Tuesday, January 2, 2007


This is a comment I posted, or tried to post, at The Captain's Journal relating to the post Eschatology and Counterterrorism Warfare by Herschel Smith 12/31/06.  But I got a message saying a filter caught it so I'm not sure if it will actually appear there or not.  But here it is.  It deals with an historical issue on the postwar occupation of Germany:

I'm dubious about the claims on the Werewolves made in the last quotation in your post.  The extent of violent resistance in postwar Germany became a current topic in 2003 when Don Rumsfeld and Condi Rice tried to dismiss the growing insurgency in Iraq by comparisons to postwar Germany.  I don't think there's any real-time propaganda stake in the issue today, since it's hard to imagine anyone trying to argue that Germany four years after V-E Day was in a full-blown civil war of the kind going on in Iraq now.

Daniel Benjamin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of the leading American experts on terrorism, argued that Rummy and Condi were wrong on that point in Condi's Phony History by Slate 08/29/03:

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."

Healso cites the RAND study  America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq (2003) by James Dobbins RAND Institute, which says:

U.S. officials anticipated and planned to deal with significant residual German resistance following the surrender of its armed forces. Yet no resistance of consequence emerged then or at any time thereafter, much as in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy (see Chapter Five). The large number of U.S. and allied military forces in West Germany and the establishment of a strong constabulary force preempted most resistance. Indeed, the constabulary force was specifically created to respond to incidents of civil unrest, conduct mounted and dismounted police patrols, interdict smuggling operations, and aid in intelligence gathering. This contrasts starkly with nation-building efforts in such countries as Bosnia, which were marred by organized crime and civil unrest.

James Carafano at the Heritage Foundation Web site defended the administration's claims against Benjamin's criticisms in A Phony "Phony History" 09/23/03.  He wrote:

What [Benjamin] 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.

I'm not familiar with Biddiscombe's book and I haven't yet seen a review of it.  I also haven't found the figure of 39 combat deaths he used, but that Military History Center Web site would take a while to search for such a thing.  But this article at the History News Network, So Iraq Is Like Germany? (scroll down), originally at the Web site of radio station WNYC 08/29/03, quotes Biddiscombe himself from an interview:

But according to Perry Biddiscombe, a historian of postwar Germany who wrote a 1998 book on the Werewolves, the force was designed only to assist the German army in winning the war. It was not created to be an underground movement after a German defeat.

As a result, Biddiscombe said, Rice is correct that the Werewolves attacked U.S. troops -- but the only documented assaults took place before the Nazis capitulated on May 7, 1945.

"After the end of the war there's a lot more ambiguity," said Biddiscombe, who teaches European history at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

One reason for that ambiguity is that a few days before the Nazi surrender, the SS officially disbanded the Werewolves. But in the last month of the war, as Germany collapsed, Nazi radio propaganda called on Germans to take up arms to resist the occupying forces. Members of the Hitler Youth vowed to join the Werewolves in attacking Allied troops, and some other Germans who resisted after the surrender adopted the term "Werewolves" to describe themselves.

I wasn't able to locate the original source or author of the last quote in your post.  A search for the name of Gen. Berzarin turned up many references apparently quoting from a passage used in a post by the Wall Street Journal's James Tarantino, "General N.E. Berzarin, who was rumoured to have been waylaid..."

But Tarantino didn't give the author or the name of the article and linked only to the general Web site of History Today, and I couldn't find the article in a search on their Web site.

I'm curious now about Biddiscombe's book and also about the "explosion in the Bremen police headquarters ... in June 1945, [that] killed five Americans and thirty-nine Germans".  I don't recall coming across that before.

I know that there was considerable lawlessness in German cities in the months following V-E Day, particularly by roving gangs of young people.  But if that Bremen explosion occurred and was the work of anti-Allied resistence fighters, that would be easily the most significant of such actions I ever heard of.

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