Famine began to spread among the German civilians also
Indeed…as it was to be for women all over a war torn Europe. There was a food shortage which Mr Bacque claims never existed.
When I interviewed mayors of small towns and villages, I was told their supply of food had been taken away by “displaced persons” (foreigners who had worked in Germany), who packed the food on trucks and drove away.
DPs were in a worse physical condition than most people at the time. It is highly unlikely they would have been driving around in trucks…seriously….
Martin Brech saw bodies go out of the camp by the truckload
…and is prone to hyperbole.
but he was never told how many there were,
Indeed…..so he has really no idea. No doubt he saw some of the 4,000 bodies of men who had died in those P.W.T.Es.
Cpl. Daniel McConnell…Does not describe any mass deaths. The deaths he describe were in such small quantities that each individual body was tagged. Burials were even witness on occasions by family members! He describes the poor conditions in the camp, that is all.
Maj. Gen. Richard Steinbach…describes the conditions in the camp. He does not describe mass deaths. Indeed he comments on the improvements of the food supplies.
This was caused by the Morgenthau Plan
No it wasn’t. The plan was never used. Moreover, there was nothing in the plan that promoted the deliberate murder of German POWs anyway!
Steinbach said that the food and tents were delivered immediately from supplies nearby
So what exactly is Mr Wear’s point? All conform to what we already know. Poor conditions at first which steadily improved.
Gen. Withers Alexander Burress, like Steinbach a member of the Sixth Army command,found the same conditions in his camps.
Yep…but no descriptions of 10s of thousands of men dying on a weekly basis.
After the war conditions in the American camps grew steadily worse.
That is not what Mr Wear’s eyewitnesses have been telling us. Mr Wear is telling us lies.
U.S. Army Cols. James B. Mason and Charles H. Beasley observed the conditions in the American camps along the Rhine in April 1945
…but no descriptions of thousands of dead bodies littering the banks of the Rhine.
The inmates suffered from nagging hunger and thirst,
No doubt they did for a few days until measures were put in place to solve the issue.
large numbers died from starvation, dysentery, and exposure to the elements.
There is no evidence for this: neither via documentation nor via eyewitnesses.
I could smell it a mile away. It was barbaric.
I’m sure that thousands of men who had not washed in months before they had been captured would smell a great deal. It doesn’t mean those men were dead.
Gen. Mark Clark, the U.S. political commissioner in Austria, was horrified by the conditions in the U.S. camps when he arrived in Austria.
Mark Clark was very upset about conditions in these camps…but they were NOT German POW camps. They were camps containing real starving displaced persons. Men and women barely skin and bone and looking nothing like the hungry men of the German Wehrmacht: men and women found in camps like Ebensee.
The deplorable condition of the Austrian camps is confirmed by a special investigation held in September 1945 under the command of U.S. Lt. Col. Herbert Pollack. Pollack found starvation conditions and severe malnutrition problems among many of the prisoners in U.S. camps in Austria
The Harrison Report released in August 1945 had NOTHING to so with German POWs. It had everything to do with the conditions of Jewish DPs in Austria and attempts made to improve them.
….and so on and so on and so on…..
The military government has requested me to make it known, that, under no circumstances may food supplies be assembled among the local inhabitants, in order to deliver them to the German prisoners of war. Those who violate this command and nevertheless try to circumvent this blockade, to allow anything to come to the prisoners, place themselves in danger of being shot…
There is no indication at all here to whom this notice relates. There is no evidence at all that it relates to Germans kept in the Rhine camps. It is quite plausible that they did refer to the special camps housing SS and more hard line fanatical Nazi POWs many of whom were kept behind barbed wire far longer than the ordinary soldiers.
The conclusion we can arrive at is that in the last weeks of April and first weeks of May 1945 conditions in the overcrowded camps were bad….and that is all. There have been no descriptions of thousands of bodied being disposed of on a daily basis.
John Wear makes the outlandish claim that:
No one has yet debunked James Bacque’s book “Other Losses”.
I’m afraid that he is not telling the truth. Mr Wear even gives us the main rebuttal of “Other Losses”
Bischof, Günter, “Bacque and Historical Evidence,” in Bischof, Günter and Ambrose, Stephen E., (eds.), Eisenhower and the German POWs: Facts Against Falsehood, Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1992
James Bacque has never responded in detail to this rebuttal…and neither has Mr Wear.