Stop Bashing the Germans    
    Anthony Milne says it's time to leave off fighting World War II    

The constant banging on about the Second World War, the incessant diet of war programmes on the satellite History Channel (known to many as the 'Hitler Channel'), and the continual emphasis on German 'war guilt', suffered a welcome backlash in early May 2005. When it came to 'celebrating' the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, many on the Right in Germany (now a sizeable minority) were marching with banners saying: "We have nothing to celebrate."

It is about time that the question of war crimes was put into perspective, with more consideration given to what the constant German-bashing must be doing to the feelings of the younger Germans who are paid-up, politically correct, law-abiding members of the EU, and have been for years. They don't deserve to have the Holocaust rammed down their throats year after year. It looks as if we Brits - the main exponents of this continual harping - have so little to be proud of nowadays that we seek to relive the glories of the past (real and imagined) at the expense of the hapless Germans: like kicking a man when he is down.

The Germans are at last beginning to reassert themselves on this issue as a matter of historical justice. German President Horst Kohler, in a speech in May, spelled out to the world that the German people also suffered during the war, and during its long-running totalitarian aftermath.

He referred to the hundreds of thousands who died in foreign prisons, the tens of thousands of women who were sent to Soviet forced labour camps and the millions of others who were made homeless, and the thousands who were killed in the merciless allied bombing raids on German cities that took place when the Nazis were all but defeated, and which many even in Britain consider tantamount to war crimes.

He could also have mentioned the tens of thousands of ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers, who were not war criminals but were merely doing their patriotic duty, who became POWS in Russia after their defeats in Stalingrad in 1942 and Kursk in 1943. Most of them were so brutally treated that only a few hundred returned home to Germany after the war in one piece. Historians like Antony Beevor and Max Hastings have written blockbusters about the horrifying slaughter, pillage and rape that took place when the Red Army (with whom we Brits had a wartime alliance) raided German villages as they made their drunken rampaging way across the frontier in the wake of the retreating Wehrmacht, something that was first graphically documented (but conveniently ignored by the left-leaning establishment in Britain) by Jürgen Thorwald in his Flight in the Winter (1953).

Soviet brutality

Beevor also points out that Russians and other East Europeans, and not just Germans, were on the receiving end of Red Army raping brutality, with thousands of Russian soldiers also shot by their own side, not for war crimes but for 'cowardice' and 'anti-Soviet treachery'. Tens of thousands more were liquidated by Stalin as 'traitors' at the end of the war as, having been POWs, they were returned to Russia from Germany. Many were forced back to Russia by British officers at the point of guns, a war-crime scandal that at one time besmirched the reputation of former PM Harold Macmillan.

The Second World War took place as a result of Britain declaring hostilities against Germany, not the other way round. So the aftermath of the war, including the communist enslavement of Europe, must partly be the result of Britain's actions in an alliance with those same communists who were ruled by another brutal dictator who had – prior to the war, remember – already bumped off millions, crimes which were known about by British intelligence. In other words, we didn't go to war against Germany for 'human rights' reasons.

At the war's end the Poles, whose sovereignty we had pledged to defend, fell under the steely grip of another totalitarian invader that was to rule over them for eight times longer than the Nazis did. Not only Poland but the whole of Eastern Europe, including the Baltic states, had their political and economic freedoms snuffed out with Finland and Yugoslavia becoming client states until the wretched communist system imploded during the two years 1989-91.

Stalin's war

Revisionist historians are now claiming that the Second World War was Stalin's war, a thesis first put forward by Ernst Topitsch in 1987. Topitsch's interpretation was that the sly Stalin ran rings round Hitler and exploited his obsessions (and his good luck in getting away with his adventurism), and made Hitler look careless and amateurish. Stalin allowed him to attack Russia knowing that Hitler would be defeated in a war on two fronts, and the ensuing take-over of Eastern Europe could be done without too much criticism, since Stalin could claim he helped defeat a hated tyrant with the aid of his 'democratic' allies.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Nazis can be blamed for horrific war crimes, and I do not mean to down-play the courage of our own troops in fighting what many thought to be a just war. The late historian Alan Bullock puts the 'best calculation' for victims of the 'Final Solution' at between 4.2 and 4.6 million. But, in the interests of historical truth, although Hitler and Goebbels were implicated in the Holocaust, and incriminated themselves with constant anti-Semitic ranting, the documentary evidence for a premeditated extermination policy in which the entire German population were accomplices (as suggested by some American Jewish authors) is hard to come by. The supposed Wannsee conference of 1942, where the 'Final Solution' was said to have been planned by top Nazis, was not even mentioned in Bullock's classic Hitler book, nor in others. The anecdotal evidence for this comes from Adolph Eichmann at his war crimes trial in Jerusalem in 1961.

It should also be remembered that the Nazi criminal elements were confined largely to Heinrich Himmler's SS, who ran the concentration camps with his henchmen such as Reinhard Heydrich. Many of Himmler's victims were worked to death on the 'revenge weapons' programme, or died of starvation and disease. Other evidence of war crimes comes from affidavits presented to the Nuremberg tribunal by commandants at the various concentration camps.

German army not criminals

The conscript German army, and most of the Nazi top brass, were not implicated in war crimes, although several of Hitler's generals were executed by the Allies for "waging an aggressive war." Yet the German high command themselves suffered massive losses of manpower in the most horrendously brutal battles against the Soviets on the Eastern Front by equally 'aggressive' foes.

In several books on Himmler and the SS I have read in particular those by Franz Gruber, Manvell and Fraenkel and Peter Padfield, I have found it hard going to try to work out how many Nazi victims were involved, who they were and how they died, or where the documentary evidence comes from. Nowhere have I seen in print the bald statement: "Six million Jews died in gas chambers."

Now there are more books and articles about the horrendous mass murders that took place under Soviet and Asiatic communism – probably 40 million in the USSR and another 80 million in Asia. But President Putin and his predecessors have never been called upon to apologise for enslaving the ex-Soviet states, let alone apologise for Soviet war crimes; nor have Soviet crimes ever come before any international tribunal. Many believe this is largely because of the left's ideological sympathy with communism, and the glossing over of its misdemeanours.

But what is done is done, and guilt is always personal rather than collective or historical. Present-day Russians, Japanese and Chinese should not have to apologise for what happened in history, since the people themselves in most cases had no control over events, or weren't even born when they occurred.

The Germans have been unfairly picked on, and made to feel so guilt-laden and demoralised that German tourists are actually relieved to be mistaken for Austrians or Swiss! Their guilt feelings have made them submerge themselves all too willingly into the EU, which ironically shows all the signs of becoming another Soviet Union. If we had been more sparing of German sensibilities, and harped less on the dangers of 'nationalism' then the EU might never have come into existence.

Editor's note: It is expected that some readers will strongly disagree with some parts of this article. However, it is not intended to open these pages to an endless debate on the subject. Every article we print has critics of some of its parts. This is what free journalism is all about. Just take what you like and reject what you do not like.

    Spearhead Online