European Front


BROADCASTS to Germany from Supreme Allied Headquarters in France show a clear understanding of the grim dimensions of the task which victory will bring. Last autumn, appraisal of the problem of a defeated Germany was based, like estimates of the prospect for speedy German surrender, on historical precedents and experience in other wars. With the testimony of the bitter winter struggle to guide them, the Allies know now that their problem is unique in the annals of warfare.

That Germany would lose territory in the east to the Poles and Russians, and in the west to France and other victimized states, was evident long before the Yalta Conference. That she would be forced to provide labor for reconstruction of areas ravaged by her armies in Eastern Europe, and very probably elsewhere, was also in the cards.

And it was to be expected that the Allies would sidestep the trap of cash reparations; that they would compel restoration of stolen property — especially industrial equipment — taken from Germany’s victims; and that they would insist upon demilitarization of the Reich, liquidation of the Army and of the General Staff, and punishment of war criminals. These decisions follow precedent.

The innovations of the Crimean agreement dramatize the special difficulties presented by a Nazified Germany. They explain, also, why it is necessary to keep secret many measures which the Allied Military Government will adopt. Until Germany is firmly in the grip of victorious Allied troops, and until the scale and the effectiveness of the Nazi program for continuing the struggle through underground tactics have been measured, full disclosure of Allied plans would play directly into the hands of Hitler, Himmler, and their associated Party desperadoes.

Accordingly, for an indefinite period which may lengthen into years, no attempt will be made to set up a full-fledged German “succession” government. This course is unprecedented for victors who have no intention of annexing all territories conquered. It is a direct consequence of the success of the Nazis in welding Germany to their doctrines, institutions, and controls, and in eliminating potential dissenters by execution. The Allied Military Government in Germany will exercise exclusive legislative and executive powers, and a judicial authority that includes power of life and death.

The Military Government will use German jobholders in towns and cities, under civilian heads responsible to the occupying authorities. Every vestige of the Nazi Party, its machinery, its leadership, and its legal controls is to be erased. Only those laws will be retained which are found useful to the Military Government. Concentration camps emptied of Germany’s victims will serve as detention centers for Gestapo troops, saboteurs, political prisoners, and war criminals. Education will be purged of the textbooks and apparatus of Nazi instruction and will be rebuilt on a pre-1932 basis.

The holdout war

In the main, these are precautionary rather than punitive measures. Their fulfillment will be by no means easy — especially as the Germans have already devised a system by which they expect to infiltrate every community in Germany with disguised Nazi agents. The simple fact is that no long-range program for Germany’s rehabilitation can be undertaken successfully until the post-defeat plans of the Nazis have been smashed. The future peace of Europe and of the world, as well as the reinstatement of Germany in the ranks of civilized nations, must await the issue of the expected “holdout war.”

One preparation made by the Nazis for this holdout war has been given too little notice: the complete fusion of the German Army with the Nazi Party. This process began long ago. It was speeded up after the attempt on Hitler’s life last summer. It was completed last month by Himmler’s action in taking over the General Staff, immediately after the announcement from Yalta that the Allies intend to abolish the German General Staff “for all time.”

The displacement of the former General Staff by the boss of the S.S. troops and his associates is an episode of tremendous significance for the immediate future. It will complicate enormously the problems which the victors face. It means that Germany, as she sags into defeat, is at last so thoroughly Nazified that Party members and the military are identical and interchangeable.

Himmler’s key position at the head of a transformed General Staff is reinforced by his direct control of the War Department, the Army Headquarters, and the field commands. The Gestapo, as a handy personal police force, watches over the whole organization.

Aside from giving the Nazis complete power over the entire German populace, Himmler’s maneuver is designed to hinder Allied control in Germany, to confuse the Allies in their efforts to punish war criminals, and to make all officers returning from any part of the fighting fronts automatically Party leaders in their home districts or in any districts to which Himmler may assign them. Thus a perfect apparatus for cowing the German people after defeat as well as before it now exists throughout Central Europe.

Himmler’s revenge

The primary objective of the underground war against military occupation in Germany — which is already started — is to multiply complexities for the victors by rendering it impossible for them to govern Germany, or to restore a soundly functioning social structure, or to carry out their plans for the eradication of Nazi doctrines and activities. Himmler’s master plan is extremely simple. A clue as to its nature is provided by the organ of the Elite Guard, Das Schwarze Korps: —

“ [In occupied Germany] there can be no German civil administrator or executive, no German legal procedure; for those who take part in them will not survive a month. Every German official who coöperates with the Allied occupying authorities will certainly be found cold and stiff, crumpled over his desk.”

This is no idle threat, as the Allied Supreme Command in Western Europe knows already. Organized murder operates in areas behind the Allied lines. Germans volunteering for civil jobs have been assassinated in a dozen communities. Four successive mayors set up by the Americans in one city have died sudden, mysterious deaths by violence. So have their families — a fact which carries the unmistakable identification of Himmler’s Gestapo.

Nazi underground courts have been organized on the model of similar tribunals set up by resistance forces in France and Belgium during German occupation of those two countries. Trials are held in absentia, executioners are assigned, and sentences are carried out systematically. Indeed, the basis which Himmler and his associates have provided for this post-defeat campaign in Germany has been devised after close analysis of voluminous reports, gathered at Himmler’s orders a year ago, from all parts of Germanoccupied Europe. These data on the organization, tactics, and typical activities of the resistance forces fighting the Germans now provide the Nazis with a handbook on resistance to occupational forces in Germany.

A room with a view

The most ambitious scheme for continuing the fight against the Allies in a holdout war, after most of Germany has been conquered, centers in Southern Bavaria and Austria. Two other test points have been set up — one in East Prussia and the other in Thuringia, where guerrilla war is organized around inaccessible strongholds in the mountains.

The Austrian Alps form the south flank of the Bavarian stronghold. They control the gates to North Italy, where Italian partisans report intense activity by the Germans in industrial construction. This is a complete reversal of previous German policy in Northern Italy. Since the industries being rehabilitated are war industries, it is possible that the reluctance of Kesselring to withdraw to the Brenner Pass from the Lombardy plain may be connected with the Nazi holdout-war plans.

Thousands of picked S.S. troops are already concentrated in the Bavarian-Austrian stronghold, and their numbers are being augmented by about 75,000 a month. Within the region itself huge stores of ammunition, food, and raw materials are hidden in depots blasted from the mountains. Drainage of skilled workmen into the region has been noted since November. Concentrations of Elite Guards in Western Czechoslovakia since January have also been observed by the Russians.

The ferocity of German resistance on the upper Danube, and the desperate expenditure of troops to relieve Budapest, fit into this picture. If Hitler cannot hold Vienna, his expectations of dragging out the war from the Alps will prove vain.

In Budapest the Russians discovered a sample of Germany’s underground system which suggests what the Allied armies may expect when they tackle the last natural Nazi fortress in the Alps. With an unobtrusive lamp works as a blind, an enormous subterranean system was found almost accidentally. Carefully camouflaged ferro-concrete hoods, slitted for observation purposes, led to the uncovering of concealed doorways protected by gates of steel. Blasting these open, the Russians found wide ramps leading into the depths of the earth, where they connected with tunnels built in a network extending several miles. Huge workshops equipped with an elaborate array of machine tools were turning out Messerschmitts. Barracks, stores, laboratories, and other structures filled several subterranean floors.

Hungry and angry

Food will be the real difficulty for the Nazis in their holdout war. Food is already a calamitous issue throughout the embattled Reich and the rest of continental Europe. The Allies do not intend to assume the task of feeding the German population, and have made this point plain. The job of feeding and supplying the Allied armies taxes shipping facilities so severely that the whole Allied program for furnishire relief to liberated Europe is badly bogged down.

Goebbels nevertheless intends to exploit the opportunity presented by the established laws of warfare, which impose upon the conqueror responsibility for the well-being of the defeated during occupation of their country. Having broken all the laws of war and humanity, the Nazis now profess pious adherence to such of the laws of war as proffer them advantage. If they can dump the problem of feeding Germany into the lap of the Allies, they believe the recovery of the rest of Europe will be prevented.

The condition of the German people with respect to food is far better than that of neighboring peoples ruined by the German armies. But this advantage is passing, in spite of the conscienceless robberies which the Nazis still perpetrate to buttress the health of the German people. Approximately 7,500,000 Germans swarm through the cities and towns of the Reich as refugees from the remorseless Russian offensives in the East. Hundreds of thousands clutter the roads from the western battle zones.

The impact of this horde of displaced humanity upon the food supplies of Germany is tremendous. Neither social services nor health facilities can withstand the overload placed upon them by the homeless, the hungry, the sick, and the ill-clothed. So disease and famine are appearing.

A sharp slash in the German food ration — the third since October — cuts allowances to less than those of the famine year of 1918. Then 8 pounds of potatoes were permitted per capita per week; the new ration offers 5 pounds. In 1918 the bread ration was 67 ounces a week; today it is 50 ounces in some of the larger cities, and does not exceed 57 elsewhere. The latest reduction of German rations cuts fats and cereals by one fourth.

Germany’s victims starve

Germany’s food problems are negligible compared with the appalling state of affairs in the European countries still under occupation by the Wehrmacht. The Norse live in utter destitution. Complete cessation of coal shipments from Germany to Denmark has closed all public utilities there. Gestapo-led squads are scouring the Danish countryside to commandeer food for the Reich, regardless of the fate of the Danes they rob. This is an extension of the Nazi policy in the German-occupied Netherlands since early winter.

Though the cruelest winter in recent memory has passed, the sufferings of the unhappy Dutch increase. Hunger has loosed an epidemic of robberies. In every city and town in the German-controlled area the Dillaging of the people by the Germans continues. Scores die of starvation daily in Amsterdam and The Hague. Loose slices of bread fetch premium prices. In early March, a single boiled potato without salt retailed in the black market for 65 cents. Salt was 10 cents extra. One pound of bread was selling at $54; a quart of milk at $5.40.

The daily food ration of Amsterdam — a city of about 800,000 souls — averages almost exactly one seventh of the current daily ration across the Channel in Britain. During January, the Dutch underground reported that 630 calories a day was the allowance in several Dutch cities. In February it had fallen to 450 calories. The minimum standard requirement for maintenance of healthy life is from 2400 to 3000 calories.

German confiscation of food is accompanied by house-to-house raids for the purpose of seizing bedclothes and other items considered useful to the Reich. Shoes sell at $160 a pair. Diluted beer brings $2.00 a glass. The dead are so numerous that the people have taken to burying them in gardens and open fields. Epidemics are raging — tuberculosis, dysentery, stomach ailments, infantile paralysis, diphtheria, and scarlet fever. Since January, there has been no coal, gas, electricity, butter, sugar, meat, fat, or potatoes in any city in Northern Holland.

Holland is not alone in suffering from the scourge of famine. Belgium’s plight, though measurably less difficult, continues critical. Unless food ships arrive in greater number soon, the situation bodes ill for the domestic peace of Europe.