The Bitter Road To Freedom
By William I. Hitchcock
By Richard E. Noble
This book is about the liberation of Europe during World War II. The author claims that this is a neglected story.
And it most certainly is.
When most of us visualize the Liberation of Europe we picture brave, courageous, allied soldiers giving those Germans what they deserve.
We see Paris and beautiful girls rushing into the streets with roses or flinging their arms around allied troops and drowning them with hugs and kisses.
I remember reading a quote by some famous American General where he laughingly proclaims something to the effect that any American G.I. who doesn’t get laid tonight has something seriously wrong with him.
The liberation was one big party. Victory after victory with Germans soldiers running and the allies in joyous pursuit while the entire civilian population applauded and danced in the streets.
This is hardly an accurate picture.
The author puts us in the shoes of the biggest victims of all wars, the civilian population. The picture he paints is of a German tank rolling over the victimized population coming in and then again rolling over that same population falling back. This is followed by the allied tank that rides over them for a third and sometime fourth time.
Innocent men, women and children are slaughtered and victimized. Young girls and woman of all ages are raped over and over again by the Germans and then by the allies.
All their crops and food supplies are confiscated by the moving armies. The soldiers must eat even if the civilians must starve.
Their plow animals are killed, their chickens and livestock devoured leaving them starving. Their homes are bombed and destroyed and they retreat and hide in caves, forests or ruins. They are starving and homeless.
They are sick too. How could they not be. They die from simple things, many from depression and loss of hope. They have no medical supplies. Their cuts and wounds become infected. The army, invading or liberating, has nothing to share. They both take.
It is a horror story of the grandest proportions.
We see it all through the eyes of the civilians and those volunteers who came to assist. We listen to doctors and nurses and aid group volunteers. We see the battles between them and the allied commanders. The commanders are still actively engaged in fighting the war. They have no time to think of civilians. They try to control the behavior of their soldiers but it is impossible.
The civilian death toll climes and climes.
And why was this story clouded over in platitudes and myths for so many decades?
Because the myths and platitudes were easier to swallow.
The civilians back home didn’t want to hear it. They wanted to forget it. They wanted it to go away. They wanted it to be over. It all got buried.
If this whole tragedy weren’t horror enough, we then come in the last one hundred pages to the liberation of the concentration and extermination camps.
I've read numerous first person accounts written by victims of the holocaust. They were always difficult to read. But in most of these accounts throughout all the misery there was always a faint glimmer of hope. All of these accounts were written by survivors.
In this book we see these people through the eyes of the soldiers and the health workers – the liberators. We see their disgusting state. Just looking at them made observers puke and fill with hate. A hate that took its roots in the victims not necessarily with the perpetrators. We see the prejudices ruling the day.
The picture these healthy observers paint is even worse than those painted by survivors in their personal accounts. The desperation, the hopelessness, the tens of thousands who could not be saved and who continued to live in their own filth and squalor is a tale beyond the gruesome.
Reading all of this brings this reader to a new understanding of the word Jew and Israel, the Promised Land.
Every Jew in every camp, it seems, had dreams of going to Israel. And who could blame them. The world had abandoned the Jew before, during and now after the war. There was only one safe place for the Jew and that was being surrounded by other Jews.
They wanted to be left to themselves, to rule over themselves. They trusted no one. They believed in nothing.
Reading about what happened to the Jews even after the war and during the so called liberation makes it very clear why the Israeli of today will do anything to save their state, their new homeland. I think it would be very difficult for any Israeli to respect any human law totally. I doubt if they will ever leave themselves vulnerable to world opinion ever again … world laws either. They know where they stand in the eyes of the world and clearly, they will never let it happen to them again.
We also see the roots of the Cold War and the strange affinity of Americans towards Germans. The hated Nazis. They should be despised. But no, the Americans and the Allies treat the Germans better than they treat the tortured and emaciated Jews. The abusers are pampered and the victims abused.
The Nurenburg trails are more of a whitewashing of the Nazi atrocities than an exposure of their inhuman abusiveeness. Many Jewish victims refuse to even testify at the trials wondering why these barbarians are afforded their day in court. When would the twenty or more millions who were slaughtered get their day in court?
This is certainly the other side of the story. A heart wrenching, horrible side. Another serious case for the avoidance of war and its use as a method of diplomacy.
More reasons for Americans to look into their Military Industrial Complex and the Bush legacy of preemption. And certainly more reasons for the world to examine its self-destructive and abusive tendencies.
There must be a better way.