Summer 1945 • 5

by Tom Goodrich

Just as at Dachau, when the American army reached the various German concentration camps with dozens of reporters and camera­men in tow, the viewers were horrified by what they saw. The thousands of dead, emaciated bodies seemed proof of the propaganda they had read about for years; proof that the Nazi regime had indeed been engaged in a deliberate policy of mass murder and extermination of Jews. Certainly, men like the political generals, Eisenhower and Marshall, and the willing propagandists themselves, knew better. But with carefully crafted words, and now with photos and film of bodies, it would be an easy sell to millions in the US, Europe and others around the world.

And so, thus began phase two of the vicious propaganda war against Germany. The first phase had begun with the election of Adolf Hitler and continued down to the war’s end. The second phase would continue from the so-called “peace” and occupation of Germany right through to the present moment. On cue, from their first footfalls into Germany, hate-filled propagandists like the following began the coordinated psychological attack on the occupied Reich, on her people, on every man, woman and child.

“You must expect to atone with toil and sweat for what your children have committed and for what you have failed to prevent,” warned one Allied spokesman on camera as horrified German civilians were forced to parade in penance through the Belsen concentration camp. A place like Belsen was, the man continued, “such a disgrace to the German people that their name must be erased from the list of civilized nations.”

Given the circumstances, the fate of those Germans living near this and other concentration camps was as tragic as it was perhaps predictable. After compelling the people to view the bodies, American and British officers forced men, women and children to dig up with their hands the rotting remains and haul them to burial pits. Wrote a witness at one camp:

All day long, always running, men and women alike, from the death pile to the death pit, with the stringy remains of their victims over their shoulders. When one of them dropped to the ground with exhaustion, he was beaten with a rifle butt. When another stopped for a break, she was kicked until she ran again, or prodded with a bayonet, to the accompaniment of lewd shouts and laughs. When one tried to escape or disobeyed an order, he was shot. 

Few victors, from Eisenhower down, seemed to notice, and fewer seemed to care, that conditions similar to Dachau and the other concentration camps existed in cities and towns throughout much of Germany. Because of the almost total paralysis of the Reich’s roads, rivers and rails caused by around-the-clock air attacks, supplies of food, fuel, clothes, and medicine had thinned to a trickle in the devastated German communities and dried up almost entirely at the concentration camps. As a consequence, thousands of camp inmates swiftly succumbed in the final weeks of the war to disease, starvation and neglect. When pressed by a friend if there had indeed been a deliberate policy of extermination, one of the few guards lucky enough to escape another camp protested:

“It wasn’t like that, believe me; it wasn’t like that! I’m maybe the only survivor who can witness to how it really was, but who would believe me!”

“Is it all a lie?”

“Yes and no,” he said. “I can only say what I know about our camp. The final weeks were horrible. No more rations came, no more medical supplies. The people got ill, they lost weight, and it kept getting more and more difficult to keep order. Even our own people lost their nerve in this extreme situation. But do you think we would have held out until the end to hand the camp over in an orderly fashion if we had been these murderers?” 

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Editor’s note:The footnotes have been omitted in the quotations above. Summer 1945is a book that exposes the atrocities committed by the United States in Japan and Germany. If the reader wants a book by the same author that only talks about the allied atrocities in Germany, obtain a copy of Hellstorm, The Death of Nazi Germany: 1944-1947 (sample chapter: here).