The book Hellstorm: The Death of Nazi Germany, 1944-1947 by Thomas Goodrich documents the Allied atrocities against Germans toward the end of World War II and during its aftermath. The rape of German women is graphically described. For example, when a German counterattack temporarily recaptured the town of Neustettin, a German soldier describes what he saw in houses where Russian soldiers had raped German women:
Naked, dead women lay in many of the rooms. Swastikas had been cut into their abdomens, in some the intestines bulged out, breasts were cut up, faces beaten to a pulp and swollen puffy. Others had been tied to the furniture by their hands and feet, and massacred. A broomstick protruded from the vagina of one, a besom from that of another….
The mothers had had to witness how their 10 and 12-year-old daughters were raped by some 20 men; the daughters in turn saw their mothers being raped, even their grandmothers. Women who tried to resist were brutally tortured to death. There was no mercy….
The women we liberated were in a state almost impossible to describe….[T]heir faces had a confused, vacant look. Some were beyond speaking to, ran up and down and moaned the same sentences over and over again. Having seen the consequences of these bestial atrocities, we were terribly agitated and determined to fight. We knew the war was past winning; but it was our obligation and sacred duty to fight to the last bullet.
Goodrich also documents the terror bombing of Dresden and other German cities toward the end of the war. Evidence of the ruthless mass bombings of congested German cities was provided by many of the British bomber crews themselves. The almost total lack of German opposition to the British bombings toward the end of the war made the bombing of cities less like war and more like murder. While open criticism of government policy was not allowed, the guilt of young British flyers occasionally surfaced. One British crewman confessed:
There were people down there being fried to death in melted asphalt in the roads, they were being burnt up and we were shuffling incendiary bombs into this holocaust. I felt terribly sorry for the people in that fire I was helping to stoke up.”
After Dresden, Joseph Goebbels angrily urged Hitler to retaliate by abrogating the Geneva Convention. However, Hitler and his military staff continued to abide by the Geneva Convention throughout the war. As a result, Goodrich states that almost 99% of Allied prisoners of war survived the war to return home.
The Allies required the Germans to perform forced labor after the war. The rape of German women continued unabated. A German woman from the Soviet zone stated:
We had to build landing strips, and to break stones. In snow and rain, from six in the morning until nine at night, we were working along the roads. Any Russian who felt like it took us aside. In the morning and at night we received cold water and a piece of bread, and at noon soup of crushed, unpeeled potatoes, without salt. At night we slept on the floors of farmhouses or stables, dead tired, huddled together. But we woke up every so often, when a moaning and whimpering in the pitch-black room announced the presence of one of the guards.
As this woman and others make clear, German women could be raped even when performing forced labor for the Allies. As one German woman who worked at planting potatoes said,
If they wanted a girl they just came in the field and got her.”
Goodrich also documents the brutal denazification process in Germany. For millions of Germans the worst part of the denazification process came after a 12-page questionnaire had been completed. After reviewing the questionnaire, Allied intelligence officers would frequently visit German homes for additional examinations and interrogations. Many of these intelligence officers were Jewish refugees who had fled Nazi persecution in the late 1930s with old scores to settle. The additional interrogations were often structured to inflict as much pain and suffering as possible, and often resulted in internment or even death.
Goodrich also documents that the Red Army began the plundering of Europe as soon as it entered Germany in 1944. The Soviet looting in the Russian zone became prodigious after the end of the war. Factories, refineries, processing mills, and other heavy industries were taken apart and sent east to the Soviet Union to be reassembled. All secondary rail lines, electric and steam locomotives and their rolling stock were sent to the Soviet Union. The plants that were left in Germany were operated by Germans solely for the benefit of the Soviet Union.
While the United States did not take German plants and factories, Goodrich states that it did take its share of German treasure. Billions of dollars in gold, silver, currency, priceless paintings and art works were stolen from their hiding places in caves, tunnels, and salt mines throughout Germany and shipped to the United States.
Germany also experienced “mental dismantling” in that hundreds of German scientists were compelled to immigrate by the victors. One U.S. government agency quietly admitted that Operation Paperclip was the first time in history where conquerors had attempted to confiscate the inventive power of a nation. Lifemagazine added that the real gain in reparations of this war was not in the confiscated factories, gold, or artworks, but in the German brains and the German research results.
Goodrich states that the destruction of the German infrastructure during the war had made it inevitable that some Germans would starve to death before roads, rails, canals, and bridges could be restored. However, even when much of the German infrastructure had been repaired, the Allies deliberately withheld food from Germany. Continuing the policy of their predecessors, U.S. President Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Clement Attlee allowed the spirit of Henry Morgenthau and the Yalta Conference to dictate their policies toward Germany. The result was that millions of Germans were doomed to slow death by starvation.
Goodrich discusses in Chapter Eight the mass starvation of German prisoners of war by the Western Allies after the war. Goodrich also documents in Chapter Ten the horrific torture and death of Germans after the war in former German concentration camps. In Chapter Eleven Goodrich briefly discusses the mass expulsion of ethnic Germans from Poland and other Eastern European countries, resulting in the deaths of millions of ethnic Germans. I wish Goodrich would have discussed these postwar Allied atrocities in more detail. However, if he had gone into more detail, his book probably would have been too long and cumbersome for many people.
Hellstorm is an important and very disturbing book concerning the end of World War II and its aftermath. I highly recommend this well-written book to anyone interested in World War II and its aftermath.