- Endkampf : soldiers, civilians, and the death of the Third Reich
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After all, he pointed out, the Nazis had the advantage of having studied all of the resistance movements that had opposed their rule, and so had a clear understanding of how to conduct an effective underground war. The goal, then, was not victory as much as it was vengeance. Running along the rugged crest of the mountains, the defensive system, with its installations of machine gun nests, anti-aircraft positions, radio transmitters, and secure bunkers at the passes provide evidence that the romantic dream [of sustained resistance] is taken seriously and that good German thoroughness is once again being directed at a fantastic goal.
Industrial facilities to produce war material are being built there. Underground airfields and hangers stand ready. Grain and potato supplies have been gathered. The author, Victor Schiff, almost certainly had read the Swiss article, for much of his detail mirrored the information contained in the Zurich newspaper. He went on alarmingly: It is noteworthy that since the beginning of the Russian offensive very little has been heard of the SS troops on the Eastern Front. It looks as if the Wehrmacht and Volkssturm are being deliberately sacrificed in rear-guard actions. SS formations are likely to retreat swiftly southward to a region already selected as the last theater of operations in Europe.
It will stretch from the eastern tip of Lake Constance to the approaches of Graz in Styria. The few gaps in the valleys. We can assume that the Nazi High Command has started hoarding reserves of arms, munitions, oil, food, and textiles in a series of underground depots within the Alpine quadrangle. It seems generally accepted now that a delayed defense fortress will lie in the Bavarian and Austrian Alps. Swiss sources have information which they consider reliable that substantial amounts of foodstuffs being [sic] collected here, and that some underground factories are being prepared to supply arms for mountain warfare.
There is plenty of protection there by mountains and hills, and many fortifications have been constructed. There is already an armament industry in operation. The idea of [guerrilla warfare] existed in Similar plans are now to be carried into effect by the Nazis, with their habitual thoroughness, and aided by their experiences with the resistance movements in occupied countries. There are special schools for recruits. The fear that thousands of GIs would be killed in subduing an Alpine fortress was a nightmare that had to be taken seriously.
Increasingly, then, all military measures of the Germans came to be viewed through the lens of the apparent reality of an Alpenfestung. The continued fighting in Hungary now seemed to make sense only in relation to buying time for an occupation of the redoubt. In addition, the numerous trains heading to the south most, ironically, carrying looted art treasures to safety were interpreted as military supplies heading to the fortress area. Scattered rumors gleaned from POW interrogations that referred to mysterious SS movements, bombproof buildings in mountain regions that would serve as military headquarters for a guerrilla war, and underground production facilities all added to the emerging picture of a national redoubt.
Even the missing SS divisions added to the weight of evidence pointing to a last-ditch resistence, since Allied intelligence had also noticed an absence of several key SS units before the Ardennes offensive. Psychological factors also pointed toward a drawn-out resistance.
Taken together with evidence that the greatest efforts were in the Berchtesgaden area, the OSS could only conclude that the Nazis were concentrating their last resources for a defense of a national redoubt. Continued reports from prisoner interrogations over the next few weeks seemingly confirmed this assessment, as POWs spoke of underground barracks and armaments factories, movements of SS troops, removal of civilians from specific areas, and preparation of bridges and tunnels for demolition.
Finally, Allied intelligence took particular note of the activities of Organization Todt, which had specialized in erecting defensive fortifications throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. As such, they had developed a system of standardized fabrication that allowed for the rapid construction of various types of reinforced concrete structures. Moreover, sufficient labor existed in the form of forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners to expedite any last-minute construction orders. All people engaged in the construction of these secret facilities are to be killed, including any remaining civilians, at the beginning of the battle.
Nor could its claims of vast underground works be easily 11 ENDKAMPF dismissed, for the Allies knew that the Germans had already moved many armaments factories into subterranean locations, which remained both undetected and undisturbed by Allied bombing. Allen Dulles noted in mid- and late March the likelihood that the fierce German resistance in the Ruhr and Berlin was aimed at gaining time to gather forces in the redoubt. We know that no fighters are more dangerous than those who fight with the energy of despair. They shrink from nothing. No single piece of information could be confirmed.
After the Ardennes, I was taking no more chances. On the whole I am inclined to believe in this possibility, but I must admit that a critical analysis of reliable data received so far does not indicate that the preparations have as yet progressed very far. There are a number of newspaper articles on the subject, with maps indicating the boundaries of the reduit and generalities about great hidden stores of provisions, about the preparation of underground factories, and the like.
Much of this is probably fiction. Some plants have been moved into the mountains. Some preparations have undoubtedly been made, but not yet on the scale we have been led to believe. It would take years. There are some tunnels. But new construction on a great scale. It is likely that we will have to do so. Much in the way of supplies and manpower may possibly be flung into this area at the last moment, unless our armies can cut off the Nazi retreat. Here armaments will be manufactured in bombproof factories, food and equipment will be stored in vast underground caverns and specially selected corps of young men will be trained in guerrilla warfare, so that a whole underground army can be fitted and directed to liberate Germany from the occupying forces.
It thus appears that ground reports of extensive preparations for the accommodation of the German Maquis-to-be are not unfounded. As with most of the accumulating evidence, aerial observations seemed either to confirm, or at least not to contradict, the emerging picture of an Alpine bastion. Although intelligence officials were troubled by the lack of any clear pattern to Nazi construction activity and the absence of any indication of a deliberate German move to man an Alpine fortress, aerial photographs did show a disturbing increase in the number of antiaircraft sites and weapons around Berchtesgaden.
It was believed that some subterranean factories had been established in the area. Troop concentrations and jagged lines of defensive fortifications; food, ammunition, fuel, and poison gas dumps; power stations; barracks and headquarters; bombproof underground factories—each day more symbols were added, until the map was awash with red dots. To them, the forbidding mountain terrain of southern Germany and Austria seemed the greatest remaining threat in Europe, a nearly impregnable mountain stronghold that might prolong the war by months or even years.
Moreover, as late as mid-April both continued to note disturbing facts, such as long lines of rail and highway traffic moving toward Berchtesgaden and the concentration of two-thirds to three-quarters of German SS and armored divisions in the south. OSS reports also seemed to confirm the assessment of the military intelligence officers. Work on defense of important passes into reduit and on certain underground plants. Large quantities of supplies are being accumulated.
Further indications are that OKW is being transferred. Although based on a misassessment of Nazi intentions and capabilities, this analysis nonetheless correctly noted a variety of developments and put forward a reasonable reaction to changed circumstances. Quinn concluded that the defensible nature of the Alpine region, the fact that troops from the eastern, western, and Italian fronts could all converge on the area, and the continued German resistance in the Balkans and Italy all pointed to the existence of an Alpine fortress.
Further, elaborate underground munitions factories were being built, an aircraft plant capable of producing Messerschmitts was already in operation, hydroelectric plants were generating power, and giant depots containing foodstuffs had been established in the Salzburg area. Quinn proposed four scenarios for the expected German resistance: 1 an immediate retreat into the redoubt under cover of dispensable Wehrmacht units, 2 a planned retreat in stages, 3 defense of the outer reaches of the redoubt and an orderly withdrawal under pressure from Allied forces, and 4 defense of every piece of German soil to the last man.
Of the possibilities, Quinn considered the third most likely, with German forces in the west holding tenaciously to the Steigerwald, the forested peaks along the Main River, and the Franconian Heights farther to the south, then pivoting on the Black Forest and Swabian Alps as they slowly withdrew to the south. Recycling all the usual rumors, the French concluded that the reports of underground factories, storage depots, power plants, and synthetic fuel installations, in conjunction with the movement of prominent foreign hostages south, could only mean a Nazi intention to carry on the war from a mountain bastion.
So, too, did intercepts which indicated that SS units were being moved to the south, along with high-level military headquarters staff and civilian ministries. From the sheer volume of ULTRA intercepts, it appeared in late March that a redoubt was prepared and the Germans were moving to occupy it. Nevertheless, many of these same skeptics also admitted that, given the inconclusive and indeterminate nature of the available information, the Allies should act as though the Alpenfestung existed.
Not until April 18, for example, did Dulles express forceful doubts about the reality of the redoubt. Military preparations within reduit feverishly but ineffectively prepared. In addition, faced with stiffening German opposition along the eastern front, the Soviet leader Josef Stalin weighed in with his belief that the enemy would conduct a last-ditch resistance from a mountain stronghold in western Czechoslovakia, Austria, and Bavaria.
Referring to rumors of secret negotiations in Italy, Stalin in the strongest terms also expressed his fear that the western Allies might be colluding with the Germans to halt the fighting in the west and continue it in the east, with enemy utilization of a mountain redoubt the key to the strategy.
On the chill afternoon of March 28, he composed three messages, the first of which was most significant and unprecedented. For the first time, and in order to coordinate the movements of the two powerful converging armies, Eisenhower communicated directly with Stalin. Although his messages to Churchill, Montgomery, and the Combined Chiefs were terse and correct, the legendary Eisenhower temper revealed itself in the lengthy cable he sent to Marshall, in which he vented his fury at British condemnation of his action. Merely following the principle that [British Chief of Staff] Field Marshall Brooke has always shouted to me, I am determined to concentrate on one major thrust.
That region is not only cut up with waterways, but in it the ground during this time of year is very wet and not so favorable for rapid movement. Moreover, if, as we expect, the German continues the widespread destruction of bridges, experience has shown that it is better to advance across the headwaters than to be faced by the main streams.
I submit that these things are studied daily and hourly by me and my advisors and that we are animated by one single thought which is the early winning of this war. This task is becoming particularly acute because of the habit of displaced persons, released by our advances, to begin rioting against their ex-masters.
Because of this drain on our forces we must economize everywhere if we are to maintain the vigor and strength of our planned offensives. The capability of enemy forces in the south to resist will be greatly reduced by a thrust to join the Russians.gatsbyroofs.co.uk/droll-stories.php
Endkampf : soldiers, civilians, and the death of the Third Reich
However, the national redoubt could even then remain in being, and it must be our aim to break into it rapidly before the enemy has an opportunity to man it and organize its defense fully. Influential journalists, such as Drew Middleton and Hanson Baldwin of the New York Times, continued throughout April to warn of serious military and political problems from Nazi diehards determined to resist to the death in the national redoubt.
In any case, without the determined American movement to the south, German military leaders might well have sought belatedly to make a virtue of necessity and turn the redoubt into a reality. Hitler had, in fact, planned to leave Berlin for Berchtesgaden. In driving southeastward to the Alps, the U. Seventh Army and the French First Army together took some six hundred thousand prisoners from midApril to the end of the month, a total much greater than their own combined combat strengths.
It thus seemed impossible that any sizeable number of German troops had reached the Alpenfestung. When asked on May 5 at the surrender ceremony the number of Germans cut off in the Alps, the German emissary for Army Group G, Lieutenant General Hermann Foertsch, astounded General Jacob Devers, commander of the Sixth Army Group, when he indicated at least , and as many as , in an assortment of remnants, with the higher figure more nearly correct.
Although disorganized, weary, and short of food, munitions, and supplies, the total bag of more than nine hundred thousand prisoners since mid-April impressed American military officials as much for what might have been as for the absence of any redoubt. At this late stage of the war, Hitler could only hope to buy time, but given the prospect of new German secret weapons and the growing tensions in the allied coalition, any delay in defeating Germany raised the prospect that Hitler might be able to secure more advantageous peace terms.
Preventing any German retreat to the Alpenfestung had now become his primary concern. They went with the initial object of seizing the symbol-laden city of Nuremberg, then advancing rapidly to prevent any linkup of German forces in the Alpine regions south of Munich. A convinced National Socialist, Simon staunchly advocated merciless opposition, both against the American invaders as well as any war-weary members of the German civilian population inclined to avoid pointless resistance.
In all, around eightyfive hundred men and one hundred tanks of the Thirteenth SS-Army Corps, supplemented by various units cobbled together containing perhaps ten thousand men of doubtful value, along with specialized Kampfgruppen battle groups , such as SS-Kampfgruppe Dirnagel with some three thousand men and twelve 88mm antiaircraft guns, were to defend a roughly sixty-mile section of the front in rural Middle Franconia. Under the direction of tough, capable, and resolute officers schooled in the harsh atmosphere of combat on the Russian front, these units were determined to resist in the west as long as possible, in the hope of buying time for what they, and Hitler, viewed as the inevitable falling-out between the Anglo-Americans and the Soviets.
Much like Germany itself, Franconia until the nineteenth century had been splintered into a series of small territories. Franconia did not become part of Bavaria until the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars. Typical also of Germany, some almost purely Protestant areas, primarily in Middle and Upper Franconia, stood juxtaposed with equally strong Catholic regions in Lower Franconia. Notable as well was a Jewish population well above the national average. In Middle Franconia, especially, numerous villages existed in which Jews made up one-third to one-half of the population.
Because of emancipation and the process of urbanization, the Jewish population in many of these villages shrank during the course of the nineteenth century, but at the beginning of the twentieth century Middle Franconia still had one of the highest proportions of Jews in Germany.
Still primarily an agricultural area dominated by small market towns and farming villages despite the burgeoning industrial region around Nuremberg, Franconia in the years before World War I displayed a not atypical electoral landscape. While the Socialist Party dominated in and around Nuremberg and the Center Party benefitted in heavily Catholic areas, the Protestant electorate grew increasingly fragmented.
Added to this were persistently high levels of anti-Semitism, albeit based more on economic resentment than religious or racial hatred. As early as the June Reichstag Parliament elections, large sections of Franconia evidenced an extreme political polarization, as radical parties of both the right and left made considerable gains at the expense of the moderate parties of the middle. Not only did these groups create a valuable personal network of populist nationalists, numbering among their members such later Nazi Party luminaries as Julius Streicher, Dietrich Eckart, Reinhard Heydrich, and Fritz Sauckel, but they also furnished much of the later political and ideological strategy used by the Nazis with such success in Franconia.
Streicher displayed undeniable rhetorical talents in mobilizing support throughout Middle Franconia in the early s.
Even the Social Democrats support him. In large parts of Franconia, then, much of the electorate had been effectively won over to the National Socialists even before they began widespread organizational efforts in the region. His success as a propagandist, in fact, owed much to his ability to reflect and express local outrage and resentment. Just a few days before he joined the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei National Socialist German Workers Party, or NSDAP , for example, a Nuremberg court had acquitted a Jewish doctor, who had allegedly poisoned two local girls with a contraceptive, of manslaughter.
In the first year of the Nuremberg branch, for example, twenty-nine restricted and twenty-six unrestricted meetings, along with forty-six mass demonstrations and one Christmas celebration, had been held. Significantly, many reports noted not only anti-Semitic utterances at Nazi gatherings, but also remarked on the often open sympathy shown by local police authorities, many of whom participated in local meetings. Although the populist nationalist electorate remained in flux throughout the period —, the Nazis encountered scant external opposition in rebuilding the movement in the area after The greatest difficulty, in fact, lay in reconciling the competing claims of leadership over the local and regional Nazi Party organization.
Between and the Nazis resurrected numerous local groups throughout Middle and Upper Franconia, so that the area again became a stronghold for the party. By the Reichstag election of May , the Nazis not only gained significantly higher percentages in Middle and Upper Franconia than in either Bavaria or the Reich 9.
In addition, two Nazi candidates, Ritter von Epp and Gregor Strasser, were elected to the Reichstag from Franconia, while in some small villages the Nazis captured more than 50 percent of the vote. From 9. In some districts, in fact, they captured anywhere from Continuing their frenzied activity, mass gatherings, verbal radicalism, and swelling violence, the Nazis increasingly asserted their authority. Not surprisingly, anti-Jewish tirades, claims of Jewish corruption and economic exploitation, lurid accusations of ritual murder and sexual depravity, desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and demands for a prohibition on shopping at Jewish-owned stores also increased apace.
In the heavily agricultural area of western Middle Franconia, however, not only did the Nazis gain a majority in the second presidential election, but in the districts of Rothenburg, Uffenheim, Neustadt an der Aisch, and Ansbach they garnered an astounding 80 percent of the vote. For them, these events often had traumatic and life-changing consequences.
With terror directed at them by Nazi Party functionaries and SS commanders, the local population endured frightful material destruction and sundry loss of life before the war finally ground to a halt. The problem, though, was the very unpredictability of the last-ditch resistance. This made any sort of orderly withdrawal from the war impossible. Those who were determined to resist injected a manic dynamism and energy that could stabilize the situation just long enough to ensure widespread destruction. So the situation at the tail end of this lost war remained more complex than a simple desire to resist or not to resist.
It was neither and both—and required careful individual calculations of local circumstances, a continual balancing of constantly changing forces, and a feel for how to negotiate a path through the various dangers. Those who continued the fight did so for many reasons, out of habit, from fatalism, out of fear, as a result of self-delusion, and from ideological fanaticism, but the uncertainty they produced in both GIs and German civilians resulted in a tense and unpredictable atmosphere bound to lead to tragedy. The dead lay unburied in forests, or under the rubble of ancient cities, or in damp frontline trenches.
The detritus of a disintegrating society lay remorselessly exposed: smashed boxcars, smoking locomotives, twisted rails in marshaling yards, smoldering debris in wrecked cities, long lines of forlorn refugees. The German soldier, the Landser infantryman , watched fatalistically as the enemy threatened him constantly with sudden death from the air or a more mundane destruction by tank or artillery fire.
Nor did the dogged resistance of the German soldiers improve the mood of the aver31 ENDKAMPF age GI, for whom the thought of death or injury at this late stage, when Germany had clearly lost the war, seemed especially outrageous. Still, despite the evidence of collapse all around, few on the Allied side expected the Nazi regime to go quietly.
I am uneasy about this. I have a strange fear that they are still fighting because they have some new technological weapon being developed to throw at us.
Here the Americans have succeeded in a surprise advance, and in fact deep into our rear, as a result of which an extraordinarily critical situation has arisen for us. This could lead to the most unpleasant consequences, for such a deep break-in was completely unexpected by most of the population as well as the few available Wehrmacht contingents. Looking at the map, one could well gain the impression that this is the beginning of a catastrophe. In southern Germany a coherent defense barely existed, the limits of Wehrmacht resources being taxed just to cobble together a makeshift effort.
The scattered and hastily assembled detachments of replacement troops, officer trainees, Luftwaffe ground forces, local Hitler Youth groups, and the remnants of frontline outfits that had lost most of their tanks, artillery, and heavy weapons sought to take advantage of natural barriers, such as rivers or forested ridges, as well as the numerous towns and villages in the area, in the hope of slowing down the American advance. The newly formed contingents rushed to the front suffered from inadequate training, lack of officers, and poor supply.
Hampered also by lack of mobility, transportation difficulties, shortages of food, fuel, trucks, tanks, and large-caliber antitank weapons, and further constrained by the complete American dominance of the air, an effective defense seemed hardly possible. Although the popular mood in Germany had stabilized following the counteroffensive in the Ardennes in December , with sizable segments of the population voicing both faith in Hitler and hope for a last decisive confrontation, morale, especially in the west, began to crack in the first weeks and months of as evidence of defeat mounted.
Numerous internal intelligence reports stressed how the unending stream of refugees, the unhindered penetration of Germany by waves of Allied bombers, the terror of the incessant aerial bombardment, signs of troop demoralization and disintegration, and confirmation of the tremendous material superiority of the enemy all stunned and depressed the local citizenry. Although faith in Hitler remained relatively high among virtually all segments of the populace, German society increasingly began to fragment. As a result it will in practice fall below the tolerable minimum subsistence level.
One can imagine what the effect on the public will be.
Somewhere the physical strength to resist runs out. This also applies to a certain extent to the civilian population in the western German areas. The letter writers complain of the defeatist attitude of large sections of the front, but also about the massive breakdown in morale among the civilian population. They have been demoralized by the continuous enemy air-raids and are now throwing themselves into the arms of the Anglo-Americans, in some cases enthusiastically, in others at least without genuine resistance. In some cases. Reich propaganda officials, in their directives to the press, made especially strenuous efforts in the first months of to bolster morale and the spirit of sacrifice in the west.
In a typical local newspaper from Middle Franconia, the Windsheimer Zeitung, numerous articles in January and February depicted the seriousness of the situation and the need for a willingness to sacrifice for the Fatherland. In addition, in assessing the popular mood, the plethora of articles offering advice on how to use substitutes and manage food shortages, not to mention the almost weekly reductions in the food ration, have to be balanced against the inflamed calls of local party leaders to swear loyalty to the regime to the death.
This attitude owed little to overt political or ideological considerations, but rather exemplified a general feeling of war weariness. This depressed mood was sharpened in Franconia by the terror attack of January 2 on Nuremberg, the city of the Reichsparteitage [Nazi Party rallies]. Only those with a weak character have a panic attack when facing hunger. It is an established fact that many metabolic afflictions occur only in connection with too rich a diet. About halfway there. I heard the hum of an airplane. I crossed the street, threw my bike in the ditch alongside the road, and cowered under a large tree with my face and body pressed to the ground.
The airplane flew away and then returned. Its machine gun rattling, all the while it looked for something. Suddenly all was quiet. The airplane was gone. It took a while before I could stand up. I leaned against the tree trunk. Tears ran down my cheeks. It attacked me straightaway. I thought that this was the end. But nothing happened and the airplane flew away. I went home as fast as the cows could walk, still shaking from fear. I was twenty-four years old.
On the morning of April 5, Robert Beining, a journalist for the Windsheimer Zeitung, had just gone to pick up a business letter at the local train station, where a freight train had stood for days loaded with goods meant for the airbase at nearby Illesheim. American reconnaissance planes, he remembered, had constantly been circling the area, so he thought little of their presence on this day. At about A. But when we heard the first bomb blasts we hurriedly scrambled into the cellar. The reconnaissance planes had called in fighter-bombers, which now began to strike the entire station complex.
Again and again we heard the sinister growling of the diving airplanes, then the clattering of machine guns, and finally the bomb blasts. A bomb struck so close. After about thirty minutes the attack stopped and we could leave the cellar. Everywhere [we saw] craters and destroyed freight cars. The locomotive, the last that the Bad Windsheim train station possessed, was burning.
Tracks were twisted into coils. But the most tragic was that two young boys playing at the warehouse had lost their lives in this attack. For those on the ground, these were painful moments, a murderous interlude during which the brain linked every sound with the thought of death. Caught in a narrowly circumscribed world of predator and prey, survivors recalled a feeling that the terror would suck them in, that they were slated to become the next victim of a pitiless thirst for destruction. The incessant aerial assaults forced farmers to work in their fields only very early in the morning or late at night.
Although food rations had already been cut three times between March 1 and April 12, with further warnings of shortages of essential provisions, the distribution of even these scarce foodstuffs could not be guaranteed. As a result, in Middle Franconia many people, despite increasingly severe threats, had taken to hoarding, while the appearance of virtually any food item in local stores resulted in long-suffering women forming queues almost instantaneously.
Ironically, American fighter-bombers presented many a Franconian village with a surprise gift in the form of a partially destroyed food warehouse or a shot-up supply train caught in a local station. Given the opportunity for ready plundering, hardly anyone could resist. In midApril a local minister witnessed a typical scene.
All came from a large police warehouse. The greed and the scuffling are so great that it appears that there have been wounded. A freight car loaded with food for distribution had instead been plundered, with some getting large quantities and others nothing. Everyone is trying to buy or grab whatever is available. Everyone wants bread above all because there is not supposed to be anymore in the near future. Everyone was walking and running and hurrying.
The people are all rushing about frightened and panicky. In the meantime, fighter planes returned and the people all ran into each other seeking shelter. No matter what happens, call it quits. More pointedly, numerous comments reveal that many now seemed to regard the Allied bombing raids as retribution for the Nazi treatment of the Jews. It was a picture of demoralization and dissolution. Others limped as their feet had swollen. Only a few had weapons. Some came on farm wagons, a few still on military vehicles, we saw two on unsaddled ponies. A deadly seriousness lay on all their faces, the height of despondency.
Project MUSE - Endkampf
My wife was shocked by the misery of these German soldiers. She cried. To the farmers and villagers of Middle Franconia who had largely been spared the bite of war, the sight of these wretched troops filled them with a mixture of bitterness, shame, and pity. In the night I made a reconnaissance with four old hands in search of a case of American supplies, for we had already gone three days without getting anything to eat. I quickly determined that the Americans were there in such a large number that continuing on was pointless. Therefore we hid in the woods, then by twos and threes went off in the direction of our homes.
So ubiquitous were these actions, in fact, that Victor Klemperer noted in early February both the constant SS patrols looking for deserters and an order to civilians not to feed, shelter, or aid begging soldiers. So apparent was this growing bitterness among German civilians that the Psychological Warfare Division of the U.
This has strongly increased the inclination of these uniformed men to mistreat the unfortunate civilian population. For the Wehrmacht was constantly. Goebbels, of course, used fear to stiffen the popular mood, particularly in the east, emphasizing in lurid detail the bestial atrocities perpetrated by Soviet troops on German civilians. But above all by the ever repeated.
They owe everything to the bogeyman of Bolshevism. While old men and children will be murdered, women and girls will be degraded to prostitutes. The rest will be marched off to Siberia. Nor were allied pilots alone singled out for castigation. The crux of both these reports, and scores like them, of course, was to show the kindred nature of the enemies in the east and west. As a result morale in the west has become. Through our atrocity campaign against Bolshevism we have succeeded in again strengthening our front in the east as well as putting the civilian population in a state of absolute readiness for defense.
That we have not succeeded as well in the west primarily goes back to the fact that large parts of the population and also our troops believe the Anglo-Americans will treat them leniently. Our previous propaganda, as the consequences demonstrate, has failed in its effect on the German people. The Nazi propaganda machine also capitalized on the Morgenthau Plan, an American proposal for the postwar dismantling of German industry and reduction of living standards, to argue that Germans had nothing to hope for, in terms of better treatment, from the western Allies.
Indeed, Nazi propagandists screamed insistently that the war was a struggle against western plutocrats and eastern bolsheviks, with the malignant Jew serving as the common denominator. Because not only the Bolshevists want to exterminate us, but the Anglo-Americans want to do so, too, behind both is the Jewish will to destroy. What motive does the leadership have in publishing pictures like that. They must surely realize that every intelligent person, upon seeing these victims, will immediately think of the atrocities we have committed on enemy soil, yes, even in Germany.
Did we not slaughter the Jews by the thousands? And what did we do with the Jews who were in the concentration camps? We have only shown the enemy what they can do with us, should they win. What does a life mean here in Germany? It was unthinkable, according to German conceptions, that a soldier sprawled on a chair. Just as the GIs entered the town a local woman had given birth to a baby. As the newborn was being washed an American soldier came into the house, saw the baby, and inquired about the mother. Upon being taken to the cellar where she was being attended to, the GI immediately sought to calm the obviously apprehensive woman.
When American troops entered Bad Windsheim on the morning of Sunday, April 15, no white flags were raised, no shots were fired, the Americans were simply there. With more fear than courage I carefully left my cellar in full RAD uniform, armed with an 8mm Belgian pistol. Just as I turned the corner [leading to the town hall] I saw an American tank. I immediately turned around and rushed back to the cellar, where I hurriedly changed clothes and hid the pistol in a crate of potatoes.
After the extreme tension of the preceding days, it all seemed so commonplace. With hammer and pliers I set about removing the symbols of the Third Reich in the conference room. All the time I was watched by an MP, who immediately took the emblems for himself as souvenirs. I went back to the main square, asked two old ladies. Again, only more emphatically, the same response to the occupiers, exactly the same beam of delight because the Negroes were especially good-natured enemies. There stood an American officer with a carton in his hand, wonderful things, oranges, sweets.
I could speak no English, showed him my [wedding] ring, wanted to emphasize that I could not take these things. In the small farm villages of Mittelsteinach and Abtsgreuth, a few miles north of Neustadt an der Aisch, American troops requisitioned a number of homes whose owners had to evacuate within ten minutes, and destroyed any unwelcome reminder of Nazism they encountered.
They think nothing bad will happen and imagine that justice, cigarettes, and chocolate will take the place of bombs and the Gestapo. As rational [people] they are ready as quickly as possible to raise the white flag. Based on these experiences with the Americans, the populace. Especially repugnant, he thought, were the scenes of Germans enthusiastically waving white flags and embracing American soldiers as liberators. In light of this, the troops are no longer willing to fight and are either withdrawing unresistingly or surrendering to the enemy.
The Americans are said to have been received with large-scale demonstrations as they moved in. By and large, American soldiers fought the Germans with little hatred or moral indignation, at least until their advance into Germany itself brought them into contact with forced labor and concentration camps. Although in postwar surveys a substantial minority of GIs admitted some animosity toward the Germans, at the time overt hatred seemed moderated by contact with the enemy.
The Landser impressed GIs as a formidable opponent, efficient in combat and superbly equipped, but one whose very skill and tenacity engendered both respect and animosity, since it was this very professionalism that threatened the GI with a brutal death. Or maybe he fought to protect his family from a concentration camp. Either way, he was a victim. Personally, I had no malice at any time toward the Germans.
No more bombing or shelling. Maybe so, but it seems that regardless of what the German people say, they must have supported Hitler and his army. Maybe it was from fear, as they tell you, or just maybe it was the kind of action that the people wanted. As Karl von Clausewitz, a nineteenth-century Prussian military philosopher, pointed out, a certain limitlessness is implicit in war, as actions on both sides lead to a continuous escalation of violence.
By , therefore, the danger existed that American soldiers, increasingly bitter and frustrated that the Germans continued to fight when the military verdict seemed clear, and German soldiers, desperate to protect their home territory, would set in motion an uncontrollable dynamic of brutality. Charles MacDonald, angry at the continued German resistance, which put his own life and the lives of the men in his company at risk, illustrated well this resentment. Alles ist kaput! I was not impressed; instead I was suddenly angry at them and surprised at my own anger.
What right had they to stand there sobbing and blaming us for this terror? What right did they and their kind have to any emotions at all? Innocent people condemned to live in barracks behind barbed wire, to slave twelve hours a day. With cold deliberation the Germans had enslaved the populace of Europe.
The German people were guilty, every one of them. One sees the Hitler Jugend [Hitler Youth] who have no conception of any other standard than force and war. Knee deep in flesh and blood. Enough to puke on. The roads south of Dachau were crowded with victims let out from the concentration camps, still wearing the black-and-white striped cloth of the convict. Their striped garments were their pride. They had endured. An eye for an eye. But Holy Moses. Then vengeance upon his children. Justice wants fresh young maidens and bronzed youths worthy of her blows. The sloppy romantics of the twentieth century.
Are you cold, my dear little Germans? Are you hungry? Take care of your calories or we shall have to. They were a swarm; they made you want to brush them off like flies or fleas, and they went into gales of nervous laughter at the suggestion that any of them had been Nazis. With loathing and animosity dripping from his pen, Lieutenant David Olds wrote to his parents: I would crush every vestige of military or industrial might in Germany. Let them be a pauper nation. They deserve it.
I would love to personally shoot all young Hitlerites. You also asked about concentration camps. It is hard for me to convey it all to you. You drive through the surrounding towns where there are happy little children at play, and people going about their business. The mass graves and reburials are, for brutality, even worse. They stood there, hard and sullen-faced, muttering and obstinate. A shrug of the shoulders, too bad, it had to be done. Thus, GIs initially approached Germany with a certain wariness and a heightened sense of suspicion, ready to see treachery and deceit in every German action.
In addition, troops fresh from combat or having seen firsthand the concentration camps often transferred their hostility to the first civilians with whom they came in contact. Despite his initial hatred for the Germans and belief that they all were Nazis, Private Webster nonetheless found himself drawn to the German people. They are cleaner, more progressive, and more ambitious than either the English or the French. Along most of the streets there were neat piles of salvageable cobble stones.
Houses were worked on to remove the debris. They were still in bad shape, yet they appeared almost ready to be rebuilt. Put them in Trenton, N. There are other tokens of advanced civilization. There is a disciplined, thrifty quality about the neat brick homes, evidence of industry, self-respect, strength. It is a dreadful horror. Indeed, the comparison made most frequently was to the French and it rarely favored the latter. A poll in the fall of , in fact, revealed that the average GI liked the Germans by a clear margin.
The Italians were liars, thieves, dirty. The rural French were sullen, slow, and ungrateful while the Parisians were rapacious, cunning, indifferent to whether they were cheating Germans or Americans. The British people were brave, resourceful, quaint, reserved, dull. Generally speaking, these people are very much the same as many of our own people. The whole condition seems to go back to one thing—indifference on the part of the citizens toward the running of the government, and the biggest crime the German people have committed is to do nothing.
Thus, the conclusion is nearly forced upon them that they have been previously blinded by fear and hatred and the propaganda of their own government. The soldiers looked the very picture of health, fit and well-fed, wearing uniforms of the best material. At the same time their superb mechanization.
We were convinced of the technical superiority of the Americans in every respect. Except for skirmishes, foot soldiers were not to be found, nowhere visible, all the soldiers were brought to the front by autos, in long columns of personal cars [jeeps]. They had everything they needed for combat as well as rest periods. They ate bread as white as a petal. On the other hand, when one looked at our starving and emaciated soldiers retreating from the front or as prisoners of war, with their threadbare uniforms and faces made careworn by battle and suffering, it was a sight made even more shocking when next to it one saw.
It was clear to everyone who saw this equipment that the war had been lost the instant America had declared war, given its fresh troops and enormous reserves. My God!
Tank after tank rolled by, one after another, really monsters with long barrels and machine guns on all sides, soldiers with grim, proud faces staring at us. I began to count the monsters. At fifty-two I gave up. Still they rolled past. At the end followed motorized infantry. And how fresh and well-nourished they all appeared. What powerful material rolled by us.
Huge transporters. And the cars of the Americans were continually racing through the dust, the ruins. It was these cars that made the picture of hell complete; they are the angels of judgement or the centaurs at the stream of blood. They are the triumphant and cheerful victors and masters. They drive quickly and nonchalantly, and the Germans run along humbly on foot, the victors spit out the abundance of their cigarette stubs everywhere, and the Germans pick up the stubs. We, the liberated, creep along on foot, we stoop down for the cigarette ends, we, who only yesterday were the oppressed, and who today are called the liberated, are ultimately likewise imprisoned and humiliated.
The steel helmet is worn as comfortably as a hat. I have not seen even the smallest group marching: they all drive. The contrast between them and our emaciated, pitifully equipped, fleeing, despairing soldiers was indescribable, and we were gripped by a deep revulsion against an army leadership that would. Giant types. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Endkampf by Stephen G. Dwight D. Eisenhower, fearing that retreating Germans would consolidate large numbers of troops in an Alpine stronghold and from there conduct a protracted guerilla war, turned U.
Under the direction of officers schooled in harsh combat in Russia, the Germans succeeded in bringing the American advance to a grinding halt. Caught in the middle were the people of Franconia. Historians have accorded little mention to this period of violence and terror, but it provides insight into the chaotic nature of life while the Nazi regime was crumbling. Neither German civilians nor foreign refugees acted simply as passive victims caught between two fronts.
Throughout the region people pressured local authorities to end the senseless resistance and sought revenge for their tribulations in the "liberation" that followed. Stephen G. Fritz examines the predicament and outlook of American GI's, German soldiers and officials, and the civilian population caught in the arduous fighting during the waning days of World War II. Endkampf is a gripping portrait of the collapse of a society and how it affected those involved, whether they were soldiers or civilians, victors or vanquished, perpetrators or victims.
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More filters. Sort order. Aug 24, Paul Janiszewski rated it really liked it. We believe as a collective: what we have come to believe; and what we are told to believe, and none may question where we are at for acceptance is the master in our minds, of a will driven by the force of instinct: to be a part; a member; a participant. The difficulty in all of this is separating one from the other come to or told to and here lies the dilemma.
Fritz seeks an answer to the question of why the German people so faithfully followed their fuhrer to such a catastrophic end and what followed. He concentrates on personal stories on the western front bringing together the varied perspectives of American GI's, German soldiers, local officials, ordinary civilians, foreign workers and Jewish survivors seeking revenge.
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Each inculcated and driven by their own dynamic notions. Shelves: academic-history , fascism. This book explores the question of why, in the face of certain defeat, German soldiers continued to fight for and German civilians continued to support the regime that had led to Germany's destruction. He looks specifically at a small section of Germany where fighting against the Americans was at its fiercest, and the terms of the occupation there up to , by which time the "Stunde Null" had been survived and a new attitude was finally being cultivated among the defeated. Fritz offers some in This book explores the question of why, in the face of certain defeat, German soldiers continued to fight for and German civilians continued to support the regime that had led to Germany's destruction.
Fritz offers some interesting new perspective in his attempt to apply chaos theory to human societies, although his discussion of this concept ends up being rather cursory and his application of it unconvincing. He does make the interesting point that the individuals navigating the complex environment of disintegrating authority and authoritarianism cannot be easily divided into categories of victims, perpetrators and resistors, as many had to negotiate each position according to the immediate situation.
He also contributes to the current debate around Nazi morality or conscience by exploring the relationship of the myth of the Nibelungslied to that of Treue and the famed German resignation in the face of death. As a work of military history, Fritz both succeeds in giving on-the-ground details of a fairly obscure combat history and also in tying military operations in to wider social and cultural concerns. The book is both entertaining and informative and does raise a number of fascinating points for discussion and further research.
Jul 23, Margaret Sankey rated it liked it. We conveniently forget how messy the end of WWII was. American soldiers facing constant harassment in every little German town fought kinda dirty, or as Audie Murphy's autobiography explained, they had a handbook about treating civilians and prisoners, but "sometimes we mislaid the book". Jan 05, Steve rated it really liked it. Another view point of life in Germany, and the relationships with the occupying forces at the end of the war Lee rated it it was amazing Dec 25, Barbara Apple rated it liked it Aug 11, Saur rated it really liked it Jul 26, KorbinH rated it it was amazing Jan 22, Michael Barrett rated it it was amazing Mar 27, Milo rated it really liked it Oct 15,