Sunday, May 7, 2017

After VE Day

It may not have been obvious from reading this blog that I'm a student of World War II history. If you go beyond obvious favors-the-winner rhetoric, you discover that many, perhaps most of the Germans captured by the Soviets died in slave-labor captivity.

Less well-known is that a substantial number died in the hands of the western Allies. The Telegraph (U.K.) reviews a book by Giles MacDonogh entitled After the Reich: From the Liberation of Vienna to the Berlin Air-LIft. The title of the review is revealing:
How three million Germans died after VE Day
 Some key quotes from the review:
His best estimate is that some three million Germans died unnecessarily after the official end of hostilities. A million soldiers vanished before they could creep back to the holes that had been their homes. The majority of them died in Soviet captivity.

Many thousands perished as prisoners of the Anglo-Americans. Herded into cages along the Rhine, with no shelter and very little food, they dropped like flies.
I encountered this a decade ago when visiting the Bridge at Remagen, only the towers of which survive. The southern tower houses a museum, dedicated to the thousands of German POWs held by the Allies in an open-air prison nearby. Many of these died of exposure and malnutrition in the frigid northern European winter. Their captors had little sympathy.
The two million German civilians who died were largely the old, women and children: victims of disease, cold, hunger, suicide - and mass murder.

Perhaps the most shocking outrage recorded by MacDonogh - for the first time in English - is the slaughter of a quarter of a million Sudeten Germans by their vengeful Czech compatriots. (snip) Similar scenes were seen across Poland, Silesia and East Prussia as age-old German communities were brutally expunged.
MacDonogh concludes the only thing that stopped the vengeful killings and starvation was the rapidly emerging Cold War which saw West German former enemies magically transformed into allies against the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact puppet states.