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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).
Anytime we in the US and UK get too preachy about the U Boots remember USS Wahoo and HMS Torbay machinegunning survivors on numerous occasions. Miers got a VC and Mush Morton the Navy Cross
 
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.
Marseille was lucky enough to win his fame in a theater with little civpop in the way and few crimes to either side.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
Anytime we in the US and UK get too preachy about the U Boots remember USS Wahoo and HMS Torbay machinegunning survivors on numerous occasions. Miers got a VC and Mush Morton the Navy Cross
Or F.F.E Yeo-Thomas testifying on behalf of Otto Skorzeny at his trial about the wearing of the enemy's uniforms.
 

HCL

LE
The Russians sank the Wilhelm Gustloff with the loss of some 9400 people, mostly refugees fleeing the Red Army advance.

S'fair considering what the Russians found as they retook the ground the Germans had held. I'm surprised they left any Germans alive after they crossed the Oder.
 
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 contest going out at height at night and KNOWING you were extremely lucky to hit an actual target within 5 miles is the same as strafing refugees. both crews deliberately did it, Both crews KNEW civilians would get the chop, you just get to see them through a gunsight but they were just as dead and suffered just as much.

Look at Tokyo on 9-10th March 1945 firebombed by the 20th USAAF with 100 lb M47 Napalm More civilians died that night than initially killed at Hiroshima. Over 270 B-29s killed 90,000 civilians. is that better than a Bf-109 brassing up civilians?
 
There's a brilliant film to be shown to US occupiers which highlights the biggest danger of occupation duty. It's not the grizzled old bloke whose been through two wars and can hit a sparrow in mid flight at 300 yards with his rifle. No, its that young git, whose only got the Hitler Youth knife he was given for his birthday. There is a brilliant little story from a town in Germany. The Americans are approaching, so the local youths grab a machine gun, climb into the towns clock tower, and set up aiming down the main road ready to give the lead Americans a warm welcome.
Someone spots what they're up to, dashes round to tell their parents, and the grown ups form a mob, charge up the tower, give them a serious smacking and drag them off home. There's no mention of what happens to the machine gun, but I suspect it ended up in the river.
My Father once told me the most dangerous thing he faced in 1945 while in 2nd Armored division was not Waffen-SS, but Hitler Jugend. Said even SS would surrender.

They would roll into a ville and without fail the panzerfausts were fired by 12-14 year olds who had no idea of defeat, or the consequences of taking on a column of shermans and halftrack infantry amply supplied with .50 brownings and HE.
 

sirbhp

LE
Book Reviewer
Just been reading that the DLI were murdering captured SS men during the retreat to Dunkirk. Apparently the news of this lead the SS to grenade the captured D L I in a barn.
One officer from the DLI is quoted as having to almost pull his weapon out to save some German POW's from being murdered by the DLI at the same time .
I m reading on and the review will be with you in the new year
 
S'fair considering what the Russians found as they retook the ground the Germans had held. I'm surprised they left any Germans alive after they crossed the Oder.
Sounds like you would make a good SS-Schutze or NKVD type.
 
I don't hold any truck with a any of the services in the WW2 german military being any more 'honourable' or having more moral integrity than other their sister branches. Its bollocks quite frankly. A north African campaign group I'm a member of on FB had some chap post about his interest in it stemmed from the gentlemanly conduct of the campaign & the chivalry shown at times by the DAK esp since there weren't any front line Waffen SS Divs in the deployment, Give me a fcuking break. I then posted regarding the composition of the DAK & subsequent transfers to theatre of various Heer units who had been in Russia right from the off & who had played more than a bit part in the official policy of starving the civilian population as well as taking part in many actions against 'partisans' - aka off the Jews.

The same charges & culpability can be laid at the air force & the navy. During the first year of the war there were many examples of U Boats & surface raiders allowing crews to evacuate before sinking by gunfire - my great uncle was MN & fortunate enough to have been taken off by the U boat & later landed when his ship was sunk in the first few weeks of the war. Fast forward a few years & its total war & sinking of merchant ships is the norm & imo no U boat commander shouldn't face charges for sinking a ship of any type - unless the likes of a hospital ship or one of child evacuees is deliberately targeted - i believe the rules of war of the time governed such actions.

When german aircraft were killing civvies in the refugee columns to hold up military traffic under those rules is a war crime & should be treated as such. However when we were doing the same thing later in the war when we had the upper hand its hard to judge these things from any distance of time. We also have to recognize target recognition at low level & high speed & allow for miss-identification. Its a moral minefield plus we can't isolate the european theatre when the actions against the Japanese make any 'dodgy' allied actions in the ETO look a bit tame in comparison. It baffles me the US opposition to deliberate bombing of cities in the ETO at the time when the B29's' were wiping out 6 figures in many Jap cities with deliberate use of incendiaries & napalm against the timber structures.

Move on to late 44 & you've got the wholesale transfer of Naval & Air force personnel into infantry units as ad hoc BCRs. We know the attrocities of the Heer continued right through to the end, more than likely many of the transferees were involved in offing a few civvies or 'partisans'. Lets not forget too that the majority of the actions against the Jews were undertaken by the Einsatzgruppen supported wholeheartedly by the reserve police battalions - who weren't SS recruits.

If any of the german services wanted to act honourably, they had the chance early in the war or even before it started. They could have acted & removed the Nazi's from power. The SS power base didn't exist in its worst all pervasive form until well into the war.
This video covers the myth of the clean Afrika Korps. It has some errors but murdering Jewish PoWs and extorting money from Jews in Tunisia is the main thrust of the video.


 
Just been reading that the DLI were murdering captured SS men during the retreat to Dunkirk. Apparently the news of this lead the SS to grenade the captured D L I in a barn.
One officer from the DLI is quoted as having to almost pull his weapon out to save some German POW's from being murdered by the DLI at the same time .
I m reading on and the review will be with you in the new year
Do you have a reference for that? I know that there was a story that the DLI murdered 400 SS men after the Battle of Arras, but this is false. Had it actually happened then Goebbels would have been all over it. As it was most of the "murdered/missing" SS turned up very much alive within a couple of days after the battle. And weren't the men murdered in the barn Norfolks and/or Cheshires?
 
Shooting bailed out aircrew was common enough on all sides for assorted missives to be issued
An odd thing of legalities of war is

You can shoot all the paratroops you want while they float down, but if you shoot down their transport you cant shoot the crew

Same you can shoot troops coming ashore from landing craft, but not the boat crew if its sunk

Shipwrecked personnel they call it
 
Funny you should say that! My 16 y/o nan also managed to attract the wrath of the Luftwaffe as she cycled home from working in the launderette at the local airbase in rural north Norfolk.

Clearly Fritz didn't think a teenage girl on a bicycle too high value a military target as she only got the one burst and the ditch she jumped into kept her safe.

Apparently she was upset at ruining one of her dresses though.
Sure it wasnt ruined by an Erk taking it off, and she needed a cover story? 8)
 
I'd contest going out at height at night and KNOWING you were extremely lucky to hit an actual target within 5 miles is the same as strafing refugees. both crews deliberately did it, Both crews KNEW civilians would get the chop, you just get to see them through a gunsight but they were just as dead and suffered just as much.

Look at Tokyo on 9-10th March 1945 firebombed by the 20th USAAF with 100 lb M47 Napalm More civilians died that night than initially killed at Hiroshima. Over 270 B-29s killed 90,000 civilians. is that better than a Bf-109 brassing up civilians?

I'm obliged to disagree. Dresden was a major rail hub and a legit military target. There was no high-tech sophisticated targeting system for bombing so if you wanted to destroy an important target then that was the only way.

Shooting up a woman and her baby out for a country stroll is quite different because it's clear they have no military significance and it's purely down to the vindictiveness of the pilot.
 
We’re the Isle of Wight: from our point of view, land exists as islands and bigger islands. Any other geographical description is superfluous and doesn’t need proper descriptions. ;)

I’ll also highlight that my copy of Lord of the Rings includes the phrase, “various divers forms”. Given Tolkien missed that one, I’ll cut Mr Searle a little slack. :D

Pedant Mode On:

"Divers" is correct usage.

Darwin (and subsequent authors) used it frequently.

Off.


Edit: Apologies to @Drazyl for getting there first. I should have read on.
 
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