the immorality of purposely bombing civilians and other Allied war crimes
Our next 3 essays are sure to be “controversial” and also politically incorrect. Thus, reader discretion is advised. In this quite lengthy essay, we take on Allied war crimes committed during and after the Second World War (1939 – 1945). (Readers do not have to take my word for the conclusions I draw. We offer many helpful and informative references (links and books) that are but a few examples of the growing literature (body of historical research) that brings to light much that was hidden or obscured (or suppressed) in the long accepted official history of this terrible period.)
This subject was poignantly driven home to me in February, 1995. The history magazine I was subscribing to at the time devoted most of its issue that month to Dresden which had been destroyed 50 years earlier over 2 successive nights (RAF attacks) and 2 successive days (American attacks) on February 14 and 15, 1945. This merciless bombing of Dresden, at the time a refugee city for those German civilians fleeing the advance of the Red Army and of no military importance, was carried out when the end of the war in Europe was clearly in sight. (Official Allied estimates of only 25,000 killed are absurdly, insultingly low.)
Americans were rightly and understandably outraged on September 11, 2001 when 3,000 Americans were killed by terrorists. Germany was enduring such murderous attacks on its civilian population nearly every day in the last 2 years of the war (1943 – 1945), and quite frequently even during 1942 as well. (There was a short pause in the bombing campaign (against German cities) as Allied war planes were engaged in supporting the D-Day operations in mid 1944.)
Some historical context is necessary here.
Prior to the war, during the mid 1930s (and also at the Disarmament Conference in 1932 and 1933), Germany had put forth proposals to neighboring countries (including England) to ban or prohibit using planes in any future conflict to bomb civilian population centers. These German proposals were not agreed to. When war came to western Europe in the spring of 1940, Germany did not bomb English cities but confined its bombing to military targets in the Low Countries and in France (Rotterdam was bombed on May 14, 1940, but this may have been due to a failure of radio communications between the Germany Army on the ground and the Luftwaffe (German Air Force).) But, in May, 1940, the RAF (Royal Air Force – England) bombed German towns of no specific military value far behind the front lines of the conflict. (Freiburg was bombed on May 10/11, and the Ruhr, an industrial area, was bombed on May 15, 1940.) England continued this bombing for 4 months before Hitler, wearying of hearing reports of German children, housewives and elderly being killed and maimed in such bombing raids and after a Berlin suburb had been bombed, decided to retaliate by bombing London in September. (German bombing of England effectively ended several months later because of heavy losses of its war planes and because those military resources were needed in the new war front in the East. As well, the scale and intensity of the German bombing of English cities never even approached that of the RAF’s bombing of German cities in civilian casualties and in percentage of urban area destroyed.) The British admit that the aim of their bombing of German towns and cities in 1940 was to provoke Hitler into bombing English cities. This was “needed” to get the English people behind the war. The majority of the English public had not been enthusiastic about a war to save Poland in 1939, and when Poland was overrun so quickly saw no reason for the war.
If you read one linked article in this essay, this one ought to be it. The first paragraph gives some idea how one-sided the civilian losses due to bombing were. The quotes also give some idea how blood thirsty the British military and war-time government were, and one or two support the premise that the initial bombings’ objective was to provoke Hitler into retaliating.
Who Started the Blitz? http://www.heretical.com/miscellx/blitz.html
The Hague Convention of February, 1923 drafted rules that forbade aerial bombing to terrorize civilian populations or to injure non-combatants. Also prohibited was the bombardment of cities, towns, and villages not in the immediate neighborhood of the operations of land forces. Sadly, these draft rules were not formally adopted. http://www.dannen.com/decision/int-law.html#C
(One of Hitler’s major strategic blunders was permitting the evacuation at Dunkirk by ordering the Panzers to halt and not go to the beaches when the British troops would have been encircled, trapped and cut off. These same British troops, after the Dunkirk evacuation, were later sent to North Africa and battled against Rommel. But, by thinking that he could somehow make peace with England, and underestimating how intent the British war government (now run by Churchill) was on the complete destruction of Germany, Hitler opted not to invade England (Operation Sea Lion was cancelled by Hitler). A German occupation of only the southeast part of the country would have effectively taken England out of the war. And, without the troops that had been allowed to evacuate, England would have been very hard pressed to rebuff such an invasion in the summer of 1940.)
Here we see young girls walking through the ruins of Frankfurt. (Photograph: Reginald Kenny/Bettmann/Corbis) Many children were orphaned by these bombing raids.
An elderly lady in front of the bodies of school children in Cologne, Germany, after a bombing raid in 1943 (courtesy of Wikipedia).
We chose not to show more horrific pictures of civilian victims of these bombings in Germany. As well, we do not show the terribly burned civilian victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those people who were just far enough from ground zero that they were not immediately vaporized. (Such gruesome photos do however serve to take these crimes out of the abstract for many viewers.) The immorality of purposely bombing civilians is self-evident. We do not agree with nor buy into an ends justifies the means argument.
Let’s take a look at the definition of war crimes and crimes against humanity from the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. From the Tribunal’s charter:
(b) War Crimes: namely violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labor or for any other purpose, of civilian population or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages , or devastation not justified by military necessity. (emphasis mine)
(c) Crimes Against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of domestic law of the country where perpetrated. (emphasis mine)
The above citations are from Five Men at Nuremberg, by James McMillan, copyright 1985, Harrap Limited, London, page 26.
It is interesting that McMillan notes (on page 56 of his book) the February 1942 directive to the RAF to bomb German civilian population centers. He then opines that if the roles at the Tribunal were reversed, the British would find it hard to defend their actions (war crimes).
Clearly, the wanton and intentional targeting and bombing of civilian population centers (that results in killing, maiming and making homeless these non-combatants) is a war crime per this definition at Nuremberg. One could argue that such bombing is even a crime against humanity given the above definition. Simply complaining that the Germans were evil does not excuses these crimes. The frequent invocation of the Holocaust (of European Jewry) serves to divert attention away from these Allied crimes (really atrocities) that must not be forgotten, nor trivialized nor rationalized away.
We rarely hear of or read of Allied war crimes. This ought not surprise us as history written by the victors will serve the purposes of those victors. Much of our official history of this period in the high school and college text books is propaganda. (War time propaganda (in 1943) blamed the Germans for the Katyn Forest massacre of thousands of Polish intelligentsia and military officers. However, we now know that Stalin ordered the massacre (mass murder) and that it was carried out in 1940 by his NKVD (headed by Beria, the precursor to the KGB). Let us not forget the USSR was one of the Allies.)
A current British philosopher, A. C. Grayling, has dealt at length with the bombing campaign of the Allies against Germany and Japan in his thoroughly researched and documented book, Among the Dead Cities, The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan (2006, Walker and Company, New York). This bombing campaign, immoral as it was, did not serve to hasten the end of the war in Europe. (Interested readers can read the many customer reviews for this book on Amazon.com.)
One of our earliest essays as a generalist blogger is relevant here:
As well, here is a link to an article that speaks about a re-examination in Britain of its war-time bombing campaign.
As to the 2 sides of the coin of justice, where was the recompense, the making whole of the innocent victims, of those who perished from these bombings, or were maimed or orphaned? In this world, there was no compensation for them. And, what of punishment for those who ordered and carried out these murderous actions (Churchill, J. M. Spaight, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, (Sir) Archibald Sinclair, Lord Cherwell (aka Professor Lindemann), and the American commanders who joined in later with the bombing of German cities and bombed Japanese cities, and those pilots and crew who obeyed immoral orders)? Again, there was none in this world.
There were other Allied war crimes that need to be noted here.
The Red Army (USSR) raped and murdered its way across East Prussia and Pomerania and Upper Silesia in its drive to Berlin in late 1944 and early 1945. The Red Army troops were exhorted to do this (kill and rape) by Stalin, Marshal (General) Zhukov and the communist propagandist Ilya Erenburg. The rapes victims (women of all ages and young girls) who were not murdered were scarred for life.
From NPR (a politically correct source) in 2009:
Silence Broken On Red Army Rapes In Germany
The forced expulsions (after the war ended) of up to 14 million ethnic Germans from former German territories in the East and from the Baltic states where they had lived for generations led to many deaths. Even Bertrand Russell complained in a letter to the editor that these expulsions (a form of “ethnic cleansing”) that were to be carried out in an orderly and humane manner had degenerated into an inhumane program. Mass Deportations, The Times (London) 31st October, 1945, and Food Parcels Still Needed, The New York Times 3rd November, 1945. Both letters are reprinted in Yours Faithfully, Bertrand Russell – A Lifelong Fight for Peace, Justice, and Truth in Letters to the Editor, Edited by Ray Perkins, Jr. (copyright 2002, Open Court, Chicago) on pages 163 – 165.
Here is a recent book (2012) that I have not (yet) read that addresses this topic. It has received many favorable reviews.
These expulsions did happen and they resulted in much suffering and many deaths.
This article relies heavily on Wikipedia as a source but is worth looking at.
Anti-communist eastern Europeans (including anti-Stalin Russians) who fought with the Germans against the Red Army were forcibly returned by the Americans (on orders of General Eisenhower) to the Soviets in 1945 and 1946. These individuals were either murdered at once or sent to gulags in Siberia to perish slowly in inhumane conditions. The East Came West, by Peter J. Huxley-Blythe, (2005 (originally published in 1964), Life and Liberty Publishing, Murrieta, California) tells this sad tale. (Huxley-Blythe (1925 – 2013) served in the British Royal Navy.)
Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II, by James Bacque (1989) documents that German POWs were starved to death in holding camps after the war ended. (I have not read this book.) This book, in its reviews, appears controversial with some reviewers saying the numbers of deaths may be exaggerated, and others claiming the work is simply not true. However, the author again addresses the deaths (very high death rates) of German POWs held in Allied camps after the war ended in his other book, Crimes and Mercies. In that book, which I have read, he presents statements and accounts from doctors and Allied military personnel that were in these camps in the years 1945 – 1947. As well, documentary evidence is presented to substantiate that there was a policy in place to keep the disarmed German soldiers on a starvation diet.
Crimes and Mercies, The Fate of German Civilians Under Allied Occupation, 1944 – 1950, by James Bacque (copyright 1997, Little, Brown & Company (UK) London) tells the story of the purposeful prevention of food distribution to German civilians in the American zone of occupation after the war ended. This resulted in starvation of German civilians and very high infant mortality rates. Some groups of concerned Americans and Canadians, including former US President, Herbert Hoover tried to help the suffering German civilians in the late 1940s.
US Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau had a punitive and vindictive (vengeful) plan (known as the Morgenthau Plan) to destroy what remained of German industry after the war. Germany was to be turned into a backward agricultural land and not be allowed to rebuild its industry. German agriculture was to be deprived of modern fertilizer and farm equipment. His plan led to the deaths of many Germans after the war had ended. Despite American propaganda that this plan was not implemented, it in fact was as Bacque tells in his book.
Here we quote from Crimes and Mercies (page 185):
The record shows very clearly that the Allies were planning a devastating treatment for Germany before Nazi racist crimes were fully comprehended in the West. The Allied policy of starving the Germans was in fact decades old – in 1918/19, after the First World War, the Allies had maintained the sea-blockade, causing the deaths of close to a million Germans.
Taking into account all these post war crimes, it has been estimated that perhaps as many as several million Germans died. (The lowest estimate we saw in one article was of 3 million post war deaths.) James Bacque, on page 131 of Crimes and Mercies, summarizes the data he uncovered by grouping – expellees (mainly from the East), prisoners (POWs), and residents (civilians already resident in post war Germany, not expellees from evacuated territories) – and comes to a total estimate of all deaths as a minimum of 9,300,000 and a maximum of 13,700,000. Most of the difference between these 2 figures is attributable to the wide range in the estimate for expellee deaths.
Another post war Allied crime was the looting of intellectual property and patents from Germany.
What gives rise to this vicious hatred? Such hatred drove the British war-time government to specifically and purposely target every German city and town for destruction by bombing. And this maniacal hatred was not limited to the British. In the American war establishment, such hatred was also present and was demonstrated once US military forces made it to Europe.
In our next essay, that will deal with the guilt question for the cause of the catastrophe that was the Second World War, we will see that there were powerful groups that hated Germany, the German people and the German head of state, Chancellor Hitler, with a near insane passion. (Attaching sole blame, sole responsibility for the war to Germany is no longer tenable, nor intellectually honest.) Again, the question arises of why was there this hatred in the 1930s and throughout the war period and after? There was a confluence of self-interested special interests that gave rise to and fueled this hatred that to be sated necessitated the destruction of the German state and its people.