Munich & the Legacy of War Crimes

The new a bandage on our lost heritage

Munich, Germany: This visit to Munich was another reminder to me at how criminal it is to bomb civilians and cultural targets, pardon war criminals and carry out preventive strikes and targeted murders. Those who come to wonderful Munich should understand what we all lost from stupid kids with armies breaking irreparable windows. The Allies hanged thousands of Germans and Japanese for what they had done themselves and we continue to do it.

Easy targets, permanent loss

There are so many beautiful old buildings in Munich’s center that one might almost forget this town, like so many others in Germany, was the victim of ‘Mad Bomber Harris and Co.s’ deliberate campaign of bombing civilian targets: a war crime. It is the post-war steel, glass and concrete structures which surround the elderly survivors that, after the bombings, tell you this city in 1945, looked like a decayed toothless bag-lady until architects built the modern ‘implants’ between the few remaining teeth.

Allied bombing did not discriminate between people, art, heritage and beauty for lack of military targets of opportunity. The desire to destroy a people’s will and everything that they hold dear in their culture and history, is on display in the modern buildings which cannot hide the scars of what was lost.

The Nazis were already beat but the bombings continued without ever really breaking the German will, much like Sherman’s march through Georgia failed to break southern will to fight. The fire bombing of Dresden and the obliteration of its irreplaceable Cathedral is one of Harris’s and the Allies’ “great accomplishments” of wanton destruction. (1)

Also high on my list of how we were not the Great One’s either, is the ‘industrial scale raping’ of women in Berlin by the Soviets following the defeat; over 100,000 German women were raped in a week, and up to two million in all. (2) That was just the climax of an advance of rape over thousands of kilometers. It was not only the Soviets. In the small university town of Tübingen, witnesses of the time told me how the French let their North African troops run amok, targeting girls and women for a week. After all, the North Africans had been promised this “treat.” (3)

“A French officer came to my father after a week,” one woman who was hiding with her sisters told me, “and said to my father that me and my sisters could come down from the attic now; that the raping was over.”

A man who was a four-year-old boy at the time, tells how American troops entered the bomb shelter in Stuttgart where he, his mother and other women and children were hiding and systematically raped all the women, including his mother, right before his eyes.

Among the stories my father told me about the war, which were few and far between, the misconduct of his fellow soldiers was at the top of the list, including rape, but not only:

“The Sergeant said to take the 30 prisoners back to the POW depot and be back in five minutes,” Dad said. “The depot was ten miles away. We were back in five minutes.” Captured Germans did not have much of a chance for a while during the Battle of the Bulge.

Civilians & World Heritage – Military Targets?

Munich has long been a city of art, music and literature. It is still so today. A sign of Bavaria’s determination not to lose all that which make them a proud and successful people. Throughout the city, there are also many monuments and museums dedicated to the victims of the Nazis and the city is host to Germany’s second largest Jewish population. Dachau Concentration Camp is maintained as a museum and school children here are systematically taken to visit the site. There is a determined effort not to forget what happens when you lose your humanity.

“They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites?”

“We could win that war in a week if we wanted to fight it, but I’m not looking to kill 10 million people.”

Donald Trump.

Munich is still a center for art and literature, education, design, engineering and architecture. Bavaria is an independent minded, economic powerhouse, where everybody, from hotels and restaurants to BMW, is looking for people to hire. But nothing can hide the fact that, no matter how impressed we are by the city’s beauty and dynamism, when we visit Munich today, we dearly miss those majestic icons from the past which were needlessly and criminally destroyed by the victors in the deliberate targeting of civilian and cultural sites.

This should serve us as a reminder that there can be no excuse, nor forgiveness, for targeting non combatants and world heritage sites, let alone wanton destruction and extra-judicial murder, nor pardons for war criminals, no matter what your foe may have done. We must learn from what we have already lost.

  1. I strongly recommend Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five, 1969, for a first hand account of the destruction of downtown Dresden. Also comes to mind the destruction of the Imperial City of Hue, 1968, and US soldiers chipping souvenirs off the walls of ancient Babylon, 2003. We must include among the many war crimes the fire bombing of Tokyo (200,000 dead). Robert McNamara admitted in the film “The Fog of War” that US bombings killed a million Japanese civilians in the six months prior to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  2. For more on the industrial scale raping in Berlin by Soviet soldiers see Antony Beevor, The Fall of Berlin, 2003. See also Professor Miriam Gebhardt who says USA, UK and French troops raped nearly a million Germans (200,000 by US troops. alone) in her book “When the Soldiers Came” or read a review here:
  3. For more on how the French officers allowed or even encouraged their North African troops to rape see Rick Atkinson, “An Army At Dawn,” 2002. In this book he explains how the US Army had to intervene to get French Generals to stop their colonial troops from raping Italian women. Although the French didn’t understand (after all, “la guerre comme à la guerre”) they complied and hanged around a dozen. The practice of rape continued elsewhere and beyond the Nazi capitulation.