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Condi's Phony HistorySorry, Dr. Rice, postwar Germany was nothing like Iraq.

Condoleezza Rice

As American post-conflict combat deaths in Iraq overtook the wartime number, the administration counseled patience. "The war on terror is a test of our strength. It is a test of our perseverance, our patience, and our will," President Bush told an American Legion convention.

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice embellished the message with what former White House speechwriters immediately recognize as a greatest-generation pander. "There is an understandable tendency to look back on America's experience in postwar Germany and see only the successes," she told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio, Texas, on Aug. 25. "But as some of you here today surely remember, the road we traveled was very difficult. 1945 through 1947 was an especially challenging period. Germany was not immediately stable or prosperous. SS officers—called 'werewolves'—engaged in sabotage and attacked both coalition forces and those locals cooperating with them—much like today's Baathist and Fedayeen remnants."

Speaking to the same group on the same day, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld noted,

One group of those dead-enders was known as "werewolves." They and other Nazi regime remnants targeted Allied soldiers, and they targeted Germans who cooperated with the Allied forces. Mayors were assassinated including the American-appointed mayor of Aachen, the first major German city to be liberated. Children as young as 10 were used as snipers, radio broadcasts, and leaflets warned Germans not to collaborate with the Allies. They plotted sabotage of factories, power plants, rail lines. They blew up police stations and government buildings, and they destroyed stocks of art and antiques that were stored by the Berlin Museum. Does this sound familiar?

Well, no, it doesn't. The Rice-Rumsfeld depiction of the Allied occupation of Germany is a farrago of fiction and a few meager facts.

Werwolf tales have been a favorite of schlock novels, but the reality bore no resemblance to Iraq today. As Antony Beevor observes in The Fall of Berlin 1945, the Nazis began creating Werwolf as a resistance organization in September 1944. "In theory, the training programmes covered sabotage using tins of Heinz oxtail soup packed with plastic explosive and detonated with captured British time pencils," Beevor writes. "… Werwolf recruits were taught to kill sentries with a slip-knotted garrotte about a metre long or a Walther pistol with silencer. …"

In practice, Werwolf amounted to next to nothing. The mayor of Aachen was assassinated on March 25, 1945, on Himmler's orders. This was not a nice thing to do, but it happened before the May 7 Nazi surrender at Reims. It's hardly surprising that Berlin sought to undermine the American occupation before the war was over. And as the U.S. Army's official history, The U.S. Army in the Occupation of Germany 1944-1946, points out, the killing was "probably the Werwolf's most sensational achievement."

Indeed, the organization merits but two passing mentions in Occupation of Germany, which dwells far more on how docile the Germans were once the Americans rolled in—and fraternization between former enemies was a bigger problem for the military than confrontation. Although Gen. Eisenhower had been worrying about guerrilla warfare as early as August 1944, little materialized. There was no major campaign of sabotage. There was no destruction of water mains or energy plants worth noting. In fact, the far greater problem for the occupying forces was the misbehavior of desperate displaced persons, who accounted for much of the crime in the American zone.

The Army history records that while there were the occasional anti-occupation leaflets and graffiti, the GIs had reason to feel safe. When an officer in Hesse was asked to investigate rumors that troops were being attacked and castrated, he reported back that there had not been a single attack against an American soldier in four months of occupation. As the distinguished German historian Golo Mann summed it up in The History of Germany Since 1789, "The [Germans'] readiness to work with the victors, to carry out their orders, to accept their advice and their help was genuine; of the resistance which the Allies had expected in the way of 'werewolf' units and nocturnal guerrilla activities, there was no sign. …"

Werwolf itself was filled not so much by fearsome SS officers but teenagers too young for the front. Beevor writes:

In the west, the Allies found that Werwolf was a fiasco. Bunkers prepared for Werwolf operations had supplies "for 10-15 days only" and the fanaticism of the Hitler Youth members they captured had entirely disappeared. They were "no more than frightened, unhappy youths." Few resorted to the suicide pills which they had been given "to escape the strain of interrogation and, above all, the inducement to commit treason." Many, when sent off by their controllers to prepare terrorist acts, had sneaked home.

That's not quite the same as the Rumsfeld version, which claimed that "Today the Nazi dead-enders are largely forgotten, cast to the sidelines of history because they comprised a failed resistance and managed to kill our Allied forces in a war that saw millions fight and die."

It's hard to understand exactly what Rumsfeld was saying, but if he meant that the Nazi resisters killed Americans after the surrender, this would be news. According to America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq, a new study by former Ambassador James Dobbins, who had a lead role in the Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo reconstruction efforts, and a team of RAND Corporation researchers, the total number of post-conflict American combat casualties in Germany—and Japan, Haiti, and the two Balkan cases—was zero.

So, how did this fanciful version of the American experience in postwar Germany get into the remarks of a Princeton graduate and former trustee of Stanford's Hoover Institute (Rumsfeld) and the former provost of Stanford and co-author of an acclaimed book on German unification (Rice)? Perhaps the British have some intelligence on the matter that still has not been made public. Of course, as the president himself has noted, there is a lot of revisionist history going around.

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Daniel Benjamin is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He served as director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council staff in 1998-99 and is the co-author of the The Age of Sacred Terror and The Next Attack.
Photograph of Condoleezza Rice by J. Scott Applewhite/AP.
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Remarks from the Fray:

…the statements by Rumsfeld and Rice left me scratching my head. Not only were they wrong, but they were the kind of thing that could easily be proven wrong, and within a couple of days. A reasonably clever person who wanted to make a deceptive argument should be able to do a better job than that.

Give Rumsfeld the benefit of the doubt on this point -- his statement was almost certainly prepared by someone else, and he isn't in office because of his academic achievements anyway. What about Rice? Her main claim to fame is her academic career, but she came into office with a lot of goodwill and even had some conservative columnists chattering about her running for President herself some day.

Sadly, it appears that most of that goodwill resulted from the novelty of a black National Security Adviser, and much of the chatter was because she is very pretty (certainly compared to most other people in senior positions in Washington). Her main function in the Bush administration seems to be to provide quick briefings and emotional support to a President seriously out of his depth on foreign affairs. How well she has done at that only the President can judge, but at the other things past National Security Advisers have done -- planning strategy, making sure all points of view get heard, being an honest broker between the Departments of State and Defense, explaining administration policy to the public -- are things Condi Rice either does not do at all or does not do particularly well. You wouldn't have guessed that from all her academic credentials, but maybe those don't mean as much as they used to.


(To reply, click here)

…Unfortunately, your article did neiher mention the Gehlen Organization, nor the Vertriebenen lobby, let off the fact that Germany didn't see an Iraq-style card deck of most wanteds, but instead many of the Nazi officials in the Western post-war government. Names of war criminals like Franz Josef Strauss, who founded Germanys cold war army, Theodor Oberländer, a Vertriebenen representative and minister, Hans Globke, a coordinator in Mr. Adenauers chancellor's office, or Heinrich Lübke, who built concentration camps and became President in 1959, should ring a bell but appearantly didn't yet.

I'd agree with your point that the Werevolves were far from achieving what Al Qaeda terrorists are doing in Iraq just right now, though this is not an argument against the liberation. I also agree that Mrs. Rice and Mr. Rumsfeld can be criticized regarding their comparison of Germany and Iraq, but I'd like to point out that such criticism should not target their necessary challenge of over-optimistic views many Americans held of Germany during the cold war era, but rather the fact they tend to see the Werewolve facades as the only remnant of the Nazi regime while there have been others who unlike the Werewolves influence German politics till today….


(To reply, click here)

Condi Rice is a very bright woman. Also Rumsfeld. Why would they resort to lies to forward their purpose of drawing parallels between post-war Germany and post-war Iraq? Perhaps it's because they have passed that point where they acknowledge historical facts in an effort to further fund an illegitimate war. Perhaps they drew the wrong conclusions. Perhaps their research staffs let them down.

Mostly, I believe, it is because they both now have contempt for the American public they believe they can still keep lying and get away with it. On the "Threat Matrix" they have proved themselves their own worst enemies. These folks don't need al Qaeda terrorists, they cruise along believing what they say will be taken as rote by the "true believers" and maybe they will because the indoctrination has been that effective among the unthinking conservatives who simply can't grasp they are being lied to on a frequent, regular basis without diminishing support.

Meanwhile, back at his Texas ranch and entertaining the true supporters, President Bush might have initially remarked upon learning of the latest bombing in Baghdad which killed a cleric and many Sunni's, "Why, that's turrible. Don't they know we're fightin' a war against terrorism? Turrible things happen during war, yah know? I've been saying that since 9/11." …

Moral, factual and intellectual dishonesty seem to earmark this administration like no other. If the people Bush so "excellently" appointed to important positions of power are so deprived of ethics, then the weight of responsibility comes back on the appointer, George W. Bush…


(To reply, click here)


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