Were there any Germans in Japan after the surrender of Germany in May, 1945 and if so, what happened to them?

Were there any Germans in Japan after the surrender of Germany in May, 1945 and if so, what happened to them?

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I assume there were potentially hundreds of German advisers, etc. in Japan at the time of the German surrender. Is there evidence that they tried to reach Allied troops to surrender to them? Did some fight directly for Japan? What happened to these Germans after Japan itself surrendered?

The fate of the German ambassador to Japan, Heinrich Georg Stahmer indicates what probably happened to most of the Germans in Japan.

On May 5, 1945, as the German surrender was approaching, Stahmer was handed an official protest by Japanese Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo, accusing the German government of betraying its Japanese ally. Following the surrender of the German government, the Japanese government broke off diplomatic relations with the German Reich on May 15, 1945, and Stahmer was interned and kept under arrest in a hotel near Tokyo until the Japanese surrender in August 1945.

On September 10, 1945, following the Japanese surrender, he was placed under arrest by U.S. authorities in Sugamo Prison in Tokyo, and in September 1947 was returned to Germany, where he was interned until September 1948.

The references on the Wikipedia page will assist with further research.

I found an interesting quote (section 1943 in Kobe mit CW-Virus infiziert) of a contemporary witness (translation below).

The last sentence contains a short hint what happened to Germans in Japan after the war (with a gap of two years).

Wer hätte das gedacht, als ich mit meinen Eltern 1937 auf einer Schiffreise mit dem Turbinenschnelldampfer "Gneisenau" für einen Tag in Kobe anlegte, daß ich sehr bald einen längeren Aufenthalt in Kobe vom 13.07.41 bis 11.02.47 einplanen mußte. Schuld daran war der Ausbruch des Krieges. Meinen Vater hatten die Holländer 1940 in Niederländisch Indien (heute Indonesien ) interniert und der Rest der Familie sollte über Japan, Wladiwostok mit der Transsibirischen Eisenbahn nach Deutschland abgeschoben werden. Soweit kam es aber nicht, denn unsere Reise mit der "Asama Maru" endete wegen des Rußlandfeldzuges (22.06.41) in Kobe.[… ]

Ich besuchte während des Krieges die Zaiden Hojin Kobe Doitsu Gakuin (Stiftung Deutsche Schule Kobe der Reichsdeutschen Gemeinschaft Kobe-Oseka mit ca. 170 Schülern). Vielen ist sicher nicht bekannt, daß Kobe während des Krieges von vielen deutschen Marineeinheiten ( einschließlich U-Bote) der Kriegsmarine angelaufen wurde. Alle Einheiten aufzuführen würde hier zu weit führen. [… ]

Nach Kriegsende folgte bald durch die Amerikaner Anfang 1947 die Ausweisung fast aller Deutschen aus Japan. [… ]

Translation with the help of google translate:

Who would have thought, as my parents and I docked for a day in Kobe during a 1937 cruise on the turbine-driven steamboat "Gneisenau", that I would soon have to reckon for a longer stay in Kobe, from 13.07.41 to 11.02.47. It was due to the outbreak of the war. My father had been interned by the Dutch in 1940 in the Dutch Indies (now Indonesia) and the rest of the family was to be deported to Germany via Japan, then Vladivostok and the Transsiberian railway. But this plan was aborted, as our journey with the "Asama Maru" ended in Kobe because of the Russian campaign [22.06.41] [… ]

During the war I visited the Zaiden Hojin Kobe Doitsu Gakuin (Kobe German School Foundation of the German Association Kobe-Oseka, with about 170 pupils). Many are certainly unaware that Kobe was occupied during the war by many German naval units (including submarines) of the Kriegsmarine. To list all units here would lead us too far off-topic. [… ]

Soon after the end of the war, in early 1947, the Americans expelled almost all Germans from Japan. [… ]

Consider these submarines:

  • U-219 reached Japanese territory in December 44, was seized and used by the IJN after the German surrender.
  • U-234 was at sea during the German surrender and decided to surrender itself. The Japanese passengers committed suicide. There are plenty of conspiracy theories.

See here for surface blockade runners.

My mother was born in Japan in 1929 to German parents. She and her parents were returned to Germany in 1947 or 1948, by order of the U.S. military.

    Both Germany and Japan have acquired a great deal of soft power by garnering trust through competence.

Seven decades ago, in 1945, Germany and Japan were two devastated countries, with millions dead, their cities in ruins and governed by occupation forces. Only 20 years later, Germany and Japan both were among the strongest economic powers in the world.

Today, both are mature democracies and industrial countries with significant political clout. In the BBC’s world-wide Country Ratings Poll, they annually rank high in popularity.

This comeback story seems nothing short of a miracle. The “miracle,” however, can be explained by three crucial factors: U.S. support, good neighbors and a knowledge strategy are behind it.

1. U.S. support

The major victor of the war, the United States, was a rich country even in 1945, when much of the rest of the world was destroyed. To revive markets for the export of U.S. products, the U.S. government made a strategic choice to invest in Japan and Germany.

From 1947 onward, the United States gave $13.3 billion in grants and loans to Germany and 15 other European countries, as well as $2.44 billion to Japan.

Commercial considerations aside, it took exceptional political wisdom and leadership on the part of the United States to pursue a policy of generosity towards erstwhile enemies – not least considering that about half a million Americans lost their lives in the war.

2. Good Neighbors

Given the vastness of the atrocities committed by both Germany and Japan, it could not be assumed that the countries the two axis powers had attacked would be ready for reconciliation anytime soon.

And yet, from 1957 onward, Japan was able to normalize relations with all its former enemies, whether in Europe or East and Southeast Asia (except North Korea). Normalization with South Korea came in 1965 and with the People’s Republic of China in 1972, after shifting recognition from the Republic of China on Taiwan.

For Germany, the recognition of the horror of the Holocaust became a driver for reconciliation efforts in particular with Israel and Jewish organizations from the moment of the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949.

Germany’s re-integration into Europe took shape in the 1950s, by joining the European Economic Community and entry into NATO. These were the critical steps to provide reassurance of Germany’s genuine will to reconcile with its neighbors.

From the late sixities on, “Ostpolitik“ – or détente policy — was a tool also for normalizing relations with the countries of Eastern Europe.

For both Germany and Japan, it was a combination of factors which made reconciliation possible. Probably the most critical factor was genuine remorse, once the whole extent of the atrocities committed became clear to the wider public during the war crime trials in Nuremberg and Tokyo.

Another cornerstone was simply the hope for a better future. People who had seen – or caused – unimaginable suffering during the war needed a strong sense of direction.

Finally, the political – and existential — pressure exerted by the necessity to stand together, and alongside the United States, against the Communist threat in Europe as well as in East Asia played a crucial role as well.

In an environment where people easily might have wished for nothing but revenge, it required leaders wise and bold enough to try to do what was unexpected but what was best for the people, to come to terms with a painful past. Fortunately, such leaders were there when needed.

3. Knowledge societies

Germans speak of 1945 as “zero hour” to express that things started from scratch. Possibly in Japan the feeling was similar. In truth, it was far from a new beginning.

In both countries, society proved ready for reconstruction. Even though Nazism, fascism and militarism had reigned, the values of democratic governance and individual freedom had sufficiently grown roots.

In both countries, people had learned the major precondition for the success of a modern society – education. This dimension enabled both countries to develop sustainably. There also were scientists, engineers and managers who knew how to build industries and get the economies back in shape.

All of this resulted in Japan being the United States’ major security alliance partner in Asia and, as a free market economy, the anchor for the development of the region.

Germany, as the strongest economy in the European Union, became the engine of European development, a dynamic that has become more clearly visible than ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Few remnants of past problems linger. One of those is to get Japanese–Korean relations right, as vocal minorities in both countries pursue antagonistic agendas.

In Europe, there is concern about Germany steamrolling over the interests of weaker EU economies – one reason why Berlin is very focused on maintaining close partnerships also with smaller countries in the current crisis over Greece.

A tumultuous new world order

The bipolar world order of post-WWII times as well as the unipolar order of post-cold war days are dissolving under the pressure of challenges, each of which has its own distinct nature.

In East Asia, China’s change from a poor, irrelevant communist country to the second-strongest economy in the world and a robustly assertive power leads to the question of how to define its new regional and global role.

In Europe, a strategy to deal with Russian efforts to reestablish a traditional sphere of influence has yet to be found. The expansion of Islamist extremism in the Middle East threatens the values of democracy, equality and freedom that the international system is built on.

Then, there are the more profound challenges such as climate change, the revolution in IT-guided industry, pandemics, migration, water and energy supplies.

In order to find solutions to rapidly arising new problems acceptable to a majority of states, the world needs to find a new order. Getting there is not so much a question of introducing new rules, as of a newly structured system that may allow stability and opportunities for all.

Next steps for Germany and Japan

Both Japan and Germany are medium-sized powers with some, but not an overriding, influence on global developments. They owe much of their postwar successes to strategies of balancing interests and objectives between many and diverse partners.

Both countries might successfully apply the lessons they have learned to tackle the new tasks. The BBC’s poll results are not the global response to German and Japanese friendly smiles. They reflect German and Japanese soft power.

This soft power is based on the trust that both countries managed to establish in the seven decades since the war. It is a trust in the competence of both countries to solve problems.

The fact that such trust could be built at all should give them today the confidence that they have the ability – maybe not to work miracles but to devise strategies to deal with the condition in which they and their neighbors and partners find themselves.

Editor’s Note: Adapted from January edition of Japanese-language bi-monthly “Gaiko” (Diplomacy)


Now THIS was the REAL "Holocaust." An horrific war crime perpetrated against a civilian population, a fiery conflagration that made humans ignite, and which otherwise suffocated a great many other innocents by using incendiary bombs that eliminated all usable and breathable oxygen in the bombing zone. The great German people rose from the rubble to rebuild this amazing city. The All-Lies responsible should have been tried and hanged for this abomination.

So you say is was more a holocaust than the innocent people killed by Germans in the actual holocaust?

You are as worthless as they come, I wish I could meet you face to face to see what human trash looks like.

I think this conversation is going in the wrong direction. it should not be about which act is the worst. holocaust or bombing of Dresden.

both of them are awful and disgusting and as next generation we need to remember the destruction and brutality of war and don't make the same mistake again and again.

killing innocent and unarmed people is savage and unforgivable. it doesn't matter who does that. whether Nazi done it or allied or now a days ISIS doing the same thing over and over.

some times I wonder when mankind start to learn from history!!

If I'm correct, the Allies bombed the shit out of Dresden as revenge for all the horrible things Germany did. And anyone who praises the Germans for what they did in World War II is exactly the type of person who needs to experience the concentration camps firsthand, lex talionis.

After what Germany and Germans pulled, they honestly deserved to be wiped off the face of the planet forever, not just to deal with Germany but as a warning to all remaining nations that doing what Germany did will not be tolerated at all.

If you EVER want to see justice done, we have YouTube now, so we can document German justice, German logic, and German morality and ethics practiced on Germans for the entire world to see.

The gas chambers and mass graves for you, failures. Thought you were better by virtue of being "pure" and "Aryan" but that just made you weak, stupid, crazy, and inbred. You were defeated because you were arrogant and the rest of the world ganged up on you and your mad leader, Adolf Hitler.

If Germany ever tries to pull this shit again, I'll be advocating they use nuclear bombs and COMPLETELY DESTROY YOU, RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING so idiots like YOU never have a chance to draw breath in the first place.

Deutschland, Niedrigsten der Niedrigen!

Well, Mr. Discolust (or whatever you real name might be), it is almost a year ago, you were here. And you have written a beautiful comment. Now, let's see what we can make of it.

"And anyone who praises the Germans for what they did in World Warr II is exactly the type of person who needs to experience the concentration camps firsthand, lex talionis."

Well, is this not a very good and beautiful response! Splendid, I would say! "Lex Talionis" (An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.) You know, Mr. Discolust, unlike you, there was once another Jew (a very courageous Jew to boot), who have written a book in the past, entitled, "An Eye for an Eye The Story of Jews Who Sought Revenge For the Holocaust," (fourth edition, 2000, published by Mr. Sack himself)

Mr. John Sack, an honest and true Jewish historian, wrote about the revengeful attitude of Jews who killed thousands and thousands of innocent Germans just after the war. Unlike you, he was one of the few good and humane Jews who said it was wrong and criminal to kill those Germans. One of those Jewish mass murderers was Shlomo Morrell. After killing thousands of Germans (who had nothing to do with the Nazi party or even the war), Morell fled to Israel.

Later on, however, the Polish government demanded that he should be delivered to Poland to brought before a court of committing war crimes. Israel, however, refused to do so, Even repeated attempts by Poland for delivering him, didn't work out. And so it happened that Morell died peacefully at high age. You see, Mr. Dislocust, unlike you as a very vengeful and cruel Jew, Sack was an honest man. He was, in contradiction with you, NOT a man of "lex talionis."

2: "If you EVER want to see justice done, we have YouTube now, so we can document German justice, German logic, and German morality, and ethics practiced on Germans for the entire world to see."

You know, Dislocust, YouTube is a good channel. It differs with History Channel in this that there are also videos about what we apt could be called, the "Red Holocaust." Now, what do I mean? Well, there are besides many videos about Hitler and the Nazis, also videos in which is described, for example, the Holodomor. Josef Stalin himself, the second ruler of Soviet Russia, was not a Jews (although opinions of him differ.) But he was surrounded by revengeful and cruel Jews of the worst kind! Lazare Kaganovich, nicknamed "the Wolf of the Kremlin", is together with other Jews, responsible for the Holodomor, the greatest mass murders ever committed. Mr. Sever Plocker, another fine and good Jew, moderator of EyenetNews, wrote in 2006 that some of the greatest murderers of 20th history were Jews and who have "blood on their hands for eternity." Now, it is very unlikely that you will reappear here again while your profile is removed. But I have one very urgent advice for you: Before you will point with on finger at me in a accusing way, you've got to point with four fingers at yourselves (and at other revengeful and cuel Jews as you are, of course!)

After the war, investigators from various countries, and with varying political motives, calculated the number of civilians killed to be as little as 8,000 to more than 200,000. Estimates today range from 35,000 to 135,000. Looking at photographs of Dresden after the attack, in which the few buildings still standing are completely gutted, it seems improbable that only 35,000 of the million or so people in Dresden at the time were killed.

Look - the definitive report from the Dresden Historical Commission itself published their final report on the subject around 2010.Between 18,000 and 25,000 dead. No more. This is based on their own research, on documents that were not even available for review until after the fall of the Soviet Union, and most important, is consistent with what the Dresden authorities said at the time.

We didn't have the reports of the Dresden authorities, because the Soviets occupied the city shortly afterwards. All we got was Goebbels exaggerating the number by an order of magnitude, for propaganda purposes. On the scale of WW-2 area bombings by both sides, that's actually a fairly average-to-low-average death toll. There were a lot of air raids with much higher death tolls.

The UK and France declared war on Germany after Germany invaded Poland. Russia (USSR) did not declare war on Germany -- it signed a non-aggression pact and the two divided up Poland. A year later, Germany invaded the USSR.

Maybe you should do a bit more studying.

“It looked a lot like Dayton, Ohio, more open spaces than Dayton has. There must be tons of human bone meal in the ground”.

Look at a picture of a real cremation, where the intention is to turn a human body into bone meal. At the end of the cremation, when all the flesh is burned away, you are still left with large bone skeletal remains, which has to be swept into a grinder to be ground into the fine powder we expect of human cremains.

The reason I'm pointing this out, is the official count of Dresden bombing deaths is about 25,000. That number reflects what the Dresden authorities reported in 1945, and it reflects what historians say today, on review of the available evidence.

So many people want to claim the number is up to an order of magnitude higher, because the burned bodies were turned to dust and could not be counted.

That would be a surprise to any competent funeral director. Even when you are deliberately trying to burn a body, you are left with large skeletal remains that have to be deliberately ground to dust.

Look at pictures of Dresden dead, they are gruesome, but can easily be counted as a body. An unidentified body is still a body, and it can still be counted.

Why was there no insurgency in Germany and Japan after WW2?

After the unconditional surrender of Germany in May 1945, most Germans seemed to accept the fact and didn't try to attack the armed forces of the occupying powers. Why was that?

Similar question on Japan, though I suppose the Emperor's "bear the unbearable" policy might have had something to do with it?

In Japan, it was Douglas MacArthur's skill at re-ordering the government, the media, and the social structure that kept insurgencies at bay. He didn't want to purge the Diet or the industrial machine of every possible militarist collaborator he knew that a complete sweep would result in a failed state. So he executed the worst of the worst and put the rest of them on notice.

It didn't work perfectly well. MacArthur was at constant odds with some Japanese officials and industrialists. He handled it with a classic American "my way or the highway" approach. If one of these men acted like a thorn in MacArthur's reforms, he would hammer that man down. He used a graduating set of responses: rebuke, public humiliation, re-assignment, prison, or even the gallows. MacArthur needed these men, but he didn't need all of them.

There was also a significant communist movement that threatened the new occupational order. As you can imagine, MacArthur didn't like it. But he knew he couldn't go about imprisoning or executing every political dissident. Instead, he used the media. Under MacArthur, newspapers, magazines, radio, and film flourished like never before. The Japanese realized a new level of self-expression. And they liked it.

But there were rules. One could not publish or distribute anything that was critical of the occupation, glorified militarism, or that supported communism. These rules were non-negotiable. By robbing the communists of any hope of gaining larger appeal from the masses, their effort fizzled out.

MacArthur's occupation was effective because it was largely peaceful and it gave the masses some hope for the future. A nation that expected to be burned alive after capitulation was instead brushed off, stood up, and given food, medicine, and a somewhat free press. (There were hundreds of newspapers and magazines dedicated solely to helping families re-connect in the aftermath. They were immensely popular and everyone knew they had MacArthur's stamp of approval. Things like this helped the Japanese people ease into acceptance of the occupation and "endure the unendurable".)

First of all, after the Allies suffered major losses at Iwo Jima in February of 1945, the fear of Japan’s invasion was more prominent by the day. That is why President Truman gave the green light on using the atomic bomb. This moment was pivotal, not only for bringing World War II to an end but for changing the life for all people on Earth forever since. The United States army dropped two atomic bombs: first on Hiroshima, and then on Nagasaki. The first airstrike happened on August 6, and the other one just three days later, on August 9, 1945.

B-29 Superfortress 'Enola Gay' landing after the atomic bombing mission on Hiroshima, Japan. Tinian, Marianas Islands. August 6, 1945.

The devastation caused by the atomic bombs was so horrific, so Japan declared its surrender on August 15. The official document of Japan’s surrender is known as Instrument of Surrender, and it was signed between Japan on one side and the Allies countries on the other on September 2, 1945.

Lost Prison Interview with Hermann Goring: The Reichsmarschall‘s Revelations

His impressive girth, bombast and outlandish costumes made Reichsmarschall Hermann Goring the darling of Allied satirists. As their cities were pummeled to rubble during the war, even the Germans took to contemptuously referring to the head of the Luftwaffe as Der Dicke (the fat one). More than 60 years on, that perception of the Reichsmarschall persists but it is only half the story.

His comical words, actions and unique fashion sense aside, it should be remembered that Göring was a bona fide war hero who received the coveted Orden Pour le Merite during World War I and was a figure of high importance in the Nazi hierarchy. His place at the center of great events makes Göring worthy of careful study and close scrutiny even today.

On May 8, 1945, Göring surrendered to the Americans in full military regalia. Expecting to be treated as the emissary of a defeated people, the Reichsmarschall was shocked when his medals and marshal’s baton were taken away and he was confined in Prisoner of War Camp No. 32, known to its inmates as the ‘Ashcan.

It was from his cell in the Ashcan that on July 25, 1945, Adolf Hitler’s former heir was interviewed by Major Kenneth W. Hechler of the U.S. Army Europe’s Historical Division, with Captain Herbert R. Sensenig serving as translator. The interview—overlooked for more than 60 years—provides insight on some of the strategic options considered by the Nazi leadership early in the war, their views of the threat posed by the United States and the Soviet Union, and how those attitudes influenced the actual strategy implemented.

Hechler: What was the German estimate of American war potential? Did Germany hope to complete its European campaigns before the United States would be strong enough to intervene?

Göring: As a break neared and it seemed that the matter had to be decided by war, I told Hitler, I consider it a duty to prevent America going to war with us. I believed the economic and technical potential of the United States to be unusually great, particularly the air force. Although at the time not too many new inventions had been developed to the extent we might have anticipated, and airplane production was significant but not outstandingly large. I always answered Hitler that it would be comparatively easy to convert factories to war production. In particular, the mighty automobile industry could be resorted to. Hitler was of the opinion that America would not intervene because of its unpleasant experiences in World War I.

Hechler: What unpleasant experiences? Loss of life?

Göring: The United States helped everybody and got nothing for it the last time, Hitler felt. Things had not been carried out the way the United States had planned. [President Woodrow] Wilson’s 14 Points had not been observed. Hitler was also thinking of the difficulties of shipping an army to Europe and keeping it supplied.

Hechler: What did you feel personally about our war potential?

Göring: While I, personally, was of the opinion that the United States could build an air force quicker than an army, I constantly warned of the possibilities of the U.S. with its great technical advances and economic resources.

Hechler: If you thought the United States would become so powerful, how did this relate to your own plans for waging war?

Göring: The decisive factor in 1938 was the consideration that it would take the United States several years to prepare. Its shipping tonnage at the time was not too large. I wanted Hitler to conclude the war in Europe as rapidly as possible and not get involved in Russia. Yet, on the question of whether America could build up an army on a big scale, opinions were divided.

Hechler: What were the divided opinions? What did other people think?

Göring: I don’t know the views of other influential people. I cannot say that other people had given different advice.

Hechler: What opinion was held by OKW [Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, or German Armed Forces High Command] and OKH [Oberkommando des Heeres, or German Army High Command]?

Göring: I don’t know the opinion of OKW or OKH. I used to tell Hitler that everything depended on our not bringing the U.S. over to Europe again. I said during the Polish campaign that we must not let the United States get involved. In 1941 the issue became real, and the general opinion was that it was better to bear unpleasant incidents with the U.S. and strive to keep it out of the struggle than allow a deterioration of relations between the United States and Germany. This was our unrelenting effort.

Hechler: What specifically indicated to you that [President Franklin D.] Roosevelt was preparing for war?

Göring: A mass of details. It was all published in a White Book [intelligence assessment]. I don’t know if the entire text was published or only extracts. It made a deep impression.

Hechler: Did Germany expect to bring its campaign in Europe to a successful conclusion before we could build up our war potential sufficiently to intervene there?

Göring: Hitler believed that he could bring matters to such a point that it would be very difficult for you to invade or intervene.

Hechler: In December 1941, what was Germany’s estimate of our shipbuilding capability, which could influence the European campaign?

Göring: It was our opinion that it was on a very large scale. Roosevelt spoke of bridges of ships across the Atlantic and a constant stream of planes. We fully believed him and were convinced that it was true. We also had this opinion from reports by observers in the United States. We understood your potential. On the other hand, the tempo of your shipbuilding, for example, Henry Kaiser’s program, surprised and upset us. We had rather minimized the apparently exaggerated claims in this field. One spoke of these floating coffins, Kaisersärge, that would be finished by a single torpedo. We believed most of your published production figures, but not all of them, as some seem inflated. However, since the United States had all the necessary raw materials except rubber, and many technical experts, our engineers could estimate United States production quite accurately.

At first, however, we could not believe the speed with which your Merchant Marine was growing. Claims of eight to 10 days to launch a ship seemed fantastic. Even when we realized it referred to the assembly of prefabricated parts, a mere 10 days to put it together was still unthinkable. Our shipbuilding industry was very thorough and painstaking, but very slow, disturbingly slow, in comparison. It took nine months to build a Danube vessel.

Hechler: Why did Germany declare war on the United States?

Göring: I was astonished when Germany declared war on the United States. We should rather have accepted a certain amount of unpleasant incidents. It was clear to us that if Roosevelt were reelected, the U.S. would inevitably make war against us. This conviction was strongly held, especially with Hitler. After Pearl Harbor, although we were not bound under our treaty with Japan to come to its aid since Japan had been the aggressor, Hitler said we were in effect at war already, with ships having been sunk or fired upon, and must soothe the Japanese. For this reason, a step was taken which we always regretted. It was unnecessary for us to accept responsibility for striking the first blow. For the same reason, we had been the butt of propaganda in 1914, when we started to fight, although we knew that within 48 hours Russia would have attacked us. I believe Hitler was convinced that as a result of the Japanese attack, the main brunt of the United States force would be brought to bear on the Far East and would not constitute such a danger for Germany. Although he never expressed it in words, it was perhaps inexpressibly bitter to him that the main force of the United States was in fact turned against Europe.

Hechler: What comments were made by Hitler during 1939-41 on the strength of the antiwar campaign in the U.S.?

Göring: Hitler spoke a great deal on the subject. These people [isolationists], he thought, had great influence, but he got this [impression] from the U.S. press and some observers in the U.S., for example, labeling Roosevelt a warmonger. After the election of 1940, we realized that these isolationist forces were inadequate to hinder the United States’ entry into the war.

Hechler: But [Wendell] Willkie was not an isolationist!

Göring: When we read Willkie’s speeches just before the election, it was also clear that even had Willkie been elected the course of events would have been the same. After the election, we attributed little importance to the isolationists in the United States. Hitler said that they were not strong enough. Roosevelt declared before the election that U.S. troops would not leave the country and were only to be used to repel a possible invasion. We realized that this was a sop to antiwar sentiment rather than any decisive change of attitude. When Sumner Welles visited Europe in 1940, we believed the United States still wanted to stay out of the war, and that on Welles’ return there might be an attempt to preserve peace. We had previously found in Poland the diary of Count Potofsky, which indicated that Roosevelt was preparing for war. Welles’ visit might have been, we thought, a possible sign that the U.S. was inclined to try to settle matters peaceably.

Editor’s note: American industrialist Wendell Willkie was an influential figure in American politics during the war. He ran for president in 1940, opposing Roosevelt’s New Deal but supporting his foreign policy, and won 22 million popular votes to Roosevelt’s 27 million.

Sumner Welles was an American diplomat. In the spring of 1940, during the Phony War period prior to Germany’s invasion of France, Roosevelt sent him to visit European leaders about preserving the peace. Jacob Potofsky was the Polish ambassador to the United States and had a number of interviews with Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and other senior American statesmen. He apparently knew of Roosevelt’s letters to Winston Churchill before the latter became prime minister.

Hechler: Despite correct estimates of our potential, what made you think that you could emerge victorious in a war against us?

Göring: We had assessed the capacity of your air force especially well. The best engines were produced in the United States. We used to work on your engines and bought up every kind we could. Since the end of the last war, Germany had fallen behind in the air, while U.S. commercial aviation was far ahead of us. But in the beginning, we had not fully assessed the possibility of daylight bombers. Our fighters could not cope with them. When we were able to do so, there was a pause and then you sent them out with fighter escort. The Flying Fortress, for example, had more than we had anticipated. Our estimate was incorrect.

Hechler: That being so, I still don’t understand why you wanted war with us.

Göring: The war was, in fact, already going on. It was only a question of form. Our declaration of war was made solely from the propaganda point of view. We would have been willing to make the most far-reaching concessions to avoid war with the United States, as such a conflict would and did prove the heaviest imaginable burden for us. But we were convinced that there was no chance to avoid war. Even if you had transported mountains of material to England, we should not have declared war, since England alone could not have carried out an invasion of Europe without your active participation.

Hechler: With regard to our propaganda about a second front in 1943, did the German high command really expect that we would invade Europe in 1942-43?

Göring: In general, no one believed it. On the contrary, we hoped that the Russians would become disgusted with you first and come to a compromise peace with us. The Russians had complained bitterly that no second front had been opened. We knew precisely what forces were in England. We knew of every American unit in England and could estimate exactly what you had there and that it was insufficient for an invasion.

Hechler: What was your appraisal of the significance of [the August 1942 British landing at] Dieppe?

Göring: We never found out if Dieppe was just a test landing, an attempt to secure a beachhead by surprise or a gesture to the Russians that something, at least, was being done.

Hechler: Were there any changes in the defense ordered by you or anyone else as a result of Dieppe?

Göring: Only minor changes. We did order that the MLR [main line of resistance] should be right along the water. This was learned from the experience of Dieppe.

Hechler: Were you informed by any information or intelligence of our impending invasion of North Africa in November 1942?

Göring: No. We had discussed the possibility of your attacking the west coast of Africa, but we did not think you would enter the Mediterranean. When the big convoy was reported near Gibraltar, we knew some operation was imminent, but the objective might have been any part of Africa, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica or Malta.

Hechler: Why were so few planes used against us in North Africa?

Göring: We did send a couple of squadrons as reinforcements in November 1942 and bombed successfully, near the Tunis side—for example, Bône and Algiers—and we bombed and sank ships at sea. The planes were based in Italy and had insufficient range to strike at landings around Oran, for instance. We did not have too many long-range bombers. As your forces moved east, they came within range. The Heinkel 177 had more than enough range and was supposed to be ready in 1941, but it took too long to perfect and was not ready until early in 1944. It seemed terrible to me that there was such a delay, since such models became obsolete so quickly.

Hechler: Why did you not first seize Dakar?

Göring: In 1940 we had a plan to seize all North Africa from Dakar to Alexandria, and with it the Atlantic islands for U-boat bases. This would have cut off many of Britain’s shipping lanes. At the same time, any resistance movement in North Africa could be crushed. Then, taking Gibraltar and Suez would merely be a question of time, and nobody could have interfered in the Mediterranean. But Hitler would not make concessions to Spain in Morocco, on account of France. Spain had no objections to the campaign in fact, the Spaniards were ready for it.

Hechler: Who made this plan? Where and when was the conference on it?

Göring: Hitler and [Joachim von] Ribbentrop met [Francisco] Franco and [Ramón Serrano] Suñer [Franco’s chief negotiator] at Hendaye [France] in September or October 1940. Unfortunately, I was not along. [Benito] Mussolini was jealous and feared having the Germans in the Mediterranean. By that time, it was 1941 and the Russian danger in Hitler’s mind excluded all other considerations. Lack of shipping had prevented us from invading England, but, before the difficulties with Russia, we could have carried out the Gibraltar Plan, with 20 divisions in West Africa, 10 in North Africa and 20 against the Suez Canal, still leaving 100 divisions in France. The entire Italian army, which was unfit for a major war, could have been used for occupation forces. The loss of Gibraltar might have induced England to sue for peace. Failure to carry out the plan was one of the major mistakes of the war.

The plan was originally mine. Hitler had similar ideas and everyone was enthusiastic about it. The navy was in favor of the plans, as it would have given the navy better bases. Instead of being cooped up in Biscay and Bordeaux, it could have had U-boat bases much farther out in Spain and the Atlantic islands. If the campaign succeeded, I personally wanted to attack the Azores to secure U-boat bases there, which would have crippled British sea lanes. The main task in taking Gibraltar would have fallen to the Luftwaffe. Paratroopers would have had to be dropped. So I was chiefly concerned, and I would have very eagerly carried out the operation. The Luftwaffe had many officers who had participated in the war in Spain a year and a half before and knew the people and the country.

Even if Gibraltar had not been taken, we could have Algeciras [as a base of operations], and with 800mm siege mortars could have smashed the soft stone of Gibraltar and taken the base. There was only one unprotected airfield on the Rock. In 24 hours the Royal Air Force would have been forced off the Rock, and we could have battered it to pieces. This was a real task and we were eager to accomplish it. Ships would have been sunk by mines and no mine sweepers could have operated.

Hechler: Can you trace the defeat of the Gibraltar plan directly to Hitler’s fear and distrust of Russia?

Göring: By the beginning of 1941, the Russian threat had begun to loom as a very real danger. Russia was bringing up large forces and making preparations on the frontier. If an agreement had been reached with [Commissar of Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav] Molotov in February 1941, and the Russian danger had not been so real, we should certainly have carried out my plan in the spring of 1941.

Editor’s note: It is clear from Hitler’s first book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), that as early as the 1930s the leader of the Third Reich sought to invade Russia in order to give Germany access to its living space, oil and other natural resources, grain and population. Göring was catering to his American interrogators and the United States at a point in time when U.S.–Soviet tensions were growing and Stalin and the Red Army posed the greatest ideological and military threat to Europe since the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich.

Hechler: Was the seizure of Dakar definitely part of your plan?

Göring: Yes. The plan called for securing all of North Africa, so that there would be no possible chance of any enemy penetrating to the Mediterranean. Such a possibility had to be excluded under all circumstances. Dakar was about the southwestern extremity. We would not have gone as far south as Freetown, for example. It would have taken much too long for anyone to attack across the desert with neither roads nor water supply adequate for the purpose. There was, therefore, no real danger to the Mediterranean from that far south. We would have taken Cyprus, too. I would have taken it right after we took Crete. We could also have taken Malta easily. Then the Atlantic islands would have been further protection for the coast of Africa. But fear of Russia stopped us. We had only eight divisions on the whole Russian frontier at the time.

Editor’s note: It is unlikely that the Germans could have taken Malta or Cyprus after their airborne invasion of Crete, although they had plans to invade Malta. The Wehrmacht suffered more than 6,000 casualties taking Crete, the vast bulk of them paratroopers, and the operation left both the Luftwaffe’s Fallschirmjäger and its transport arm—which lost more than 300 Junkers Ju-52 transports heavily damaged or destroyed—debilitated and unable to execute any large-scale airborne operations for some time to come. Nor could the Luftwaffe support the Russian campaign after Crete to the extent that Hitler had anticipated. Indeed, after the debacle at Crete, Hitler turned his back on large-scale airborne operations forever.

Hechler: Were Hitler’s fears of Russia military or ideological? Did he fear communism’s spread or Russia’s military might?

Göring: Hitler feared a military attack. Molotov made the following demands in February 1941: a second war on Finland, to result in Russian occupation of the entire country invasion of Romania and occupation of part of the country strengthened Russian position in Bulgaria solution of the Dardanelles question (none of us wished to see Russia there) and the question of the Skagerrak and the Kattegat. This made us fall out of our chairs, it was so incredible. This was the last straw Molotov was not to be heard any further. Germany would not even discuss it.

We would have no objections to Russia having a sphere of influence in Finland, but Hitler felt that if Russia occupied the whole of Finland, she would reach out to Swedish iron ore mines and the port of Narvik, and we did not want the Russians as our northern neighbors, with troops in Scandinavia. The German people were also very sympathetic toward the valiant Finns. The Russian move northwest would have tended to outflank Germany. Similarly, the Russians in Romania might not necessarily go south, but might move westward to encircle Germany on that side. By denying us the nickel of Finland and the grain and oil of Romania, Russia could have exerted economic pressure against us, and in 1942 or so proceeded to direct military action. These were the main reasons that kept us from arriving at any agreement.

In November 1940, when the first alarming reports came from the east, Hitler gave his first orders to OKW regarding the steps which would have to be taken if the situation with Russia became dangerous. Provision had to be made for the eventuality of a Russian attack. In March 1941, Hitler made up his mind to launch a preventive attack on Russia as a practical matter. I had favored making more concessions to Molotov, since I believed that if Russia invaded Finland and Romania, the differences between her and Britain and the United States would have become insuperable. Hitler, however, was personally distrustful of Russia all the time and saw in her, with the mighty armaments she had been piling up for 10 years, the great future enemy of Germany. Hitler’s inward mistrust remained deep even though not expressed. He wanted to reject all of Molotov’s demands in February 1941, whereas those of my opinion felt that a second Finnish war and a Russian drive on the Dardanelles would rupture the already tense relations between Russia and the Anglo-Saxon powers. In the long run, Russia might then fight England and not against us.

What Stalin’s real intentions were, I don’t know—whether he wanted to move toward the Dardanelles, or to attack Germany. If we had granted Russia’s demands, we might have had her join with us in a four-power pact, replacing the Three-Power Pact. I did not want to attack Russia. I wanted to carry out the Gibraltar plan, and I also did not want to see my Luftwaffe split between the Eastern and Western fronts. Russia was developing a position completely and finally contradictory to the interests of the British.

On August 12, 1945, Göring arrived, with other accused Nazi leaders, in the shattered ruins of Nuremberg, where they were detained next to the Palace of Justice. Slimmed down and weaned off his dependence on painkillers by the beginning of the Nuremberg trials on November 20, he was charged with crimes under four general headings: the common plan or conspiracy (to initiate the war), crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The prisoner psychiatrist at Nuremberg found Göring to be a brilliant, brave, ruthless, grasping and shrewd executive. At the same time, he was charming, persuasive, intelligent and imaginative. But his urbane personality was also characterized by a complete lack of moral discrimination and an absence of any sense of the value of human life.

Göring defended himself, Hitler and the Third Reich energetically and at times even brilliantly. However, his voluntary admissions and frank avowals were hardly the basis for a sound defense. He cut an impressive figure in the witness box and his booming voice and defiant testimony, broadcast throughout occupied Germany by the Allies, lifted spirits in many parts of Germany as the people heard their Hermann fighting back.

The first screening in court of the graphic concentration camp films and testimony from senior commanders of the SS, however, undermined Göring’s defense, taking the wind out of his sails and leaving him bitterly depressed. On August 31, 1946, after 216 court days, the accused were called upon to make their final addresses. The German people trusted their Fürher, remarked Göring. Ignorant of crimes of which we know today, the people fought with loyalty, self-sacrifice and courage, and they have suffered, too, in this life-and-death struggle into which they were arbitrarily thrust. The German people are free from blame. His address failed to save him, although it did reinforce a growing myth among the German people that stressed their victimization during the war rather than their complicity in the crimes of the Third Reich.

On Tuesday, October 1, 1946, Hermann Göring was pronounced guilty on all four charges and sentenced to death by hanging. Hitler’s former Reichsmarschall cheated the hangman’s noose when he swallowed potassium cyanide, which may have been provided by one of his American guards, on October 15, only hours before his scheduled execution. He was cremated at Dachau and his ashes were dumped in a trash can.

This article was written by Gilberto Villahermosa and originally appeared in the September 2006 issue of World War II magazine.


This photograph of graffiti left on the ruins of the German Reichstag building in Berlin was taken on 3 July 1945, nearly two months after the German surrender. After the war, the Allied fighting forces took on the roles of armies of occupation and military government.

Between 17 July and 2 August, the leaders of the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union met at Potsdam to confirm the division of Germany and the nature of its occupation. The relationship between the former wartime Allies, although tense from as early as 1942, became increasingly strained as they struggled to reach agreement on the shape of post-war Europe.

The United States and the Soviet Union had emerged as ideologically opposed 'superpowers', each wanting to exert their influence in the post-war world. In a speech given on 5 March 1946, less than a year after the war’s end, Churchill delivered the words that would come to define much of the post-war era: 'From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent'.

PICTURES FROM HISTORY: Rare Images Of War, History , WW2, Nazi Germany

Two young concentration camp guards after their first "interrogation". (Source: Dr. Gerhard Frey, VorsichtFdlschung, p. 298.) "In Bergen-Belsen the intestines were torn out of the guards' abdomens while they still lived. Young SS assistants heard the men moan and scream. Their death throes lasted three days."

In 1945 the Soviet Minister of Propaganda, repeatedly called for the rape of German women: in the resultant orgy of sex crimes, millions of German women fell victim to the ideology of anti-Fascist hatred. Hundreds of thousands of them lost their lives. Millions were raped.

"The American Senator Joseph McCarthy, in a statement given to the American Press on May 20th, 1949, drew attention to. cases of torture to secure. confessions. In the prison of Schwäbisch Hall. officers of the SS Leibstandarte. were flogged until they were soaked in blood, after which their sexual organs were trampled on as they lay prostrate on the ground. On the basis of such `confessions' extorted. "

This soldier from the SS division Hitlerjugend enters captivity. In many cases members of the SS, whose courage and chivalry had often been acknowledged even by their military opponents, were brutally tortured and murdered after the war.

Russian soldies were filled with the bloodlust combined with a mad desire for revenge. As a Russian commander said after the war how he felt then.

Holland's invasion of Indonesia

The Netherlands spent the best part of World War II under German occupation, a situation that was probably about as fun as it sounds. You might expect this to mean that the government in Amsterdam emerged from the war very aware of how much it sucked to have a foreign power invade and take over your nation. You'd be wrong. Barely had victory been declared in Europe than the Netherlands was launching a force halfway across the globe to occupy Indonesia and crush its population.

Prior to World War II, Indonesia had been a Dutch colony. When Japan entered the war, they quickly seized the country, occupying it from 1942 to 1945. As Inside Indonesia notes, the Japanese surrender resulted in a short window of time when Japanese authorities were still in charge of Indonesia, but the war was over. Indonesian nationalists took advantage of the confusion by launching an uprising to declare independence, resulting in the murder of thousands of Dutch civilians (via NOS). The Dutch responded with the Police Actions, or Politinele acties, a polite euphemism for a war of occupation that killed anywhere between 70,000 and 200,000 Indonesians in revenge.

The Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum) in Amsterdam says the Police Action only ended after the United States leaned heavily on the Dutch to grant Indonesia independence. Faced with the prospect of going from "Nazi victims" in the global public consciousness to "murderous buttholes," the Dutch withdrew their troops in 1950.

Was Truman Right to Drop Nuclear Bombs on Imperial Japan?

Key point: Truman thought he was sparing lives by ending the war quickly.

Every year, as the anniversaries of the U.S. nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki approach, Americans engage in the painful moral exercise of wondering whether President Harry Truman should have ordered the use of nuclear weapons (or as they were called at the time, the “special bombs”) against Japan in August 1945. And every year, as we get farther away in time from those horrible events, we wonder if we were wrong.

In 1945, Americans overwhelmingly supported the use of the bomb seventy years later, that number is now a bare majority (some polls suggest less), with support for Truman’s decision concentrated among older people.

Truman, for his part, thought he was bringing the war to a swift close. Taken in its time, the decision was the right one. As historian David McCullough has been known to say, “people living ‘back then’ didn’t know they were living ‘back then’,” and to judge the decisions of people in 1945 by the standards of 2015 is not only ahistorical, it is pointless. Truman and his advisers made the only decision they could have made indeed, considered in the context of World War II, it wasn’t really much of a decision at all.

There are three arguments usually marshalled against the use of the bomb in 1945. First, that to use the bomb only against Japan was racist second, that it was pointless and third, that it was done purely for political effect that had more to do with the Soviet Union than with the war in the Pacific. These objections make little sense when weighed against counterfactual thinking about American alternatives.

Was the use of nuclear bombs against Japan actually racism? Would Truman have used the bomb against the Germans? After all, America had a “Germany first” strategy from the very beginning of its involvement in the war, so why drop the bomb on Japan? Was American nuclear devastation reserved only for Asians but not Europeans?

It is difficult to believe that the Allies would have spared the Germans anything after turning the streets of German cities like Dresden to glass under repeated firebombing. The more obvious objection, however, is that the first atomic test took place in July 1945, two months after the Nazi surrender in May. There is some evidence that FDR’s advisers thought about using the bomb against Germany, but by the time Truman took office, it was a moot point: the Nazis were beaten and the invasion of Germany was winding down, not gearing up.

Truman’s detractors, in the absence of any evidence, merely claim that Truman would have done no such thing, especially at a time when so many Americans were of German descent. There is no arguing with this point, as I learned in the mid-1990s. At the time, I was teaching at Dartmouth College, where I had a chance encounter with a well-known historian on the subject. Truman’s papers had been unsealed in those years, and there was no evidence that Japan was singled out for any other reason than it was still fighting. (Indeed, the Americans specifically tried to seek out military targets rather than simply to butcher the Japanese.)

I asked this colleague what he thought of the new evidence. “I don’t care,” he said. For people who hold to the “it was about racism” theory, that’s about as far as you’re going to get.

But what about a stronger objection, that Truman should have realized that Japan was beaten? This is one of those arguments that assumes modern-day omniscience on the part of historical figures. The fact of the matter is that Japan was not preparing to surrender it was preparing to fight to the death. The invasion of the Japanese home islands was not going to look like the invasion of Germany, where the Nazi armies were crushed between advancing U.S. and British forces on one side and an avalanche of enraged Soviet troops on the other. The Japanese invasion, on the other hand was likely to cost a half-million Allied and Japanese lives— all in what should have been the last months of the war.

Here, I will candidly admit that I am not objective about this question. In 1945, my father finished infantry school in Georgia and was immediately shipped to California to await his orders to carry a rifle during the invasion of Japan. Fortunately, as things turned out, he did nothing more than fight “the Battle of Fort Ord,” as my mother wryly called it. My father, for the remainder of his life, considered nuclear weapons to be an awful and inhumane instrument of war, but he was certain that they saved his own life.

Still, let’s assume, as some historians have done, that Harry Truman was either duped or made an honest mistake, and that the invasion casualty estimates were way off. (One historian has suggested that these estimates were ten times too high.) What should Truman have done? If the figure of 500,000 casualties was wrong, perhaps Truman would have been risking only—only—50,000 lives. But would even one more Allied death have been worth not dropping the bomb, in the minds of the president and his advisors, after six years of the worst fighting in the history of the human race?

Imagine if Truman had decided to hold back. The war ends, with yet more massive bloodshed, probably at some point in 1946. Truman at some point reveals the existence of the bomb, and the president of the United States explains to thousands of grieving parents and wounded veterans that he did not use it because he thought it was too horrible to drop on the enemy, even after a sneak attack, a global war, hundreds of thousands of Americans killed and wounded in two theaters, and years of ghastly firebombing. Seventy years later, we would likely be writing retrospectives on “the impeachment of Harry S. Truman.”

Finally, what about the argument, imbued (wrongly) in several generations of students of international relations, that Truman only dropped the bomb in order to impress the Soviets and establish U.S. dominance in the coming Cold War?

There’s no doubt that the Americans wanted the war over before the Soviets could enter Japan—ironically, something we ourselves had asked them to do when we thought we would have to invade. From the victory at Stalingrad in 1943 onward, U.S. leaders (at least those other than the sickly Roosevelt) realized that Stalin’s Soviet Union was not interested in a peaceful world order policed by the great powers. The Americans were in a hurry to force a Japanese surrender, but they had no way of knowing whether that surrender was imminent. Ward Wilson, for one, claims that the Japanese surrendered not because of the bomb but because of the Soviet entry into the Pacific war, but only the most cold-blooded president would have counted on this and held America’s greatest weapon in reserve.

Again, consider the counterfactual. For years after World War II, the Soviets charged that the nuclear attacks on Japan were a warning to the USSR. Imagine, however, a world in which America held back the bomb, and allowed the Soviets to fight their way through Japan, taking huge casualties along the way. The speeches Stalin and his successors would have given during the Cold War write themselves: “America allowed Soviet soldiers to spill their blood on the beaches of Japan, while Truman and his criminal gang protected the secret of their ultimate weapon. We shall never forget, nor forgive, this squandering of Soviet lives…”

In reality, of course, as soon as the bomb was tested, Truman told Stalin that America had a weapon of great power nearing completion. Stalin, well informed due to his spy networks inside the U.S. nuclear effort, knew exactly what Truman meant, and he told the U.S. president to make good use of this new addition to the Allied arsenal. Both leaders were being cagey, but it was really the only conversation these two men, leading huge armies against the Axis, could have had in 1945 that would have made any sense.

In the 1995 film Crimson Tide, Gene Hackman played a Navy captain whose views are no doubt how critics see American thinking about the decision to use nuclear weapons. “If someone asked me if we should bomb Japan,” he opines while enjoying cigar in the wardroom, “a simple ‘Yes.’ By all means, sir, drop that [expletive]. Twice.”

The actual decision to drop the bomb was not nearly as casual as “a simple yes.” Critics of the decision to use the “special bomb” in 1945 are judging men born in the 19th century by the standards of the 21st. Had Truman and his commanders shrunk from doing everything possible to force the war to its end, the American people would never have forgiven them. This judgment no doubt mattered more to these leaders than the disapproval of academic historians a half century later, and rightly so.

Nuclear arms are hideous, immoral weapons whose existence continues to threaten our civilization. To say, however, that Harry Truman should have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of American lives because of what happened in the nuclear arms race decades later is not only ahistorical, it is moral arrogance enabled from the safe distance provided by time and victory.

Watch the video: Flight and Expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia 1945