London: A disturbing and horrifyingly graphic new book has laid to rest the myth that only the likes of the SS and Gestapo were responsible for war crimes and acts of rape, murder and genocide, forcing German people into reassessing their past.
British intelligence hid microphones among POWs at Trent Park detention centre in North London, captured every boast, offhand remark and sick joke about the killing of children and new mothers, women being raped and the mass extermination of Jews.
The transcripts from tape recordings of 13,000 inmates over four years, form the most unique and bleak look inside the mind of war-time German forces ever published.
Before the book by historians Soenke Neitzel and Harald Welzer came out in Germany, people there assumed that their fathers and grandfathers did not have blood on their hands, but now it has become clear how the Nazi regime dehumanised so many of their own troops, they are taking nothing for granted.
Soldiers speaking of the “fun” and “pure enjoyment” of killing civilians and fleeing troops litter 150,000 pages of transcripts.
And while Germany still remembers the mass rapes when the Russians later invaded their homeland, it is clear they, too, were guilty of the same terrible crime.
In the recordings, one junior German officer boasted in October 1944 about what he and his men did to a woman they thought was a Russian spy.
“We beat her on the t**s with a stick, clobbered her on the a*** with a pistol, then all eight of us f***** her, then we threw her outside and shot at her. And as she lay there, we threw grenades at her. Every time one of them landed near her body, she screamed,” the Mirror quoted the officer as saying.