- "Expose the victorious Allies in their treatment
of the enemy at peace, for in most cases it was not the criminals who were
raped, starved, tortured or bludgeoned to death but women, children and
- Part I
- Those who honestly chronicle human events, present or
past, are a rare and honorable breed. We should certainly ennoble them
within the pantheon of our earthly gods. As we do so, we will no doubt
include those who, not out of alienation against the West or the United
States or its people but out of a thirst for truth, are bringing to light
the awful events that followed in the wake of World War II (as well as
the enormities that were committed as part of the way in which the war
was fought against civilian populations, although that is a subject we
won't be exploring here).
- That war has been known among Americans as "the
good war," and those who fought it as "the greatest generation."
But now, slowly, we are hit by the realities so commonplace to a complex
human existence: there was much that was not good, and along with the self-sacrifice
and high intentions there was much that was venal and brutal. These realities
are coming to the surface because there are some scholars, at least, who
are aware that an ocean of wartime propaganda spawns a myth that continues
for several decades and who have a commitment to truth that overrides the
many inducements to conform to the myth.
- This article began as a simple review of Giles MacDonogh's
book that is identified above. His book is largely of the myth-breaking
sort I have just praised. Because, however, there is valuable additional
material that I am loath to leave unmentioned, I have expanded it to include
other information and authors, although leaving it primarily a review of
After the Reich.
- MacDonogh's is a puzzling book, both brave and craven,
mostly (but not entirely) worthy of the high praise we must give to incorruptible
scholars. As we have noted, the American public has long thought of the
Allied effort in World War II as a "great crusade" that pitted
good and decency against Nazi evil. Even after all these years, it is likely
that the last thing the public wants to learn is that vast and unspeakable
wrongs were committed by both the Western Allies and the Soviet Union during
the war and its aftermath. It flies in the face of that reluctance for
MacDonogh to tell "the brutal history" at great length.
- That willingness is commendable for its intellectual
bravery. In light of it, it is puzzling that even as he does so he puts
a gloss over that history, in effect continuing in part a cover-up of historic
proportions that has been fixed in place by the overhang of wartime propaganda
for almost two-thirds of a century.
- The great value of his book thus cannot be found in its
completeness or its strict candor, but rather in its providing something
of a bridge-albeit quite an extensive one-that can start conscientious
readers toward further study of an immensely important subject.
- For this article, it will be valuable to begin by summarizing
the history MacDonogh relates (and to add somewhat to it). It is only after
doing this that we will discuss what MacDonogh obscures. All of this will
then lead to some concluding reflections.
- In his Preface, MacDonogh says his purpose is to "expose
the victorious Allies in their treatment of the enemy at peace, for in
most cases it was not the criminals who were raped, starved, tortured or
bludgeoned to death but women, children and old men." Although this
suggests the tone of the book will be one of outrage, the narrative is
in the main informative rather than polemical.
- MacDonogh's scholarly background includes several books
of German and French history and biography (as well as four books on wine).
- The expulsions (today called "ethnic cleansing").
- At the end of the war, MacDonogh tells us, "as many
as 16.5 million Germans were driven from their homes." 9.3 million
were expelled from the eastern portion of Germany, which was made a part
- (Both the eastern and western boundaries of Poland were
drastically shifted westward by agreement of the allies, with Poland taking
an important part of Germany and the Soviet Union taking eastern Poland.)
The other 7.2 million were forced from their ancestral homes in Central
Europe where they had lived for generations.
- This mass expulsion was settled upon in the Potsdam Agreement
in mid-1945, although the Agreement did make it explicit that the ethnic
cleansing was to take place "in the most humane manner possible."
Churchill was among those who supported it as conducive "to lasting
- In fact, the process was so inhumane that it amounted
to one of history's great atrocities. MacDonogh reports that "some
two and a quarter million would die during the expulsions." This is
at the lower end of such estimates, which range from 2.1 million to 6.0
million, if we take only the expellees into account. Konrad Adenauer, very
much a friend of the West, found himself able to say that among those expelled
"six million GermansS are dead, gone." We will be seeing MacDonogh's
account of the starvation and exposure to extreme cold to which the post-war
population of Germany was subject, and it is worth mentioning at this point
(even though it goes beyond the expulsions) that the historian James Bacque
says that "the comparison of the censuses has shown us that some 5.7
million people disappeared inside Germany between October 1946 [a year
and a half after the war ended] and September 1950S."
- What MacDonogh calls "the greatest maritime tragedy
of all time" occurred when the ship the Wilhelm Gustloff, carrying
Germans from Danzig in January 1945, was sunk with "anything up to
9,000 people,S many of them children." In mid-1946, "pictures
show some of the 586,000 Bohemian Germans packed in box cars like sardines."
At another point MacDonogh tells how "the refugees were often packed
so tightly that they could not move to defecate and emerged from the trucks
covered with excrement. Many were dead on arrival." [This calls to
mind the scenes described so vividly in Volume I of Solzhenitsyn's The
Gulag Archipelago.] In Silesia, "streams of civilians were forced
from their homes at gunpoint." A priest estimated that a quarter of
the German population of one Lower Silesian town killed itself, as entire
families committed suicide together.
- The condition of the German population--starvation and
extreme cold. Germans refer to 1947 as Hungerjahr, the "year of hunger,"
but MacDonogh says that "even by the winter of 1948 the situation
had not been remedied." People ate dogs, cats, rats, frogs, snails,
nettles, acorns, dandelion roots and wild mushrooms in a feverish effort
to survive. In 1946, the calories provided in the U.S. Zone of Germany
dropped to 1,313 by March 18 from the mere 1,550 provided earlier. Victor
Gollancz, a British and Jewish author and publisher, objected that "we
are starving the Germans." This is similar to the statement made
by Senator Homer Capehart of Indiana in a speech to the U. S. Senate on
February 5, 1946: "For nine months now this administration has been
carrying on a deliberate policy of mass starvationS." MacDonogh
tells us that the Red Cross, Quakers, Mennonites and others wanted to bring
in food, but "in the winter of 1945 donations were returned with the
recommendation that they be used in other war-torn parts of Europe."
In the American zone of Berlin, "it was American policy that nothing
should be given away and everything should be thrown away. So those German
women who worked for the Americans were fantastically well fed, but could
take nothing home to their families or children." Bacque says "foreign
relief agencies were prevented from sending food from abroad; Red Cross
food trains were sent back to Switzerland; all foreign governments were
denied permission to send food to German civilians; fertilizer production
was sharply reducedS The fishing fleet was kept in port while people starved."
- Under the Russian occupation of East Prussia, MacDonogh
sees "striking similarities" to Stalin's "deliberate starvation
of the Ukrainian kulaks in the early 1930s." As in the Ukraine, "cases
of cannibalism were reported, with people eating the flesh of their dead
- The suffering from extreme cold mixed with the starvation
to create misery and a heavy death toll. Even though the winter in 1945-6
was a normal one, "the terrible lack of coal and food was acutely
felt." Abnormally cold winters struck in 1946-7 ("possibly the
coldest in living memory") and 1948-9. In Berlin alone, 60,000 people
were thought to have died within the first ten months after the end of
the war; and "the following winter killed off an estimated 12,000
more." People lived in holes among the ruins, and "some Germans-particularly
refugees from the east-were virtually naked."
- In his book Gruesome Harvest: The Allies' Postwar War
Against The German People, Ralph Franklin Keeling cites a quote from a
"noted German pastor": "Thousands of bodies are hanging
from trees in the woods around Berlin and nobody bothers to cut them down.
- Thousands of corpses are carried into the sea by the
Oder and Elbe Rivers-one doesn't notice it any longer. Thousands and thousands
are starving in the highwaysS Children roam the highways aloneS."
- In his The German Expellees: Victims in War and Peace,
Alfred-Maurice de Zayas told how in Yugoslavia Marshal Tito used camps
as extermination centers to starve Germans.
- Mass rape-to which one must add the "voluntary sex"
obtained from starving women.
- The onslaught of rape by invading Russian forces is,
of course, infamous. In the Russian zone of Austria, "rape was part
of daily life until 1947 and many women were riddled with VD and had no
means to cure it." MacDonogh tells us that "conservative estimates
place the number of Berlin women raped at 20,000." When the British
arrived in Berlin, "officers later recalled the shock of seeing the
lakes in the prosperous west filled with the corpses of women who had committed
suicide after being raped." The age of the victim made little difference,
with those raped ranging from 12 to 75. Nurses and nuns were among the
victims (some as many as fifty times). "The Russians were particularly
hard on the nobles, setting fire to their manor houses and raping or killing
the inhabitants." Although "most of the unwanted Russian children
were aborted," MacDonogh says "it is estimated that between 150,000
and 200,000 'Russian babies' survived." The Russians raped wherever
they went, so that it wasn't just German women who were raped, but also
women of Hungary, Bulgaria, the Ukraine, and Yugoslavia even though it
was on the same side.
- There was an official policy against rape, but it was
so commonly ignored that "it was only in 1949 that Russian soldiers
were presented with any real deterrent." Until then, "they were
egged on by [Ilya] Ehrenburg and other Soviet propagandists who saw rape
as an expression of hatred."
- Although there was a "widespread incidence of rape
by American soldiers," there was an enforced military policy against
it, with "a number of American servicemen executed" for it. Criminal
charges brought for rape "rose steadily" during the final months
of the war, but declined sharply thereafter. What did continue was arguably
almost as bad: the sexual exploitation of starving women who "voluntarily"
sold sexual services for food. In Gruesome Harvest, Keeling quotes from
an article in the Christian Century for December 5, 1945: "The American
provost marshalS said that rape represents no problem for the military
police because 'a bit of food, a bar of chocolate, or a bar of soap seems
to make rape unnecessary.'"
- The extent of this is shown by the figure MacDonogh provides
of an "estimated 94,000 Besatzungskinder or 'occupation children'
[who] were born in the American zone." He says that in 1945-6 "many
female children resorted to prostitution to survive. Boys, too, performed
a service for Allied soldiers."
- Keeling, writing for the 1947 publication of his book
[which explains his use of the present tense], said there was "an
upsurge in venereal diseases which has reached epidemic proportions,"
and went on to say that "a large proportion of the contamination has
originated with colored American troops which we have stationed in great
numbers in Germany and among whom the rate of venereal infection is many
times greater than among white troops." In July 1946, he says, the
annual rate of infection for white soldiers was 19%, for black troops 77.1%.
He reiterated the point we are making here when he pointed to "the
close connection between the venereal disease rate and availability of
- If MacDonogh mentions rape by British soldiers, it has
escaped me. He does tell, however, of rape by Poles, the French, Tito's
partisans, and displaced persons. In Danzig, "the Poles behaved as
badly as the RussiansS It was the Poles who liberated the town of Teschen
in the north [of Czechoslovakia] on 10 May. For five days they raped, looted,
torched and killed." He writes of "French soldiers' behaviour
in Stuttgart, where perhaps 3,000 women and eight men were raped,"
says "a further 500 women [were] raped in Vaihingen," and reports
"three days of killing, plunder, arson and rape" in Freundenstadt.
Of the displaced persons, he says that "there were around two million
POWs and forced labourers from Russia who had formed into gangs and robbed
and raped all over central Europe."
- Part II
- Treatment of the prisoners of war. In all, there were
approximately eleven million German prisoners of war. One and a half million
of these never returned home. MacDonogh expresses an appropriate outrage
here: "To treat them with so little care that a million and a half
died was scandalous."
- The Red Cross had no role vis a vis those held by the
Russians, since the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention.
MacDonogh says the Russians made no distinction between German civilians
and prisoners of war, although we know that a KGB report does sort them
out for deaths and other purposes. At war's end, they held approximately
four to five million within Russia (and here, again, the KGB archives are
worth consulting, as historian James Bacque has done; they show a figure
of 2,389,560). Large numbers were held for over ten years, being sent back
to Germany only after Konrad Adenauer's visit to Moscow in 1956. Nevertheless,
in 1979-34 years after the end of the war!-"there were believed to
be 72,000 prisoners still alive in-chiefly Russian-custody." Some
90,000 German soldiers were captured at Stalingrad, but only 5,000 made
- The Americans made a distinction between the 4.2 million
soldiers captured during the war, who were entitled to the shelter and
subsistence called for by the Hague and Geneva Conventions, and the 3.4
million captured in the West at its end. MacDonogh says the latter were
classified as "Surrendered Enemy Persons" (SEPs) or as "Disarmed
Enemy Persons" (DEPs), and were denied the protections of the Conventions.
He doesn't give a total figure for those who died in American custody,
saying "it is not clear how many German soldiers died of starvation."
He tells, however, of several situations: "The most notorious American
POW camps were the so-called Rheinwiesenlager." Here, the Americans
allowed "anything up to 40,000 German soldiers to die from hunger
and neglect in the muddy flats of the Rhine." He says "any attempt
to feed the prisoners by the German civilian population was punishable
by death." Although the Red Cross was empowered to inspect, "the
barbed wire surrounding the SEPs and DEPs was impenetrable."
- Elsewhere, at "the Pioneers' Barracks in WormsS
there were 30,000-40,000 prisoners sitting in the courtyard, jostling for
space. With no protection from the rain they froze." The prisoners
were starved at Langwasser, and at a "notorious camp" at Zuffenhausen
where "for months lunch was turnip soup, with half a potato for dinner."
- It would be a mistake to think that a world food shortage
caused the United States to be unable to feed its prisoners. Bacque writes
that "Captain Lee Berwick of the 424th Infantry who commanded the
guard towers at Camp BretzenheimS told me, 'Food was piled up all round
the camp fence.' Prisoners there saw crates piled up 'as high as bungalows.'"
- What MacDonogh tells us about Britain's treatment of
German POWs seems conflicting. It had 391,880 prisoners working in Britain
in 1946, and a total of 600 camps there in 1948. He says "the regime
was not so hard, and in terms of percentages the number of men who died
in British custody is strikingly low compared to the other Allies."
Elsewhere, however, he tells how "the British could evade [the Geneva
Convention's stipulation]S that they provide 2,000 to 3,000 calories a
day," so that "for most of the time levels fell below 1,500 calories."
The British had a camp in Belgium that "was meant to be particularly
grueling." There, "conditions for the 130,000 prisoners were
reported to be 'not much better than Belsen'S When the camp was inspected
in April 1947 there were found to be just four functioning lightbulbsSthere
was no fuel, no straw mattresses and no food apart from 'water soup.'"
- A Reuters report in December 2005 adds an important dimension:
"Britain ran a secret prison in Germany for two years after the end
of World War II where inmates including Nazi party members were tortured
and starved to death, the Guardian says.
- Citing Foreign Office files that were opened after a
request under the Freedom of Information Act, the newspaper says Britain
had held men and woman [sic] at a prison in Bad Nenndorf until July 1947S
'Threats to execute prisoners, or to arrest, torture and murder their wives
and children were considered "perfectly proper" on the grounds
that such threats were never carried out,' the paper reports."
- The French wanted German labor to help rebuild the country,
and for this purpose the British and Americans transferred about a million
German soldiers to them. MacDonogh says "their treatment was particularly
brutal." Not long after the war, according to the Red Cross, 200,000
of the prisoners were starving.
- We are told of a camp "in the Sarthe [where] prisoners
had to survive on 900 calories a day."
- The stripping of the German economy. Allied leaders disagreed
among themselves about the Morgenthau Plan to strip Germany bare of industrial
assets and turn it into an agrarian country. The opposition of some and
hesitation of others did not, however, prevent a de facto implementation
of the plan. By the time the confiscation was ended, Germany was largely
bereft of productive assets.
- MacDonogh says that under the Russians "Berlin lost
around 85 percent of its industrial capacity." Every machine was taken
from Vienna. The ships were taken from the Danube, and "one Soviet
priority was the seizure of any important works of art found in the capital
[Vienna]. This was a fully planned operation." But "worse than
the full-scale removal of the industrial base of the land was the abduction
of men and women to develop industry in the Soviet Union."
- Under the Americans, the dismantling of industrial sites
continued until General Lucius Clay stopped it a year after war's end.
Until Clay acted, Clause 6 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Order 1067 embodied
the Morgenthau Plan. MacDonogh says that where "American official
theft was carried out on a massive scale" was in "seizing scientists
and scientific equipment."
- The British took much for themselves and passed other
industrial property on to "client states" such as Greece and
Yugoslavia. The British royal family received Goering's yacht, and the
British zone of Germany was stripped of "plants that might later offer
competition with British industries." MacDonogh says "the BritishS
had their own brand of organized theft in [something called] T-Force, which
sought to glean any industrial wizardryS."
- For their part, the French asserted "the right to
plunder." "The FrenchS made no bones about pocketing a chlorine
business in Rheinfelden, a viscose business in Rottweil, the Preussag mines
or the chemicals groups Rhodia,"S and much more.
- German Industrial Area After Bombing, before
- If the Plan had been fully implemented over a longer
period of time, the effects would have been calamitous. Keeling, in Gruesome
Harvest, says that by seeking "the permanent destruction of Germany's
industrial heartland" it would have had as an "ineluctable consequenceS
the death through starvation and disease of millions and tens of millions
- The forced repatriation of Russians to Stalin. MacDonogh's
book limits itself to the Allied occupation, but there are, of course,
many other aspects of the aftermath of the war that deserve mention, although
here we will limit ourselves to just one of them. (MacDonogh does give
some details about it.) It is the Allied repatriation of captured Russians
to the Soviet Union. In The Secret Betrayal, Nikolai Tolstoy tells how
between 1943 and 1947, a total of 2,272,000 Russians were returned. The
Soviets harvested 2,946,000 more from the parts of Europe taken by the
Red Army. Those sent to the Soviet Union by the Western democracies included
thousands of people who were Tsarist emigres and had never lived under
the Soviet regime. Tolstoy says that even though there were many who did
want to return to Russia (while many others desperately did not, and were
sent back, in effect, kicking and screaming), they were uniformly brutalized,
executed, raped or made into slaves. Some of the repatriates were Russians
who had volunteered to fight for Germany against the Soviet Union and who
were led by General Vlasov. Some were Cossacks, many of whom were not even
Soviet citizens. The violent repatriations began in August 1945. Tolstoy
recounts how deception, clubbings, bayonets, and even threats from a flame-throwing
tank were employed to force the removal.
- Victors' justice. When the war was over, there was a
consensus among the Allies' leaders that the top Nazis should be put to
death. Some wanted immediate execution, others "a drumhead court martial."
There was an odd virtue in the insistence by the British on following "legal
forms," which is what was decided upon. The result was a series of
trials with the trappings of normal judicial proceedings, but that were
actually a travesty from the point of view of the "rule of law,"
lacking both the spirit and particulars of "due process." In
two chapters, MacDonogh gives an account of the main Nuremberg trial and
of the series of trials that continued for years afterwards. Among these,
the Americans conducted several trials in Nuremberg after the main one;
thousands of cases were brought before "denazification courts";
the German courts, after they were operational, continued the process;
and of course we know of Israel's trial and execution of Eichmann.
- There are many reasons to call it "victors' justice."
- For it to have been otherwise, a truly impartial tribunal
would have had to have been convened somewhere in the world (if such a
thing had been possible in the aftermath of a world war), and war crimes
committed by all sides prosecuted. But, of course, we know that such impartial
justice was not in contemplation. In the Nuremberg indictment, the Nazis
were charged with the mass killing of the Polish officer corps at the Katyn
Forest, a charge that was discretely (and with great intellectual and "judicial"
dishonesty) overlooked in the final judgment after it became clear to all
that the Soviet Union had done the killing. Another of the many possible
examples would be that Nazi deportations were charged as both a war crime
and a crime against humanity at Nuremberg. By contrast, no one was ever
"brought to justice" for the Allies' expulsion of the millions
of Germans from their ancestral homes in central Europe.
- A source readers will find instructive. Because of the
credibility of its source, the account given by U.S. Air Force Major (retired)
Arthur D. Jacobs in his book The Prison Called Hohenasperg will be useful
to readers as they absorb (and assess) the information contained in MacDonogh's
book and those of the other authors referred to here. It is valuable as
a story both of American brutality and American compassion.
- Jacobs spent 22 years in the Air Force, retiring in 1973,
and then became a member of the faculty at Arizona State University for
another twenty years. His book tells the following personal story: His
German parents emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1928 and
1929. They had two sons born in Brooklyn (who were hence U.S. citizens),
one of them Arthur Jacobs. The boys lived their early years in Brooklyn,
attending elementary school.
- The family was taken and held for some time at Ellis
Island near the end of the war, and was then interned for seven months
at the Crystal City Internment Camp in Texas, where they were well treated.
They were "voluntarily repatriated" to Germany (after being threatened
with deportation) in October 1945, several months after Germany's surrender.
- When they arrived in Germany, Jacobs' mother was sent
to one camp, the father and two sons to another. The latter reached an
internment camp in Hohenasperg after a 92-hour journey locked inside a
boxcar in freezing weather with mostly women and children, fed only bread
and water, and "without heat, without blankets, and without toilets,
except for an open, stinking bucket." Jacobs himself was twelve, and
turned thirteen during his week at Hohenasperg before he was sent to another
camp at Ludwigsburg. At the Hohenasperg prison, he was placed under strict
discipline as a prisoner, and guards threatened him repeatedly with hanging
if he disobeyed.
- The camp at Ludwigsburg was in effect a holding center
pending release. It is informative that Jacobs tells us of the meager diet:
"At breakfast we received one glass of 'gray' milk and one slice of
black bread. There was no lunch meal." At supper, "each person
received one bowl of soup..., mostly water flavored by bouillon. There
were no second helpingsS I always had hunger pangs." While he and
his brother were at Ludwigsburg, they were forced to watch films of German
- The mother, father and brothers were released from their
respective camps in mid-March 1946, and went to live with Jacobs' grandparents
in the British Zone. They weren't welcomed by Germans they met, because
"we were four more mouths to feed." Jacobs saw that "Germany
was war-torn and starving." He was befriended by an American soldier,
who got him a job with Graves Registration. He lost his job when the soldier
was transferred, and it became a struggle to "live through this starvation
period-the winter of 1946-1947." After much knocking about, he got
another job with the American Army, this time in a motor pool. An American
woman took an interest in him who knew of a ranch couple in southwest Kansas
who would bring them to America to live with them. Accordingly, Jacobs
and his brother left for the United States in October 1947. They had been
in Germany for 21 months. It was eleven years before Jacobs saw his parents
again. He went on, as we have said, to become a career officer in the U.S.
Air Force. After obtaining his MBA at Arizona State University, he became
an industrial engineer and later a member of the ASU faculty.
- Part III
- If MacDonogh wrote all that we have reported (and more)
from his book, how can it be said that in important ways he continued the
cover-up of such horrors, a cover-up that since 1945 has consigned them
to a memory hole? This brings us to the book's deficiencies, which are
of such a nature as to give readers a lessened realization of the extent
of the atrocities and of who was responsible for them.
- Most egregious is MacDonogh's treatment of the work of
Canadian historian James Bacque, author of Other Losses and Crimes and
Mercies. When he refers to the first of these books, he says that Bacque
"claimed the French and Americans had killed a million POWs,"
a claim that "was called a work of 'monstrous speculation' and was
dismissed by an American historian as an 'absurd thesis.'"
- According to MacDonogh, "it has since been proved
that Bacque misinterpreted the words 'other losses' on Allied charts to
mean 'deaths'S." Accordingly, he speaks of "Bacque's red herring."
So greatly does he dismiss Bacque that in a section on "Further Reading"
at the end of the book, MacDonogh apparently forgets about Bacque entirely,
saying that "on the treatment of POWs there is nothing in English,
and the leading American expert-Arthur L. Smith-publishes in German."
- I thought it fair to ask Bacque what his response is
to MacDonogh's dismissal. Bacque replied that "the word speculation
describes my critics well, because it is they who have not been in all
the relevant archives and who have not interviewed the thousands of survivors
who have written to newspapers, TV journalists and other authors about
their near-death experiences in the camps of the Americans, French and
- Far from admitting that he had misinterpreted the category
of "Other Losses," Bacque says that "the meaning of the
termS was explained to me by Colonel Philip S. Lauben, United States Army,
who was in charge of movements of prisoners for SHAEF in 1945. I have the
interview on tape and Lauben's signature on a letter confirming this. Lauben
has never denied what he told me."
- Lauben later told the BBC that he was "mistaken,"
but the likelihood of a mistake is slight since he was a responsible officer
on the ground and saw both the camps and the reports.
- The difference between MacDonogh's and Bacque's treatment
of the subject of German prisoners of war in American hands is apparent
when we compare the attention each gives to the cutting off of food. MacDonogh
reports in one sentence that "any attempt to feed the prisoners by
the German civilian population was punishable by death." This is astounding
in itself and certainly deserves explication. Bacque tells us considerably
more: "General Eisenhower sent out an 'urgent courier' throughout
the huge area that he commanded, making it a crime punishable by death
for German civilians to feed prisoners. It was even a death-penalty crime
to gather food together in one place to take it to prisoners." He
says "the order was sent in German to the provincial governments,
ordering them to distribute it immediately to local governments.
- Copies of the orders were discovered recently in several
villages near the RhineS." On pages 42-3 of Crimes and Mercies, Bacque
publishes a German and an English copy of a letter dated May 9, 1945, by
which district officials were notified of the prohibition.
- Bacque provides evidence such as that of Professor Martin
Brech of Mahopac, NY, who was a guard at the U.S. camp at Aldernach in
Germany. Brech said that "he fed some loaves of bread through the
wire, and was told by his superior officer, 'Don't feed them. It is our
policy that these men not be fed.'" "Later, at night, Brech sneaked
some more food into the camp, and the officer told him, 'If you do that
again, you'll be shot.'"
- Thus, we find in Bacque a much sharper description and
attribution of responsibility than we do in MacDonogh. In light of the
immense detail given in MacDonogh's book, this would be forgivable were
it not for his attempt to blot out the work of a major scholar who has
studied the subject exhaustively.
- A similar cutting-short diminishes a reader's comprehension
of other important subjects, which MacDonogh touches on so briefly that
the reader is hardly able to form a full mental picture. For example, MacDonogh
tells how in the execution of Joachim von Ribbentrop at Nuremberg "the
hangman botched the execution and the rope throttled the former foreign
minister for twenty minutes before he expired." In his book Nuremberg:
The Last Battle, historian David Irving tells considerably more, including
the fact that the gallows had been designed in a way that allowed the trapdoor
to swing back and smash "every bone" in the faces of Keitel,
Jodl and Frick. He says that Goering's body (after Goering had committed
suicide by taking poison) "was dragged into the execution chamberS
[where] the army doctors [made] frantic attempts to revive him so that
he could be hanged."
- There are a number of places at which MacDonogh half-tells
about something important, only to leave it incomplete. We've already noted
his mention of "30,000-40,000 prisoners sitting in the courtyard [at
the Pioneers' Barracks in Worms]S With no protection against the rain they
froze." We are left to guess the consequences of their freezing. At
another place, he reports that "the Americans maintained camps for
up to 1.5 millionS Nazis or members of the SS." That is his only mention
of those camps, which one might suppose were even more punitive than the
others. Was MacDonogh too overloaded with other detail to pursue such matters
further? Did he deliberately refrain from exploring certain things? Or
was the failure due a scatter-gun recital of fragmentary details?
- A reader will need to assess the degree to which After
the Reich is a work of scholarship as distinguished from a narrative for
popular reading. MacDonogh includes many pages of endnotes, citing a large
number of sources. Very occasionally, he speaks critically of a given source.
But for the most part he accepts whatever a given source has to tell. The
book would profit greatly from a bibliographical essay in which he would
evaluate the principal sources, sharing with the reader a careful analysis
of the evidentiary basis for his narrative.
- An example of where a critical evaluation is essential
comes with his reference, say, to Ilse Koch's "lampshades and trophies
made from human skin and organs," which MacDonogh says the psychologist
Saul Padover claims to have been shown. We need to know what MacDonogh
would conclude if MacDonogh were to consider the counter-evidence that
calls the lampshade collection a "legend."
- The same holds true for MacDonogh's many citations to
Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews. There is a vast scholarly
literature questioning every aspect of the Holocaust. One would never know
that that literature exists from reading MacDonogh, who either doesn't
know of it or finds it prudent, as so many do, not to mention it.
- Notwithstanding the book's limitations, After the Reich
accomplishes much when it provides another link in the chain of disclosures
that, over time, are providing conscientious readers with a more complete
understanding of modern history.
- The fact that, at the time of the events and for so many
decades thereafter, enormities of the greatest importance have been scrubbed
clean by propaganda suggests implications far beyond the events themselves.
The British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli observed that "all great
events have been distorted, most of the important causes concealed,"
and went on to say that "If the history of England is ever written
by one who has the knowledge and the courage, the world would be astonished."
The implications suggest profound questions, which we would be remiss not
- How is it that a certain version of reality can, on so
many subjects, hold almost total sway, while the voices of millions and
of a good many serious scholars are marginalized into nothingness? (Fortunately,
so far as Bacque's work is concerned, it is available in twelve languages
in 13 countries, even though it has long been unavailable in the United