As World War ll recedes into the mists of ancient history, while former enemies have ostensibly turned into allies, many of the ugly, grim realities of defeating Germany have been downplayed. One, that has special relevance today, is defeating post war terrorism.
Yes, after Germany's defeat, many Nazis became terrorist Werwolf (werewolves) according to a recently released book by Professor Perry Biddiscombe of the University of British Columbia.
After their military defeat by regular forces, the occupied population
produced terrorists who engaged in bombings, sniping, poisonings, and
other attacks on occupation forces and on the civilian population. They
operated as irregulars in small terror units, armed with automatic weapons
Women and minors as young as eight participated in the terror attacks.
They attempted to build weapons of mass destruction, using chemical
poisons. They assassinated officials of the occupation regime. They had a
special obsession with torturing and murdering "collaborators." They
murdered hundreds of civilians, while thousands of the terrorists
themselves were killed by the occupation armed forces. The occupiers
responded to terror with brutality and force, sometimes using collective
Sound familiar? But these terrorist were finally eliminated by an equally vicious counter force, especially by the Soviets who suffered terribly under the Germans during and after the war.
How were those terrorists eventually defeated? With brutal military force
and counter-terrorism combined with a long-term program of denazification
of German civilians.
The Soviets were by far the least squeamish of the Allies when it came to
suppressing Werwolf terrorism. According to a Vatican report, "Russian
reprisals were terrible. Using flame-throwers the Russians destroyed
entire blocks of houses causing the deaths of hundreds of the
And much, much more equally awful to our protected lives. However:
While such behavior may strike us as barbarous retaliation, Biddiscombe describes it thus: "None the less, given what the Werwolf was doing, or trying to do, the responses of the occupiers do not lay beyond the realm of comprehension." The Soviets were still concerned about threats of Werwolf sabotage and terror in Eastern Europe during the 1950's.
The French were second to the Soviets in the viciousness and ferocity of
their suppression of Werwolf terrorism. French soldiers pillaged German
areas as they fell under their control. Random beatings of Germans by the
French were common. The French forcibly expelled all German civilians from
numerous towns and villages in their area of control. General Le Clerc
issued an edict on November 25, 1944 to shoot five Germans for every act
of sniping near Strasbourg.
The French! Yes, the French after the war finally managed to fight back. Hard!
And as for the Americans
While American troops generally avoided the excesses of the Soviets and French, they were sharply criticized by the British for using excessive brutality and force in suppressing the Werwolf. General Eisenhower ordered the execution of all Werwolf fighters captured in civilian garb.
It was understood among U.S. troops that they had a green light for
applying frontier justice to terrorists, with no lawyers or trials. The
counterinsurgency manual issued by the Supreme Headquarters Allied
Expedition Force (SHAEF) recommended that troops simply ignore Geneva Convention rules when dealing with the Werwolf.
SHAEF instructions allowed using captive Germans in forced labor; seizure of German civilians as hostages; collective punishment; shooting of hostages; and massive bombings of civilian areas containing terrorists.
Threats to shoot all curfew violators were commonly made. At Lutzkampen, Allied troops threatened to burn down the village if there were any violations of curfew.
And the lessons for today?
While no one in his or her right mind would advocate some of the more
excessive means used to suppress the German terrorists of the late 1940's, that era nevertheless teaches us that a determined no-nonsense campaign of wiping out terrorism with armed force is capable of succeeding, even against the most brutal of opponents. Determined denazification of fanatic violent populations was also shown to work.
Such success is not easy, nor does it come cheaply.
However, not suppressing terrorism, while seemingly easier in the short term, is extraordinarily difficult to live with the more it is allowed to continue, not to mention eliminate.
The lesson to be learned: Squeamishness regarding terrorism is deadly in the long run. The Americans must learn that, the Israelis and indeed, all the peoples that ultimately want to live in peace and safety.
Hat tip: Jack Kemp (not the politician)
Douglas Hanson adds:
Countering the Werewolves while simultaneously dealing with the non-drawdown of Soviet troops in the Eastern Zone presented unprecedented challenges to the Western Allies after WWII, as I wrote about a few years ago. The US, and eventually the new treaty organization of NATO, brutally suppressed the terrorists as Ethel Fenig says. It was not unheard of for even US forces to have a one to 13 "kill ratio" - that is for every GI killed, there were 13 terrorists executed.
Armored cavalry units were ideally equipped to provide the right amount of firepower, and mobile, armored reconnaissance capabilities to police wide areas of the countryside. Hence, their reorganization into Constabulary Regiments. Conversations with Constabulary veterans are enlightening to say the least. For example, Germans were not allowed to possess firearms for a few years after VE Day. No quarter was given by the Constabulary. Anyone observed with a firearm was shot on sight - man, woman, or child.
Ethel Fenig is correct. The lessons from our post-WWII experience has apparently been lost on the leaders of our kinder and gentler military.