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We all know the cliches of World War II - that the German military was ruthless and brutal, for example, and Italian soldiers gave up without a fight. But sometimes cliches are true.
New evidence published this month in Germany indicates that the stereotypes were not mere propaganda but accurate pictures of reality. The evidence comes from recorded conversations between prisoners of war in bugged cells.
The British had special camps near London for prisoners from Germany and Italy and the Unites had similar camps in Virginia and in San Francisco for Japanese prisoners.
All had been selected because they were thought to have useful information, and informers were inserted among them to prompt them to talk.
The transcripts of those conversations, buried in British and American archives, reveal the private voices of prisoners talking to each. They show very different attitudes towards fighting - and dying.
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One of the authors, Professor Sonke Neitzel, cites, for example, a captured Italian admiral who tells a fellow prisoner that "everyone was running away and I couldn't defend Sicily". Then he adds tellingly, "I had the idea of running away as well". He told the BBC that the attitude of the Italian soldiers revealed in the transcripts was that they thought their state was corrupt and that their leadership was corrupt, so their view was: Accordingly, Professor Neitzel said, "they decided it might be better not to fight to the last shell.
So they surrendered very soon".
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He and his fellow author, Harald Welzer, examined more thanpages of Worcester United Kingdom single women of recordings made secretly by their British and American captors, and now stored in the British Public Records Office in Kew in London and in the National Archives of the United States. Professor Neitzel says attitudes to the state and authority determined what a soldier did at the "point of surrender".
Italians were most likely to surrender and the Japanese. The German attitude, as revealed in the conversations, was: In contrast, the Japanese attitude was one of deep shame to have been captured, a shame which British and American intelligence exploited.
Professor Neitzel described the interrogators' technique: They would respond: Professor Neitzel told the BBC he doesn't believe any nation had soldiers, who were "naturally" Knigdom brutal than any. The Allies, he said, took no prisoners in the early days of the Normandy landings. This, Professor Neitzel thinks, may stem from the Italian man stereotype in United Kingdom certainty about the worth of their cause, that the Umited soldiers revealed in their private conversations.
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