PDA

View Full Version : Fear of Polish troops at the Western Front



Kovalski
10-29-2011, 02:57 PM
I've just watched "The Last Heroes" on Channel 4 about the break-out from Normandy.
One of British veterans told a story of a 15 year-old Hitler Youth soldier, who was caught by the Allies.
The boy needed a medial attention as he was wounded and a stretcher was called along with two medics.
When they arrived, they kneeled next to the boy so they could pick him up and put him on the strecher.
Suddenly, German kid started to shout in panic. It turned out he noticed "POLAND" badges on medics' shoulders.
It was obvious he didn't want to be taken away by polish troops, but of course it eventually happened.

And here's is something that I find quite interesting.
Why was 15 year old kid so afraid of Poles?
An alleged polish brutality towards german POWs could be a reason. But in August 1944 Polish troops were in Normandy just for few days. It would be difficult to earn such terrible reputation in such a short time, so even 15 year-olds would afraid of them.
He could also been told by some of his comrades about Polish hate towards Germans.
Or maybe he was already aware why the Poles hate the Germans so much and why it was better to get no medical attention than to be taken away by the Polish medics.
If yes, how does that knowledge coressponds with a general excuse of the ordinary Germans that they were not aware of any war crimes comitted by SS and Wehrmacht in Poland, Soviet Union and other countries.
(I assume that boy was a fresh replacement and didn't spend a single day as a soldier in the Eastern Europe).

leccy
10-29-2011, 04:51 PM
I could assume that the kid grew up with Nazi propaganda which laid the blame for the start of the war on the murdering evil Polish people killing all those around Danzig etc.
You need to think what Goebbels had been spouting and where the kid could have come from in the Greater Reich.

Kovalski
10-29-2011, 08:26 PM
Well, you got the point, especially when it comes to Hitler Youth.
I'm curious how many Germans did know what was going on.
Propaganda could explain to the people why Nazis wanted to get rid of Jews, but German population had already seen in 30's what the Nazis were capable of.
Right after invasion of Poland (during the campaign too) Germans comitted so many war crimes that it was impossible to hide it. Obviously, the local population witnessed those. But the number of Germans who were members of Einsatzgruppen, SS, Gestapo, Kripo and Wehrmacht and were involved in the war crimes was huge.
They were witnesses too. I bet many of them couldn't keep their mouths shut and shared some stories with their families, friends etc. SS and Gestapo didn't have problem with keeping the secrecy, that's for sure. But what about Wehrmacht? I assume most of them were not cold-blooded killers and there was some remorse about it.
So, the information about atrocities leaked to the German society. Of course the scale must have been minimal at the beginning of the war, but every year more and more Germans were becoming aware what Nazis were doing.
After the 6th Army's disaster at Stalingrad, Goebbels was not able to conceal what really happend. Many Germans knew that it wasn't a "strategic withdrawal" but enormous defeat and doom of few hundred thousand soldiers.
Many didn't want to believe the truth, but at the end of the day, they had to accept it.
So, maybe similar mechanism worked when it came to war crimes and holocaust.
Germans knew what was happening (or at least had some idea of it), but didn't want to hear about it and prefered to believe what Goebbels was saying. It was very comfortable especially after the war, when many Germans were confronted with the Allied occupation forces and war crimes survivors.

Chevan
10-30-2011, 12:40 AM
Why was 15 year old kid so afraid of Poles?
An alleged polish brutality towards german POWs could be a reason.
I read after the cruel pacification of warsaw uprising the poles felt no more mercy for german pows , if to believe Beevour's "Berlin downfall".I post it already in other thread like once NKVD trusted to polish soldiers to guard the group of approximatelly 80 just taken german pows to camp for interrogations. They were pretty wondered when poles brought only two pows alive.Since that day , beevour wrote,the NKVD didn't not enlist poles to gurd the german pows any more.

Rising Sun*
10-30-2011, 06:18 AM
I could assume that the kid grew up with Nazi propaganda which laid the blame for the start of the war on the murdering evil Polish people killing all those around Danzig etc.
You need to think what Goebbels had been spouting and where the kid could have come from in the Greater Reich.

Sounds like the most reasonable explanation.

The Nazi propaganda machine cranked up fear of Poles / Polish mistreatment of ethnic Germans before the war to justify the attack on Poland, and then reinforced it with extravagant claims about Polish brutality towards Germans in the Bromberg incident soon after the invasion of Poland. That sort of thing enters the national mind and is fed to children with their mother's milk (as was Japanese hatred and contempt for the Chinese in the years preceding the Pacific War). The 15 year old boy on the Western Front quite probably had no personal experience of Poles but had absorbed fearful views about them from others and from Nazi propaganda such as film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heimkehr

The Poles also acquired a well-deserved reputation among the Allies as hating the Germans and being willing to go to any lengths to kill them, such as 303 Squadron RAF, so maybe some of this became known to the Germans and became part of general opinion.

Kovalski
10-30-2011, 03:51 PM
You're right, there was a lot of pre-war anti-polish propaganda and no doubt it was very influential on people.
The image of blood-thirsty Poles must have been widely spread among the German population.
It just seems unbelievable how easily such a primitive propaganda could be accepted without any skepticism.

Anyway, back to the topic.


I read after the cruel pacification of warsaw uprising the poles felt no more mercy for german pows , if to believe Beevour's "Berlin downfall".I post it already in other thread like once NKVD trusted to polish soldiers to guard the group of approximatelly 80 just taken german pows to camp for interrogations. They were pretty wondered when poles brought only two pows alive.Since that day , beevour wrote,the NKVD didn't not enlist poles to gurd the german pows any more.

During Warsaw Uprising Home Army took a little bit less than 2000 German (+ collaborators like ROA, RONA) prisoners. After the capitulation around 330 came back. What happened to the rest?
Well, some died during 2 months of heavy fighting, presumably a friendly fire should be blamed (artillery, bombers, etc.). There is absolutely no doubt that those from SS, Police, Gestapo and Military Police got a bullet right after being captured. There were reports of Germans captured and executed by the Home Army, because they had been already senteced to death by Polish Underground War Tribunal for atrocities against civilians comitted before the Uprising. Some number of German POWs was wounded and treated in polish hospitals around the city. In few cases, when the hospitals were overrun by RONA or similar units, those POWs shared the same fate as polish wounded and the medical personnel. Also the RONA and ROA soldiers were executed on the spot.
We need to remeber, that many of those POWs were captured and executed almost red-handed, for example a group of 46 volksdeutsch who few hours earlier set on fire houses at Wola district together with their inhabitants. Also SS-men and members of Dirlewanger's and Kaminski's Brigades were treated accordingly, as their active role in slaughter of Wola district was widely known.

At the last Home Army HQ meeting before the uprising on August the 1st 1944, gen. "Monter" issued an order regarding the captured enemy:
I. Treating the Germans:
a) spare the soldiers who give up their weapons [to be treated as POWs];
b) those who resist - to be eliminated;
c) killed - to be removed;
d) to be executed - police, SS, military police, gestapo;
e) armed civilians: giving up the weapons - to be treated as POWs, those who resist - to be eliminated;
f) polish police - to be treated like Wehrmacht".

But of course like in every battle, these limitations were flexible.

Sources:
http://www.dws.org.pl/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=5876
Janusz Marszałek „Ochrona porządku i bezpieczeństwa publicznego w Powstaniu Warszawskim"

flamethrowerguy
10-30-2011, 04:57 PM
I doubt that there were 15 year-old HJ soldiers in Normandy in the first place...

Kovalski
10-30-2011, 05:05 PM
These were the vet's exact words. I don't think his age really matters.

Chevan
10-31-2011, 01:19 AM
The image of blood-thirsty Poles must have been widely spread among the German population.
It just seems unbelievable how easily such a primitive propaganda could be accepted without any skepticism.

I think the any propogand is primitive. Even our propogand depicted the germans in primitive light.And it was accepted without critic.The critic of domestic propogand might be considered like treason in wartime;)


During Warsaw Uprising Home Army took a little bit less than 2000 German (+ collaborators like ROA, RONA) prisoners. After the capitulation around 330 came back. What happened to the rest?

The 330 survived this is even much for condition of uprising. At least it proves the poles didn't execute all the germans like those poor 15 kid was probably teached.
BTW the ROA, or the army of Vlasov, didn't take the participation in supression of the Warsaw uprising. It was formed only in september 1944 as a separate army.The bloody butchers from RONA is a entire other thread.

Kovalski
10-31-2011, 03:06 AM
My mistake Chevan, you're absolutely right about ROA.

flamethrowerguy
10-31-2011, 09:17 AM
These were the vet's exact words. I don't think his age really matters.

Well, we have to disagree on that then...

Chevan
10-31-2011, 09:51 AM
Well, we have to disagree on that then...
do you think to meet the 15 years HJ is too early for 1944?

flamethrowerguy
10-31-2011, 10:04 AM
do you think to meet the 15 years HJ is too early for 1944?

If we're talking about members of the Nazi youth organization "HJ" (not the SS division) during the summer of 1944 in Normandy/France...yes.
Later that year on German (East Prussian) soil it would be a different thing.

Chevan
10-31-2011, 11:32 AM
If we're talking about members of the Nazi youth organization "HJ" (not the SS division) during the summer of 1944 in Normandy/France...yes.
Later that year on German (East Prussian) soil it would be a different thing.
Which was the youngest conscript age for Wermacht in 1945? and in 1944?If my memory serves well, i read it was decreased to the 16 ( or 15.5)years in march 1945.

flamethrowerguy
10-31-2011, 11:48 AM
The 1927'ers were drafted in July 1944. Those of 1928 were drafted for the RAD (labour service) and only sporadically for the Wehrmacht.
Allegedly there were single drafts of boys born in 1929 by March 1945, but this is not officially assured.

DVX
10-31-2011, 12:38 PM
A little provocation: perhaps the kid knew what the Polish guards did to the Italian prisoners on the Laconia?

flamethrowerguy
10-31-2011, 01:07 PM
A little provocation: perhaps the kid knew what the Polish guards did to the Italian prisoners on the Laconia?

Would you please elaborate on this? Never read about this specific issue (not the Laconia incident itself).

DVX
10-31-2011, 01:39 PM
It must be clear, firstly that I'm a bit joking and I'm very far from opening a flame. But by joking I want remember an historical fact. I guess you know the story of the cargo Laconia and the U 156 of commander Hartenstein... The cargo was full of 1800 Italian prisoners; when the cargo was torpedoed, the Britons - but many guards were actually Polish soldiers (anyway under british command and responsability) - closed the holds with the prisoners inside, started to shoot to the prisoners that tries just to survive by overboarding, killed or cut off the hands to the Italian survivors the tried to cling to lifeboats... The ship had lifeboats for 2700 people: considering that the British crew, soldiers and civilians and Polish guards summed to about 600 people, we can say that the Italian prisoners were murdered, with cruelty.
Those who didn't drown, were shot or cut off the limbs... especially, but not only, by the Poles... See for example "Hitler's U boat war" by Clay Blair jr. or "Sopra di noi l'oceano" by Antonino Trizzino.

Kovalski
10-31-2011, 02:45 PM
"Laconia Incident" is well known because of the "Laconia-Order" (Laconia-Befehl) issued by Admiral Karl Doenitz, after the failed rescue attempt by German navy. Since then, any Kriegsmarine vessel was not allowed to save the survivors of sunken enemy ships.
Less known is what happened on board of the ship after it was struck by the torpedoes.
As far as I know, Polish guards (from 8th Inf. Div.) couldn't shoot the POWs as they were issued rifles with bayonettes without ammunition. In fact, it was British armed personnel who shot at the Italians in order to prevent them from climbing the lifeboats.
Personally, I think that Polish had no intention of killing the Italians as there was no open hostility between them.
Of course, it is possible some of Polish soldiers could murder the POWs, but I oppose any attempt to blame Polish troops for the tragedy of Italian POWs on board of "Laconia".
All what happened was the consequence of German attack (the largest number of Italians died when torpedo hit hold no 2) and the order issued by the British commander to hold the post and prevent the Italians from reaching the lifeboats before all civilians and crew were ready to abandon the ship.

The most detailed book about that tragedy is "The Sinking of the "Laconia": A Tragedy in the Battle of the Atlantic" by Frederick Grossmith.

Chevan
10-31-2011, 11:34 PM
Would you please elaborate on this? Never read about this specific issue (not the Laconia incident itself).
me too. Our friend DVX seems does't stop to wonder us.

Rising Sun*
11-01-2011, 07:50 AM
As far as I know, Polish guards (from 8th Inf. Div.) couldn't shoot the POWs as they were issued rifles with bayonettes without ammunition. In fact, it was British armed personnel who shot at the Italians in order to prevent them from climbing the lifeboats.

One instance of British troops mistreating Italian or any other prisoners doesn't prove another instance of British troops alleged to have mistreated Italian prisoners or any others, but British troops, with no Polish elements, very badly mistreated civilian internees on HMT Dunera which also had a smaller contingent of Italian and German POWs bound for Australia. A British soldier also bayonetted one of the civilian internees, so the absence of ammunition doesn't mean that the guards of any nation couldn't harm their prisoners.

This isn't my favourite source but, as is often the case, it is also a good starting point. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMT_Dunera

More detail is here, at least until it got derailed by a persistent troll from that era. http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php?9520-quot-The-King%92s-Most-Loyal-Enemy-Aliens-quot

Kovalski
11-01-2011, 02:14 PM
A British soldier also bayonetted one of the civilian internees, so the absence of ammunition doesn't mean that the guards of any nation couldn't harm their prisoners.

I completely agree with you. All I wanted to say was that Polish weren't the ones that shot Italians.
I never tired to deny that they did or could use bayonets against the POWs, because I don't have a source for that.
I said in my opinion it seemed unbelievable, but not impossible. But I strongly oppose blaming Polish for the massacre of Italians, which unfortunately takes place recently in some media.

nikkoo
07-31-2012, 06:21 PM
These were the vet's exact words.

forager
08-02-2012, 02:42 AM
I'd say the age was most likely approximated-how would he really know.

The kid had been around the military for at least a short while.

Stories, tales, and advice abound.

At some point he probably heard or was told to beware of capture by Poles, or whomever.

So there he was, wounded, in pain and shock, in enemy hands and sees they are Poles-freakout ensues.

Not that complicated.

Kregs
07-09-2013, 08:16 PM
The image of blood-thirsty Poles must have been widely spread among the German population.
It just seems unbelievable how easily such a primitive propaganda could be accepted without any skepticism.

I do not wish to stray too far from the subject you have raised, Kovalski, but I believe you are correct. On the streets of Warsaw, I remember the look I received from a young, German soldier before the summer of 1944. He stood stock still, at attention, but I could detect fear because I imagine the knew the allies were close, and that as soon as the Russians broke through the line of defense, we would slaughter him. He twitched when I glared back, but quickly resumed his facade of superiority, as was all too common in those days. Goebbels magnificently propagandized the Russian Red Army as "red hordes," and "red beasts," ready for the slaughter. But, I imagine the propaganda worked because the soldiers knew, like the German soldier I briefly mentioned above, of the brutalities and crimes that their comrades committed and believed that vengeance and primitive torture awaited them in captivity. I assumed that is why most fought as they did.

royal744
08-14-2013, 11:34 PM
/
The 1927'ers were drafted in July 1944. Those of 1928 were drafted for the RAD (labour service) and only sporadically for the Wehrmacht.
Allegedly there were single drafts of boys born in 1929 by March 1945, but this is not officially assured.

The Germans were scraping bottom - old German newsreels show schoolkids in uniforms.

I think that the number of Germans in the general population knew a great deal about what was going on in the camps. For one thing, the odor was said to be overwhelming and those chimneys and watch towers must have given a rather un-subtle clue. Maybe not everyone knew, but I think most adults knew what was going on. The civil population ignored it until they came face to face with it. There was a lot of "mass lying and denying" going on after the war.

flamethrowerguy
08-15-2013, 02:40 PM
/
The Germans were scraping to bottom - old Germqn newsreels shows some schoolkids in uniforms.

Certainly, but there were different kind of uniforms.



I think that the number of Germans in the general population knew a great deaal about what was goimg on in the camps. Maybe not everyone knew, but I think most adults knew what was going on. The civil population ignoed it until yhey came face to face with it.There was a lot of "mass lying and denying" going on after the war.

Hard to tell, there are not too much people left to ask about what they knew or not. I'm not sure if they'd dare to tell the truth about that issue either- even 70 years later.


For one thing, the odor was said to be overwhelming and those chimneys and watch towers must have given a rather un-subtle clue.

Yes, that's why the Nazis established the "Vernichtungslager" (~ annihilation or extermination camps) outside of Germany - in occupied Poland.

leccy
08-15-2013, 03:38 PM
/
The Germans were scraping to bottom - old Germqn newsreels shows some schoolkids in uniforms.

I think that the number of Germans in the general population knew a great deaal about what was goimg on in the camps. For one thing, the odor was said to be overwhelming and those chimneys and watch towers must have given a rather un-subtle clue. Maybe not everyone knew, but I think most adults knew what was going on. The civil population ignoed it until yhey came face to face with it.There was a lot of "mass lying and denying" going on after the war.

By 1942 Hitler Youth were manning AA Guns along with females to free up men for the Heer, iirc correctly by late 1944 3/4 of all air-defence were female or those too young for the draft (out of approximately 900,000 in air defence).

Frankly Dude Really
02-20-2015, 06:16 AM
I completely agree with you. All I wanted to say was that Polish weren't the ones that shot Italians.
I never tired to deny that they did or could use bayonets against the POWs, because I don't have a source for that.
I said in my opinion it seemed unbelievable, but not impossible. But I strongly oppose blaming Polish for the massacre of Italians, which unfortunately takes place recently in some media.


Yeah, I tend to agree.
The sinking of an (obviously old) transport ship with a well aimed torpedo(s) goes fast..and there is no chance that 2500 men can be saved and have time to board lifeboats (never enough) orderly.
So, of course the most dead come from drowning in itself.
There can be simply no time to cut off limbs of 1700 POWs , while pondering if you can make it to the lifeboats after "the job".

Simply assume -as always- few have learned to swim, and ALL are in panic, and of course the guards/crew want to reach and take the lifeboats first . And to ward off 100's of POW easiest is by gunning them (the ones too close to the lifeboats while hanging in the davits) down.
After being in the lifeboats away from the sinking ship there is no need to gun or bajonet the floating pows.
(edit: so this wiki line " Survivors later recounted how Italians in the water were either shot or had their hands severed by axes if they tried to climb in a lifeboat. The blood soon attracted sharks." seems in contradiction, but (a) this too is an act of perhaps too many pows going after one lifeboat and its boatcommander orders (in panic?) to get rid of it (b) accounts under stress&danger&trauma are full of irregularities, shootings/butchering of earlier moments are misplaced at other occasions ..it happens.)

The only sensible thing to investigate is whether the holds with the italian pows were locked (* wiki: yes) and kept locked or not, and whether it was on purpose to make them drown, or simple incompetency (wiki says nothing).
Again, there is panic, also with the guards.. who is to say you are supposed to always have a cool character and assess you have time and opportunity to open the locks of ALL the hatches of the holds ?