Condi's Phony History
Sorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq.
As American post-conflict combat deaths in Iraq overtook the wartime number, the administration counseled patience. "The war on terror is a test of our strength. It is a test of our perseverance, our patience, and our will," President Bush told an American Legion convention.
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice embellished the message with what former White House speechwriters immediately recognize as a greatest-generation pander. "There is an understandable tendency to look back on America's experience in postwar Germany and see only the successes," she told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio, Texas, on Aug. 25:
But as some of you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers—called 'werewolves'—engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them—much like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants.
Speaking to the same group on the same day, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld noted:
One group of those dead-enders was known as "werewolves." They and other Nazi regime remnants targeted Allied soldiers, and they targeted Germans who cooperated with the Allied forces. Mayors were assassinated including the American-appointed mayor of Aachen, the first major German city to be liberated. Children as young as 10 were used as snipers, radio broadcasts, and leaflets warned Germans not to collaborate with the Allies. They plotted sabotage of factories, power plants, rail lines. They blew up police stations and government buildings, and they destroyed stocks of art and antiques that were stored by the Berlin Museum. Does this sound familiar?
Well, no, it doesn't. The Rice-Rumsfeld depiction of the Allied occupation of Germany is a farrago of fiction and a few meager facts.
Werwolf tales have been a favorite of schlock novels, but the reality bore no resemblance to Iraq today. As Antony Beevor observes in The Fall of Berlin 1945, the Nazis began creating Werwolf as a resistance organization in September 1944. "In theory, the training programmes covered sabotage using tins of Heinz oxtail soup packed with plastic explosive and detonated with captured British time pencils," Beevor writes. "… Werwolf recruits were taught to kill sentries with a slip-knotted garrotte about a metre long or a Walther pistol with silencer. …"
In practice, Werwolf amounted to next to nothing. The mayor of Aachen was assassinated on March 25, 1945, on Himmler's orders. This was not a nice thing to do, but it happened before the May 7 Nazi surrender at Reims. It's hardly surprising that Berlin sought to undermine the American occupation before the war was over. And as the U.S. Army's official history, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946, points out, the killing was "probably the Werwolf's most sensational achievement."
Indeed, the organization merits but two passing mentions in Occupation of Germany, which dwells far more on how docile the Germans were once the Americans rolled in—and fraternization between former enemies was a bigger problem for the military than confrontation. Although Gen. Eisenhower had been worrying about guerrilla warfare as early as August 1944, little materialized. There was no major campaign of sabotage. There was no destruction of water mains or energy plants worth noting. In fact, the far greater problem for the occupying forces was the misbehavior of desperate displaced persons, who accounted for much of the crime in the American zone.
The Army history records that while there were the occasional anti-occupation leaflets and graffiti, the GIs had reason to feel safe. When an officer in Hesse was asked to investigate rumors that troops were being attacked and castrated, he reported back that there had not been a single attack against an American soldier in four months of occupation. As the distinguished German historian Golo Mann summed it up in The History of Germany Since 1789:
The [Germans'] readiness to work with the victors, to carry out their orders, to accept their advice and their help was genuine; of the resistance which the Allies had expected in the way of 'werewolf' units and nocturnal guerrilla activities, there was no sign. …
Werwolf itself was filled not so much by fearsome SS officers but teenagers too young for the front. Beevor writes:
In the west, the Allies found that Werwolf was a fiasco. Bunkers prepared for Werwolf operations had supplies "for 10-15 days only" and the fanaticism of the Hitler Youth members they captured had entirely disappeared. They were "no more than frightened, unhappy youths.
Few resorted to the suicide pills which they had been given "to escape the strain of interrogation and, above all, the inducement to commit treason." Many, when sent off by their controllers to prepare terrorist acts, had sneaked home.
That's not quite the same as the Rumsfeld version, which claimed that:
Today the Nazi dead-enders are largely forgotten, cast to the sidelines of history because they comprised a failed resistance and managed to kill our Allied forces in a war that saw millions fight and die.
It's hard to understand exactly what Rumsfeld was saying, but if he meant that the Nazi resisters killed Americans after the surrender, this would be news. According to America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, a new study by former Ambassador James Dobbins, who had a lead role in the Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo reconstruction efforts, and a team of RAND Corporation researchers, the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany—and Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan cases—was zero
So, how did this fanciful version of the American experience in postwar Germany get into the remarks of a Princeton graduate and former trustee of Stanford's Hoover Institute (Rumsfeld) and the former provost of Stanford and co-author of an acclaimed book on German unification (Rice)? Perhaps the British have some intelligence on the matter that still has not been made public. Of course, as the president himself has noted, there is a lot of revisionist history going around.
A Phony "Phony History
What irony: In opposing President Bush's actions in post-war Iraq, some critics who accuse the administration of engaging in "revisionist history" are rewriting history themselves.
What sparked their charge was a pair of speeches given Aug. 25 to the Veterans of Foreign War by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In discussing the problems facing allied occupation forces in Iraq, Rice and Rumsfeld referred to problems encountered by occupation forces in post-World War II Germany to show that post-conflict operations are often fraught with danger and difficulties.
The comparisons sent ex-NSC staffer Daniel Benjamin, a former Clinton National Security Council aide, on the warpath. In an Aug. 29 article in Slate magazine, scathingly titled "Condi's Phony History: Sorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq," Benjamin takes Rice and Rumsfeld to task for mentioning the Werwolf, Nazi agents trained to carry out acts of sabotage against the occupying forces.
Benjamin doesn't deny the Werwolf existed, but he dismisses their significance. "In practice," he sniffs, "Werwolf amounted to next to nothing." The idea that Allied Forces encountered any meaningful confrontation after Germany's surrender he rejects as merely "a greatest-generation pander."
This view of post-war Nazi resistance quickly gained currency in the mainstream press. Articles in The Christian Science Monitor and The Washington Post quoted Benjamin to suggest that the administration was guilty of exaggerating conditions in postwar Europe.
But Rice and Rumsfeld had it about right. And their main message -- that no one can reasonably expect any occupation to be bloodless, frictionless and effortless -- should be above dispute.
In his Slate article, Benjamin tries to prove the administration guilty of "sexing up" the German occupation by citing two history books that have almost nothing to say on the subject. That's hardly what you'd call evidence.
Further, he minimizes the significance of what those books report about the Werwolf resistance. Sure, there was guerrilla warfare, but measured by Benjamin's grand scale, "… little materialized." Additionally, he assures us, there was "no major campaign of sabotage … no destruction of water mains or energy plants worth noting" (emphasis added). Benjamin appears fully committed to "sexing down" the situation whenever possible.
What he apparently didn't bother to do is read Perry Biddiscombe's Werwolf! The History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement, 1944-1946, which gives full chapter and verse on Nazi-postwar guerrilla operations. It's true that the Werwolf was poorly organized, and the threat of attacks greatly subsided after a few months of occupation. But they were very real. A survey of records by the U.S. Army Center of Military History shows that at least 39 combat deaths occurred in the first few months of the occupation. If the Nazis had been better organized, the Werwolf might well have given World War II GIs as much trouble as the thugs in Iraq are generating now.
And Werwolves weren't the only problem. Violent crime, thievery and black-marketing were rampant. Germans incessantly complained to U.S. military officials about inadequate public safety. And these threats paled in comparison to the physical privations. Many feared masses of Germans would freeze or starve to death in the first winter after the war. To suggest that the first year of occupation was anything less than a dreadful, harrowing experience for many Germans is just bad history.
Making the postwar reconstruction of Europe appear like a walk in the park suggests that somehow this administration must have screwed things up terribly to face such a plethora of problems. In fact, history suggests the opposite.
Occupations are rarely easy. And it's understandable that the Pentagon couldn't completely and precisely predict the postwar conditions it would face in Iraq. In time of conflict, it's impossible to fully anticipate the end state--what the country will look like after the war. There is a "fog of peace" fully as dense as the "fog of war," the phrase Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz used to describe why battles never go as planned.
Misusing the past offers little insight to understanding the scope of the challenge the United States faces today. In truth, the key to success in Iraq is to take a page from the occupations in postwar Europe: Stand-up a legitimate government and domestic police forces, and let the people rebuild their own country.
It took four years to do that in post World War II Germany. Sometimes it takes that much time and effort to be on the right side of history.
James Jay Carafano, author of Waltzing into the Cold War: The Struggle for Occupied Austria and a former instructor at the U.S. Military Academy, is a senior research fellow for defense and homeland security at The Heritage Foundation.
The occupation of Germany, the occupation of Iraq, many parallels
September 1, 2003
There is a lot of talk in the mainstream media these days about how poorly things are going in Iraq. Most of the media people doing most of the complaining know nothing of the burdens of sitting in the decision chair, and most know precious little about confronting and solving difficult problems after a major military victory is won.
That said, if they were students of history, they would know that there are some strong parallels between what we experienced after the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II and what we are experiencing now following the defeat of the Hussein government in Iraq.
The Truman administration faced many tough problems following the war which have parallels with what the Bush administration and all of us face today with regard to Iraq.
US National Security Advisor Rice drew the parallel before a recent American Legion convention:
There is an understandable tendency to look back on America's experience in postwar Germany and see only the successes," she told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio, Texas, on Aug. 25. "But as some of you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers—called 'werewolves'—engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them—much like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants.
First, we want to present some excerpts from President Truman's broadcast on May 8, 1945, to announce that Nazi Germany had surrendered:
General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all Europe...Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and the heartbreak which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty ... We can repay the debt which we owe to our God, to our dead, and to our children only by work-by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is-work, work, work ... We must work to bind up the wounds of a suffering world-to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law. We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work-by understanding and working with our Allies in peace as we have in war ... The job ahead is no less important, no less urgent, no less difficult than the task which now happily is done ... I call upon every American to stick to his post until the last battle is won. Until that day, let no man abandon his post or slacken his efforts.
As an aside, in this day of criticizing the principle that ours is "one nation under God," President Truman said these things in his formal proclamation:
The Allied Armies, through sacrifice and devotion and with God's help, have wrung from Germany a final and unconditional surrender ... For the triumph of spirit and of arms which we have won, and for its promise to peoples everywhere who join us in the love of freedom, it is fitting that we, as a nation, give thanks to Almighty God, who has strengthened us and given us the victory ... Now, therefore, I, Harry S. Truman, President of the United States of America, do hereby appoint Sunday, May 13, 1945, to be a day of prayer. I call upon the people of the United States, whatever their faith, to unite in offering joyful thanks to God for the victory we have won and to pray that He will support us to the end of our present struggle and guide us into the way of peace.
Once the war with Germany was declared "over," the US had to face very significant issues. The first was our failure to take action against the killing of Europe's Jews by the Nazis. The second was the debate on how a defeated, conquered Germany should be occupied, governed and eventually restored to the community of nations.
We want to focus on the second issue.
We commend to your attention a book by Alexander Perry Biddiscombe, entitled History of the National Socialist Guerrilla Movement/ The book was published in March 1998 while Biddiscombe was Assistant Professor of History at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. It is rated as the most complete history to date of the partisan movement set up by the Nazi regime in Germany in the last days of the Second World War.
Well, let's take a look at the Werwolf. Some historians such as Antony Beevo have said this organization did not really exist as any significant Nazi guerrilla movement. Biddiscombe takes that view to task and reviewers of his work argue that he did so in a most convincing way. According to Biddiscombe, the Werwolf was a very active guerrilla organization that refused to surrender to the Allies even after their government had done so. They retreated into the Black Forest and Harz mountains to fight until at least 1947 and some say until the end of the 1940s.
The Werwolf is thought to have had about 5,000 members. Both the British and Americans were attacked by them. Major John Poston, who had been with Field Marshal Montgomery in the desert, in Sicily and in northwest Europe, and served as a liaison officer for the field marshal, was ambushed in his jeep and killed. On 24th March, 1945, the Lord Mayor of Aachen was assassinated by Werewolf agents. He was not the only US appointed official to die at the hands of the partisans, but he was the most important. The Commander of the 3rd Armored Division, General Maurice Rose, was allegedly assassinated by Werewolf agents in Padeborn.
Radio Werwolf bragged that "the arm of the National Socialist Party was long and that its agents, the Werwolf, were vigilant, ruthless killers." The radio station broadcast a call to arms claiming itself to be the organization of National Socialist Freedom Fighters. The radio station vowed that the Werwolf would never bow to the enemy and would employ every means to damage the enemy. Perhaps more important, the radio station told the German people that the Werwolf was employing its own judicial system to decide the life and death of German traitors.
Back in those days, American retaliation was ruthless and swift. The Americans were overwhelmed by the notion that the Werwolf presented a serious threat and that there was a distinct possibility that a major resistance movement would take hold once again in an Alpine redoubt.
Let's change gears just a bit, and look at the state of Germany following the war.
James Rolleston of Duke University wrote this of post-war Germany, which was published by the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, in its "South Atlantic Review":
For someone living in Germany in 1945 ... it was widely thought that the occupation would last decades, that it was quite possible Germany would never be a democracy ... It is impossible to overstate the disastrousness of the social and physical landscape of 1945 Germany, the so-called Stunde Null , zero hour. Every city in ruins, no transport or industry functioning, no political institutions, refugees everywhere. It has often been described how the entering American forces had to construct immediately a host of bureaucratic categories in order both to initiate functioning local governments and to keep former Nazis out of them. In such total flux no regulation could be immutable and no preconceived plan ... could be acted on. All was improvisation, nothing outweighed the restoration of viable living conditions ... The French and Russians were intent on reparations from the Germans; the Americans brought a program of universalist, New Deal-style democracy ... To pursue democratic goals meant to engage Germans in the process.
It is worth noting that Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. did have a plan for post-war Germany. Morgenthau drafted a punitive plan that would have removed all German industry and converted Germany to a "pastoral" state. He was able to get preliminary approval from FDR and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Quebec Conference in September 1944. But opponents argued that Germany could hardly feed itself before the war, and needed its industrial and coal-mining revenue to pay for the rest of its food. The Morgenthau plan was discarded, in part because the Soviets took over some of Germany's most fertile land . But the truth is that there was no choice but to rebuild the German manufacturing sector that had its center in the western sectors.
This is certainly no exhaustive study, but simply tweaks one’s urge to study more history and search for the parallels that might exist with regard to today’s situation in Iraq. We see several:
There was no consensus plan immediately following the war with Germany that addressed what to do about post-war Germany. It took several years for the Marshall Plan to emerge. In the interim, and after, there was a great deal of improvisation. The focus during the war years was on winning. That the Bush administration might not have had a consensus plan on what to do about post-war Iraq should come as no surprise. That the Bush administration might be improvising as its moves down the track should come as no surprise either. The reality is that Americans are great at improvisation, because they are independent thinkers, innovators and creative.
That said, President Truman recognized that the US faced significant responsibilities in Germany following the war. He knew there was a good deal of work ahead, that the job ahead was as important as the job just finished. He called on all Americans to dig in and help. President Bush has concluded much the same about Iraq and made similar pleas.
There was a Nazi resistance movement in post-war Germany that continued to disturb peace and stability for several years after the war, until at least 1947, perhaps even until 1949-1950. There was debate on how significant this movement was. At the time, many in the US were obsessed by it and many military mistakes were made by focusing too heavily on it. Americans, Britons and innocent Germans died at the hands of the Werwolf. There is a resistance movement in Iraq as well, and its members have killed Americans, Britons and Iraqis. While the US is working hard to deal with these thugs, thus far it has refrained from committing atrocities and making major military blunders as was done after WWII in Germany. The US is trying to rebuild and handle the thugas at the same time, and is to be congratulated for that.
The Werwolf had a mouthpiece in Radio Werwolf, and the Iraqi guerrillas have similar mouthpieces throughout the Arab world. There is a consistency in the theme --- to scare the citizens and threaten them with being treated as traitors should they come to support their occupiers.
There were many who said democracy in Germany had no chance, just as there are many who say today that democracy in Iraq has no chance. Of course, Germany today is one of the world’s great democracies. The Americans are not seeking retribution and reparations from the Iraqis, just as was the cae in Germany. They are simply seeking to keep the Ba’athists out, as they sought to keep the Nazis out, and they are seeking to pursue democratic goals meant to engage Iraqis in the process just as was done with the Germans.
It is most interesting to note that the Americans planned to restore and use German industrial and coal-mining revenues as the means to help Germans eat. The Bush administration is planning the same for Iraqi oil revenues.
Given the events that came to pass after the Bush Administration's comparison, the most striking difference is the fact that in Iraq, many more (over twenty times as many) coalition soldiers were killed in combat after victory had been declared by President Bush on 1 May 2003 than had been killed during the initial invasion. In Germany, not a single Allied soldier was ever proven to have been killed as a result of hostile action after the German surrender on 8 May 1945. Another is that Biddiscombe maintains that what little resistance to the occupation there was in Germany had evaporated within two years of the end of the war, while violent opposition to the occupation of Iraq and its new government has continued (as of this writing) for more than six years after the invasion.
What If Hitler Had Not Killed Himself?
By Mark Grimsley
In 1943, Brig. Gen. William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan, director of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), asks Walter C. Langer, a prominent psychoanalyst, to produce a psychological profile of Adolf Hitler. Langer scrutinizes a mountain of documentary evidence about Hitler and interviews a score of German refugees who have known Hitler personally. The resulting report covers Hitler's troubled childhood, his megalomania, even his sexual pathologies, and concludes with an assessment of his likely future behavior.
One course that Hitler could choose strikes Langer as both "a real possibility" and, from an Allied perspective, the most dangerous. "When he is convinced that he cannot win," Langer writes, "he may lead his troops into battle and expose himself as the fearless and fanatical leader." Langer presumes that Hitler would fight at the head of Wehrmacht or Waffen SS units and would die in combat—an end that would inspire his followers to fight on with "fanatical, death-defying determination to the bitter end" and "would do more to bind the German people to the Hitler legend and insure his immortality than any other course he could pursue."
But what happens in the spring of 1945, as Allied armies invade Germany from east and west, is even worse. Hitler indeed leads his troops into battle, but not in a way that Langer could ever have anticipated. Moreover, his "troops" belong to no conventional military force. Rather, they are shadows that seem everywhere and nowhere: the "Werewolves."
Werewolves can be anyone at all: SS members and army veterans; officers who remain devoted to their oath of loyalty to Hitler; and, above all, civilian men, women, and even children who pick up any of the millions of rifles, grenades, and antitank weapons that litter the ruins of the Third Reich. The Werewolves have no organization. They have no officers in the normal sense. Their leader is a voice on the clandestine but ubiquitous "Werewolf Radio": the voice of Adolf Hitler, the voice of their unconquered and unconquerable Führer.
"All means are right to harm the enemy," the voice declaims. "Our towns in the west, destroyed by cruel air terror, the hungry men and women along the Rhine, have taught us to hate the enemy. Our raped women and murdered children in the occupied east territories scream for revenge." Werewolves must ambush the enemy's soldiers and sabotage his supply lines, the voice continues, and kill without mercy all collaborators. "Hate is our prayer," the voice concludes, "revenge our battle cry!"
In the months that follow, Werewolves slay hundreds of Allied soldiers. They murder thousands of "traitors." They sabotage supply dumps and derail trains. An orderly occupation of the country is impossible, for Nazi Germany, though entirely overrun, has not surrendered—cannot surrender—in any legitimate sense. Instead American, British, French, and Soviet soldiers must conduct an intensive search for the Werewolves—and for Hitler. In time Werewolf Radio falls silent, and it is whispered that Hitler has died. But no one can prove it. Fueled by the Hitler mystique, the Werewolf insurgency continues for years.
The above scenario is historically accurate in several details. Psychoanalyst Walter C. Langer did indeed produce an extensive report for the OSS, speculating that Hitler might choose to fight on. As evidence of such a possibility, he pointed to apocalyptic statements by Hitler such as one declaring that "we shall not capitulate…no, never. We may be destroyed, but if we are, we shall drag a world with us…a world in flames."
And the Werewolves did indeed exist. Initially conceived by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler as highly trained guerrillas supporting the conventional war effort, but then became an umbrella group including any German involved in partisan resistance against the Allies. The change occurred primarily through the efforts of propaganda minister Josef Göbbels, who believed that the same underground resistance the Wehrmacht had encountered in occupied countries—especially the Soviet Union and France—could arise in Germany and, fueled by Nazi fanaticism, increase exponentially.
It was Göbbels who founded Werewolf Radio. Ostensibly a chain of clandestine mobile radio stations in the occupied territories, it was really a single transmitter that, historically, was overrun by the Red Army on April 23, 1945. It was Göbbels, not Hitler, who made the incendiary broadcast that ended "Hate is our prayer, revenge our battle cry!" And, to a limited extent, the Werewolf popular resistance did operate in postwar Germany. Their symbol was an ancient rune sign resembling a lightning bolt. The leading historian of the movement, Perry Biddiscombe, estimates that "hundreds of people—perhaps over a thousand—died as a direct result of Werewolf attacks," and that Werewolves continued to operate as late as 1947.
The Werewolf movement never became a serious impediment to the Allies, however, in large measure because Hitler refused to concede the possibility of a German military downfall. For that reason any centralized attempt to organize a post-occupation resistance movement was squelched because it seemed inherently defeatist.
Had Hitler chosen to embrace the idea of a massive partisan uprising to continue the struggle even after Germany had been overrun and conventional military defense ended, however, he could have made it a reality, in the same way that the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein made plans for continued resistance after the occupation of Iraq by American and British forces in 2003. That effort flowered into a full-fledged insurgency by the end of 2004. True, the Allies had at least four million troops in Germany—nearly one for every 20 Germans. Even so, the ratio for a successful occupation in the face of continued guerrilla resistance is one for every 10.
Could such an insurgency have defeated the Allied occupiers? The answer is almost certainly no. But it would have been an obstacle to a substantial drawdown of Allied forces in the country, delayed the reunion of millions of displaced persons with surviving relatives, and vastly complicated efforts to restore normal government. Fortunately for the Allies, Langer proved correct in his prediction of the "most plausible" course Hitler would take. Hitler, he believed, would commit suicide.