Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Fritz

The Rheinwiesenlager, Summer 1945

Recommended Posts

At the end of the war the Americans interned millions of German prisoners of war on the Rheinwiesen.  They had been declared as D.E.F. or "Disarmed Enemy Forces" by the US Army and denied their rights as prisoners of war. They were kept for months behind barbed wire without accomodation, provisions or shelter. The prisoners lived under appalling, unhygienic  conditions with a lack of sanitation  and overcrowding. Exposure to all weathers, disease and undernourishment took their toll, and brought about a high mortality rate.  Medical care and access by the Swiss Red Cross was denied by the Americans. This was quietened down for many years. The full number of victims has not been accounted for to this day. The camps are thought to have held up to three and a half million prisoners.
Those who died were transported daily by the lorryload in the early hours of the morning to unknown destinations. Any unauthorised persons approaching the camp perimiters and wire fencing would be fired on.

Footnote: Zum Fremdschämen (DIE WELT)
"Es geht um den Brief eines pensionierten Offiziers der US-Army. Darin entschuldigt sich ein Major Merrit P. Drucker in einem auf Englisch und Deutsch per Mail-Listen verbreiteten Brief für die „Misshandlung deutscher Kriegsgefangener im Gewahrsam der Vereinigten Staaten in Deutschland“. Ihre Gefangenschaft sei gekennzeichnet gewesen durch „hartherzige Brutalität und äußersten, oft tödlichen Mangel zu einer Zeit, als wir, die USA, die moralische Verpflichtung und die materiellen Mittel hatten, um die früheren Feinde, die sich in unserer Hand befanden zu versorgen“.

image.png.ec2eda4eaba53c81e5041c0f092e7857.png

image.png.8921223c81bcae94636ecd22115633be.png

image.png.2009621fa64db1dea16c1a8c7f31a910.png

image.png.7a96460fcc4551132e8cc0dbb6c250c8.png

image.png.4532e9eb7a2960fc02e4d16bbd13d88a.png

image.png.def660673ea833879aecbe7c93b8a214.png

image.png.ea1cc4f1ea5654c2ae84ade7edcc6197.png

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Eisenhower’s Starvation Order

By James Bacque

Never had so many people been put in prison. The size of the Allied captures was unprecedented in all history. The Soviets took prisoner some 3.5 million Europeans, the Americans about 6.1 million, the British about 2.4 million, the Canadians about 300,000, the French around 200,000. Uncounted millions of Japanese entered American captivity in 1945, plus about 640,000 entering Soviet captivity.

As soon as Germany surrendered on 8 May 1945, the American Military Governor, 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 … 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 Rhine … The message [which Bacque reproduces] reads in part: “… under no circumstances may food supplies be assembled among the local inhabitants in order to deliver them to the prisoners of war. Those who violate this command and nevertheless try to circumvent this blockade to allow something to come to the prisoners place themselves in danger of being shot….”

Eisenhower’s order was also posted in English, German and Polish on the bulletin board of Military Government Headquarters in Bavaria, signed by the Chief of Staff of the Military Governor of Bavaria. Later it was posted in Polish in Straubing and Regensburg, where there were many Polish guard companies at nearby camps. One US Army officer who read the posted order in May 1945 has written that it was “the intention of Army command regarding the German POW camps in the US Zone from May 1945 through the end of 1947 to exterminate as many POWs as the traffic would bear without international scrutiny.”

… The [American] army’s policy was to starve [German] prisoners, according to several American soldiers who were there. Martin Brech, retired professor of philosophy at Mercy college in New York, who was a guard at Andernach in 1945, has said that he was told by an officer that “it is our policy that these men not be fed.” The 50,000 to 60,000 men in Andernach were starving, living with no shelter in holes in the ground, trying to nourish themselves on grass. When Brech smuggled bread to them through the wire, he was ordered to stop by an officer. Later, Brech sneaked more food to them, was caught, and told by the same officer, “If you do that again, you’ll be shot.” Brech saw bodies go out of the camp “by the truckload” but he was never told how many there were, where they were buried, or how.

… The prisoner Paul Schmitt was shot in the American camp at Bretzenheim after coming close to the wire to see his wife and young son who were bringing him a basket of food. The French followed suit: Agnes Spira was shot by French guards at Dietersheim in July 1945 for taking food to prisoners. The memorial to her in nearby Buedesheim, written by one of her chidren, reads: “On the 31st of July 1945, my mother was suddenly and unexpectedly torn from me because of her good deed toward the imprisoned soldiers.” The entry in the Catholic church register says simply: “A tragic demise, shot in Dietersheim on 31.07.1945. Buried on 03.08.1945.” Martin Brech watched in amazement as one officer at Andernach stood on a hillside firing shots towards German women running away from him in the valley below.

The prisoner Hans Scharf … was watching as a German woman with her two children came towards an American guard in the camp at Bad Kreuznach, carrying a wine bottle. She asked the guard to give the bottle to her husband, who was just inside the wire. The guard upended the bottle into his own mouth, and when it was empty, threw it on the ground and killed the prisoner with five shots.

….Many prisoners and German civilians saw the American guards burn the food brought by civilian women. One former prisoner described it recently: “At first, the women from the nearby town brought food into the camp. The American soldiers took everything away from the women, threw it in a heap and poured gasoline [benzine] over it and burned it.” Eisenhower himself ordered that the food be destroyed, according to the writer Karl Vogel, who was the German camp commander appointed by the Americans in Camp 8 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Although the prisoners were getting only 800 calories per day, the Americans were destroying food outside the camp gate.

James Bacque, Crimes and Mercies: The Fate of German Civilians Under Allied Occupation, 1944-1950, pp. 41-45, 94-95.

image.thumb.png.db7519f40d050bd838872dbfe1803916.png

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This short film gives a vague impression of the overcrowding and the conditions of the camps, here said to be over 50.000

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...