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)
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.