12th SS in Normandy

Discussion in 'Veteran Accounts' started by canuck, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. pzjgr

    pzjgr Member

    Ike,

    I would draw your attention to the word 'systemic' used in my original post. That individual Canadian soldiers killed prisoners is not a fact in dispute. It is the consistent pattern on the part of the organization which differentiates the behaviour from being individual to that of implementing policy.

    I'd be interested in more details on the recent release of documents that your referenced.

    Here we are talking about the fighting between the Canadians and the HJ.....so in this context there have been equal infractions. Quite different than talking about conduct between Allied forces and German forces in the war as a whole of which I would agree with you.
     
  2. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Here we are talking about the fighting between the Canadians and the HJ.....so in this context there have been equal infractions. Quite different than talking about conduct between Allied forces and German forces in the war as a whole of which I would agree with you.

    Actually, I take exception to the term "equal infractions". The Canadians fighting in other theatres did not have the reputation for the savagery seen in the Normandy campaign. In fact, the same Canadian units were not noted for that behaviour in later actions in North West Europe. The same can certainly not be said of SS formations.
    Given that 156 Canadian prisoners were murdered within the first few days of encountering the 12th SS, I would suggest that it was a situational response to the SS policy of 'no quarter asked or given'.
     
  3. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    Jean Paul Pallaud gives some information on what may ( I repeat "may") have ignited the situation between the 12 SS and the Canadians.
    I will have to go look this up in his "R.M" but it does shed some light on what may have been a factor in the situation developing.
     
  4. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Jean Paul Pallaud gives some information on what may ( I repeat "may") have ignited the situation between the 12 SS and the Canadians.
    I will have to go look this up in his "R.M" but it does shed some light on what may have been a factor in the situation developing.

    Anything to do with the Inns of Court Regt?
     
  5. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    From memory Andy, some officers taken prisoner - enemy fire prevented them being taken back to British lines and a junior officer made a hasty decision to shoot them , some escaped and made it back to German lines into the hands of 12th SS to tell of their experience.
    JPP does name the officers and it does appear to have been an actual event but to what extent it actually set in train a chain of events, perhaps it did have an influence.
     
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    ATB's D-Day has the German officers strapped to the front of their vehicles to use as human shields IIRC.

    It's all a bit to '4 years late for me' to be really interested. But there is no doubt in my mind that the Allies didn't play by the rules all of the time in NWE.
     
  7. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    True Andy , there are plenty of photos showing German POW's on Allied vehicles , eg sitting on the front of Jeeps , (and Britsh POW's on the engine compartments of German halftracks).
     
  8. pzjgr

    pzjgr Member

    Actually, I take exception to the term "equal infractions". The Canadians fighting in other theatres did not have the reputation for the savagery seen in the Normandy campaign. In fact, the same Canadian units were not noted for that behaviour in later actions in North West Europe. The same can certainly not be said of SS formations.
    Given that 156 Canadian prisoners were murdered within the first few days of encountering the 12th SS, I would suggest that it was a situational response to the SS policy of 'no quarter asked or given'.

    We are saying the same thing. In this particular period of the war, both sides shot prisoners. Regardless of who started it or the numbers of prisoners shot.....both sides did it. We are talking about the fighting between the Canadians and the HJ. Has there been any documented repeated shooting of prisoners or policies of no quarter by the 5th Panzer Division Wiking? How about the 6th SS Mountain Division Nord or the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohestaufen?

    I am not an SS apologist or pro nazi but let's not play angels here. War is war and both sides played dirty at times.
     
  9. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    We are saying the same thing. In this particular period of the war, both sides shot prisoners. Regardless of who started it or the numbers of prisoners shot.....both sides did it. We are talking about the fighting between the Canadians and the HJ. Has there been any documented repeated shooting of prisoners or policies of no quarter by the 5th Panzer Division Wiking? How about the 6th SS Mountain Division Nord or the 9th SS Panzer Division Hohestaufen?

    I am not an SS apologist or pro nazi but let's not play angels here. War is war and both sides played dirty at times.

    No, we aren't saying the same thing at all. Either I'm not adequately articulating the distinction or you can't see it. The random killing of prisoners is a fact of life in any infantry combat situation. In any war, with any army, this will occur in certain circumstances for a myriad of reasons. No argument on that point and yes, Canadians did it too.

    So, if a Corporal in the North Nova Scotia Highlanders killed an HJ prisoner on June 7th, 1944, for whatever motivation, that is an exception but also not an unexpected act. The distinction is that these were infrequent occurences, generally in the heat of battle and close to the front. No one has ever said that Canadians killed large numbers of unarmed SS prisoners, well after their capture, in rear areas and on the direct orders of battalion commanders as was the well documented behaviour of the 12th SS.

    You simply cannot compare the independent acts of individuals with the consistent, systematic and widespread actions of a large military unit. The travesty of the early prison release of Kurt Meyer was less offensive than the fact that Wilhelm Mohnke, Karl-Heinz Milius and Gerhard Bremer were never prosecuted.

    If I haven't made the argument convincingly enough, I would suggest the book: Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in (Howard Margolian)

    As for those few SS Divisions not accused of commiting atrocities, here is a partial list of those that did:

     
    James S and Za Rodinu like this.
  10. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    Pjgzr,
    Sorry, mate.
    Game, set, match.
    The facts stated by Canuck say it all.

    Cheers from just north of the 49th parallel.
     
  11. woapysittank

    woapysittank Member

    Lets not forget that 12th SS were carrying out atrocities before Normandy.

    At the end of March, 1944, the 12th SS Panzer Division 'Hitler Jugend' set out on 24 rail trucks for Normandy to cover the coast in anticipation of an Allied landing. The convoy, under the command of SS Obersturmführer Walter Hauck, was approaching the small railway station of Ascq when a violent explosion blew the line apart. Stopping the train, it was found that two flat trucks had been derailed, holding up the whole convoy. Hauck, in a foul mood, ordered his men to search and arrest all male members of the houses on both sides of the track. They were assembled together and marched down the track about 300 yards where each man was shot in the back of the head. Altogether 70 men were shot beside the railway line and another 16 killed in the village itself. After an investigation by the Gestapo, six more men were arrested and charged with planting the bomb. They were all executed by firing squad. When the war ended, a search for the perpetrators was set in motion. Most of the SS men were found in Allied POW camps in Europe and in England. In all, nine SS men stood trial in a French Military Court at Lille. All were sentenced to death, including Hauck. The sentences were later commuted to a period of imprisonment and Walter Hauck was released in July, 1957.
     
  12. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    I think you will find that in the case of Allied soldiers who shot POW's that it was the actions of the individual and yes war potentially does ( in the wrong circumstances) bring out the worst in people and this would be common to all sides.
    In respect of the SS and occasionally the Wehrmacht you find soldiers killing on the orders of a command system , this is an entirely different thing and IMO this is an entirely different ball game.
    The Wehrmacht talked about " eastern methods" and how they should not be employed in the West, Oradour , Lidice , Tulle , many villages in Greece and Italy - subjected to "eastern methods".

    Tapping Hitler's Generals: Transcripts of Secret Conversations, 1942-1945: Amazon.co.uk: Sonke Neitzel: Books

    This is an eye opener.

    Whilst I do not condone for a minute any war crime no matter who did what , where or when war is one of those insane events where nations and society takes leave of its senses and in the case of Hitler's Germany sections of that society were killing before the war ever started, his first victim being the German people themselves.

    [​IMG]

    Above two soldiers from the Waffen SS 18 year olds , was Hitler's cause worth their deaths ?
    When I saw their graves in la cambe amongst a sea of some 25,000 dead German soldiers 17 and 18 year olds are not hard to find, words from Kipplings "Common Form" and "A Dead Statesman" do spring to mind.

    "If any question why we died,
    Tell them because our father's lied."

    "What tales shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young"

    [​IMG]
    The man who set in train the destruction of Oradour , revenge for the killing of an Officer from "Das Reich" by the resistance.
    I can't say I felt anything on seeing his grave , other than wonder for all their deaths and your own death was anything you did worth it ?
    Such a waste of a community - forever now captured in the opening and closing words from "The World at War".

    The Canadian soldiers murdered by 12th SS , yes a war crime - no excuse.
     
  13. pzjgr

    pzjgr Member

    Well it was not just one Canadian soldier that shot one German soldier during the fighting around Caen. So y'all are saying that because it was not systematic throughout the unit that the shooting of prisoners that took place by the Canadians is justified? It is this thinking that I don't agree with and will speak against. The 'holier than thou' attitude. Yes, Germany had to be defeated. Yes, the Waffen SS did commit crimes against humanity. Yes, both sides shot prisoners. That is a fact. Period. Any kind of 'justification' is hogwash. Then you might as well accept the German response of 'we didn't know' to the holocaust.
     
  14. pzjgr

    pzjgr Member

    I ask you this, if the Waffen SS systematically killed prisoners of war, wouldn't those British paras who surrendered at Arnhem be dead? Why would Bittrich have agreed to a truce to take care of those wounded paratroopers? Systematic killing of prisoners taken...........I think not.

    As for those few SS Divisions not accused of commiting atrocities, here is a partial list of those that did:



    My listing of Waffen SS divisions that did not commit crimes was in response to the comment

    The Canadians fighting in other theatres did not have the reputation for the savagery seen in the Normandy campaign. In fact, the same Canadian units were not noted for that behaviour in later actions in North West Europe. The same can certainly not be said of SS formations.


    I never said Waffen SS divisions did not commit crimes. You are stereotyping by saying that Waffen SS divisions systematically commit crimes. This is the issue Germans today and even some of those from past have.....that all Germans were nazis and all Germans hated Jews. I do not need to read the book you referenced as I already know about that. I suggest you do some research on the formation of the Waffen SS and it's commanders. You will find that many of them were professional soldiers and those in the leadership wanted to shape the Waffen SS in the professional form as the Heere. Some of those conducted themselves as such. All that is known is the criminal aspect of the organization....of which should be remembered.
     
  15. pzjgr

    pzjgr Member

    Pjgzr,
    Sorry, mate.
    Game, set, match.
    The facts stated by Canuck say it all.

    Cheers from just north of the 49th parallel.

    Not quite. Apparently the facts provided of Waffen SS divisions not accused of war crimes seems unacceptable. As someone stated, can't argue with facts. I agree.

    My point is this. While the German atrocities were prosecuted, reports of allied atrocities against Germans were never pursued thoroughly, thus the lack of documented proof. The message seems clear. War crimes committed in a good cause are politically acceptable, perhaps regrettable, but such war crimes are prosecuted only on the side that loses the war.
     
  16. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    My mob took part in every major operation from Normandy onwards, In that time I never knew, or heard of any instances of enemy POW being ill treated. Or shot... Not a single one... Not even the SS !

    I fear to think what would be the consequences that would follow with British Army discipline......
     
  17. pzjgr

    pzjgr Member

    My mob took part in every major operation from Normandy onwards, In that time I never knew, or heard of any instances of enemy POW being ill treated. Or shot... Not a single one... Not even the SS !

    I fear to think what would be the consequences that would follow with British Army discipline......

    Kind sir, I agree that there has not been any accusations of British forces conducting themselves in such a manner. As some mentioned earlier, the conduct of the Allied forces cannot be compared to that of the Waffen SS in general and I agree with that. All allied forces (American, British, Canadian, French, Polish,etc..) fought an evil that had to be destroyed and for that we are ever thankful.
     
  18. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Saw a lot of action with the Americans. Around the Vire area. And at Falaise. What amused me, was the strict British army discipline that we had to turn out clean shaven, and smart, before going into action.... It seems that it we are you are to be killed, at least your corpse would be clean and tidy.

    The 12 SS.... our traditional enemy were good fighters. But we reduced them to a bloody awful shambles. We had a German Para Doctor that stayed with us for a while. Treating both Allied and German casualties.
     
  19. 17thDYRCH

    17thDYRCH Senior Member Patron

    I ask you this, if the Waffen SS systematically killed prisoners of war, wouldn't those British paras who surrendered at Arnhem be dead? Why would Bittrich have agreed to a truce to take care of those wounded paratroopers? Systematic killing of prisoners taken...........I think not.



    My listing of Waffen SS divisions that did not commit crimes was in response to the comment



    I never said Waffen SS divisions did not commit crimes. You are stereotyping by saying that Waffen SS divisions systematically commit crimes. This is the issue Germans today and even some of those from past have.....that all Germans were nazis and all Germans hated Jews. I do not need to read the book you referenced as I already know about that. I suggest you do some research on the formation of the Waffen SS and it's commanders. You will find that many of them were professional soldiers and those in the leadership wanted to shape the Waffen SS in the professional form as the Heere. Some of those conducted themselves as such. All that is known is the criminal aspect of the organization....of which should be remembered.

    Do I then read your thread correctly as saying the Waffen SS were the good part of the SS whereas the other SS formations were not? Seems to be a contradiction.
     
  20. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Well it was not just one Canadian soldier that shot one German soldier during the fighting around Caen. So y'all are saying that because it was not systematic throughout the unit that the shooting of prisoners that took place by the Canadians is justified? It is this thinking that I don't agree with and will speak against. The 'holier than thou' attitude. Yes, Germany had to be defeated. Yes, the Waffen SS did commit crimes against humanity. Yes, both sides shot prisoners. That is a fact. Period. Any kind of 'justification' is hogwash. Then you might as well accept the German response of 'we didn't know' to the holocaust.

    You're alleged logic has taken some bizarre twists and turns in this discussion. I made no attempt to justify (your word). I was trying to differentiate (my word). Seemingly, you are incapable of seeing the ongoing command and control element which pervades the SS killings. I'm also puzzled by your compulsion to continually try to equate the behaviour of the SS as being equal or no worse than that of British/Canadian troops. I'm not buying and there are a few veterans on this forum who would, I suspect, take strong issue with you on that point.

    Oh, and still waiting for that documentation you mentioned.
     

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