The pitiful condition of the men who fought for Germany evokes no scrap of sympathy from the civilians, writes Stanley Nash in The Star. He has recently returned from a visit to one of the centres in Berlin where the British tend these broken men before sending them home.
The attitude of the Berlin people, particularly the women, to the crippled, ailing and ill-nourished German soldiers now streaming from the East is puzzling British soldiers. Many of these white-faced men struggling along on crutches or dragging weary feet wrapped in sacking must have left this city with good wishes showered on them by civilian friends.
How bitter has been their disillusionment on returning. No German hand is extended to them in friendship, no kindly glance cast at them by their fellow countrymen. Girls wrapped in their thick coats avert their faces when they pass these human wrecks on the pavement. This studied indifference to the sufferings of the menfolk who fought for them is so obvious that all visitors notice it.
I have just been to one of the collection centres in Berlin where the British house, feed and give medical attention to these broken men before dispersing them to their homes. It was not a pretty sight. Many of the men are dying when they reach the centre. They just shamble in, bent and spiritless, with faces from which suffering has wiped every expression but that of hopeless misery. German girl clerks take particulars of each man with indifference.
Standing at the gate of this camp were two frauleins, aged about twenty. Both were fairly well dressed, and they appeared to be directing their charm on busy, unresponsive British soldiers in the barbed wire compound. I did not see them bestow one sympathetic glance on the men in field-grey uniform.
Some of the men are as bad as the women. I saw one well-dressed fellow deliberately turn his back on a crippled German soldier who had merely asked him for directions. "Personally", said a British officer to me, "I have no use for Hitler's ex-soldiers, but one must admit that most of them fought very hard for Germany, and it is odd that they should be accorded this treatment by their own civilians."
It may be that civilians have wished to impress the Allies by cold-shouldering the men who fought for Hitler. If so it is an inhuman method of currying favour. Or it may be that the Berliners, short of food and fuel, can think only of themselves.