Let justice be done, though the heavens fall

If we had operated on that motto at the end of WWII, we would have executed a whole lot more Germans and Japanese than we did.



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157 Responses to Let justice be done, though the heavens fall

  1. Ever notice the gigantic void in German history between the formal surrender of Nazi Germany in 1945 and the launch of the FRG in 1949, Nuremberg trials excepted?

  2. magusjanus says:

    Sure plenty of bad guys to be killed, no doubt.
    But from ‘greater good’ standpoint, it’d have made far more sense for USG at time to maybe focus a little less on retribution on (entirely deserving for most part) Nazis and Imperials, and a bit more on not embargoing Nationalists in China or forcing some braindead truce on them with the commies who would go on to kill what, 30-40mio people (and tens of thousands of Americans in Korea and later Vietnam)?
    Heck if the nazis/imperials are bad cuz they kill civilians (among other things), then a lot of the carpet bombing of men women and children in Japan or Germany was also ‘bad’, to say nothing of unnecessary or even counterproductive. It’s one thing to have collateral damage, it’s quite another to purposefully burn alive women and babies.
    And of course, a lot of diplomacy in the 40s was just plain idiotic unless your goal is apparetnly making sure SU is in as a strong a position as possible at war’s end (a brief glance at Roosevelt’s White House and a lot of senior level diplomats makes this not entirely untenable). Actually asking the SU to invade Manchuria? I mean….wtf?
    To be fair, none of that is mutually exclusive with killing a bunch more Germans and Japanese. You could theoretically be smart geopolitically AND just in retribution mostly, if only as function of overwhelming Allied (US) power in ’44 and ’45. But that’s not the path they took unfortunately.

    • gcochran9 says:

      I don’t think that the Nationalists had the kinds of problems that a couple of billion US dollars were going to solve.

      When someone decides to conquer, dominate, exterminate, you do what it takes to stop them. By the way, the combined bomber offensive was more effective than a lot of people think. Sure, German war production peaked in December 1944 – but by then more than half of it was devoted to fighting Bomber Command and the Mighty 8th. Short-range semi-obsolete fighters with poorly trained pilots, anti-aircraft guns, anti-aircraft ammo. Less left for tanks, artillery, etc.
      And they knocked out the synthetic oil plants.

      While diplomacy is usually idiotic. it sure doesn’t look like a master plan to further Soviet future power – any plan that gets German tankers close enough to see the spires of the Kremlin is, probably, not one cooked up by the Commie 11-dimensional chess masters.

      • magusjanus says:

        I think the Nationalists had the commies on the ropes in early ’46, before being forced into a truce and later actually embargoed by their “allies.” Meanwhile commies in safehaven Manchuria (thanks FDR!) amply supplied by Soviets and rebuilding.
        Regardless, the aid would have paled in comparison to what US would later spend in Korea and Vietnam (and across the region). Given the efforts to stop German domination of Europe and Japanese domination of Eastern Asia, I fail to see why a bit more effort to stop commie domination of world’s most populous nation was a bad idea.
        Then again, I’m not Lauchlin Currie.

        • magusjanus says:

          (above should read Owen Lattimore. So many traitors at the time one does get mixed up).

          • Toddy Cat says:

            “I think the Nationalists had the commies on the ropes in early ’46, before being forced into a truce and later actually embargoed by their “allies.”

            Interestingly, Frank Dikotter, in his recent book “The Tragedy of Liberation” pretty much agrees with this line of analysis, and he’s far from an extreme right-winger. It’s hard to say how the Chinese Civil War would have come out had this not happened – the Kuomintang most assuredly had plenty of problems in the aftermath of the Japanese invasion – but certainly US policy immediately after the war was pretty counterproductive with regard to China.

            As for US diplomacy leading up to the war, no, it certainly was no Commie master plan, but the US did take some actions that only seemed to benefit the USSR, and given that, according to Venona, the upper reaches of the US Government were stuffed with Commies and Commie dupes (including the Vice-President!) it’s hard to believe that this was purely a coincidence. There’s a lot of room between “Commie 11-dimensional chess masters” and “no influence at all”.

      • reinertor says:

        I doubt German war production peaked in December 1944. I think it peaked in the summer of 1944, maybe August. Battle tank production peaked in October.

    • reinertor says:

      IIRC at least a third of German war production went into the air force (probably 40% or more if we include air defense).

      The Eighth Air Force destroyed most of the Luftwaffe fighter arm in spring 1944 (starting already in February), after they added long-range fighters, and this helped both the Red Army and the Western Allies to achieve victory. German oil and synthetic fuel production and transportation were destroyed in the second half of 1944 (meaning dropped below 50% of their values in a hypothetical alternate universe without the bombing campaign), and further destroyed in early 1945.

      A few things were probably bad, like the destruction of Dresden or especially Pforzheim (the latter happened a week after Dresden, which by then had already caused some controversy), and the bombing continued well into April, 1945 (very stupid in light of the fact that the bombed out cities offered no resistance anyway and their populations needed to be supported by the Allies and Soviets). Probably after March no strategic bombing should’ve taken place, and already in February a lot of it was highly questionable. (I.e. not shortening the war, only killing a bunch of civilians and destroying cultural heritage.)

      But overall the strategic bombing contributed a lot to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

    • “Actually asking the SU to invade Manchuria? I mean….wtf?”

      We wanted the SU to share the burden in defeating Japan.

  3. Jim says:

    It certainly wasn’t the result of careful planning but the Communists did emerge from the war with huge gains. Was there nothing the Western Allies could have done differently that would have lessened these gains?

    Was the danger to the US from Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan actually worst than the postwar danger from the Soviet Union and Communist China? Both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were way overextended and bogged down in debilitating conflicts while the US had suffered little and had a temporary monopoly on atomic weapons. We had a very strong position but we didn’t seem to have exploited it very well.

    • Jim says:

      We crushed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan but at the cost of greatly increasing the power of the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communists. I don’t think that was our optimal strategy.

      • Daniel says:

        I’m pretty sure the likes of FDR saw it as a benefit, not a cost.

      • Jim says:

        Something of an analogy – We crushed the Baathist regime in Iraq but increased the threat from Iran as a consequence. In the present situation we would be better off if Iraq was governed by an anti-Iranian government.

        • gcochran9 says:

          There is no threat from Iran, of course.

          • reinertor says:

            But then there was no threat from Iraq either.

            Those who thought Iraq posed a threat to Israel (and some vaguely defined US interests) and thus wanted to destroy it are now facing a much stronger Iran controlling Iraq, which is potentially much more dangerous to Israel (and those vaguely defined “US interests”, whatever they mean). (Of course, it’s a purely hypothetical danger, but still.)

          • Jim says:

            The attack on the Saudi oil fields seems to indicate that Iran can at least be a nuisance. Probably more of a nuisance than Saddam Hussein.

            • gcochran9 says:

              Everyone would have been better off if a cruise missile had hit MBS.

              • Jim says:

                No doubt Saudi Arabia is ruled by brutal thugs. I suppose we could invade and hang them all. I’m sure they would richly deserve it. After that of course Saudi Arabia would become a liberal Western style democracy, a shining example to the rest of the Arab world.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Most every crooked old King Saudi Arabia has had has been way less foolish than MBS. Even in regimes that are basically bad and stupid, who’s on first can matter a lot. If you arrange a proper accident, without over-egging the pudding by making it too obvious or ( God forbid) occupying and trying to nation-build SA, things might get a lot better. King Log vs King Stork.

              • Jim says:

                Possibly. The trick would be to arrange for his untimely death without arousing any suspicion that we were behind it. We would probably be blamed even if we weren’t involved. I’m not too confident in the successful effects of such an operation. Killing Khadafi doesn’t seem to have made everybody in Libya better off.

          • The Z Blog says:

            Hold on there. David Frum said Iran was part of the “axis of evil.” Are you saying David Frum was wrong about that?

      • david says:

        Good thing We really showed communist china a lesson in 93 by inviting them into the WTO and sending them 50-100 thousand of our factories.

  4. America – perhaps every country – tires of warfare after three years, and movements to stop and cut our losses gain traction. Think Copperheads in 1864. Vietnam ramped up from low-level conflict in 1965 and the antiwar movement ramped up in 1968. We got tired of Korea a little sooner, because we had just been trough WWI. Bush spent all his political capital on getting The Surge approved in 2006, three years after the invasion of Iraq.

    In WWII, we didn’t get fighting until well into 1942, and we weren’t actually as gung-ho as our mythology now teaches. By 1945 we were happy to win and get out.

    • JMcG says:

      My oldest will graduate high school next year. We’ve been kicking dirt and enriching dirtbags in Afghanistan since before he was born! How and when do we get out of that f**king piece of garbage country. I really had hopes that Trump would do it.

  5. The Z Blog says:

    The Japanese have a TFR of 1.4. The Germans are at 1.5, with lots of help from non-German immigrant births. Perhaps the genocide just took a bit longer than some would have preferred.

  6. Eponymous says:

    You could say the same about the American Civil War. Not a lot of ex-confederates were hanged.

    • Two, if I recall correctly.

    • snarfuuu says:

      Not too many nationalists wanted to test the constitutionality of Lincoln’s invasion, and Grant himself stuck his neck out for Lee. There was no stomach for more blundering-generation mayhem.

      • gcochran9 says:

        Certainly the top people in the Confederacy deserved to be shot for rebellion, but the question is, and was, how efficiently that would have knit the country back together.

        As for constitutionality, someone should also have shot Taney. “Dred Scott” makes the Warren Court look good.

        • Jim says:

          Well obviously if the American Revolution had been suppressed Washington, Jefferson, Franklin etc. would have been executed for rebellion and treason.

          Washington and Jefferson of course were slave owners.

          • syonredux says:

            “Washington and Jefferson of course were slave owners.”

            Unlike the Confederate leadership, they weren’t exactly gung ho about the peculiar institution (E.g., Washington left detailed instructions for freeing his slaves in his will).And the Brits never made the abolition of slavery a war-aim during the Revolution (Freedom was only offered to slaves whose owners were rebelling, which meant business as usual in Jamaica and Barbados).

        • Henry Scrope says:

          Rebellion against your liege lord is never justifiable, unless you win. I think that was in Shogun.

  7. reinertor says:

    I think it’d have been way better if they actually executed a few tens of thousand (or even a couple hundred thousand) Germans.

    As you mention, it’d have been more just.

    And it might have had the additional benefit of making the Germans feel less guilty. After all, the guilty would’ve had been punished. So maybe there’d be less suicidal guilt in Germany today?

    • yprus says:

      Other countries have similarly suicidal guilt.
      How does war guilt explain the events of Rotherham?

      If anything, the Germans’ hysteria during the refugee crisis suggests to me that they are incapable of moderation. E.g. Germans took great pride in their philosophers, who could hardly be called moderate compared to their English counterparts.

      • Jim says:

        I don’t think Leibniz, Kant, or Schopenhauer were particularly “immoderate”. Some of their views may have been a little weird such as the idea of “monads” in Leibniz. But Leibniz anticipated modern logic to some extent.

        Frege was an anti-Semite but that didn’t seem to be reflected in his philosophy. Nietzsche was a nutcase but on the other hand Foucault, Derrida and Sartre were not paragons of good sense.

      • Recusant says:

        It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that every bad idea has a German parent. Some great art and science and a modicum of reasonable ideas, but, on balance, the ledger shows that their ideas have generally unleashed mayhem on the world.

        And you are right: they are never far from hysteria. As Churchill said, “The Hun is always either at your throat or your feet….”

    • Frau Katze says:

      The “suicidal guilt” (and it does exist at some level) is stronger in former West Germany. There are more neo-Nazis in the former East (the Nazi Party itself was outlawed.)

      But you notice this in other areas that aren’t related to Nazis. The former Communist countries seem more sensible. (I’m not saying neo-Nazis are sensible, there’s very few of them, even in the East,)

      It’s not just West Germany. The entire Western Europe seems to feel guilty too. And maybe the USA, Canada, etc too. Why are we following a plan to import as much people from alien cultures as possible? I honestly don’t think this would have happened if we had the same society as we had in the 1930s.

      • gda53 says:

        “The Strange Death of Europe’ by Douglas Murray answers all your questions.

        • Frau Katze says:

          Murray is really good, but I’ve avoided this one so far because it’s such a depressing topic. I’m doing what I can to awaken people. Side effect: my grown daughter thinks I’m a bigot (she’s in an elite bubble).

  8. jbbigf says:

    Curtis LeMay remarked that if America were to lose the war, he would undoubtedly be hung as a war criminal for what he did to Japan.

    • reinertor says:

      I think what he did was in practice very similar to what the Germans did in England (even if the Germans were supposed to bomb military targets like ports and factory districts), and it was very different from what the Germans did at Auschwitz or in Poland and the East (Russia, Ukraine, etc.). For the latter a lot of Germans could’ve been executed without using double standards in any way.

    • reinertor says:

      The 8th was conducting a campaign theoretically even cleaner than the German campaign in England (also only militarily valuable targets, and a better targeting technology), and yet their raids often had a similar number of civilian deaths as Bomber Command.

    • Eugine Nier says:

      Probably not since “war criminal” wasn’t a concept in the Japanese imperial ideology.

  9. pyrrhus says:

    With respect to violating the rules of war, the Americans and Brits did it wholesale, including using the anti-civilian terror weapon of napalm, which would spontaneously combust after drying…Nuremberg was a farce of epic dimensions, as hundreds of German army NCOs were convicted for minor offenses, while “just following orders” remained a complete defense for Allied and Soviet forces…

    • mblanc46 says:

      Victors’ justice.

    • AppSocRes says:

      Not to mention that the Soviet “judge” at Nuremberg designed and executed the genocidal massacre of the Polish intelligentsia and upper classes, e.g., at Katyn Forest.

      Germans were tried and convicted at Nuremberg for the invasion of Norway. Actually it was the Brits, at the instigation of that corrupt drunkard, Winston Churchill, who first invaded Norway. The Germans responded with their own invasion and successfully drove the Brits out. If one examines the timelines, it was also Churchill who deliberately initiated the practice of carpet bombing civilian targets.

      The French commander at Cassino, who quite deliberately ordered the mass rape and murder of Italian civilians, not only never went on trial but was later, in the mid 1950s, rewarded with the supreme command of NATO forces. At the end of the War, Eisenhower oversaw the deliberate liquidation of perhaps a million German POWs by starvation and exposure.

      And the list goes on. There were plenty of atrocities on all sides and if justice were to have been truly served most allied leaders and senior commanders should also have been on trial at Nuremberg.

      • gcochran9 says:

        It was not the Brits that first invaded Norway. You could look it up.

      • earplugs says:

        The Germans invaded Denmark on the same day, but that’s ok–they were in the way, right?

        And when did the Brits “invade” Norway? When they violated Norwegian waters, in the Altmark incident? Weird, its Norwegian escorts weren’t fired upon, nor did they fire back to prevent it.


        The British freed a bunch of their POWs on a German ship. In what possible world is such an endeavor “an invasion”.

        A violation of neutrality, perhaps, but invasion?

        The Germans had to be led by Churchill into carpet bombing civilian targets? Really? Forget UK-Germany spats, what was Guernica and the rest of the Condor Legion’s activities in Spain?

        And Eisenhower and German PoWs? You’ve lost the benefit of the doubt, this is neo-nazi inspired revisionism.

        There are different viewpoints, there is plenty with which to reproach the allies in ww2, but there aren’t different facts.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Guernica was a bad thing, but the casualties are vastly exaggerated.

          But mainly yes -there aren’t different facts.

          • earplugs says:

            Guernica is a tiny, tiny town in a tiny area of Spain, It was bombed by a couple of dozen twin-engine early (well, you know, PRE) war bombers. The scale of that should make it clear that the event could only have been exaggerated.

            So I agree entirely, my intention wasn’t to make a big deal of it at all–only to illustrate that the Germans didn’t need a (drunken) Churchill to goad or lead them into it.

            Nah. They were already there, to the best of their limited ability. ‘Cause the Nazis were, like, you, know BAD. Not “regular ol’ folks” like you’ve already said above.

            • reinertor says:

              Well, the Germans didn’t do indiscriminate aerial bombing until maybe 1944. But it’s a distinction without a difference. Northwest European weather and early 1940s technology precluded any effective targeting, so roughly the same number of civilians died per a ton of bombs regardless of who dropped those bombs, the Germans in England, the Eighth Air Army, or Bomber Command in Germany. Only the latter conducted fully unrestricted aerial bombing.

              • Earplugs says:

                This is nonsense. It started very early in this particular war after it got real and both sides stopped dropping pamphlets on each other. Germany deliberately bombed Rotterdam indiscriminately with the aim of simply forcing it to surrender, you know, within a week of the end of the so-called “Phoney War”. Yes, much the Guernica, the casualties are overplayed, but the intention was clearly there.

                The notion that the Germans particularly cared for or respected the idea that only “legitimate” targets should be attacked is absurd: they had no problem doing that before the war began in Spain. I am not talking about technology or conditions, just what they were clearly trying to do. What was the point of Guernica or other such bombings in Spain? What was the point of Rotterdam? In both cases, it was to kill people in hopes of making the other side submit.

                Is it a distinction with a difference? Who cares, I’m simply arguing there isn’t a distinction: The Germans didn’t get the idea from Churchill, or the Allies, it’s an obvious one and one that was employed well before even 1939.

                Did the allies do it too? Sure, I’m not even interested in “is aerial bombing moral” debate. I’m simply pointing out that giving the benefit of the doubt to Nazis, who intended to starve all the Poles to death, shot a million and a half Jews before it got to be too much and had to be mechanized somewhat, and would routinely wipe out entire villages because of RUMOURS that maybe a kidnapped officer was there or perhaps they gave aid to parachuted partisans etc…., is ABSURD.

                Especially since it’s ridiculous, on the basis of the historical record, to say they were goaded or encouraged into it by the Allies: No, the Germans just weren’t as good as it, and didn’t generally have the need.

                Even when it literally didn’t matter anyway, the V-weapons that you can’t even begin to explain away when you finally admit 1944, they did it.

                And they even built those with slave labor.

                Come on.

              • reinertor says:

                The German air force thought that bombing cities to kill civilians was a waste of precious resources. So they didn’t do it for a very long time. Guernica had a military target, the raid was done at the request of the nationalists, etc. Rotterdam was of course a legitimate target, a defended city full of soldiers. It was not done to kill some civilians or to destroy their morale.

                Most historians do make a distinction here, as the British and Americans did. Read Overy’s The Bombing War, it’s pretty clear that for example what the Eighth Air Force did was often indistinguishable from what Bomber Command did (in bad weather, which was some 80-90% of the time, they ultimately resorted to just dropping bombs on big enough targets – it usually meant cities; and they of course didn’t have GPS guided smart bombs), but there was still a difference in intent.

                Similarly, the German Air Force didn’t bomb indiscriminately until very late in the war. It’s not because they were such nice people, but because they didn’t believe it’d be effective.

                As I wrote in another comment, it’d be beneficial if you didn’t accuse the Nazis of being evil for things where they weren’t really much worse (or, occasionally, even better) than the Allies, but of things where they were clearly worse than them. Like being mass murdering maniacs: the Nazis were, and the Allies weren’t. Even the Soviets were fundamentally better than the Nazis, and they were pretty horrible mass murderers themselves.

              • Earplugs says:

                “The German air force thought that bombing cities to kill civilians was a waste of precious resources. So they didn’t do it for a very long time. Guernica had a military target, the raid was done at the request of the nationalists, etc. Rotterdam was of course a legitimate target, a defended city full of soldiers. It was not done to kill some civilians or to destroy their morale.”

                Rotterdam was explicitly bombed to make it surrender. This is not some constructed rationale or theory of action, it is simply an historical ultimatum made by the Germans to the Dutch: Surrender the city, or we will indiscriminately destroy it.

                The Germans then threatened to the do the same to Utrecht, which factually resulted in the Dutch Government surrendering entirely.

                Yes, it destroyed their morale, their will to fight. No, it was not an attempt to simply destroy their means of resistance.

                Speaking of “policies” blah-blah, well, Rotterdam was why the UK dropped their policy of only targeting military infrastucture (to the extent that such a “Distinction” has a “Difference” as you say), and only after it did RAF Bomber Command cross the Rhine.

                I’m not interested in the morality, I’m interested in the facts. Someone who spewed a bunch of nonsense including about how the Germans somehow got this idea from Churchill is simply wrong, and you yourself seem extremely pre-occupied with Nuremberg despite the fact that you don’t even know my views on it.

                As I said, this is just PART of the nonsense, it was embedded in other, more flagrant, absurdities.

              • szopeno says:

                @reinertor, I don’t know whether you followed the discussion at unz’ but let’s talk about Wieluń. My understanding is that

                (a)Luftwaffe was informed that in this small town near the border there was HQ of Polish units and that there were cavalry brigade and infantry there. Those information was based on the fact that weeks before cavalry had a defilade there, and one of Polish general visited the town during the celebrations.

                (b) in order to hit this HQ and Polish troops, Luftwaffe struck the city with orders described that goal as “the city of Wieluń”, with more specific subgoals as “west from the centre” and “east from the centre”. In other words, in order to hit possible military target, they just bombed the hell out of the city.

                (c) while by the 1944 such tactic would be considered probably normal, it was still shocking in 1939; Luftwaffe was setting new, very low standards for warfare.

                (d) Wieluń in reality was undefended and had no troops. The inhabitants had no way to infer that bombing’ goal was to destroy some nonexistent troops inside. From their perspective this was act of unexplained barbarism; and since Luftwaffe reports were not really known until Marius Emmerling started to popularize them, it’s reasonable that Wieluń was considered barbaric act of terrorism.

                (e) given all of that and other Polish reports about 1939 campaign, it’s reasonable to decide that Brits could think that Luftwaffe is employing indiscriminate bombing against civilians, don;t you think?

              • JMcG says:

                Cripes, the allies killed tens of thousands of Frenchmen in the bombing campaign that led up to the Normandy invasion. More people than we lost in Vietnam. The more I read, the more certain I am that the America Firsters had the right idea.

              • gcochran9 says:

                Not so: there were about 4,000 deaths from the Transportation Plan. Higher ups worried that it might be higher, but it didn’t turn out that way.

              • gcochran9 says:

                I am crippled in these discussions by having all these numbers in my head.

              • Earplugs says:

                “given all of that and other Polish reports about 1939 campaign, it’s reasonable to decide that Brits could think that Luftwaffe is employing indiscriminate bombing against civilians, don;t you think?”


                Utrecht was explicitly threatened (by the Germans, just to be clear–not Daddy Churchill come home half-sideways, belt already off and in hand) with the “fate of Warsaw”: The GERMANS wanted people to think that the Luftwaffe was (and very shortly would be–Rotterdam was bombed because the bombers were already in air when it surrendered. It only narrowly avoided being hit in the second wave) doing that.

                The Germans, both internally (which historians can know now) and externally (which everyone knew then, especially the ones hearing those droning engines overhead) freely threw the word “Vernichtung” around.

                Because, again, this wasn’t even new in 1940.

        • reinertor says:

          “Toward the end of November, Winston Churchill, as a new member of the British War Cabinet, proposed the mining of Norwegian waters in Operation Wilfred. This would force the ore transports to travel through the open waters of the North Sea, where the Royal Navy could intercept them.

          Churchill assumed that Wilfred would provoke a German response in Norway, and the Allies would then implement Plan R 4 and occupy Norway.”

          So Churchill planned to violate Norwegian territorial waters and neutrality in the hope of provoking them into actions which could then be used as pretext to invade them. Operation Weserübung was less subtle, but still.


          • reinertor says:

            I mean, provoke the Germans into actions which would then be used as pretext to invade Norway.

            • Earplugs says:

              This entire line of thought is thoroughly indicted by the lack of reference to Denmark.

              Why are we arguing about the UK’s supposed perfidy towards potentially strategically violating Norway’s neutrality when Germany did, in actuality, exactly that to Denmark?

              Do I really have to spell it out? If neutrality is truly so sacrosanct that it is of overriding importance that we determine which party violated Norway first, the same principle unavoidably implicates Germany, which unilaterally ran right over Denmark in its attempt to race to Norway either first -or- second.

              Even if Alice and Bob are equally suspect in “who assaulted Paul first”, the fact that Bob decked Peter on his way over to Paul renders that moot: Who cares if a gestural threat is a nudge is a push is a shove is a slap is a punch, etc… when Peter’s KO’d on the floor?

              Huh. It’s as the crime isn’t as important as “who is the criminal”.

              • reinertor says:

                The point is, at Nuremberg the Nazis were accused of invading Norway, when what the British planned was actually the same thing.

                It would be smart if you accused the Nazis of things where they were actually (far) worse than the Allies, not of things (invading Norway) where the Allies were morally on the same plane.

              • Earplugs says:

                This is beginning to go from tendentious to simply mendacious: At a minimum, they were charged of invading Norway -AND- Denmark, because they happened the same day, as part of the same operation.

                Thus, quite simply, it is not possible for this to be the “same”. Even -IF- we pretend that NOT invading and NOT mining the waters is somehow the same as actually invading.

                And that’s before we get into, hey, weren’t the Germans accused of a lot MORE than just quote “Norway” unquote?

                Maybe we should try a different approach, how about you actually name someone who was convicted at Nuremburg for “invading Norway.” You have names, assuredly, so that we can delve into this further?

              • Earplugs says:

                And, btw, it was never my approach (nor that of the allies) to build my entire case towards “the Nazis were really bad” on “Norway”.

                So don’t be ridiculous.

                In fact, I was directly responding to someone who falsely claimed that the UK invaded Norway first. Because that’s factually untrue. That stands by itself, and I did not extend my comments to Nuremberg.

                If you have some fixation on how one of like a dozen or more countries Germany attacked just shouldn’t even have been mentioned in Nuremberg, might I suggest that you are missing the forest for a tree?

                Especially since I wasn’t the one who wanted to talk about forestry in the first place, I simply noted that a bush isn’t a tree.

                Because it isn’t.

          • Earplugs says:

            The waters were never actually mined (IIRC) though.

          • Earplugs says:

            And must I REALLY repeat that “there is something rotten in the state of Denmark”?

            Because April 9 (which is not-coincidentally the name of a really good Danish war movie, check it out! Seriously! WATCH IT–it stars that weird Viking pirate bad-guy from GoT, if that helps you) 1941 doesn’t come down to “Nyuh-uh you invaded/violated Norway FIRST!”

            Germany gets a free pass on that, while we’re pining for the fjords, and what was in them, when, and by whom?

            • reinertor says:

              I didn’t say they should get a “free pass” on anything. But Churchill, at least, wanted to do that same thing. It’s not to Churchill’s credit that his idea was shot down by Chamberlain.

              This means that Churchill proposed doing something very similar to what Hitler did. Yes, he didn’t want to also invade Denmark. (Nor Poland. Nor Yugoslavia. Nor France. Nor the USSR. Etc.) But you get the point.

              • Earplugs says:

                Mining their waters so a third party can’t use them isn’t the same as invading the country, occupying it, and killing a third of its Jewish population.

                Then again, The German invasion of Denmark is the same thing as when the US violated their neutrality by preparing to setup weather stations on their land.

                Clearly, the US proposed to do something very similar.

                Heck, it’s even better in Denmark’s case: Virtually all of their Jewish population escaped, so the Germans didn’t kill them.

              • reinertor says:

                Well, they wanted to mine their waters, so that Germany would be provoked into doing something (perhaps an invasion?) which might then be used as a pretext to actually invade Norway. Which was Churchill’s explicit intention.

                I fail to see how that’s better than an outright invasion. It’s designed to look better, but the original intention was the same.

              • Earplugs says:

                Yes, NOT invading and NOT mining their waters, that’s better than ACTUALLY invading.

                Do you hear yourself?

      • gcochran9 says:

        As for Eisenhower’s “deliberate liquidation of a million German prisoners” – that never happened.

        • syonredux says:

          “As for Eisenhower’s “deliberate liquidation of a million German prisoners” – that never happened.”

          Wait, you mean that Ron Unz’s Galactic Brain notions about WW2 are wrong?And he’s got things so neatly laid out:

          WW2 was the fault of FDR and Churchill
          Hitler was a warm, decent, peace-loving man who just wanted Gdansk…
          The Nazis didn’t intentionally kill Jews. They just shipped ’em…somewhere…

          4.. Eisenhower, filled with a rabid hatred of all things German, starved to death a million German POWs

          Combine this with his Kennedy assassination ideas, and its something of a minor miracle that Ron isn’t also an Apollo Landings denier….

      • Earplugs says:

        “The French commander at Cassino, who quite deliberately ordered the mass rape and murder of Italian civilians, not only never went on trial but was later, in the mid 1950s, rewarded with the supreme command of NATO forces.”

        What is the “Supreme Command of NATO forces”?

        SACEUR? That’s always an American.

        Chairman of the NATO Military Committee? The only Frenchman in the relevant time period is Augustin Guillaume. en.wikipedia is sparse, but fr.wikipedia says he was at least -around there:

        débarque en Italie et commande les tabors marocains qui contournent Monte Cassino

        So he command Moroccan-Muslim auxillaries that went around Monte Cassino. That doesn’t sound like he was the commander there.

        So maybe names would help, in this history of yours? Like the name of the French guy, the actual name of the “supreme command of NATO forces?”

        Just what, exactly, was this French guy was doing at Monte Cassino (which was actually assaulted by British/Commonwealth troops and Poles) in the first place?

        Do you actually mean the Gustav Line?

        This “history” of yours seems really sloppy.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Alphonse Juin, commanding goums from North Africa. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marocchinate

          • Earplugs says:

            I knew the answer, I was wondering if he actually did. 😉

            My assumption is that he’s blindly copying someone’s scribblings on the «true» criminals of ww2, the (((Allies))).

            It seems too tendentious and vague to be anything else, really.

            • Toddy Cat says:

              Of course, some Allied commanders deserved to be shot for war crimes as well – mostly Soviet, but some Americans, French and British as well. If the statements attributed to him are correctly reported, Juin seems to have been a pretty good candidate. Human beings sometimes do terrible things – Allied soldiers and commanders were human beings, etc, etc. That’s still different than premeditated mass murder as a national policy, a la Einsatzgruppen or Katyn, IMHO.

              • Earplugs says:

                And my goal wasn’t to exonerate or even defend Juin, but merely to implicitly condemn the methodology: I was tracing how otherwise uninformed people should approach horrifically vague insinuations.

                I assumed, of course, that he had no idea who he was implicating, if only because what he said was inaccurate and vague. If you actually knew that this person was Juin, what he did and where, and that he was the inaugural AFCENT, you simply wouldn’t say this as he did.

                Therefore I illustrated how one would approach such a vague insinuation if one had no idea what it was that was actually being insinuated.

                Alas, Vannevar was a greater visionary than we even give him credit for: After all, he presciently titled it “As we MAY think”, not “As we WILL think”. Wise.

                On another note, I don’t even have a problem with revisionist historians, two of my favorite classicists are Ronald Syme and Alan Cameron. It’s just that, gee, you have to have command of the relevant facts when ya tell the other bastards how grievously they’ve gotten it all wrong. So, like, having names and exact titles is kind of important? Heck, for Syme, those were fundamentally the basis of the actual approach.

      • ghazisiz says:

        I have heard about the German POWs starved to death behind barbed wire at the very end of the war. I head about it from a German whose brother survived the experience — testimony which is of course anecdote, not data. But I think it plausible — we sustained very high casualties against the Wehrmacht, and all of our soldiers (perhaps up to Eisenhower) thirsted for revenge.

        • gcochran9 says:

          Didn’t happen. I’ve never seen evidence of much US thirst for revenge, either.

          • gcochran9 says:

            “an August 1945 Report of the Military Governor that states “An additional group of 664,576 are lists as ‘other losses’ , consisting largely of members of the Volkssturm [People’s Militia] released without a formal charge.”

            One of my uncles was a captain in a division that captured tens of thousands like that at the end: they let most of them go home.

          • Interested Layman says:

            There was a guy I knew of who shot and killed a seven or eight year old girl. That one kind of messed him up for life, but when you give a nineteen year old a gun and tell him the only good German is a dead one nothing good is going to happen. That kind of evidence doesn’t make it into the history books or Hollywood movies.

            • syonredux says:

              Interested Layman:”There was a guy I knew of who shot and killed a seven or eight year old girl. That one kind of messed him up for life, but when you give a nineteen year old a gun and tell him the only good German is a dead one nothing good is going to happen. ”

              “Only good German is a dead one”

              Was he planning on assassinating Eisenhower? You know, what with that German name and all…..And I assume that he organized a kill-squad and wiped-out several German villages, Einsatzgruppen=style….

    • gcochran9 says:

      In a more just world, we would have shot virtually every German commander that served on the Eastern Front. My favorite quote, from a veteran of Das Reich, after there was some criticism for their antics at Oradour, where they locked several hundred people in the church and burned them to death – ” Compared to what we did in Russia, that was nothing !”

      • Christopher B says:

        In a talk on his “The Second World Wars” book, Victor Davis Hanson explains the all-inclusive casualty figures from WWII as largely German and Japanese soldiers killing Russian and Chinese civilians, respectively.

        Per the LeMay quote above I think the guys on the front lines had a pretty good idea what had gone down on both sides, and I’m willing to cut them some slack in how they made the choices of what behavior was beyond the pale and what they probably recognized, in retrospect, as being uncomfortably close to decisions they had to make.

      • Halvorson says:

        Soldaten is an excellent book based on the wiretapped conversations of Germans POWs in British camps. The earliest internees were predictably pilots who had crashed over Britain, but eventually there came men from the Eastern Front who had been transferred to Italy and captured there. They all, every last one of them, knew about about the mass shootings of the Einsatzgruppen, and many admitted that they had volunteered to participate. The early, Western Front prisoners were genuinely incredulous to hear these stories, and in response they almost asked the same question:

        “Did they even shoot the pretty girls?”

        • gcochran9 says:

          Interesting, reading it. I hadn’t heard of “execution tourism” before.

          • Earplugs says:

            It is probable that a lot of German (and their various national auxiliaries) families “lost” certain photographs dad or granddad brought back from the war, or that they were never left available to be found by the same.

            They definitively existed though, because we actually have some despite all that.

            People have actually identified some of the victims in them, just like they did for the Hungarians in that Auschwitz photograph book (yes, actually bound together for display) the SS left behind.

            It makes one wonder, doesn’t it. Just how small of a percentage remained extant?

    • Yes, the terrible American Einsatzgruppen, murdering all those Jews, and the horrible British death camps. And don’t forget when we executed all those Poles in the Katyn Forest, and slaughtered millions in Chunking and Nanking.

  10. NobodyExpectsThe.... says:

    Why to kill more Germans? On war crimes, they did almost nothing to Americans.

    And you already punished them harder than the Japanese, that actually did a lot more to you.

    • Frau Katze says:

      Germany started a war that no one wanted. Germany declared war on the USA after the Japanese persuaded them to. Not that Hitler required much persuasion.


      • NobodyExpectsThe.... says:

        And? The German leadership declared the war. And they were punished for it.

        Greg is talking about American punishment for German officers not at the top, for war crimes.
        And I think that would have been unjust because Germans barely commited war crimes in the western front. Yet, they already recieved a harsher punishment from the Western Allies, than the Japanese that were responsible for en masse crimes against allied troops and civilians.

        • gcochran9 says:

          ” Germans barely commited war crimes in the western front.”


          • syonredux says:

            “” Germans barely commited war crimes in the western front.”


            Well, I suppose if you’re using German conduct in the East as your standard…..But that’s setting the bar awfully low….

            • NobodyExpectsThe.... says:

              My standard is quite simple. What the Germans did to U.S. POWs, compared to what the Japanese did, also to U.S. POWs.

              Which I think is the standard Americans like Greg should care about, if they what to reciprocity to work its magic in a future conflict.

              Care about what they did to your own. Not to what the “tribe members” tell you to care about. Absolutely no plus in that course of action.

              And not only the Germans did little to Americans POWs, I think is very likely that U.S. troops murdered more Germans POWs than the other way around. Although not really because the G.I.s were more evil either, but because of the circumstances. They were doing a lot more offense than defence.

  11. Cantman says:

    And, which would have been less popular, a lot of Americans.

    And you’d have invaded the USSR.

  12. David Chamberlin says:

    “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”

    Oh you are a crusty old fucker Cochran. It’s almost like you would have wanted retribution.

    Whatever we did worked. The world is a nicer place. Crushing those dirty nasty perpetrators of World War Two might have been justified from a justice point of view but sometimes, sorry tough guy, being forgiving and letting a nation of racist assholes get better works.

    I have read a lot of history and I know that you have read and retained a shit ton more than me, But WTF is your point as it relates to today. At the end of World War Two we did a great, kindness, and in the perspective of history the right thing. We helped rebuild those dirty bastards that done us wrong.

    And what is the result?

    In 2019 they are the nations that do what we did then, forgive and help others.

    i hope you all voraciously disagree

  13. Henry Scrope says:

    We would have had to execute quite a number on the British Empire and USA side as well then.

    Oh and loads of Soviets.

    How about draft dodgers? Or people with parking tickets? C’mon.

  14. reiner Tor says:


    The Polish towns were close to the frontline, and it was obvious to anyone knowledgeable that even in clear weather bomber crews often mistakenly bombed cities dozens of miles away, so those example weren’t conclusive at all. Many British documents which argue that the Germans were already doing areal bombing sound self-serving from officials who had already supported areal bombing before the war even started.

    Anyway, it’s pretty irrelevant. What matters is that after the opening of the German archives (i.e. soon after the war) it became an untenable position to argue that the Germans tried to do anything other then simply hit militarily valuable targets. Their propaganda often implied otherwise, but we now know that after Hitler boasted publicly that he will destroy English cities, he went back to his headquarters where he represented a way more modest view of what air power was capable of achieving, and actually forbade the indiscriminate bombing of British cities (which some in the German air force wanted to do already). Not out of the kindness of his heart, but because he thought (like most German air force officers) that he was presented a choice: either try to hit a factory or port facility or some other militarily valuable target (which may or may not result in the destruction of said facility, and may or may not instead kill a few civilians working there or living or walking nearby), or he could try to hit residential areas instead, which, again, may or may not succeed in hitting their targets. He thought the former was a more sensible option, because something of military value could come out of it.

    You can argue that the Nazis were genocidal maniacs on the level of the Mongols or Tamerlane (and I don’t think you’d be wrong), in light of what they did in the East, to Jews anywhere, or in Poland, but their conduct of the air (and naval) war was arguably not worse (and in the case of the naval war arguably better) than that of the Western Allies. (The air war was probably also better than the way the British conducted their air war.) It wouldn’t change the fact that they were horrible genocidal maniacs, which the Western Allies (and arguably even the Soviets) were not. (Though the Soviets were still pretty bad, as they were.)

    So overall I agree with the premise of the blog post, they should’ve executed way more Germans. (Maybe even a few hundreds of thousands? At least tens of thousands more than they actually did.)

    • Earplugs says:

      “Anyway, it’s pretty irrelevant. What matters is that after the opening of the German archives (i.e. soon after the war) it became an untenable position to argue that the Germans tried to do anything other then simply hit militarily valuable targets.”

      This is flagrantly and shamefully false. The events of 14 May 1940 completely belie it. Goring, von Waldau, von Küchler, and others, on record. It’s not any mystery or in any sense obscure.

      Admittedly there was some disagreement, and it was labeled “Radikallösung”, but they still did it.

      That’s actual history.

      What’s untenable is your absurd fantasy that’s not based in anything other than the bizarre belief that the Germans, who murdered millions without compunction, were all soft and nambly-pambly about this one particular subject.

      That, until 1944, they would never dream of bombing anything to just kill people and break things (even though, bizarrely, you freely admit that they’d shell to do the very same from the very beginning–but not those stalwart knights of the sky! No, the legacy of brave baron Richthofen would never besmirch itself by ever being any less than heavenly-come gentlemen.”

      Heck, I’ll even succumb to treating hypotheticals as history: Sure, Richthofen was a swell guy, and he survived and he was the famous ace leading the Luftwaffe instead of the other one. Yeah, sure, maybe the Red Baron just wouldn’t dare! /s

      • reinertor says:

        your absurd fantasy

        Its not merely my fantasy, but also that of some others, like Richard James Overy.

        The events of 14 May 1940
        they would never dream of bombing anything to just kill people and break things (even though, bizarrely, you freely admit that they’d shell to do the very same from the very beginning–but not those stalwart knights of the sky!

        I’m not sure if the problem is with my English or your reading comprehension skills or both, but I think I never wrote they’d never bomb a militarily defended city under siege. I’m also not sure why you think that bombing such a city would constitute “terror bombing,” since it’s not terror bombing by any accepted definition of the expression. So neither Rotterdam nor Warsaw could be considered “terror bombing,” since both were militarily defended cities with German troops at the city gates, and the bombing had the purpose of weakening the military defenses of the cities. Yes, this included demoralizing the defenders (the defending soldiers), but it’s not terror bombing.

        • Earplugs says:

          Before the war proper even started, you do realize that the Germans threatened to bomb Prague?

          That is, before they went beyond the bounds of the Vienna Award and marched into the specifically Czech part of Czechoslovakia, they threatened to bomb Prague specifically so that Emil Hácha would submit and stand down without firing a shot.

          The German troops weren’t “at the gates”–they had yet to enter freshly Sudetenland-excised Bohemia. You seem very interested in “legitimacy” or whatever, how was this violation of the Munich agreement, “legitimate”. You’re a war-lawyer, I’m sure you’d know.

          Of course, it didn’t happen because Hacha was so terrorized (look! I actually used
          the word) that he had a heart-attack and the Czechs gave in– but hey, wait. The Germans, like Churchill with Norway, would have, right? So therefore they did, right?

          I mean, that was your argument before in regards to the British being “bad”. Does it apply to the Germans, or are you going to break out the “war-lawyer” book and explain “special pleading” to me?

          It’s ok, you don’t have to. You’ve been an excellent illustrator of it already.

  15. Drax says:

    German troops reached Norway some 6 hours before the British expedition force to Norway could launch their campaign.

  16. dearieme says:

    My wife did a term in a German secondary school long ago. The father of a family she met introduced himself with the words “I was in the Navy.”

  17. reinertor says:


    You can go on about Rotterdam as you like. The idea was to induce terror in the hearts of defending soldiers and their commanders, which is a wee bit different from bombing for the sake of destroying civilian morale or dehousing civilians or whatever. All the bombing in the Netherlands was very close to the frontline (it’s not a big country, but even so it wasn’t like bombing cities far away from German troops), and it’s pretty strange to think that attacking defended cities from the air would be prohibited. For example in Rotterdam, they could’ve just brought up heavy artillery and shot the city to smithereens with it. As actually happened to Warsaw, where most of the civilian casualties were the results of artillery rather than aerial bombardment.

    Regarding Norway, yes, the Germans attacked first, but Churchill, who would become the supreme leader of Britain, wanted to basically do the same. Yes, mining the waters, with the full knowledge that it will provoke your enemy into something worse, and then planning to use it as a pretext to invade Norway regardless of what the Norwegians were going to think, is morally not much different from outright invasion. And of course when the idea was shot down by Chamberlain, it wasn’t to Churchill’s merit. So, if any German was sentenced to anything for participation in the planning of the aggressive war on Norway, then of course it was pretty unjust, since Churchill was only prevented by his bosses in doing the same thing.

    I’m not sure if I mixed up some comments, and I won’t check this now. I thought this whole topic of both the air war and Norway came up in the context of Nuremberg (and maybe Curtis LeMay’s comment), where arguably some of the victors had no moral standing regarding those topics.

    However, I agree with the blog post in that many many more Germans could’ve been shot at the end of the war (at a minimum, tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands) if justice was to be done. But I don’t think any German should’ve been shot for the air war (where they arguably did nothing worse than what the Allies did), nor for the naval war (ditto).

    They should’ve been shot for what they did in Poland and the East, and to a smaller extent many other places (like Lidice), not for the air war, nor for the naval war, where they did nothing especially wrong.

    • Earplugs says:

      ” So, if any German was sentenced to anything for participation in the planning of the aggressive war on Norway, then of course it was pretty unjust, since Churchill was only prevented by his bosses in doing the same thing.”

      I specifically asked you to name any such German in our exchange yesterday, and in response you merely reiterate their theoretical existence.


      Have you been arguing about nothing this entire time?

      Does it not concern you that perhaps you are? Maybe not, after all, you seem to treat the hypothetical as fully equivalent to historical fact in other places…

  18. Earplugs says:

    “You can go on about Rotterdam as you like. The idea was to induce terror in the hearts of defending soldiers and their commanders, which is a wee bit different from bombing for the sake of destroying civilian morale or dehousing civilians or whatever.”

    That sounds like your idea, nearly 80 years later.

    What the Germans actually said, and what the Dutch actually understood, was something quite different: Stop fighting, or we’ll annihilate your cities.

    This wasn’t to continue the struggle by “military” means, that is, soldier to soldier. No, it was strictly to avoid that: The Dutch soldiers and leaders, as combatants, were perfectly willing to fight for several more day or even weeks, which would have strategically inconvenienced the Germans. As soldiers, they were willing to risk their lives, as they were already doing despite it’s ultimate futility.

    The Germans short-circuited that: “Put down your arms, or we’ll annihilate your cities.” The Germans weren’t interested in wasting any more time, military mano-a-mano, with the Dutch.

    It worked too, the Dutch capitulated almost immediately.

    Which is why is it nonsense for you to say that the Germans wouldn’t waste precious resources on such frivolous cruelty. It wasn’t frivolous at all, and it clearly saved them resources.

    “and it’s pretty strange to think that attacking defended cities from the air would be prohibited.”

    Did I say it was prohibited? Have indicated, even once, that I care one whit for such considerations? Or have I said, repeatedly, that the notion that the Germans got the idea from the UK or specifically Churchill, is patently ridiculous?

    It’s pretty strange that you are seemingly incapable of arguing on the merits of what your interlocutor has said, and instead have repeatedly invented utter non sequitors.

    Remember, this is all pursuant to someone else’s revisionist line of argument where, really, the Allies were the true “war criminals” on the basis of a bunch of nonsense, falsities, and vague innuendo.

    It’s the latter that I have consistently objected to, with the occasional parenthetical aside in which I rejected certain quibbles as absurd. To wit, your continued invocation of the idea of a “defended city” as relevant. I’m totally disinterested, to me such a concept is meaningless because it is universally applicable. Was any German city “defended” less when it was bombed? Why even say this? What do you intend to distinguish? My unfortunate experience has shown me that it used to pretend that Dresden was somehow less of a “valid target” than Rotterdam. Rubbish. If it’s bad, it’s bad. If it’s ok, it’s ok. I needn’t take position on either to demand consistency.

    “Yes, mining the waters, with the full knowledge that it will provoke your enemy into something worse, and then planning to use it as a pretext to invade Norway regardless of what the Norwegians were going to think, is morally not much different from outright invasion.”

    Except, of course, the reality of how the British didn’t actually mine the waters.

    This is mendacious. You’re not being straight-forward, you are arguing on the basis of “facts” you wish were true, to posit a tenuous equality that’s already suppositious in the extreme.

    Your goal here is to defend the Germans somehow, but my goal here isn’t to defend the British, merely history and basic honesty. Don’t get confused.

    Use your talents towards something else, because eisegetic commentary on behalf of vindicating (even partially!) someone who is ignorantly arguing from a shamefully inaccurate and naziesque playbook is unbecoming.

    I think we are at an end.

  19. random observer says:

    It is absurd to suggest the Western Allies had anything remotely comparable to answer for in the areas of traditional war crimes or particularly treatment of POWs. Yes, the Germans treated Western Allied POWs mostly normally, though they started to slip hard toward the end. But they treated Soviet POWs as bad as they treated Holocaust targets. The Allies have no equivalent to the massacre of POWs after the great escape or similar incidents, let alone the way Soviet prisoners were treated. And some French and others. There is no comparison. The Allied judges had rightful standing to judge the Germans on the war crimes category, still more on the then admittedly a neologism ‘crimes against humanity’.

    The Soviets were as bad or nearly as bad as the Germans in both general war crimes and POW handling. I’m willing to give them a limited pass on the grounds of ‘what goes around comes around’, and the Germans had certainly given them cause to turn aside from the rule books. If I had been one of them, I’d have agreed with Ilya Ehrenburg’s PR comments about killing all Germans, and the more who could be killed before I got killed myself, the better. I’m also willing to give them a limited pass since they were temporarily on our side AND they get the third and only real pass that comes with winning the war. That the USSR sitting in judgment on either war crimes or crimes against humanity was an act of epic hypocrisy is true, but ultimately an academic point,

    The third count, ‘crimes against peace’, always struck me as the problem- too new and airy a concept for the time, hypocritical to some degree for all the allies- the USSR had invaded plenty of people in the years preceding the war, the Western Allies had all done so relatively recently, if on modest scales. The claim really rested only in the Germans having invaded large, from the perspective of the times equal European states. That’s thin stuff. I can just about see that the German establishment was planning to be more aggressive on a grander, if evolving scale, but it was a matter of degree unless Britain or France’s empires are considered on some different moral plane. Or US policy in the Caribbean.

    But the charge of hypocrisy against the Western Allies is further mitigated in that they showed a sense of proportion- I think they put naval commanders in the bag as part of the ‘planning aggressive war’ charge, but rightfully decline to hold unrestricted submarine warfare against them. The same realism probably explains not making too much of aerial bombing by the Germans.

    I have been of the view that if all someone did was join the party [even the SS- plenty of them were doing routine admin or police work with mixed moral qualities at worst] and carry on with normal work, that’s pretty normal stuff. Everybody says he’d be a resistance hero. Most people actually go along, either to get along or to gain personal advantage.

    The Allies could, though have dug harder for men who’d committed the real crimes, plenty of whom got rehabilitated too easily. Whether that would have made Germany more, or less, robust today I can’t say. They’re hard to predict.

    • reinertor says:

      I would argue that the Soviets were actually somewhat better than the Germans in terms of POWs.

      One often cited example is Stalingrad, where out of the over 90,000 POWs only maybe 5,000 survived the war. However, they were already in extremely bad health, having starved in the extreme cold for over two months. The Soviets couldn’t organize trucks to take all the prisoners to the nearest train station, and they were surprised by the large number of prisoners taken (they had imagined a much smaller German force), so many of the already dying German POWs died on the way to the train station. The Soviets couldn’t organize the trains to be heated either (they often transported their own soldiers in cattle cars, something the Germans also did), and they couldn’t feed them much while en route, so the majority of POWs then died in the trains. The POW camps themselves weren’t that bad, but obviously in the starving USSR their food rations couldn’t be very generous. The Soviets couldn’t have saved the lives of the majority of the Stalingrad prisoners even if they had been extremely motivated to do so, which of course they weren’t.

      Wars of aggression were, as you write, weak sauce, but yes, the Germans were the least scrupulous in that area, and by a wide margin. However, each power committed those, at least within living memory.

      • gcochran9 says:

        The Reds clearly were better, in terms of percentage of POWS that survived. And it’s not just that they had them for a shorter time – the Germans managed to kill most of their prisoners quite rapidly.

        • random observer says:

          That much seems quite true- the Germans seemed to kill plenty right off, & work the rest hard enough to kill most of them, to a figure of over 3 million +. Wikipedia cites about 3 million German POWs who were held by the Russians of which a consensus figure of 350,000 +/- died in camps.

          Probably similar arguments could be made for all Nazi/Soviet comparisons, one reason or another.

  20. random observer says:

    Anyone have views on the wider issue of the title quote itself?

    For some reason I had long thought it was related to Cicero and the Catiline conspirators, and it allowed me a somewhat fruitful mental exercise. Had this been a Cicero quote, would he have been applying this philosophy in executing the conspirators so quickly, as they deserved, at peril of the state’s eventual legal stability and his own legal fate? Or was he contradicting it because his action was really a decision of state and of pragmatism, and contradicting even the Romans’ ideas of either procedural [they were citizens condemned to death without trial] or moral justice?

    Now seeing it has nothing to do with Cicero, may have nothing to do with any classical source, but at best was about Calpurnius Piso, I’m disappointed but it produces another exercise. Piso sentenced a soldier to death for killing a comrade on assumption, with no evidence of death, and having sentenced, ordered the execution to go ahead even when the dead man turned up alive. And allegedly used a version of the titular maxim. There is a valid meaning of the word justice in which carrying out sentence was justice, but that’s the kind’ of purely procedural meanings. Otherwise it’s nuts and speaks ill of the maxim itself to have this origin. Even procedurally, since the existence of a crime had been nullified.

    More widely, and both from the point of view of prudence and wisdom as components of justice, and from the pragmatism of public order, procedural limits on moral justice, moral restrictions on procedural justice, statecraft, and societal survival, in what contexts is one ever right to proclaim, ‘let justice be done, though the heavens fall’?

  21. Smithie says:

    I believe there was a libertarian judge who thought that Homma should get off because he could not pick his subordinates and claimed to see nothing.

    Of course, if the Bataan Death March was the result of him being incompetent, then, perhaps, MacArthur should have also been shot.

  22. Pincher Martin says:

    114 posts so far on this topic and no one has even mentioned the Morgenthau Plan.

    • gcochran9 says:

      It wasn’t implemented. It wasn’t practical, since there were way too many Germans for them to all become harmless farmers, and since the rest of Europe actually needed German industrial production. There were people that were genuinely for it – some very seriously, others pulled back as its consequences became clearer.

      Original author seems to have been Harry Dexter White.

      • Pincher Martin says:

        I agree it wasn’t practical – and some in the FDR administration saw that right away. But the fact FDR initially signed off on it was indicative of both the president and Morgenthau’s desire to stick it to not just the Nazis once the war was over, but to all the German people. They were going to make sure Germany never troubled Europe again.

        Which in 1944 was an understandable sentiment.

        But if the U.S. Commander-in-Chief was willing to put pen to paper to implement a policy in 1944, which would immiserate the German people to the point that millions of them might starve – even if that likelihood didn’t occur to Roosevelt – then I doubt he was bothered by the prospect of mass executions of Nazis and other German wartime commanders.

        So why didn’t mass executions happen? As you suggest somewhere above, other events intervened and other priorities were made. Even if Roosevelt had lived through his entire fourth term, I doubt the history would’ve been much different.

        But one thing of which I’m sure: If many Nazis and other German wartime leaders got off lighter than they should have, it wasn’t because American leaders believed they deserved a break.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          I’m not a big fan of Michael Beschloss’s histories, but The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945 does a pretty good job of showing the understandably raw emotions that FDR, Morgenthau, and others in the administration had toward the Germans, as well as their determination that Germany be permanently neutered once the war was over.

      • syonredux says:

        ‘author seems to have been Harry Dexter White.”

        Given White’s status as a Soviet operative, I’ve always kinda wondered if the the Morgenthau Plan might have been conceived in Moscow…..After all, if it had been fully implemented, it would have crippled Western Europe….

        • Pincher Martin says:

          Morgenthau may have been subtly influenced by White, who was his assistant at the time, but his animus toward Germany didn’t need much nudging from either White or Moscow. It was genuine. He wanted to do to Germany what the Mongols initially thought of doing to Imperial China – turn it into pastureland.

          One of Morgenthau’s sons later claimed White wrote the document, but Beschloss provides enough detail in his book for me to believe that, even if that was true, Morgenthau still believed in every single detail found in his eponymous plan. Morgenthau also worked hard to convince others in the Roosevelt administration – particularly skeptics like Stimson and Hull – of its merits. And when he couldn’t convince them, he tried to work around them with his direct influence on the president. None of that seems likely to me if White was the primary architect of the plan.

          FDR’s feelings on the subject were, as always, much harder to read. But to the degree he had any set thoughts on how Germany should be treated after the war, they appeared to be punitive and in line with Morgenthau’s ideas. But unlike Morgenthau, FDR caved the moment some in his administration (i.e., Stimson, Hull, Marshall, etc.) came out hard against the plan.

          Morgenthau was also the primary influence in getting Lord Cherwell to convince Churchill that the plan would benefit Britain’s economy. Churchill was initially quite hostile to Morgenthau’s ideas about post-war Europe, and even chewed out the U.S. Treasury Secretary over dinner about his plan. Churchill in 1944 was already worried about the Bolsheviks getting into the heart of Europe. But the British Prime Minister was later convinced (through Cherwell) that perhaps getting possession of the industrial might of the Ruhr might be a benefit to Britain, which was quickly going broke at the time. In the end, bankruptcy worried Churchill more than Bolsheviks.

          The Morgenthau Plan is not just interesting for what it stated. The infighting in the FDR administration over the plan shows that most U.S. policymakers at the time thought the Nazis should be punished. Even those policymakers like Hull and Stimson, who vehemently disagreed with Morgenthau’s ideas about postwar Germany, were occasionally given to extreme statements of their own. I’ll give some cites in another post to show exactly what I mean.

      • Flan Ling says:

        That plan was also a useful asset for Goebbels’ propaganda.
        So much that my German grandpa repeatedly told me, many decades after the war, that Churchill wanted to turn Germany into an agrarian country. And he was only about 5 years old at the time.

        • Pincher Martin says:

          Yes, that’s true. But after the plan went public in late September, it was effectively dead. FDR was on the eve of his fourth presidential election, and while his instincts against the Germans were punitive, he wasn’t the kind of leader to go to the mat for a policy.

          Roosevelt couldn’t stand up to the combination of his own Secretary of War and generic public criticism, and so he backed down in the way he usually backed down – by pretending he had never favored the plan in the first place (which was clearly false) and placing the blame on subordinates (which meant Morgenthau became persona non grata).

  23. Pen1s says:

    How would arbitrarily killing your defeated enemies be justice?

    • gcochran9 says:

      Being defeated isn’t exactly the same as being exonerated !

    • reinertor says:

      Nazi Germans were genocidal maniacs, and a very large number of their commanders, officers, civilian or police officials, and even low level soldiers and policemen participated in mass murder. So a very large number of them deserved to die. I can throw in a few high ranking names. Speer deserved to be hanged. Karl Wolff deserved to be hanged. Paul Hausser deserved to be hanged. Ernst von Weizsäcker deserved to be hanged. Baldur von Schirach deserved to be hanged. Gerd von Rundstedt deserved to be hanged. There’s a large number of others. As you can see, very high ranking Nazis and SS generals avoided being hanged.

      Not all of these were very bad people. Some even realized what they had done, and were repentant. (Of course, they were also smart. Showing repentance increased their chances. Schirach showed signs of disapproving of mass murder already in 1943. Of course, by that time, he must’ve been aware that the war had already been lost. So, smart.) And I’m sure that many perfectly normal and even nice people are capable of participating in mass murder. That seems to be the lesson learned from Nazism and a few other things.

      But participating in mass murder on such a scale is not something after which you can just say “sorry” and immediately be forgiven. Not even after a few years or even two decades in prison, in my opinion. Or you can be forgiven immediately, but you still need to be hanged nevertheless, pour encourager les autres.

  24. Lot says:

    The West German government released far too many war criminals before the end of their sentences during the 1950s and early 1960s. So many Nazi bios end include something like “was released early in 1956 and died in 1977.”

    Reiner’s 100s of thousands strikes me as wrong on the other extreme however. The East German and Polish governments I think had a better balance.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think killing hundreds of thousands was possible with keeping due process. Even killing just 10,000 might’ve been prohibitively expensive.

      But I usually think that if someone participates in mass murder, then killing him would be considered “justice.”

      The easiest thing would be any German commander fighting on the Eastern Front 1941-44. Basically all of them committed war crimes. But then again, even Guderian managed to deny knowledge of the Kommissarbefehl: an obvious lie, but it would be difficult to prove it back in 1946.

      I think that releasing these people was always going to happen, because the memories of the war faded, and West Germany was now an ally against communism. The West German government didn’t want to keep these people indefinitely in prison, because punishing war criminals was unpopular in Germany at the time.

      So hanging these people was the best solution. An example is Otto Ohlendorf. In 1943-45 he worked with Ludwig Erhard (the “father of the German Economic Miracle”), planning for rebuilding the economy after the already assumed defeat (he was smart), and so many people pleaded for his life to be spared. (“See, he was useful!”) He had been an Einsatzgruppe commander, so responsible for and personally participated in the mass shooting of something like 100,000 people (or probably way more). Had his death sentence been commuted to life imprisonment, he’d almost certainly have been released in the 1950s or 1960s. It’s incredible that sparing his life was seriously considered at all. (He was executed before restoring German state sovereignty.)

    • reinertor says:

      My comment got lost.

      It’s a question of due process. With due process, it would’ve been difficult to execute all (or nearly all?) German generals on the Eastern Front, though the vast majority of them were no doubt guilty. Consider Heinz Guderian: he managed to lie about not even knowing anything about the Kommissarbefehl. It probably would’ve taken some work to prove that he passed it on to his subordinates and reported back its execution. (The same was true of his subordinates.) I don’t think it would’ve been realistic to prove participation in such low-level crimes for such a long time.

      An interesting example is this guy:


      He avoided getting caught for several decades, until suddenly found. The people in Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men (a highly recommended work, if you’re interested in the topic) were also tried in West Germany in the 1960s only, when the prosecutors learned of their involvement in mass murder. Here’s a Hungarian example (I guess some online translator should suffice to deliver the main point, which is that he was a local pro-German militia commander in late 1944, and participated several instances of sadistic mass murder, but then lived peacefully in Budapest until 1965, when someone recognized him and he was arrested):


      It was probably impossible to catch these guys immediately after the end of the war. So, probably killing that many people would not have been possible, unless one was willing to suspend due process (which would inevitably have led to thousands of innocents being executed along with the guilty).

      But it’s interesting that even very high ranking officers (like Guderian or von Leeb) either managed to avoid prosecution altogether or got merely a slap on the wrist.

  25. Pincher Martin says:

    The following quotes are all from Michael Beschloss’s The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler’s Germany, 1941-1945. In providing these quotes, I want to make it clear that I do not sympathize at all with the idiots here who seem to think the Nazis got a raw deal – that the German leadership was just doing what the Allies were doing. To the contrary, I firmly believe that if I were going to engage in total war with any major power in 1945 and I knew I was going to lose that war, then I would not hesitate to choose losing to the United States over any other power at the time. And it’s not even close. The Nazis and other German war leaders got off light, in my opinion.

    No, I’m providing these quotes merely to show that most in the U.S. leadership, at least near the end of the war, believed in severely punishing Germany. They disagreed on many details, and some thought Morgenthau’s Plan was plain lunacy, but their instincts were almost always punitive. if the postwar plan ended up being light on punishment, it’s not because the men running the war failed to take punishment into account.

    Molotov said that Hull’s ideas sounded promising as long as they were “a minimum and not a maximum proposal.” Molotov was much tougher on Germany than Hull, but the Secretary of State felt that the Soviet aggressiveness toward the Germans might keep Stalin from trying to make a separate peace with Berlin that might lead to a Communist postwar Germany. When the discussion turned to German war criminals, Hull spoke up with untypical vehemence: “If I had my way, I would take Hitler and Mussolini and Tojo and their arch-accomplices and bring them before a drumhead court-martial. And at sunrise on the following day there would occur an historic incident!” Molotov and his aides applauded and cheered.

    Beschloss notes that a “drumhead court martial” is a “summary trial for an offense committed during military operations.”

    Please note that Hull was one of the moderates in the administration who strongly opposed the Morgenthau Plan.

    In Tehran, 1943:

    Stalin continued, “At least fifty thousand—and perhaps a hundred thousand—of the German command staff must be physically liquidated.” Then he raised his glass. “I propose a salute to the swiftest possible justice for all Germany’s war criminals—justice before a firing squad! I drink to our unity in killing them as quickly as we capture them. All of them! There must be at least fifty thousand.”

    What Churchill heard deeply disturbed him. He knew that Stalin’s demand went far beyond October’s three-power Moscow Declaration of War Crimes. He replied, “The British people will never stand for such mass murder…. I will not be a party to any butchery in cold blood.” War criminals “must pay,” but he would not agree to execute soldiers who had fought for their country:

    “I would rather be taken out in the garden, here and now, and be shot myself than sully my country’s honor by such infamy.”

    Roosevelt said, “As usual, it seems to be my function to mediate this dispute.” In jest, he asked them to compromise on a smaller number—“say, forty-nine thousand, five hundred.”

    One of the guests at the dinner was the President’s son Elliott, a reconnaissance pilot based in England. He raised his glass and said, “Russian, American and British soldiers will settle the issue for most of those fifty thousand in battle, and I hope that those fifty thousand war criminals will be taken care of—but many hundreds of thousands more Nazis as well!”

    Stalin rose to his feet, gave Elliott a bear hug and clinked glasses with him.

    Outraged, Churchill addressed the President’s son: “Much as I love you, Elliott, I cannot forgive you for making such a dastardly statement. How dare you say such a thing!” Churchill stalked away from the table, but Stalin chased after him, grabbed his shoulders and said he had only been kidding.

    Beschloss claims Churchill never forgave FDR’s son for that comment and refused afterwards to invite Elliott to any of the retreats which before that night the Prime Minister had habitually invited him.

    As for the president, obviously his comment about finding a number in between Stalin’s and Churchill’s was meant as a joke, but as I will show later it was a revealing joke.

    Unlike other American officials, Morgenthau refused to separate the German people from their evil government. He was an original believer in collective guilt for German war crimes. In April 1943, scheduled to speak about the war at Carnegie Hall in New York City, he planned to pledge that the Allies would “rock Germany to its rotten, bloodstained foundation.” But an Office of War Information censor told him that “most Germans” were “fine people,” and it was “a shame to talk about them this way.” Under duress, Morgenthau was persuaded to change his statement to “Nazi Germany.”

    August 1944, in a discussion between Eisenhower and Morgenthau:

    Grimly Eisenhower replied, “I am not interested in the German economy, and personally would not like to bolster it, if that will make it easier for the Germans.” As far as he was concerned, the German General Staff should be “utterly eliminated” and Nazi ringleaders given “the death penalty.” Ike said that the German people, by supporting Hitler, had been accomplices to everything done in their name. They “must not be allowed to escape a sense of guilt, of complicity in the tragedy that has engulfed the world.” The Germans had been “taught to be paranoid in their actions and thoughts, and they have to be snapped out of it. The only way to do that is to be good and hard on them.”

    Beschloss writes that Eisenhower, as was his wont, would later modify these comments for his book Crusade in Europe. By that time, one wanted to be seen as tougher on the commies than the Nazis. But in 1944, Ike was all for being tough on not only the Nazis, but the German people.

    Morgenthau speaking to his British counterpart in August, 1944:

    On Thursday, August 10, over lunch, Morgenthau asked his British counterpart, Sir John Anderson, if permitting Germany “to continue as an industrial nation” would not mean that soon it would be “arming for another war.” Anderson replied merely that the making of “war-related products” should be stopped. Morgenthau was taken aback by Anderson’s timidity. Drawing on his romantic Dutchess County notion of yeoman farmers, Morgenthau offered, as “purely my own” idea, that “we could divide Germany up into a number of small provinces, stop all industrial production and convert them into small agricultural landholders.” Anderson merely responded with silence.


  26. Pincher Martin says:


    Hull speaking with Morgenthau in August, 1944:

    [Morgenthau] asked Hull where he stood on postwar Germany. The frail old Tennessean wistfully recalled the single excursion into urgent Allied diplomacy that Roosevelt had allowed him—the Moscow meeting with Eden and Molotov. “The reason I got along so well with the Russians was because…I [said] I would hold a secret trial [of] Hitler and his gang…and…shoot them all…. Then I would let the world know about it a couple of days later. That’s my position!”

    Again, Hull was a moderate who was being kept out of diplomacy by FDR.

    Morgenthau and Stimson in August 1944:

    Morgenthau mocked Roosevelt’s insistence that he and Churchill could settle the problem in thirty minutes: “I don’t think Churchill is going to worry about it, and the President hasn’t time to think about it.” He proposed that he, Hull and Stimson draw up a common proposal for Roosevelt on postwar Germany “before he meets Churchill again.”

    Stimson consented, saying that one solution might be to internationalize the industrial Ruhr and Saar, throwing the region under joint multipower control. Morgenthau was intrigued, but he said he favored “removing all industry” from the Germans and “reducing them to an agricultural population of small landholders.”

    “Germany was that kind of a nation back in 1860,” said the Secretary of War, “but then she had only forty million people…. You might have to take a lot of people out of Germany.”

    Morgenthau replied, “Well, that is not nearly as bad as sending them to gas chambers!”

    Later that month, Stimson met with the president:

    THAT DAY, OVER LUNCH, Stimson warned Roosevelt that American troops were about to enter Germany with “no instructions” on “vital points.” His own view, he said, was that Germany should not be dismembered. Nor should German industry be destroyed. That could cause thirty million people to starve.

    Stimson told the President that if American officers were to shoot high-ranking Nazis, “it must be immediate,” and they should have “definite instructions” on exactly who should be executed.

    Again, I stress that Stimson was a moderate on these matters. But even he was for summary executions of Nazis in August, 1944. (He would later change his mind.)

    FDR soon afterwards met with his cabinet and had this to say about a handbook that advocated a light hand in Germany:

    AT A CABINET MEETING THAT AFTERNOON, Roosevelt used Morgenthau’s memo to complain about the SHAEF Handbook for Military Government. After reading out some of the Handbook’s more egregious recommendations, he said that Germans could “live happily and peacefully on soup from soup kitchens if she couldn’t make money for herself.” Roosevelt also said he had accepted Morgenthau’s recommendation to appoint a “Cabinet Committee on Germany,” composed of Hull, Stimson and Morgenthau, with Harry Hopkins as coordinator.

    Euphoric that Roosevelt now seemed to share his revulsion against the SHAEF Handbook, Morgenthau took the President’s decision as a triumph for himself. After the Cabinet meeting, he told his aides that he had “definitely convinced the President” and “that was very hard.” Stimson and McCloy “could not wash their hands of the fact that if we hadn’t gone to Europe and dug this stuff up, the Handbook would have gone into effect…. Now the President is hungry for this stuff, because every time I tell him something…he immediately uses it.”

    THAT SAME AFTERNOON, Roosevelt wrote what McCloy called a “spanking letter” to Stimson, saying, “This so-called Handbook is pretty bad…. It gives me the impression that Germany is to be restored just as much as the Netherlands or Belgium, and the people of Germany brought back as quickly as possible to their prewar estate…. I do not want them to starve to death, but…if they need food to keep body and soul together…they should be fed three times a day from Army soup kitchens…. They will remember that experience all their lives.”

    The President wrote that he would not accept the view of those who said that “the German people as a whole are not responsible for what has taken place, that only a few Nazi leaders are.” The Germans must have it “driven home” that they were a “defeated nation” so that they would “hesitate to start any new war.” The Allies must make the Germans understand that their “whole nation” had been waging “a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization.”

    McCloy did not think the Handbook was “as bad as the President did.” He noted that its purpose was merely to cover battle conditions “before defeat or surrender.” But as a good soldier, Stimson replied to the “spanking letter” by conceding to Roosevelt that the Handbook was indeed “unduly solicitous of the future welfare of Germany.”

    So at this point in 1944, FDR was firmly on Morgenthau’s side as to the future dispensation of Germany.


  27. Pincher Martin says:


    Stimson and Morgenthau:

    As Morgenthau later told his staff, Stimson told him “that we should take all the members of the SS troops and put them in the same concentration camps where the Germans have had these poor Jewish people…and make an exhibit of them to the whole world…. Beyond that, he hadn’t thought.”

    Light stuff. No executions and merely mentions the SS troops. But keep in mind that Stimson was probably the strongest moderate in the administration on the subject of how postwar Germans should be handled.

    Morgenthau speaking with FDR in September 1944:

    Politely [Morgenthau] said, “That’s very interesting, Mr. President, but…the heart of the German war machine is the Ruhr.” If the Ruhr merely became an international zone, “it is just time before Germany will attempt an Anschluss.” Instead, dismantle the Ruhr’s factories and give the machinery to countries that need it—even if that put “eighteen or twenty million” Germans “out of work.”

    Roosevelt said he did not care how many Germans were put out of work: “Just feed them out of American Army soup kitchens!”

    Morgenthau said that the “other big problem” was the “mentality” of Germans between twenty and forty who had been “inculcated with Naziism”: “You may have to transplant them out of Germany to some place in Central Africa, where you can do some big TVA project.”

    FDR and Morgenthau were talking about the forced unemployment and mass deportation of average Germans here, not just Nazis.

    And here’s a remarkable discussion between Morgenthau and his aides White and Pehle. Even though White was a commie stooge, e comes off as more moderate in how he would treat the Germans than his boss did.

    Harry Dexter White proposed putting the Ruhr under international control. Other countries could “strip it of any machinery they want.”

    Morgenthau said no. He warned that if the Ruhr were internationalized, the Germans would stage a “revolution” and seize it, and the region would revert to “the German war people”: “All the war has sprung from that area. They cannot make war if that area is shut down.” As for the Saar, “shut that down or give it to France.”

    White warned that shutting down the Ruhr would exile millions of Germans and harm the rest of Europe.

    “May I just stop a minute?” said an irritated Morgenthau. “I have brought back a message to you as to where the President stands and where I stand. Why don’t you go to work on it, see?”

    Morgenthau went on, “I am for destroying it first and we will worry about the population second…. I am not going to budge an inch…. The President is adamant on this thing. Sure, it is a terrific problem. Let the Germans solve it! Why the hell should I worry about what happens to their people?”

    Morgenthau recalled his father’s World War I experience as Wilson’s ambassador to Turkey: “One morning, the Turks woke up and said, ‘We don’t want a Greek in Turkey.’…They moved one million people out. They said to the Greeks, ‘You take care of them.’…The people lived. They got rehabilitated in no time…. It seems inhuman. It seems cruel.” But “we didn’t ask for this war. We didn’t put millions of people through gas chambers.” The Germans had “asked for it…. For the future of my children and my grandchildren, I don’t want these beasts to wage war…. I am not going to be budged.”

    Morgenthau reminded his aides to recommend harsh punishment for German war criminals. John Pehle replied, “It’s got to be limited in scope.”

    Morgenthau, recalling the records of what was said at Tehran but unaware that the Soviet leader was perhaps joking, said, “Stalin has a list with fifty thousand.”

    Taking it that Stalin had been speaking literally, Pehle replied, “But we wouldn’t get that, I don’t think.”

    This conversation is fairly remarkable in that the war against Germany would be over in less than seven months, and Morgenthau believed at the time that he had the president’s okay in deindustrializing Germany and forcing deportations of Germans to God knows where in Africa.


  28. Pincher Martin says:


    Hull, the moderate, speaking at cabinet meeting (sans President) on September 5th, 1944, which included Morgenthau, Stimson, Hopkins, came out in support of tough measures against the Germans, not so much because he believed in them, but because he believed the president wanted them:

    Although a Southerner, Hull, knowing that Roosevelt was in a tough mood, suggested the American Reconstruction as a model for treating Germany. After the Civil War’s devastation, he said, it took Southerners “seventy-five years to get back again. Germany’s living standard should be “held down to subsistence levels,” its economic power crushed. The Ruhr might have to be closed. “We may even have to sacrifice a little of our trade to make the Germans suffer…. This Naziism is down in the German people a thousand miles deep, and you have just got to uproot it. And you can’t do it by just shooting a few people.” Once again Hull recalled what a hit he felt he had made with the Russians in Moscow by saying he would have a “drumhead court-martial and shoot all the people.”

    Stimson, a WW1 veteran, and the other major moderate in the administration besides Hull, would not bend:

    Stimson crisply insisted, as he had the night before, that Germany be treated with “Christianity and kindness.” They must follow some kind of “legal procedure” before people were shot. Stimson said it was “very singular” that he, the man in charge of the department that had done “the killing in the war,” was the “only one” who seemed to have “any mercy for the other side.”

    The exchange grew so testy that Hull and Stimson began addressing each other not by their first names, as usual, but as “Mr. Secretary of State” and “Colonel Stimson.”

    Stimson warned his colleagues that “thirty million people will starve if the Ruhr is closed down…. This is just fighting brutality with brutality.”

    “Do you mean to say that if we stop all production of steel in Germany that would be a brutal thing to do?” asked Hopkins.

    Stimson felt that such a prohibition would “pretty well sabotage everything else.” But he found himself “a minority of one.” He told Hull that he was ignoring what his own planners had proposed.

    So Stimson believed his moderate stance made him a minority of one in September, 1944.

    Two days later, FDR met with the cabinet secretaries and maintained his hard economic line on Germany until Stimson pushed back:

    Gazing at Stimson, Roosevelt repeated his insistence that Germans could live from “soup kitchens.” He said that “our ancestors” lived “successfully and happily” without “many luxuries.” In Dutchess County in 1810, people had worn homespun wools. As a boy, he had used a “Chic Sale” outhouse: “People could get along without bathrooms and still be perfectly happy.”13

    Impatient with Roosevelt’s chatter, of which he had heard more than he wished during four years as Secretary of War, Stimson reminded him that the issue was Morgenthau’s plan to make an “ashheap” out of the Ruhr. He was “utterly opposed” to destroying “such a gift of nature.” It should be “used for the reconstruction of the world,” which “sorely” needed it now. Unless the German economy were quickly revived, there would be a “dangerous convulsion in Europe.” They must not burn down the house of the world just to get “a meal of roast pig.”

    To Morgenthau’s shock, Roosevelt now agreed with Stimson. He said there was “no particular hurry” to decide “right away” on the Ruhr. They could leave the steel mills intact and then act in six months or a year. He reminded Hull that they both had long worked for free trade, and “we have got to do just that in Germany.” Britain was “going to be in sore straits after the war.” Perhaps the Ruhr could furnish raw material for British steel companies.

    This was the first time FDR had bent in the direction of the moderates. He would only break after the Morgenthau Plan went public.

    More details: Stimson complaining to General Marshall about Morgenthau’s desire to shoot Nazis without a trial.

    AT THE PENTAGON, Stimson complained to General George Marshall about Morgenthau’s eagerness to shoot Nazi war criminals without trial. He was “not a bit surprised” by what he had heard, but “I was appalled—a different thing.” Marshall felt it was “the same sort of thing that happens after every war,” and the “bitterness after this one” was “sure to be extreme.”

    Stimson later observed, “It was very interesting to find that Army officers have a better respect for the law in those matters than civilians who talk about them and who are anxious to go ahead and chop everybody’s head off without trial or hearing.”

    More details: FDR, speaking to a member of Eisenhower’s staff, on the need for quick justice.

    Roosevelt said that German war criminals should be “dealt with summarily.” No “long, drawn-out legal procedure.” After proper identification, they should simply be executed. Above all, he wanted to arrange the occupation in a way that would convince the Russians that America “really” wanted to work with them. His primary postwar aim was Soviet-American cooperation. Germany, he said, would be the “proving ground.”

    More details: Stimson on discovering that Morgenthau had convinced Churchill to support his plan.

    Into his diary Stimson angrily wrote, “Apparently he has gone over completely to the Morgenthau proposition and has gotten Churchill and Lord Cherwell with him.” Cherwell was “an old fool” who had “loudly proclaimed that we could never cross the Channel”—a “pseudoscientist” for whom “nobody has much respect…. The cloud of it has hung over me pretty heavily over the weekend.” It was a “terrible thing” for such a “critical matter” to be decided by Roosevelt and Churchill, “both of whom are similar in their impulsiveness and their lack of systematic study,” with nobody to advise them at Quebec except “yes-men.”

    Everyone Stimson had spoken to was “horrified” by Morgenthau’s “Carthaginian” attitude: “It is Semitism gone wild for vengeance and, if it is ultimately carried out (I cannot believe that it will be), it as sure as fate will lay the seeds for another war in the next generation.”

    Morgenthau speaking to General Marshall in late September in an exchange which highlights Marshall’s humanity, even if not his honesty.

    Morgenthau told Marshall that “the Germans were almost successful in the First World War…even more successful in the Second, and might win in the third. You, as a soldier, know that as soon as this is over, the German General Staff will immediately plan another war.”

    Marshall replied, “You will find that the American soldier doesn’t want the German treated harshly.” He recalled that after World War I, despite the strict orders of General Pershing, commander of American forces in Europe, “American soldiers would go in the back door and sit down with German families and enjoy themselves.” One of his own worst headaches since entering Germany had been photographs of American troops “fraternizing with the Germans.”

    And, finally, in October, when public criticism turned FDR against Morgenthau’s plan:

    Roosevelt sent Morgenthau a report from the OSS chief William Donovan saying that a majority of prewar Europe’s farm machinery had been produced by Germany. The tacit message: Shutting down German industry might force all Europeans to starve. Morgenthau scrawled back, “I would like to say in the words of your son Johnny, ‘So what?’ ”

  29. Pincher Martin says:

    I didn’t mean to spam the thread, but I wanted to show (with abundant proof) that there was a lot of strong anti-German sentiment – and not just anti-Nazi sentiment – in the Roosevelt administration in the closing months of the war, and that this sentiment was being reflected in a major policy recommendation which would have deliberately wrecked havoc on the German people (and perhaps, accidentally, on many other Europeans as well).

    Morgenthau was the principal driver of this policy, but even the moderates in the Roosevelt administration were contemplating summary justice being meted out to Nazis and Germany’s other wartime leaders.

    Does this make them bad guys? No. They were in a war that was killing several thousand of their fellow American citizens every month, not to mention millions of other people around the world. Their reaction was normal. What was NOT normal was how they acted in the end, crafting commonsense and humane policies, including toward some people who almost certainly didn’t deserve such treatment.

  30. reiner Tor says:

    Just checking the Einsatzgruppen trial. I knew that commuting Ohlendorf’s sentence was seriously considered. But I didn’t know that the commander of Einsatzgruppe A was actually released from prison in the 1950s. He was just as unrepentant as Ohlendorf, though apparently not nearly as talkative. Basically, anyone in a commanding position in any of the Einsatzgruppen (in Poland or the East) should’ve been hanged. Now, probably the vast majority of the simple members of these units deserved to be hanged, too.

    At least, I cannot see how this could be called “justice.”


    The disgrace of some ninety-six year old guy being dragged to court for his role as an accountant in the Auschwitz camp system is probably done in compensation for letting some of the main culprits die in the peace of their homes. It’s pretty bad that they let many of the main culprits free back then. Now it’s even worse that they are trying to compensate for it by dragging nonagenarians to court for their pretty minor roles. This is totally disproportionate. I would have no problem if those Auschwitz accountants were shot back in 1946. But it’s 2019, and they are nonagenarians. Why do people think it’s a good thing to drag them into court for things which they may or may not have done?

  31. BB753 says:

    I agree, we should have hanged Hiro-Hito, Truman and Churchill for war crimes.

  32. reinertor says:

    Someone mentioned how much better the Soviets and East Germans etc. handled Nazi war criminals, not letting them out early.

    I checked a number of SS commanders who fell into Soviet hands. Most of them survived Soviet captivity and were released in the mid-1950s. Unless they were extremely stupid, like this guy:


  33. Arthur Pearstein says:

    Thanks for the sentiment about dealing with enemies of Judah. I’m sure the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society will take it into account when deciding how many Somalis to resettle in your neighborhood.

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