The savage atmosphere of victory and Nazi propaganda

Trapped by men from the 2nd Battalion on the southern side, the Germans suffered a fearful massacre. ‘I did see old German men grab our M1s and beg for mercy,’ Corporal Jack Bommer recounted. ‘They were shot point blank. Such is war.’ He remembered an officer saying before they climbed into the boats, ‘No prisoners, just shoot them. There’s no time.’ Captain Kappel spoke to the company commander from the 1st Battalion which had followed them. This officer boasted that they had taken many more prisoners than Cook’s battalion. ‘You captured yours,’ Kappel retorted. ‘We shot ours.’

Without counting those who jumped, 267 bodies were retrieved from the railway bridge alone, but one report states that 175 prisoners were taken there. There were apparently also cases of paratroopers removing gold wedding rings from dead Germans, which usually required cutting off the finger. A number of their comrades strongly disapproved, but it did little good in the savage atmosphere of victory. Word spread in the German army about the massacre. Oberst Fullriede wrote in his diary a week later: ‘The Americans behaved — as always — in a contemptible fashion. They threw our wounded from the bridge into the Waal and shot the few home guard they took prisoner.’ The throwing of wounded into the river was almost certainly not true, yet it reflected the fear and hatred which German troops felt for the American airborne, having been told by Nazi propaganda that they were all recruited from the toughest jails.

—Antony Beevor, Arnhem, (London: Penguin, 2019), 216.

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