Sunday, January 30, 2005
During World War II, German prisoners of war often received better treatment than African-American soldiers who were guarding them, particularly when the POWs were being imprisoned Stateside. It seems to me that the Allies knew, certainly late in the war, what kinds of atrocities German soldiers were committing, and they knew that many German soldiers were fiercely committed to Nazism and willing to die for their cause.
Should German soldiers have been subjected to more "extreme" forms of interrogation so that we could have prevented some of the Nazi slaughter? We certainly had more, and better, information about what the Nazis were doing than we have about the plans of today's terrortists. I think it is also fair to say that the evils attributed to the Nazi regime far surpass anything we have yet seen from Islamic fundamentalists, and Germany's capacity to inflict harm was infitely superior to anything Al Qaeda has at its disposal.
Although the Allies were subject to their own serious laspses during the war (Dresden comes immediately to mind), I certainly applaud them for resisting the impulse to stoop to more generally to savagery in order to combat it. I say this despite the fact that I have a great uncle who ate outside while German POWs were served at table. The fact that he was often mistreated and dehumanized in his own country did not in his mind justify mistreating the Germans.