Who Is Responsible?
by MICHAEL F. CONNORS
Certainly, the expulsion in 1945 of 14,000,000 Eastern Germans from their ancestral homeland by the Czechs, Poles, and Soviets with the tacit connivance of the Western Allies was a "war crime" by any standard. Moreover it took on distinctly macabre overtones when the discrepancy between the number expelled and those who actually reached Germany reached a possible three million mark.
Surely, too, the as yet little known fact that not Hitler but the British, by their own admission, initiated unrestricted bombing of civilian areas ought to merit for them membership in the select society of "war criminals." The unbelieving reader need only consult the testimony of the British officials J. M. Spaight and Sir Arthur Harris, for incontrovertible proof of this charge. A decision of the British Air Ministry made on May 11, 1940, to attack targets in Western Germany instituted the practice of bombing purely civilian objectives. This "epoch-making event," as F. J. P. Veale correctly describes it, marked an ominous departure from the rule that hostilities are to be limited to operations against enemy military forces alone. Spaight, former Principal Secretary of the Air Ministry, makes the following amazing comment on the decision of May 11, 1940:
Because we were doubtful about the psychological effect of propagandist distortion of the truth that it was we who started the strategic bombing offensive, we have shrunk from giving our great decision of May 11, 1940, the publicity it deserves. That surely was a mistake. It was a splendid decision.
But the "great decision," the "splendid decision" of May 11, 1940, which was ultimately to cost the lives of millions, including thousands of Mr. Spaight's own countrymen, was to have an even more grisly sequel, for, according to Sir Charles Snow who had charge of selecting scientific personnel for war research in Great Britain in World War II, F. A. Lindemann, a Cabinet member and confidant of Churchill, produced in early 1942 a remarkable Cabinet paper on the subject of the strategic bombing of Germany.
It described, in quantitative terms, the effect on Germany of a British bombing offensive in the next eighteen months (approximately March 1942-September 1943). The paper laid down a strategic policy. The bombing must be directed essentially against German working-class houses. Middle-class houses have too much space round them, and so are bound to waste bombs...
One wonders if it was the cultivated humanitarianism inherent in this decision to assure the death of more working class Germans per bomb which entitled the Allies, and in particular the British, to sit in moral judgment on German leaders at Nuremberg in 1946!
Can anyone doubt that the "Morgenthau Plan" which envisaged the destruction of the Ruhr mines, the pastoralization of a primarily industrial Germany, and the political dismemberment of Germany was a "war crime?" Had it been carried out rigorously, it would have been, as Freda Utley described it, "the greatest act of genocide perpetrated in modern times... At least thirty million people would have died of starvation." Though, fortunately, this diabolical scheme was never carried out to the letter, its spirit so permeated the occupational planning for Germany under the early "levels of industry" plans that for a long time after the war had ended Germans were deliberately kept on a diet far below that enjoyed by the inmates of Auschwitz up to almost the end of the war.
Who can doubt the criminal quality of the Soviet butchery of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn forest in 1940? Even the Nuremberg Tribunal resisted (albeit by inaction) Soviet attempts to lay that one at the door of Germany. Or perhaps the moral superiority of our "noble' Soviet allies, as we were fond of calling them, rested upon the manner in which they distinguished themselves in brutalizing the women of conquered lands. No doubt the enthusiastic response of the Soviet soldiery to the incitements of Ilya Ehrenburg to seize the women of Germany as the spoils of victory which resulted in the rape of half the women of Berlin alone lent substance to the pretensions of moral dignity assumed by the prosecuting powers at Nuremberg.
GERMAN "GUILT" IN PERSPECTIVE
Any final summation or balance sheet of German war crimes honestly verified, it may then be assumed, will most assuredly be balanced out by the sordid record of Germany's hypocritically self-righteous enemies.
At the heart of the conviction that German World War II atrocities were quantitatively and qualitatively without parallel in the annals of human experience is the as yet unverified allegation that, in the pursuit of a macabre "Final Solution," 6,000,000 Jews were cold-bloodedly murdered in gas chambers and before Einsatzkommando firing squads. The "evidence" presented in support of this charge to date has not been more persuasive than that used to substantiate the gruesome stories of German atrocity horrors spelled out in the long since discredited Bryce Report of 1915.
Neither the proceedings at Nuremberg in 1946 nor those associated with the recent trial of Adolf Eichmann were such as to inspire the confidence of the impartial investigator. Likewise the frenetic efforts of some academic scholars to prove the charge have fallen quite flat. But even if one should assume the worst to be true and, from the welter of conflicting numerical estimates as to the number of Jewish fatalities, accept the largest, 6,000,000, as undoubtedly correct, the number of victims of these German atrocities would still fall far short of the number of German, Japanese, and Italian non-combatants who perished at Allied hands as the result of mass population expulsions, saturation bombing of civilian centers, post-war deprivation, and Soviet massacres and political liquidations.
The simple fact then is that there is every reason to believe that a final accounting must exculpate Germany of any unique inhumanity in the waging of World War II, just as revisionist scholarship has exonerated her of sole or even primary guilt for the war itself.
Certainly there is no justification for those writers, and above all those academic "scholars," in the West who continue to parrot the crudities and distortions of yesteryear. There is a monotonous uniformity in all their interpretations, the fundamental error of which lies in the fact that they, in assessing the reasons for the demise of democracy and the rise of Nazi totalitarianism in Germany, ascribe primary or even sole causality to factors supposedly indigenous to German history and society. The alleged "weakness" or "ineptitude" of democratic Germans is a theme which runs like a red thread through most such treatments. Coupled with a "sinister streak" which has purportedly manifested itself in a diseased intellectual and political development and an alleged obsession with militarism, this usually suffices to "explain" for us "the course of German history" with its "logical culmination" in National Socialism.
As might be expected, such critics scarcely comment on the Allied "statesmen" at Versailles, who, in direct violation of the pre-Armistice agreements, imposed a punitive peace on the Reich. Nor have they much to say of the intransigence of Western "democratic" politicians who refused to make the slightest concessions to Germany during the interwar years. Non-German "guilt," however much it might have contributed to the rise of Hitler, is never a popular subject with them.
Germany during the Weimar era produced in Gustav Stresemann and Heinrich Brüning two of the ablest statesmen of the present century. These men were thoroughly "democratic" to the core.
Had either of these men been offered a fraction of the concessions to which they were entitled, the Weimar Republic could have been saved and the world spared the insane bloodbath of 1939-45, as well as the consequent alteration of the world balance of power to the advantage of the U.S.S.R. This was the portentous, terrifying essence of most genuinely crucial period in modem world history; what seems, indeed, to have marked the real beginning of the Decline of the West. It is a story in which the impartial historian can assign at most a very minor role to German villainy. If villains must be had, the historian must also look elsewhere: to Paris, to London, to Washington, and to Moscow, but only lastly to Berlin.
——— NOTES ———
 J. M. Spaight, Bombing Vindicated (London: Geoffrey Bles, Ltd., 1944) and Sir Arthur Harris, Bomber Offensive (London: Collins, 1947).
 F. J. P. Veale, Advance to Barbarism (Appleton: C. C. Nelson Publishing Company, 1953), p.122.
 Spaight, op.cit. p.7.
 C. P. Snow, Science and Government (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1961), p.48.
 Freda Utley, The High Cost of Vengeance (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1949), pp. 15-16.
 See F. J. P. Veale, War Crimes Discreetly Veiled (New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1959), pp. 38-51 and Joseph Mackiewicz, The Katyn Wood Murders (London: Hollis and Carter, 1951).
 The sickening story of Allied mishandling of the women of conquered lands, including Austrians, Germans, and Hungarians is well exposed in Austin J. App's brochure Ravishing the Women of Conquered Europe (San Antonio: Privately Printed, 1946).
 Gregory Frumkin, Population Changes in Europe Since 1939 (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, Inc., 1951) and Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution (New York: The Beechhurst Press, 1953).
 See particularly Henry L. Bretton, Stresemann And The Revision of Versailles (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1953) and Felix E. Hirsch, "Stresemann in Historical Perspective," The Review of Politics, July, 1953, pp. 360-377. On Brüning consult Hermann Lutz, German-French Unity (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1957), pp. 103, 108, 110, 118-123, 126-127, and 130 as well as Charles Callan Tansill's Backdoor To War (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1952), pp. 33-35.
Western Destiny – July 1964