A Comparison: Allied Forces treatment of German POWs and Sri Lankas’ Armed Forces treatment of Terrorist LTTE
– by Shenali D Waduge –
World War 2 took place over 70 years ago but Geneva Conventions did exist and the Allies were signatory to the Conventions. The Nazi soldiers were all members of the German army though Germany did not declare war on Allied Forces – the Allies declared war on Germany. In Sri Lanka’s case LTTE are classified as terrorists banned by 32 nations and do not enjoy Geneva Rights under the conventions terminologies.. LTTE terrorism had lasted 3 decades with none of the foreign recipes for peace delivering any peace to the nation. 30 years of failure to deliver peace for Sri Lanka is what should haunt the international community and the UN not the excuse of 4 months. For it was only after going through daily terror deaths, bombs and killings that a Just War was declared and LTTE was militarily defeated after offering them the opportunity to surrender. While more Germans died after World War 2 ended and Germany was occupied for over 10 years after the wars conclusion, close to 300,000 Tamil civilians were saved more than 11,770 LTTE combatants handed themselves in and are all accounted for, many of them were child combatants. None of them died, were tortured, starved, ill treated or killed (as German POWs and German civilians were) but went through an indigenous rehabilitation program and are now leading normal lives.
What the Allies did to German civilians and German POWs remains retrospective. While the Allies were quick to set up the Nuremberg Trials and execute German soldiers, none of the war crimes by Allied has ever been taken up for trial and the crimes committed by US, UK, France and the Soviet Union are far more shocking than what they accuse the German soldiers of.
Judge Robert H. Jackson, Chief US prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials in a letter discussing the potential weaknesses of the trial, in October 1945 told US President Harry S. Truman that the Allies themselves:
“have done or are doing some of the very things we are prosecuting the Germans for. The French are so violating the Geneva Convention in the treatment of prisoners of war that our command is taking back prisoners sent to them. We are prosecuting plunder and our Allies are practicing it. We say aggressive war is a crime and one of our allies asserts sovereignty over the Baltic States based on no title except conquest.”
The US, UK and EU nations accusing Sri Lanka of unsubstantiated crimes taken from LTTE sources continue to keep from trial their own crimes that cover genocide, enslavement and institutionalized ill treatment of Axis prisoners of war both during and after World War 2.
By all accounts the abuse of prisoners of war was contrary to the Geneva and other conventions to which UK and Allies were all signatory. Even the International Red Cross scrutinized British Government’s treatment of German prisoners and even threatened to bring the British Government before international tribunals for abuse and illegal enslavement. It was not just German soldiers who were subject to inhuman treatment even civilians were illegally held, deported and even murdered. None of these crimes have ever been investigated or justice served for the crimes committed. In contrast the 300,000 Tamil civilians housed in refugee camps – were quickly designated as ‘internment camps’ simply to humiliate the Sri Lankan Government. These camps had no such civilian deaths except a handful who died due to old age and fatigue as well as weakness.
Allied Forces – Treatment of German POWs
‘British guards imprisoned German troops and tortured them’ so said Cyril Connolly one of UK’s most acclaimed writers. The Daily Mail quoted in October 2012 “Britain has a reputation as a nation that prides itself on its love of fair play and respect for the rule of law. We claim the moral high ground when it comes to human rights. We were among the first to sign the 1929 Geneva Convention on the humane treatment of prisoners of war. … Surely, you would think, the British avoid torture? “– London Cage in London was where the British military operated a torture chamber where thousands of Germans were beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to assume stress positions for days at a time. The London Cage was part of a network of nine ‘cages’ around Britain run by the Prisoner of War Interrogation Section (PWIS), which came under the jurisdiction of the Directorate of Military Intelligence. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2223831/How-Britain-tortured-Nazi-PoWs-The-horrifying-interrogation-methods-belie-proud-boast-fought-clean-war.html
The US Army policy for captured soldiers was to simply slaughter their captured prisoners where they stood. Michael Walsh quotes the cold-blooded slaying of an estimated 700 troops of the 8th SS Mountain Division by squads of American troops. In another example infantrymen of the SS Westphalia Brigade captured by the US 3rd Armoured Division were shot through the back of the head and their corpses were left on the streets for 5 days before they were buried.
Allied Forces – Slave Labor
By March 1947, an estimated 4,000,000 Germans were being used as forced labour. Just over a year after WW2, the International Red Cross accused Britain of enslaving 460,000 German prisoners – this was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention (Enslavement of Prisoners of War is a violation of Article 75 of the Geneva Convention) which Britain was a signatory.
Arthur Veysey of the Chicago Tribune Press Service on May 28th 1946 reported of the appalling treatment by the British Government abusing the human rights of German prisoners. He wrote “The British Government nets over $250,000,000 annually from its slaves. The Government, which frankly calls itself the ‘owner’ of the prisoners, hires the men out to any employer needing men, charging the going rate for such work, usually $15 to $20 a week. It pays the slaves from 10 to 20 cents a day. The prisoners are never paid in cash, but are given credits either in the form of vouchers or credits.”
Contrary to what is often promoted the Soviet Union only followed the British example of slave trade. America attempted to prevent Stalin from abducting 5million Germans but the Soviets produced a proclamation by General Dwight Eisenhower in 1945 that the Soviets had complete freedom to do whatever they wished with captured Germans. The Soviets reminded America that they had equal rights to as the Americans were doing.
When Berlin and Breslau surrendered the German prisoners were made to march 22miles a day.
The International Red Cross accused US, Britain and France of violating IRC agreements signed in 1929 because they were using German soldiers in hazardous work of clearing minefields, sweeping sea mines and razing shattered buildings – the Geneva Convention expressly forbids employing prisoners in any dangerous labor or in the transport of any material used in warfare. Henry Wales on 13 April 1946 said “The bartering of captured enemy soldiers by the victors throws the world back to the dark ages when feudal barons raided adjoining duchies to replenish their human live stock. It is an iniquitous system and an evil precedent because it is wide open for abuse with difficulty in establishing responsibility. It is manifestly unjust and sell them for political reasons as the African Negroes were a century ago.”
GERMAN SLAVES HELD IN ALLIED COUNTRIES
United States 140,000 (US Occupation Zone of which 100,000 were held in France,
30,000 in Italy,
14,000 in Belgium.
Great Britain 460,000 German slaves.
The Soviet Union 4,000,000 – 5,000,000 estimated.
France had 680,000 German slaves by August 1946.
Source: International Red Cross.
Allied Forces – Starved POWs
According to the International Red Cross France had enslaved nearly 750,000 Germans of which 475,000 had been captured by the Americans ‘in a deal’ that transferred them to France to be used as forced labor. Most of those who were pronounced unfit for work were those who had been starved deliberately. In a camp in the Sarthe District housing 20,000 POWs inmates were given only 900 calories a day – on an average 12 died daily. Some of the prisoners attempted to stay alive by eating coal. On 5th December 1946 the American Government requested repatriation by 1st Oct 1947 to Germany of the 674,000 German POWs it had handed to France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg.
According to the Toronto Daily Star, March, 9th, 1968, “Former members of an illegal Israeli force which was given absolute freedom to slaughter Germans conceded that “More than 1,000 Nazi SS Officers died as a result of eating arsenic-impregnated bread introduced April, 13th, 1946, in an American-run prisoner-of-war camp near Nuremberg.”
After the US victory (the battle for Remagen Bridge) Germans in the Rhineland surrendereden masse. Between April and July 1945, some 260,000 German prisoners-of-war were held under American guard in the boggy fields between Remagen and Sinzig. They were kept in the open air and their daily ration was one potato, a biscuit, a spoonful of vegetables and some water. Racked by disease, at least 1,200 died, according to German records.”
Allied Forces – Denied Access to Media/International Agencies
The British had even denied access to the Media to examine prison camps. The Chicago Tribune Press on 19 May 1946, a year after the war wrote ‘prisoners lived through the winter in tents and slept on the bare ground under one blanket each. They say they are underfed and beaten and kicked by guards. Many have no underclothes or boots’.
Allied Forces – Treatment of Civilians –
Most of the two million German civilians who perished after the end of the war were women, children and elderly — victims of disease, cold, hunger, suicide, and mass murder. The vengeful plan by US Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau to turn defeated Germany into an impoverished “pastoral” country, stripped of modern industry, is recounted by British historian Giles MacDonogh, as well as other genocidal schemes to starve, sterilize or deport the population of what was left of the bombed-out cities.
During World War II, Hitler didn’t enforce laws against rape in Eastern Europe. It has been estimated that the Wehrmacht raped up to 10 million Soviet women during World War II, with between 750,000 and 1,000,000 children born as a result. Rapes were rarely prosecuted and they were seen as a way to “crush the Soviet resistance.” In the Soviet Union, women were often taken from their homes and branded with the words “Whore for Hitler’s troops.” There is also evidence that the Nazis used sexual torture and sexual slavery. However, in 1944, when the Red Army and Western Allies started to take control of the war, the situation changed and German women were the ones targeted for rape. It has been estimated that Soviet soldiers raped as many as 2 million German citizens in 1944 and 1945, killing around 250,000 of them. British historian Antony Beevor said it was the “greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history.” German women were also beaten on a massive scale.
Official U.S. military reports reveal that 36,500 children were fathered by American soldiers during the 10 year occupation of Germany. The Gis, however, took no responsibility because, under military policy, they denied paternity of the child and the German woman had no further recourse. It was the same in all occupied territories. Even in cases when the soldier took on the responsibility of fatherhood, an order to redeploy elsewhere would end all contacts between him and his partner.
Figures provided by Commonwealth authorities show that 8,500 children were born to British fathers and German mothers during the occupation. Clear figures do not exist regarding the offspring of Canadians in Germany, but while stationed in Britain, 22,000 children were fathered by them. In the Netherlands, some 4,000 babies were born of Canadian fathers and Dutch mothers. Authorities in London and Ottawa discouraged intimate relations, but if they happened, they ignored the relationships, fully protecting the soldier.
In the decade after World War II, more than 100,000 babies were born to unwed German mothers and Allied soldier fathers. Most of the men left Europe without ever meeting their children.
Shooting at Civilians ‘For Fun’
Eisenhower, in his personal letters, did not merely hate the Nazi Regime, and the few who imposed its will down from the top, but that HE HATED THE GERMAN PEOPLE AS A RACE. It was his personal intent to destroy as many of them as he could, and one way was to wipe out as many prisoners of war as possible. He issued an order on March 10, 1945 and verified by his initials on a cable of that date, that German Prisoners of War be predesignated as “Disarmed Enemy Forces” called in these reports as DEF. He ordered that these Germans did not fall under the Geneva Rules, and were not to be fed or given any water or medical attention. The Swiss Red Cross was not to inspect the camps, for under the DEF classification, they had no such authority or jurisdiction. Peter Worthington, of the OTTAWA SUN said “…it is hard to escape the conclusion that Dwight Eisenhower was a war criminal of epic proportions. His (DEF) policy killed more Germans in peace than were killed in the European Theater.”… “For years we have blamed the 1.7 million missing German POW’s on the Russians. Until now, no one dug too deeply … Witnesses and survivors have been interviewed by the author; one Allied officer compared the American camps to Buchenwald.”
Former British Army veteran A W Perkins described the ‘Sennelager’ British concentration camp which held civilians and not captured German troops. ‘During the latter half of 1945, I was with British troops guarding suspected Nazi civilians living on starvation rations in a camp called Sennelager. They were frequently beaten and grew as thin as concentration camp victims, scooping handfuls of swill from our waste bins’. A W Perkins also describes how the other guards amused themselves by baiting starving prisoners….’it was a common trick to throw a cigarette just inside the fence and shoot any prisoner who tried to reach it’.
Allied Forces machine gunned women and children
Between 1939 and 1945, the Allies dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs, which averaged to 27,700 tons per month. East Europeans who were captured by British in British controlled Austria and Yugoslavia had been taken in groups and machine gunned in the woods by British army and Red Army NKVD officers – Cossack civilian refugees in Austria suffered most.
One incident of a British transport train where the open-plan carriages were splattered with blood. Captain Duncan McMilan ‘being guided to a small railway station where there was a barbed-wire enclosure….Cossacks being unloaded from trucks and described how they were stripped of their possessions, even food before being marched away.’ British soldiers have testified that they heard the rattle of machine-guns ‘we thought they were just taken back there and slaughtered’. These accounts are described in Nicholas Bethell’s book ‘The Last Secret’ published in 1974 – the English legal apparatus suppressed further accounts from being published.
Of the 90,000 Germans who surrendered at Stalingrad, for example, only 5,000 ever returned to their homeland.
Mass suicide of Germans
Around 270 Nationalists organized a “funeral march” on May 8, 2010 to commemorate the 2000 victims of the mass suicide that happened in the German city of Demmin on May 1, 1945, during the closing days of WWII and the so called “liberation”. The victims, mostly women, children and old men, committed suicide by downing themselves in the nearby river or by taking poison to avoid being captured by the Allies.
Only a handful of examples have been shown above to show the comparison of how the Allies treated the Germans – both POWs and ordinary civilians. As against this whatever international campaign is in place spearheaded by these very nations cannot take away Sri Lanka’s achievement. The allegations of deaths that has yet to even name the dead cannot outshine the fact that close to 300,000 Tamil civilians were saved by the Sri Lankan army. All of these people lived to be resettled and are now leading normal lives. All the surrendered LTTE combatants too remain alive and they too have undergone indigenous rehabilitation and reintegration and they are also leading normal lives except for a handful who will face formal charges for terrorist activity.
In terms of the Nuremberg principles the atrocities committed by the Allies remain relevant for trial for none of these atrocities were ever taken to the dock. There cannot be a time bar for crimes nor omission simply because these countries are super powers and architects of international laws that appear to apply to everyone else but them. If so, international laws are just a hypocrisy of justice.
We all know that the West – the powerful international community deem it is their right to deny rights to others so long as their power, their profit and their rules prevail. That is the perversity with which the rest of the world must live unless people start to wake up.