The Allies Mistreated Captured German Soldiers When WW2 Ended

Soviet soldier German captured soldiers WW2
The Red Army treated captured German soldiers in the worst possible manner when WW2 ended

If the German Army acted with absolute disregard for the Geneva Conventions of 1929 pertaining to prisoner of war (POW), the Allies, Soviet Russia, America and British acted little better. German POW after the Second World War were treated harshly, to say the least.

Most Western historical literature says the real villains were Stalin's Red Army soldiers who brutalised captured Wehrmacht prisoners, killed outright men from the Waffen SS (After torturing them of course) and what not. The fact is the American, British and Free French armies were no less culpable.

And the savage mentality started from the very top. At the Teheran Conference of the "Big Three" in 1943, Stalin at a dinner on the second day, suggested a toast to eliminating 50,000 men from the German staff. Churchill was aghast at this. Roosevelt, in a humorous tone, suggested killing 49,000 men. His son Elliott chipped in by saying that when the Red Army, American and British rolled into Germany, they would not only wipe out top German soldiers but also thousands of Nazis. The most humane of all, Churchill walked out of the room in anger.

Now if the top leaders harbored such vengeful feelings towards the Germans, such a message that "kill Germans and get away with it" was bound to percolate down to lowest levels of the Allied armies. The Geneva Conventions of 1929 which protected disarmed soldiers were thrown out of the window by all, including the "virtuous" allies.

The Allies captured nearly 11 million German soldiers by the end of the Second World War. Since  the bulk of the German army was fighting on the Eastern Front one would expect that the Russians would have taken in most POWs. But surprisingly the Red Army had only 3.1 million POW. The Americans had 3.8 million, the British 3.7 million and even the puny, late comer French had a quarter of a million German prisoners.

It is not surprising that the Russians had lower numbers. Firstly because the Red Army soldiers were killing off all Waffen SS prisoners and even regular German soldiers too were polished off most of the time. Secondly, the German soldiers knew what lay in store for them if captured by the Russians, so before the war ended most rushed off and surrendered to the Americans and the British army.

Among many American units, “take no prisoners” was the motto. For those members of the SS, Wehrmacht and Volkssturm lucky enough to survive capture, death often awaited behind the lines. In the transit from front to rear, hundreds of prisoners were allowed to suffocate, starve or freeze to death in railroad cars. 
American soldier German POW WW2 end
The Americans herded German POW into a barbed wire fenced in enclosure in millions


But they hardly got a better deal in the hands of the Americans. They were herded in open roofless enclosures called 'Rhineland meadow camps'. The Germans called them Rheinwiesenlager. 

These camps were over crowded and feeding them was hardly a top priority for the Americans. This is surprising given the fact that it had enough resources. The German POWs were perhaps purposefully starved. The vengeful feeling that Roosevelt harbored towards Germans had seeped down to lower levels.

According to a personal account of a German prisoner...

During the heat I crawl into a hollow in the ground. I wear a coat and boots, with my forage-cap pulled down over my ears; my field bag, in which I have a silver spoon and fork, serves as my pillow. During a thunderstorm one wall of my hollow falls in on me. My coat and socks are wet through and through … How long will we have to be without shelter, without blankets or tents? Every German soldier once had shelter from the weather. Even a dog has a doghouse to crawl into when it rains. Our only wish is finally after six weeks to get a roof over our heads. Even a savage is better housed

According to another German POW...

We would drink our own urine. It tasted terrible, but what could we do? Some men got down on the ground and licked the ground to get some moisture. I was so weak I was already on my knees, when finally we got a little water to drink. I think I would have died without that water. But the Rhine was just outside the wire

The British, though starved of resources, treated German prisoners much better. The Americans and French treated them lousy. The death rate in American camps was four times that of British camps. In the French camps it was 20 times compared to the British.
French ill treated German prisoners WW2
The mortality rate of German POW in French camps was high


The German POW had a bad time in Soviet captivity. More than a third of them died.

This is mainly because of three reasons. First. The prisoners were made to walk. No luxury of transport by train or trucks. These were called "death walks". Considering the distances and harsh climate of Russia, the weakened, disheartened Germans simply collapsed and died. Second. The Russians had little food to feed themselves. Why worry about the bad Germans? Third. The ingrained hatred for Germans in Russian minds.  No one care a hoot whether German prisoners lived or died.

Red Army shot Waffen SS captured soldiers
The hatred had been born after the ruthless way the German invaders had behaved in occupied Soviet Union in earlier stages of WW2. And had been fed more by the vitriolic writings by Ilya Ehrenberg which was printed and reprinted in Soviet newspapers. Every Red Army soldiers knew them by heart.

Here is an example.....

The Germans are not human beings. From now on the word ‘German’ is for us the worst imaginable curse. From now on the word ‘German’ strikes us to the quick. We shall not get excited. We shall kill. If you have not killed at least one German a day, you have wasted that day … If you cannot kill your German with a bullet, kill him with your bayonet. If there is calm on your part of the front, or if you are waiting for the fighting, kill a German in the meantime … If you kill one German, kill another – there is nothing more joyful than a heap of German corpses.

Poems by Alexei Surkov called "I hate" and by Konstantin Simonov called "Kill him" added fuel to the fire.

No wonder that surrendered German soldiers were often shot casually. Passing German POW columns were fired upon by drunk Red Army soldiers. They were robbed of all their personal possessions on capture and marched off to Gulags. Those hardy enough to survive fed on rats as the Soviet captors starved them deliberately.

Most remained in the Soviet Union for years and the those who survived were released only after Khrushchev came to power in 1953. They returned to Germany as broken men.
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