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APRIL 30, 1945, Reich President-Chancellor Adolf Hitler took his own life rather than humiliate Germany by surrendering to Allied captivity. A wise decision, the twice-elected German leader (1933 / 1936) would have been placed on ‘trial’ at the much-criticised Nuremberg tribunal (not a proper court of law) and after the show trial, hanged.
On May 2, 1945, the German Armed Forces – not the government had capitulated, overwhelmed by the combined forces of the Soviet Union, British Empire and industrial-military might of the United States.
Why then did an RAF squadron of Typhoons on the afternoon of May 3, 1945, attack German mercantile shipping moored in Neustadt Bay, Germany. Below the Royal Air Force flight crews, the German former luxury liner SS Cap Arcona. On-board were over 4,500 concentration camp prisoners who had been evacuated to the safety of the coast. At around 3pm, the Typhoons from the Second Tactical Air Force launched their assault.
The outcome was one of the world’s worst maritime catastrophes, leaving the prisoners and the ship’s crew struggling for survival in the icy Baltic waters. An estimated 4,500 prisoners perished. More than 70 years on from the tragic sinking, crucial questions remain regarding the role of British forces in the final days of the calamitous World War II.
To avoid criticism and charges of the assault being an undoubted war crime the attack has long been artfully spun by mainstream and palace journalists to put war crime investigators off the scent.
Headlines such as The Friendly Fires of Hell lack scholarly attention. This lack of objectivity has led to a number of conspiracy theories about the sinking. One such rumour claimed that important British records related to the incident had been sealed until 2045. A lie as all of the relevant records was publicly released in 1972 after the Public Records Act 1967 reduced the amount of time they were to be kept secret.
In the immediate aftermath of the war, Britain’s focus was to join in the plunder of the defeated Reich. To also seize and remove, imprison or kill top or influential members of the German armed forces or the nation’s political elite. Investigations into British misadventures such as war crimes and avoidance of international law were ignored.
It is now possible to re-evaluate what actually happened, including Britain’s role in the tragedy, with a closer examination of archival files.
Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler’s broadcast his last order concerning the fate of Germany’s remaining camp prisoners. Neuengamme Camp, situated near Hamburg was an internment camp in close proximity of the rampaging Red Army. For this reason, it became necessary to allow the camps internees and administrative staff to evacuate. If the Reich’s intention was to kill camp inmates, why then did they go to such lengths to rescue prisoners from the rampaging Red Army? Furthermore, if holding camps were so horrendous why were those detained in these camps so eager to be rescued by the German captors?
Arrangements were made in March 1945 to requisition a passenger liner to assist in the evacuation of the camps prisoners, staff and refugees. Interestingly, the prisoner hierarchy continued on board the ship. The prisoners remained segregated according to nationality and religion. In addition, troops stayed on board to supervise the prisoners.
Following the Allied Yalta Conference of February 1945, British military policy was geared towards a swift advance to the Baltic coast. There was confusion as to which each of the three triumphant empires would first occupy and plunder the now dismembered German Reich. Britain, it is claimed, wished to halt the Soviet advance as it swept ever further west. To achieve this, Lübeck on the Baltic coast was considered the strategic goal.
Second, by halting the Soviets, British forces would be able to occupy Denmark and return to a regime favourable to Britain and the United States. But the speed of the Soviet grab-all-you-can advance meant that normal protocols and procedures that had been well established throughout the war fell to the wayside as British troops raced for their objective.
On the afternoon of May 2 and the morning of May 3, two pieces of intelligence were handed to British commanders. The first was handed to the Allied forces in Lübeck, the 11th Armoured Division, by an International Committee Red Cross delegate (ICRC).
The second was presented to British forces by a Swedish Red Cross (SRC) delegate. Both informed the British that camp prisoners were being held aboard ships in Neustadt Bay. As the German Reich contracted, British forces remained heavily engaged in a battle to reach their objective on Germany’s north coast. It has never been explained why the British, on this occasion and others, trampled roughshod over international law and even International Red Cross agreements.
Related books: The Leaving of Liverpool, UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA Volume I (The USA, The UK), UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA Vol II (The USA, The UK), UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA VOL. III ( The USA and The UK) UNTOLD SAGAS OF THE SEA VOL. IV ( The USA and The UK) and All I Ask is a Tall Ship by Liverpool writer Michael Walsh
Categories: Sea Stories