December 25, 1945
From: Hermann Bernard Ramcke,
General i/c Parachute Troops,
last Commander of the fortress of Brest,
P.O.W. No.18878 Camp Clinton (Miss.)
To:- Mr. Byron Price,
In deep grief over the utter collapse of my Fatherland and its hopeless future, and the tears shed by my ill-fated countrymen, I feel the urge of writing to you on this Christmas Day spent in the emptiness and frustration of a prisoners-of-war camp.
I know that this is forbidden, but the consequences of such an action will be little as compared to the suffering caused to me by the fate of my country.
The reason for this letter is your partly published report on your trip round Germany, in the capacity of a special delegate appointed by President Truman.
Deeply shaken by the terrible conditions prevailing in Germany you demand in your report that the Morgenthau plan, which was called "a sadistic Plan" in Senator Eastland's (Miss.) speech of December 4, 1945, be entirely abandoned.
Thus, for the first time in a world full of hatred, taking its revenge on a nation beaten to the ground, we hear a voice against the present policy aimed at plundering and complete destruction of Germany; a voice that points out the dangers threatening the Christian culture of the Western World should the Morgentbau Plan be carried out.
Needless to say that this cruel treatment of a completely defenseless nation - after the cessation of hostilities will create new, deeply rooted hatred which will poison the souls of an 80 million nation so much that unavoidably they will embrace communism and nihilism. Also, I do not, need to stress the point that the sowing of such new hatred will not bring the durable peace so very much desired by all the nations of the world.
You, Mr. Price, know these problems and from your high post can the danger better than the others.
In his speech in the Senate on December 4. 1945, Senator Eastland said:- "Germany and Western Europe must be kept by all means within the folds of democratic, freedom-loving Christian people who follow the private enterprise system". It is demanded by the U.S. Government that, as a preliminary condition for a final peace in Europe, the whole of the German nation be re-educated and converted to democratic principles.
But is the lesson given to the German nation, after the hostilities have ceased, appropriate to w1n the people's hearts for this idea?
Once already, in 1919, we had the Weimar Republic, founded on democratic principles and by free elections, following President Wilson's wish.
Why, keep the Germans asking, was the very much hailed Weimar-Germany refused help or support by the Western Democracies. Why did not they breathe into it the life the Republic needed to make this form of government survive in Germany?
Instead, the democratic Germany was strangled by the Allied power economically for 13 years, so that, owing to increasing poverty and unemployment, there were only two possibilities left:-"Either communism or national-socialism!"
Was not that irresponsible refusal of any help or support to the Weimar-Germany by the Western Democracies the seed and the cause of the abandoning of the Weimar system by the German nation in 1933 and thus the cause of World War II?
"A burnt child dreads the fire", and the present methods of plunder causing general poverty and hunger, will not persuade the Germans of the advantages of democracy!
But this short-sighted policy, condemned by you, is adopted not only in occupied Germany. It is applied even here, in your free country, with regard to the 440,000 prisoners of war, whose treatment is entirely wrong psychologically.
I dare say I express the feelings of the prisoners of war, since, I being one of the people myself and having, during a 40 year long service, risen from a bare-footed Mate of the German Imperial Navy to the rank of General Commander-in-Chief of the Parachute Troops of the 3 Wehrmacht weapons, I am familiar with service of all ranks and have trained and brought up thousands of soldiers of all trades and professions and of all ages and classes, and led them, In peace as well as in war.
This is why l consider it my duty to call your kind attention to the following facts:-
To comply with the requirement that the German nation be re-educated insofar as its political views are concerned and that
they be made familiar with the real meaning and principles of democracy and its blessings, courses are held on the subject of the American Constitution and democratic principles for the German prisoners of war. These courses are diligently attended by the German soldiers, who are eager to learn.
Offsetting these courses there are, however, the bare facts of the much more impressive reality. These facts are as follows:-
(1) The terrible conditions in Germany - after the hostilities have ceased - such as the death of large numbers of the weak, children and infants, as reported by the daily press, and plundering, rape and mass deportations from districts (i.e. East Prussia, Silesia, the Sudeten) where the Germans have been living for the last thousand years. In addition to the taking over of state property, there sanctioned plundering of private property such as a spinning factory, of a peasant's horse, a Piece of art inherited throughout generations, or the equipment of a ladies' hairdresser's shop (sent home by a G.I. as a souvenir).
(2) The distasteful reports in the Press, complete with photographs, on the shooting of General Dostler, who, following an order received from the Fuhrer and according, to an ancient international custom to kill franctireurs, ordered to shoot 14 American soldiers for acting as saboteurs In civilian clothes behind the lines.
On the other hand, the same press reports on an American
solder of Italian origin, by the name of Bertucci, who - after the cessation of hostilities last simner - broke* into a barrack. full of German prisoners of war, while the latter were asleep, and killed 8 men instantly, wounded mortally six and caused severe wounds to other 8 men.
The abovementioned soldier, who, as reported by the newspaper, has never been at the front except as a member of aground crew at an airfield in England, cynically declared that,
being a sworn enemy of the Nazis, he would gladly do it ail over again. This cynical declaration was reported by the Paper as a sort of justification of his crime. Nothing Is known about a judgment having been passed on the matter. And he has even been set free, according to the latest reports.
"Where Is the democratic Justice they are teaching us ? - ask the German prisoners of war while comparing the above two cases.
* carrying a machine-gun
(4) The stopping of all correspondence between the prisoners of war and their families - after the hostilities have ceased - and the withholding of long-arrived mail from Germany. The above measures which are contrary to the Geneva Convention, are regarded by the soldiers as measures of torture, the terrible uncertainty about the fate of the families being the greatest grief in the bard-to-bear life of a prisoner of war. The explanation given that the absence of mail was due to damages in the transportation system in Germany does not hold good anymore 8 months after the war came to an end. Innumera soldiers (prisoners of war since the summer of 1944) have not received any mail at all, from districts which were not affected by the war.
5) After the collapse of Germany, the prisoners of war were officially informed that they would continue to be regarded as such and treated accordingly. However, a few days later, in the beginning of May 1945, the following severe measures were announced:
(a) A cut in food rations during the months May - October 1945 to an extent that, on the average, ail the prisoners lost 25-41 1bs in weight and can scarcely stand on their legs while working hard on the Mississippi project. Those Generals who are more advanced in age have become mere skeletons. The little meat supplied consists of waste only. The negro-drivers who bring in these supplies say it is a shame that such waste meat is offered to prisoners of war in the rich America. It is only before the visit announced by representatives of the International Red Cross for the beginning of November that conditions improved.
(b) Complete deprivation of tobacco and cigarettes from
May to June, and the cutting of tobacco rations from then on until December to 2 ozs. a week.
(c) Deprivation of all luxuries and objects or daily use, as well as of refreshments, whose lack was particularly felt in the hot Summertime and in a climate to which the prisoners are not used.
(d) Prohibition of all sports and games for a period of 4 weeks.
The following question arises:-
Are all these events and measures an adequate means to make the 440,000 prisoners of war become supporters of the democratic principles, whose apostles they are Intended to be on their return to Germany from the free America, the land in which Democracy was born ?"
The contrary is being achieved.
Do not be misled by the fact that the majority of the prisoners of war have already taken the above mentioned course in American History and Constitution and received their certificates.
Most of them take up this study because they are eager to learn and as a pastime, and also because they are afraid they might have to remain in the camps even longer if they do not attend. On the other hand, those few who, seeing the shameful treatment of their country, the abandonment of all pride, and the disgrace to their bones, "still trim their sail according to the wind" with assurance of reverence and respect, are, as experience shows, the weaker and always unreliable characters whose assistance or collaboration will not serve the cause of the occupation authorities or that of humans for the duration.
And as far as I am concerned, may I state that the Americans taken prisoners in the fortress of Brest which, faithful to my oath I defended to, the last (like your General Wainwright did in the Corregidor), were treated, decently. The medical personnel that crossed our lines in foggy weather was sent back, accompanied, by an officer. Wounded Americans were attended to the same as our own soldiers, and the property of the dead was returned by an officer. In order not to leave them under the fire of their own countrymen, we transported our 400 prisoners of war from the fortress, around which a battle was raging, under most difficult conditions and even disregarding our own requirements, to our hospital village by the name of Le Fret and supervised by the Red Cross. It was General Middleton, U.S. Commander of the Brest Troops, who personally expressed his thanks to me.
I am deeply convinced that ail other German commanders have acted in the same way and that the American prisoners or war in Germany were treated according to the regulations of the Geneva Convention insofar as this was possible under the circumstances. However, after the destruction of all means of transportation by military action this may have proved impossible as it was not possible to supply German nationals.
In describing our attitude, which Is the only one of which I approve, I do not want to speak ‘pro domo' but only to express My surprise at the way German soldiers, who did, nothing but their duty, are treated in the free America after the cessation of hostilities.
In the report published by you You ask your fellow citizens to change the policy of oppression adopted In Germany and based on the Morgenthau Plan, so that Western civilization, can be saved from utter destruction.
In deep grief and having the desire to co-operate in my modest capacity in order to bring about understanding among the nations, I feel I am called upon to let you know on this Christmas Day about the feelings of the German prisoners of war, who, as a result of short-sighted measures, are put into a mood and attitude constituting a danger to general co-operation in the work of reconstruction and preservation of peace in the Western and Christian world.
I wish that the above could serve you as a suggestion of what should be done here in this country to put an end to the "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" policy, to bring about a blessing to Christians and a peaceful future to the nations, so well expressed in the old Christmas message: "Peace on Earth and Happiness to the People.
General i/c Parachute Troops