Expose: US Concentration Camps in Post-War Germany

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

General Paperbacks (1991)

Book Review

This book is a mind boggling expose about the 5 million German soldiers and civilians crammed into barbed wire cages in Allied occupied Germany. According to reliable witnesses, as many as three million of these detainees were civilians, ie had no military status. Survivors, military personnel and camp visitors reported seeing pregnant women in the camps, as well as children as young as six. The prisoners had no access to shelter, warm clothing, sanitation or medical facilities. Many were deliberately given starvation rations.

War Department records reveal the camps had death rates of approximately 30% annually from exposure and starvation related illnesses – though the US Army officially recorded them as “other losses.” For the most part they were buried in mass graves, some of which were later uncovered by German construction crews and grave diggers. Because the US military made no effort to identify them, by 1947 German families were reporting one million loved ones missing and unaccounted for.

How Eisenhower Circumvented the Geneva Convention

Military personnel who worked closely with Eisenhower and his aides believe this policy (to imprison large numbers of Germans in concentration camps) was devised in 1944. In April 1945, Eisenhower announced to the Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS)* that he was creating a new category of military prisoner – Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF).**

Although other generals in the CCS advised him against capturing any more DEFs after VE Day,*** Eisenhower went on to capture an additional 2 million.

In addition to denying them any form of shelter or adequate rations, Eisenhower also prohibited the Red Cross (ICRC), Quakers, Unitarians, YMCA and concerned German civilians from providing them food parcels.

Heavy Censorship: How the Camps Were Kept Secret

Owing to heavy censorship in US-occupied Germany, the deplorable conditions of these camps were kept secret outside of Germany until the US began transferring prisoners to French camps for slave labor assignments (which also violated the Geneva Convention). The French camps were allowing ICRC visits. Horrified by the extreme emaciation and poor health (with many on the verge of death) of the former US prisoners, Red Cross representatives made formal complaints with the US and French government and the press.

US Blames Fictitious “World Food Shortage”

In response, the US government launched a massive PR offensive shifting the blame for the prisoners’ horrendous condition first to the French and then to a non-existent “world food shortage.” There is incontrovertible evidence there were global surpluses of wheat, maize and potatoes in both 1945 and 1946. There were also hundreds of thousands of food parcels piled up in US Army and ICRC warehouses that the Red Cross was prohibited from delivering. There were also hundreds of thousands of unused tents captured form the German army.

There was absolutely no military reason for the Allies to keep millions of disarmed Germans in prison camps after Germany surrendered. The French kept them for slave labor and, where possible, to recruit them to the Foreign Legion to fight in Vietnam and Algeria. According to Bacque (based on actual statements by Eisenhower), the sole purpose of the US camps was a perverted and sadistic desire to take revenge on German soldiers and civilians.

Low Death Rates in Canadian and British POW Camps

The experience of POWs in Canadian and British camps was markedly different from that in the US and French camps. In the former, all inmates were provided tends or other shelter and, in all but one case, adequate food rations. The Canadian and British military also provided hospital care for sick and wounded inmates. The result was death rates comparable to the general population.

The US had only released 40% of their prisoners by January 1946. A year later 24,834 remained in custody.


*The Combined Chiefs of Staff (CCS) was the supreme military command of the military forces of the US and Great Britain during World War II.

**Clearly Eisenhower hoped that by calling them DEFs instead of Prisoners of War (POWs), he would avoid violating the Geneva Conventions governing POW treatment. It was for this exact reason, George W Bush declared all the detainees at Guantanamo Bay Enemy Combatants, rather than POWs.

***Victory over Europe Day (May 7, 1945) – the day the Allies accepted the German terms of surrender.

The US Government Assault on World War I Veterans and Their Families

The March of the Bonus Army

PBS (2013)

Film Review

This documentary concerns the brutal 1932 massacre of World War I veterans and their families by Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton.

Owing to insufficient volunteers (the army paid $1.25 a day), the US government was forced to initiate a draft when they first entered World War I in April 1917. When the war ended, veterans agitated for lost wages, leading Congress to authorize payment of a $1.25 bonus, to be paid in 1938.

With the 1929 Depression, unemployment rates for veterans were especially high, and an ex-GI from Portland organized a veterans march on Washington to demand immediate payment of their bonus.

After dozens of veterans occupied every Congressman’s office, the House passed the Bonus Bill.

As the Senate took up the bill, the veterans and their families set up an enormous tent and shack city in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington DC. They passed the time preparing communal meals, boxing, making music, preparing and visiting a library set up by the Salvation Army. One of the most remarkable features of the Anacostia tent city was the natural integration of black and white veterans in all aspects of daily life. During the war, black troops weren’t allowed to fight alongside white Americans, leading 100,000 African Americans to fight under the French flag.

The the Senate overwhelming defeated the Bonus Bill, Congress adjourned and Hoover ordered the evacuation of the 45,000 Bonus Army veterans from downtown Washington DC. After a battle broke out between city police and veterans, Hoover ordered and attack by 400 infantry, accompanied by tanks and armored vehicles to attack. General MacArthur ignored his order not to cross the Anacostia River, and he and his men burned the shacks and tents filled with the wives and children of Bonus Army members.

Congress ultimately passed the Bonus Bill in 1933. I was very surprised to learn that Roosevelt vetoed it and that the House and Senate overrode his veto.

 

The Great Depression: More Stuff You Didn’t Learn in School

The Great Depression Part 2 – The Road to Rock Bottom

PBS (1993)

Film Review

The second episode of the PBS Great Depression series deals mainly with the near collapse of the farm economy, when farmers burned their crops because they couldn’t cover their costs by selling them. The depression in the farm economy had started in the mid-twenties, prior to the 1929 Wall Street crash. World War I  created large demand for US agricultural exports. This led to a crisis of overproduction when the war ended.

With Hoover unwilling to provide government aid, the Red Cross took primary responsibility for providing food aid to starving families in Arkansas and other southern states.

This episode also explores the exploits of Pretty Boy Floyd, known as the Sage Brush Robin Hood, for sharing the proceeds of his bank robberies with families who couldn’t feed their children.

It finishes with the Bonus Army saga, in which 20,000 homeless World War I veterans and their families camped out in Washington DC to pressure Hoover and Congress to authorize early payment of the bonus they were promised in 1945. Under Hoover’s orders, Generals MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower led a military assault on the encampment. They burnt all the tents and shacks protestors were living in, injuring 55 veterans and killing a 12-week-old baby.

The General Motors Conspiracy to Destroy Public Transportation in the US

Taken for a Ride

Directed by Jim Klein (2014)

Film Review

Taken for a Ride is about a conspiracy initiated by General Motors to destroy America’s public transit system. At a time when only one out of ten Americans owned an automobile, the first president of General Motors Alfred P Sloan started National City Lines (NCL), with the explicit goal of shutting down the country’s popular, world class electric trolley lines.

With the financial support of Standard Oil, Phillips Petroleum, Firestone and Mack Truck, NCL bought up every trolley company in the US s systematically shut them down. This was despite widespread public opposition – the NCL buses that replaced the trolleys were far slower and more polluting than the trolleys.

Once they had a monopoly on city transit, NCL gradually raised fares and cut services until city buses were so unprofitable they had to be taken over by city government.

In 1946, after intensive investigation, the Justice Department filed suit against GM for conspiracy to monopolize public transportation. After finding them guilty, the court fined them a mere $5,000.

GM Also Behind Interstate Construction Conspiracy

In 1932, Sloan also founded the National Highway Users Conference, a consortium of oil and auto companies that would ultimately become the Highway Lobby – for decades the most powerful lobby in Washington. When Eisenhower was elected in 1952, GM president Erwin Wilson became his Secretary of Defense (and convinced of the need for superhighways – to move tanks as Hitler had done in Germany) and Francis DuPont (DuPont was the largest GM shareholder) as the Commissioner of Public Roads. Under Eisenhower, Congress enacted a federal gas tax to pay for the massive federal Interstate highway system his administration created.

There was strong public opposition in many cities to Interstate construction that threatened to displace entire neighborhoods and close down businesses, schools and churches. A national coalition – blocking urban Interstate extensions in 50 cities – but most went ahead as planned.

Sam Alito Exposes GM Conspiracy

In the 1970s, a strong grassroots environmental movement formed to address the growing problem with superhighway gridlock* and auto-related air pollution. A high point of this film is footage of a 1974 Senate Antitrust Committee hearing in which Los Angeles mayor Sam Alito reminds senators of the GM conspiracy to shut down LA’s public transit system.

Following the hearing, Congress relented and allowed cities to use federal gasoline taxes to rebuild their public transport networks. This would enable Washington and San Francisco to build subway systems and Baltimore, Portland, Seattle and other cities to begin plans for light rail (the modern term for electric trolleys) systems.

When this documentary was made in 2014, public transportation was in major crisis in most cities, due to budget cuts stemming from the 2008 global economic crash. At the time, Congress had just passed a bill to build a new national highway network four times the size of the current Interstate system.

Fortunately this plan has been shelved due to federal budgetary problems and the wholesale rejection of the private automobile by the millennial generation.


*Did you ever notice that TV ads never depict their cars stuck in highway gridlock – but on lonely stretches of country road?

 

Suez: Britain’s Illegal 1956 War Against Egypt

A Very British Crisis

BBC (2006)

Film Review

In 1956 Britain, France and Israel launched an illegal war of aggression against Egypt after President Gamal Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. As in the more recent US invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden’s real goal was regime change – the removal of Nasser as president. Eden, like Bush and Obama believed the local population would welcome the foreign invasion – that they would use it to rise up and topple their leader.

The humiliation Britain faced over the Suez Crisis would spell the end of their role as the world’s foremost super power.

Part 1 covers Egypt’s war of independence, which began as a mass popular uprising against British military occupation. In 1952, a secret group of Egyptian military officers, led by Nasser, took advantage of the civil unrest to topple King Farouk, establish a revolutionary council and demand the withdrawal of British troops. When Britain and the US tried to isolate Nassar by blocking a World Bank loan for Egypt’s Aswan Dam, Nasser responded by nationalizing the Suez Canal Company (jointly owned by Britain and France). His intention was to use canal profits to pay for the dam.

Part 2 concerns the secret conspiracy hatched by Britain, France and and Israel to invade Egypt, reclaim the Suez Canal and remove Nasser from power.

Part 3 covers the brutal invasion and the armed civilian resistance that fought back against the invaders. It also reveals the humiliating circumstances that forced Britain to withdraw their troops before they ever reached the canal. Because both France and Britain hold vetoes on the UN Security Council, Eisenhower used economic warfare to force Britain to agree to a ceasefire. A coordinated attack on the British pound by Wall Street banks* forced Eden to request Eisenhower’s support for an IMF loan. The latter demanded an immediate ceasefire as a condition of the loan.


*The filmmakers are a bit fuzzy about the coordinated sell-off of the British pound that caused its value to plummet. Based on what Willim Engdahl has written about US economic warfare (see How the US Uses War to Protect the Dollar), I suspect it was instigated by the Economy Warfare division of US Treasury.

The Wall Street Elites Who Financed Hitler

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States – Prequel B

Directed by Oliver Stone

Film Review

Prequel B starts with the period of social repression that followed the return of GIs from World War I. US leaders were extremely concerned they would spread the oral sex techniques they had learned from French women. Alcohol prohibition, a crackdown on prostitution, rampant antisemitism (even Harvard restricted Jewish admissions) and anti-immigrant sentiment, and the eugenics movement (accompanied by forced sterilization of convicts, the “feeble minded” and promiscuous women) were all typical of this intense repression.

During the same period, Wall Street banks greatly reduced their investment in agriculture and manufacture, preferring the easier profits to be had from cheap credit and speculation. In 1929, a disastrous decision by central banks to increase interest rates triggered a deadly global depression, setting the stage for the rise of fascism in Europe.

Back in the US, Generals MacArthur, Eisenhower and Patton charged 40,000 World War I veterans and their families with infantry and tanks and burned their tents. The latter, calling themselves the Bonus Army, were demanding immediate payment of the bonus they had been promised for serving in World War I.

Stone describes the 1930s as a radical period of social experimentation, in part due to Roosevelt’s sweeping New Deal social reforms (including Social Security, unemployment insurance, agricultural subsidies, aid to dependent children and Federal paid work schemes), and in part due to aggressive industrial unionization and intense interest on the part of American intellectuals in Russia’s experiment with communism. Hundreds of thousands of Americans would join the Communist Party, while numerous prominent writers (including Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes, Sinclair Lewis, Richard Wright, Clifford Odets, and Sherwood Anderson) were communist sympathizers.

During the same period, the America’s wealthy elites were more inclined to support Hitler. Key individuals who helped finance the Third Reich include Henry Ford, Prescott Bush, William Randolph Hearst, the Morgan brothers, Allen Dulles (first CIA director) and John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State under Eisenhower). The key US banks involved were Bank of International Settlements, Chase Manhattan, JP Morgan and United Banking Corporation (Brown Brothers Harriman). Specific US companies that provided Hitler with armaments, military vehicles, aircraft, oil and other material support include Kodak, ITT, Dupont, Westinghouse, Standard Oil, Singer, GE, Pratt and Whitney, United Fruit, Singer, Douglas Aircraft and International Harvester.

In 1933, some of these same industrialists would also try to instigate a coup – foiled by General Smedley Butler – to remove Roosevelt from office.

 

Untold History of the US – The Cold War

Parts 4 and 5 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States explore the exaggerated claims of Soviet expansionism that characterized the Truman/Eisenhower administration.

Part 4 begins by contrasting the economic standing of the US and the USSR when the war ended in 1945. The US economy was booming. America controlled 50% of the world’s economic production and most of its gold. The Soviet economy, in contrast, had been shattered. Truman reneged on Roosevelt’s promise to provide the Soviets post war aid to assist in their recovery. During the US occupation of West Germany, he also discontinued German war reparations to the USSR.

The late forties was a period of excruciating poverty for Eastern Europe, with major famine in the Ukraine. With the Soviet economy in a shambles, the claims made by Truman about their intention to conquer the world were ludicrous.

After Henry Wallace, the last holdover from the Roosevelt administration, made a major speech (echoing statements by Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt) opposing nuclear weapons, Truman fired him.

This episode also explores the first implementation of the Truman Doctrine, justifying US intervention in the domestic affairs of other countries. Truman first used it in 1947 to put down a popular uprising against a fascist coup in Greece. In a clear precursor to US intervention in Vietnam, Truman sent in US advisors to train the Greek military in “counterinsurgency tactics,” ie death squads to crush unions and human rights organizations and concentration camps to extinguish civilian support for pro-independence activists.

Part 4: Cold War: 1945-50

Part 5 explores the election of Eisenhower to power in 1952, coinciding with Khrushchev’s rise to power in 1953 and the re-election of Churchill in 1951 (Churchill was replaced by Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee from 1945-51).

Eisenhower, who had opposed using the A-bomb against Japan at Pottsdam, became a fervent nuclear weapons supporter as president. Under pressure from anti-communist hawk John Foster Dulles, he resisted Khrushchev’s and Churchill’s to organize a peace summit to limit the nuclear arms race.

Eisenhower would go on to engage in war crimes in Korean, causing massive civilian deaths by bombing North Korean dams.

In addition to authorizing the CIA overthrow of democratically elected governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, he paid 80% of French military costs as they endeavored to defeat Vietnam’s pro-independence movement.

In this episode, Stone also explores the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1955 in Java. Members consisted of world leaders determined to remain independent of either US or Soviet influence. In attendance at the first meeting were Ho Chi Minh  (Vietnam), Tito (Yugoslavia), Nehru (India), Nasser (Egypt), Zhou Enlai (China) and Sukarno (Indonesia). The CIA eventually removed each of these men from power, in some cases via assassination.

Part 5: the ’50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb and the Third World