Soon after the sensational Channel 4 film about Sri Lanka, I was sent by someone who seemed upset at this blatant effort to put our government in the dock a review of a book called ‘OTHER LOSSES: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE MASS DEATHS OF GERMAN PRISONERS AT THE HANDS OF THE FRENCH AND AMERICANS AFTER WORLD WAR II’. It was written in 1989 by James Bacque and published in Toronto, but its findings are not at all well known.

I have not read the book myself, but what the review states is pretty startling. The subject of the book is ‘succinctly stated by Col. Ernest F. Fisher, a former senior historian with the United States Army, in the foreword’ –More than five million German soldiers in the American and French zones were crowded into barbed wire cages, many of them literally shoulder to shoulder. The ground beneath them soon became a quagmire of filth and disease. Open to the weather, lacking even primitive sanitary facilities, underfed, the prisoners soon began dying of starvation and disease. Starting in April 1945, the United States Army and the French Army casually annihilated about one million men, most of them in American camps.

Bacque’s own narrative is even more gruesome – ‘enormous numbers of men of all ages, plus some women and children, died of exposure, unsanitary conditions, disease and starvation in the American and French camps in Germany and France … The victims undoubtedly number over 800,000, almost certainly over 900,000 and quite likely over a million. Their deaths were knowingly caused by army officers who had sufficient resources to keep the prisoners alive’.

German prisoners are marched down an Autobahn near Giesen, as American Forces roll past them on their way to the front.

German prisoners are marched down an Autobahn near Giesen, as American Forces roll past them on their way to the front.

Bacque claims that Germans who surrendered to the British or Canadians shared a different fate from that of the Germans in American, French, or Soviet hands when the war ended. It seems that Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, early on issued a protest to the American authorities which was ignored. And the British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who had no love for the Germans, nevertheless made clear the predilection for fair play which in those days characterized the British when they had nothing to lose, in commenting that ‘I hold no brief for the Germans except humane treatment … I do not think we should provide a ration less than Belsen.

Though under the Geneva convention, German prisoners should have received adequate food, shelter, and medical attention, and even though according to war-time records food and other needed supplies were available in abundance in the Western occupation zones, thousands of POWs were kept for months in wire cages with little food and virtually no shelter.

The Americans classified their captives as ‘Disarmed Enemy Forces’ rather than ‘prisoners of war’,”which enabled them to stop the Red Cross from monitoring conditions in the holding pens. They also prevented the IRC from delivering surplus food and supplies to the German POWs, and it is claimed that train loads of provisions were actually turned away.

Meanwhile, all this was kept under wraps, a peace without witnesses to use a now current phrase, since the Supreme Headquarters of theAllied Expeditionary Forces imposed stricter censorship after VE- Day than during the war. Thus the general American public was largely kept ignorant of conditions prevailing in post-war Europe, doubtless because opinion polls indicated that, despite years of propaganda, the American public did not favor a vengeful peace.

The forces however, perhaps having suffered through years of war, had a different perspective. Bacque lays much of the blame on the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, subsequently American President, along with General Charles De Gaulle, who initially ran the French government, before giving it up prior to his return to power in the late fifties.

Eisenhower is presented as the architect of the policy, which resulted in ‘slow deaths’, though it is claimed he implemented general directives that originated with Franklin Roosevelt and Henry Morgenthau, suggesting that at least some politicians were as vengeful as the soldiers.

Another review, by Eric Blair, lays the blame mainly on Morgenthau – But it is the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who is the arch-villain of the piece, the one who hatched the serpent’s egg: the vicious, vengeful Morgenthau Plan for the post-war ‘pastoralization’ (read: the de-industrialization and abject subjugation) of the German people. Devised, ‘cancelled’, then implemented via the punitive directive JCS/1067, the Morgenthau Plan wreaked havoc on the German economy and, by extension, the fragile European economy. Because of it, post-war reconstruction in Germany was delayed until late 1948; by which time millions of German civilians had already perished.

I should note however that there may be an element of anti-Semitism in this review, since it starts with a superscription that draws attention to Jewish hostility to Germany – ‘”Germany is the deadly enemy of Judaism and must be pursued with deadly hatred. The goal of Judaism today is: a merciless campaign against all German peoples and the complete destruction of the nation. We demand a complete blockade of trade, the importation of raw materials stopped and retaliation towards every German, woman and child.”
—Professor A. Kulisher, a Jew, calling for the genocide of all Germans to be a priority of worldwide Jewry. 1937.’

This sort of perverse use of the book I believe took away from its primary criticism of the American and French governments (which were certainly not controlled by the Jews in those days).  This may explain why greater attention was not paid to the manner in which this monstrous abuse was concealed with the ‘American authorities’ for instance planting ‘stories in the New York Times blaming the French. Later, both the French and Americans denied having as many prisoners as they actually had captured. They said that missing soldiers were undergoing Soviet captivity’. Bacque notes that the existing U.S. records put paid to this lie, but it clearly worked for years, since great stress was laid on how the Soviets had abused their prisoners of war, with no mention of the fact that the Americans and French, if not as bad, had certainly not been angels.

The review suggests that Bacque’s work ‘and the reception it has been accorded in the United States, raises a number of questions. It highlights the failure of international law to protect combatants and non- combatants, alike. And it shows the consequences of over thirty years of anti-German propaganda, dating from before the outbreak of World War I. The “German as Beast” was a familiar theme and if Eisenhower and his associates had little regard for the Germans, they were reflecting views nurtured by the Allies during both world wars.’ But, perhaps as significantly, it shows how an establishment can manipulate the media, and raises issues about ‘how censorship works in “the land of the free and the home of the brave”.

I wonder whether the sanctimonious ever raised the question of a thorough independent investigation of these allegations, on the grounds that ‘Acknowledging the suffering of all communities will be necessary for lasting peace’ as the International Crisis Group claims, asserting indeed the desirability of going back nearly a quarter of a century to ‘examine the injustices and crimes suffered by all communities, including those committed by all parties during the Indian army’s presence in northern Sri Lanka in the late 1980s’. On the contrary we know that the poor Germans suffered endless indignities because of the collective guilt imposed on them because of Nazism, until suddenly they became a desirable ally in the war against yet another enemy. Yet we see no signs of the Germans resenting the Americans or the French, since economic prosperity has clearly trumped the victimization Bacque reveals.

We should not of course be surprised at the ruthlessness with which the West applies double standards. But, while doing our best to ensure that we behave better than these triumphalists did with impunity when the world seemed theirs, we should draw their attention to the lack of transparency and accountability in their own dealings after conquering a deadly enemy.

Daily News 8 July 2011