By Major Van Harl, USAF Ret.

Remember the old 1960s TV show Hogan’s Heroes? Remember loveable old German army soldier, Sgt. Schultz? He was always saying “I know nothing-nothing” whenever he thought he was in trouble with his boss Col. Klink. Klink was the commandant of the prisoner of war camp that tried to imprison Col. Hogan and his merry band of allied POWs. Sgt. Schultz was a left over German soldier from World War I. He was too old to be a front line combat soldier in Hitler’s Nazi-controlled military during WWII. Sgt. Schultz’s character was that of a warm and caring family man who was just trying to get through yet another European war. He questioned if it would turn out any better for him than the last war had.

In the last years of WWII there were, in fact thousands of “Sgt. Schultz(s)”. Old men who had not been called up in the early days of WWII, but in 1943-45 Germany was losing and they needed every man who could carry a rifle. Young teenagers of the Hitler Youth were also called up to serve the Fatherland.

Hitler’s concentration camps of the 1930s and early 1940s were staffed by young men who were loyal to the cause, but by 1943 these men were needed on the front lines, because those front lines were now approaching German soil. Thus, old men and young boys found themselves in charge of political prisoners and slave laborers. In the 1930s, most of the slave laborers were kept out of sight from the German civilians. The camps were in other countries, or if on German soil the public was not involved with the daily activities of the prisoners. In fact, until 1941-42 the majority of the slave laborers were not Jewish.

Increased need for ever more war production drove the need for more slave labor, so more camps were build. Many where built next to factories in the heart of German towns. Now, the German people saw up close what their country was doing to some of its citizens, as well as the citizen-slave laborers of almost every other country in Europe. It was ugly and they did not like it. Of course, they had been told for years that the Jewish prisoners were the worst of all the slaves.

In the spring of 1945 Germany was near collapse, but it did not want the slave laborers to fall into the hands of the advancing Allies. The Nazis started marching the prisoners back and forth across Germany and murdered tens of thousands of prisoners on these marches. Daniel Blatman has written the book The Death Marches - The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide. The book will make you sick when you read what the Germans got away with in the last days of WWII. Real “Sgt. Schultz” type soldiers marched the prisoners until they could not walk another step, then they shot them.

The German people were now seeing these horrible looking prisoners in their own hometowns, moving as the walking-dead on their city streets. The German public knew the prisoners would be liberated in a matter of days and these oppressed, newly freed prisoners might turn their hatred and wrath onto the “innocent” local people. Consequently, the locals helped murder the prisoners. If they saw some ragged person looking for food in a German village, they just shot them. If they saw a female prisoner they might sexually abuse her and then shoot her.

Round up a few loose prisoners, have them dig a mass grave, have them shove the dead they just shot into the grave and then shoot the grave diggers. No witnesses that way. Of course, there was always someone up the chain of command they could say ordered them to kill. The truth is the “Sgt. Schultzs” of springtime 1945 had not been ordered to summarily execute prisoners. It was a matter of convenience for them and the local German villagers.

My grandfather’s last name was Schultz. I am only too happy his family left Germany in the 1700s. By the way, actor John Banner, who played Sgt. Schultz and Werner Klemperer who played Col. Klink were both Jews who fled Europe in the 1930s to get away from the Nazis and what they were about to do to six million Jews and six more million other political prisoners. There were a lot of “Sgt. Schultz(s)” in 1945, saying “I know nothing-nothing,” when in fact not only did they know, but they themselves murdered and murdered, time and again.

Back to Naval & Military History

Copyright 2012, 2016 by Major Van Harl and/or All rights reserved.