German Propaganda Archive Calvin University


Background: Besides writing weekly lead articles for Das Reich, Goebbels sometimes wrote articles for other publications. This article appeared in the Völkischer Beobachter, the party’s daily newspaper. It was one of a number of articles by Goebbels that encouraged the civilian population to kill captured Allied airmen. By the end of the war, about 350 Allied airmen had been killed.

I’m translating the article not from the VB, but from Sonderlieferung Nr. 25/44, a publication of the Reichspropagandaleitung sent to Nazi speakers. It often included the texts of Goebbels’s articles, which were intended to guide propagandists in their efforts. It is probable that speakers, after reading articles like this, encouraged their audiences to act.

The source: Joseph Goebbels, “Ein Wort zum feindlichen Luftterror,” Völkischer Beobachter, 27 May 1944.

A Word about Enemy Air Terror

by Joseph Goebbels

No one disputes any longer the fact that enemy air terror has the single goal of breaking the morale of the German civilian population. The enemy is waging war against those who are defenseless, primarily women and children, to force the men of our land to give way. This is proven both by the facts themselves as well as a plenitude of journalistic statements from the enemy side. As far as the facts go, one needs only to view often-bombed areas in the Reich or in occupied territories to establish without doubt that our military production is affected by perhaps one percent of enemy air terror. The other 99% falls on the civilian sector.

Recently, leading representatives of the French and Belgian churches who can hardly be suspected of obeying German orders have turned to the international public to make strong protests against the barbaric methods of enemy air terror. It is killing old people, women, and children, and destroying venerable cultural monuments and thickly settled civilian neighborhoods without any military purpose. We need say no more.

Our enemies do not disguise their intentions. One does not need to look for long in the British or USA press to find strong evidence. As early as 1930, English air expert I. M. Spaight wrote in his book Air Power and the Cities: “Lay great cities in ruins and destroy the will to wage war.” Nothing has changed in British air warfare leadership since then. “It is impossible to draw a line between the civil and fighting populations.” Using this cowardly excuse, the Daily Mail attempts to justify the enemy’s crude and filthy military policy. A leading British naval officer puts it much more clearly in the English military magazine The Army Quarterly: “Is there such a thing as a noncombatant? A small child is not a productive member of society in war or peace. No one really has the right to claim immunity for himself when he can make the attempt in the name of humanity to make Germany more desolate than the Sahara.”

The well-known London newspaper News Chronicle is not missing from the chorus of hatred. It adds: “We are in favor of wiping out every living creature in Germany: man, woman, child, bird, and insect. We will allow no blade of grass to grow.” That gives the famous British writer H. G. Wells occasion to demand: “Treat the Germans like a noxious tribe of natives.” USA journalists are no less vehement. One of their leading members, Raymond Clapper, writes with visible pleasure: “Terror and brutality are the best aspects of the air war.” One might say here that not all leading Englishmen and Americans think this way. Wrong! Even the Anglican High Church writes in its official organ Church of England on 28 May 1943: “It is a perverse view of Christianity to argue that civilians may not be killed.” Even the Archbishop of York, Dr. Cyrill Garbett, blessed the barbaric methods of Anglo-American air terror in his bishop’s letter of June 1943: “It is only a small evil to bomb German civilians.”

We previously have refrained from bringing the most depraved of these statements, of which we here present only a small sample, to the German people. They are a plain call to murder women and children. We feared that the German people would respond to such cynicism by taking matters into their own hands and repaying like for like with pilots parachuting down from destroyed aircraft. However, circumstances make it impossible to continue such reserve in the future. In recent weeks Anglo-American terror flyers have not only continued random bombardment of our cities and civilian population, but have also given up even an outward respect for international law by using aircraft weapons to cold-bloodedly murder. There can no longer be any excuses, for enemy aircraft fly low over villages, fields, and roads to fire on innocent people going about their business. That no longer has anything to do with war, it is simply murder. There is nothing in international law for the enemy to call on. In using such criminal methods, Anglo-American pilots put themselves outside all internationally recognized laws of war. Last Sunday, for example, to give only one of thousands of cases, children playing in Saxony were fired upon, with heavy casualties resulting.

No one will be surprised that the affected people, known throughout the world for understanding all aspects of warfare, are filled with rage at such cynical crimes. Only with the help of armed force was it possible to rescue enemy pilots, who otherwise would have been beaten to death by the local population. Who is right here: those who expect that these cowardly murderers receive humane treatment from their victims, or those who expect that the victims will defend themselves according to the principle of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth! The question is not hard to answer. In any event, it would be asking too much of us to use German soldiers to protect the murderers of children from the rage of parents who resort to self -defense after having lost their most valuable possession because of the enemy’s brutal cynicism. If the English and Americans, as they themselves say, view us as noxious tribes, we do not need to be pleased by that. The German people is known throughout the world for accepting what war demands. However, too much is too much, and here things have gone far beyond what can be borne.

It seems to us hardly possible or acceptable to set German police and soldiers against the German people when the murderers of children get what they deserve. Anglo-American military crimes must come to an end at some point. Pilots cannot defend themselves by saying that they are following orders. No article of war permits a soldier to escape punishment for a terrible crime by blaming his superiors, since this would stand in blatant contradiction to any human morality and any principle of international military law. Our century has largely erased the boundaries between war and criminality on the part of the enemy, but it would be demanding too much of us to expect that we would be silent victims of such boundless barbarism.

We draw this conclusion soberly. Our people is much more radical in this regard than its government. We have always wished that the war be conducted by knightly principles. The enemy does not seem to want that. The whole world is witness. If such outrageous behavior continues, it will also be witness to the fact that we will find ways and means to defend ourselves against these crimes. We owe that to our people that is decently and bravely defending its life, and has in no way deserved to become the prey of enemy people-hunters.

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