International Law
The Camps
The Conditions inside the camps
Slow Death
The Dead

International Law

During the Den Haag peace conference at the beginning of the 20th century the so-called civilized nations agreed to submit to what is known as International Law. The International Law should amongst other topics humanize warfare ,i.e. eliminate brutality against the Defenseless .
On January 26th 1919 “The Haag War Regulation” was signed by all  participating nations amongst them the United States of America.
All Prisoners of War are to be part of those known as DEFENCELESS.

The following statutes were established: 

(Paragraph 4)
Prisoners of War are under the supervision of the enemy state  and not  of  individuals or  units who captured them. They should be treated humanly. All their personal belongings remain in their hands, with exception of arms, horses and documents of military matters.

(Paragraph 6)
The enemy state is allowed to use the POW`s  as per their ability & fitness to use as a labour force. Officers are exempted. The work is not to be extraordinarily hard.

(Paragraph  7)
The enemy state is fully responsible for the overall welfare and health of POWs. If food, accommodation and adequate clothing are not sufficient,  the POWs should be accorded the same standard of issue as to that of an enemy nations own troops.

(Paragraph 14)
As soon as the wartime hostilities begin an office of POW affairs  by all the warring nations has to be established.

(Paragraph 20)
After all peace treaties have been signed and hostilities ceased, the immediate release of the POW has to be ensured. 

On July 27th 1929 The Protective Regulations of the Geneva Convention for wounded soldiers was extended to include now also POWs. All accommodations should be equal to the standard of their own troops. The Red Cross should be allowed access to camps and the monitoring of the welfare and treatment of POWs. After the end of the all hostilities the POW should be released immediately 

The Allies signed those regulations. 

Dwight D. Eisenhower
Supreme Commander of the US troops WW2

Breaking of International Law

During 1943 the Allies decided to treat any further captured German POWs no longer as just regular POWs but as a ‘Punishable POW’ (Strafgefangene) completely disregarding the International Law. The then supreme commanders of the different forces were given a free hand in the handling of German POWs.
On March 10th 1945 Dwight D Eisenhower the supreme commander of the US forces received orders not to release any German prisoners captured on German territory but instead keep them all in indefinite captivity as “Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF).They therefore were not considered to be protected by the International Law and left at the complete mercy of the victors.
Breaking the International Law when at war constitutes according to the International Law a WARCRIME.

The Camps

After the crossing of the river Rhine in March 1945 Eisenhower ordered the organization of the Rhine meadow camps on the west banks for German prisoners. Vast areas were immediately confiscated and fenced in with barbed wire. The daily increasing number of prisoners were then herded in, including wounded amputees, women, children and even old people.

Rhine meadow style camps were set up at or near the following towns: 

Andernach              Bad Kreuzenach                 Bickelsheim
Bretzenheim           Buderich                             Budersheim
Dietersheim           Hechterheim                       Heidesheim
Ingelheim               Koblenz Lützel                   Koblenz
Ludwigshafen         L-Rheingönheim                Mainz
M.-Kassel               M.-Zahlbach                       Mannheim
M.-Käfertal             M.-Sandhofen                    M.-Schönau
M.-Waldhof            Miegenheim                        Plaidt
Remagen                Rheinberg                           Rheinheim
Schwarzenborn      Siershan                             Sinzig
Trier                       Urmitz                                Wickrathberg         Winzersheim
May 8th 1945 was finally the end of the war, German soldiers surrendered at different fronts of the war theater, they were then imprisoned, cramped into closed cattle wagons and lorries and then dumped like garbage inside the barbed wire fences. At this time some of the prisoners were already dead upon their arrival. Adding to those transportations were the arrivals of German soldiers who had escaped the advancing Soviet Red Army hoping they would be treated more humanly by the western Allies. Also thrown into these camps were civilians, primarily party leaders, high government officials and industry captains all of them falling under the so called “automatic arrest” law without any further legal process.

When the Allies advanced further east the Americans established many more camps within Germany. About 200 locations in Germany and Austria are listed. Source: 
Kurt W. Böhme, Die deutschen Kriegsgefangenen in amerikanischer Hand, Europa München 1973
Further eyewitness or information reports about the brutality of these Rhine meadow camps may be sent to: mariagruettner@hotmail.com

After a varied period of time most of the other camps outside the Rhine river region were eventually closed and the last surviving German prisoners were sent to the Rhine camps. One can assume as a whole that approx between 5- 6 million German prisoners were kept in the camps.

Conditions in the Camps

Some people might have already heard a little about the horrifying conditions inside these camps. Some further important  facts should be noted about them:

There was no proper registration of the prisoners. Neither upon arrival nor     anytime during their incarceration.

The camps were heavily guarded all around the perimeter with barbed wire fencing and floodlighting was used at night. Escape attempts were met with instant execution despite the cessation of war and it officially being peacetime.

Sometimes some spiteful US Troops fired into the masses without any legitimate reasons given, killing numerous prisoners and wounding others with no proper medical treatment allowed.

The prisoners remained fully exposed to the elements with no proper or adequate shelter, also constant exposure to the cold low temperatures, with varied frost, rain and sleet again always without cover and sitting or lying down on the cold damp ground which always turned into a bottomless quagmire of mud and slush.

The prisoners were not allowed to build any makeshift shelters. Tents were not allowed to be distributed even though German army depots as well as American ones were still full of them.

The prisoners in sheer desperation had no other option but to dig holes in the ground to protect themselves against the icy cold. Over and over they were reprimanded by the US Army guards and threatened not to do it again, then many times forced at gunpoint to fill the holes in with dirt again and again. US Army bulldozers were often wheeled through the camps to flatten the little remaining shelter the prisoners had provided for themselves and earlier as unseen by the guards outside on the perimeter from the absolute masses of men crowded into these open field Rhine meadow camps. Those German soldiers who were to weak or not fast enough to move out of their makeshift holes were spared no mercy and were literally crushed into the ground by the bulldozers.

There were no washing facilities. Wooden logs were thrown across deep pits, close to the fences so one can observe from outside the barbed wire these soldiers taking natures call.

When the camps first opened there was neither food nor water available even though German and American army depots had plenty and the Rhine river flowed close nearby.

Any German food storage warehouse depots in the vicinity had their doors opened by the Allied forces. The public then plundered from this what they could as most were also facing slow starvation. Later on the prisoners received slowly from US stockpiles egg powder, milk powder, cookies, chocolate bars and coffee powder but still no actual water. Dehydration and slow starvation caused severe intestinal disease’s which continued to occur among the prisoners.

The prisoners were allowed no contact with the outside world. No mail or correspondence was allowed. The German public was given death threats if they tried to supply the prisoners with food by throwing it over the fence.

The German authorities were urged to advise the public to stay away accordingly. If they still tried to sneak food to the prisoners at night they were chased away and sometimes even fired at. Once again this behavior by the American armed forces was after the war was actually over.

The Swiss Red Cross was not allowed to enter Germany.  Eisenhower’s orders were the return of any Swiss Red Cross trains loaded with food and various supplies. The seriously ill and dying were not allowed proper medical treatment as officially accorded to them by International Law. German hospitals also were never approached for help and assistance in treating the wounded and seriously ill prisoners which was as per US Army policy. 

Some of the camp guards were partly recruited  from released foreign labourers. Also some former inmates from German military prisons. (ie. from the army penitentiary Thorgau) were employed as the camp Police. Mistreatments happened daily and went unchecked or unpunished by the US Army personnel.

For additionally specific and very detailed information about the Rhine Meadow Camps (Rheinwiesenlager) we would like to refer you to the book by Canadian author Mr James Bacque called Other Losses, Der Geplante Tod, 8th edition Berlin 1999. Available from Amazon.com.

Some of Bacque’s actual eye witnesss accounts can illustrate further these actual conditions inside the Rhine Meadow Camps.

Eyewitness Reports:
April 30th was a stormy day, rain, snow, sleet intermingling and a bone chilling, cold wind blowing from the North across the flats of the Rhine valley towards the camp. Closely pushed together to warm up each other, a deeply terrifying view appeared at the other side of the barbed wire fence -----hundred thousands emaciated, apathetic, dirty, starving men with hollow eyes wearing dirty battle fatigues and sunk ankle deep in sludge and mud.
Here and there you could see dirty-white spots. When looking closer you would notice men wrapped up their heads or arms with bandages or men wearing merely just their shirts. The German division commander said they have not eaten anything for at least several days and getting water caused a major problem even though the Rhine river was only 200 meters away.”
Quoted as per Canadian author James Bacque in his book Other Losses, p. 51

A Prisoner wrote: 

1000.000 German soldiers, sick people out of hospitals, women of the military support services and civilians were captured. A camp mate of the Rheinsberg camp was 	80 years old, and another only 9. Constant hunger and tormenting thirst for water 	plagued them and they died of dysentery. A cruel sky poured down, week long, 	torrential rains. Amputees were sliding like amphibians through the quagmire, 	thoroughly wet and shivering. Day in day out, night for night without shelter, they 	camped hopelessly on the sands of Rheinsberg, finally falling asleep in the 	collapsing foxholes.
Heinz Jansen, Prisoner (Kriegsgefangen) in Rheinsberg, quoted in James Bacque book Other Losses, p. 52 

These facts prove that the conditions at the Rheinwiesenlager were not, as so often stated officially, caused by the inability of the Americans to handle the masses of prisoners. On the contrary those conditions with all their fatal consequences were enforced from the highest chain of US Army command. James Bacque confirms that General Dwight Eisenhower is responsible for these inhumane conditions. 

The responsibility for the welfare and treatment of the German POWs rested with the commanders of the US Army in Europe subordinated only to the political control of their own government. All the decisions about handling of prisoners were indeed made  solely by the US Army Europe. 
quoted James Bacque Other Losses, p. 45

 Dr. Ernst F. Fisher colonel of the US Army writes :
Eisenhowers hate, tolerated by his submissive military bureaucracy, caused the mass horrors of the death camps unique in the annals of American military history. Faced with the consequences of Eisenhowers hate the casual indifference of the SHAEF officers (Headquarters of Allied Expedition Forces) signifies the very painful American involvement.  
quoted James Bacque Other Losses, p. 17

When the occupation zones were formed, July 1945, the Rhine Meadow Camps were also handed over to the British and French, depending on the geography. The British actually tried to improve the food supply for the German prisoners. The French did no such thing. They instead started transporting the still physically able German prisoners of war as forced labour to France. Only very few returned.
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