Barrows: Dire situation in Germany (1944)

The Pittsburgh Press (November 27, 1944)

‘The Twilight of the Gods’ –
Reich civilians drag half alive through days, nights of terror

Bombs raze their homes, but they struggle on, spurred by Himmler’s sadistic cutthroats
By Nat A. Barrows

Stockholm, Sweden –
Inside the besieged and doomed fortress of Germany, some 80 million Herrenvolk brace themselves dismally, but fanatically, for ever greater sacrifices.

Against them, from the west, east and south, presses the mightiest coordinated assault in history. Their Damocles’ sword stirs ominously in the repercussions of “earthquake bombs,” infantry penetrations, home front shortages and increasing Nazi demands for more manpower, more production, more sacrifices.

What is going on there behind the West Wall? What is the picture inside Germany today as the twilight of its approaching sixth war winter foreshadows a new version of “the twilight of the gods”? What are the Germans doing and thinking and experiencing while their day of retribution draws inevitably closer?

Part of the story of life inside Germany can be told from Stockholm – gathered from neutral travelers, deserters, escaped prisoners, Swedish correspondents, and the Nazi press.

First, let us examine German civilians in the west.

Overstrained by excessive factory labors, trench-digging, Volkssturm (People’s Army) drills, and unending dashes to air-raid shelters, civilians immediately behind the West Wall shamble through their rubble like zombies, only half alive. Terror haunts them every minute – terror of bombs, terror of what the Nazis tell them will follow Allied victory, terror of what cruelties Heinrich Himmler’s sadistic cutthroats will inflict for the slightest deviation from Nazi policies.

Goebbels rants: We want revenge

Into their bomb-deafened ears, Propaganda Minister Goebbels’ frenzied propaganda line rants unceasingly:

Never cry for mercy… never bend the proud German neck under the foot of the Mongol or Jew… We want revenge, revenge… We have but one will: To use the cruelest means ever invented by German brains.

They have been mesmerized by their leaders into amazing feats of endurance and their outlook remains utterly fanatical.

But the strain is terrific. One informant now in Sweden reports a growing undercurrent among civilians in the Ruhr, Saar and Wurm districts for relief from their nightmares. Their heads swirl and their backs ache and they drag themselves wearily from one regimented task to another. But any mass desires for capitulation perish quickly before Gestapo and SS firing squads.

They are caught in the trap they long ago permitted the Nazis to build around them and so they carry on now, ready to fight to the death, ready for any sacrifice.

Health problems grow worse daily. Sewage backs up; unboiled water has become deadlier than bomb blasts; defective gas mains cause explosions in streets and homes.

The Nazis do not release any trustworthy figures on the number of casualties after bombing raids. Some idea, however, can be obtained by frequent notices in the papers that local crematories cannot receive any more bodies for so many days, in some cases as long as a week.

Transportation in target cities approaches chaos. After a heavy raid, only the main streets are cleared. Rescue squads have specific instructions not to bother with wrecked buildings until approachable cellars have been searched.

One notice reads:

It is too dangerous to crawl amid debris and it takes too much time. Besides, people in such wreckage probably are dead, anyway.

The housing shortage is nearly as serious as the problem of bringing in food for target cities. Special food trains are “everywhere” after air raids, each capable of supplying 8,000 meals daily in three shifts, but the shelter problem grows more acute with each new ton of Allied bombs.

Hospital trains rumble day and night

In Duisburg, for instance, the authorities will permit repairs only to the kitchen and one room due to the shortage of labor and materials. Civilians of all cities must share their homes with shelterless persons – the minimum of two to each room. Two children under 14 count as one person.

The Nazis admit:

Hospital trains rumble day and night from bombed areas, every kind of store and shop is being closed if it is anyway possible. Textile trains bring in clothes for victims but the need for clothing is desperate.

Provincial newspapers bear out travelers’ reports of the utmost confusion near shelters and bunkers during air raids. It has reached the stage where arrests are being made for “unnecessary complaints” about inadequate shelter space. Dozens of small-town papers this week carry warnings that civilians must accept the fact that not everybody is able to find safety inside shelters and, therefore, must conduct themselves properly at entrances.

Factory workers must return to their jobs immediately the all-clear sounds, “regardless of whether their own homes have been hit.” The frequency of alarms is helping the Allies greatly in reducing manufacturing output.

Now that our armies drive against the Rhine, the Germans have less prewarning of air raids than ever before. The new Nazi warning system – the Akute Luftgefahr – sounds more frequently than any other. The Akute Luftgefahr alarm means that all work must halt immediately and workers take shelter.

The earlier alert – the Vollalarm – gives some 10- or 12-minutes’ warning but workers cannot leave their benches until the Akute Luftgefahr sounds.

“The new arrangement was made because we cannot possibly stand up under constant alarm,” says the Nazi explanation. It adds significantly: “But in the front cities, the raids come too quickly for us.”

Some cities no longer have electricity for their air alert system and are now forced to resort to buglers deployed on rooftops, sounding three blasts when they actually see incoming bombers.

By then, it is usually too late to attain outside shelters.

Hour by hour, the echoes of the Luftwaffe bomber planes over Rotterdam, Warsaw, Stalingrad, London, return to the Fatherland in thundering retribution.

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The Pittsburgh Press (November 28, 1944)

In collapsing Reich –
Mere robots cower under Nazi terror

Germans goaded into choosing death
By Nat A. Barrows

This is the second of a series portraying conditions in a country near collapse – Germany.

Stockholm, Sweden –
Across the Rhine, inside Germany, awaits a nation of suicidal fanatics.

Goaded by the most insidiously cunning propaganda campaign any country has ever known, these home front Germans are prepared to make every sacrifice before accepting defeat.

Himmler, Goebbels, Ley, Bormann and all the rest of the mad Nazi gang have administered their stimulants cleverly… so cleverly that the average citizen’s fear of Nazi terrorism against pro-Allied sympathizers or partisans overshadows everything. The Nazis have tried to inculcate into every home front brain their ghastly version of the consequences following German defeat.

Would rather die

From all the evidence I have been able to appraise as provided by deserters, war prisoners, impartial travelers and other eyewitnesses, they have succeeded only too well.

Today, most Germans think that they would rather die fighting with clubs than submit to what Goebbels tells them will be a fate worse than death.

They have swallowed such Nazi terror talk as Gauleiter Koch fed the East Prussian Volkssturm, or People’s Army, recently:

German men may be buried under the ruins of their towns, and their villages, but this soil, this Heimat of ours, cannot be evacuated… Every village will now become a stronghold, every town a fortress… We’ll stand to the last round against our subhuman enemies… Don’t believe in the enemy a single second before you see him, and when you see him, just shoot him down.

In such an atmosphere, civilians drag themselves along and prepare for greater sacrifices.

Scarcity, more scarcity

Scarcity, and more scarcity, conditions every home front German. A year ago, the Germans thought they had touched rock-bottom in privations and restrictions, but as they look back now, out from their daze of claustrophobia, they realize that they were having incredible luxuries then.

Life could hardly be more regimented; no man can call his soul his own – or anything else. Everything must be sacrificed in the interests of what Dr. Robert Ley, Labor Front leader, calls the “Holy German national war.”

Food gets scarcer and black market prices soar astronomically, despite brutal punishment or death for both buyers and operators.

No one can travel more than 12 miles without written permission. No one can change the use or ownership of motor vehicles without written permission. No one can utter the slightest anti-Nazi criticism or hint about defeat without risking execution.

As never before, Himmler’s Gestapo and SS spies are trying to catch listeners to the BBC, ABSIE (American Broadcasting Station in Europe) and other Allied radio stations. Nazi terror psychology tactics spread the rumor of a new device enabling the Gestapo to identify such listeners in a few seconds. The usual penalty awaits those arrested for tuning in non-German stations – death.

Himmler’s fears that a semblance of truth would penetrate inside Germany have been reduced, however, by the number of radios destroyed by bombings.

Millions uprooted

The impact of saturation bombings touches every phase of life inside Germany, to say nothing of the millions who have been uprooted and obliged to take improvised shelter in barracks and half-repaired houses, or to lodge with strangers.

It is going to be a bitterly cold winter for the Germans. If present predictions of the coldest winter in a century are anywhere near correct, the growing shortage of all kinds of fuel portends a taste of some of the misery the Germans have inflicted upon so many innocent millions in other winters.

“We cope with difficulties never experienced before,” accurately says Dr. Ley.

He doesn’t have to tell that to the people of the Heimat, compressed behind the 400-mile West Front, behind a vast trench system to the east, behind unfinished defenses to the south. Every move they make tells them the gnawing, bitter truth of what total war really means.

Sugar ration reduced

The sugar ration has just been reduced again; sugar is needed for industry. Women can select new hats from only seven standardized types; cloth is needed for uniforms.

The Hitler Youth, those fanatical, frenzied teenage Nazis, now beyond all hope of redemption, must practice fencing with canes instead of rapiers; all swords have been thrown in the maw of the steel mills.

Ausverkauft” greets weary housewives at store after store – sold out. Shortages and sacrifices… shortages and sacrifices. And the more sacrifices they make, the more they are called upon to make.

Philosophy summed up

Dr. Ley, writing in Der Angriff a few days ago, summed up the National Socialist philosophy of sacrifice thus:

The Germans are willing to make all further sacrifices and not to omit anything to mobilize their last resources.

If there is justice and a Lord in Heaven, then this sacrifice, which is the greatest any nation ever made, will be placed on the scales of justice. Victory is linked with sacrifices, hence, victory must be ours, because Germany has made the greatest sacrifices.

Just what the average, mature German beyond, say, 30 years of age, thinks of such rubbish – is not on the record. Himmler’s brutish, unmerciful reign of terror and Goebbels’ unending propaganda hypodermics have reduced the average German to a mere robot, overstrained, undernourished, unable to think clearly for himself.

Each new Allied advance only intensifies the cleverly directed fanaticism boiling inside Germany today.

The Pittsburgh Press (November 29, 1944)

Fear Blitzkrieg hits German home front with full Nazi force

Leaders try to arouse people to deadly sacrifices by stressing consequences
By Nat A. Barrows

Third of a series

Stockholm, Sweden –
Day and night, matching its tempo with the thunder of Allied guns across the Rhine, Nazi home front propaganda struggles desperately to arouse every last shred of hatred, fear, and sacrifice.

Like the penetrating effects of bomb-blast concussion, this outcry of the doomed National Socialist gangsters is reaching, with stunning influence, throughout the Germany. The pace quickens in ratio to the Allied advances.

Over 39 radio wavelengths, in every Nazi newspaper, and on every Nazi platform, the stooges echo their masters’ cry: “Struggle and sacrifice… Struggle and sacrifice.”

Fear is the keynote of this nationwide barrage: Fear of defeat, fear of what the Allies will do, fear, fear, and more fear. Just under the surface of all these cleverly devised psychological tricks lies what Winston Churchill has called, “the dull whining note of fear” among the Nazi bosses themselves.

Worry about own necks

They are not worried about the people; they are worried about their own necks. No longer can they dangle luring conquests as the prize for successful resistance against our armies. So now, driven back into their own limited home front, from the control over 325 million persons, they have only one alternative.

That alternative is to arouse home front Germans to the utmost sacrifices by mesmerizing them with deadly fear of the consequences of defeat.

Here are some typical examples culled from Nazi papers reaching Stockholm:

Deputy Gauleiter Holz, in trying to bolster the morale of the Volkssturm boys and old men in Franconia, told that unit of the People’s Army that they must never surrender, never bend their proud German necks under the feet of the Mongols and Jews, never cry for mercy.

Asks fight to finish

He said:

The word capture does not exist for the Volkssturm man. There is only the fight to the finish. And when the last round has been fired, there is still the bayonet and the rifle butt, and finally, you have got your two hands to strangle the enemy.

In Dresden, Prof. Boerger told a mass meeting that the Germans are not going to lament in times of distress… “No, we want revenge, revenge, and we have but one will: To use the cruelest means ever invented by German brains.”

Dr. Robert Ley, the Labor Front leader, appears to be making speeches every day to spread the Nazi doctrine of “sacrifice and more sacrifice.” It was he who recently shouted: The “military people’s war today has become the holy German national war,” treason caused the disasters in the Caucasus and Africa, and by the Channel, “but treason inside the home front cannot live – as we saw on July 20.”

‘Never capitulate’

He also has said:

I firmly believe that we will again change the courses of fate… Should setbacks occur, we will take and manage them but we will never capitulate. Whoever wants to annihilate us must descend into the grave with us.

The Völkischer Beobachter, Nazi Party organ in Berlin, certainly has never failed in its task of reflecting and espousing Nazi policies. Now it is outdoing earlier breathless efforts. It has one basic note in its editorials, which the readers find under one guise or another in every edition:

History demands of every individual a decision, which cannot be evaded. This decision is struggle and sacrifice until victory.

Quote Hitler

Then there is that question, reportedly from Hitler – the now strangely silent Hitler – which Joseph Goebbels is busily spreading among the Herrenvolk: “May God forgive me for what it have to do in the last week of war.”

Goebbels’ ward heelers do not attempt to interpret the meaning behind this beyond implying that it signifies a new terror weapon. Obviously, it can be interpreted in several ways, not the least of which strikes close to the German civilian.

And so, the tirades blare forth incessantly, and always around the corner lurk Himmler’s Gestapo brutes ready to wipe out the merest sign of internal defection.

In his 1944 New Year’s speech, Hitler called it, “a hard and heavy year ahead for Germany.” For once Adolf permitted himself an understatement.

The Pittsburgh Press (November 30, 1944)

Allies face hard fight for months following defeat of Germany

Himmler has suicidal desperadoes, including big force of snipers, set to harass victors
By Nat A. Barrows

Fourth of a series

Stockholm, Sweden –
Allied military occupation of Nazi Germany will not enable our soldiers to lay down their weapons peacefully. Instead, we will face continued resistance from fanatical Nazis cunningly entrenched underground. It will take weeks, perhaps months, to mop up these guerrillas.

Beyond any doubt, Heinrich Himmler, the real boss of Germany today, has laid down careful and exacting plans for taking his Gestapo agents, SS soldiers, and other fanatics into hiding after the formal military collapse. They will fight on in the ruins of bombed cities, in mountain retreats, and worst of all, in sheep’s clothing as ostensibly subdued civilians.

No attempt at peering “inside Germany” today can be complete without realizing that this state of affairs lurks just under the surface of the Nazi façade. The Hitler-Himmler gang will not give up until they actually are caught – and after that they have laid plans for carrying on their Nazified political ideas.

This is not fanciful drama, but hard, cold fact. Our military leaders have long had sufficient evidence to appreciate the seriousness of these preparations for continued Nazi resistance under4ground. They know that special units of fanatical young Nazis have been given concentrated training in guerrilla warfare. They know that stores of food, ammunition and fuel have been earmarked for post-armistice fighting, and are hidden away at strategic points.

Face army of snipers

Additional information reaching Stockholm only serves to bear out the fact that we have got to deal with suicidal desperadoes operating underground and willing to accept any risk or hardship if it pleases Der Führer – and Himmler. Some estimates from pro-Allied sources place the number of these potential snipers at 500,000.

What other choice have the Nazi bosses? They have become involved too deeply in their own shares of murder and brutality; they have got themselves too fully compromised.

And beyond planning every devious scheme for saying their own scalps, they hope somehow to leave enough of Nazi foundations lingering underground for future revival, for future budding into another attempt at domination 29 years or so hence.

Watch for tricks!

Meanwhile, they will utilize every trick to confuse and soothe us.

Rumors of false peace demonstrations will be spread abroad. False deaths of Nazi leaders will be announced so these leaders can disappear quietly, both to escape punishment and to carry out Nazi post-armistice plans. They will even pretend to disband the National Socialist Party. There will be loud talk, pretty talk, and soft talk from minor war criminals trying to say, “Really, fellows, we were only carrying out orders from above. We had to do it or we would have been shot.”

They will overlook not the slightest opportunity to embarrass and provoke our occupying troops. Youthful martyrs will gladly throw their lives away to create incidents. Nazi agents disguised as simple townspeople will attempt to mingle among Allied soldiers, spreading gossip, and trying to invoke sympathy for Germany.

Urged to be tough

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s order forbidding American soldiers even to speak with German civilians without written permission is based on a sound and realistic appreciation of this future campaign aimed at upsetting morale. Anything else than an utterly realistic approach to Nazi designs and cunning, means future trouble – and plenty of it.

A recent Austrian deserter from the German Army summed it up for me thus:

You have got to be tough in every way with the Germans; tough, tough, tough. You can’t kill them all, which is unfortunate, so you have got to handle them in the only way they will understand. That means the strictest discipline, absolute obedience to your orders, constant watchfulness for tricks.

Treat them fairly, if you like, but be tough. Otherwise–

The Pittsburgh Press (December 1, 1944)

Fatigue causes drop in German production despite Nazi decrees

Workers to get paid only for ‘useful’ labor; weak, sick told to hang on
By Nat A. Barrows

Fifth of a series

Stockholm, Sweden –
Even if they drop in their tracks from ailments, fatigue or simply lack of strength, German factory workers must somehow manage to turn out their quota of production for the Nazis’ badly-battered war machine.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s appeal for more ammunition from America has been matched by a Nazi decree, inside Germany, demanding both increased production and decreased use of raw materials. It is a flat edict with no “ifs” or “buts” commanding all workers to intensify their output capacity.

The new factory schedule alters the wage scale so that the worker gets paid only for “useful work accomplished” and expressly warns the weak and sick that they must hang on, somehow, and do what they can.

This decree from Labor Minister Fritz Sauckel explains the seriou8s difficulties with which the Nazi war industry is confronted today, but it does not mean that Nazi industry is already falling apart. Production has been hit seriously by concentrated bombings against such priority targets as synthetic oil and airplane factories, yet that fabulous group of five men behind the Speer Ministry is still able to keep factory wheels geared to war requirements – at least for the moment.

Reach saturation point

It is a question how much longer Armaments and War Production Minister Albert Speer, and his four all-powerful colleagues on the Speer Ministry’s governing board, can keep up production needs. The saturation point in Nazi industry definitely has been reached. Heavy industry just beyond the Western Front is taking terrific punishment. And the number of available workers decreases after every bomb raid.

The Nazis anticipated some of these problems long ago, as a briefcase alongside the body of that genius, Fritz Todt (killed in an airplane crash in February 1942) gave the outline for developing inside Germany an industrial empire without contrast in history. Todt told the Germans how to achieve maximum efficiency for industrial self-government with a minimum of bureaucracy and red tape.

Implementing Todt’s ideas, the Germans have developed a five-man group with unprecedented control over industry. This group today runs, directly or indirectly, every German factory.

Machines standardized

Long ago, it standardized machines and parts to make them completely interchangeable; long ago, it developed a plan for labor mobility so that factory workers could be moved quickly from one district to another; long ago it fixed working conditions so rigidly that employees were enslaved to benches and machines.

But the genius of Todt, and the fantastic power of the Speer Ministry warlords, could not overcome human fatigue. They have increased the number of rest periods and they have tried various psychological tricks, but industrial efficiency has continued to drop nonetheless.

Longer working hours and extreme simplification of methods have not shown satisfactory compensations. Efficiency has continued to drop.

Causes listed

The basic causes for the declining efficiency are such that the Nazis are able to do little about them:

  • Drained-up reserves of foreign workers
  • Reduced incentive for good work and absence of competition
  • The number of unskilled women employed under the compulsory labor order
  • Longer working hours and the heavy strain from worry, bomber raids, fatigue and lack of recreation.

The Speer Ministry, ruling industry with absolute dictatorial powers has dispersed factories fat and wide throughout Germany, many of them underground, safe from even Allied earthquake bombs. What they could not do, what they cannot do, is to make machines run without human strength behind them.

That factor looms directly behind Germany’s declining industrial output. Manpower can be stretched just so far – and not one inch more.

The Pittsburgh Press (December 2, 1944)

Nazis in midst of drive for more German children

By Nat A. Barrows

Sixth of a series

Stockholm, Sweden –
The Nazi Party is not mincing words about its desire for more German children.

Seeking in every possible way to keep National Socialist ideas alive after Germany’s defeat, party leaders have now devised yet another plan for increasing the number of marriages inside Germany. They are dividing prospective brides and grooms by job categories.

If Greta, unmarried and lonely, appeals to the Nazis’ new marriage bureau, called the German Family, she can obtain permission to exchange her war factory job for a similar job in another city – where she may find a husband.

As it is working out Greta probably will be sent there, anyway, if the German Family officials decide that she should be contributing something more for the fatherland than compulsory factory work.

In advocating more legal marriages, the Nazis have not abandoned their protective status for children born out of wedlock. They use forthright propaganda reassuring unmarried mothers that their children will have all the benefits and privileges of other German children – providing they are “Aryans.”

For a country which long ago utterly abandoned every semblance of a moral standard, it is a curious development to find the Nazis now urging more legal marriages. Actually, this is partly due to their desperate need to halt decreasing efficiency among factory workers, as well as an insidious scheme to perpetuate Nazi political power.

By having husbands and wives working in the same factory, there will be “more incentive for good work and a better understanding of the job… and more happiness,” the Nazis explain.

This newly-formed organization, the German Family, cooperates with the National Socialist race political bureau in maintaining a letter center for lonely men and women, and in sorting the prospects by jobs. They are not connected with the letter writing activities of the League of Lonely War Women.

The League of Lonely War Women bluntly tells the soldiers by letter, circular, or word of mouth how its members want to fulfill the longings of lonely nights, knowing, they say, that even the bravest soldier needs tenderness.

The Pittsburgh Press (December 4, 1944)

Inside the Reich –
Nazis taking Hans’ rations to feed Fritz

Eating problem grows worse in Germany
By Nat A. Barrows

Seventh and last of a series

Stockholm, Sweden –
The Nazis’ problem of feeding 80 million weary, bedraggled Herrenvolk is fast reaching the point where it is a question of taking food from Hans to help Fritz.

Each new mile of Allied advance into Germany’s homeland increases the extremely complicated task of distributing the daily rations. If Cologne, for example, loses its rations in the splatter of Allied bombs, emergency supplies must be moved up perhaps at the temporary expense of another city.

The Nazis have long been prepared for just such contingencies, but enough bombs and enough German territory in Allied hands will make it hurt – in the stomach.

Germany appears to have enough food to get it through the winter, despite the dwindling supplies from foreign countries. No civilian is going to wax fat, however, on what the Nazis dole out to him. The acute problem hinges more on distribution.

No more oranges

At best, the average German civilian today has practically nothing to eat beyond his monotonous rations. No more oranges from Spain… no more olives from Italy… no more raisins and citrus fruits from the Balkans.

Most German people today are being fed by masses – wholesale distribution on a vast scale, governed by a complicated system of differentials. The army and other fighting units get the best available food and, apparently, are not suffering from undernourishment. War workers also get top selections.

The political aspects of the military situation obliged the Nazis to improve rations for foreign workers and for peasants doing compulsory farm labor.

Cereal crop smaller

This year’s cereal crop seems to have been smaller than in 1943 as reflected by the reduction in the weekly bread ration, but killing off more pigs due to the feeding shortages probably will enable the average German to get his basic rations through this sixth war winter.

Sugar is hard to obtain and it will grow scarcer because sugar beets must be diverted into alcohol production for motor fuel to make up for the losses of the Nazis’ gasoline supply.

On the basis of a careful survey from facts available here, the Germans can be expected to keep their mass-produced factory and canteen soup kitchens adequately supplied these coming months – but not much more.

Causes listed

The Nazis have definite food problems before them, nevertheless, due to several factors beyond their control, such as:

  • Labor shortages for which no relief is possible.

  • Badly-reduced fertilizer quotas, especially phosphates and nitrogen.

  • Loss of farming areas and stored up harvests because of military retreats.

  • Decreased efficiency in overstrained farm workers.

  • Reduced allotment of gardening and home breeding of poultry and rabbits because of restrictions in feed, bomb damage and overtime in factories.