The Pittsburgh Press (October 21, 1943)
Exchanged U.S. prisoner reports –
Hamburg mobs lynch two American fliers
Freed Yank, who heard of deaths, says he had narrow escape
By Jack Fleischer, United Press staff writer
Göteborg, Sweden –
A U.S. flier reported today that he and his companions barely escaped angry mobs near Hamburg after an air raid on the city and said that he had heard “reliably” that two Americans had been lynched there.
Sgt. Benny Springer, 22, of Denver, Colorado, who is aboard a British liner en route home from a prison camp, said he probably would have been killed had a civilian mob been able to catch him after his bomber crashed near Hamburg three months ago.
He was included in Allied troops who were exchanged here for German prisoners.
He offered no details of the reports on the lynching but some others among the group of 17 Americans and 4,322 other Allied prisoners exchanged here said that they had similar second-hand information on the incident.
The cabled information from Göteborg did not identify the Americans who were supposed to have been lynched by the Germans, but they were presumably members of the Armed Forces, possibly Air Force men like Sgt. Springer.
Bitter against raiders
Sgt. Springer’s experience confirmed reports that German civilians were so bitter against the Allied airmen that they tried repeatedly to mob them.
While they agreed that the German military made every effort to protect their prisoners, Sgt. Springer and other fliers said the civilians sometimes were able to mistreat captured airmen.
I was in the Fortress raid on Hamburg on July 25. About 60 German fighters bunched up on us and flak was all around. One engine was knocked out and then numbers three and four went out, but we reached the target and dropped all our bombs and then all of us bailed out.
Landed near soldiers
I landed about 30 kilometers from Hamburg, almost in the arms of three German soldiers. I was shot up by the flak and needed attention. The soldiers took me to where seven other Americans were gathered and herded us into a boxcar for a two-hour ride to Lüneburg.
We got out there to catch another train, but then the fun began. A large, angry crowd gathered at the station and called us every kind of name – in pretty good English – and let us know what they’d do if they got hold of us.
One fellow shouting into a loudspeaker got the crowd madder and madder. His favorite expression was “American swine.”
Crowd throws rocks
The crowd threw rocks and poured hot coffee on us. Our guards got scared and said we had to beat it. We ducked through alleys and backyards in the blackout, toward the police station. We were almost there when we ran into another crowd trying to get to the station ahead of us.
We finally made it, and later were transferred into trucks and driven to a Luftwaffe base, where we were put into solitary confinement rooms like cells, with wooden bunks, bars on the windows and the doors locked.
Sgt. Springer said that a couple of the soldiers promised the Americans guns if the crowd opened fire.
The Allied sailing, coinciding with the departure of the German hospital ships Meteor and Rügen with 835 repatriated Germans, was marred by only one tragic note. A tubercular patient died aboard one of the Britain-bound vessels during the night.