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War Crimes-Stupid behavior

Discussion in 'Concentration, Death Camps and Crimes Against Huma' started by harolds, Apr 8, 2017.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Here I'm not talking about the death camps or the holocaust, but the day to day war crimes especially prevalent on the East Front such as the commissar order, killing prisoners as a matter of course, and Soviet barbarities in Prussia. Both sides were outstandingly nasty to each other and all it did was increase the other side's resistance. It was counter-productive to these country's war aims. Of course in life or death battle there will always be spontaneous crimes but these things I'm talking about were sanctioned at the highest level of government. One would think that truly encouraging surrender and decreasing resistance would be a positive thing militarily. Does anyone here have any thoughts on this?
     
  2. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    Unfortunately, you are referring to two aggressive regimes. Also, the wake of the genocide was felt throughout the East. It can't be looked at in a vacuum but was a precursor to the Soviet retaliation and vengeful mind. In the case of the Ostfront, the Germans began a campaign that was focused on murder and territory. The Nazi precepts were set in motion from the regimes onset. There was no way, between the two nations, that there was going to be a peaceful solution. This had a trickle down effect on everyday soldiers.
     
  3. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Thanks for the reply KJ Jr. I fully realize that what you say is true. However, Hitler started his murder campaign from the first. Delaying the onset of his this evil campaign and treating civilians and POWs correctly, at least at first, probably would have decreased Soviet resistance. If he won the war then he could then have done whatever he desired. At the very least he would have blunted the effects of Stalin's very effective propaganda campaign that united the Soviet peoples against the invasion.

    Stalin was just as blind in this respect. If his strategic goals were not only to defeat Germany but also to get to Berlin before the Western Allies (whom he didn't trust to keep their word) plus capture as much territory as possible, it would have made sense to do everything possible to get German soldiers to surrender. This was especially true towards the end of the war when most German soldiers realized they were going to lose the war and would have been receptive to honest promises of fair treatment. However, Soviet actions again and again showed that surrendering was equivalent of suicide. This kept resistance going long after it could have ended.

    Dis-information, psy-war, propaganda, whatever you want to call it, can be a very effective weapon if one uses it correctly. Both evil dictators used it quite well to rally support in their own country but neither gave any hint of doing anything that would truly give enemy soldiers any real reason to believe that there would be mercy. Showing restraint would have probably done more good for Hitler's Germany in 1941-42, but Soviet barbarities in East Prussia, sanctioned at the highest level, pushed casualties higher and delayed victory. Stupid!
     
  4. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Well...Not necessarily.

    Look at the War in the Pacific. Despite American encouragement for Japanese to surrender, few did. This conditioning had even been impressed upon the Japanese civilian population, notably the mass civilian suicides at Saipan and Okinawa. While, the Japanese civilians did not take this near to heart as the military troops did, many Japanese civilians killed themselves for no reason other than fear of the unknown. This, despite any widespread American troop malevolence against Japanese civilian populations.
     
  5. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Remember too, that at least on the Soviet side they knew damned well that surrender meant a firing squad or the Gulag if their own regime ever got them back.
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Very interesting Takao that you would bring up Japan's treatment of POWs. Their behavior totally proves my point. In the First World War and I believe in the Russia-Japanese conflict Japan treated its prisoners well. In fact, they were internationally lauded for their treatment of PoWs. This led to some rather spectacular surrenders early in the war, namely on Bataan and Corrigidore. Once Japan's atrocities towards POWs became known then very few Allied soldiers willingly let themselves become prisoners. Japanese resistance to surrendering was the result of a unique social norm within that country. Killing helpless POWs and civilians not only stiffens resistance to the aggressor forces but results in a real increase in the desire for revenge in the nation of the victimized people. Good examples of this would be the Bataan Death March and the execution of American soldiers in Belgium. These atrocities totally worked against their perpetrating nations, giving a great propaganda boost to their enemies. German atrocities on the Ukraine and Russia fueled a firestorm of hate that benefited Red Army while hurting the morale of the German forces. Likewise when the Soviets probably could have gained Prussia much easier if they hadn't encouraged their soldiers to act like beasts.

    By the way KB, how would the Soviet soldiers know they were going to be mistreated or executed after the war?
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  7. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    As well as the Soviet Civil War.

    Unfortunately, the spectacular surrenders early in the war had nothing to do with Japanese treatment of POWs some 20 or more years prior...As the Japanese depredations more recently in China were well known.
     
  8. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Wouldn't you say that there was some conceit that the Japanese wouldn't mistreat white men like they did the Chinese? I doubt Percival would have surrendered so easily if he had reasonably suspected that his troops would have been treated as badly as they really were.
     
  9. Highway70

    Highway70 Member

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    There is also the fact that prisoners require guarding, shelter, food, etc. There is the view that this is detrimental to the war effort. Reducing manpower available to fight and to transport supplies to the fighting troops. Diverting supplies and equipment from the purpose of winning the war.
     
  10. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Because they were treated to a daily barrage of propaganda promising just that. Those who surrendered were traitors and enemies of the state. Even those caught behind the lines in the initial invasion (who became Partisans) were not immune. Those belonging to groups in touch and under orders of the Red Army were excused, but others without direct contact were arrested as the Soviets advanced. Even civilians behind the lines came under scrutiny and were often harshly punished on the flimsiest accusations.

    Soldiers in all armies have a scuttlebutt network, so even if they didn't see it directly, they heard about it from others.
     
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  11. harolds

    harolds Member

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    @H-70: Yep, all that is true enough but it's false economy. The idea of taking prisoners is to deprive the enemy of troops. Many pivotal battles are close-run things and if troops think there's no way out they hang on grimly and sometime prevail. Desperate men are dangerous men. Better to feed them than to fight them! Guarding POWs is the job of older and less able soldiers. Besides, it's been proven that murdering POWs is very detrimental to the morale of those that do the killing.

    @ KB: I can well believe that Soviet troops were subjected to intense propaganda. However, most soldiers become skeptical of "latrine rumors". Only when they started advancing and found the bodies of those executed did they really know what the Germans were up to. Interestingly, during the battles in Prussia late in the war, the Germans took prisoners. Later, when the Germans were trying to evacuate the coastal enclaves at the end of the war, despite all the atrocities they committed, Red Army POWs (along with French and even English POWs) wanted to come along. Nobody wanted to be "liberated" by the Red Army! Of all the combatants, I think the Red Army was to most vulnerable to having large-scale desertions and surrenders. After all, look at the millions of prisoners the Heer captured. Discouraging such surrenders was STUPID, STUPID, STUPID! Gen. von Thoma was overheard in captivity to say that he thought Germany was the stupidest nation on earth!
     
  12. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    Completely agree. On both sides they were exposed to heavy propaganda expounding how they would be mistreated. Leaflets were even dropped regularly with "safe passage and safe conduct" options just to bait those who wanted to surrender.
     
  13. Highway70

    Highway70 Member

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    True
     
  14. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Most soldiers on the Russian Front knew what those pieces of paper were good for and it was NOT for staying alive!
     
  15. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    I agree. But the very fact that they dropped them (all nations in the conflict practiced this method) meant that the propaganda and knowledge of ill treatment was common place.
     
  16. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I'm not sure it was knowledge. Every army in the world had a stake in trying to make look like being taken prisoner a fate worse than death because, let's face it, when you're faced with your possible demise every day, for many days on end, a POW camp doesn't look all that bad after a while. So armies would do what they could to discourage men from surrendering. In Italy and Western Europe most savvy soldiers knew that if you survived the process of surrendering your chances improved immensely and you'd probably survive the war. Therefore, in the gravest extreme, surrender was a viable option. No so in the East. After the Allies crossed the Rhine many German soldiers gave themselves up after a token fight or even no fight at all. This wasn't the case in East right up to the last day. German soldiers fought to the last if they couldn't get away. So, like I said, both the Soviets and Germans were stupid to be so cruel.
     
  17. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

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    To a degree, what you say about the Germans in the west is true. However, read Ian Kershaw's The End for a different view of the actions of some Germans in the west. Many ardent followers of Hitler's edicts would not allow surrender, despite the outreach of the Allies.
     
  18. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Usually, it was the German infantry that packed it in first. SS and panzer units tended to fight it out even after all the Allies had crossed the Rhine. In fact, the rot started earlier. The remnants of several infantry divisions at Falaise just sat down and waited for the Allies to take them prisoner. I remember reading Otto Carius's book, "Tigers in the Mud" where he and his fellow tankers (just transferred from the East Front to the West) wanted to continue to resist but watched infantry units surrender hand over fist.
    In fact, some German civilians were actively working against the Heer by lifting mines and providing them with information about German units. At some point fanatical resistance become just becomes another form of stupid behavior.
     
  19. BeeGeesOne

    BeeGeesOne New Member

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    Perhaps Hitler wouldn't have committed suicide if he thought the Soviets wouldn't have done to him what was done to Mussolini. Hitler being arrested and being a part of the Nuremberg trials could have proved informative.
     
  20. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    That was definitely a fear of his. And, IIRC, he was open about what happened to Mussolini and his views about it. But there is now way in hell he was ever going to be captured.

    In fact, I wonder if Hitler was caught would the allies even have the trials?
     

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