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How honourable were the Kriegsmarine and Luftwaffe?

A few years ago an historian stumbled across a load of transcriptions of WW2 German POW recordings. The Germans were set up in a country house and whilst they were speaking freely to each other they were secretly recorded. Some of the discussions are quite hard to get your head around.


These transcriptions have since been made into a book:

Amazon product
I managed to 'acquire' the audio version online and I'm quite astounded by some of the revelations of the Luftwaffe pilots and U-boat captains. I had always held the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine in fairly high regard as they aren't generally associated with mass killings, whereas the SS and Einsatzgruppen are notorious for being some of the most sinister organisations known to man. The Heer has also been covered with 'Hitler's Willing Executioners'.

I always considered Adolf Galland as being a decent sort of chap, albeit on the wrong side. Hartmann comes across as fairly human too. There is a bit of a myth that German pilots flew with honour in the Battle of Britain and North Africa and there is the famous story of one escorting a B17.

However, some of the pilots deliberately attacked civilian transport to disrupt the retreat at Dunkirk. I can understand why they would do that, but it comes as a great surprise for me to hear about Luftwaffe pilots deliberately aiming for women with prams and shooting up social parties in southern England. I was even more surprised to hear about u-boat captains boasting about the deliberate sinking of British child evacuation ships to America. That really is a new level of bastard.

Does the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine record need to be re-evaluated or were they not as nefarious as their Heer and SS contemporaries?

Perhaps more controversially, did the RAF and RN ever do anything that bad when we had the upper hand? I can't imagine Biggles brassing up some frau and her family (Dresden was legit).
 

rampant

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
The Luftwaffe were involved, this excellent thread from Phillip Blood gives an outline and links to other resources


 
Opinions mate, the Germans don't look kindly, or with understanding, on what happened in Dresden. It was all tit for tat, back and forth seeing who could piss up the wall the highest, sad tragedies all around.


"More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature's causes."

..........................................................................................................Samuel von Pufendorf, 1673.
 
The Luftwaffe were involved, this excellent thread from Phillip Blood gives an outline and links to other resources



Thanks that's an interesting thread. I've got First & Last on my shelf, as well as Blonde Knight of Germany and Stuka Pilot by Rudel. You could tell that Rudel was a Nazi from the start, though I'm not sure about guys like Marseille, he seems to have been the complete opposite.

I guess knowing about the Holocaust and slave labour was one thing, but they weren't really in any position to stop it as they would have been ruined (or worse) themselves. I'm more perplexed by the direct action and war crimes committed by men who supposedly had an air of chivalry about them.
 
Opinions mate, the Germans don't look kindly, or with understanding, on what happened in Dresden. It was all tit for tat, back and forth seeing who could piss up the wall the highest, sad tragedies all around.


"More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature's causes."

..........................................................................................................Samuel von Pufendorf, 1673.


I'd still contest that dropping bombs on a city from height at night time in order to destroy a major rail hub is very different from machine gunning women and kids who comprise no threat at all. The latter means deliberately directing your aircraft against civilians and brassing them up so you can see their suffering.

Sinking a ship full of kids is a dick move too.
 
I'd still contest that dropping bombs on a city from height at night time in order to destroy a major rail hub is very different from machine gunning women and kids who comprise no threat at all. The latter means deliberately directing your aircraft against civilians and brassing them up so you can see their suffering.

Sinking a ship full of kids is a dick move too.

You've not met many humans have you? since day one they've been dicks to each other, even when they had the Neanderthals to be dicks too.
Roll back a few centuries to the middle of the English Civil War. You had Hobbes state that without a dominating force to control people life would be Nasty, Brutish and Short. Fast-forward a century and you've got Rousseau who says that this is wrong and argues all humans are nice. His ideals were greatly praised by the Organisers of the French revolution... which kind of drives a horse and cart through Rousseau's claims really.
In the Second World War you have a great number of dicks. Look at the Soviet Submarine fleet for an example (Medals all round for machine-gunning children and women, who are not even enemy civilians). Or the many low level PoW murders from allied troops.

I've no idea why anyone would consider any force to be honourable and all that shite. Maybe its a side effect of the pedestal the German forces are placed on? But others have commented on how we needed the Germans, and needed them on side during the Cold War, and to make life easier we needed to separate the NAZI's from the Germans, and they got a massive get out of jail free card. Of course they're actually contrite (sometimes to a self-damaging degree), unlike the Japanese, who were slightly sorry they got caught for about 30 years.
 
Of course they're actually contrite (sometimes to a self-damaging degree), unlike the Japanese, who were slightly sorry they got caught for about 30 years.

I once met a U Boat Captain,
Nice fella, very jovial and incredibly proud of the tonnage he sank.

Contrite? Not at all.
 
I once met a U Boat Captain,
Nice fella, very jovial and incredibly proud of the tonnage he sank.

Contrite? Not at all.

And why should he be? After all, it was total war and the U Boats were trying to starve the UK into submission. He was doing his job.

When I was growing up there were dark stories of U Boat crews machine gunning merchant sailors in the water. For the record there was only one example of such behaviour whereas there were several examples of U Boats giving survivors (in lifeboats) water and directions to the nearest land and one example of the U Boat taking the lifeboats in tow until it became too dangerous to continue. When Donitz heard of this he issued orders that the practice was to cease immediately.

As far as the Luftwaffe were concerned I have not read of anything, apart from the attacking of refugee columns, that could be classified as war crimes but I am sure that there were examples. I am sure there were examples on the Allied side as well, especially after June '44 when the tactical airforces were shooting up anything that moved.
 
And why should he be? After all, it was total war and the U Boats were trying to starve the UK into submission. He was doing his job.

I'm not sure I would suggest he should have been.
Its quite a long time ago and I would imagine the old duffer is long gone by now.

He was genuinely a nice man to talk to and very frank. His only sorrow seemed to be that he had never made the 100,000 tonne mark. Embarrased (rather than ashamed) of being a devout Nazi but immenseley proud of being a U Boat Captain,

I worked at the time in a place where he had worked in the gardens in 1946/7 while in a de-nazification camp a few miles down the road. They sent work parties out to various places
When I met him he was doing a tour with his wife of where he had been a POW etc.
 

Sticky847

Clanker
How easy is it to pick out and attack a. Mother and pram when you’re doing 250 mph at low level over enemy land, if it happened then it was most probably accidental as there isn’t backstop in the sky when you miss the intended target.
 
Germany has been a threat to everyone around them ever since Bismark. WW2 was a collective, murderous, madness that should never have been forgiven. A pox on them - and the fanboys that defend them.
 

OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
Having read some of his work and attended some of his talks, I don't think Peter Caddick-Adams is easily taken in by post-war revisionist paperbacks - Does Philip Blood have a book coming out at all?
 
All I know is when mother in law was 7 in 1941 she was with her elder brother in an empty Liverpool street when brother threw her down as a plane flew over and machine gunned them. Both ok. Mother in law got told off for getting new coat dirty. Next day she showed her mum the bullet strikes on the wall. Couple of years ago she showed me. Strike marks still visible.
Atrocities were carried out bt both sides. There are accounts of our pilots shooting up German working in fields. War is unpleasant and degenerates to base killing.
 
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Opinions mate, the Germans don't look kindly, or with understanding, on what happened in Dresden. It was all tit for tat, back and forth seeing who could piss up the wall the highest, sad tragedies all around.


"More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature's causes."

..........................................................................................................Samuel von Pufendorf, 1673.
What year did the try to bomb London into a fiery hell? What year did Dresden get the good news? F*ck 'em. They started it.

As for honour amongst the kriegsmarine and luftwaffe, they fought to first expand and then defend a genocidal national outlook, hell bent on starting a war.

There were the odd occasion where they showed honour, but when set against their political masters...
 

PFGEN

GCM
His ideals were greatly praised by the Organisers of the French revolution... which kind of drives a horse and cart through Rousseau's claims really.
Great turn of phrase there.

Try asking the Poles if they thought that the Luftwaffe was honourable. We were mostly happy just to shoot down the aircraft. The Poles would put in an extra burst in the hope of getting the pilot. Understandable really, after what they had gone through. No such thing as a clean war.
 
Just to reiterate, the book is direct quotes recorded from the German POWS saying how much they enjoyed shooting/raping and murdering people. It was recorded when they thought they were in the comfort of their own company and not when being interviewed.

These are the guys who compiled them into a book.


 
I once met a U Boat Captain,
Nice fella, very jovial and incredibly proud of the tonnage he sank.

Contrite? Not at all.

I never did meet one, but I looked into the U Boat Captain who commanded the boat that torpedoed & sank my uncle's ship in WW2, resulting in him & all but 1 of the crew perishing. He (the U Boat Capt) did quite well after the war, after dinner speeches, etc, & enjoyed a bit of a celebrity lifestyle recounting his experiences.. If I remember correctly, he didn't pass away until the late 80's.
 
What year did the try to bomb London into a fiery hell? What year did Dresden get the good news? F*ck 'em. They started it.

I'd suggest the Luftwaffe wanted to Dresden London, but they lacked the ability. They sure as hell would have if they could have*. Look at Rotterdam for an example, or the Bombing of Freiburg for another. The latter case is particularly clear. The Germans got lost and thought they were over France, with no idea where their target was they picked a random city bellow and started their bombing run.


*It is interesting to note that the British analysed every part of the Luftwaffe's air offensive. Especially the effects of bombing. There are, at Kew, huge files under the Home Office (HO) code where the British study the effects of the bombing. Working out how much damage and disruption is caused by the German bombing on every facet of contemporary industrial life.
From that we worked out how to do it properly. As during the first couple of years of the war our bombing force was largely analogous to the Germans (Eg Wimpy's vs HE111's, and everyone using 250lb, or smaller, bombs). From that study we realised that just wasn't going to cut it, so we levelled everything up. Then when we swung at the Germans we had a horseshoe in our glove. Thinking of it now, it may be that these studies showed that iron is hard to break, and why we focused on the squishy human factory workers as the component that was most easy to knock out of whack.
Harris was very very correct when he said 'They sowed the wind, and now they are going to reap the whirlwind'. We had learned from the Germans how not to do it..
 
I never did meet one, but I looked into the U Boat Captain who commanded the boat that torpedoed & sank my uncle's ship in WW2, resulting in him & all but 1 of the crew perishing. He (the U Boat Capt) did quite well after the war, after dinner speeches, etc, & enjoyed a bit of a celebrity lifestyle recounting his experiences.. If I remember correctly, he didn't pass away until the late 80's.


Sadly I can't remember the name of the one I met (it was over 20 years ago)

Like many, he had spent couple of years on a de-Nazification program which I believe did actually work.
Oddly, he had very fond memories of his time spent in captivity
 

QRK2

LE
Perhaps more controversially, did the RAF and RN ever do anything that bad when we had the upper hand? I can't imagine Biggles brassing up some frau and her family (Dresden was legit).

War is not a game and indeed we did

In the television series The World at War, Squadron Leader Max Aitken, son of Lord Beaverbrook, revealed that he had no compunction at shooting down German Red Cross planes.

In 1989 former Royal Naval Officer and broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy published his autobiography, in which he devoted several pages to "a submarine atrocity" on the night of 9 July 1941 which gave rise to the accusation of 'war crimes'. According to the accounts, on two separate occasions, Miers ordered the machine-gunning of several shipwrecked German soldiers in rafts who had jumped overboard when their vessels were sunk by the Torbay. These events were witnessed and reported by acting First Lieutenant Paul Chapman who reported "everything and everybody was destroyed by one sort of gunfire or another". Miers also made no attempt to conceal his actions, his patrol log recording: "Submarine cast off, and with the Lewis gun accounted for the soldiers in the rubber raft to prevent them from regaining their ship..." When informed of Miers's actions, Flag Officer Submarines, Admiral Horton wrote to the Admiralty about the possibility of German reprisals: "As far as I am aware, the enemy has not made a habit of firing on personnel in the water or on rafts even when such personnel were members of the fighting services; since the incidents referred to in Torbay's report, he may feel justified in doing so." The Admiralty then sent a strongly worded letter to Miers advising him not to repeat the practices of his last patrol.

Plus of course the small matter of Operation CHASTISE.

For clarity I can't say I've a huge issue with any of the above, except possibly the submarine incident. But it does go to show the issue with allowing ICC and such actions these days.
 

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