German Propaganda Archive Calvin University


Background: By summer 1943 Allied bombing raids were devastating German cities, and worse was to come. Although the Germans put up determined and deadly defense, they could not stop the overwhelmingly superior Allied air forces from daily and nightly visits to major German cities. This article presents the bombing as a serious threat, but one that Germans are overcoming by hard work and devotion. It also promises that vague but deadly revenge is almost ready on the German side. Germans were eager to believe that revenge was coming, but its eventual appearance in the form of V-1 and V-2 rockets proved too little, too late. Schwarz van Berk was one of Goebbels’s top propagandists.

The source: Hans Schwarz van Berk, “Die ungeahnten Folgen” Das Reich, 2 July 1943, p. 4.

Unexpected Consequences

The Bombing War: Overcoming and Revenge

by Hans Schwarz van Berk
Amidst the smoke of Berlin’s bombed inner city, one reads the latest foreign news reports. Two items from Switzerland: Since Sunday, all passenger trains in Germany have been canceled; German insane asylums must add barracks since a Viennese doctor estimates that the number of those suffering nervous breakdowns has increased by 40%. Then there is this announcement from Washington: Germany has to force people to serve on U-boats. And this from London: Croatian troops have been used against the rebellious population in Vienna. Finally a Reuters dispatch claims that the captain of a German destroyer has committed suicide.

That’s what the foreign press has to say the morning after two heavy bombing attacks. We’ve certainly survived things during the past 48 hours that did not make us cleaner and more beautiful, but we are perhaps not wrong to assume that in the meanwhile our navy and the Viennese have kept things in order? Should we look into the matters? Should we invite that doctor from Vienna, a master of observation, to Berlin? Or should we prefer his young colleague who during the night took the injured from our subway shelter and with Red Cross nurses brought them through the fiery streets to safety, saying as he left, just as if he were coming from a party, “Give my regards to your mother.” A student from Stargard smiled as she rested on the ground, crinkled her nose at a motor’s exhaust, and spoke with her friend who had taken shelter from the fire storm. Where should she go for the coming semester? This small group of people in the fiery oven of the city would have passed any psychological test just as well as the silent masses with their bundles of rescued possessions in the subway station.

During the following days, hundreds of thousands of foreigners in Berlin went to work or walked in columns with soldiers between the ruins to clean things up. They must have been astonished by those who waited, who searched, who helped, by the silent acceptance of disaster, by stoic fortitude. The world will say of Berlin what it has said of the other bombed German cities: the Germans are a people who stand heads high above any disaster.

No, we are not worried about our nerves, nor about what others think of our nerves. The critical point is long past. The repeatedly bombed cities have proven that. They have gradually become used to absorbing bombs, and countless people have grown accustomed to living in shelters or basements because they do not want to give up their jobs. Ever since the “Hamburgization” [Hamburg had been bombed heavily] of the most cunning method of mass slaughter ever perpetrated by soldiers on women and children began, we know enough of the most terrible terrors. There is more than enough horror to freeze our hearts and dull our senses. Cold cruelty has been piled on cruelty.

Steadfast Cities

The real problems of the air war that occupy our people as well as all European peoples are overcoming it and taking revenge. The systematic destruction of flourishing European cities by the English and Americans today stretches from Palermo and Sofia to Nantes, Boulogne, Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck. Since the English military has begun talking about carpet bombing, fire storms, and city-busting, whole residential sections have been destroyed.

The first matter in overcoming the air war concerns the resistance ability and life strength of our great European cities. The original opinion was that they were highly sensitive organisms with a spoiled, nervous, and delicate populations. In fact, modern warfare has brought the weaknesses of some great cities to light. We found Paris dead and empty, deserted out of fear as General von Briesen, with his injured arm, greeted his marching division at the Arch de Triumph. In March of the same year, Oslo broke into wild panic at the mere rumor that the English would launch a bombing attack. Milan and Turin were thrown into confusion by bombing in 1943. Only in German cities, where one today hears 10 or 15 languages, did one fail to see even a single example of panic or mass hysteria. This fact is probably well known to English leaders, and they have trouble explaining it. Some papers think that Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler has terrified people by executions. It is not clear if they believe that themselves, but it is a grave insult to the bombed populations who have behaved splendidly. The Times aims a little higher. It suggests that discipline is second nature to Germans, since they have been oppressed so long, and only such firm discipline explains how the attacks have so far been endured. As if an armed soldier sat on every burning rooftop!

Deeper Strengths

The miracle of German steadfastness has entirely different causes. The more one attacks us, the deeper the strengths that are awakened in us. Each of us during the heaviest bombing nights has been astonished by the sudden appearance of brave people around us, people from whom we had not expected it. Each of us has been amazed by the reaction of so many Germans standing beside the few bundles they have rescued. Half grimly, half relieved, they say: “Well, now I’ve got one less worry. I don’t need to worry about my possessions.” It is not that we were secret nihilists, but rather we sense that the war is best survived with the fewest possessions. It is no longer “all or nothing.” We stand with nothing before everything: the war is a matter of winning back our homes, our beds, our household goods, the property we have won with so much work and saving. Millions of Germans have suddenly been proletarianized, bolshevistically robbed of their possessions by phosphorus bombs, entirely as Stalin would wish, and done by his allies. Germans have united more fervently than ever before behind the leadership, for only victory can give them back what they have lost. One may plunge the German people very deeply into misery, but they will never be and will never remain a nation of proletarians. That is what they have fought against since 1918. They freed themselves from it once by their own strength, and are striving with sure instinct to do so again. Thus every bomb that falls on Germany releases political energy. Our enemies have threatened our people for a long time already. Now they have become too shameless and reckless in the talk of the peace terms that they plan to offer. Therefore everyone who climbs out of the air raid shelter of his burning home into the burning street knows that, if we lose the war, men would go to labor camps and no one would be left to rebuilt his home or the city. This is the very simple reason why each homeless German is a good German! The English have not thought about this.

Capable Self-Help

One senses immediately that people are dealing with overcoming bombing on a personal level. But their larger goals are clear too, even before the smoke clears. We do not passively accept misfortune; we work to overcome it. A German cannot live a single day without accomplishing something. One of the first requests after the attacks on the Ruhr, after coffee and meat, was soap and washing material, because our women could not live in filth. None of us wants to be a citizen of Pompeii. Where can one find wood, paper, glass, mortar, tiles, slats, and flooring material? Two examples from my own experience. Frau Gerda W. in K. began to rebuild her destroyed rubber factory the next morning with the help of 20 of her workers. None of them knew how to build walls. They asked an 80-year old master builder for help, who gave them some advice. As she told me, she looked all over the city for flak soldiers and when she found one she asked: “You’re helping to build? I have cigars and cigarettes.” In record time her little factory and heavily damaged house were usable again. Factory head M. in W. rescued his workers from the flames with a truck. He saw a bombed out building and made five trips over the weekend to bring his whole crew of 30 men and women there to work while his employees made sure that the normal business went on as usual. All the construction work and the cleanup was done by his staff. The result was 80 rooms to house the largest part of the homeless families, with room in the two lower stories for a bakery, book store, and barber. Self-help is a German virtue that blossoms best on a foundation of camaraderie. We are a people capable with both hand and mind, and we cannot live without proving it. And we want our surroundings to be comfortable, even if it is a summer house, a bunker or a basement. How often have I thought of my first trip to Palestine: Amidst the gray, rocky mountains I could see little green islands in the distance with bushes and trees. They were the small gardens that the German military railroad troops and guards had made twenty years ago during the World War while they worked on the supply lines. In the same way, before long emergency housing will spring up amidst the ruins, with clothing lines and flowers between them.

The New Pioneers

Dealing with bombing attacks takes work. Is it too much to say that we Germans of all peoples today are probably the fastest and best at clearing up the ruins? Have we not shown in Poland as well as in the north and south how quickly, even in the midst of war, we can get roads, bridges, and buildings back in order? Are we not the only combatant nation whose armaments minister is also a building and reconstruction expert? Have we not created a modern labor army, a large disaster relief force, in the Organization Todt, in Speer’s staff, in the NSKK [the Nazi motorized auxiliary], and in the Labor Service, which for good pay or simple idealism has trained new European pioneers? The English have caused only destruction in Europe, but we have spent billions in building, kept whole nations fed and employed, and not only removed the effects of our campaigns but given countries new and lasting works like railroads, harbors, factories, and airfields. No German soldier can take them along when he leaves. The English — when have they have done such work for a European people?

Our Europe is already influenced by our labor. It is an energetic, dynamic, productive Europe. With our working style it will become a Europe able to defend itself. Who can doubt that Hamburg along with Sofia, Berlin, and Nantes will be rebuilt in the shortest possible time? That is no promise with a vague time frame. The work has already begun in many cities. The toughest have stayed in the area, cleared up the ruins, gotten to work and built anew. Some do not particularly appreciate our diligence, which some have found burdensome, but without this virtue our part of the earth would probably never overcome the results of this air war, but rather quickly and finally be overwhelmed by other continents and areas. The fame of our weapons will be ours alone; the fame of our work will belong to all the European peoples.

Our Larger Concern

The other question, towering over the ruins, is the longing for revenge. To speak of it very early was natural, a way of giving aid to someone who has suffered personal misfortune. The question of timing the revenge is not one of technical details, but rather of the intended purpose. The revenge must be so emphatic and timed at the psychologically right moment so that it will influence the course of this war. It would make no sense to repay ruins with ruins. It will take entirely different and surprising forms, both spiritually and politically. The war will have a different outlook, and the responsible men on the enemy side will face a public opinion that asks entirely different questions than it did yesterday and today, regardless of whether they attack Italy or the Balkans or if they finally open the second front. No enemy maneuver, no risky undertaking, can hinder or stop revenge. Things are in motion.

Our revenge will not be a kind of military triumph or punishment, which our whole nation demands today. We want to put an end to unscrupulous mass murder by an extreme and drastic blow. A peaceful observer might think that the time is near when half the earth will go flying through the air. Subordinating technique to an ordering will is the last great task of Western culture. In this sense, the great masters of weaponry of our century are the true teachers. We count ourselves among them. In all our campaigns we looked for rapid decisions that saved human lives. The losses among the Poles, Danes, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, French, Greeks, and Serbs were so small because we won classic military victories. Expert surgery by a leading doctor usually saves a life, whereas a butcher tortures his victim with ever new procedures. We did it the first way, while the English are unable to win a decision on the battlefield. Instead they care nothing for European humanity, bringing miseries upon it.

As much as the bombing war now rages, our new weapons will bring about an entirely different test of nerves. They will very quickly make the English ask how long they can continue such a war. With as little pity as this English nation looks on the devastation of the continent today, so, too, will we view their hardest hour. We have bigger concerns than an island. We have not surrendered responsibility for the continent to Stalin, as the English have. We remain the only and last armed great power of Europe that confronts the danger from the East on the battlefield, not at conference tables.

Page copyright © 2001 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]

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