Respectful Insolence

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While I’m back on the subject of Nazi Germany, here’s a rather interesting tidbit of news about a book that I’ll undoubtedly want to read when it comes out:

During the latter half of World War II, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) undertook a massive clandestine operation of which the full, extraordinary details are only now coming to light.

Between 1942 and 1945, a section of SIS – known as MI19 – secretly recorded no fewer than 64,427 conversations between captured German generals and other senior officers, all without their knowledge or even suspicion. The 167 most significant of these are about to be published for the first time.

Together, they provide us with a goldmine of information about what the German High Command privately thought of the war, Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and each other.

They also explode the post-war claim of the Wehrmacht that they did not know what the SS were doing to the Jews, Slavs, mentally disabled and others among what they termed “untermensch” (sub-humans).

Some examples:

General Von Thoma, who commanded a panzer division in Russia before being captured at El Alamein, told the pro-Nazi General Ludwig Cruwell in January 1943: “I am actually ashamed to be an officer.”

He related how he had spoken to the Army Chief of Staff, General Franz Halder, about the atrocities, only to be told: “That’s a political matter, that’s nothing to do with me.”

So he put his protests in writing to Army commanderin-chief General Walther von Brauchitz, who said: “Do you want me to take it further? If you want me to take it further, anything might happen.”

Thoma said of those who believed the Fuhrer was ignorant of what was happening: “Of course, he knows all about it. Secretly, he’s delighted. Of course, people can’t make a row – they would simply be arrested and beaten if they did.”

The kind of things that were happening to Poles, Russians and especially Jews were common currency in the ‘private’ conversations at Trent Park.

In December 1944, Generalleutnant Heinrich Kittel, commander of 462 Volksgrenadier division, told General-major Paul von Felbert, commandant of Feldkommandantur 560: “The things I’ve experienced! In Latvia, near Dvinsk, there were mass executions of Jews carried out by the SS.

“There were about 15 SS men and perhaps 60 Latvians, known to be the most brutal people in the world. I was lying in bed one Sunday morning when I kept hearing two salvos followed by small-arms fire.”

On investigating, Kittel found “men, women and children – they were counted off and stripped naked. The executioners first laid all the clothes in one pile. Then 20 women had to take up their position – naked – on the edge of the trench. They were shot and fell down into it.”

“How was it done?” asked Felbert.

“They faced the trench,” Kittel replied. “And then 20 Latvians came up behind and simply fired once through the back of their heads, and they fell down forwards into the trench like ninepins.”

Kittel gave an order forbidding such executions from taking place “outside, where people can look on. If you shoot people in the wood or somewhere where no one can see,” he told the SS men, “that’s your own affair. But I absolutely forbid another day’s shooting here. We draw our drinking water from deep springs; we’re getting nothing but corpse water there.”

“What did they do to the children?” asked Felbert. Kittel – who sounded “very excited” at this point, according to the transcriber – answered: “They seized three-year-old children by the hair, held them up and shot them with a pistol and then threw them in. I saw that for myself. One could watch it.”

Another general, General-leutnant Hans Schaeffer, commander of the 244 Infantry division, asked Kittel: “Did they weep? Have the people any idea what’s in store for them?”

“They know perfectly well,” replied Kittel. “They are apathetic. I’m not sensitive myself, but such things turn my stomach.”

The book is Tapping Hitler’s Generals: Transcripts Of Secret Conversations 1942-45, edited by Sonke Neitzel with an introduction by Ian Kershaw, is published by Greenhill Books on August 31 at £30. Its release date in the U.S. is September 15.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark P
    July 24, 2007

    What’s the source of the photo? I assume that’s Hitler sitting against the desk surrounded by attentive officers. What an incredible rush it must have given his ego to be treated like this by those high-ranking officers!

  2. #2 wolfwalker
    July 24, 2007

    I can’t say I’m particularly surprised. In the immediate postwar years there was an enormous effort by important Germans to prove that they had nothing to do with the worst aspects of the Third Reich, that it was all that damned Bohemian corporal and his handpicked thugs. German scientists claimed for years that they covertly sabotaged the Nazis’ efforts to develop atomic bombs by delaying and misdirecting the research. But a couple of years ago, the British government released secret tapes from after the war — tapes like these, of prisoners talking to other prisoners without knowing they were bugged — which proved conclusively that it was all a load of hooey, that the Nazi A-bomb programs went nowhere simply because the German scientists didn’t know what they were doing.

    Now we find that the Wehrmacht high command knew all along about the Holocaust. No surprises there – it simply wouldn’t have been possible to keep the death camps and mass executions secret. They knew. They just didn’t want to do anything about it. Some of them approved, others were too scared.

    Mark, I don’t think that’s Hitler in the photo. Hitler was short and slender with a full head of hair. That man is taller and heavier built, and appears to be balding on top. My guess is that he’s a senior general, perhaps the General von Brauschitz mentioned in the article excerpt.

  3. #3 Flyspeck
    July 24, 2007

    The common people of Germany knew that those who were taken away would never be coming back, so it was safe to loot their homes and shops, and even to move into them. There was no fear of eventual retribution, none. They knew there would be no consequences, not soon, not later, not in a million years.

    That level of confidence comes only when you know for sure those who disappear are being killed.

    The atrocities were also known to Germans in the US. They were proud of their Nazis. They raised money for the war effort — the one being run from Berlin — under the guise of intending to buy blankets and bandages, or else to send to widows and orphans.

    (I had relatives who were Bundists, and Nazi sympathizers.)

  4. #4 Dave S.
    July 24, 2007

    wolfwalker –

    According to the caption of the same photo in the link, that is Hitler, briefing his generals. I doubt he was awed by them or their rank. After all, Hitler knew better than any general … just look at his record even before the war.

    Besides, Walther von Brauchitsch was more bald than Hitler.

  5. #5 khan
    July 24, 2007

    The atrocities were also known to Germans in the US. They were proud of their Nazis. They raised money for the war effort — the one being run from Berlin — under the guise of intending to buy blankets and bandages, or else to send to widows and orphans.

    (I had relatives who were Bundists, and Nazi sympathizers.)

    Some yes, but not all. Grandpa (immigrant from Germany) was contacted by the Nazi government and told them where to stuff their swastikas. His son and a daughter served in the military. Later, German POWs worked his farm in upstate NY.

    After the war they sent assistance to relatives in Germany.

  6. #6 TSgt. Berry, USAF (Ret.)
    July 24, 2007

    Serving in Germany, armed with my M16, living in the field in arctic conditions, part of the Cold War, from 1977 to 1982, there was broadcast on the German Television of the US movie series “The Holocaust”.

    TV studio had set up a single hotline for people who might have now found their conscience. Within 48 hours there were over 100 operators answering the lines, people were committing suicide over their theft of neighbor’s properties, and having turned in parents or lovers, in anger or jealous rage.

    When I departed my assignment, the phone bank was still running full tilt, almost two years later. Hundreds of psychiatrists were on call, and suicide prevention was a 24 hour manned response team in most major cities!

    The Holocaust evidently was a personal failure of conscience for almost all Germans who contributed, achieving the death of neighbors, co-workers, ex-lovers, with hardly any motive at all.

  7. #7 George Smiley
    July 25, 2007

    The common people of Germany knew that those who were taken away would never be coming back, so it was safe to loot their homes and shops, and even to move into them. There was no fear of eventual retribution, none. They knew there would be no consequences, not soon, not later, not in a million years.

    U.S. citizens looted and moved into the homes and homestads of thousands of Indians, and later of Japanese-Americans who were interned at Manzanar and elsewhere during WW II. There were, effectively, no consequences, not soon, not later. Do you draw the same conclusions about them? (Just wondering whether your moral judgement is symmetrical…)

  8. #8 Niobe
    July 25, 2007

    “Well if it took them so long to release them they were just having trouble finding adequate voice actors for this hoax”.

    Just pre-empting the deniers with this one.

  9. #9 Rodger
    July 25, 2007

    Of course, people can’t make a row – they would simply be arrested and beaten if they did.”

    This is part of the problem. If you know enough to be outraged, you know enough to have a fair idea of what awaits you, your family, and your associates if you kick up enough of a fuss.

    The atrocities were also known to Germans in the US. They were proud of their Nazis.

    Pro-Nazi sentiments in America were hardly confined to German Americans. Ford and Kennedy are two names that spring to mind.

  10. #10 adrian
    July 25, 2007

    Don’t we get enough info about the Nazi’s from the History/Hitler Channel already?

  11. #11 bernarda
    July 25, 2007

    adrian, I quite agree. How many programs have there been on the Congo Free State created by Belgian King Leopold. In his time, Mark Twain protested about the massacres.

    Or how many programs have there been about the American occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish American War, which Twain also protested as Vice-President of the Anti-Imperialism League?

    How many programs about American created death squads like the Contras in Central and South America?

    No one talks about the more than three million Congolese killed in the last 10 years. And so on.

    As to U.S. supporters of Hitler before the war, don’t forget Prescott Bush.

    For a more detailed history of Hitler’s supporters in the U.S.

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Fascism/Support_Hitler_US.html

    Republicans who supported the Nazis after the War.

    http://www.rense.com/general17/bushhitler.htm

  12. #12 A. Schaefer
    July 25, 2007

    from the point of view of a post war German ( born ’55 ) one would have to be blind, deaf and a moron not to know – which in combination excludes career officers.
    Certainly I did not believe people if they claimed they did not know. My parents knew, but they had good sources. I had young teachers too part of the student revolt of ’68 ( and one of the students complaints was that their teachers were hiding their involvement ) – and they taught rather uncensored history. Thus it did not need the Holocaust TV series to know what happened.

  13. #13 Rebecca
    July 25, 2007

    Why, then, Bernarda, don’t you hide your pro-Nazi sympathies a bit more effectively – quoting from Rense.com is practically an admission of where your sympathies lie.

  14. #14 SLC
    July 25, 2007

    Manfred Rommel, the son of the WW2 German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel tells the story of his informing his father that he wished to join a Waffen SS unit. His father forbade him to do so with the comment that the SS were a pack of criminals, indicating at least some knowledge of their activities. It should be noted that the field marshall was never assigned to duties in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union, indicating that his information was second hand, and therefore likely to be widespread amongst officers in the Wermacht.

  15. #15 Orac
    July 25, 2007

    Oh, goody. My favorite Holocaust-denying groupie/troll (bernada) is back. Nice to know he/she/it still reads here, waiting for me to come back to the topics of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

    Bernada, here’s a hint: Your citing Rense.com for anything is pretty good evidence supporting the contention that you’re a conspiracy-mongering anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. The sole exception is if you meant it ironically or as a joke, and I don’t think you did.

  16. #16 Mark P
    July 25, 2007

    I suspect that most of the members of the higher officer corps knew what the SS was and held them as well as Hitler in contempt. Unfortunately, despite their opinions and their knowledge, they at the minimum acquiesced in their atrocities.

  17. #17 Lancelotta
    July 25, 2007

    I spent a couple years in Germany about a decade ago. It amazed me that many Germans speak differently depending on the company. Because of who I was working for during part of that time, I got to see much that I wouldn’t have seen as a tourist or an exchange student or another foreign worker. People would open up with me because of where they thought I stood politically. They were quite wrong but I didn’t disabuse them of their mistake. I listened and learned.

    In these conversations I heard all about the Jews, how all they ever wanted was money, then and now, how they’re still the same greedy people, evil, how they prove their worth by how they treat the Palestinians. Some Germans find Hitler’s methods distasteful, but his goals admirable. The sentiment is, the Jews didn’t belong and they had to be gotten rid of, one way or another.

    The German people as a group/nation/race is a concept that also persists in the younger generation. Eurofever is there, too, but it’s precisely those kids who claim to hate their Nazi past the most who are the proudest “nationalists” now, if I can use that word. They feel that they are morally and intellectually superior to the rest of the world because of what their grandfathers did to the Jews. It’s an “anti-Nationalism” that ends up being the same thing in many ways as nationalism.

    I came away from Germany with the impression that a distinct portion of the population remains secretly (sometimes openly) anti-Semitic, and that many are convinced of their own inherent superiority.

    I should also say that I met many good people in Germany, and I don’t intend to say that all Germans are racists or snobs in any way. Just that the cancer of Nazism was not removed by the post-war “deNazification” any more than the cancer of racism in this country was ended by the Civil War or the Civil Rights era.

  18. #18 bernarda
    July 25, 2007

    Orac and Rebecca, you love ad hominem attacks.

    Listen up, why do you blame the messenger?

    And furthermore, for my ad hominem, you were not such absolute zionist propagandists, you would even read links. The rense link was simply a reprint of an article.

    In fact if you had read them, you would have seen that I was denouncing nazi collaborators in America. But no, it is so much easier denounce someone for imagined offenses.

    And Orac is a liar, I have never denied the holocaust. He could easily reprint the my posts in question if he cared to. But he is a racist who sees anything critical of Israel as “holocaust denial”.

    Don’t worry orac, I just come around once in a while to confirm that you are as deluded as ever.

  19. #19 DrFrank
    July 26, 2007

    And Orac is a liar, I have never denied the holocaust.
    Ah, so you agree with the version that’s accepted by mainstream historians, then?

    If so, great :)

  20. #20 Orac
    July 26, 2007

    And Orac is a liar, I have never denied the holocaust.

    Never denied the Holocaust?

    Well, then, let’s find out. Please tell us, in your own words, what, exactly, the Holocaust is. Then tell us how many Jews were killed. Were there death camps? Were there gas chambers?

    I’m very serious here. What, exactly, is the Holocaust, and what happened during it?

  21. #21 Dianne
    July 26, 2007

    Lancelotta: I don’t mean to deny your experience, but I’m in Germany right now and the country you describe is completely unrecognizable from the one outside my window. I’ve seen a fair amount of casual racism in Germany, but not directed against Jews, but rather against Turks. I’ve yet to see any serious anti-Semitism around here. No Hackenkreutze graffiti (unlike in the US), the walls of the local synagogue are unvandalized (unlike in the US).

    It could be that I’m sheltered or deluded or that people recognize me as a foreigner and so don’t make anti-Semitic statements (but then why do a few of them feel free to trash Turks in front of me?) Still, I’ve seen less anti-Semitic or anti-foreign graffiti here than in the US (though my favorite graffiti exchange took place in a toilet in Rügen. The first graffiti read, “Dear Greens, go away and take your foreign ‘friends’ with you.” The follow up graffiti said, “Dear foriegners, please don’t leave us alone with these Germans.” It was seconded a number of times, though the original also got a couple of supportive comments. Perhaps the pro-foreign contengent is just less law abiding and more willing to write on toilet walls, though.)

    All this contrasts sharply with my experience in the US. I’m light-skinned, blue eyed, and speak English with a Midwestern accent, so people assume that I’m “white”. So people feel free to make jokes about “wetbacks” and other nasty anti-foreign comments near me. Actually, my mother is Latina and my step-father Danish, but they don’t know that looking at me. So I hear all sorts of “un-PC” things coming out of people’s mouths in the US. Am I protected in Germany by my “obvious” foreignness (which is, in fact, only obvious when I open my mouth. If I stood there and nodded, neo-Nazis would probably assume me to be one of theirs)? Maybe. All I know is I don’t really want to go back to that other country that clearly doesn’t want me.

  22. #22 Thomas N.
    July 26, 2007

    I came away from Germany with the impression that a distinct portion of the population remains secretly (sometimes openly) anti-Semitic, and that many are convinced of their own inherent superiority.
    I should also say that I met many good people in Germany, and I don’t intend to say that all Germans are racists or snobs in any way. Just that the cancer of Nazism was not removed by the post-war “deNazification” any more than the cancer of racism in this country was ended by the Civil War or the Civil Rights era.

    @Lancelotta
    I don’t know what part of Germany you’ve been to, but there’s nearly no country being more anti-semitic than Germany. Maybe you should clean up your own house first. I guess there are more pro-nazi elements in the US than anywhere in Europe. I don’t think that people here feel superiour to others. Sorry, but in my eyes, you just telling rubbish.

  23. #23 Dr Aust
    July 26, 2007

    Antisemitism was, of course, not confined to Germany.

    There has been a long-standing anti-semitic tradition in Europe going back millennia, not centuries. It was traditional to “warm up” for the Crusades (slaughtering Muslims) by “working out” with a bit of riot, burning, looting and lynching of the local Jewish population (the condemners of Christ). For details see the history books.

    Hitler tapped into this deep historical strand of antisemitism when he got the countries he occupied to help him round up their Jewish populations for “deportation”. This was true throughout Eastern and central Europe, and also in France, to the eternal shame of the Vichy regime and its supporters. In some countries local elements actually helped slaughter the Jews – more true in Eastern Europe, where the antisemitism was most overt. The most infamous of these “helpers” came from the Baltic republics and the Ukraine.

    One of the many tragedies of the Holocaust was precisely the melding of the widespread, routine and deep-rooted antisemitism with a madman’s “there are no limits to what we can do” philosophy, bought into by post-WWI and Great Depression Germans, and then taken forward with the industrial capacity of Europe’s most technically advanced country. Hence the bureaucratic and industrial efficiency of the disposal of human beings.

    …One great lesson being that being “civilized” (as in technically advanced) does not make you incapable of atrocity. As subsequently seen on smaller scales in many places, including Bosnia. Hence the need for eternal vigilance, everywhere, about casually sterotyping any group of human beings as “less than us”.

    One thing not mentioned in the comments made about Germany is that the place where you still find antisemitism and Nazi sympathisers is the former East. There, of course, the people were taught after the War “it was the Nazis that did it, but now as Communists WE are different”. In contrast, in the West, children were and still are taught “It was Germans that did it – so we as Germans must never forget that people like us were capable of this”.

    On the question of knowledge of the Holocaust, I cannot imagine any ranking Wehrmacht officer anywhere in the East would not have known about the mass executions and deportations, and thus by word of mouth most of the army officer corps.

    Finally, as A. Schaefer pointed out above, one of the aspects of the 1968 protests and their aftermath that was unique to Germany was precisely that the younger post-war generation felt that many people in positions of power in Germany in the 50s, 60s and 70s had been Nazi “Mitlauefer” (fellow-travellers) who had never truly been honest about their own involvement. Former UN secretary general Kurt Waldheim (though Austrian) is an obvious example, but there were countless others throughout industry, the professions (including the medical profession) and the Universities. I can well believe Germans now in their late 60s and 70s retain the antisemitism they grew up with, thought perhaps buried deep. But in my experience most young Germans have a level of understanding and moral compass about the Holocaust and Germany’s responsibility that would put the average Brit or American to shame.

  24. #24 Eric
    July 27, 2007

    SLC-

    Quick comment on your post. Rommel’s distaste for the SS was well known. While the Field Marshall was not on the Eastern Front during the war, he was present during the German invasion of Belgium, the Netherlands and France. The SS treatment of Belgian POWs was par-for-the-course with their savagery during the rest of the war, so his “suspicions” were not entirely hearsay.

  25. #25 bernarda
    July 29, 2007

    orac, as I have posted on these questions long ago, what evidence do you have that I am a “holocaust denier”? You must have my posts.

  26. #26 Orac
    July 29, 2007

    bernarda,

    If you aren’t a Holocaust denier, then why not just answer my very simple question: What is the Holocaust and what happened during it? How many Jews were killed. Were there death camps? Were there gas chambers?

    These are fairly simple questions; yet you dodge.

  27. #27 Jose R.Pizarro
    October 18, 2007

    The best tacit admitance that the Holocaust did take place has been given by all the consecutive German governments since the end off World War II. It´s in :
    56-58 AM Grossen Wanssee Villa, in the suburbs of Berlin. There the germans have the HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL.
    The 20th of january 1942 high ranking Security, Gestapo, SS, and police officials,gathered in “Wanssee Villa” to plan the “Final Solution” after the invasion of Russia, when finding themselves with millions of Slavs, Jews, Communists and Gypsys. The final agreement they reached was the total extermination of all the “subhumans” One of the first decisions was the construcction of 35 more Extermination Camps. Up to then they only had 23 and were not enough to cope the huge problem. If anyone wants to doubt that the Holocaust took place, they are invited to visit the Memorial, and clear their intelect from capricious subjetivism, that only speaks very low of their analytical capacity.

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