Secret recordings made by BritishÂ intelligence during the Second World War have revealed for the first time theÂ horrific atrocities carried out by everyday German soldiers.
For years the blame for horrific war crimes,Â rape and genocide were laid at the hands of the SS and Hitler’s right hand menÂ but a new book details how widespread the barbarity went.
Transcripts taken from hidden microphones onÂ prisoners of war have been collated for the disturbing book Soldaten:Â On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret Second World War Tapes of GermanÂ POWs.
Between 1940 and 1945 the British andÂ Americans bugged about 13,000 German and several hundred Italian soldiers of allÂ ranks and services – many of which in the Trent Park detention centre for POWsÂ in north London.
It was hoped the recordings would revealÂ military secrets of potentially strategic importance, instead they cataloguedÂ open and uncensored conversations about war experiences – often as toÂ boast.
They detail not only the extreme level ofÂ violence but a disturbing sense of enjoyment from the soldiers. One example of manyÂ recounts: ‘There was an event inÂ the market square, crowds of people, speechesÂ given. We really sprayed them!Â That was fun!’
Another reveals the following conversation:Â ‘We once did a strafing near Eastbourne. We flew up and saw a big castle; thereÂ seemed to be a ball or something — anyhow a lot of ladies in evening dress and aÂ band.
‘The first time we flew past; then weÂ attacked and kept at it. Boy oh boy, was that fun.’
Another reveals: ‘I loved dropping bombs. ItÂ makes you feel all tingly, a great feeling. It’s as good as shooting someoneÂ down.’
The book, which has been compiled by GermanÂ historians Soenke Neitzel and Harald Welzer has been translated in to EnglishÂ for the first time, dispelling myths that German soldiers were not responsibleÂ for such war crimes.
It offers a bleak inside viewÂ of World WarÂ II and in doing so, they destroy once and for the myth of a ‘clean’ Wehrmacht -Â the German name for the armed forced.
In one section a passage attributed to Reimbold reads: ‘In the first officers’Â prison camp where I was being kept here, there was a really stupid guy from Frankfurt, a young lieutenant, a youngÂ upstart.
‘And he said: ‘Oh, we caught this female spyÂ who had been runningÂ around in the neighborhood.
‘First we hit her in theÂ **** with a stickÂ and then we beat her rear end with a bare bayonet.
ThenÂ we threw herÂ outside and shot at her. When she was lying thereÂ on her back, we threwÂ grenades at her.
‘Every time one of them landedÂ near herÂ body, she screamed.’
‘And just think, there were eight GermanÂ officers sitting at that table with me, and they all broke outÂ laughing.’
The soldiers talk about their views of theÂ enemy and their ownÂ leaders, discuss the details of combat missions and tradeÂ astonishinglyÂ detailed accounts of the atrocities they both witnessed andÂ committed.