11 October 2018

Hitler's Atrocities Against Allied POWs

Seventy years ago, the Nuremberg Trials were in full swing in Germany. In the dock were the leaders of the Nazi regime and most eventually received their just desserts. But what happened to the other war criminals?

In June 1946, Lord Russell of Liverpool became Deputy Judge Advocate and legal adviser to the Commander in Chief for the British Army of the Rhine in respect of all trials held by British Military Courts of German war criminals. He later wrote;

'At the outbreak of the Second World War, the treatment of prisoners was governed by the Geneva Prisoner of War Convention of 1929, the Preamble of which stated that the aim of the signatories was to alleviate the conditions of prisoners of war.

'During the war, however, the provisions of the Convention were repeatedly disregarded by Germany. Prisoners were subjected to brutality and ill-treatment, employed on prohibited and dangerous work, handed over to the SD for "special treatment" in pursuance of Hitler's Commando Order, lynched in the streets by German civilians, sent to concentration camps, shot on recapture after escaping, and even massacred after they had laid down their arms and surrendered.'

This book, authored by the chairman of the National Ex-Prisoner of War Association, Philip D. Chinnery, provides a comprehensive overview of the mistreated meted out to British, American and significantly Russian POWs held by Germany and her European allies. The title is somewhat misleading, as it implies a systematic and planned abuse of POWs by the Nazis, and while that was certainly the case against Russian prisoners, and indeed was also carried out in certain infamous POW camps and against certain types of prisoners such as Commandos, many of the detailed examples cover specific incidents of offhand cruelty and mistreatment. The stories recounted have been researched at the Public Records Office in Kew, and NARA in Washington, and the notes on each chapter give detailed references.

The grim list of murders and cruel treatments include well known episodes such as the killing of US POWs at Malmedy in the Adrennes, and Canadian POWs in Normandy, but also covers incidents in North Africa, attacks on Allied airmen in Germany, executions of SAS men, and many additional war crimes. This is a sobering and harrowing book, detailing many forgotten crimes committed against POWs who should have been offered the protection of the Geneva Convention, but tragically were not.

Available from:
Pen & Sword

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