You can die but I'm saving my skin.

Discussion in 'The Eastern Front' started by Owen, Apr 12, 2007.

  1. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Stalingrad 1942
    Hitler promotes Paulus to Field Marshall. No German Field marshall has ever surrendered. Paulus is expected to commit suicide.
    Laurence Rees in "War of the Century" quotes Joachim Stempel a Leutnant in 108th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, 14th Panzer Division.
    Stempel's father was the General commanding 371.Infanterie-Division.
    Stempel discribes a meeting between his father and Paulus where the latter calls for the Germans Generals to be strong and do what they are expected to do. Die rather than be captured.
    Stempel the Divisional Commander does commit suicide but Paulus as we know refused on the grounds that he was a Christian.
    The younger Stempel is captured and is a POW until 1949. He feels resentment that Paulus encouraged his father to die but refused to kill himself.

    Budapest 1945.
    Karl Pfeffer-Wildenbruch, commander or of IX SS Mountain Corps in Budapest.
    The city is surrounded the Red Army offers terms for the German and Hungarian troops to surrender, which would also save many civilian casualties, this is late December 1944.
    It is refused, the fighting continues. The relief by IV SS Panzer Korps stops short of the city.
    Finally in February 1945 Pfeffer-Wildenbruch decides to break out in what I have just read as " of the most futile enterprises of the Second World War."
    On 11th February he commanded 43,900 troops. By 15th February 22,350 were POWs, some 17,000 were killed in the first six hours. 3000 were hiding in the hills but by 17th Feb they were rounded up. Only about 700 reached the IV SS Panzer Korps lines and a similar number hid in Budapest.
    Pfeffer-Wildenbruch could have died fighting, he could have commited suicide, many of his Officers and men did, rather than be captured by the Red Army.

    Pfeffer-Wildenbruch tried to escape through the drains of Buda then hid in a villa with 10 to 15 others.
    They were found by men of the Soviet 297th Rifle Division who pointed a 45mm anti-tank gun at the villa and called for their surrender.
    Rather than go down fighting like so many of his men he surrendered.

    Did they both enjoy their life after the war?
    Surely it was their duty as German officers to die with their men?
    Easier said than done, I suppose, commiting suicide.
  2. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I suppose that it comes with the Territory, the possibility of dying with your troops. It also has to do with the make up of the person. Why would Model kill himself for example? And why didnt Von Manstein or Guderian?
  3. southern geordie

    southern geordie Junior Member

    Before the days of T.V. broadcastings, there used to be a popular radio programme called "In Town Tonight" A feature of the prog. was that a rag and bone man (Sam, I believe) would pose a controversial and ethical question for the listeners to consider. Sam's final phrase was "What would you do chums"?, followed by a long silence. Then there is the Biblical Quote "Greater love hath no man than this. That he lays down his life for his friends". As for myself, I'm a self-confessed coward and I am not in any position to present a model of behaviour, or ethical guidance. The only reply that I can offer (appropos the question) is that, in the case of military leaders, they should KNOW that the probability of desperate military situations are likely to arrive at any time. I am of the opinion that such leaders are morally bound NOT to issue (extreme) orders that they themselves would be unwlling to carry out in extreme situations. Their integrity (or otherwise) would stand to account from their subsequent example. War, by its very nature is a cruel taskmaster. World leaders should know (at least) that fact, as a certainty and not to sacrifice the lives of others, as pawns on a chess board. Oh! What an oversimplification my opinions are, when it would seem that most wars start through bluff and counterbluff and accidents.
    Southern Geordie.
  4. PearlJamNoCode

    PearlJamNoCode Senior Member

    I am of the opinion that such leaders are morally bound NOT to issue (extreme) orders that they themselves would be unwlling to carry out in extreme situations. Their integrity (or otherwise) would stand to account from their subsequent example.

    I am of this same opinion as you. Paulus possibly could have found solace in the fact that the German leaders (namely Hitler) were immoral (and insane by the war's end), as to issue extreme that themselves would have never carried out themselves. Paulus was given this position most likely not by choice nor was it desired, but as a message from Hitler not to surrender.

    As a student of psychology this whole concept of being able to live with one's self after making such a decision interests and intrigues me. Its a decision for the individual to make: which is more important, winning the war (or this particular battle, or following orders) or saving one's own life. Of course many would immediately say that winning the war, or fighting and dying for one's country is one's duty, but no man can judge until he has been there themself. There are no unusual or unacceptable individual preferences in extremely unusual and unacceptable circumstances.

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