Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

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rossmcpharter
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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by rossmcpharter » 31 Oct 2013 22:26

Really good thread. I have no doubt that there a was a massive difference between the institutional killing of pows by certain commanders of the 12ss and the behavior of the Canadians.

I'll mention this, the Canadians had recieved a hammering at Dieppe, units like the above mentioned Fusiliers Mont-Royal had heavy losses. The Germans might expect them to want payback in Normandy. Which might explain something like this.

"...The accusation was also made to us that the "Hitler Jugend Division" does not take any prisoners but shoots everyone. It was known that the Canadians opposing the "Hitler Jugend Division" - we received a report that they were not taking any prisoners, and that we had therefore adopted the same procedure towards them."

For me though there is a clear difference between the institutionalised murder of pows by certain 12ss commanders and the relatively local 'heat of the moment' or 'tit for tat' take no prisoners by the Canadians

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by seaburn » 31 Oct 2013 22:45

There is one thing that has always intrigued me, why did the unlawful killing of Canadian POWs seemingly stop. Most of the recorded cases are from the first three weeks after D Day, with most cases being in the first week even though the fighting continued until late August. If these killings by the HJ were truly institutionalised , one would assume they would have continued unabated until the Germans were routed at Falaise/Argentan. Has anyone read a book/thesis on this. I'm sure many of us could make good educated guesses, but I would be more interested in hearing about a published study on this matter

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by history1 » 01 Nov 2013 10:09

rossmcpharter wrote:[...] For me though there is a clear difference between the institutionalised murder of pows by certain 12ss commanders and the relatively local 'heat of the moment' or 'tit for tat' take no prisoners by the Canadians
There wasn´t a difference in the outcome for the affected soldier, both actions just meant "death" for him.

May the dead be remembered on this special day, equal from which side.



PS.: I wonder, though I prove my comments every time before posting it appears that some time afterwards there are typos in them which before weren´t. Strange.
Last edited by history1 on 01 Nov 2013 17:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by rossmcpharter » 01 Nov 2013 16:54

Sorry if I wasn't clear.There was a difference in the extensive killing of pows after they had been taken prisoner. 'Conduct Unbecoming, The story of the murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy' by Howard Margolian

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 01 Nov 2013 23:21

Now is probably a good time to post some of the pertinent details of the incidents in question. My sources include:

The 12th SS: The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division, Volume I & II - Herbert Meyer - Stackpole Books - 2005

The Guns at Last Light - Rick Atkinson – Henry Holt & Co. – 2013

Murderous Elite: The Waffen-SS and Its Complete Record of War Crimes - James Pontolillo - Leandoer and Ekholm Publishing - 2009

Conduct Unbecoming: The Story of the Murder of Canadian Prisoners of War in Normandy - Howard Margolian - University of Toronto Press - 2000

We'll start with June 7th:

1) Location: Authie
a. Perpetrators: Third Battalion, 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment
b. Victims: thirty-seven Canadian POWs, many of them wounded summarily executed after a battle
c. Notes: at least nine were summarily executed on the Authie-Cussy Road after being asked to remove their helmets; SS men drag wounded POWs into the road to be crushed by SS tank treads (remains retrieved by a French civilian with a shovel); yet at least in one instance senior SS officers intervened to prevent a Canadian POW from being executed

2) Location: Abbaye d’Ardenne
a. Perpetrators: Regimental Commander Kurt Meyer & HQ guard, 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regt.
b. Victims: 11 Canadian POWs
c. Notes: SS military police round up Canadian POWs at Cussy, then escort the POWS to Regimental HQ. POWs then forced to relinquish their pay books, personal papers and military identification. In evening, main group of POWS marched to a holding cage at Bretteville, but 11 are ordered back to the Abbaye d’Ardenne, interrogated individually, then executed by gunhots and blows to the head with rifle butts.

3) Location: Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse
a. Perpetrator: SS 12th Panzer Regiment tank commander
b. Victims: two Canadian POWs from the Regina Rifles
c. Notes: Tank commander briefly interrogated the POWs, the shot them with his submachine pistol. . Rifleman L.W. Lee is wounded by alive; he plays dead and later escapes and makes it back to Canadian lines.

4) Location: Galmanche
a. Perpetrators: Troops from the First Battalion, 25th SS Regiment
b. Victim: Sherbrooke Fusiliers chaplain Lieutenant W.F. Granger.
c. Notes: The Canadian chaplain is unarmed and wearing a clerical collar and a Red Cross armband. Ganger’s corpse is recovered by Allied personnel in July. He has been killed with a blade, with his throat slit and possibly stabbed in the heart. Presumed date of death is 6/7 – possibly reported MIA on that date


I'll continue with additional date and incidents in a subsequent post.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by BillHermann » 02 Nov 2013 01:03

The simplicity and superficial answers from those who are deliberately trying to parallel the actions of the Canadians and the actions of the SS or the the Waffen-SS is mind boggling. I am sure most are not justifying any killing of POWs and I am not doing this is well but there seems to be much energy again to try and dilute the actions of the SS or the Waffen-SS by simply saying the allies were just as bad. This comes up again and again, this time the Canadians have become the target. Truth be told if it was the Waffen-SS were the victims of a large Abbey massacre and then went on an ordered revenge killing there would be little care or energy pointing out that crime intact there would probably be some level of sympathy.

I am sure casual orders by the allies were given, there is much evidence pointing in that direction however those who draw parallels are simply trying to turn the perpetrators into victims and dilute the facts.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by seaburn » 02 Nov 2013 02:03

BillHermann wrote:The simplicity and superficial answers from those who are deliberately trying to parallel the actions of the Canadians and the actions of the SS or the the Waffen-SS is mind boggling.
It would have been helpful if you had quoted the relevant passages that you object to, to give that person a chance to defend themselves. But if its my posts that you objected to, I would like to set out my stall on record.

I do not and have never approved of any action by any side that contravenes the laws of the Geneva Convention. No matter what the provocation is, to resort to reprisals unlawfully is still a War Crime.

This fact alone means that I would never say that the HJ were justified in committing crimes even if they believed there was a 'take no prisoners' policy. I do believe that reprisals taken in this manner would only start a cycle of violence but this would never by justified.

There has been points made that the HJ killings were more institutionalised and that the Canadians response was probably a 'human' reaction to these killings, and while this is more than likely true, the bottom line for me is that the unlawful killings by either side in this manner constitutes a War Crime. Can you accept that some people do not have an ulterior motive in this matter and they just want to point out unjustness where they see it? If you too condemn unlawful killing by EITHER side, then we are in fact in agreement.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 02 Nov 2013 05:19

Hi Seaburn - I don't think Bill's comment is directed at you, but is more directed towards some of the W-SS apologia comments on threads such as "Why the Waffen-SS" (see http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic. ... 0&t=190068) The "tu quoque" argument has been made against the Canadians, but not by you.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 02 Nov 2013 05:48

My apologies everyone – I believe the Bretteville l’Orgueilleuse killing mentioned above actually occurred on June 9 instead of 7. Frankly, it’s sometimes easy to get the dates and events mixed up. Again, my apologies-

Continuing on to June 8

1) Location: Brouay
a. Perpetrators: Troops from 12th SS Reconnaissance Section & 26th SS PGR
b. Victims: 20+ POWs from the Royal Winnipeg Rifles &
c. Notes: twenty-four Canadian and two British troops captured by the 12th SS Reconnaissance Section at Brouay are transferred to a escort guard from the Third Battalion, 26th SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment and marched down the road to the village of Pavie. But the POWs are then stopped at a crossroad just east of Pavie, and searched. A small group of POWs is separated from the main body and interrogated by 12th SS AA CO Gerhard Bremer and a Captain Gerd von Reitzenstein at the Chateau d’Audrieu, the company HQ. Bremer, who speaks English fluently, interrogates Canadian Major Frederick Hodge, Commander of A Company, Royal Winnipeg Rifles, and two enlisted men for fifteen minutes. Bremer then orders SS-Obersturmführer Willi-Peter Hansmann to kill the prisoners. Hansmann and a small execution squad gun the POWs down at the edge of a nearby wood.

Bremer then calls for another set and interrogates three more Canadian POWs, all enlisted men, one a Private David Gold, a medic from the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. Again, after a brief conversation, Bremer orders the POWs to lie on their stomachs, and then the SS guards under a NCO fire their rifles point-blank into the skulls of the prostrate POWs. The SS executions then visit the chateau kitchen for cider and food.

Word of a nearby Allied probe forces Bremer to briefly halt the interrogations as the surviving twenty-odd POWs are held under guard. By 430 PM, Bremer has the remaining POWs executed in two batches. By early evening, Allied shellfire forces Bremer to withdraw from Pavie and Chateau d’Audrieu. The British Dorset’s Regiment occupies the building and discovers the bodies of thirteen executed Canadian prisoners.

2) Location: Abbaye d’Ardenne
a. Perpetrators: Kurt Meyer, 25th PGR HQ Escort
b. Victims: seven Canadian POWs
c. Notes: SS private Jan Jesionek, a Polish Volksdeutsche conscript from Hitlerjungend’s Fifteenth Reconnaissance Company , is busy repairing his motorcycle’s engine in the courtyard when he is approached by SS troops guarding seven Canadian prisoners. The guards ask for the whereabouts of Commander Meyer. Meyer steps out and upon seeing the POWs, angrily shouts, "WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH THESE PRISONERS!? THEY ONLY EAT UP OUR RATIONS!” Briefly conferring with one of his subordinates, Meyer then announces "IN THE FUTURE, NO MORE PRISONERS ARE TO BE TAKEN!” The unknown SS subordinate then briefly interrogates each of the seven POWs, who are then each lead individually into the Abbaye garden, where the escorting SS NCO fires his machine pistol at the back of the prisoner’s head. Each Canadian soldier shakes hands and says goodbye to his comrades before being marched to the garden. Soon all seven POWs lie in a bloody heap outside.

3) Location: Caen-Fontenay Road, Fontenay-le-Pesnel
a. Perpetrators: 12th SS troops, unit unknown
b. Victims: 35 Canadian POWs
c. Notes: The 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment attacks the Canadian Royal Winnipeg Rifles at Putot, and overwhelms them in heavy combat. SS-PGR 26 captures the villages of Putot, Brouay and La Villeneuve and cuts off Canadian troops at Norrey. The SS panzergrenadiers capture circa one-hundred fifty Canadian POWs. Circa one hundred of the POWs are marched under guard to Regimental headquarters at Le Haut de Bosq.

26th SS Regimental Commander Mohnke is annoyed at news of the pending arrival of one-hundred Canadian POWs to his headquarters. He phones the Second Battalion commander Siebken and orders him to stop sending POWs. Siebken tells Mohnke that he will continue to send POWs to the rear.

At 9PM, a high-ranking SS officer (possibly Mohnke) stops the POW column and issues a stream of angry orders to the SS NCO in charge of the prisoners. Canadian Lieutenant Reg Barker of the Third Anti-tank Regiment, who speaks German, informs his fellow captives that the SS officer has ordered the POWs to be shot, but that he would try to talk the guards out of it.

The SS guards escort the POWs to the Caen-Fontenay Road, where they are ordered to sit down in several rows in a field at a crossroads less than a mile from Fontenay-le-Pesnel while a column of SS AFV’s rolls by. A half-track pulls up to the sitting prisoners, and the SS guards exchange their rifles for submachine guns from the vehicle. The guards, with weapons at the ready, then turn to face the sitting POWs. Lt. Barker, seated in the first row, shouts out "WHOEVER IS LEFT, AFTER THEY FIRE THE FIRST ROUND, GO TO THE LEFT!!”

The SS guards raise their machine pistols as one announces in English, "NOW YOU DIE!”

Thirty-five of the forty POWs are killed in the fusillade. Five manage to escape, but are eventually recaptured by other German units. Postwar, Canadian investigators attempt to identify the perpetrators, but cannot determine which exact Hitlerjugend soldiers are responsible for the massacre. The Fontenay-le-Pesnel murders remain the biggest war-crime in Canada’s history.

After Mohnke orders the forty POWs shot, he proceeds to Siebken’s headquarters to berate him. But an unexpected arrival alters the situation. Count Clary-Aldrigen, a captain in the Army Panzer Lehr Artillery Regiment, is brought to Siebken’s headquarters wounded.

To cut a long story short, Clary-Aldrigen claims to have been captured by British troops near Hill 102 along with several other high ranking officers, including a Major Zeissler & a Colonel Luxenburger. British troops order the German officers to ride on their armored cars as human shields. When the Germans refuse, the British supposedly shoot several of the Germans, beat Luxenburger unconscious and tie him to a vehicle, where is later killed by small-arms fire. Clary-Aldrigen claimed to be the only survivor of the shooting (it’s not clear which, the British shooting the POWs or the German fire hitting the British armored car) Clary-Aldrigen’s story sounds plausible at first read but according to the postwar Panzer Lehr division history, Major Zeissler was alive and well and commanding troops of his unit in the field in the fall of 1944 (See Conduct Unbecoming, p.95 and footnotes 25 and 26.)

At any rate, Mohnke hears this account of British troops killing German POWS and flies into a rage, ordering Siebken to execute all POWs. Siebken in turns argues that this approach would do little than lead to escalating and counterproductive tit-for-tat reprisals between Allied and German forces.

Around midnight, three additional Canadian POWs, all wounded, are brought into Siebken’s headquarters and are treated by a Dr. Schütt, the Second Battalion’s medical officer. Mohnke orders the prisoners shot, but storms out of the command post after yet another heated argument with Siebken. After Mohnke leaves, Siebken calls division headquarters and speaks to divisional Chief of Staff (Ia) Hubert Meyer. Siebken asks Meyer if there is a standing order to execute prisoners. Hubert Meyer denies the existence of any such order and mentions that on the contrary, as many POWs as possible are to be taken for intelligence gathering.

Concerned about Mohnke’s erratic behavior, Hubert Meyer calls the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment command post. Mohnke is not there, so Hubert Meyer speaks to his adjutant, a SS-Hauptsturmführer Kaiser. Hubert Meyer tells Kaiser that POWs are to be taken and treated according to the Geneva Convention.

June 9:
Mohnke returns to the 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment headquarters and upon arrival, telephones Second Battalion headquarters to see if the three wounded Canadian POWs have been executed. AGAIN Mohnke travels to the Battalion headquarters. Siebken is away at the front, and Mohnke again storms out. Returning in the early morning, Mohnke looks for Siebken, who is still away. Mohnke then pulls his pistol out and threatens the battalion’s special mission officer Dietrich Schnabel to execute the Canadians or else.

Circa 9AM, Schnabel drives over to the Moulin farmhouse where the three Canadian POWs have had their wounds dressed and have been given a pitcher of milk for breakfast. Schnabel orders the three prisoners into an adjacent garden along with three attending SS medical orderlies. The Canadians, one of whom cannot walk unaided, limp into the garden. At Schnabel’s command, the three SS medics shoot the Canadians in the back. Schnabel then puts a bullet into the brains of Privates Harold Angel, Ernest Baskerville and Frederick Holness.

June 11:
Hitlerjugend troops execute circa thirteen captured Canadian tank crewmen in six separate incidents. However, both sides maintain a brief ad-hoc cease-fire as Canadian ambulances pick up wounded from the battlefield.
Mohnke orders three Canadian POWs executed at his regimental headquarters in Le Haut de Bosq. To date, Hitlerjugend troops have executed circa 120 Canadian POWs. Mohnke is responsible for the death of forty-one, more than any other divisional officer.

June 12:
Third Battalion, 26th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment troops execute five British POWs on a road near Les Fains

June 17:
12th SS Panzer Engineer troops kill an additional seven Canadian POWs at Mouen and order French civilians to bury the bodies.

June 21:
The Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail reports that German troops are executing Canadian POWs.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 02 Nov 2013 06:37

That pretty much covers the major incidents of 12th SS troops killing Canadian POWs, although there are a few more incidents of Canadian POWs being killed in small batches – I think the total number of killed is around 150.
A couple of my own observations:
1) In researching the Waffen-SS, I’ve noticed that incidents of war against enemy combatants tended to occur in “crime-spree” patterns of multiple incidents in the beginnings of offensives – for example France 1940, Normandy 1944 and the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944.

2) Three Hitlerjugend senior commanders – Regimental Commanders Kurt Meyer and Wilhelm Mohnke, and Reconnaissance Section commander Bremer, each gave orders for POWs to be killed. Kurt Meyer had the prisoners killed at his own Regimental HQ, as did Mohnke.

3) Many of the Canadian POWs were killed after being interrogated, hours after being capture, and a few killed after receiving medical attention from Waffen-SS medical staff

4) Mohnke apparently used the Clary-Aldrigen story as justification to order all POWs killed, but he didn’t hear this story until after he had ordered his first batch of Canadian POWs executed. The story itself seems a little self-justified, even if Major Zeissler didn’t end up alive and well long after the campaign. I do want to point out that captured Allied troops were forced to ride on the outside of vehicles (see photographic evidence in Jean Luc-Leleu’s book on the 10th SS Panzer Division) but before we assume that this was in retaliation let me point out that all armored cars of the period - German or British – didn’t have enough space to carry extra men in the interior.

5) After about 3-4 weeks, 12th SS executing of POWs seems to have abated as a practice, or at least the large-scale shooting of PWs abated. Seaburn asked why, and I’ve never read a plausible answer, although here are some possible contributing factors:

a. The death of division commander Fritz Witt and Kurt Meyer’s subsequent promotion. Perhaps Meyer was too busy running the division and meeting with other senior German commanders to order prisoners killed

b. The shift of combat from a fluid to a more static situation with the Caen battles

c. The reluctance of Canadian soldiers, upon hearing rumors of prisoners being executed, to surrender

6) What was the motive for Waffen-SS troops to kill prisoners? Again, no definite conclusions, but here are some contributing factors:
a. The Authie executions seemed to have occurred immediately after the heat of battle, although the bestial behavior of SS troops dragging wounded Canadian prisoners to be run over by tanks makes one’s heart wrench. It is interesting how at least one SS officer attempted to stop at least one execution from taking place

b. Meyer and Mohnke were known in SS circles as Nazi fanatics and hotheads. Both were implicated (in part thanks to Seaburn’s research) to other war crimes in different campaigns earlier in the war. My apologies for being un-historical, but Mohnke frankly was a psychopath. Would you want to serve under an officer who threatened to kill you unless you killed a group of prisoners of war?

c. Meyer claimed a lack of rations as a justification to kill prisoners – the 12th SS Division’s supply situation was certainly tenuous, but certainly not that bad in early June 1944

d. There is evidence (from the postwar Meyer trial) that a “take no prisoners” order did circulate in the division, specifically in the Reconnaissance section, in April 1944, but it is indubitably true that Hitlerjugend did take some prisoners during the period in question. One might argue that such an order was more of an admonishment to fight fanatically, a la Patton before the invasion of Sicily. On the other hand, at Brouay, Reconnaissance Section commander Bremer did have POWs shot after personally interrogating them, which is hardly an example of fighting fanatically. There does seem to be some confusion among division officers as whether or not to take prisoners – however note that the accounts of Chief of Staff Hubert Meyer claiming to follow the Geneva Conventions come from his own postwar divisional history, and thus probably should be taken with a grain of salt.

I hope this information contributes to the discussion!

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by seaburn » 02 Nov 2013 07:05

Hi Rob. Again thank you for your comprehensive contribution. You have obviously read your stuff on this matter and I thank you for taking the time to post for all. To add other names to your list of Bremer, Mohnke, Meyer. The names of Milius, Mueller and Prinz featured prominently in the summery analysis of TS26/856. Did you come across these in your studies ? Also you bring up Fritz Witt's death. It may interest you to hear that Wunsche, Meyer, Hanreich and Isecke all gave different dates for this with none of them stating the date on his grave. The dates given varied between June 10th to 17th. Meyer stating the 10th which seems incredible given his in-depth memory of other seemingly minor events, in my own cynical way I wonder if this was part of his deny/fugey memory lapse but it would probably have suited his defence more to state a later date. Obviously in these situations, days and dates become meaningless but it you read their interrogations they are so sure on other such and such dates were exactly they were and what was happening.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by Marcus » 02 Nov 2013 09:30

Thanks for your excellent posts Rob.

/Marcus

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by G. Trifkovic » 02 Nov 2013 13:01

1) Location: Authie
a. Perpetrators: Third Battalion, 25th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment
b. Victims: thirty-seven Canadian POWs, many of them wounded summarily executed after a battle
c. Notes: at least nine were summarily executed on the Authie-Cussy Road after being asked to remove their helmets; SS men drag wounded POWs into the road to be crushed by SS tank treads (remains retrieved by a French civilian with a shovel); yet at least in one instance senior SS officers intervened to prevent a Canadian POW from being executed
Hi Rob,

just a question concerning the source on the execution method: did the allegation originate with the peasant who retrieved the remains? If yes, is this the only source, or was his story corroborated with other evidence? I ask because there is a similar rumor that the Germans (Wehrmacht units, to be more precise) used the same method on some 120 wounded Yugoslav Partisans in Western Serbia in early December 1941. On the other hand, there are eyewitness reports that the wounded were executed by firing squad instead. What I'm interested in is establishing whether there is any substance to the rumors that Germans were using this gruesome method on enemy wounded.

Cheers,

G.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by seaburn » 03 Nov 2013 20:51

I looked up the reports of the Authie case in TS26/856-18 and it conflicts with your assertion Rob that the troops run over by the tanks were alive when they were placed on the road. I will quote the passage here for the record, but I understand that the evidence in TS26/856 may not have been complete at the time this document was compiled. There may have been evidence added before Kurt Meyers trial that changed details in this file. For instance, at the time of publishing this document, the bodies of those executed at Abbey Ardenne had not been found and so no evidence or interrogation questions cover it.


The story about the nine Canadians being asked to remove their Helmets and then being shot in the head is told in summery and then this point is made about these bodies:

Point 50 (page 18)

"Maltreatment of Corpses: At Authie, troops of this Regiment and Division mocked and intentionally mutilated the bodies of dead Canadian Soldiers. Some of the bodies were places were they would be run over by passing vehicles. In one case a tank was deliberately driven over a body from head to foot and this and another body were crushed to pulp. Other bodies were so mutilated as to be unrecognisable. The civilians were not permitted to bury the bodies for six days, and the action of the enemy troops was demonstrated in one instance by the pleasure they derived from putting an old hat on one of the corpses and putting a cigarette box in his mouth".

As regards your question 'G Trifkovic' it seems that there were many individual (ones and twos involved) cases of wounded Canadians being executed or indeed being wounded after capture and then executed,but they do not seem to have been done in an organised or large scale way. The large scale killings were the ones Rob discussed, when the men had been taken back to various HQ and executed after interrogation but not because they were wounded.


I am still compiling any evidence about the 'take no prisoner' order, I have found some more pertinent information but I would prefer to source it correctly before I post.

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Re: Canadian Orders "Take No Prisoners"

Post by seaburn » 10 Nov 2013 17:10

Here is the evidence as promised from the Interrogation documents that I have, hopefully all relevant ones are included. Wunsche was neither asked nor offered any evidence that he had heard the Canadians took no prisoners, Hanreich was asked if he had been told before battle not to take prisoners, this he denied. This was a subject the Interrogators pursued with many of their captives but as this thread is about ‘Canadians take no prisoners’ I have tried to stick to this subject here. I have included the relevant questions and also a report that was not known when TS26/856 was filed but came to light at the Siebken trial post war and this is where I start:

“Colonel Meyer-Detring, who had been the intelligence chief on the staff of the German C-in-C on the Western Front, Field Marshal von Rundstedt, stated in the witness-stand that at the very beginning of the Allied landing he twice received documents through channels proving that the Canadian army did not intend to take any prisoners. ‘I specially remember the notes in the pocket-book of an officer killed in action’ Colonel Meyer-Detring told the Court ‘-I cannot know with certainty whether he was Canadian or British – containing an extract from some order concerning the invasion. In these notes I sound the sentence: ‘No prisoners are to be taken’

On the same question the next witness, Hubert Meyer, who had been chief operations officer on the divisional staff of the 12th SS Panzer Division, stated that on 7th June 1944 a notebook was found on a Canadian Captain containing notes on the pre-invasion briefing. ‘Apart from tactical instructions, ‘Hubert Meyer told the court ‘these notes also contained rules on the actual fighting. These rules stated: ‘Prisoner are not to be taken’. Meyer affirmed that he had personally seen this notebook and had handed it over to the Commander of the Seventh Army, Colonel-General Dollman, to be forwarded to a higher authority. He had also seen the minutes of the interrogation of other prisoners, officers and other ranks made during their interrogation by the divisional staff. ‘They confirmed the fact that they had received orders from their commanding officers not to take any prisoners,’ Meyer stated. ‘One of them stated they were not to take prisoners whenever these would be in their way. These violations of the rules of war mainly took place during the initial period’.

The next witness was Lt-Col von Zastrow, who had been intelligence chief on the staff of General Lew Geyr von Schweppenburg, the Commander of Panzer Group West. (Evidence given of Germans being shot unlawfully)….von Zastrow also described his interrogation of a Canadian Captain who had been taken prisoner in the Somme region later in the campaign in France. As the captain had belonged to the same unit which had been found in possession of the incriminating orders immediately after the landing, and had been guilty of corresponding violations of the rules of war, he was charged with these offences under International law. To the question whether he had any knowledge of the shooting of German prisoners of war, this Captain had replied that he had heard that violations had taken place, but later on strict orders had been given threatening severe punishment for such actions. “

(Hitler’s last General (W Mohnke) Ian Sayer, Douglas Botting Pages 202/203

OOO 0000 OOO

Interrogation of Georg Isecke – Hauptsturmführer – (Adjutant to Max Wunsche) 12th SS HJ… 4th July 1945, Ontario.

Q135: Now, during the period of your training, prior to the Invasion, were any instructions given by any officers to your knowledge with respect to the treatment of prisoners?
A135: Yes Sir.

Q136: What instructions were given?
A136: These speeches were given or talks were given by the Company Commanders through these speeches did not apply so much to us as were in tanks, the crews were in tanks, we were more instructed in the identification of enemy uniforms and tanks while infantry had direct contact with the enemy.

Q137: Were you told by any officers superior to yourself that the British did not take prisoners?
A137: That I never heard.

Q138: Do you know whether any orders were given in the Division by any Superior Officer, that prisoners were not to be taken?
A138: No Sir, on the contrary. On the first day of the Invasion, we received a Divisional order which was read to all troops which said that we were the youngest Division and that, therefore, we should make or reflect credit to the tree from which it had sprung, for the tree itself had already fought against the English in Greece and also in France and that we were fighting a high class enemy who had fought for many years already and that we were to govern our behaviour accordingly and to be a credit.

Q139: What do you mean by tree?
A139: The word should be trunk really. Each member of the Officers and NCOs had come from the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler.

Q140: Who issued that order?
A140: Witt.

Q146: Repeating question……………… Do you think there was anything implied in that order with respect to the correct treatment of Prisoners of War?
A146: The only thing in the order was correct behaviour towards the enemy, but direct reference to Prisoners of War was not made.

Various questions about the specific incidents of Canadians being killed unlawfully, Isecke denies all knowledge of these and reports that Tank crews never took prisoners.

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Alfred Helzel 15th Company of the 25th Panzer Regiment. Captured 11th June. Interrogated 3.7.1945 Quebec Canada.

Q260: When you first went in action did you believe or not that the English took prisoners?
A260: We believed that the English units would not take any prisoners of us.

Q261: When you say ‘us’ do you mean the Waffen SS or Wehrmacht ?
A261: Waffen SS

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Interrogation of : Pte F. Torbanisch – 15th Comp, 25th regiment 12th SS HJ
(Deserter since the 4th of April 1944 and originator of the accusation that there was a secret order read out to troops, not to take prisoners , prior to going into battle in Normandy)

Q. I notice in the fourth order you say the officers have stated that the British do not take prisoners as far as SS soldiers are concerned; is that something which you have added or is that a part of the order itself?
A. (Interpreter reads form the exhibit) That is the way we have been told, the way it is stated in the order, and for that reason we should not take any prisoners either.

Q. Is that what the Speiss said at the time?
A. Yes, he said that the British don’t take any SS: don’t take any prisoners when they come to SS prisoners, so we wouldn’t take any either.
(TS26/856 – page 56)

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Grenadier George Mertens – 12th SS Panzer Division – captured Luxembourg, 29th Dec 1944 (Was not in Normandy in June 1944)

Q. How were you told you would be treated if you were taken prisoner of war by the Allies?
A. We were told we would be shot.

Q. That is that if you were taken prisoner you would be shot by the Allied Forces who took you prisoner?
A. Yes, because we were told that they would not take any SS prisoners.

Q. And as a consequence of that fact were you not told that you would not take prisoners?
A. No, we were not told anything about that.

Q. What was the attitude of your comrades with respect to taking prisoners in view of that warning that you have received?
A. We thought that was propaganda to get us to fight to the last.

Q. In other words you did not believe the warning that if you were captured you would be shot?
A. No we didn’t.

Q. Was that the opinion only of yourself or did others hold that same view?
A. No, no one believed that. We believed that on the Russian front prisoners might be shot but we certainly did not believe that of the western front.

Q. Who told you that prisoners would be shot?
A. It was said in conversation in the Company. The Company Commander having announced it to the whole company. He said we should not surrender because we would be shot if we were taken prisoner.
(TS26/856- page 62/63)

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Grenedier Bernhard Herholz 10th Company, 3rd Btln, 25th Regiment, 12th SS HJ (age 17, called up in Sept 44, Captured after Christmas 44)

Q. And were you told that you were to be taken prisoner that you might be shot – that is by the Allies?
A. No, we were told we would be shot by our own people if we showed any signs of wanting to surrender.
Q. Were you told that you would be well treated or badly treated by the Allies if they captured you?
A. We were told we would be worse treated than the Infantry would be.
Q. Do you mean the 12th SS or the SS generally by comparison with the Wehrmacht Infantry?
A. No the whole SS.

(TS26/856 – page 75)

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Paul Kuret - Obersturmfuehrer und Oberleutnane of the Waffen SS, 2nd Coy, 12th SS armoured Engineer Bn HJ (captured 28th June 1944)
He had attended a meeting on 8th June south of Mouen

IV : During the conference the following points were mention by the Bn Comd, Sturmbannfuehrer S. Mueller:

A. It was stated that in this sector the enemy would take or was taking no prisoners
B. I cannot remember the other details
C. Further to these instructions the Battalion Commander said nothing
D. I passed the Btl Comm statement personally on to my Platoon Leaders.

21st June 1944: In the lines PW got the following information from 3 Coy personnel. He believes that Cmd 3 Coy Hptstuf Tiedke had given 3 Coy the information at a coy parade before they took up their positions:

1. French civilians are unfriendly, numerous cases of treachery.
2. Canadians occupy the lines opposite
3. Canadians are said to take no prisoners.
4. If the enemy take no prisoners, neither will we (the Germans)

(TS26/856 – Pages 214,218/219)

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Interrogation of Walter Nimmerfroh, 2 Pl, 2 Coy, Pi bn 12 (12th SS Pz Div) Captured 26th June 1944

Night of 9/10th June, At 0030 hrs, Coy Cmdr, O’Sturmfuehrer KURET called Coy parade and made following points:

1. Hitler’s appeal to the troops
2. The English and Americans are said to be taking no prisoners. Germans must therefore be very careful not to be captured.
3. They (Germans) were to take Allied prisoners according to orders from above.
4. Men not willing to take part in attack fall out and report to him

Attack on Allied position on railway North of NORREY followed. The men discussed among themselves the matter of taking no prisoners. Some believed that the Allies would take no prisoners and thought that they, likewise should not take any. They would shoot themselves rather than be captured. Others believed that if they took prisoners the Allies would do likewise. (TS26/856 - page 220)

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Interrogation of Untersturmfuehrer Karl – Walter Becker 2 Coy, Recce, Bn, 12th SS Pz Diz HJ

On the 9th June he arrived at his HQ and was told that BREMER had been injured. He was to take command of the 2nd Coy as the commander was missing. He got into conversation with someone he knew

‘During this conversation O’Lt PALM joined us. He told us that on the previous day----after the comd had been evacuated to hospital together with the other casualties ---Hpt. Stufue. V Reitzenstrein, who was then commanding the Bn had given the order to shoot prisoners as a reprisal. These prisoners could not have been evacuated to the rear on account of the heavy fire to which we were exposed. Moreover, there was no desire (on the part of the Germans) to do so. It was generally said that the enemy was taking no prisoners either.

…..I asked PALM who had committed this act and I was told it had been O’Scharfur. STUN and men of the M/C DR section. STUN had been particularly eager to distinguish himself by committing this atrocity…… on the 11th of June during an attack…I was lying in a weapon-pit about 5-6 m from the Comd’s dug-out. During the fighting 3 prisoners were brought up. They were the crew of a tank because they wore black berets. I heard O’Scharfue STUN ask the Comd if he could take the prisoners away, to which the Comd replied with a laugh: ‘Oh no, old chap, out of the question, forI know your methods’ (‘Nee, mein Lieber, kommt nicht in Frage, den ich kenne Deine methode’) This caused me to ask my neighbours for the meaning of these words and I was told that this STUN already had ‘several’ on his conscience.
(TS26/856 - page 274)

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Interrogation of Kurt Meyer ( Date not recorded)

Q. Did you authorise your junior commanders to state in orders that the enemy, referring particularly to the Canadians, did not take prisoners?
A. No. We did not even know that we were fighting Canadians.

Q. Did you ever authorise such a statement with respect to either the British or the Americans?
A. No

Q. Did you ever hear such a statement made during the period of time that you were with the 12th SS Division with respect to any of the British, Americans or Canadians.?
A. Yes. I heard the story during the battle for FALAISE when German troops were found shot in a village near FALAISE. This report came from Corps or Army Headquarters; I do not remember which.

Q. Was there any story current during the fighting in June that British, Americans or Canadians did not take prisoners?
A. It must have been towards the end of June. Might that have been FALAISE?

Q. Well, the fighting in FALAISE did not take place until August. It could not have been then.
A. I can only remember the case of FALAISE, and not any earlier case. On the contrary, prisoners of ours have come back and said that they had been well treated.
Q. Did you ever hear of the capture of a British or Canadian order that SS would not be taken prisoner?
A. No.

Q. Were any Canadian or British prisoners ever executed, to the best of your knowledge, in the 12th SS Division in supposed retaliation for the shooting of SS or German prisoners?
A. Not under my command. I have never heard of it in any case. I might add that during June I received an inquiry as to whether Canadians had been shot in my sector. I made the inquiry and was able to reply that while I had been in command there had been no such case.

Q. Now do you know if any other incidents whatever where it is suspected that Germans, having been taken prisoner were killed by British or Canadian troops?
A. No such report was made in my sector.

(talks of seeing German dead possibly from the Panzer Lehr div who appeared to have been executed)

Q. Do you know whether as a consequence of the opinion that was formed with regard to the treatment of these prisoners that you referred to, any retaliation was taken by any of the German troops in the neighbourhood?
A. No. No orders of that sort came down from Army or from Corps, nor were any such orders given by divisions or regiment.

Q. Apart, however, from any orders, do you know whether the troops of their own initiative took any retaliatory action?
A. No. There were many cases in which prisoners came back and the fact that they came back alive was the best proof that there were no feeling of this sort.

(TS26/856 – pages 118, 119, 154)

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Questions for me that still need to be addressed:

1. Is there any published books etc since 1944 to prove that there were indeed orders pre-invasion to ’Take no prisoners’ on the Allied side, from American, British, Canadian sources etc

2. Could the orders that were discussed at the Siebken trial have been misinterpreted, for instance, a tank crew being discouraged from stopping a battle to round up prisoners, but instead leave it to the infantry?

3. Is there any evidence from the first three days of fighting that the Allies were not taking prisoners? (After this time the waters would have probably been muddied by any ‘retaliation’ killings)

4. Why did Kurt Meyer deny he knew that the Canadians were taking no prisoners and why did he stress that he felt the Canadians treated German prisoners well ? (keeping in mind that he prided himself on face to face contact with even the most lowliest soldier during the fighting, he would certainly have heard this in the field. Could he have been aware and didn’t want it known that his troops had been fed the story of the Allies taking no prisoners before the battle to make them fight to the death?)

5. Why did the large scale killings start and could it have been solely because the Germans believed that the ‘Allies took no prisoners’ or was it the misfortune of the Canadians to come into contact not with the HJ per say but with the most brutal elements of the ‘Leibstandarte’, keeping in mind that one of the commanders accused was also believed to have been in the frame for killing captive British troops at Wormhoudt in 1940 while serving with the LSAH, before the ‘brutalisation’ on the Russian front?

6. Why did the large scale killings stop? (To know why they stopped would go someway to answer why they started) I have seen a piece that states Fritz Witt ordered them stopped, but this is unsourced by Tony Foster in ‘Meeting of Generals’ page 325. Its interesting to note in this piece that Meyer was the one who reported the bodies ‘found’ in the Abbaye Ardenne to Witt, to which they mused that the killings must have been in retaliation for Canadians killing their troops, so rubbishing Meyers interrogations answers above. I do personally feel that only an order issued from Witt or above would have stopped these killings as the suspected culprit list is lengthy, Milius, Mohnke, Bremer, Siegfried Mueller, Prinz amongst others. There was an enquiry made through Swiss channels about the unlawful killing of Canadians, this report is included in TS26/856. Could this have prompted Witt to order a cessation?

7. Why did Kurt Meyer get the date of Fritz Witt’s death so wrong? He stated it was the 10th of June but he did admit he could be wrong, this was a full 4 days before the event and for someone like him who had an incredible memory for the order of battle it seems puzzling keeping in mind that he was promoted to Divisional Commander on the same day that Witt died. This may have significance, as evidence has shown me that when Meyer lies, fudges or evades questions there has always been a sinister reason for it. Meyer always had his eye two steps ahead of his mouth, he was an arch manipulator of his audience, he was the type of guy who, if you went to the pub with him, before you had your coat off at the front door, he would have identified all the dangers within and would have 3 escape routes worked out…..I’m a tad cynical when it comes to Meyer I’m afraid, so I take nothing he says at face value.

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