The Wehrmacht and PTSD

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by angular, Apr 6, 2011.

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  1. I've been reading a lot recently about the battle of Monte Cassino, and all the books I have mention the impact on the psychological health of the Allied solders, as well as their chances of being shot/blown up/etc.

    So I got to thinking, what happened to the Wehrmacht soldiers who couldn't handle what they experienced? Does anyone know if they were treated in any way sympathetically, or just turned round and sent to the Front, or shot, or what?
  2. See anything written by Sven Hassel et al. :)
  3. Are you referring to Monte Casino only? Methinks esprit de corps and ethos(not a dirty word when referring to German Paras and Wehrmacht I hope?) was definitely a factor there.
  4. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    Not necessarily a good primary historical source

    FORMER_FYRDMAN LE Book Reviewer

    Probably of a similar standard to the ones Cameron's using, but a better read.
  6. Bouillabaisse

    Bouillabaisse LE Book Reviewer

    Sven didn't have the benefit of a handwringing, self-loathing member of the Foreign Office to advise him
  7. You are correct that most studies of PTSD look at the problem solely with British or "Anglo Saxon" eyes.

    There is a very good book called "Hero or Coward" by Elmar Dinter. This was originally written in German and looks at Monte Cassino from the German point o view. Hero or coward: pressures facing the ... - Google Books

    There is an international study which I have read but forgotten the title that compares the treatment of psychiatric casualties from western , German and Soviet persoectives. The Germans did not follow the British and US Model of a limited "Tour of Duty". There was no rotation between combat and training apointments for the german fighter or bomber crews. Nor for the key men in their ground forces who were the backbone of their units howewver often they were reconstituted.

    The germans wrote about combat stress, particularly for airmen. One of their Battle of Britian aces, Major Wick was thought to have been suffering from "kanal angst" by the time he went missinmg in October 1940. Johannes Steinhoff's book "Straits of Messina" paint a very good picture of the stresses on fighter pilots on the losing end of an air battle.

    In a nutshell,

    The Western allies recognised PTSD/ Shell shock/ psychiatriuc cases and had a lot of them alongside a lot of deserters in 1943-45.

    The Germans and Soviets refiused to acknowledge the concept and defined their military codes in terms of courage/ treachery and duty to the state. The state had no use for a coawrd except to be made an example to others. The numbers bear this out. Ste Soviets admittedto shooting 15,000 soldiers in the Stalingrad and the Germans hanged about 10k "deserters or cowards" in the last few months of the war. by dying as an anemy of the state the coward's family would suffer after his death.

    Regardless of the moral issues, this stance seems to have ensured that the Germans and Soviets fought fanatically. In 1918 the Kaiser's Aremy had a lenient policy towards military discipline. I don't think any German soldiers were shot for cowardise in the Great War. The Kaiser's army fell apart in 1918 with mass desertions. By contract Nazi Germany went down figvhting.

    In practice, even in the totalitatian regiemes commander would recoginioze that individuals only had a limited reserve of courage. In Italy General Baade positioned soup kitchens behind the front. many of those who who here too exhausted, tired ore hungry to fight would retuirn to their units after a meal and a rest. Evben in the Soviet army a place would be found for someone who had had enough through honourable saervice in some non combatant role. E,g the stores.
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  8. My Bold: a good post however, equating British with "Anglo-Saxon" ignores the number of Celts from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who served.
  9. I think that is hair splitting. I was referring to Anglo Saxon as in the "armies of the English speaking peoples" i.e. the British, Commonwealth and US American armies.

    Are you suggesting that there are significant differences in courage or experience of PTS D or R(*) between the different ethnic or cultural minorities within Britain?

    * Are we still referring to PTSD? Yesterday I heard some one official talk about PTS- R with the R for Reaction?
  10. If I was hair-splitting, then you were guilty of gross over-simplification. And of course there was no real difference in courage or the effects of PTSD between say a Scottish Infantry soldier and his English counterpart. To suggest otherwise would be an insult. The fact remains, referring to every soldier in the British, American and Commonwealth Armies as Anglo-Saxon is about as accurate as referring to both the Canadian and US Army as Yanks because they happpen to share a Border...
  11. Your pedantic correction has nothing to do with the subject matter of this thread. Whatever the ethnicity of the individual soldiers who served the British Crown its military culture can be described as "Anglo Saxon" as well as "British" . Regardless whether servicemen wear kilts, wave Kukris, eat leeks or drink guiness, British military culture is largely driven by Whitehall, Dartmouth, Sandhurst, Pirbright, Aldershot and Cranwell, if not the playing fields of Eton.

    How about another fact.

    As far as the Wehrmacht were concerned any soldier in British uniform was an Englander.

    The German hymn of hate was not "Gott straff The United Kindom of Great Britian and Ireland its Dominions Commonwealth and Empire."

    "Bomben auf England" did not mean that Galasgow, Cardiff and bits of Liverpool were not on the target list.

    and U Boats sailing to "Wir Farhren gegen England" did not avoid ships with celtic names.
  12. Pteradon's answers remind me of chats with my German ex stubble hopper Father in Law, during the eighties. From what I remember, most Germans from his era kept a stiff lip, or "stiff ears" as they say, taking a pragmatic attitude. According to him at least, the Germans took a hardline attitude to their WW2 troops, as casual students of the russians might also recognise. Without having any expertise in this, it's difficult to know how the Germans dealt with their troops who were psychologically affected by battle. But Meth-amphetamine was distributed to all of the major countries' armed forces, including but not limited to; Germany, Japan, Italy, United States, Russia, and Great Britain.

    But in recent times, "Colonel Peter Zimmermann", director of the Trauma Center at the German Army Hospital in Berlin reportedly says "Now we are seeing more cases from Afghanistan and a wave of people who were in Kosovo and are only now exhibiting symptoms." The number of PTSD cases among German troops has surged over the past four years, from 85 in 2006 to 466 in 2009". If the British have complained about support for their troops here, just look at (stark contrast compared to ours) dismissive attitudes among the public as reported in Germany. I'd much rather be serving here given the choice. If it still stands today, moves towards a German Veterans Day were rejected. "Modern Germany is wary of any hint of the idolatry of the army that was typical in the Nazi period, and so shrinks from attempts to honor soldiers who are wounded or killed in battle".

    More to the point; "Germany lags behind most Western states in the handling of wounded and traumatized soldiers when they return from battle — something that was not an issue for an army that didn't venture off its home turf. It was only late last year that the military opened its first center dedicated to the research and treatment of soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)". Extracts from William Boston, Time.

  13. Yes we are, PTS-R is much more short term reaction to the experience which in the large majority, resolves itself over a number of days. PTSD describes a long term disorder as a result of these experiences.
  14. Electroshock: During World Wars II and I when German soldiers complained of battle fatigue or neurosis from a fear of attack (shell shock), psychiatrists found a way of overriding their fears. They overwhelmed the individual with painful electric shock while simultaneously giving them hypnotic suggestions. (So, ECT)

    The developer of this practice was Fritz Kaufmann, a neurological and medical officer with the German army during World War I. He summarized his procedure as follows: "Our process is made up of four components:

    1. Preparing the patient with pre-shock suggestions.

    2. The application of a strong alternating current combined with plentiful verbal suggestions.

    3. Suggestions in the form of military-style commands.

    4. The strict enforcement that they must be healed in one session

    Psychiatrist Leo T. Alexander, who with the U.S. Army Medical Corps during World War II, wrote a paper entitled, "Neuropathology and Neurophysiology, Including Electro-Encephalography, in Wartime Germany," stating, "...[R]egarding neurosis problems, Dr. Jahnel [a psychiatrist from the Kaiser Wilhelm Research Institute in Germany] feels that in the First World War one had confronted this problem in a helpless manner. He feels this problem has now been solved by means of suggestive treatment with the aide of painful electric currents, as well as by the policy of not letting the patients attain the goals which the illness served. In the last war, the patients definitely felt that they could attain things by their illness, while in this war they could not.

    An electric shock box was developed for use on German soldiers near the front. With this instrument, it was not uncommon for soldiers to be killed not by the war, but by their attending psychiatrists. Dr. Emil Gelny, a psychiatrist and a member of the Nazi party since 1933, founded a procedure known as "electro-executions," described as follows: "Once a patient went unconscious from the effects of electricity, the caretakers then had to attach four electrodes to the hands and feet of the patient. Dr. Gelny ran high voltage through them and after ten minutes at the most the death of the patient would set in."

    From the very beginning, electroshock was a method of discipline and a means to cover up embarrassing breaches in the nobility and honor demanded of German military service.
    References The German soldier in World War II - Google Books

    World War II: Neuropsychiatric ... - Google Books
  15. The Germans also had punishment battalions for soldiers under sentence. I dare say some labelled "cowards" might find themselves given an opportunity to "win back their honour"

    The Nazis also notoriously took an extreme line controlling their long term mental health care costs. Someone treated with theelectroc shock boxes might think themselves thankful that they were not being put on a course of carbon monoxide or zyklon B or facing the KZ plan diet.