Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Useful Idiots And Conditional Surrender In WW2

In WW2 Bishop George Bell of Chichester and Basil Liddell Hart were both opposed to the Allies' decision in January 1943 to adopt a policy of unconditional surrender by Germany. The "Good Germans" had been led into the war by Hitler and his Nazis, indeed the weak foreign policy of France and Britain had forced Hitler, a reasonable statesman into a war that he had never planned nor desired - the impish AJP Taylor's donnish joke in his Causes of the Second World War (indeed, as a result of the book some very literal-minded mouth-breathers believe that A. Schickelgruber was easily led :) and it was all our fault and everything that Britain did was wrong (for example, the anti -area bombing Fotherington-Tomas crowd who with the touchingly simple faith that the American Norden bombsight could "drop a bomb from 20,000 ft into a pickle-barrel" in daylight). I shall return to that fallacy later.

What were the terms that a non-Nazi Germany would have agreed to to end the war? Apparently, Colonel Claus Stauffenberg (the 20 July 1944 bomb plotter) had two contacts with the British, via go-betweens (was one of the contacts, Bishop George Bell in Sweden?) According to my copy of the excellent "The Nazi Germany Sourcebook by Roderick Stackelberg and Sally A. Winkle, p312,

May I suggest you buy a copy for reference as it's packed with translations of interesting documents.


Stauffenberg had written a memo on 25 May 1944 setting out the plotters' terms of negotiation (I've italicised my comments):

1  Immediate abandonment of aerial warfare (so the joint efforts of Bomber Command and the US 8th AF were working - is it unreasonable to wonder if Bishop Bell had been prompted to make his infamous February 1944 House of Lords speech against the RAF's bomber offensive to help his German friends and, disturbingly, albeit unwittingly, abet the German war effort?)

2  Abandonment of invasion plans.

3  Avoidance of further bloodshed. (Except in the East and see point 11 below).

4   Continuing function of defensive strength in the East. Evacuation of all occupied regions in the North, West and South. (To concentrate forces in the East. One presumes the pro-German puppet regimes in the formerly occupied countries would remain in place, along with the schemes of forced supply of labour and materials.

5  Renunciation of any occupation.

6  Free government, independent self-chosen constitution.

7  Full cooperation in the carrying out of truce conditions and in peace preparations.

8  Reich border of 1914 in the East (ie West Prussia and Upper Silesia taken from Poland).
    Retention of Austria and the Sudetenland within the Reich.
    Autonomy of Alsace-Lorraine.
    Acquisition of the Tyrol as far as Bozen, Meran.

9  Vigorous reconstruction with joint efforts for European reconstruction.

10  Nations to deal with own criminals (this was important for the plotters as most, if not all, could have been indicted for war crimes, especially those who had served on the Eastern Front (eg the Commissars and Severity Orders).

11  Restoration of hour, self-respect and respect for others (well, the murder of the Hungarian Jews hadn't yet begun).

Thus, the Wehrmacht plotters wanted to turn back the clock to 13 September 1939 with no apologies and no questions asked. Just as if five years of killing and destruction hadn't taken place. Does anyone still consider that unconditional surrender was the wrong policy?

Update 21 October 2013: The murder of fifty recaptured RAF and other air force escapers from the Great Escape breakout at Stalag III on the night of 23-24 March 1944 took place after Bishop Bell's infamous February 1944 House of Lords speech attacking the area bombing campaign. Any causation between the two events?

3 comments:

Thud said...

If you make the terrible decision to go to war then make it a war till the end,unconditional was the only way to go.

Edward Spalton said...

There was a case for making peace in early 1941 when it was obvious that Hitler could not knock Britain out of the war and was desperately wanting to turn all his forces towards Russia.

It could have saved us an enormous amount of bloodshed and expense, leaving the two nastiest regimes of the era to knock each other to bits.

I believe there was a considerable "peace party" in official circles in favour of this.

Looking at von Stauffenberg's demands one realises how impossibly arrogant he and his class were, even at that late stage of the war.

Brian said...

Indeed, a mutually destructive fight between Nazism and Bolshevism would be rather like the Iran-Iraq war, but looking again at the online version of Peter Hoffmann's classic German Resistance 1933-44 (must find my copy), I was shocked to be reminded of the German anti-Nazis' post-war proposals for a federal Europe with a European army - and also international cooperation on the Germans' "Jewish problem" - weren't they nice people?

It could be argued that unconditional surrender was necessary to take Germany down a peg or two for a couple of generations for the good of her neighbours. But, like Brecht wrote in The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui " For though the world has stood up and stopped the bastard, the bitch
that bore him is in heat again."