History will tell you “To the victors go the spoils of war.” In the world of the previous centuries, that statement always rang true. People of the vanquished nation — or I should say civilians of the losing nation — always paid a very heavy price for what their leadership had pushed upon the people, that being war. Was this right or wrong? The victors, of course, would tell you that it was, regardless if they started it or not. History is always written by those who are victorious. As we know, anything written by man can be flawed and it has been at times. Vengeance, at times, has gone way too far. There are those who will say that I am right, while others will tell you that the vengeance did not go far enough.
World War II came at a cost that in this day and time can not be understood by most of us. The ones who lived it and fought it are the only ones who truly understand it. The way that I feel about it is this way: The German leadership and the Nazi Party came close to destroying all of humanity. In some cases, what was not destroyed was damaged beyond repair. The savagery of the German war machine must never be forgotten. This savagery must never be allowed to raise its hideous head ever again. Hitler’s SS troops should have been incinerated to the last man and most of them were. Reason being, these men knew what they had volunteered for. They were stone-cold killers. Even today, those who survived within the SS troops take pride in what they were and what they did. Be damned all of these old bastards. The pain and suffering that these men doled out was unspeakable and unbelievable, but it did happen. The only thing in this day and time that comes close to the SS brutality is ISIS. I have no compassion for men of this caliber.
The Nazi Party was a political party that most of the German people did not agree with. The German people were trapped by their own government. Today, we have people who will tell you that the German people could have revolted against the Nazis, they could have destroyed Hitler. Those words sound good and they make sense, right? But now think about this: the German people had been disarmed. They had no real weapons or even the ability to fight against the Nazis. While others will tell you that they could have done something to stop Hitler, a stick or a stone against a sub-machine gun means nothing other than the death of the one with the stone. The German people were also persecuted by the Nazis. Fear, for the German people, was an everyday occurrence. Propaganda was force-fed to the people. In Hitler’s mind, you were either with him or not. If you did not stand with him then you were part of the problem, that, in time, would be eradicated — one way or the other. The ovens of Dachau were not just for the Jews. The ovens were for all who did not give the Nazis blind obedience. This was to include the everyday German civilian who did not kneel to the Nazi Party.
The following was a statement from Hitler to the German people: “If the German people are no longer strong, they shall perish and be destroyed by a stronger power. I will not shed a tear for them.” What does that tell you about the German leadership? They were nothing more than pawns themselves.
That brings us to another holocaust that would be placed upon the backs of the German population — maybe not to the degree of what the Jews suffered, but still a slaughter of innocent civilians. The world watched and it mattered not. From May of 1945 to the early part of 1947, hundreds of thousands of German civilians were slaughtered. The slaughter came at the hands of all of Europe. They were starved, shot and beat to death. All of the Europeans saw it this way. Germany was the fault for two world wars.
Our own government was to play a big part in the slaughter of the German people, in a round-about way. Starvation was the tool. American troops stationed in Germany were forbidden from giving food to or fraternization with the German people. Our government told the troops to destroy any food rather than give it to the starving German people. All of Europe, during the summer of 1946 was to see the worst drought in more than 100 years. The harvests of crops did not take place as they would have in normal years. Now add to the misery of all of Europe the fact that the winter of 1946 and 1947 was one of the coldest ever to be recorded.
Now bring into play the 15 million German refugees that had to be fed. They weren’t. No one wanted to share the limited food and shelter that was available. The German people were used as a tool of revenge against Hitler’s Nazis. I understand the feelings of the people of Europe. In their eyes, it didn’t matter that the leadership of Germany was truly at fault. It was the simple fact that the German people were available and these displaced people were all over Europe in little pockets. They made perfect targets. History fades in time, the truth and the lies. Time does not take away the pain and suffering, it just makes the memories dimmer to the mind. Hate, on the other hand, goes hand-in-hand with revenge.
One of the reasons that the German people were sought out was because of groups of former SS troops that had gone into the country side to continue Hitler’s fight even in his death. This guerrilla force was put into place to fight behind enemy lines. They were made up of Hitler Youth and old men. This force would become known as the “Werewolves.” The Werewolves started out fighting the allied troops with guerrilla warfare tactics. In short order, that changed. They, as the Russians did, turned to the scorched-earth tactics.
They also turned on their own German population. They killed collaborators or anyone with a defeatist attitude. Vigilantes took it upon themselves to destroy anything of value that the Allies could use, even though it might hurt the German people. The German infrastructure had been destroyed by Allied bombing to begin with, but the guerrillas wanted to destroy it all — that being the power plants, water works and anything else that they could bomb. At different times, the German people would fight the Werewolves just to save their own jobs and be able to feed their families. These fighters would continue to fight, all the way into 1948. They not only fought our American troops but also the Red Army. SS troops had sworn allegiance to Hitler but also allegiance to themselves. This would be the reason why they would continue to fight.
That is also part of the reason that the German people were killed by the thousands. The insurgents blended in with the other Germans. Death mattered not to those who had been oppressed for the last six years by the Nazis. The death I talk about is the German civilians, of course. They were killed by troops from all over Europe. The German people were sick of the war and anything dealing with war. The only Americans who could have ever related to those feelings would have been our Southerners during and after the war of Northern Aggression. These few words can not and do not tell the whole story, there is just no way to do it all here on these pages. War, as I see it, is never the answer. But who can say, in the aftermath of war, who is right or wrong? All people suffer.
Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.