Secret recordings made by British intelligence during the Second World War have revealed for the first time the horrific atrocities carried out by everyday German soldiers.
For years the blame for horrific war crimes, rape and genocide were laid at the hands of the SS and Hitler’s right hand men but a new book details how widespread the barbarity went.
Transcripts taken from hidden microphones on prisoners of war have been collated for the disturbing book Soldaten: On Fighting, Killing and Dying: The Secret Second World War Tapes of German POWs.
Between 1940 and 1945 the British and Americans bugged about 13,000 German and several hundred Italian soldiers of all ranks and services – many of which in the Trent Park detention centre for POWs in north London.
It was hoped the recordings would reveal military secrets of potentially strategic importance, instead they catalogued open and uncensored conversations about war experiences – often as to boast.
They detail not only the extreme level of violence but a disturbing sense of enjoyment from the soldiers.
One example of many recounts: ‘There was an event in the market square, crowds of people, speeches given. We really sprayed them! That was fun!’
Another reveals the following conversation: ‘We once did a strafing near Eastbourne. We flew up and saw a big castle; there seemed to be a ball or something – anyhow a lot of ladies in evening dress and a band.
‘The first time we flew past; then we attacked and kept at it. Boy oh boy, was that fun.’
by David Baker