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Why was a convicted Nazi war criminal buried with military honours?

Why was a convicted Nazi war criminal buried with military honours?


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[Source 1:] Erich von Manstein died of a stroke on the night of 9 June 1973 at the age of 85. As the last but one[a] surviving German field marshal, he was buried with full military honours, his funeral attended by hundreds of soldiers of all ranks.

[Source 2] [Gerd von ] Rundstedt was buried, in full uniform, in Hannover-Stöcken Cemetery. The ceremony was attended by over 2,000 people, mainly Army veterans. The German and Lower Saxony governments paid no official attention to his death. (Had he lived longer, this might not have been so. Manstein was buried with full state and military honours in 1973, despite being a convicted war criminal.)

I ask about Erich von Manstein here and entitle my question as such, due the bolded above.


There were probably several factors at play here:

  • The Bundeswehr saw the Wehrmacht as a respected predecessor.
  • In the 70's you still found many influential officers, politicians, judges and other 'pillars of society' that had been Nazis, still were Nazis at heart, or had been active and successful in the Third Reich in some way. Maybe, they did not see honoring a war criminal as outrageous.
  • The whole public discourse around Nazism still centered on small group of perpetrators.

In the early years of the Bundeswehr, there have been debates about what traditions this army should hold, given that the two predecessors - Reichswehr and Wehrmacht - had a problematic history, to put it very mildly. Many higher officers saw a vital need to maintain traditions and saw the Wehrmacht as a positive point of reference. There's a decree, the Traditionserlass that tries to codify this relationship. The Traditionserlass notes Stauffenberg & Co. as positive examples from it first edition in 1964 on, while avoiding a clear statement on the Wehrmacht. The current version, from 1982, contains the sentence that the Wehrmacht can not be a foundation for traditions. Individual units however may and are held up as exemplary. So in the 70's, parts of the Bundeswehr saw the Wehrmacht as an important part of their traditions, so they would honor an old soldier.

In the decades after WWII, a prevailing attitude in Germany was that the German population had been 'seduced' by Hitler to start WWII and the Holocaust, and that only a small circle of perpetrators was actually guilty. This included the belief that Wehrmacht had been fighting 'honorably', and that the SS was to blame for the atrocities. Remember, Goldstein's " Hitler's willing executioners ", which would be the starting point for a wide ranging debate on the role of ordinary Germans was only published in the 90's. The 90's was also the time when the exhibition Vernichtungskrieg: Verbrechen der Wehrmacht toured through Germany sparking debate on the role the Wehrmacht had played in the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany. Public discourse had not been as hostile towards the Wehrmacht in the 70's.

IMO, military honours for Mannstein are inexcusable. The Guy had followed the Kommissarbefehl and 'inspired' his men to murder Jews. It is indicative of the public discourse in Germany in the 70's and the conflicted relationship the Bundeswehr had to the Wehrmacht.

Edit to Add: For a contrasting case, look at Admiral Dönitz: In 1945 he was head of the Navy and, for the short time between Hitlers Death and ermany surrender, Reichpräsident. He was also very much a Nazi. In 1969, General Inspector of the Bundeswehr Ulrich de Maziere suggested to the then Minister of Defence that Dönitz should be buried without any military honours, because according to him "you can't separate the soldier Dönitz from his bahaviour around and after 20.7.1944." There was some to and fro over the following decade (would serving officers be allowed to give speeches and similar question) but the order was in effect in 1980 when Dönitz died and was buried without military honours.
So in one case a political decision was made to not give military honors to a convicted war criminal.


On my opinion, Wikipedia article on Manstein contains a detailed answer to this question. Manstein conviction was somewhat controversial. For example, Churchill and Adenauer were among those who objected this. He served his jail term until 1953 and then was released.

So it is true of course that Manstein was a "convicted military criminal".

But he was not ONLY a "convicted military criminal". He was also a soldier, a field marshal, and quite famous in this quality. It is as a field marshal that he's got a military funeral, not as a war criminal.

It is a custom that outstanding military commanders get honorable military funerals. Though most of them, if tried by their military enemies (those who fought against them) would get a sentence as military criminals. There are few exceptions to this rule, I understand. But the exceptions only confirm the rule.


Manstein, at no time, was a member of the Nazi party. A fact you can find on the Wikipedia or ANY of his many biographies, or in fact in any history of the German high command. Calling Manstein a "Nazi" is both factually incorrect and likely would have been considered very insulting to him, to his family and to many others on the general staff that served with him and for him who were also not "Nazis".

At the time of his death, the decision of whether to bury a soldier with military honors belonged to the German Bundeswehr, not the Allied commissions that convicted Manstein of war crimes. Presumably, if the Bundeswehr buried Manstein with honors it is because they did not consider the charges against him to be valid demerits to his honor.


Look at history Manstein was a true soldier not a political figure. This was shown by Churchill appreciating this fact and contributing to his defense during the war crimes trial. If Germany had won the war how many American and English high ranking figures would have been on trial? The man was dedicated soldier and should be respected for his genius.


Military Tribunals Have a Controversial History

One of US President George W. Bush's most controversial decisions in the war on terrorism is the creation of military tribunals to try suspects, including two Australians. Part of the President's problem is that American military tribunals have a long and controversial history.

Military tribunals use military officers as the prosecution, defence, judge and jury, and there is no role for civilians. They are used to deal with military crimes that do not arise in most civilian legal systems, such as spying and sabotage.

Tribunals are answerable only to the President -- they have no oversight from Congress, civilian appeal courts or the public. The media are often excluded from trials and the defence team is appointed by the military.

During the War of Independence from 1776 to 1783, General George Washington used military tribunals to try people accused of spying for Britain. The US constitution gives the president broad powers in wartime as the nation's commander-in-chief.

During the American Civil War (1861-1865), Abraham Lincoln's government set up military tribunals and denied people their right to trial by jury. The accused were unable to challenge the legality of their arrest and conviction.

Confederate agents and sympathisers were accused of conspiring to seize Union weapons, liberate prisoners of war and persuade allies in the north to join the South in destroying the Union. About 4000 people were tried by tribunals.

One famous tribunal immediately after the Civil War was to try those accused of participating in the conspiracy to kill Lincoln in April 1865. The killer, John Wilkes Booth, had been tracked down and killed on the spot but eight others were rounded up as part of the plot.

All eight were found guilty four were executed and four were sentenced to long prison terms. Historians and legal scholars continue to debate these penalties, with some claiming that they were undeserved.

America's use of military tribunals during World War II also remains controversial.

After the US entered the war in December 1941, Hitler instructed German naval intelligence to infiltrate the US with sabotage teams and bomb railway stations, water-supply facilities, factories and Jewish-owned stores. The agents were living in Germany but often had American backgrounds and good local knowledge. But they were not highly trained Nazi killers and had only a few weeks' training in military operations.

A secret military tribunal was hastily established in Washington DC in July 1942. Seven generals acted as judges and jurors. Military lawyers were appointed to defend the Germans. Colonel Kenneth Royall took his defence duties seriously and midway through the trial he petitioned the Supreme Court on the tribunal's legality. The Court quickly ruled that the tribunal was legal and could proceed.

The trial continued. All eight Germans were sentenced to death. The verdicts went to the president, who decided that six should die but [George Dasch, the German leader] should get 30 years and [his partner Ernest Peter] Burger (who had also helped the investigations) should be sentenced to life in jail.

A few hours later the six Germans were executed in the electric chair. They were secretly buried in Washington.

The memory of the case hangs heavily over scholars and historians and some argue the punishments did not fit the crime.

Dasch was sent back to Germany after the war. He was hated as a traitor and he tried to get back to the US, but Hoover kept him out on the grounds that he was a communist. Dasch died in Germany in 1991.

Captain Henry Wirz, commandant of Confederate Andersonville Prison during the American Civil War, was hanged in 1885. He was convicted by a military commission for war crimes against Union prisoners and is the only person ever executed in the US for war crimes. Historians believe that he was a scapegoat.


Catholic sect holds funeral rites for Nazi war criminal

ROME (CNN) - The Italian branch of a Catholic sect with a history of anti-Semitism held funeral rites on Tuesday for a convicted Nazi war criminal, despite protests from Jewish groups and the local mayor.

Crowds packed the streets outside San Pio X Church in Albano, a small town south of Rome, chanting "Executioner!" and kicking the hearse carrying Erich Priebke's body as entered the church compound on Tuesday.

A funeral Mass was celebrated for Priebke but his casket was kept outside, according to a priest from the church who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

The absolution rite, which includes a prayer for clemency for the deceased, was also given outside the church, in the courtyard inside San Pio X's compound, the priest said.

Priebke's body is now being held in a military airport outside Rome.

The church funeral plans for Priebke sparked an outcry in the United States.

"Erich Priebke was a monster," said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

"He does not deserve the dignity and respect of a proper church burial. His body should be cremated and his ashes scattered at sea, without further ceremony.”

Priebke, a former SS captain sentenced to life in prison for his role in an Italian massacre in 1944, died on Friday.

Priebke was convicted by Italian court in 1998 for helping organize the execution of 335 men and boys in retaliation for attacks on German troops. The former Nazi was unrepentant, denying the Holocaust in his final statement, according to the Associated Press.

After World War II, Priebke escaped to Argentina, where he lived for nearly 50 years. He had planned to be buried near his late wife there, according to his lawyer, Paolo Giachini. But Argentina's foreign minister said it would not accept the remains.

Burying Priebke in Rome has proved nearly as difficult.

The Diocese of Rome said in a statement that Priebke's lawyer was asked to hold a "small, private" funeral in the Nazi war criminal's home rather than in a church.

"The prayer for the deceased was not denied," the diocese said in a statement, "but rather a different manner for the ceremony was decided." Pope Francis is the titular head of the Rome diocese but has little involvement in its daily affairs.

Priebke's lawyer rejected that proposition, according to the diocese.

Instead, the conservative Society of St. Pius X stepped in, agreeing on Tuesday to hold a funeral Mass in their church for the former Nazi. The society has no official status within the Catholic Church.

The Italian chapter acknowledged in a statement Tuesday that Priebke was "controversial" but said he had already been convicted by Italian courts and has the right to a Christian funeral.

"A Christian who has been baptized and who has received the sacraments of the Confession and the Eucharist, regardless of what have been his crimes and sins, as he dies reconciling with God and with the Church has the right to have a Holy Mass celebrated at his funeral," the group said in a statement.

The society also said that it "reaffirms our repudiation to any form of anti-semitism and racial hatred."

But the Society of St. Pius X, whose leaders were once excommunicated from the Catholic Church for ordaining bishops without Vatican approval, has a long history of controversial statements about Jews.

Its founder, the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, sharply disagreed with the Roman Catholic Church's softened stance toward other faiths, including Judaism, after the Second Vatican Council in 1962-65. It also objected to other modernizing reforms such as celebrating the Mass in local languages.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Society of St. Pius X is "mired in anti-Semitism."

“The Society of St. Pius X never fails fail to shock," Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, said Tuesday. "First, they denied the Holocaust, and now they’re denying the acts of a perpetrator.”

"Jews are described in SSPX documents as being cursed by God for the sin of deicide" (killing Jesus), the ADL says in an online report.

"Jews are accused of being in control of world financial and cultural institutions and of plotting to create a 'world empire' or obtain 'world dominion,'" the ADL report continues.

Under Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church tried to reconcile with the ultra-conservative society, lifting the excommunication of several bishops and allowing for wider celebration of the Mass in Latin, a favored practice of SSPX.

One of those bishops, Richard Williamson, was later found to have denied elements of the Holocaust, including its death toll of 6 million Jews.

Williamson was convicted of Holocaust denial in a German court and expelled from the society in 2012.

Former Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2009 that the Society of St. Pius X "does not have canonical status in the Catholic church" because of doctrinal, not disciplinary reasons.

It doesn't look like the breach will close any time soon.

The Bishop Bernard Fellay, the society's Swiss-born leader, reportedly said on Saturday in Kansas City, "The situation of the church is a real disaster, and the present Pope is making it 10,000 times worse.”


9 Alfried Krupp

Alfried Krupp was the son of steel industrialist Gustav Krupp. Alfried ran the Krupp factories during World War II, supplying tanks, arms, and munitions to the German military. In 1943, he was appointed head of the department of Mining and Armaments. Krupp was a heartless slave driver, initiating the request to the SS for slave labor. He actively cooperated with the SS to procure labor from Auschwitz. Approximately 100,000 slave laborers from concentration camps worked in his factories, with around 70 percent of them dying as a result of horrible conditions and the brutal treatment from SS guards.

In 1948, Krupp was tried by an American court. He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and deprived of his wealth. However, in 1951, High Commissioner John J. McCloy not only pardoned him but returned his assets. In 1953, Alfried again became head of the firm and restored the Krupp company to its former prestige. He died in 1967, the last of the Krupp family to run the firm.


Nazi War Criminals Hanged to Death

Here is a new one for you. What happened in history, yesterday… I know, I know. A day late, and a dollar short. But it was too good not to go back and cover it. Actually, I looked into this specific event months ago and had been waiting for yesterday to write about it. Unfortunately, I spent eight hours traveling yesterday and didn’t get the opportunity to write about it.

Yesterday in history, October 16, 1946, ten Nazi war criminals were hanged as a result of the Nuremberg Trials. While the trials themselves are historically famous, a part of it that is often overlooked are–for lack of a better term–the ‘brutal’ executions that these men faced. There are several that give into conspiracies and believe that the job was purposely botched, there are those that blame it on hurried and shoddy craftsmanship of the noose and the gallows, and of course there believe that the hangings were unfortunate, but accidentally brutal.

John C. Woods Preparing the Gallows

The hangman was John C. Woods, an American Master Sergeant, that over his career, as the hangman for the Third United States Army, would execute three hundred and forty-seven (347) criminals during his fifteen years of service. Woods, with the help of Joseph Malta, a United States Army military policeman who volunteered to help him, hung all ten men on two separate gallows. The gallows and hangman nooses were constructed by Woods, and the executions took place in the prison gymnasium. Unfortunately, there were issues with both the gallows and the nooses.

The gallows had a small trapdoor with improper bungs. The rubber bungs on a trapdoor are to make sure that the door doesn’t swing back after release. This one did in doing so, slapping the hanged men in the face or in the back of their heads. As you can see in the pictures (below), many of the men showed signs of bruising and bleeding on their faces. While these men were being slapped with wood, they slowly suffocated. Instead of measuring out each rope for a proper drop and an instant neck-break, Woods used the standard military six-foot drop. This technique was outdated and not nearly as effective as the British’s current techniques, which was developed by Albert Pierrepoint. His technique was specifically tailored to each persons’ height and weight. Pierrepoint’s hanging method resulted in an almost instantaneous death, unlike Woods’. With Woods’ standard drop, the condemned men took ten to twenty minutes to slowly and painfully suffocate to death. The following are excerpts from The Execution of Nazi War Criminals: by Kingsbury Smith. Smith was one of the eight reporters allowed to be present during the execution.

At that instant the trap opened with a loud bang. He went down kicking. When the rope snapped taut with the body swinging wildly, groans could be heard from within the concealed interior of the scaffold. Finally, the hangman, who had descended from the gallows platform, lifted the black canvas curtain and went inside. Something happened that put a stop to the groans and brought the rope to a standstill. After it was over I was not in the mood to ask what he did, but I assume that he grabbed the swinging body of and pulled down on it. We were all of the opinion that Streicher had strangled.

More than one of the hanged men were quoted as “moaning” as they slowly died.

With both von Ribbentrop and Keitel hanging at the end of their rope there was a pause in the proceedings. The American colonel directing the executions asked the American general representing the United States on the Allied Control Commission if those present could smoke. An affirmative answer brought cigarettes into the hands of almost every one of the thirty-odd persons present.

The hangings were taking so long that there were multiple pauses, and even smoke breaks.

As the black hood was raised over his head Kaltenbrunner, still speaking in a low voice, used a German phrase which translated means, ‘Germany, good luck.’

His trap was sprung at 1.39 a.m.

There was a brief lull in the proceedings until Kaltenbrunner was pronounced dead at 1.52 a.m.

From here you can see that it took thirteen (13) minutes for Kaltenbrunner to be pronounced dead. And as for the pause? They had to pause because while Kaltenbrunner was dying, Keitel was still suffocating. It was twenty-four (24) minutes before they could pronounce Keitel as deceased.

As for John C. Woods, he had two quotes that showed his feelings about the hangings:


Disgraced stars stripped of honours - Harvey Weinstein, Jimmy Savile, Robert Mugabe

For a lucky few, receiving a Queen&aposs honour is the privilege of a lifetime - but there is no guarantee it will last that long.

Over the years, disgraced entertainers, sportsmen and politicians have seen their titles hastily taken away after horrendous public scandals.

And alongside shamed British stars like Jimmy Savile, there have also been some surprising figures honoured abroad - with dictators like Robert Mugabe and Benito Mussolini given honorary titles.

Here are the famous faces who fell from grace and paid the price.

Harvey Weinstein

Harvey Weinstein was once one of the world&aposs biggest movie producers - and received an honorary CBE in 2004 for services to the British film industry.

However, the mogul was hit by claims of widespread sexual abuse that rocked Hollywood in 2017, as more than 100 women - including Rose McGowan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Uma Thurman - spoke out.

Weinstein is currently serving a 23-year sentence after being found guilty of sexually assaulting production assistant Mimi Haleyi in 2006 and raping actress Jessica Mann in 2013.

Last year, an announcement published in The Gazette, the UK&aposs official public record, confirmed his CBE had been withdrawn.

It read: "The Queen has directed that the appointment of Harvey Weinstein to be an Honorary Commander of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, dated 29 January 2004, shall be cancelled and annulled and that his name shall be erased from the Register of the said Order."

When he received the honour, Weinstein said: "My life and my career have been greatly influenced and enriched by great British film-makers and authors and so I am especially honoured and humbled to be receiving the CBE."


Ten Nazi war criminals executed, one committed suicide after the Nuremberg trials in 1946

Nurnberg, Oct. 16 - Former Reichmarshal Hermann Wilhelm Goering cheated the gallows of Allied justice by committing suicide in his prison cell shortly before the 10 other condemned Nazi leaders were hanged in the courtyard of Nurnberg jail early today.

Goering swallowed cyanide of potassium hidden in a copper cartridge shell while lying on a cot in his cell at 10:45 P.M. last night (4:45 P.M. Tuesday New York time).

The once number 2 man in the Nazi hierarchy defeated Allied justice by a matter of minutes. He was found dead just before his death sentence was to have been read out again to him and only two hours before he was scheduled to have been dropped through the trap-door of a gallows erected in a small gymnasium standing in the jail yard.

Joachim von Ribbentrop, Foreign Minister in the ill-starred regime of Adolf Hitler, took Goering's place as first on the scaffold.

Last to depart this life in a total span of just about two hours was Arthur Seyss-Inquart, former gauleiter of Holland and Austria.

In between these two once-powerful leaders the hallows claimed Field Marshal Gen. Wilhelm Keitel, Ernest Kaltenbrunner, once head of the Nazi's security police Alfred Rosenberg, arch-priest of Nazi culture in foreign lands Hans Frank, gauleiter of Poland Wilhelm Frick, Nazi Minister of the Interior Fritz Sauckel, boss of slave labor Col. Gen. Alfred Jodl and Julius Streicher, who bossed the anti-semitism of the Reich.

All of the 10 went with apparent stoicism.

They made brief statements on the "Long Live Germany" pattern made familiar during their trial of more than 10 months.

Most of the executed men endeavored to show their bravery, most were bitterly defiant and some grimly resigned, while others begged the Almighty for mercy.

The only one, however, to make any reference to Hitler or the Nazi ideology in the final moments was Julius Streicher, the Jew-baiter of Nurnberg.

Died Like Himmler.

Streicher screamed "Heil Hitler" at the stop of his lungs as he was about to mount the steps leading to the gallows.

Goering was able to kill himself in precisely the same manner as former Gestapo leader Heinrich Himmler did away with himself soon after Germany's surrender in May, 1945.

Despite the fact that an American security guard was supposed to be watching his every move, the crown prince of Nazidom managed to place in his mouth, chew and swallow the vial of deadly potassium cyanide.

Goering took the lethal draft while Col. Burton C. Andrus, American Security commandant, was walking across the prison yard to the deathrow block to read to him and the 10 others condemned men the official sentenced of death handed down by the International Military Tribunal and confirmed by the Allied Control Council.


BasehorInfo.com

Kendall Gott, senior historian at the U.S. Army's Combat Studies Institute, walks through the U.S. Military Prison Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, which is the final resting place for 298 unclaimed bodies of soldiers who died in the United States Disciplinary Barracks. Among those buried there are 14 German prisoners of war from World War II.

Fort Leavenworth — They knew they would be punished, but they didn't expect to be executed.

But during the summer of 1945, that is what happened to 14 German prisoners of war held in the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth. Their crime: killing three of their fellow German inmates caught collaborating with their American keepers.

"They thought the punishment was a little excessive," said Kendall Gott, senior historian at the U.S. Army's Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth.

The POWs were buried in the back row in the prison's cemetery, located on a secluded hill shaded by the drooping limbs of cedar trees and surrounded by a wire fence. They share the cemetery with criminals who happened to be in the U.S. military when they committed their crimes. According to some researchers, there are more than 200 bodies buried there, including those of murderers, rapists and thieves. Some were executed. No families bothered to claim their bodies.

The first burial in the cemetery was in 1884. The last was in 1957. Most were buried around the turn of the 20th century.

Johannes Kunz was a German soldier who was held at a POW camp in Oklahoma. He passed notes to an American physician during sick call. One day his note was taken by a different physician who didn't read German and didn't know what Kunz was doing. He gave the note to another prisoner to take back to Kunz. The POW read the note and realized Kunz was a spy.

Kunz was later beaten to death by other prisoners.

Werner Drechsler was captured after his U-boat sank. He gave the United States information about the boats. He was segregated from other U-boat prisoners until he was taken to a camp at Papago Park, Ariz. Other POWs learned about his collaboration. He was beaten and hanged in a shower room.

Horst Gunther was German soldier in a POW camp in South Carolina when he was found hanging from a tree.

Once tried and convicted by the American military for the murders, all 14 POWs were transferred to the Fort Leavenworth prison to be executed. One of the prosecutors was Leon Jaworski, later of Watergate fame.

President Harry Truman declined to give the 14 clemency. By then the Allies had discovered the Nazi death camps and were learning the true nature of Hitler's regime. The United States was still at war with Japan, and Truman was considering the use of atomic bombs.

"When the request for clemency reached Truman's desk, he had a lot of other things on his mind," Gott said.

Before the war with Germany ended, it was feared that American and British prisoners who had killed collaborators in their prison camps would be executed as well. That fear ended when Germany surrendered in May 1945. The executions at Fort Leavenworth were carried out in three groups: Five on July 10, two on July 14 and seven on Aug. 25, all in 1945.

The POWs and other prisoners were kept in cells in a massive brick building called "the Castle." They were led to a warehouse a short distance away and taken to the second floor. Scaffolding had been built in an elevator shaft. The ropes dropped them into the basement.

"The German soldiers were very composed and resigned to their fate," Gott said. "There was no pleading there was no sign of cowardice. They marched in a precision manner and they stood at attention."

The executions went smoothly, Gott said. Catholic and Protestant chaplains witnessed the hangings.

"I have mixed feelings about these guys," Gott said. "If I was a POW and I knew somebody was collaborating, I wouldn't hesitate to take them out, and I think most soldiers feel that way. On the other hand, if you get caught, you've got to pay the dues, and that's what these guys did."

The POWs' tombstones are the cleanest and the whitest in the half-acre cemetery. Early last week several old, weathered bouquets of artificial flowers could be seen fastened into the top of the fence behind them. They may have been placed there, away from the graves, by maintenance crews during cleanups, Gott said.

There are many German descendants living in the Fort Leavenworth area, Gott said. It is generally thought that some of them decorate the graves of the POWs.

"On Memorial Day and then again on German Remembrance Day (in November) you'll see flowers," he said. "The 14 POWs are the attraction for this cemetery."

Col. Michael Oberneyer is the German Army's liaison officer at Fort Leavenworth. His office does not sponsor or organize any special observances or events at the cemetery for the Germans buried there, he said. And he said he didn't know anything about people who might decorate the graves.


Yasukuni Shrine a symbol of haunting wartime legacy

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Yasukuni is in Japan. China and Korea have no say in the matter.

Yasukuni, Japans holy ground. Where heroes go to rest and where the nation prays for our fallen heroes.

Toshihiro

As what the poster above me said, it's in Japan and is a Japanese historical shrine. If every monument, landmark and event that would remind the people of the historical animosities our ancestors did in the past, we would probably have to destroy a lot of the world's historical sites, rewrite a lot of household terms, sayings and shows, and ban certain festivals from being celebrated. Would that change what people did? No. Would it remind the people of what happened in the past and the possibly bad things they shouldn't replicate? Probably. It's already in history, let's live with it. As someone who has grandparents that had first hand experience of the hardships under Japanese occupation, I also understand where South Korea, China and the rest of Japan's wartime victims are saying, but how about we move forward and bury the hatchet. Remembering history is great, but the world needs to move on.

Cricky

Been there it was a vile and disgusting place that pathetically tried to justify Japan's brutal occupation of neighbors then at the same time play the sympathy card. It's a stain on modern Japan.

Kuruki

@Orac - Yes, but war criminals are not heroes and should not be worshipped. This is a sacred place to remember those that have fallen in the war, but I personally don't think it's a place for war criminals to rest. These criminals got away with committing some truly disgusting actions and deserve no place at a beautiful place like Yasukuni shrine.

OssanAmerica

China and South Korea are the ones who have made the Yasukuni Shrine a legacy of WWII as part of their plan to damage the US-JPN alliance. China (PRC) did not even exist until 3 years after WWII ended, and South Korea had 240,000 Korean men serving in the Imperial Japanese Military, the vast majority willingly, killing and committing war crimes against allied POWs.

Yet the Unites States, UK, Australia, etc who fought and defeated Imperial Japan do not have a problem with Yasukuni. Lieutenant General Wallace Gregson of the 3rd Marine Division visited Yasukuni on April 26, 2001. The late former President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan (Republic of China) which actually fought Imperial Japan visited Yasukuni on October 27, 2007.

For the Japanese, Yasukuni enshrines 2,466,532 souls going back to civil wars in the 1800s.

Hachikou

Boring typical propaganda/ misconception article.

China and Korea didn't have any problem with Yasukuni before 1985. Prior to that, every Jpn minister visited Yasukuni, Then, it all started after Japanese lefty brainwashed and talked China and Korea into being against it.

Tojo was not even in Japanese cabinet when Japan annexed Korea and had the battle with KMT in China .

He has nothing to with China and Korea. The prime minister at that time was Fumimaro Konoe who is not honored in Yasukuni. Tojo is responsible for the pacific war against the US.

Of course, there should be an argument about who should/should not be honored there but that does not mean you can deny the entire shrine, which has been there since 1869 throughout Russia-Japan war and WW1 honoring Koreans, Taiwanese, and animals(military horse/bird/dog), as well.

Strangerland

Yasukuni is in Japan. China and Korea have no say in the matter.

They keep saying something, often a couple of times a year. It seems they do have a say.

OssanAmerica

CrickyToday 04:23 pm JST

Been there it was a vile and disgusting place that pathetically tried to justify Japan's brutal occupation of neighbors then at the same time play the sympathy card. It's a stain on modern Japan.

I've been there too and the only "justification" as you call it I saw were specific references to British colonization in Asia, including the taking of Hong Kong after the Opium Wars. Hate Japan much?

Kuruki

I respect our emperors for no longer visiting the shrine. I think that's a highly diplomatic move to pay respect to nations that were victims of the war.

I've been here since I was a kid and it's a beautiful place no doubt. But personally, I don't think war criminals have a place in this sacred place. I've come to later realise that some of the history facts that you'll see in the museum have been watered down as well.

Whilst it may stand as a painful memory for Korea and China, I hope it also stands as a dark reminder of the consequences of war.

Noriahojanen

Many Japanese premiers visited Yasukuni after the war, but refrained from saying it was in an official capacity, until Aug. 15 1985, when Yasuhiro Nakasone made an official visit.

The move, on the 40th anniversary of the war's end, drew harsh criticism from China. Nakasone did not go again.

The controversy is more recent-born. What had China and Korea not reacted at ll for four decades since the war end, prior to the 1985 visit? "A-class" leaders were enshrined in 1975, again no response was made from these neighbors.

When it comes to their criticism on Japan's wartime, the purpose is not necessarily innocent or sincere. It is politically motivated.

Strangerland

It's a beautiful shrine, but the museum whitewashes Japan's responsibility for and actions in the war. Interesting place to visit and observe - there are some characters there.

Cricky

The attached so called museum is nothing more than a justification of atrocities by not mentioning them at all. This stupid idea that Japan somehow freed the locals from European colonial rule, to be replaced with Imperial brutality just doesn't make sence. The whole place is nothing more than a feel good area for locals who don't feel good.

Akula

Japan has every right to remember its war dead. Having visited Yasukuni shrine though and the attached museum, I don't think it's the right place.

Hachikou

From my experience, those against Yasukuni, usually refuse to listen to opponents say or learn more detail about it.

I show you two Yasukuni Honored figures.

[1] Korean price,Yi U, 李鍝

His grand father is Korean Emperor Gojong. He was killed with A-bomb in Hiroshima.

He was well respected by Japanese people and his guard Hiroshi (吉成 弘) committed suicide on account of not being able to save Prince. Prince funeral was held even at the time Japan was in chaos losing a war.

[2] Yousuke Matsuoka

Japan was allied with Germany, but Japan was against antisemitism.

Yousuke Matsuoka, helped Jewish people to move/live in Manchuria under Japanese rule, and talked and

promised them Japan would not let Nazi harm them.

Matsuoka was arrested after a war as an A-class criminal, and after his death he was honored in Yasukuni.

Book, "Under the shahow of rising sun", Meron Medzini

Vanityofvanities

Do people remember a pro wrestler Great Togo? He was an American born Nisei pro wrestler. He played a role of a heel or a villain. He intentionally named him "Great Tojo" to attract attentions of Americans not long after the war. He became very popular as a heel. But he had to change his name soon to Great Togo. He was stabbed by a fan who hated him at the stadium. Togo was a hero admiral of the imperial navy defeating Russia. It was a good old days. As a child, I was impressed with American society which allowed a pro wrestler naming him "Great Tojo." I loved and still love Americans who understand sense of humor.

Spitfire

Victimhood at its most lucid.

Whitewashing anything unpleasant under the carpet.

Simon Foston

OssanAmericaToday 04:40 pm JST

China and South Korea are the ones who have made the Yasukuni Shrine a legacy of WWII

I always thought the people who made it a political issue were the priests related to WWII military leaders who decided to enshrine the war criminals without telling anyone until afterwards.

Heckleberry

Pro-Japan posters will always jump to the defense of the grotesque abomination that is Yasukuni, saying there are only a handful of war criminals enshrined there, out of millions.

But they omit the fact that there are in fact more than a thousand war criminals enshrined, of which 14 are class A war criminals.

In all, about 5,700 Japanese were charged in Classes B and C before the international war crimes tribunal in Tokyo. Almost 1,000 were executed. Others were tried and executed by the Communist Chinese and by the Soviet Union. It's these men whose presence at Yasukuni offends Japan's neighbors, including 14 Class A criminals.

Shoganai

The late former President Lee Teng-hui of Taiwan (Republic of China) which actually fought Imperial Japan visited Yasukuni on October 27, 2007.

roc fought against imperial japan.

lee fought as iwasato masao, for imperial japan.

lee's elder brother also fought for imperial japan and died, and his name is listed in the shrine. his visit was for his brother.

Expat

It should be protected as a monument to how little thinking in the ruling party has changed in the past century and a half. What could have been the Meiji Revolution and the beginnings of a democracy based on Enlightenment values was instead the Meiji Restoration, and a doubling down on the mistakes of Japan's past centuries that kept the old aristocracy - whose decedents are still in power - ascendant.

Cricky

My grandfather a medic and his brother were taken captive by thr IJF, my grandfather was a broken man after, he seldom talked and would sit in the backyard crying. He until his last hide food under his bed. His brother was beaten to death in Thailand he was too sick and starved to stand up. And was beaten to death for it. Put that in Yashcuni as a balanced view.

Expat

"Japan was allied with Germany, but Japan was against antisemitism." Right, just like Japan's military adventurism in Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and elsewhere was intended not to expand it's colonial reach and obtain raw materials for expanding the empire, but to liberate their poor Asian brothers from the oppressive yoke of Western occupation.

Heckleberry

I've been there too and the only "justification" as you call it I saw were specific references to British colonization in Asia, including the taking of Hong Kong after the Opium Wars.

@Ossan - Wow, for even you to admit Yasukuni displays certain justifications for their warmongering past, it must be full to the brim with revisionist propaganda.

Paul14

If Shinto turns war criminals into god's it's not much different than the teachings of modern day Isis. I'm surprised to hear that Japan encourages it's people to act brutally to attain spiritual rewards.

Secular peaceful Japan should forcefully remove the bodies of the war criminals from the Yasukuni shrine and bury them at sea at a secret location. Then the shrine can be redevoted to commemorate all war dead in all wars in all places.

Japan should also build something similar to Germany's peace center constructed in Berlin on the site of the former Gestapo HQ and admit to the war crimes conducted by their ancestors. Then finally maybe we can all move on.

Asakaze

Yasukuni is a wonderful place. I visit it at least once a year. Particularly I like to visit in early January, they have very lovely exhibitions of ema from dozens of shrines across all Japan, exhibitions of stickers from many sake brands, and ikebana. Very festive New Year atmosphere.

Chinese and South Korean cries about Yasukuni are pathetic. They use the subject just as a conventional tool to put political pressure on Japan, to extract concessions.

Leave Yasukuni alone. Every country needs a place to honor its fallen soldiers. USA, UK or France have their memorials to their wars and soldiers, but nobody tell them "hey, Brits, stop it, your soldiers killed countless Africans, Chinese and Indians during your brutal colonial conquests", or "French, your soldiers are criminals too, they butchered Africans, Vietnamese and Algerians". Every country has ugly pages in its history. Japan was punished for its crimes. Some countries were not.

Cricky

Asakaze your display of nationalism is as alarming as it is disgraceful unbeknownst to you it's a blight on the education you received. To somehow make/ say a compound that includes a meausum that takes the most bizarre version of historical fact as wonderful. it's a disgraceful place and has no relevance in a civilised world. But as it celebrates disgraceful behaviour I will except as that a celebration of wonderful brutality depraved actions that should never be forgotten.

Asakaze

Cricky, it's not nationalism, it's common sense. And your self-righteousness is even more alarming and disgraceful.

To somehow make/ say a compound that includes a meausum that takes the most bizarre version of historical fact

I visited the Army Museum in London, long time ago I was at Les Invalides in Paris. Do you think that both museums are much different in concept from Yushukan at Yasukuni? Glory to the military heritage of one's own country, remembrance to those who fought and died. Why for U.K. and France it's OK, but for Japan is horrendous?

Quercetum

I go every year because I like museums. There is a human torpedo, Kaiten. When I’m there I don’t think about war criminals or the Yasukuni controversy. Reading the letters of 20 year olds to their wives or parents saddens me to think how little choice they had in this collective society. Of course if I visit a museum dedicated to victims of the Japanese army’s atrocities, it will be sad as well. These are young people who are now dancing on Tik Tok and enjoying making pranking videos. I’m happy for them.

I am a follower of both神道and 浄土真宗 a shrine and temples are place of respect. Yes some people in wars do negative things during war but there were also loved ones who lost their lives and heros of other wars. When I went to Tokyo and visited it it was nice and felt no negative energy.

My grandfather also fought the Russians and bairly survived in the second world war to live a normal life afterwards. He was just a soldier fighting for his country and to get back to his family.

Simon Foston

Chinese and South Korean cries about Yasukuni are pathetic. They use the subject just as a conventional tool to put political pressure on Japan, to extract concessions.

Perhaps they wouldn't make a fuss if Japanese politicians stopped using shrine visits to drum up support among their right-wing constituents.

Leave Yasukuni alone. Every country needs a place to honor its fallen soldiers.

Japan does have publicly-owned secular facilities for that, doesn't it?

USA, UK or France have their memorials to their wars and soldiers, but nobody tell them "hey, Brits, stop it, your soldiers killed countless Africans, Chinese and Indians during your brutal colonial conquests", or "French, your soldiers are criminals too, they butchered Africans, Vietnamese and Algerians". Every country has ugly pages in its history. Japan was punished for its crimes.

Crimes which its leaders routinely deny ever took place, probably because they'd rather get votes and money from right-wing fanatics than bullets, death threats and severed fingers in their mailboxes.

Matej

Imagine that Merkel in Germany will go to ceremony to hour "german heroes" from SS or wehrmacht who killed millions of Slavs Jews and other nationals in VW2.

Yes fact is Japan was agressor in East Asia and Pacific a japanese armed forces committed many atrocities against Chinese etc.

Question is WHY to "honour" these "heroes"?

Spinningplates

It's a nice photo, ruined by the one priest who was too undisciplined to just focus on his worship.

It's one thing to have your eye caught, but quite another to cock your head to one side and glare at a camera.

Thepersoniamnow

Yasukuni shrine is Japanese.

It has many ancient and other memorials and is in general to Honor the Dead. Who fought for Japan.

Since in these times local traditions are now international, we should perhaps reassess how this is interpreted internationally.

I am Japanese American. It does not bother me. If it upsets our neighbors so much, then I want dialogue.

If all come together with sincerity, I think it can be done.

If it is nationalist hurling of rocks, then Japan and Korea and China and others will simply USE issues to complain.

History will tell and show how this played out.

Thepersoniamnow

Lets be straight too. If you on the winners side, you will be a hero, and re write history.

When modern powerful nations commit war crimes, we don’t pay for it.

We usually don’t even let it be called anything like such.

Christopher Glen

“Been there it was a vile and disgusting place that pathetically tried to justify Japan's brutal occupation of neighbors then at the same time play the sympathy card. It's a stain on modern Japan.”

Simon Foston

Imagine that Merkel in Germany will go to ceremony to hour "german heroes" from SS or wehrmacht who killed millions of Slavs Jews and other nationals in VW2.

Hard to imagine that?

Yes fact is Japan was agressor in East Asia and Pacific a japanese armed forces committed many atrocities against Chinese etc.

Question is WHY to "honour" these "heroes"?

Why DOUBLE STANDARD?

After WW2 the US decided it was more politically expedient to let lots of Japan's wartime leaders out of jail to help them in the Cold War than to have them all hanged or shot, and then funneled election campaign funds to them through the CIA while they brazenly peddled historical revisionism, because however bad it was letting Japan turn communist was deemed to be worse.

Vernon Watts

It amazes me how the winners of wars get to choose who are the war criminals. The Japanese bomb military installations and we incinerate their cities -- did I miss a meeting?

Asakaze

Perhaps they wouldn't make a fuss if Japanese politicians stopped using shrine visits to drum up support among their right-wing constituents

If you had any idea of Japanese politics you'd know that right-wing sentiments are not popular in Japan. Guys in black vans with battle flags can be noisy, but they are fringe groups. Can you name even one "right-wing constituency"?

Japan does have publicly-owned secular facilities for that, doesn't it?

Crimes which its leaders routinely deny ever took place

Name a couple of Japanese leaders who "routenely deny / denied".

ClippetyClop

Tojo and the others were secretly elevated to the status of gods at the shrine in a solemn ceremony that year

Others have suggested dropping the Class-A war criminals from the list of those honored, but shrine officials say that is impossible.

I hear this 'impossible' word quite a lot in Japan. 無理. I've heard it when I've asked for some extra pickle on my burger. It usually means 'unwilling'.

I suggest dropping the shrine officials who claim it is impossible and find someone who can do it with a few waves of his haraigushi stick. It's embarrassing that Japan still honours genocidal maniacs.

Browny1

Asakaze - right wing elements are common in Japanese politics / society. Ultra conservative Nippon Kaigi has 10,000s of members including prime minister Abe and most of the cabinet. The uyoku as you stated are extreme fringe and not so huge in numbers - but not so the far right wing.

And re public owned secular facilities - well I'm surprised by your ignorance about the existence of Chidorigafuchi which is even mentioned in the article. This cemetery was established by the govt.

And re politicians - esp leaders - denying crimes took place. Well I'll just have to let you research that one. The current leader and his deputy for one have denied certain war crimes. It's well reported.

And as many have stated - it was the sly enshrinement of the class A war criminals - technically inappropriate as they didn't die while on duty - that has caused most of the controversy. If they weren't enshrined for the purpose of appealing to Nippon Kaigi et al, then the controversy would be far less.

And strange how the rightists rarely make comments about how successive emperors refuse to go there, because of the war criminals deified as martyrs. You'd the emperors actions would signify somethings amiss - but no, the hard heads just keep on keeping on.

Kutan

It amazes me how the winners of wars get to choose who are the war criminals.

It all started with the insane Tokyo trial. Just by looking at General Yamashitas trial, it doesn’t take many brain cells to realise that it wasn’t a fair trial. I do think they should remove the “war criminals” and enshrine them elsewhere however, just to see what China and Korea will come up with next.

Kutan

Adding that I did not only mean the Tokyo trial (e.g. Yamashita went to US Supreme Court in the end).

Revenge driven trials were common unfortunately.

Simon Foston

I am well aware that right-wing politicians don't actually need to be popular to get into power. Do you have any idea why that is?

Oldman_13

It is their right to honor their war dead, something the haters continue to ignore.

Honoring war dead doesn't mean honoring war criminals.

Asakaze

Ultra conservative Nippon Kaigi

You don't see a difference between "conservative" and "right-wing"? Educate yourself before writing on the subject.

The uyoku as you stated are extreme fringe and not so huge in numbers - but not so the far right wing

The worg Uyoku means "right wing". You contradict yourself in one sentence.

I'm surprised by your ignorance about the existence of Chidorigafuchi

I'm surprised by your ignorance, you even don't know that Chidorigafuchi is dedicated to those who died during WWII only. Yasukuni is dedicated to those who died in ALL wars since Meiji. I hope you can comprehend the difference.

Well I'll just have to let you research that one

If a poster claims something it's up to him to support his claim with facts. So I'll wait the results of painstaking research of Simon Foston.

YuriOtani

@Kuruki, there are no remains of any war criminals at Yasukuni Shrine. After being executed and cremated their remains were dumped into Tokyo Bay. In Shinto people are forgiven for their misdeeds while alive. It is very different from the Wests Christian religion where criminals after their death go to hades. It is their kami that is interned there and that is their souls. This is a private shrine and it would be interference in their religious right to dictate terms to them.

FYI I am a member of Peters church or the Mother Church. I am Roman Catholic and I have enough tolerance to let them worship as they see fit.

This Cricky guy has no clue what they are talking about.

Yasukuni is a fantastic shrine and the history there is amazing, the museum is also incredible I make sure I visit that shrine daily when Im in Japan.

The only down side is that the tiles are very white and its blinding in summer.

Desert Tortoise

"Yasukuni, Japans holy ground. Where heroes go to rest and where the nation prays for our fallen heroes."

Your heros are our convicted war criminals. German leaders do not go to pray at the graves of their WWII butchers. Instead they lay wreaths and pray at the sites of some of their Nazi predecessors worst atrocities, atoning for a past that in many cases occurred before they were born. They pray for the souls of those the Germans killed, not for the killers as the Japanese do. If you cannot understand that important difference you will never understand why Japan is still not trusted by her neighbors and why, as long as those 12 Class A war criminals remain interred there Japan will be open for continued harsh criticism.

Desert Tortoise

"It is their right to honor their war dead, something the haters continue to ignore.

Honoring war dead doesn't mean honoring war criminals."

Twelve Class A war criminals from WWII were dug up and reburied there in 1975. They are indeed honoring war criminals there and it is detestable.

Desert Tortoise

"After WW2 the US decided it was more politically expedient to let lots of Japan's wartime leaders out of jail to help them in the Cold War than to have them all hanged or shot, and then funneled election campaign funds to them through the CIA while they brazenly peddled historical revisionism, because however bad it was letting Japan turn communist was deemed to be worse."

The US did something similar in Germany but in both cases actual war criminals were not released.

Desert Tortoise

"I visited the Army Museum in London, long time ago I was at Les Invalides in Paris. Do you think that both museums are much different in concept from Yushukan at Yasukuni? Glory to the military heritage of one's own country, remembrance to those who fought and died. Why for U.K. and France it's OK, but for Japan is horrendous?"

Are the French and British museums memorializing convicted war criminals? Do you see the very real difference between them and the Japanese? Visit Manzanar sometime. It's not that far from LA. Maybe 3 1/2 hours north of LAX traffic permitting. The US at least also memorializes its worst mistakes.

Strikebreaker555

I believe the Yasukuni Shrine is OK in itself. To honor the war dead is always a natural and good thing to do. But to elevate Class-A war criminals enshrined there to God-status is despicable. It would've been like Germany made Hitler and his co-workers Gods. It's wrong, and it definitely sends the wrong message.

Why do something that would cause resentment in the rest of Asia? Of course the people of Europe would react negatively if Germany made Hitler a God for instance. God-status should be granted to people of good deeds, not people who wage wars of aggression and bring about a lot of death.

Do the hustle

Every country deserves to have a memorial for its war dead. However, when they start using the memorial to worship war criminals as gods there are problems. The fact that these WW2 criminals were only added to the shrine in the 80’s shows that it was only done to antagonize the victims of Japan’s imperial rule in Asia. If the tributes to these criminals were removed their would be no problem. The fact they are there and considered to be gods is just a middle finger to those who suffered through WW2.

Bruce Chatwin

The names of 21,181 Koreans, conscripted and forced to participate in the war, have been engraved on stones at Yaukuni since 1959, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. There was no attempt by Yasukuni to accommodate the wishes of the Koreans' families before "enshrining" them in Yasukuni. Tokyo District Court, after deliberating (delaying) for over five years, ruled in 2018 against 27 families requesting the removal of the names of their family members from Yasukuni.

Yasukuni is toxic it should be replaced with a secular alternative.

Simon Foston

Bruce ChatwinToday 06:56 am JST

Yasukuni is toxic it should be replaced with a secular alternative.

So it should. That will never happen, though - it would have to be debated in the Diet and the right-wing nationalist crowd would easily kill the motion.

Tando

It seems that many here do not understand the historical meaning of Yasukuni. It was at the center of the Kokka Shinto (State Shinto), which was again an important element of Japanese ultra-nationalism. With this religion people were indoctrinated, you could say brainwashed. In this respect, this religion can be compared to radical Islam because it promised the fighters to die as martyrs. Japanese ultra-nationalism can be compared to that of Nazi Germany maybe even more radical. The Nazis first had to create the Germanic myth in Japan they simply used the indigenous religion. This indoctrination led to the cruel behavior of the Japanese soldiers in Asia. What would people say if there was still a symbol of Nazi indoctrination in Germany?

Bruce Chatwin

So it should. That will never happen, though - it would have to be debated in the Diet and the right-wing nationalist crowd would easily kill the motion.

Yes, you're right. Nippon Kaigi, aka the LDP, would kill the motion.

Browny1

Asakaze thank you for your reply.

Your 1st point re educating myself on the terms conservative & right wing. Thanks for pointing out that. If it's nitpicking the nuance of terms that upsets you I'll gladly change my phrase to "Right wing Nippon Kaigi". Good.

And your 2nd point re Uyoku and far right wing. It's obvious to any learned reader that I was simply using the terms to differentiate between the two ie Uyoku has a history of extremism, violence, harassment, intimidation and uses physical presence to do such. On the contrary there are far right leaning group who don't follow these aggressive tactics - eg the afore mentioned Nippon Kaigi. I can't recall them demonstrating loudly, brashly in the streets with blaring martial music & hate filled propaganda. Maybe I've missed that. Got it?

And your 3rd point re Chidorigafuchi. Of course I know what the cemetery is - rofl. You said "where is a public owned secular facility?" in response to simon fs question. You didn't specify, so I offered the case of Chidorigafuchi as a matter-of-fact example. And in addition it has been proposed to be turned into a National Wartime Cemetery to commemorate the deaths of all Japanese persons killed in war. By doing so would allow all people to pray for the souls of the deceased in a non-secular setting. This would go a long way to solving the current difficult situation.

Many would like to do this, but probably it won't happen because of the afore mentioned intimidation and threatening actions of the Uyoku would stifle debate and action.

And your 4th point re politicians denying war crimes - well as life is too short to link to the 100s+ of articles existing a 2 second search turned 1 up for starters.


The 96 American Soldiers Buried In Unmarked Graves In France For Their Crimes Against Local Civilians And Fellow Soldiers

War crimes during WWII were often perpetrated by the Axis countries, such as Germany and Japan, but there were also some convictions concerning offenses committed by members of the United States Army.

More precisely, 161 individuals, all belonging to the US Army, were trialed and executed for their crimes during that war. The convictions ranged from desertion to rape and murder. These cases were dealt with harshly, as the US military believed it was necessary to handle such excesses with a firm grip. Otherwise, the image of the Allied Army would be the same as that of its enemy – partial or complete disrespect for the Geneva and Hague Conventions. They constituted the rules of warfare and the criteria by which actions are considered war crimes.

The background to committing such offenses was due in part to the fact that the drafting process into the US Army started to include convicts who had violent criminal records.

The choice for many of those convicts was either to join the army or go to jail. Many of them decided on the first option. Their reasons for doing so varied. Some wanted to clear their name by joining the fight because they saw the draft as their second chance in life.

Others were not so keen on serving their country but instead saw the war as an adventure and an opportunity to profit or at least escape their punishment.

There were also men who enlisted in the army so they could leave their former life behind such as a failed marriage, financial debt, or to escape the grasp of personal enemies.

Some of the executions concerned crimes that happened in the homeland, before the soldiers embarked to fight in Africa, and later, Europe. Others were registered in Britain, before the D-Day Landings.

The First Hague Conference in 1899: A meeting in the Orange Hall of Huis ten Bosch palace.

But the ones that attract the most attention are the 96 men who were executed in the European Theatre of War during and shortly after WWII. Their remains were buried in a secret section of the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Plot E, which is located approximately 70 miles from Paris.

The names of these “dishonored dead,” as they were called by the Graves Registration of the US Army, were omitted, and instead, a small flat gravestone commemorates each of them, with nothing but a number ranging from one to 96. All the men buried at the site had been dishonorably discharged from the army, just before their execution.

These men were convicted of crimes which include the killing of 26 fellow American soldiers and the rape or murder (or both) of 71 British, French, German, Italian, Polish and Algerian civilians. The victims included both male and female. The motives for the murders were exclusively personal.

Most of these crimes were gruesome and sadistic displays of the darkest parts of human nature.

Two of the victims involved children aged 15. Seven were raped and murdered on two different occasions in England and Northern Ireland. Other cases include adult victims. Among them was 75-year-old Agnes Cope who was assaulted and raped by Private Aniceto Martinez on August 6, 1944. Private Martinez currently occupies the grave marked with the number 39.

The Dachau KL. After its liberation there were some reprisal on SS guards by US soldiers and concentration camp internees. It is unknown how many were killed but the most likely estimation are between 35-50.

Privates Yancy Waiters (grave 31) and Robert L. Skinner (grave 64), conducted another especially gruesome crime. The men first murdered Auguste Lebarillier, who was accompanied by his girlfriend, Marie Osouf. The soldiers then raped the girl while holding more than twenty French villagers at gunpoint. All the witnesses later confirmed the event took place, and the soldiers were executed by hanging in the village of Hameau a Pigeon in France.

Scandals such as the one that happened in Hameau a Pigeon were damaging to the Allies reputation, but such misconduct occurred in all theatres of war, especially the Eastern Front.

Some of the verdicts are today being questioned as claims arose that three of the soldiers buried in France were most likely not guilty.

However, the US Army did not waste time in showing that all criminal activities towards the civilian population of Allied countries were not to be even slightly tolerated.


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