Thursday, July 26, 2007

They knew

Learning history means re-learning history, especially in light of a new book, discussed here in the Daily Mail:

"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. ...
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).

Attempts to suggest that genocide was solely the responsibility of the SS and Nazi fanatics, and not widespread across the whole Wehrmacht, completely collapse before the evidence of these recordings.

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."
… 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." …
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.
… [Later on] Kittel mused: "If one were to destroy all the Jews of the world simultaneously, there wouldn't remain a single accuser," and "Those Jews are the pest of the east!"
… In another conversation later that same day, Kittel told Schaefer about Auschwitz: "In Upper Silesia, they simply slaughtered the people systematically. They were gassed in a big hall. There's the greatest secrecy about all those things."
… "Let me tell you," General Count Edwin von Rothkirch und Trach told General Bernhard Ramcke on March 13, 1945, "the gassings are by no means the worst."
"What happened?" asked Ramke. "To start with, people dug their own graves, then the firing squad arrived with tommy-guns and shot them down. Many of them weren't dead, and a layer of earth was shovelled in between. They had packers there who packed the bodies in, because they fell in too soon. The SS did that.

Three days later, at Trent Park, Colonel Dr Friedrich Von der Heydte told Colonel Eberhard Wildermuth about the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia: "Half a million people have been put to death there for certain. I know that all the Jews from Bavaria were taken there. Yet the camp never became over-crowded. They gassed mental defectives, too."
"Yes, I know," replied Wildermuth. "I got to know that for a fact in the case of Nuremberg - my brother is a doctor at an institution there. The people knew where they were being taken."

The victims knew. The SS knew. The Wermacht knew. Hitler knew. They all knew. And since the British were taping these conversations, the British knew as well. Well, some did... but who?
The revelations from this book demand the publication of a second book, one chronicling who among the British High Command got to see these transcripts, and what actions they took when faced with this information. Or, what excuse there could possibly be to have taken no action.
No wonder it is so easy for our leaders to throw Israel to her enemies… we are discovering, to our shame, how well-practiced a habit this has been.


zazie said...

à Charles Henry
Thank you for defending truth ; it must be defended and proclaimed at any cost, even though afterwards you are not quite so sure that "truth is beauty" !
My mother always told me that "they" knew ; when I asked her who "they" were, she simply answered "all those who pretend they never knew"...I was only a teenager then, I never forgot.

zazie said...

à Charles Henry
I realise that your readers might be mistaken : my mother was not Jewish ; she was only a "résistante" ; she managed to get scores of Jews, mainly children, out of German hands....

maccusgermanis said...

Another thing that British command would have known in 1942, when these tapes were collected, was that they were in a war with Germany since 1939. I think your anger is somewhat misplaced.

dag said...

The beauty of History is that nothing changes: We can see th problems of today in exact detail by looking at the problems of before, the same problems, the same responses, the same minds.

The solutions are the same as then, and the players will d the same evil things they've always done. It's a matter of our side knowing what to do and following through. We've won before, we can win again, and we can also lose, which we have also done. It's all up to us.

Charles Henry said...

I guess what I need to know, is whether it was viewed as the lesser of evils, to sit and do nothing to expose the Holocaust during the war itself, or whether inaction was due to simple indifference.
I know from my reading on WWII that the British (and US) didn’t want to reveal that they were reading their enemy’s secret codes, and therefore allowed enemy air raids to take place, or acted in ways that would not tip the axis to the fact that their codes were broken.
That I would consider the lesser of evils, for as tragic as it would be to have civilians die when perhaps such single raids could be stopped, due to foreknowledge of them, by acting “surprised” by the raid who knows how many future lives could be spared over the ongoing collection of intelligence in the long term.
Life is full of these ugly choices, where there is no “good” answer, only a search for the lesser of all the other, evil, answers.
Dropping the atom bombs on Japan, as awful an action as that was, can be defended (I feel) as the lesser of evils, since the experiences from Okinawa, Iwo Jima and other battles, suggested clearly to the US that a land invasion of Japan would bring unprecedented loss of life. For both sides.

I just have a really, really hard time understanding how the same lesser of evils analysis applies to the situation outlined in this book. I cannot see how someone wouldn’t have tried to take action based on these revelations, and tried to lessen the sweeping carnage of the Holocaust.

At the very least, they could have mentioned the horrors for propaganda purposes; the allies broadcast the story of Lidice, when they found out about that massacre, so why not Auschwitz, if they knew about it as well?

Charles Henry said...

I would love to hear more about your mother's experiences during the war..! The bravery of such actions should be shouted from the highest rooftops, for without such examples it becomes much harder for the newer generations to believe in their potential for similar courageous behavior.

God Bless her for her Righteous actions.

maccusgermanis said...

Simple indifference or tactical indifference?

Actually, I would be interested to see the results of such investigation, but only for curiousity's sake. I don't expect to be convinced that the gov't that saw its Exped. Force expelled and its capital bombed were crimanlly negligent in not immediately flying to the salvation of Jews far behind the lines of a proven formidable enemy.

I also doubt that this is all that failed to be broadcast on public radio of the Allies. It was not customary, at that time, to broadcast the gruesome details of each conflict, as it is now. Such protection of the polulace may be ultimately undermining of the individual citizens understanding of the reality they live, but it is not criminal.

zazie said...

à Charles Henry
My mother would not have liked her experience being shouted around ; I miss her a lot, but in a way I am glad she never knew what France has become . What I can tell you is that on July 18th 1942, she went to the "velodreome d'hiver" and risked her life to get children out of this hellish place : she actually had to PAY for their release ; she never forgot the last words of a father to his teenage son :"take care of your mother and sisters" ; the father never came back. I know this story because she kept in touch with those children.
I am sure she would not understand why, after getting a "croix de guerre", a "médaille de la résistance" and certificates signed by Montgomery and De Gaulle, as a reward for having fought for the freedom of France and against the invaders, I, her daughter, could be sent to prison for saying France is being invaded, and speaking out my will to get rid of these invaders we now have....

zazie said...

honestly, I should not write anything when I am sleepy ! Of course, "I" did not get any medal during WWII....My last paragraph is hardly intelligible ; sorry !