Scrapbookpages Blog

July 8, 2014

“the Wereth 11” get new honors, as German SS soldiers in WW2 are accused of “what was undeniably a war crime”

Filed under: Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:53 am

Update July 21, 2014:   The War Heroes TV channel (formerly the Military Channel) had a story today about the Wereth 11, the black heroes, who were tortured and killed by German soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge.

Continue reading my original post:

A reader of my blog recently mentioned “the Wereth 11” in a comment. I had never heard of “the Wereth 11,” so I had to look it up on the Internet.  I discovered that “the Wereth 11” was a group of 11 African American soldiers who were fighting in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. After deserting from the battlefield, they had walked 10 miles to Wereth, a hamlet in Belgium, where they hid out, safe from the worst battle of World War II. You can read their story at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/07/wereth-black-soldiers-battle-of-bulge-army-world-war-ii-history/3465059/

The Wereth 11 now has a Facebook page, where you can read all about these heroes who were gunned down by German soldiers in wartime.  There is also a resolution that has been introduced into the US Congress (H. Con. Res. 68) to recognize the service and sacrifice of these 11 American soldiers.  You can read about it here.

The hamlet of Wereth in Belgium

The hamlet of Wereth in Belgium (Click to enlarge)

This website gives the story from the point of view of the African-American soldiers:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/11/07/wereth-black-soldiers-battle-of-bulge-army-world-war-ii-history/3465059/

This is the story, as told by a former African-American soldier:

The unit was decimated. “We were all either killed or captured,” said George Shomo, 92, a veteran of the 333rd who lives in Tinton Falls, N.J.

Eleven members of the 333rd managed to escape. For hours, they trudged through waist-deep snow, staying away from roads and hoping to avoid German patrols. They carried only two weapons.

Exhausted and hungry, the men stumbled upon the tiny Belgian farming hamlet of Wereth shortly before dusk. They were waving a white flag, recalls Tina Heinrichs-Langer, who at the time was 17 years old.

Tina’s father, Mathias Langer, didn’t hesitate to offer help. He invited the men into his home, seating them at the family’s rustic kitchen table, where he gave the grateful soldiers hot coffee and bread.

Harboring the Americans was a risky move for the Langer family. Wereth was a town of divided loyalties. It had been part of Germany before World War I, and some of its residents still identified themselves as German.

But Mathias Langer was unwavering in his support of the Allies. He hid deserters from the German army and sent his own sons away to avoid having them conscripted.

There is a recent documentary film about “the Wereth 11,” which you can read about here.

This quote is from the link above:

Titled The Wereth Eleven, and of course based on a true story, it’s described as…

… an epic docudrama… that retraces the steps of the 11 soldiers of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion who escaped The 18th Volksgrenadiers after their unit was overrun at the start of the Battle of the Bulge. Their 10-mile trek from their battery position to Wereth, Belgium led them to refuge with a Belgian family until a Nazi sympathizer revealed their presence to an SS Reconn Patrol. The soldiers surrendered, but were taken to a field, where they were tortured, maimed, and shot on Dec. 17, 1944. The killings were investigated, but never prosecuted.

Wait a minute!  German soldiers “tortured, maimed and shot” African American soldiers, but these German soldiers were “never prosecuted.” Unmöglich!

I quickly got out my copy of the book entitled Justice at Dachau by Joshua M. Greene.  This book tells all about the war crimes trials that were held at Dachau, by the Americans after World War II.  The “Wereth 11” was not mentioned in this comprehensive book, probably because no one was ever prosecuted for this crime.

A few years ago, I spent a great deal of time studying the war crimes trials at Dachau, and wrote about it on my scrapbookpages.com website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauTrials/MalmedyMassacre03.html

It is very strange, and highly suspicious, that no one was ever put on trial for the torture, maiming and shooting of the “Wereth 11” in Belgium.  These black soldiers had deserted from the Battle of the Bulge and had gone 10 miles from the battlefield to hide in the hamlet of Wereth in Begium. They should have been taken as Prisoners of War by the Germans and given all their rights under the Geneva Convention.

This quote is from my website page about the Malmady Massacre:

Forty-two of the accused [at the Malmedy Massacre trial] were sentenced to death by hanging, including Col. Joaquin Peiper. Peiper made a request through his defense attorney that he and his men be shot by a firing squad, the traditional soldier’s execution. His request was denied. General Sepp Dietrich was sentenced to life in prison along with 21 others. The rest of the accused were sentenced to prison terms of 10, 15 or 20 years.

None of the convicted SS soldiers were ever executed and by 1956, all of them had been released from prison. All of the death sentences had been commuted to life in prison. As it turned out, the Malmedy Massacre proceedings at Dachau, which were intended to show the world that the Waffen-SS soldiers were a bunch of heartless killers, became instead a controversial case which dragged on for over ten years and resulted in criticism of the American Occupation, the war crimes military tribunals, the Jewish prosecutors at Dachau and the whole American system of justice.

Before the last man convicted in the Dachau proceedings walked out of Landsberg prison as a free man, the aftermath of the case had involved the US Supreme Court, the International Court at the Hague, the US Congress, Dr. Johann Neuhäusler, a Bishop from Munich, who was a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp, and the government of the new Federal Republic of Germany. All of this was due to the efforts of the defense attorney, Lt. Col. Willis M. Everett.

[…]

The prosecution case hinged on the accusation that Adolf Hitler himself had given the order that no prisoners were to be taken during the Battle of the Bulge and that General Sepp Dietrich had passed down this order to the commanding officers in his Sixth Panzer Army. This meant that there was a Nazi conspiracy to kill American prisoners of war and thus, all of the accused were guilty because they were participants in a “common plan” to break the rules of the Geneva Convention. Yet General Dietrich’s Sixth Panzer Army had taken thousands of other prisoners who were not shot. According to US Army figures, there was a total of 23,554 Americans captured during the Battle of the Bulge.

[…]

Patton’s Army was accused of several incidents in which German prisoners of war were shot, which he admitted in his autobiography. Patton wrote the following entry in his diary on 4 January 1945:

“The Eleventh Armored is very green and took unnecessary losses to no effect. There were also some unfortunate incidents in the shooting of prisoners. I hope we can conceal this.”

In another incident involving the shooting of German and Italian Prisoners of War, an American captain was acquitted on the grounds that he had been following the orders of General Patton, who had discouraged American troops from taking prisoners during the landing of the US Seventh Army in Sicily.

Ironically, an incident in which Americans executed German prisoners happened within half a mile of the Dachau courtroom. On April 29, 1945, the day that the SS surrendered the camp at Dachau, American soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division of the US Seventh Army lined up surrendered Waffen-SS soldiers against a wall and machine-gunned them down in the SS Training Camp, next to the concentration camp. This was followed by a second incident, on the same day, which happened at a spot very near the courtroom: the killing of SS guards at the Dachau concentration camp after they came down from their guard tower and surrendered with their hands in the air.

A third execution of German soldiers who had surrendered on April 29th, known as the Webling Incident happened in the village of Webling on the outskirts of of the town of Dachau. American soldiers of the 222nd Regiment of the 42nd Rainbow Division executed soldiers of the German Home Guard after they had surrendered. The Home Guard consisted of young boys and old men who were forced into service in the last desperate days of the war to defend their cities and towns.

[…]

After the war, the Germans attempted to bring a list of 369 murder cases, involving US Army soldiers killing German POWs and wounded men, before a German court, but the cases were thrown out. The list of these 369 killings was published in a German newspaper.

So who was really killing Prisoners of War in World War II?