Friday, November 25, 2005

remembering the forgotten

I was watching History Channel International last night, for background noise, when a program came on about the last mass execution in the U.S., held in 1945. At Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, 7 German POWs were executed for the murder of a fellow POW who they, and many other German POWs, had discovered was a spy. Now, first let me say I do not oppose the death penalty, there are some people who should not be allowed to live. That's not what disturbed me. What disturbed me is the fact we violated the Geneva Convention in many ways with these 7 young German men, one of whom is probably a cousin of mine, although I cannot confirm this. Yeah, it's personal.

From what I saw in the program, the 7 U-Boat officers who confessed to the murder of the spy were treated horribly. Their confessions were tortured out of them using various methods including being forced to sit nude on a hot radiator, or having a gas mask with crushed garlic put on their faces then having the air inlet closed and the mask left on until the prisioner passed out. At their trial, they were all represented by a single US Army officer, who most likely had no legal background. All were found guilty and sentenced to death. They were sent to Ft. Leavenworth to await their executions. The U.S. Government notified the German Government that they were going to execute the prisioners, however Germany responded that if the U.S. executed the 7 POWs, they would start to execute U.S. POWs slated for execution unless the U. S. provided the transcripts of the trial. Of course, the U.S. didn't want to, because we had violated the Geneva Convention, and we didn't want to give Germany an excuse violate the Geneva Convention with our boys. Then the war was over, Hitler had committed suicide, the Allies had liberated the POWs and Concentration Camps, and we still had the 7 U-Boat officers sitting on death row.

While sitting on death row, they were only allowed contact with each other while under supervision of the Chaplain, a Roman Catholic Priest. They all converted to Catholicism, since they had been denied anything other than the Nazi Religion in Germany. On August 25, 1945, beginning at midnight, the 7 prisioners were executed by hanging, starting with Helmut Fischer, 22 years old, who is very likely a distant relative of mine. Then, adding insult to injury, their graves were all oriented North-South, instead of the traditional East-West, preventing their souls from finding peace. It is also rumored that they were all buried face-down, everything possible done in death to desecrate their burials and ensure their souls would never find peace. They were executed 3 months after the war with Germany was over, mainly because of a need for vengance for the Concentration Camps.

Yes, Helmut was a Nazi, just like everyone else who wanted to live a relatively normal life at that time in Germany. The U-Boat service was "voluntary", but had the highest mortality rate of any modern military service, 75-80% mortality. Helmut and the others most likely had only the choice of serve in the military or die. We cannon fault the common soldiers for the horrors the leaders of the Nazis implemented. It saddens me that many of the notes left for Helmut forget this, and those who never met him leave only words of hate.

May your soul find rest, Cousin. I know you were not much more than a child, and did what you had to do, to protect our family in Germany. I am an American who hates what the Nazi leadership did, but cannot hate all Nazis, because so many of you had no choice. I hope that when we meet in the Summerlands, Cousin, that your soul is as noble as I belive it to be.


Ballpoint Wren said...

That's an awful story. I'm glad you're telling it here.

I looked up "funkobergefreiter" on the Google translator and it says "radio upper private first class."

mira said...

I just happened to catch the program, then Googled his name which had him listed at Helmut Fischer needs to be rembered by someone with love, not hate.

I will probably never know if Helmut Fischer is actually family or not, but he does have the last name as one of my grandparents, whose grandparents immigrated from Germany I beleive. If we are related, it would be more like clan members because I doubt he's my great-uncle.