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Germanys forgotten victims

This article was brought to our attention via our Twitter account and after reading it and noticing the lack of shares it had on The Guardian's Website we decided to repost this and share this story with you. It tells a horrific side of World War Two Prisoner of War Camps administered by the Allies after the end of the War in 1945. Did we fight a clean war?

Luke Harding explains why a new book on the allied bombing of German cities in the 1940s has created controversy

More than half a century on, the allied bombing of Germany's cities during the second world war remains a controversial topic.

On Wednesday, Britain's ambassador to Germany, Sir Peter Torry, travelled to the city of Kassel to mark the 60th anniversary of its destruction by British warplanes. Around 10,000 people died on the night of October 22 1943, when an immense firestorm swept the city.

“In the peaceful Europe which we live in today, it is hard for those who did not experience the second world war to understand the bitter emotions to which it gave rise,” the ambassador said.

There is nothing new about senior British officials touring German cities that were destroyed by British bombs: the Queen and Prince Charles have visited Dresden and Hamburg in recent years.

However, Sir Peter's speech comes at a time when the role of the RAF during the second world war is being debated afresh.

Last week, one of Germany's most controversial historians, Jörg Friedrich, published a new photo book about the issue. Called Brandstätten, or Fire Sites, it contains some of the most grisly images from the war ever to be published. None of them have been seen before.

The victims are not Jewish, but German. The charred, mutilated bodies of women, children and babies are all civilians who perished during the allies' bombing campaign against Germany's cities.

In his book, Friedrich argues that the RAF's relentless campaign against Germany during the final months of the war served no military purpose. Instead, he says that Winston Churchill's decision to drop more bombs on a shattered Germany between January and May 1945, most of them on small German towns of little strategic value, was a war crime.

“The bombing left an entire generation traumatised. But it was never discussed. There are Germans whose first recollections are of being hidden by their mothers. They remember cellars and burning human remains,” Friedrich told the Guardian in an interview in Berlin last week.

“It is only now that they are coming to terms with what happened.”

Around 600,000 German civilians died during the allies' wartime raids on Germany, including 76,000 German children, Friedrich says. In July 1943, during a single night in Hamburg, 45,000 people perished in a vast firestorm.

But in the immediate post-war period, the German victims of British bombing were scarcely mentioned, being overshadowed by the far greater evil of the Holocaust.

Friedrich believes that most Germans refused to discuss what had happened because they regarded the British destruction of their cities as a sort of retribution for the crimes of the Nazi era.

The same point is made by writer WG Sebald in On the History of Natural Destruction, an elegant philosophical meditation on why the bombing occupies so little space in Germany's cultural imagination.

“The Second World War is traditionally portrayed as a struggle between good and evil. Bombers were the weapons of the winners. But what actually happened on the ground wasn't very heroic,” Friedrich said last week.

The historian's previous book, Der Brand, or The Fire, published last year, created a storm of publicity in both Britain and Germany. In it, he came close to accusing Churchill of being a war criminal just weeks after a BBC poll had voted the wartime prime minister the greatest-ever Briton.

Reaction to Friedrich's latest book has been critical, and one reviewer, for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, even suggested that it should be thrown in the bin.

Friedrich is unrepentant. “Churchill was the greatest child-slaughterer of all time. He slaughtered 76,000 children,” he said.

Most of the photos in Fire Sites had lain undiscovered in the archives of German towns for more than half a century before Friedrich found them. They offer a grim insight into what happened on the ground, revealing that many of the civilians who died in allied raids were asphyxiated in their cellars.

In Dresden, SS workers from a nearby concentration camp were called in to dispose of large heaps of bodies. The photos include the petrified corpse of mother and child collected in a bathtub, and the bleached skeleton of a baby killed during an air raid on Leipzig.

There are also pictures of dead animals – an elephant and a giraffe – killed by a British air raid on Berlin zoo.

Friedrich, who is now 59, grew up in Essen, in the Ruhr, a part of Germany's industrial heartland that comprehensively pulverised during the war years. An allied bomb flattened the house next door.

“I asked my mother what happened to the neighbours. She said she didn't know. She said everybody looked after themselves,” he recalled.

During the sixties, Friedrich moved to Berlin, took part in the '68 movement, and became a Trotskyite radical. Like many young Germans, he interrogated his parents about their past, concluding that his father, a teacher, had no Nazi leanings.

Later, he became a writer and broadcaster, before turning to history. In the 80s, he wrote a book about the Holocaust (“I argued that the railway was its essential weapon”) and the German army's war crimes on the eastern front, before turning his attention to the allied bombing of Germany.

This last project made him notorious. Der Brand was serialised by Germany's mass-selling Bild tabloid, and left-wing students tried to storm his book signings, accusing him of revisionism for using the word “crematoria” to describe cellars incinerated by allied bombs.

Friedrich admits he is a revisionist, but says he is not interested in making moral judgements, merely in what happened. He is reluctant, though, to discuss what alternatives Churchill had.

“If you destroy a landscape of 160 cities, most of medieval origin, you do something to the cultural identity of a people. All I do is describe it,” he said.

His book recognises that Germany initiated the air war in the autumn of 1940, when 14,000 British civilians died in German raids launched from the French and Belgian coasts.

It was only in the summer of 1943 that Britain's air marshal Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris was able to respond. At first, RAF bombers were sent out in daylight to attack military targets, but a loss of aircraft forced a change in tactics.

The RAF began to bomb German cities during the night, an indiscriminate strategy causing huge civilian casualties. The attack on Hamburg, however terrible, could be justified on the grounds that the city was the centre of German submarine production, Friedrich concedes.

But, he argues, other raids on smaller, provincial towns could not. On February 16 1945, British bombers attacked the tiny town of Pforzheim, killing one-third of its 63,000 inhabitants.

In the official British history of the air war, Pforzheim merits only a footnote, despite the epic scale of the slaughter. “The RAF had run out of targets. The raid was most cruel,” Friedrich says.

Earlier this year, he attempted to get hold of pictures of British victims of German bombing from the public record office in Kew, but was told that they could not be published because of censorship rules.

As a result, Brandstätten concentrates almost exclusively on German victims. Der Brand has so far sold 185,000 copies, and been translated into six languages, but has failed to find a British publisher.

“One British editor told me my book would ‘estrange' readers,” Friedrich said. Colombia university will bring out an English edition next year.

Friedrich has supporters inside Germany, including the country's former chancellor, Helmut Kohl, whose home town, Ludwigshafen, was bombed by British planes during his boyhood, and whose late wife was bombed at Leipzig. He has offered editorial advice, and has praised the historian's work.

Friedrich is not the first writer to tackle the tricky issue of German bombing victims. But Fire Sites is part of a new trend in Germany where, after more than half a century of collective silence, and the death of most survivors from the war generation, what happened to Germans during the Nazi era is being openly discussed.

“Germans in their seventies and eighties have not forgotten. Their memories are still vivid. People stand up in my public lectures and describe what befell their families,” Friedrich said. “They have tears in their eyes and they can't breathe.

“The main fact is that the British bombing of German cities wasn't very heroic. This was no heroic victory.”

Source: The Guardian Germanys forgotten victims Wednesday 22 October 2003

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13 Comments
  • sayem on March 28, 2015

    Bengal famine of 1943. Total deaths 1.5 to 4 million. Source Wikipedia.

    By August 1943 Churchill refused to release shipping to send food to India.Initially during the famine he was more concerned with the civilians of Nazi occupied Greece (who were also suffering from a famine) compared with the Bengalis,[68] noting that the “starvation of anyhow underfed Bengalis is less serious than that of sturdy Greeks”.

    • konwayk on March 29, 2015

      From what I know of, Churchill was both Anti-German and Anti-Indian. Churchill said that Indians are the beastliest people right next to the Germans.

      That explains why he starved millions of Indians to death so that he can destroy Germany completely by stealing supplies from India and forcing Indian soldiers to fight for Britain. Britain was happy to cooperate with him in destroying Germany even after Adolf Hitler and Germany showed mercy to British by allowing them to escape at Dunkirk.

      Andrew Jackson was right. He used to say “Never trust the British.”

  • ode vera on January 11, 2015

    No such thing as a “clean” war. war is war, all the same.

    • konwayk on January 11, 2015

      Yes, there is a clean war. A clean war is a war where the war is fought in a righteous manner.

      In both World War 1 and World War 2, Germany fought in a righteous manner. Everything was clean from the side of Germany.

      As for Both Great Britain and America controlled by Jews, there was nothing clean about their actions during World War 1 and World War 2. The only exceptions among Allies were General Patton, his Third Army, and Admiral William Leahy.

  • Mike on December 14, 2014

    I wonder what the real numbers are of the German victims. it must be at least 1.5 million!

  • Sandun Dhammika Perera on October 14, 2014

    I’m from a country where we have sad memories under British emperor. When I was a child I used to hate British and English people. But sooner I understand it’s not English people but it’s their greedy politicians and queen who are greedy and even against their own people.

    Today I’m not hesitate to say English people are really high class people. I really respect English literature and English modern arts.

    Holocaust is a fabricated lie and shameless Queen’s army of UK did those crimes not only against Germans, but think how many people they have killed in India. Indians didn’t went to UK to invade their country. Neither English people want to go and invade other countries.

    But the shame thing is still same politicians and their family descendents are ruling Britain.

    • Eberhardt von Jahwe on October 14, 2014

      Thank you for your comment Sandun. Very rarely do we hear the views of “We the people”. All we are “told” is from the media.

      As a well traveled individual it isn’t until you meet people, not pre-conditioned, media-fed, free thinkers who actually live in their country of residence do you even begin to understand a culture, a way of life, lived by the people themselves.

      Instead of going on holiday somewhere, staying at a designated resort, one needs to experience the life of the land they are visiting to really know.

  • Christian Cruzata on September 23, 2014

    I am thrilled by the question: Did we fight a clean war? that I read at the beginning of this article. My grand father is a WWII veteran. He proudly served in the french army and he told me once that one of the nastiest events in mankind history is WWII. War is never clean, war sucks. Those who won the war, lost it and those who lost it, lost it twice.

  • Erik on May 24, 2014

    When Winston Churchill talk about how “evil” Germany is, and after 1945 Churchill sought to replace England population with Africans and Muslims, with the deliberate intent to commit genocide against the English people, it tells you how sick and evil Winston Churchill really was.

    If he cared for the British people, He would have excepted Hitler peace offer and kicked the bankers out of the UK.

    If he really cared for the English people, He would have not created the conditions for the racial genocide of the White race in England by having it replaced by Negroes, Arabs, Middle Easterners and Pakistanis.

    If he really for the English people, He would have made peace with the original Anglo-Saxon forefathers of the English people who live in Germany – The Germans.

    The Germans are the original Anglo-Saxons – forefathers of the English people. Making peace within the larger Germanic race wouldn’t hurt.

    If he really cared for the British people, He would have kept Britain out of shameful war with his Germanic cousins – The Germans, and thus Over 400,000 British Soldiers and citizens would have had their lives saved.

    If he really cared for the British people he would have joined forces with Germany against the devil itself – Stalin & Bolshevism – in a combined attack against the Zionist creation – The USSR.

    If he really cared for the British people he would have made peace.

    Churchill not only committed a crime against Humanity by starting thje process of bombing innocent civilians, but he also was the worse leader Britain ever had, Judging by what we see happening in Britain today.

    In fact the British Nazi party was a good chance for making peace with Germany and uniting forces with it against communism, But sadly it was to late to little to effect British politics.

    Erik, The mountain man.

    Zionist occupied Scandinavia.

    • Jimi on May 27, 2014

      You are correct.

      Germany did not want to harm its genetic offspring England. It is the many millions of non-whites in England that will eventually destroy England and the English people.

    • Frank White on June 1, 2014

      This is true. Also, Hitler held back many times. This is well know fact. He loved the Brits and refused to bomb them into history. He could have kicked the snot out of them with the Luftwaffe alone.

    • Eberhardt von Jahwe on October 14, 2014

      Truth.

  • konwayk on May 22, 2014

    Great Article about Horrors caused by British Bombings. German bombings in England cannot be counted as atrocities due to the fact that it was British who turned out the down the peace offers of Germany. So Germany “had” to attack since England declared war on Germany.

    It will be also great if there is an article about what Jews did to Germans at the concentration camps.

    Dennis Wise’s documentary shows that Allies shot 560 SS men at Dachau concentration camp. Jewish inmates at Dachau killed 40 SS men by beating them to death.

    I wonder how many Germans in total were killed by Jews in all concentration camps.

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