Afrika Corps And The Holocaust

Discussion in 'The Holocaust' started by Elven6, Nov 29, 2008.

  1. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Are the claims really true that not a single member of Afrika Corps was charged of any war crime? If such is the case, how was that possible? If indeed true, I have a feeling Erwin Rommel might have had something to do with it.

    Were their any similar units in Europe at the time? I know each unit may have had the odd few who had nothing to do with any sort of war crime but I haven't heard of a entire squad or unit.
     
  2. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Elven -
    you should know that the Afrika Crops was just an ordinary Corps of three divisions - two of which were Panzers and the other an Infantry Division - fighting in the desert with very few civilains to bother about so the opportunity for war crimes was not substantial as it was in other theatres, that is against civilians -

    mostly the desert war was a "no hate" business and both sides respecting the other as they both had the same problems - little food - little water and no mail from home for long periods - so let's get on with it and go home !

    Neither Commander German nor Allied had anything to do with the Holocaust as that was a civilian thing 'way' off in Europe somewhere - which no one knew much about - certainly not in the desert - Tunisia - Algeria nor Sicily or Italy for that matter.
    Cheers
     
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Tom
    That was a good reply.

    Regards
    The other Tom
     
  4. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Of course the absence of the SS and the terror support structure in the North African campaign meant that the there was some respect for the Geneva Convention.

    (From what I gather,the Italians were very brutal in the handling and care of POWs.Whether or not, it was that they were lacking the means of caring for Allied POWs, I do not know, but I have yet to see it recorded where the Italians gave decent treatment to Allied POWs either in North Africa or Italy.It could be due to the fact that they thought the Axis Powers had the advantage over the Allies.Things were soon to change.)

    No doubt, had the Germans taken Alexandria, Cairo and the Canal Zone, the usual thugs would have been there to subdue the civilian populations.
     
  5. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I doubt Rommel would have been at the Nuremburg Trials if he survived the war.
    The Afrika Korps was never accused of any war crimes, and Rommel himself referred to the fighting in North Africa as Krieg ohne Hass—war without hate. Numerous examples exist of Rommel's chivalry towards Allied POWs, such as his defiance of Hitler's infamous Commando Order following the capture of Lt. Roy Woodridge and Lt. George Lane as part of Operation Fortitude, as well as his refusal to comply with an order from Hitler to execute Jewish POWs. During Rommel's time in France, Hitler ordered him to deport the Jews in France; Rommel disobeyed the order. Several times, he wrote letters protesting the treatment of the Jews. When British Major Geoffrey Keyes was killed during a failed Commando raid to kill or capture Rommel behind German lines, Rommel ordered him buried with full military honours. Also, during the construction of the Atlantic Wall, Rommel directed that French workers were not to be used as slaves, but were to be paid for their labor.

    After the war, when Rommel's alleged involvement in the plot to kill Hitler became known, his stature was enhanced greatly among the former Allied nations. Rommel was often cited in Western sources as a general who, though a loyal German, was willing to stand up to the evil that was Hitler.
     
  6. ADM199

    ADM199 Well-Known Member

    Of course the absence of the SS and the terror support structure in the North African campaign meant that the there was some respect for the Geneva Convention.

    (From what I gather,the Italians were very brutal in the handling and care of POWs.Whether or not, it was that they were lacking the means of caring for Allied POWs, I do not know, but I have yet to see it recorded where the Italians gave decent treatment to Allied POWs either in North Africa or Italy.It could be due to the fact that they thought the Axis Powers had the advantage over the Allies.Things were soon to change.)

    No doubt, had the Germans taken Alexandria, Cairo and the Canal Zone, the usual thugs would have been there to subdue the civilian populations.

    I am sure it was exactly as you say Harry.

    Prisoners in the Larger of the two P.O.W. Camps in Benghazi suffered greatly at the hands of the Italians during 1942.
    Mostly by total lack of care. No bedding,little food and the only shelter was Bivvies made by fastening two Italian Groundsheets together.

    There were outbreaks of Dysentery and Diptheria that cost over 60 lives due to lack of medication, according to a South African Doctor called Hermer. This was after the Axis capture of the huge Dumps in Tobruk.

    Indian and South African Native Troops were put to work in the Docks unloading War Materials. No shelter was provided for them and many died in R.A.F. raids on the Docks.
    There were cases of recaptured escapees being tied to perimeter wire in crucifix fashion for up to 14hrs daily.Others were chained right hand to left ankle for the same period of time.
    Fighting French were considered to be Guerillas and were treated as such.

    PG 154 Benghazi had accepted prisoners by late June before cooking and Sanitary instalations were in place. In fact it was condemned by a Sanitary Commission in August and rebuilt in an ajacent area.

    All P.O.W.Camps in N/Africa were considered by the Italians to be transit Camps,so the inmates were said to only be entitled to half rations. Some were in Transit for 6 months. Many of those who spent any length of time in this and other N/African Camps tell of losing as much as one third of their body weight whilst prisoners of the Italians.
    The conditions at Benghazi(which at one time held 24,000 P.O.W.) were quite similar to others in the Tripoli Area such as Suani Ben Adam, Tarhuna,Trig Tarhuna,Camp Benito,and sometime earlier PG 12545 which was under German Control.

    All this was in stark contrast to the help given by Italian Civilians in 1943 where many lost their lives by giving food and shelter to Allied Escapees.


    The Afrika Korps may not have any War Crimes recorded against them in N/Africa but the Luftwaffe were not so inoccent.
    There is an unpublished Manuscript in the I.W.M. under the title "None Combattant" which was written by Dvr.Alex Franks.
    Alex,an Ambulance Driver describes how Stuka Dive Bombers obliterated a S/African Field Hospital that was very clearly marked as such.

    Very Sad times.
     
  7. Len Trim

    Len Trim Senior Member

    Sorry to throw a spanner in the works but,
    'The triumphs of the Afrika Corps brought terrible suffering to the Jews---in the major North African cities---rape of Tunisian Jewish women was far from uncommon, property was confiscated, valuables were stolen'.
    There is more in this manner in 'The Third Reich at War' by Richard J. Evans a highly respected historian who is up there alongside Kershaw in his studies of the Nazis.
    My extensive reading on this subject has left me with the firm belief that there were damn few 'Good Germans'. There was little qualitative difference in the behaviour of 'ordinary soldiers' as opposed to the behaviour of the SS. from the very beginning of the Polish campaign the Wehrmacht was involved in atrocities against the Polish people for instance.The vast majority of the German people supported the Nazis from 1933 to about 1943 and it was probably about this time mainly due to the Allied bombing campaign that the average German 'in the street' began to turn against the Nazis.
    Although much historical work still has to be done I suspect that the idea of the 'Good German soldier' came about at least partly as a result of the Cold War and our need to rehabilitate West Germany at least against our new enemies in the east.

    Len
     
  8. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Tom: For the most I can agree with you, however in a group of 100 POW a few of them would probably be Jewish, and Rommel did receive direct orders from Hitler to kill Jews so it's not like they were completely isolated.

    Harry: The SS was in territory captured by Afrika corps weren't they? I was reading a rather old news article about Hitler and Palestine, it mentioned the SS would take over territory captured by the corps.

    The Italians were a funny lot during the War, Mussolini with his speeches was able to inspire his people so well, he was able to make a disaster look like a triumph! Too bad he didn't have the mind to create more war production plants, they only had two which were shutdown during the invasion!

    Len: Was this Afrika corps doing it or the ones who would follow in their place to essentially "take care of things".
     
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Tom: For the most I can agree with you, however in a group of 100 POW a few of them would probably be Jewish, and Rommel did receive direct orders from Hitler to kill Jews so it's not like they were completely isolated.

    Harry: The SS was in territory captured by Afrika corps weren't they? I was reading a rather old news article about Hitler and Palestine, it mentioned the SS would take over territory captured by the corps.

    The Italians were a funny lot during the War, Mussolini with his speeches was able to inspire his people so well, he was able to make a disaster look like a triumph! Too bad he didn't have the mind to create more war production plants, they only had two which were shutdown during the invasion!

    Len: Was this Afrika corps doing it or the ones who would follow in their place to essentially "take care of things".

    Eleven6

    Read my post about Rommel above. He protested to Hitler more than once about the treatment of Jews so I doubt he would have agreed or ordered anyone to kill them because of their religion alone.

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  10. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Eleven6

    Read my post about Rommel above. He protested to Hitler more than once about the treatment of Jews so I doubt he would have agreed or ordered anyone to kill them because of their religion alone.

    Cheers
    Andy

    Sorry, I phrased that wrong,

    I meant they weren't completly isolated from Jews as stated above hence these requests from Hitler.
     
  11. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    The initial question was why no member of the Africa Corps were charged with war crimes - nothing to do with Italians - Luftwaffe or anyone else - just the Africa Corps - 15th & 21st Panzers and 164th Infantry - so they don't appear to have been involved in war crimes !

    Had the question involved forces under Rommel's command then it might have been different as the Italians were a bit obnoxious at times as I understand it - but they were hardly involved in the Holocaust which was way off in Europe and in '42 -'43 no one knew too much about it either....
    Cheers
     
  12. Len Trim

    Len Trim Senior Member

    Elven6,
    Evans says 'The rape of Tunisian Jewish women by German soldiers was far from common'. I take this to mean the soldiers in the front line who had recently taken an area such as the town of Tunis. The maltreatment and rounding up of Tunisian Jews was more probably done by the Gestapo under their chief Walter Rauff, who was transferred from Eastern Europe specifically for this purpose. Either way I find it hard to believe that Rommel did not know what was going on and at the very least turned a blind eye to it.

    Len
     
  13. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Tom: Can you elaborate on "no one knew too much about it either...."

    Len: It's possible he did know but was unable to do anything since it wasn't under his command? From what I read about him the Jews and POW's under his command were treated with great respect,
     
  14. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Elven -
    The Africa Corps surrendered to 1st and 8th Armies at Cap Bon- Tunisia in May '43 - the Holocaust and Concentration camps did not become common knowledge until late in '44 when the Allies started to approach Germany therefore NO one in North Africa with the exception of high German generals et al, knew too much about what was happening in the closed Europe - we never set foot in Europe until the landings at Sicily on 10th July '43 -

    Rommel was fired from the Command of the Africa Corps after the Battle of Medenine in the very south of Tunisia and on 9th March '43 was on his way to Vienner Nuestadt near Vienna.

    General von Ahrnim took over along with an Italian General for the following Battles of the Mareth Lne, El Hamma, Wadi Akirit, Enfidaville culminating in the joint Battle of 1st and 8th Armies from Medjez el Bab through Tunisia to Cap Bon, the German / Italian force of approx 250,000 men surrendered.
    Cheers
     
  15. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    Tom: Interesting, I always thought and told others many of the common soldiers had no idea what was truly going in these camps, to them it was slave labor. Until someone who presented their facts pretty well told me otherwise, only to have Tom bring me back.


    Do you think their were similar situations in Europe? I know the civilians near the camps had no idea what was going on because of the "tours" the US army gave them when the camps were liberated.
     
  16. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Sorry to throw a spanner in the works but,
    'The triumphs of the Afrika Corps brought terrible suffering to the Jews---in the major North African cities---rape of Tunisian Jewish women was far from uncommon, property was confiscated, valuables were stolen'.
    There is more in this manner in 'The Third Reich at War' by Richard J. Evans a highly respected historian who is up there alongside Kershaw in his studies of the Nazis.
    My extensive reading on this subject has left me with the firm belief that there were damn few 'Good Germans'. There was little qualitative difference in the behaviour of 'ordinary soldiers' as opposed to the behaviour of the SS. from the very beginning of the Polish campaign the Wehrmacht was involved in atrocities against the Polish people for instance.The vast majority of the German people supported the Nazis from 1933 to about 1943 and it was probably about this time mainly due to the Allied bombing campaign that the average German 'in the street' began to turn against the Nazis.
    Although much historical work still has to be done I suspect that the idea of the 'Good German soldier' came about at least partly as a result of the Cold War and our need to rehabilitate West Germany at least against our new enemies in the east.

    Len

    I would agree with you that the Wehrmacht were not as innocent as they would portray themselves.The Wehrmacht had long been subject to affect of party rule, which started when Hitler gained power of the Reichswehr and turned it into the Wehrmacht, the sole force which, had the regime lasted long enough would have been absorbed into the party army,namely the Waffen SS.Meanwhile with few exceptions,the soul of the Wehrmacht leadership had been seduced by Hitler with his vision of a greater role for the Wehrmacht and a chance for them to share in the anticipated success.

    It followed that in the invasion of the Eastern territories, the Wehrmacht were a ready arm in the execution of SS policies regarding the rounding up of the "untermenchen" for special treament.Not much concern has been recorded by those in charge of the Wehrmacht to these secondary duties.

    In the western occupied countries,the Wehrmacht could be very repressive and reprisals against civilians were particularly vicious as an extension to the operations of the Gestapo and SD.The treatment meted out to French Colonial troops by the Wehrmacht during the fall of France in many instances,was not in accordance with the Geneva Convention and is not surprising after the indoctrination of Aryan culture to German troops.Having said that, as a general rule a POW would find it far better, regarding the outcome, to be captured and handled by Wehrmacht front line troops.

    An illustration as to the feeling of the SS towards the Wehrmacht,post war was highlighted when in the 1950s, former SS men were denied war pensions and refused admission to the new Bundesheer.The accusation of the former members of the SS was one of "You men of the Wehrmacht have dirty hands,too.Why should you have no difficulty collecting your pensions or serving with the Bundesheer".

    However,unlike the SS,the Wehrmacht were not found to be a criminal organisation at Nuremberg.
     
  17. Elven6

    Elven6 Discharged

    That brings up a new discussion Harry, regarding pensions, benefits, and such.
     
  18. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    My father respected the Germans in Nth Africa.
     
  19. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    That brings up a new discussion Harry, regarding pensions, benefits, and such.

    The main thrust of the post was that post war, the SS were quick to state that the Wehrmacht also had dirty hands and were not as innocent as it would appear.The views came from the HIAG organisation, in releality a SS veterans organisation,("Hilfsgemeinschaft der Soldalten der Ehermaligen Waffen SS" which can be translated as the "Mutual Aid Society for Former Soldiers of the Armed SS") which bordered on the illegal and which the West German Government turned a blind eye to.

    50 years ago, the membership of the circle stood at about 1 million people taking into consideration. famililies and friends.They saw themselves capable of having a "decisive influence on policy making where voting on decisions was close" These were the days when "Panzer" Meyer was trying to reinvent himself as a normal army officer and the Waffen SS as a normal, non political army units.

    As regards benefits they obviously thought they should have parity with former members of the Wehrmatcht.But post war, the awarding of benefits did not, at times, have much degree of rationality.For instance, the widow of Roland Freisler, the rabid Nazi judge, who presided over the 20 July 1944 trials was allowed a pension on appeal.
     
  20. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Harry

    Thanks for a most informative posting.

    Ron
     

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