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With great thanks to our Young Historian:

Gustav Falk 

"Those who know nothing about history are doomed forever to repeat it. — Will Durant, 1885-1981"

The Surrender of Germany in WWII

Many of Germany's own military officials believed that the country would be defeated by the end of 1943, at the very latest. Due to Hitler's refusal to concede defeat and his resolve to bring down Germany and half of Europe with him rather than repeating the 1918 capitulation, the war lasted for another 18 months at great cost. Mussolini was toppled, Anglo-American forces invaded Italy, and the Russians started the wave of major assaults that would take them all the way into central Europe during the course of 1943. Hitler obstinately refused to let the tactical withdrawal that his generals believed was the superior course of action in the east, insisting that German troops defend what they possessed. The German front in Poland broke down in the summer of 1944, and the Russians pushed onward towards the Reich's borders

Rome was freed on June 4 and the Allies landed in Normandy on June 6. The weight of the Allied air forces bombing raids against Germany had been progressively increasing since the start of 1942. In 1942, on the night of May 30–31, Cologne was the target of the first 1,000-bomber raid. In a series of similar raids in July 1943, Hamburg was completely destroyed, while the Royal Air Force dropped almost 22,000 tonnes of high explosives on Berlin between mid-November 1943 and mid-February 1944. The German capital was the target of the United States Army Air Forces  initial day raids in March. For two years, these combined attacks went on without interruption and caused a great deal of harm. Hitler was now totally cut off from the life of the country he commanded, having established his headquarters there
since the summer of 1941. He refused to go to the destroyed cities, hardly ever appeared in public, and only occasionally spoke or broadcast.

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A Plot to Assassinate Hitler

A handful of German nationalists had long been plotting Hitler's assassination because they saw that his unwillingness to consider capitulation would harm Germany irreparably. The German opposition was made up of a number of shakily linked organisations with varying memberships and little organisational or ideological unity aside from their abhorrence of the Nazi rule. Gen. Ludwig Beck, who served as the army's chief of staff until 1938, and Carl Goerdeler, a former Oberburgermeister (mayor) of Leipzig, were the two senior individuals who had been involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler since before the war. The army was the only institution in Germany capable of carrying out a successful coup, and the Abwehr, the military's counterintelligence agency, served as one of the plot's main hubs. Himmler
dismantled this conspiracy in 1943, but a tiny group at the command headquarters of the reserve army, led by Col. Claus Schenk, Graf von Stauffenberg, took its place. Stauffenberg  planted a bomb under the table on July 20, 1944, during a meeting at Hitler's East Prussian headquarters. The explosive was hidden in his briefcase. By chance, Hitler was not one of the victims, although being hurt. The conspirators' attempt to grab power in Berlin and openly ally the army with them failed, and the coup was put down in both cities before the morning on July 21.

The End of Germany

By the time the Western Allies reached the Rhine at the end of 1944, the war in the West had cost the Germans more than one million troops in terms of killed, wounded, and captured injust six months. By December 1944, the Russians had surged through the Balkans and wereencircling Budapest and posing a threat to East Prussia. If the German people were unable to
repel the enemy, Nazi propaganda predicted a dreadful doom for them. Excessive faith was placed in covert weapons (guided missiles, jet aircraft, and U-boats with snorkels) and a break between the Western countries and the Soviet Union. Hitler continued in risking his last remaining resources on an effort to sabotage the Allies  front in the west through the
unsuccessful Ardennes attack of December 1944, disregarding the threat of a Soviet breakthrough in the east. While the British and Americans crossed the Rhine and poured into Germany from the west in March, the Russians launched an attack along the entire line from the Baltic to the Carpathians in January 1945. Old men and young boys were drafted into the
Volkssturm (People's Storm Troop) at Hitler's orders, and Germany was turned into a battlefield in a futile effort to avoid defeat. Hitler refused to leave Berlin, despite suggestions that the Nazi Party's birthplace of Bavaria could serve as a national redoubt. In a political ode to the German people, he blamed others—primarily the Jews—for the terrible war and
showed neither regret or remorse for what had happened. He named Goebbels chancellor and Dönitz his successor as head of state. Hitler wed Eva Braun in the wee hours of April 29. As ar as is known, he then committed suicide on April 30 in the late afternoon. The next day, Goebbels committed suicide, and Himmler did so not long after. Most of the other Nazi
leaders—including Göring, Speer, Ribbentrop—were captured by the Allies and later tried in Nürnberg as war criminals.


The Aftermath

The aftermath of Germany's surrender in World War II was a pivotal moment in world history. A new era in international politics and one of the most destructive wars in human history came to an end with the fall of Nazi Germany. Germany's capitulation had far- reaching effects on not only Germany but also the rest of Europe and the rest of the world. In several nations around the world, there were massive celebrations following Germanys capitulation. The news that the war was finally over was received with a sense of relief and excitement because it had caused such a horrible toll on humanity. The German people, however, experienced great shame and misery as a result of the surrender. The nation was left in ashes, with bombed-out cities and starving, impoverished citizens.


The problem of war crimes and accountability was one of the most important issues Germany had to deal with after the war. High-ranking Nazi officers were tried in the Nuremberg Trials between 1945 and 1946 for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Holding those responsible for the Holocaust and other atrocities accountable through these trials was a crucial first step. The trials also contributed to the development of the fundamentals of international criminal law,
setting the foundation for upcoming courts like the International Criminal Court. Rebuilding Germany's infrastructure and economy was another significant problem. The country had been destroyed by the war, and reconstruction was a huge task. Germany was significantly helped in its recovery by the Marshall Plan, a US-led effort to rebuild Europe after the war.

The plan supported post-war economic growth and development by offering financial and technical assistance to European nations, notably Germany. The Marshall Plan played a significant role in Germany's post-war economic miracle, which saw the nation emerge from the ashes of war to become a significant economic force. Germanys post-war era was characterised by a number of political upheavals and transformations. America, Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union each took control of one of the four zones that made up the country under occupation. While the other three zones merged to form West Germany, the Soviet Union's zone became East Germany. The Cold War began with the split of Germany into two states, each with its own political philosophy, and would go on to influence world politics for many years.

The Soviet Union installed a communist government in East Germany that swiftly rose to become one of the most oppressive in all of Europe. Every element of life was strictly under government control, and dissenters and opposition figures were brutally put down. The Berlin Wall, which was erected in 1961 to split East from West Berlin, came to represent the Cold War-era Iron Curtain dividing Europe. On the other hand, democracy was founded in West Germany, where the nation quickly recovered and rebuilt its economy. The state adopted a social market economy that fused the free market with a robust welfare state. This strategy contributed to the development of an affluent and stable society, and West Germany's economy soon rose to prominence in Europe. International relations were significantly impacted by what happened after Germany gave up. With the collapse of Nazi Germany, the Second World War came to an end and a new era in world politics began.


The Soviet Union evolved into a competitor state with its own area of influence, while the United States emerged as the leading superpower in the globe. Following the end of the war, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an intense period of rivalry that would shape international relations for decades to come. The Cold War had a profound impact on both Germany and all of Europe. Germany had a significant role in the conflict, with East and West Germany serving as metaphors for the conflicting ideologies of communism and democracy. The division of Germany added to the existing tension in Europe and the rest of the world as a result of the growing threat of war between the two superpowers. The citizens of Germany were significantly impacted by the division of the country. The border divided friends and families, forcing many Germans to evacuate their homes in search of safety abroad. The divide had a severe psychological impact on many Germans, who grappled with feelings of rage, frustration, and grief over the destruction of their nation. Despite these difficulties, Germany overcame its divisions and rebuilt itself as a single nation. German history underwent a sea change after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the nation was
reunited on October 3, 1990. Although the process of reunification was not without difficulties, the nation has since developed into a strong and prosperous democracy at the centre of Europe. In conclusion, the effects of Germany's defeat in World War II had a significant impact on that country, Europe, and the rest of the world. The nation was left in
shambles, and rehabilitation was a massive undertaking. The Nuremberg Trials helped develop the concept of international criminal law and held war criminals accountable for their deeds. The Marshall Plan significantly contributed to Germany's economic recovery, while the creation of two states within Germany signaled the start of the Cold War. Despite these
 difficulties, Germany overcame its divisions and rebuilt itself as a single nation, eventually
becoming a strong and prosperous democracy at the centre of Europe. The lessons we've 
taken away from the events that followed Germany's capitulation continue to influence how we think about conflict, peace, and the value of international collaboration in ensuring a secure and prosperous future for all.

The White Buses 

The Swedish Red Cross rescue operation with the White Buses to Germany in the final stages of WWII has been chronicled in several books, essays, and articles throughout the years. There have been conflicting information. The roles of the various participants have been questioned and discussed. The number of people rescued by the White Buses has varied tremendously. It has also not been determined how many of those were Jewish. Among the more serious claims have been questions about the mission of the rescue mission and Folke Bernadotte's role. A media controversy sparked in spring 1998 by the radio programme "Take the Jews last" resulted in the Swedish Red Cross inviting historians, archivists, media representatives, and other professionals to a historic conference in May 1998. As a result, the Swedish Red Cross granted full access to the organization's archive material to other researchers. After 50 years, the Foreign Office declassified its secret documents about the rescue operation in 1995. A large number of documents have been made available for investigation. They discovered even more classified Red Cross records in their archive during the spring of 1999. They also found Folke Bernadotte's two lost pocket diaries from 1944 and 1945.

They have now reviewed all of the material and had added it to the existing collections at the National Archive in Arningen, they has as well gifted the diaries to Folke Bernadotte's family.


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Germany invaded Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940. A number of Norwegians were imprisoned immediately, and the occupying troops constructed the first prisoners' camp at Ulven, near Bergen, two months later. As tensions between the Nazi government and the resistance grew, a growing number of Norwegians were arrested and held in Norwegian jails and camps before being transported to German facilities. In early 1940, the first groups of Norwegian captives arrived at Sachsenhausen.

The Norwegian and Danish inmates in Germany were separated into several groups, ranging from the so-called civil detained, who lived quietly and enjoyed certain liberties, to the Nacht und Nebel (NN), or "Night and Fog" prisoners, who were made to vanish without a trace. As the number of Scandinavian prisoners grew, numerous organisations organised relief efforts for them. Arne Berge and Conrad Vogt-Svendsen, the Norwegian seamen's priests in Hamburg, visited captives, provided them food, and wrote letters to their families in Norway and Denmark. Vogt-Svendsen also made touch with the Norwegian families Hjort and Seip, who were incarcerated at Gross Kreutz. The group at Gross Kreutz, along with other Scandinavians, created thorough lists of captives and their whereabouts.The lists were then delivered to the Norwegian government in exile in London via the Swedish embassy in Berlin. Niels Christian Ditleff, the Norwegian diplomat in Stockholm, was preoccupied with the fate of the Scandinavian captives. At the end of 1944, there were approximately 8,000 Norwegian detainees in Germany, in addition to approximately 1,125 Norwegian POWs.
   Admiral Carl Hammerich of Denmark had long worked on secret plans for a mission code-named the "Jyllandskorps" to rescue Danish and Norwegian inmates from German camps. Hammerich had strong ties with the Norwegian sailors' priests, the Gross Kreutz group, and Niels Christian Ditleff in Stockholm. By the start of 1945, there were around 6,000 Danish captives in Germany. Throughout 1944, the Danes made substantial preparation efforts, including the registration of captives as well as arrangements for transferring supplies and providing food, shelter, and quarantine for the prisoners if they made it to Denmark. In February, April, and July 1944, Hammerich visited Stockholm and discussed the ideas with Ditleff.

Diplomatic Preparations
Throughout WWII, Sweden was the only Nordic country that stayed neutral, but its neutrality varied. Until the German defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad, Sweden was accommodating towards Germany; after Stalingrad Sweden adjusted its policies gradually to move closer to the Allies.
   Himmler's personal masseuse was the Baltic German Felix Kersten. He lived in Stockholm and served as a liaison between the Swedish Foreign Ministry and Himmler. Walter Schellenberg, Himmler's loyal subordinate, had long believed that Germany would lose the war and encouraged Himmler to consider the prospect of a separate peace pact with the Western countries; Sweden may serve as a valuable middleman in this regard. In December 1944, the Swedish Foreign Ministry was able to rescue 50 Norwegian students, 50 Danish policemen, and three Swedes thanks to Kersten's cooperation. The release of the inmates was contingent on keeping it secret from the press; if Hitler found out, additional repatriations would be impossible.
   On 5 February 1945, Ditleff sent a new communication, this time in response to an official Norwegian request. Sweden was asked to send a Red Cross delegation to Berlin to negotiate the status of the Scandinavian inmates, and if successful, a Swedish relief expedition. Christian Günther, Sweden's foreign minister, was supportive, and the Swedish government granted Bernadotte, second in charge of the Swedish Red Cross
On February 16, Bernadotte travelled to Berlin and met with Nazi authorities including Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, RSHA (Reich Main Security Office) head Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Himmler, and Schellenberg. Himmler, one of Nazi Germany's most powerful figures, was initially opposed to transporting detainees to neutral Sweden. The detainees may be trained as police officers, as Sweden has done with other Norwegians and Danes. Bernadotte was forced to rely on his backup plan, which was to gather the captives in one camp so that the Swedish Red Cross could assist them. Bernadotte estimated the number of prisoners at around 13,000, whereas Himmler believed it could not be greater than two or three thousand.
After a second meeting with Schellenberg on 21 February, Bernadotte learned from Himmler that he had agreed to consolidate the Scandinavian captives into a single camp. Bernadotte also met with the Gross Kreutz group, Didrik Arup Seip, Conrad Vogt-Svendsen, Wanda Hjort, and Bjrn Heger during his stay to Berlin. Heger prepared Bernadotte's supplementary proposal to Himmler, which he accepted.

The Transportation Begins
The mission became noted for its buses, which were painted entirely white with the exception of the Red Cross insignia on the sides in order to avoid being mistaken for military vehicles. In total it included 308 personnel (about 20 medics and the rest volunteer soldiers), 36 hospital buses, 19 trucks, seven passenger cars, seven motorcycles, a tow truck, a field kitchen, and full supplies for the entire trip, including food and gasoline, none of which was permitted to be obtained in Germany. 8,000 Danish and Norwegians, 5,911 Poles, 2,629 French, 1,615 Jews, and 1,124 Germans were among the 21,000 individuals evacuated

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The expedition in Friedrichsruh was split into two sections, with the first in charge of transferring inmates from Sachsenhausen, north of Berlin, to Neuengamme. The evacuations began on March 15, covering a distance of around 540 kilometres. Some 2,200 Danes and Norwegians were moved to Neuengamme over the course of seven missions.
One of the columns' commander, Sven Frykman, wrote about the inmates and the drive: “In general they were in relative good shape compared to other prisoners I have seen and one could not complain regarding their personal hygiene. They related that the food packs they had received from Norway and Denmark had kept their spirits up and recently the treatment had been noticeably better. They were all touching [sic] thankful and happy. I believe that all of us that have had the option of helping these poor people in Germany have experienced such an overwhelming gratitude that it is enough for the rest of our lives”.

The other group was in charge of transporting detainees from southern Germany. Dachau, located north of Munich, Schönberg (about 80 kilometres south of Stuttgart), and Mauthausen were among them (12 kilometres east of Linz). The distances were larger for this voyage, as Munich alone was 800 kilometres away. The transports were delayed due to a lack of gasoline, which added to the challenges. Colonel Björck led the first column of 35 vehicles, which left Neuengamme on March 19 and returned on March 24. As Swedish nurse Margaretha Björcke documented, the journey back was tough because most of the captives were in terrible physical condition: “I have never in my twelve years practice as a nurse seen so much misery as I here witnessed. Legs, backs and necks full of wounds of a type that an average Swede would be on sick leave for just one of them. I counted twenty on one prisoner, and he did not complain”.

This first convoy picked up 550 detainees, leaving behind 67 very ill inmates. The convicts' persistent diarrhoea was a major issue during the trips. The Danes later rectified the situation by supplying portable toilets similar to those used during their trips. Because of the Swedish transports, Neuengamme received an increasing number of prisoners, and the predicted concentration of Scandinavian captives did not materialise. Swedish medical staff and buses were not permitted to enter the camp because the Germans refused to allow the Swedes to inspect the camp. Instead, the inmates were forced to march to the buses.
A tiny Swedish Red Cross detachment led by Captain Hultgren landed in Berlin in early February: six personnel, two buses, and a private car. Their objective was to transfer Swedish-born women who were married to German men and needed to flee before Germany's impending collapse. The evacuation began on March 26, and by April 20, 1,400 women and children of Swedish heritage had arrived in Malmö through Lübeck and Denmark.

Helping The SS
The concentration camp in Neuengamme was overcrowded, and in order to make room for the Scandinavian prisoners, the SS insisted on moving prisoners of other nationalities to other camps. The SS commander lacked transportation and demanded that the white buses accept the transports, allowing the freshly arriving Scandinavians to occupy the Schonungsblock, a barrack facility for captives unable to labour. Over 2,000 prisoners from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, and Poland were sent to other camps. The majority of SS prisoner transports took occurred between March 27 and 29, from Neuengamme to subcamps in Hannover and Salzgitter, as well as to Bergen-Belsen. Around 50 to 100 inmates died during the evacuations, and many more died in the terrible conditions in the other camps to which they were sent, having been evacuated to evade the advancing Allied army.
   Swedish sub-lieutenant Åke Svenson wrote: “We could now see how the Germans treated their prisoners in general, French, Belgians, Dutch, Poles, and Russians. It was terrible. This time the Germans had to allow us into the camp as most of the passengers could not walk the minor distance from the barracks to the road. From these barracks a group of creatures were forced, that hardly anymore seemed to be human beings”.
   The final SS transport took place on April 13, with roughly 450 so-called significant French captives (senators, major merchants, etc.) who the Germans said would be deported via Switzerland. According to the plan, the captives would be sent to the Flossenburg concentration camp. The Swiss Red Cross should take them to Switzerland from there. The promise of transportation to Switzerland was a lie, and the camp was overcrowded, so the captives were transferred to Theresienstadt, where the "white buses" were on their way to pick up 400 Danish Jews.

The Final Evacuees

Captain Ankarcrona led an International Red Cross column to the camp in Neu-Brandenburg on April 28. The convoy sped through oncoming Soviet forces, picked up 200 female detainees, and returned to Lübeck. A Gestapo officer, Franz Göring, planned a train from Hamburg carrying around 2,000 women (960 Jews, 790 Poles, and 250 French); this train landed at Padborg on May 2. It is not mentioned in the Swedish Red Cross overview of rescued prisoners, but it seems pertinent to highlight this travel in conjunction with the "white buses". 

The two Swedish ships Magdalena and Lillie Matthiessen left from Lübeck on April 30, the former carrying 223 female prisoners and the latter 225. Hans Arnoldsson, a Swedish doctor, had organised the transportation with the help of Bjrn Heger. On May 4, the last batch of female inmates sailed from Copenhagen to Malmö.

As British and Canadian forces closed in on the concentration camp on April 26, the remaining detainees were transported to a flotilla of decommissioned cruise ships stationed in Lübeck Bay, where they were imprisoned below decks. These prison ships were not identified with the Red Cross and were attacked by British jets on May 3rd (the Cap Arcona disaster). The SS guards drowned, strafed from the air, or machine-gunned the detainees in the water.

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The Aftermath

According to the Swedish newspaper “Svenska Dagbladet”, Bernadotte was successful in rescuing 15,000 people from German concentration camps, including around 8,000 Danes and Norwegians and 7,000 ladies of French, Polish, Czech, British, American, Argentinian, and Chinese nationalities. The trips lasted about two months and put the Swedish Red Cross workers in grave danger, both because of political complications and because they brought them through areas under Allied bombing.

Following Germany's surrender, the White Buses mission resumed in May and June, evacuating around 10,000 more released captives. In his book “The End”, Bernadotte recounts the White Buses mission. “My Humanitarian Discussions in Germany in 1945" and Their Political Implications”, published in Swedish on June 15, 1945. Bernadotte describes his conversations with Himmler and others, as well as his time at the Ravensbrück concentration camp, in the book.

The Controversy

Because of the number of POWs saved, the expedition of the "white buses" was warmly praised after the war's end. But, Swedish historian Ingrid Lomfors' 2005 book “Blind Fläck” (Blind Spot) raised concerns about the treatment of Scandinavian prisoners. To make room for Scandinavian captives, the White Buses transferred 2000 largely French prisoners to other concentration camps. The majority of these French detainees died during or shortly after their transfer. The Swedish government refused to help Ingrid Lomfors with her research on this topic. She met some of the survivors in France.

These survivors described their feelings of hope when they boarded the Swedish buses to be evacuated to Sweden, as well as their overwhelming sorrow and sense of betrayal when they disembarked.

The topic has been discussed in Swedish and Norwegian newspapers. In a letter published in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten on 14 October 2005, numerous ex-political prisoners attacked Lomfors, concluding: “On behalf of the Swedish government Folke Bernadotte and the crew on the 'white buses' performed the largest Swedish humanitarian action during the Second World War. The Swedish government should as soon as possible erect a monument in tribute to the expedition. Ingrid Lomfors should ask forgiveness from the Swedish Red Cross and the crew of the 'white buses' who risked their lives in the operation”.

Former political prisoner in Sachsenhausen Bernt H. Lund was pleased with the disclosure of the prisoners' moral problem. He wrote extensively in the newspaper Aftenposten (20 August 2005) about the privileged status of many Scandinavian prisoners, the embarrassment of being treated better, and concluded the essay with: “But it feels right to have this out in broad daylight. A huge thank you to Ingrid Lomfors who in a proper way has removed a blind spot not only for our Swedish liberators, but also for us who assisted them in a difficult situation!”.

Some of the former inmates and many of their descendants still live in the south of Sweden; a larger number live in Malmö, where many of them initially arrived in Sweden. According to Kjersti Dybvig, a historian, the Norwegian government should issue an official apology to its Jewish residents, noting:  “Most of the Jews arrested in Norway were Norwegian citizens. When arrested, they lost their citizenship. And when the White Buses traveled down to fetch prisoners who had survived, Jews could not join because they were no longer Norwegian citizens, and the government after 8 May refused to finance their transportation home”.

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