Your View Please -- Human Rights in WWII

Discussion in 'General' started by Passchendaele_Baby, Feb 25, 2009.

  1. Passchendaele_Baby

    Passchendaele_Baby Grandads Little Girl

    Sorry if this is in the wrong place, but I need two views [WWII Experts (you Guys), Un-Educated People] on the aspect of Human Rights in WWII.

    Sorry but I can't emphasise on 'views' any more, thats all we got told.

    :eek:fftpc: Anybody here know much of Grace Darling? - Sorry, completely off topic, but I was just wondering, I am her great-great-great [something like that] neice! :D

    Please Help!
  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Pass - there were NO human rights in WW2 - we just got on with it - the Human Rights industry - similar to the present Global Warming and Envirionmental industries are relatively recent and really stems from the Grandmotherly attitude of the United Nations which in turn is in apprenticship for the NEW WORLD ORDER and George Orwell's prophetic Animal Farm which will bring BIG brother into the mix - and so when your TV tells you to do something - you will obey -now the freedoms for which we fought in ww2 are gradually being eroded by these people and so i feel a great sorrow for my grandchildren who will have to live with this lot - and may God help thm all - but then - these people don't believe in God - they only believe in the 'RIGHTS OF MAN " - so there.. God doesn't have any rights anymore !

    If you are in anyway connected to Grace Darling - you should push your chest out a mile and a half - she was a great heroine - when heroines were popular for doing great and valourous deeds - Grace was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper off the coast of Yorkshire - in the middle of a storm - she ROWED a lifeboat out in tumultious waves to rescue a ships crew - successfully.

    no doubt some forum members can enlarge on that event - when they wake up in the a.m.

  3. Jim Clay

    Jim Clay Member

  4. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    aspect of Human Rights in WWII.

    Back to that one, have a look into treatment of POWs by the Japanese, treatment of Soviet POWs by the Germans & the Holocaust for starters.

    I think you'll find there were lots of "Human Rights " abuses.
  5. 51highland

    51highland Very Senior Member

    Also look at the role of the, I was going to say Negro, but I suppose I had better say African American, servicemen in the American forces.
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive


    The European Human Rights Act wasn't set up until after WW2 around 1948/9 I think by the Council of Europe.

    However its worth noting that Great Britain was one of the main players in drawing up the original draft and a lot of it has traces from the Magna Carta of 1215.

    Anyway its changed rather a lot since it was first introduced the latest version being 1998, thanks to Mr Blair.

    Its quite a interesting subject if you get beneath the surface. Most people moan about Human Rights Act until they need it or understand very little about it. (Its covered a bit in the Police)

    I think you may be better of looking at the Geneva Convention as this was probably more appropriate during WW2. However do bare in mind that it too has probably changed several times since WW2.
  8. militarycross

    militarycross Very Senior Member

    Tom's comment reminds me of the line from Crocodile Dundee about rules in a knife fight -- there are no rules.

    Human rights were subverted to expediency and neither side of the war were innocent of this action. As one vet said to me some years ago, "We were just kids doing what we were told to do." And sometimes they had to make it up as they went along. Any conversation has to be in the context of the moment, especially understanding the individual's morale, fatigue and a whole host of other issues that are part of the Heat of Battle.

    Having used that phrase, there was a book by a chap from the IWM that I scanned some years ago on interviews with guys in the Italian Campaign. I think that was the title. Looked like a good read.

    And as Owen has said, we did some damned stupid things in the hysteria of the War on the homefront that in the rearview mirror of time were unconscionable. There are still folks in this town who talk about how their German or Asian neighbours were treated. We had a camp for detainees not far from where I am sitting right now.

    On the fly, these are my thoughts.
  9. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    The Geneva Conventions were indeed around during World War II although they weren't followed by many, I remember hearing of a few German POW camps where some of the rules were followed (one of the Stalag camps IIRC), of course I assume cases would also exist for Japanese, Italian, British, American, etc camps as well.

    Overall I don't think very many people on either side follwed them as stated above, when war breaks out on such a scale following rules that only apply 5% of the time may not be the minds of everyone.
  10. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    Maybe they were no 'human rights' in today's sense, but they basically were human rights: Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention.

    And, don't believe what Dr. Goebbels said: There is no such thing as Total War, and there will always be rules...
  11. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    And, don't believe what Dr. Goebbels said: There is no such thing as Total War, and there will always be rules...

    Down side is that someone will always set them aside , Japan , Hitler and Stalin did not feel bound by the rules and all it takes is someone to set them aside.
    War brings out the worse in some people just as it brings out the best in others , in WW2 we saw examples of both aspects of human behaviour - often it was down to the humanity or judgement of the person on the spot, thankfully not all believed in "Total War".
  12. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    'Total war' isn't necessarily anything to do with atrocities or rules of engagement/behaviour though.
    Personally I'd say I was Glad that Churchill & Co. appreciated the value of Total War before Adolf's gang did. The Nazi's may appear most ideologically inclined to the concept of complete mobilisation of every drop of a country's resources in the cause of the war but Great Britain actually acted on the concept long before them (E.g: Women working en masse in the factories - something that Germany resisted until surprisingly late in the conflict).
    Whether the Total War footing was enforced on the UK by it's very status as prey rather than predator is another matter, but Germany never quite grasped the concept has to go far beyond the ideological or race war, and despite much shouting their actual mass mobilisation on a military, industrial, and social scale essentially lagged behind their opponents.

    Back to the more 'rights' side of Town.
    If, as I believe, Fisher was right that "the essence of war is violence; moderation in war is imbecility" then the very fact that there was a war at all (requiring fighting with the above maxim firmly in mind to have a chance of success) immediately endangered much of the world's 'human rights' in terms of right to life, freedom. liberty etc. This is a reality of mass conflict, some 'rights' will be suspended in the short term in order to allow people to enjoy them in the long term once the immediate threat is dealt with.
    It's a dangerous concept to play with when the motivation is more down to political intentions, but as WW2 was a pretty epic survival struggle in it's widest context the suspension of many rights was understandable, and ultimately worthwhile.

    On the Civil/Social/Political side PB, and assuming that we take the Holocaust for granted as an abuse, you might find it useful for school to look at citizens of Poland and some of the other states that suffered under the nazis and then became vassals of the SU postwar. These countries suffered 'rights' abuses that link back directly to the events of WW2. Many until very recently, some even currently dealing with political problems that have their roots in the conflict. If you were born in Poland, Checkoslovakia or East Germany sometime c.1940 and are still going strong now then a relatively short portion of your life has had the same 'rights' that much of the developed world has taken more for granted, things might have been very different for you if the dictators hadn't had their fun.
    dbf likes this.
  13. James S

    James S Very Senior Member

    In terms of placing society on a war footing no one did it better than the Russians , they did what they had to do to win from the outset.
  14. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    We never did believe what Dr Geobells at anytime said with the exception of

    - "If you tell a lie often enough - it becomes truth " - this has been adopted by most

    politicians and others since that time - to everyone's detriment, as objective truth

    has been buried by subjective truth - there is a difference.

  15. WotNoChad?

    WotNoChad? Senior Member

    As others have said Human Rights are a modern term, during WWII there was a much simpler concept called freedom. The idea being you were free or you weren't.

    The key is to look at the freedom enjoyed at the time, the freedom enjoyed now. and just how those may have changed as a result of WWII.

    The main advances were enjoyed by homosexuals, women and blacks. Homosexuals who fought alongside heterosexuals against a common enemy earned a great respect from society as a whole, even if it took a while for it to be realised. Women found themselves almost liberated by working in factories, on the land and in some roles in the forces freeing up vitally needed men for combat roles. Blacks advancement, seen more in the US as they were much more second class citizens there, owes itself a great deal to their roles in the forces albeit a seldom recorded subject.

    Part of the growth of the freedom of everyone also owes no small part to the beliefs of the enemy, namely Nazi Germany, which visited horrors upon homosexuals, believed women should stay in the home - part cook, part cleaner, part baby machine, and rated blacks as a barely human sub-species. These beliefs became outdated to a great degree because if they believed them then they must be wrong.

    In the UK there were additional benefits, such as the National Health Service, across the Empire those commonwealth troops who had bravely fought the common enemy decided it was high time they enjoyed the very freedom they had defended.

    Post war basic freedom envolved from freedom to's; say what you choose, worship what you want, gather freely, etc, to freedom from's; unemployment, poverty, fear, etc. An interesting development which when pursued almost automatically guarantees the former.

    Sadly this has evolved further into what many decry as the Human Rights Industry, which at it's best is a form of oneupmanship and at it's worst a cynical exploitation of natural goodwill often for financial gain. The downside of this is how today basic freedom becomes not so basic nor so free. The result is apparently modern governments, the UK a good example, adopting totalitarian rules and methods which owe more to the Third Reich than those nations who defeated it.

  16. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member

    Let me clarify what I mean:
    First of all, I used Goebbels as example, because of his "Wollt ihr den totalen Krieg?" speech. People seem to think that Germany actually did lead a total war, as well as the Soviet Union.

    Some mistake Clausewitz as the origin of the term "total war"; he did indeed write about "absoluter und wirklicher Krieg" (book 8, ch. 2) but that's a theoretical construction, basically a war in vitro, to find out about the essence of war. In reality, total war does not exist, is simply not possible. It will always be influenced by politics.
    The term total war first appeared during WW1 (French journalists writing about "la guerre totale" in 1915) and meant the total mobilisation of French society.
    Ludendorff spoke of total war in 1935 and meant total mobilisation (in a military dictatorial regime); however in his case war was autotelic.
    American economists demanded total war in 1941, which meant the mobilisation of all resources (similarly propagated by Churchill and Goebbels).

    Without going further into detail about the origins of the concept, the main four characteristics of total war are: total war objectives, total methods, total mobilisation and total control (which is a paradox in itself considering that total war will lead to chaos in battle).

    Even in WW2 there were rules and limits! However, there certainly was a tendence (!) to total war and radicalisation... the blurred line between combattant and civilian for example, or genocide. But, on the other hand, no biological weapons were used (except for Japan in the war against China). It was mainly fear of retaliation that created those boundaries. All this comes from a radicalisation of war objectives (self purpose of war in Hitler's case, with clear goals however; or 'unconditional surrender').

    Closest to a total war is Hitlers war against the Jews. It's been quite unique in history that a whole people should be biologically annihilated - this is were the concept of total war comes out in its true colours.

    Part of the growth of the freedom of everyone also owes no small part to the beliefs of the enemy, namely Nazi Germany, which visited horrors upon homosexuals, believed women should stay in the home - part cook, part cleaner, part baby machine, and rated blacks as a barely human sub-species. These beliefs became outdated to a great degree because if they believed them then they must be wrong.

    This isn't the case: Would you say smoking is good just because leading Nazis were strictly against it? Would you say being vegetarian is evil just because Himmler was vegetarian?
    As for women: The German government did indeed hesitate to have women work in factories etc - but eventually they did.
    Also, I highly doubt that Germany was the only nation that claimed black people and homosexuals to be "sub-human" (racial segregation in the US just being one example against that theory).
    Drew5233 likes this.
  17. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I would say from a Human Rights point of view that there is a real difference between the war in the West and the War in the East. Hitler consistently (unusual for him) maintained the main area of German Expansion would be in the East. He maintained that Eastern Europe, with its Slavic and Jewish populations, was ripe for lebensraum. A decade of indoctrination against these particular races ensured that the German Army was not fighting a war of conquest as it was in the West. It was fighting a war of annihalation. German Soldiers were convinced of their superiority, racially and technologically. The Germans knew that the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and this, coupled with the racial attitudes, meant that the Germans believed they had "carte blanche" to treat the Soviets whatever way they chose. The Commissar Order is well known but maybe less well known was the directive passed down informing Germans of the fact that Russian soldiers were to be given medical attention only after all the Germans had been tended to. And then only using Soviet medical equipment, if at all possible. They were not to be transported in German Vehicles, but in Panje carts. The Germans were completely unprepared to receive the number of soldiers that surrendered to them in 1941 and given the overstretched demands of the supply situation of the Wehrmacht it was extremely unlikely that the Soviet troops would get any aid at all. But even if the supply situation was adequate, would the germans have reached out to help an inferior (in their eyes) foe? Highly unlikely.

    I am struck by the quote of a German Soldier from Robert Kershw's book "A war without Garlands", "To those who maintain that the majority of German soldiers did not know about atrocities, I say that they were accomplices. I was a German Soldier and I was an accomplice" A fairly telling quote.
  18. WotNoChad?

    WotNoChad? Senior Member

    This isn't the case: Would you say smoking is good just because leading Nazis were strictly against it? Would you say being vegetarian is evil just because Himmler was vegetarian?
    As for women: The German government did indeed hesitate to have women work in factories etc - but eventually they did.
    Also, I highly doubt that Germany was the only nation that claimed black people and homosexuals to be "sub-human" (racial segregation in the US just being one example against that theory).

    What I might have said isn't the point, but I'll answer your points.

    I made no points against smoking nor vegetarianism because they were unaffected, just as I didn't mention an increase in voluntary asphyxiation due to Nazi's favouring breathing, so points about those aren't relevant, they're straw men.

    I never made any claims of anyone defining homosexuals as subhuman.

    What I'm suggesting is that women, homosexuals and blacks fought for their freedom, the freedom of their compatriots and then continued to work on developing their personal freedom beyond that, and their comrades in battle cut them some slack. Some of that struggle was based on fighting the discredited beliefs which Nazis held which would deny them that freedom.

    I believe that the struggle against a common foe delivered a great step forward for those who didn't enjoy equality and freedom. Racial segregation, however distasteful, doesn't really compare to nazi race theory does it? There's a great difference between sitting in the back of a bus and being gassed in one.

    For women Pauline Gower is a good example, Jacqueline Cochran another, the U.S. WAAC (later known as WAC) another, WAVES another, WAFS another, WFTD another (or the later WASPs merge), the female agents of the SOE another, and the rest of the 7.25 million British women mobilised in either agriculture, civil defence and the armed services; for Blacks: Dorie Miller is a good example and that's from day one for our Yank cousins, the Tuskagee Airmen another, and Josh White yet another, the Gurkhas have to this day a near mythical reputation based on their service. All suggest the totality of segregation or race theory was so much less than race theory. Homosexuals don't enjoy such open credit from those times, it's just the sad stories such as those of Alan Turing which remain.

    Please feel free to show me a near equal amount of mobilisation by the Third Reich of women, non-whites and homosexuals aside from forced camp labour.

    Or are you seriously suggesting that world war two wasn't a turning point for women, homosexuals and blacks gaining equality because the Third Reich employed racially pure women out of despair and were running out of peoples to enslave?

    pip pip
  19. Heimbrent

    Heimbrent Well-Known Member


    some points got mixed up there...
    First of all, I don't compare racial segregation and racial extermination. I brought up racial segregation as point against changed views after ww2 (i.e. blacks fought in the war, but they weren't guaranteed equal rights after it just because of that).
    Same goes for homosexuals and women. Homosexuals are still being discriminated today (if not by law, then by culture). And as a matter of fact, war didn't really improve womens' rights, indeed. Women not being allowed to vote is just one example... No matter how their role was during the war, after it it changed to status quo pretty fast to how it was before those extraordinary circumstances.

    So, the war didn't just change things... Which doesn't mean it didn't lay a foundation for it - but real changes didn't happen in straight consequence of the war.

    Another point I was trying to make is that Germany took extreme measures indeed - but the ideas (social darwinism, antisemitism etc) weren't actually German but much wider spread...
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    On a positive note.........Britain got the NHS after the war :)

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