Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II
Eisenhower's War Crimes
The New American
May 21, 1990
Other Losses, by James Bacque, Toronto: Stoddart Publishing Company, Ltd., 1989, 248 pp, cloth.
During the latter years of the second World War, high-ranking officials in the Roosevelt Administration proposed that Germany be, for all intents and purposes, obliterated as a nation. Germany was to be virtually leveled. All industry, mining, and shipping were to be confiscated, dismantled, or destroyed and the entire country reduced to a vast pastureland, stretching from the French frontier to the western edge of Poland. The document outlining their proposal states that the Ruhr, one of the greatest industrial regions of the world, comprising some thirty thousand square miles, "should not only be stripped of all presently existing industries but so weakened and controlled that it cannot in the forseeable future become an industrialized area .... All industrial plants and equipment not destroyed by military action shall either be completely dismantled or removed from the area or completely destroyed, all equipment shall be removed from the mines and the mines shall be thoroughly wrecked." It was, of course, understood clearly that, since they could not support themselves on an agricultural economic base alone, such a plan would imply the deliberate starvation of at least 40 percent of the German population (at that time, roughly 20 million people).
White's "Morganthau Plan"
President Franklin Roosevelt enthusiastically supported the idea, which was ostensibly the brainchild of Roosevelt's own Treasury Secretary, Henry Morganthau. Joseph Stalin was likewise quite pleased. One can easily imagine the Soviet dictator laughing at the news of the plan and greedily rubbing his hands together in unrestrained glee. If the Americans were indeed stupid enough to put forth a plan for the postwar destruction of the German people, the Soviets might then pose as Germany's defenders. The German people, in their desperation and despair, would very likely decide that anything, even communism, was preferable to what the West was contemplating. Stalin was undoubtedly aware also that the plan's real author was Morganthau's Assistant Secretary, Harry Dexter White, who was later exposed as a Soviet agent.
Winston Churchill, at least initially, was not a supporter of the concept. His sense of history was sufficiently developed for him to know that a prosperous Germany was essential to a prosperous Europe. A "pastoralized" Germany would mean that Europe and England would be "chained to a dead body," to use the British Prime Minister's colorful phrase. That sort of Europe could never recover from the war and would be ripe for eventual plucking by the Soviets. But Churchill, characteristically, changed his mind and finally agreed. The prospect, dangled alluringly before his eyes, of the capture by England of all of Germany's former overseas markets was too enticing.
What ultimately prevented the full implementation of the infamous Morganthau Plan was the outrage of many conservative leaders in the U.S., the strong aversion of the American people to the imposition of a vengeful, Carthaginian peace on Germany, and the beginning of the Cold War with the USSR.
Ike's "Gestapo Methods"
James Bacque, the author of the present volume, recounts this dark chapter in history to give his readers some sense of the strange psychology of those bleak days. This forms the foundation for his primary purpose, which is to bring to light the appalling actions, in 1945, of Dwight David Eisenhower, Commander of Allied Forces in Europe in World War II. If unconditional hatred towards defeated Germany typified the official Allied attitude, it was Eisenhower who transformed the abstract into the concrete. Thus, according to Bacque, when millions of Germans surrendered during the closing days of the war, Eisenhower ordered that they be incarcerated in prison camps hastily constructed without "shelter or other comforts," without medical supplies or aid, without sanitary facilities of any kind, and without sufficient food and water to maintain minimal health.
The camps were nothing more than open fields, surrounded by barbed wire, in which German prisoners stood ankle-deep in muck and human waste. Inmates frequently included not only defeated soldiers but also civilians, the aged, the sick, amputees, women, and children. Dysentery, septicemia, typhus, typhoid, and other dread diseases swept through the camps. Equally terrible were prisons under the administration of the French Army, in which Germans were held for future use as slave laborers in the reconstruction of France.
What is particularly shocking is that not only did Eisenhower order this abomination, but he perpetuated it by frustrating all attempts at alleviating the catastrophe as it developed. While the Allies were awash in an abundance of food, tents, medicine, and the like, Eisenhower complained of a non-existent "shortage." General George S. Patton blasted Eisenhower for using "Gestapo methods" against German prisoners and accused him of trying to decimate "the only semi-modern state in Europe so that Russia can swallow the whole."
Colonel Dr. Ernest F. Fisher, who fought in World War II and once served as the U.S. Army's Senior Historian, states in his Foreword to the book that, "starting in April 1945, the United States Army and the French Army casually annihilated about one million men, most of them in American camps .... Eisenhower's hatred ... produced the horror of death camps unequalled by anything in American military history ... an enormous war crime." For many Americans, especially those who remember the 40s and 50s, this statement will evoke a stunned silence -- Eisenhower the war criminal?
Eisenhower was tremendously popular, both as military hero and as President. It was therefore very difficult, in the late 1950s, for Americans to understand what Robert Welch was talking about when he wondered aloud (in a private letter later published as The Politician) about Ike's loyalty to America and to the West. In those days a few, including Welch, were already aware of Eisenhower's culpability in another criminal operation, known as "Keelhaul."
In this notorious action, also directly ordered by the Allied Commander, millions of anti-communist Russians and Ukrainians living in western Europe -- some of whom had escaped the USSR at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution -- were seized by American and British troops and shipped off in trucks and cattle cars to Soviet-occupied Eastern Europe. Stalin, needless to say, was delighted. Huge numbers of people were butchered on the spot. The rest were sent to labor camps throughout the Soviet empire. Ike's apologists later pleaded that he was innocent of this crime inasmuch as he was only "following orders" from Washington. ("Operation Keelhaul" is discussed by other historians and is not within the scope of James Bacque's Other Losses.)
Robert Welch Vindicated
Through meticulous documentation, Bacque establishes a solid case against Eisenhower. The "only following orders" alibi (which, incidentally, was never accepted as a defense in the trials of German and Japanese military officers after World War II) will not stand up even to casual scrutiny in this case. Given this fact -- and considering the uncooperative, even hostile attitude of official American and British archivists to Bacque's research into this cover-up, and the positive response the author received from several renowned historians, including Stephen E. Ambrose, author of The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower -- one is forced to conclude that the judgment made by Welch, over 30 years ago, has been vindicated. However appealing his broad smile and congenial exterior, General Eisenhower was evidently a man driven by an agenda quite the opposite of that usually ascribed to him.
Surely, there is more literature on the Second World War than on any other war in history. New books on various aspects of this very sad epoch appear continually, most of them exceedingly superficial in content. Yet, no other war is so shrouded in secrecy. "Prudent" historians, though they may happen occasionally on an uncomfortable truth, avoid publishing the controversial and thereby earn the plaudits of the powerful. To our ultimate detriment, large segments of this history remain veiled in a thick mist and a genuine conspiracy of silence prevails. However, we know that James Bacque is not among those "prudent" historians because his book, though carefully researched and superbly written, was refused by every mainstream American publisher. (If you doubt that a conspiracy of silence exists, try to order this book from one of the major chain-store book dealers.)
Conservatives, because they are people who learn from history, always prefer an uncomfortable truth to a comfortable lie. They should therefore much appreciate this book. Other Losses does not make for pleasant reading. It is not a book for the squeamish. It exposes a major war atrocity. But, at the same time, it demonstrates that crimes against humanity were not committed exclusively by the leaders of one side or the other in that most terrible of wars. More to the point, Other Losses helps us to realize that there is no such thing as "collective guilt." Individual men sometimes commit crimes, but whole nations do not. Thus, if there is no "collective guilt," there should be no "collective punishment." To understand this is to understand the difference between civilization and barbarism.