Massacre of Kondomari

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The Massacre of Kondomari  refers to the execution of male civilians from the village of Kondomari in Crete by an ad hoc firing squad consisting of German paratroopers on 2 June 1941 during World War II.The shooting was the first of a series of reprisals in Crete. It was orchestrated by Generaloberst Kurt Student, in retaliation for the participation of Cretans in the Battle of Crete which had ended with the surrender of the island two days earlier.

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The massacre was photographed by a German army war propaganda correspondent whose negatives were discovered 39 years later in the federal German archives by a Greek journalist.

The civilian population of Crete had joined in the defence of their island alongside Greek and British armed forces. There are many accounts of them killing parachutists, some as they were still hanging in their parachutes as they landed. Some might regard this as a matter of self defence but the Germans interpreted it as “partisan” activity because they were not wearing uniform, and in their eyes outside the rules of warfare. There were also rumours that bodies had been mutilated or that even some parachutists had been tortured – although a much more likely explanation that bodies – necessarily left on the landing grounds – very rapidly decomposed in the heat.

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Following Student’s order, the occupants of Kondomari were blamed for the death of a few German soldiers whose bodies had been found near the village. On 2 June 1941, four lorries full of German paratroopers from the III Battalion of Luftlande-Sturm-Regiment 1 under the command of Oberleutnant Horst Trebes surrounded Kondomari. Trebes, a former member of the Hitler Youth, was the highest-ranking officer of the Battalion to have survived the Battle unwounded.

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Men, women and children were forced to gather in the village square. Then, a number of hostages was selected among the men while women and children were released. The hostages were led to the surrounding olive groves and later fired upon. The exact number of the victims is unclear. According to German records, a total of 23 men were killed but other sources raise the toll to about 60. The whole operation was captured on film by Franz-Peter Weixler, then serving as a war propaganda correspondent (kriegsberichter) for the Wehrmacht.

 

 

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

Franz Peter Weixler, Wehrmacht kriegsberichter (Army war correspondent) photographed and preserved his negatives of the massacre. Weixler was later charged with treason and held by the Gestapo. Here is an English translation his original statement for the trial of Hermann Goering.

“The punitive expedition consisted of Trebes, another lieutenant, an interpreter, two sergeants and about twenty five parachutists of the Second Battalion. As a photographer assigned to my division I was permitted to accompany this commando. Near the village of Malemes, we stopped and Trebes showed us the corpses of several soldiers, obviously in the process of decay. He incited the men against the civilian population. We continued our drive to the village of Kondomari.

The men got off, and ran into the few houses of the little community. They got all men, women, and children onto the little square.

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A German soldier brought out the coat of a parachutist which he had picked up in one of the houses. and which had a bullet hole in the back. Trebes had the house burned down immediately.

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One man admitted having killed a German soldier, but it was not possible to convict any of the others of any crimes or plundering, and I therefore asked Trebes to stop the contemplated action and give us orders to return, taking with us only the one man. Trebes however gave orders to separate the men from the women and children; then he had the interpreter tell the women that all of the men would be shot because of having murdered German soldiers, and that the corpses would have to be interred within two hours.

When Trebes turned his back for a few moments, I made it possible for nine men to get away. Trebes had the men form a half circle, gave the order to fire, and after about fifteen seconds, everything was over.

Kreta, Kondomari, Erschießung von Zivilisten

I asked Trebes, who was quite pale, whether he realized what he had done, and he replied that he had only executed the order of Hermann Goering, and avenged his dead comrades. A few days later he received the Knights Cross from Goering for his “braveness” in Crete.”

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The following day an even worse massacre was conducted in the village of Kandanos, where 180 civilians were killed, possibly by a squad also led by Horst Trebes. The village was razed to the ground.

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The Le Paradis massacre

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The Le Paradis massacre was a war crime committed by members of the 14th Company, SS Division Totenkopf, under the command of Hauptsturmführer Fritz Knöchlein.

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It took place on 27 May 1940, during the Battle of France, at a time when the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) was attempting to retreat through the Pas-de-Calais region during the Battle of Dunkirk.

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Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Norfolk Regiment, had become isolated from their regiment. They occupied and defended a farmhouse against an attack by Waffen-SS forces in the village of Le Paradis. After running out of ammunition, the defenders surrendered to the German troops. The Germans led them across the road to a wall, and machine-gunned them. Ninety-seven British troops died. Two survived, with injuries, and hid until they were captured by German forces several days later.

After the war, Fritz Knöchlein was located, tried and convicted by a war crimes court, with the two survivors acting as witnesses against him. For his part in the massacre, Knöchlein was executed in 1949.

The British captives, a majority of whom were wounded, were disarmed and marched down a road off the Rue du Paradis. While they were waiting, two machine-guns from No.4 Machine-gun Company were prepared and set up by a barn in a paddock of the farm. The British prisoners were marched to the barn, lined up alongside it and fired upon by the two German machinegunners, who continued firing until all the British had fallen. Knöchlein then armed his men with bayonets to kill any remaining survivors. Satisfied that they had killed them all, the German soldiers left to rejoin the rest of their regiment.

An account by Private Albert Pooley, one of only two survivors:

… we turned off the dusty French road, through a gateway and into a meadow beside the buildings of a farm. I saw with one of the nastiest feelings I have ever had in my life two heavy machine guns inside the meadow … pointing at the head of our column. The guns began to spit fire … for a few seconds the cries and shrieks of our stricken men drowned the crackling of the guns. Men fell like grass before a scythe … I felt a searing pain and pitched forward … my scream of pain mingled with the cries of my mates, but even before I fell into the heap of dying men, the thought stabbed my brain ‘If I ever get out of here, the swine that did this will pay for it.’

Ninety-seven British prisoners were killed and the Germans forced French civilians to bury the bodies in a shallow mass grave the next day. Despite the German efforts, Private William O’Callaghan had survived and pulled Private Albert Pooley alive from among the bodies in the field. The pair then hid in a pig-sty for three days and nights, surviving on raw potatoes and water from puddles before being discovered by the farm’s owner, Madame Duquenne-Creton, and her son Victor. The French civilians risked their lives caring for the two men, who were later captured by the Wehrmacht’s 251st Infantry Division and transferred to a military hospital

On the day after the massacre, 28 May, Gunter d’Alquen, a journalist in the Waffen-SS, arrived at the scene with Dr Thum, the SS-Totenkopf deputy legal advisor. d’Alquen made a report of what he saw:

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It was possible to look into the back yard from the road…the corpses in British uniform were lying in the yard near the buildings. They were lying in such a position that one can assume they were killed by machine-gun bursts. It struck me at once that the dead soldiers were not wearing helmets, nor did they have any equipment on them…I took pictures of the dead bodies, and the whole farm. At Thum’s request these were to be placed at the disposal of the division…I believe I was already sitting there in the vehicle when Thum…told me that in the field which he had returned the equipment the shot British soldiers were lying in a heap, from which he had come to the conclusion that a summary trial had taken place”

After the war, O’Callaghan’s evidence and the discovery of the SS-run extermination camps prompted the British authorities to look into the reports.

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The massacre was investigated by the War Crimes Investigation Unit and after Knöchlein’s company was identified as the perpetrators in 1947, he was traced and arrested in Germany. Knöchlein was arraigned on charges of war crimes in August 1948, to which he pleaded not guilty:

Knöchlein denied being at Le Paradis. Then, when residents identified him; he said the executions were justified because the British used dum-dum bullets banned by the Hague Convention.

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He also claimed the British had lured his men to the farmhouse with a white flag before gunning them down. Finally, he accused his jailers of subjecting him to physical and mental torture.

The court did not believe any of it, and Knöchlein was hanged on January 28, 1949, for his role in the massacre – the only one punished.

 

Bath School massacre

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The Bath School massacre, was a series of violent attacks perpetrated by Andrew Kehoe on May 18, 1927 in Bath Township, Michigan which killed 38 elementary schoolchildren and 6 adults and injured at least 58 other people. Kehoe killed his wife and firebombed his farm, then detonated an explosion in the Bath Consolidated School before committing suicide by detonating a final device in his truck.It is the deadliest mass murder to take place at a school in United States history.

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Andrew Kehoe was the 55-year-old school board treasurer and was angered by increased taxes and his defeat in the Spring 1926 election for township clerk. He was thought to have planned his “murderous revenge” after that public defeat.Kehoe left behind a stenciled sign on his farm fence that read “Criminals are made, not born.”

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He had a reputation for difficulty on the school board and in personal dealings. In addition, he was notified that his mortgage was going to be foreclosed upon in June 1926. For much of the next year, a neighbor noticed that he had stopped working on his farm and thought that he might be planning suicide. During that period, Kehoe purchased explosives and discreetly planted them on his property and under the school.

Prior to May 18, Kehoe had loaded the back seat of his truck with all sorts of metal debris capable of producing shrapnel during an explosion. He also bought a new set of tires for his truck so it wouldn’t break down when transporting the explosives. He didn’t want it to look suspicious that his truck was full of dangerous products. He made many trips to Lansing for more explosives, as well as the school, town, and his house.

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Many of his neighbors noticed how busy he was driving around, but never thought to make any comment about it. Multiple times, a neighbor to the school saw a man carrying objects into the building at night, but never thought to mention it to anyone.

Nellie Kehoe had been discharged on May 16 from Lansing’s St. Lawrence Hospital.[16] Between her release and the bombings two days later, Kehoe killed his wife. He put her body in a wheelbarrow located in the rear of the farm’s chicken coop, where it was found in a heavily charred state after the farm explosions and fire. Piled around the cart were silverware and a metal cash box. Ashes of several bank notes could be seen through a slit in the cash box. Kehoe had placed and wired homemade pyrotol firebombs in the house and all the buildings of the farm. The burned remains of his two horses were found tied in their enclosures with their legs wired together, to prevent their rescue during the fire.

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Classes began at 8:30 a.m. that morning. At about 8:45 a.m., in the basement of the north wing of the school, an alarm clock set by Kehoe detonated the dynamite and pyrotol he had hidden there.

Rescuers heading to the scene of the Kehoe farm fire heard the explosion at the school building, turned back and headed toward the school. Parents within the rural community also began rushing to the school. The school building had turned into a war zone] with thirty-eight people, mostly children, being killed in the initial explosion.

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First-grade teacher Bernice Sterling told an Associated Press reporter that the explosion was like an earthquake:

“It seemed as though the floor went up several feet,” she said. “After the first shock I thought for a moment I was blind. When it came the air seemed to be full of children and flying desks and books. Children were tossed high in the air; some were catapulted out of the building.

About a half hour after the explosion, Kehoe drove up to the school and saw Superintendent Huyck. Kehoe summoned the superintendent over to his truck. Charles Hawson testified at the Inquest that he saw the two men struggle over some type of long gun and that the car then exploded.killing Superintendent Huyck, Kehoe, Nelson McFarren (a retired farmer)] and Cleo Clayton, an eight-year-old second grader. Clayton, a survivor of the first blast, had wandered out of the school building debris and was killed by the fragmentation from the exploding vehicle.

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The explosion also mortally wounded postmaster Glenn O. Smith (who lost a leg and died later that day of his wounds) and injured several others.

 

The last German massacre of WWII

Although the Germans had already surrendered and celebration to celebrate VE day had begun in many parts of the world,

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some German troops decided to go for one more killing spree.

The Massacre in Trhová Kamenice happened on 8 May 1945 in what is now the Czech Republic.

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German troops, escaping from Chrudim back to Germany, passed through the village of Trhová Kamenice where they decided to punish supposed partisans.

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Near the village they first killed five villagers, including Bedřich Mareš.

On the village borders, the troops found young Marie Pilařová returning from a visit to her relatives. They shot her instantly. They then entered the village, and in the church they captured the parish priest Oldřich Kučera and brutally tortured him to death.

The troops had previously captured four hostages in the near village of Rohozná – Jaroslav Kvapil, Jan Michek (a 17-year-old boy), Janko Trudič and Antonín Novák. The hostages were executed near house number 6.

Under the nearby hill called Třešňovka, the troops shot three more people – Antonín Alinč, Adolf Zábský and Emanuel Kacafír, who were trying to escape. They are buried in the Trhová Kamenice cemetery.

There is now a monument in the village to remember the event. Those responsible were never brought to trial.

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The Gardelegen massacre

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On May 7th, 1945, Life Magazine published a series of photographs which showed the atrocities discovered by American troops as they fought their way across Germany during the last days of World War II. Included was the photo above, which shows the charred bodies of concentration camp prisoners who were burned to death inside a barn near the Medieval walled town of Gardelegen in eastern Germany on the night of April 13, 1945.

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The Gardelegen massacre was a massacre perpetrated by German SS and Luftwaffe troops during World War II. On April 13, 1945, on the Isenschnibbe estate near the northern German town of Gardelegen, the troops forced 1,016 slave laborers, many of them Poles, who were part of a transport evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora labor camp into a large barn which was then set on fire. Most of the prisoners were burned alive; some were shot trying to escape. The crime was discovered two days later by F Company, 2nd Battalion, 405th Regiment, U.S. 102nd Infantry Division, when the U.S. Army occupied the area.

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On Friday, April 13th, approximately 1050 to 1100 of the concentration camp prisoners were herded inside a grain barn, piled knee-high with straw, which had been previously doused with gasoline. The barn was then deliberately set on fire by German SS and Luftwaffe soldiers and boys from the Hitler Jugend, according to the survivors. Prisoners who tried to escape from the fire were machine-gunned to death by the Germans guarding the barn, including teen-aged boys in the Hitler Jugend. A total of 1016 prisoners were burned to death or shot as they tried to escape from the unlocked barn. Around 100 of the prisoners survived, including several Russian Prisoners of War who greeted the American soldiers and led them to the scene of one of the most ignominious war crimes of World War II.

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The man who is considered to be the main instigator of the Gardelegen massacre is 34-year-old Gerhard Thiele, who was the Nazi party district leader of Gardelegen. On April 6, 1945, Thiele called a meeting of his staff and other officials at which he issued an order, which had been given to him a few days before by Gauleiter Rudolf Jordan, that any prisoners who were caught looting or who tried to escape should be shot on the spot.

On April 14, the 102nd entered Gardelegen and, the following day, discovered the atrocity. They found the corpses of 1,016 prisoners in the still-smoldering barn and nearby trenches, where the SS had had the charred remains dumped. They also interviewed several of the prisoners who had managed to escape the fire and the shootings. U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers soon arrived to document the Nazi crime and by April 19, 1945, the story of the Gardelegen massacre began appearing in the Western press. On that day, both the New York Times and The Washington Post ran stories on the massacre, quoting one American soldier who stated:

I never was so sure before of exactly what I was fighting for. Before this you would have said those stories were propaganda, but now you know they weren’t. There are the bodies and all those guys are dead.

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On April 21, 1945, the local commander of the 102nd ordered between 200 and 300 men from the town of Gardelegen to give the murdered prisoners a proper burial.

Over the next few days, the German civilians exhumed 586 bodies from the trenches and recovered 430 bodies from the barn, placing each in an individual grave. On April 25, the 102nd carried out a ceremony to honor the dead and erected a memorial tablet to the victims, which stated that the townspeople of Gardelegen are charged with the responsibility that the “graves are forever kept as green as the memory of these unfortunates will be kept in the hearts of freedom-loving men everywhere.” Also on April 25, Colonel George Lynch addressed German civilians at Gardelegen with the following statement:

“The German people have been told that stories of German atrocities were Allied propaganda. Here, you can see for yourself. Some will say that the Nazis were responsible for this crime. Others will point to the Gestapo. The responsibility rests with neither — it is the responsibility of the German people….Your so-called Master Race has demonstrated that it is master only of crime, cruelty and sadism. You have lost the respect of the civilized world.”

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Gerhard Thiele managed to elude justice in January 1946. He escaped , but it was found out he had lived in Düsseldorf at least until 1991 under a false identity.He died in 1994.

However, at least one of the SS men involved in the Gardelegen massacre was put on trial in 1947, according to Gring. She states on page 34 that SS-Untersturmführer Erhart Brauny was sentenced to life in prison. According to Gring, Brauny had been assigned to the Rottleberode sub-camp in 1944 and he was the transport leader for the prisoners evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp who subsequently wound up in Gardelegen and were herded into the barn which was set on fire.

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He was sentenced to life imprisonment and died in 1950 of natural causes in prison.

Karl Schümers- the butcher of Greece

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Karl Schümers (17 October 1905 – 18 August 1944) was a high-ranking commander in the Waffen-SS and Ordnungspolizei (police) of Nazi Germany during World War II. He commanded the SS Polizei Division in July – August 1944. He was directly or indirectly involved in many of the major atrocities committed in Greece during 1944. Killed by a landmine on 18 August 1944, he was posthumously awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

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  • On 5 April 1944, Karl Schümers commanded the 7th unit of the 4th SS Polizei Panzergrenadier Division to the execution of 277 unarmed women, children and elders in the village of Kleisoura in Greece as a retaliation of the killing of 3 German soldiers.In the official investigations by his command hierarchy for the massacre he testified that his soldiers had to kill them all because guerrilla forces were hiding in the village, and was acquitted, while it was proven after the war that his testimony was false.
  • On 24 April the his 7th unit committed the Pyrgoi massacre where 368 children were slaughtered.Mnimio-pesonton
  • Men from the same 7th unit, under the command of Hans Zampel and Fritz Lautenbach committed the Distomo massacre, on 10 June, where 218 civilians were brutally murdered for retaliation, one of the cruelest atrocities of WW II; no one was ever tried for this war crime.Distomo_massacre_1944
  • On 17 June 1944 Karl Schümers commanded the execution of 28 civilians and total destruction of Ipati, and the next day, the burning down of Sperchiada and the killing of 35 civilians.
  • After he was assigned the command of the 4th Panzer Grenadier Division, on 22 July 1944,the 8th unit of his forces took part in the operation Kreuzotter (5-31 August 1944) in a failed attempt to eradicate ELAS bases from the mountains of central Greece, Roumeli, Greece , that resulted, among others, in the killing of approximately 170 civilians and the partial or complete destruction of dozens of villages and cities.Αντάρτες_του_ΕΑΜ-ΕΛΑΣ

He was killed on 18 August 1944 when his car stepped into a landmine planted by Greek resistance, in Arta, Greece.

Kurt Meyer-Excusing the unforgiveable

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The case of Kurt Meyer is somewhat disturbing for it may well have been the 1st case of “Political Correctness” and it also puts question marks on how sorry the Germans really were after WWII.

Kurt Meyer (23 December 1910 – 23 December 1961) was a high-ranking member in the Waffen-SS of Nazi Germany who commanded SS Division Hitlerjugend during World War II. He participated in the Battle of France, Operation Barbarossa, and the Battle of Normandy, among others, and was a recipient of the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.

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Meyer was convicted of war crimes for his role in the Ardenne Abbey massacre, the killing of Canadian prisoners of war in Normandy.

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In the early days of the Normandy campaign 20 Canadian soldiers, members of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders and  27th Armoured Regiment (part of the Sherbrooke Fusilier Regiment), were captured and executed by Waffen SS forces in a monastery, near Caen, France. The incident was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention, which was signed by Germany before the war.

The executioner was the infamous SS Standartenfuhrer, Kurt Meyer. Meyer was in charge of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment and under its wing, the fanatical 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. The Hitlerjugend Division was comprised of ex-members of the Hitler Youth, who were sent to Caen to participate in combat against the invading Allies.

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The captured Canadians were all young men, barely out of school, with no combat experience. They were outmanoeuvred and captured in June 1944. The headquarters of the 25th Panzer Grenadier Regiment was located in the Ardenne Abbey, so the soldiers were taken there.Their bodies were discovered on July 8, 1944 after the Abbey had finally been liberated by the Canadian Army. First, they found the body of Lieutenant Thomas Windsor

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Meyer was held as a prisoner of war until December 1945, when in the town of Aurich in Germany he was put on trial for war crimes, charged with the murder of unarmed Allied prisoners of war in Normandy.

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He was sentenced to death, he appealed the sentence but the appeal was denied by General Christopher Vokes.

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However, due to a technicality discovered by a prosecutor the death sentence was commuted to one of life imprisonment.Meyer was transported to Canada to begin his sentence.Meyer served five years in Dorchester Penitentiary, in New Brunswick, Canada where he worked in the library and learned English.

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Meyer petitioned for clemency in late 1950 – somewhat surprisingly including an offer to serve in a Canadian or United Nations military force if released; the government was willing to let him return to a German prison but not to release him outright. He was transferred to a British military prison in Werl, West Germany in 1951.

He was released from prison on 7 September 1954 after the German government reduced his sentence to fourteen years and for good behavior, was determined to be eligible for release. Upon his return to Germany in 1951, Meyer told a reporter that nationalism was past and that “a United Europe is now the only answer”

Upon his release from prison, Meyer became active in HIAG, the Waffen-SS lobby group, formed in 1951 by former high-ranking Waffen-SS men, including Paul Hausser, Felix Steiner and Herbert Gille.

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Meyer became the organization’s spokesperson in 1959. He was considered one of the leading Waffen-SS apologists. At a HIAG rally in 1957, he announced that while he stood behind his old commanders, Hitler had made many mistakes and it was now time to look to the future, not to the past. Speaking before some 8000 SS men at the HIAG convention in Karlsberg, Bavaria, in 1957, he proclaimed that “SS troops committed no crimes, except the massacre at Oradour, and that was the action of a single man”. He insisted that the Waffen-SS was “as much a regular army outfit as any other in the Wehrmacht.”

His memoirs, Grenadiere (1957), were published as part of this campaign and were a glorification of the SS’s part in the war as well as of his role in it. The book detailed his exploits at the front and served as an element of the Waffen-SS rehabilitation efforts. Meyer condemned the “inhuman suffering” that the Waffen-SS personnel had been subjected to “for crimes which they neither committed, nor were able to prevent”. Historian Charles W. Sydnor referred to Grenadiere as “perhaps the boldest and most truculent of the apologist works”.  The book was part of HIAG’s propaganda campaign to promote the perceptions of the Waffen-SS in popular culture as apolitical, recklessly brave fighters who were not involved in the war crimes of the Nazi regime.

These notions have since been refuted by historians.

In his later years he was afflicted with poor health, needing a stick to walk, and suffering from heart and kidney disease.After a series of mild strokes, he died of a heart attack in Hagen, Westphalia, on  his 51st Birthday 23 December 1961. Fifteen thousand people attended his funeral in Hagen, a cushion-bearer carrying his medals in the cortege.

 

 

 

The Wereth Massacre

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On December 16, 1944, the Germans launched their last great offensive against the Western Allies through the Ardennes Forest of eastern Belgium. It would become known as the Battle of the Bulge. Three German Armies attacked a long a 50-mile front. American troops manning the line were thrown into confusion. Even the high command was stunned. Stabilizing the line was first priority and many of the units available were African American. One of them was the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion.

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From the battle emerged a multitude of heroes and villains. The brutality rivaled that of the Eastern Front; no quarter was given. Incidents like the Malmedy Massacre became well-known. On the afternoon of December 17, 1944, over 80 GIs who had been taken prisoner were gunned down by men of the 1st SS Panzer Division.

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Some escaped to spread the story, which led to a steely resolve on the part of American troops. But later that night another massacre occurred that received little attention during or after the war.

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Eleven men from the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion were taken prisoner after taking refuge in a Belgian village. They surrendered peacefully to a squad from the 1stSS, and marched out of the village. Upon arriving in a large field along the main road, the men were beaten and finally executed.

The remains of the 11 troops were found by Allied soldiers six weeks later, in mid-February, after the Allies re-captured the area. The Germans had battered the soldiers’ faces, cut their fingers off, broken their legs, used bayonetts to stab them in the eye, and shot at least one soldier while he was bandaging a comrade’s wounds.

The troops killed were:

  • Staff Sergeant Thomas J. Forte, service #34036992. Buried Henri-Chapelle plot C, row 11, grave 55. Awards: Purple Heart
  • T/4 William Edward Pritchett of Alabama
  • T/4 James A. Stewart of West Virginia, Service number 35744547. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot C, row 11, grave 2. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Cpl Mager Bradley of Mississippi
  • PFC George Davis of Alabama, service #34553436. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot D, row 10, grave 61. Awards: Purple Heart
  • PFC James L. Leatherwood of Pontotoc, Mississippi
  • PFC George W. Moten of Texas, service #38304695. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot E, row 10, grave 29. Awards: Purple Heart
  • PFC Due W. Turner of Arkansas, service #38383369. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot F, row 5, grave 9. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Pvt Curtis Adams of South Carolina, service #34511454. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot C, row 11, grave 41. Awards: Purple Heart
  • Pvt Robert Green
  • Pvt Nathanial Moss of Texas, service #38040062. Buried Henri-Chapelle, plot F, row 10, grave 8. Awards: Purple Heart

Curtis Adams was a medic. Thomas J. Forte was a mess sergeant.

The Bangka Island massacre

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One of the worst sorts of evil one can commit is to do harm or kill those who look after the infirm and injured. People who clearly care and have a kind spirit.

Alas this happened during WWII and still happens nowadays and not only in war torn countries.

The Bangka Island massacre was one of those atrocities committed by the Japanese forces in 1942.

On 12 February 1942, with the fall of Singapore to the Japanese imminent, sixty-five Australian Army nurses, including Sister Vivian Bullwinkel, were evacuated from the besieged city on the small coastal steamer Vyner Brooke.

In addition to the Australian nurses, the ship was crammed with over two hundred civilian evacuees and English military personnel. As the Vyner Brooke was passing between Sumatra and Borneo, Japanese aircraft bombed and strafed the overloaded ship and it sank quickly. The ship carried many injured service personnel and 65 nurses of the Australian Army Nursing Service from the 2/13th Australian General Hospital, as well as civilian men, women and children. The survivors in lifeboats were strafed by Japanese aircraft but some reached Bangka Island off the coast of Sumatra. Twelve Australian nurses were either killed in the attack on the ship or drowned in the sea. The remaining fifty-three nurses reached Bangka Island in lifeboats, on rafts, or by drifting with the tide.

Wearing their Red Cross armbands, and having protected status as non-combatants by convention of civilised nations, the nurses expected to be treated in a civilised manner by the Japanese when they reached shore. About 100 survivors reunited near Radjik Beach at Bangka Island, in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), including 22 of the original 65 nurses. Once it was discovered that the island was held by the Japanese, an officer of the Vyner Brooke went to surrender the group to the authorities in Muntok. While he was away nurse Irene Melville Drummond suggested that the civilian women and children should leave for Muntok, which they did.

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The nurses stayed to care for the wounded. They set up a shelter with a large Red Cross sign on it.

At mid-morning the ship’s officer returned with about 20 Japanese soldiers. They ordered all the wounded men capable of walking to travel around a headland. The nurses heard a quick succession of shots before the Japanese soldiers came back, sat down in front of the women and cleaned their bayonets and rifles. A Japanese officer ordered the remaining 22 nurses and one civilian woman to walk into the surf.A machine gun was set up on the beach and when the women were waist deep, they were machine-gunned. All but Sister Lt Vivian Bullwinkel were killed.

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Wounded soldiers left on stretchers were then bayoneted and killed.

Shot in the diaphragm, Bullwinkel lay motionless in the water until the sound of troops had disappeared. She crawled into the bush and lay unconscious for several days. When she awoke, she encountered Private Patrick Kingsley, a British soldier that had been one of the wounded from the ship, and had been bayoneted by the Japanese soldiers but survived. She dressed his wounds and her own, and then 12 days later they surrendered to the Japanese. Kingsley died before reaching a POW camp, but Bullwinkel spent 3 years in one. She survived the war and gave evidence of the massacre at a war crimes trial in Tokyo in 1947.

Vivian retired from the army in 1947 and became Director of Nursing at the Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital. Also in 1947 she gave evidence of the massacre at a war crimes trial in Tokyo.She devoted herself to the nursing profession and to honouring those killed on Banka Island, raising funds for a nurses’ memorial and serving on numerous committees, including a period as a member of the Council of the Australian War Memorial, and later president of the Australian College of Nursing.

Bullwinkel married Colonel Francis West Statham in September 1977, changing her name to Vivian Statham. She returned to Bangka Island in 1992 to unveil a shrine to the nurses who had not survived the war.

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She died of a heart attack on 3 July 2000, aged 84, in Perth, Western Australia

The Hermann Graebe testimony.

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Herman Friedrich Graebe or Gräbe, (June 19, 1900 – April 17, 1986) was a German manager and engineer in charge of a German building firm in Ukraine, who witnessed mass executions of the Jews of Dubno on October 5, 1942 by Nazis. Following the war he wrote a famous and horrifying testimony.

“My foreman and I went directly to the pits. Nobody bothered us. Now I heard rifle shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks – men, women and children of all ages – had to undress upon the order of an SS man who carried a riding or dog whip.

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They had to put down their clothes in fixed places, sorted according to shoes, top clothing and undergarments. I saw heaps of shoes of about 800 to 1000 pairs, great piles of under-linen and clothing.

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Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for a sign from another SS man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes I stood near, I heard no complaint or plea for mercy. I watched a family of about eight persons, a man and a woman both of about fifty, with their children of about twenty to twenty-four, and two grown-up daughters about twenty-eight or twenty-nine. An old woman with snow white hair was holding a one year old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about ten years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him. At that moment the SS man at the pit started shouting something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound. Among them was the family I have just mentioned. I well remember a girl, slim with black hair, who, as she passed me, pointed to herself and said, “twenty-three years old.” I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave.

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People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was nearly two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy-gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps which were cut in the clay wall of the pit and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the SS man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot.”

Graebe later provided vital testimony in the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, invoking bitter persecution from many of his countrymen. To escape the hostility, Graebe moved his family to San Francisco in 1948, where he lived until his death in 1986. Hermann Graebe was honoured as a ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem.

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