Double standards are obviously a big deal in most written and oral histories. You would think that it is about the truth and admitting mistakes when looking back but it is not. Yesterday I read in an English newspaper that the German guards at Auschwitz were summary executed by the American troops. There were no trial and further explanations needed, they were lined up against the nearest wall and executed. Now you can understand why. Anyone who saw Auschwitz in 1945 or pictures thereof would be angry enough to react. It is not a new piece of history for me as the events are well known and there are many more where Allied soldiers committed war crimes. Of course double standards apply and for many decades this was not even mentioned in polite company.
During the Second World War the Germans recruited many thousands of men to fight communism on the Eastern Front. These men, all volunteers, were incorporated in the Waffen SS or armed wing of the SS. Some of the divisions became very famous or infamous depending on where you stand. They fought hard and bitterly. Most reading here would not know that the last Knight's Cross (a high military award for bravery) was won by a Frenchman, a member of the Charlemagne Division finding themselves right outside the Fuhrer Bunker fighting Soviet soldiers.
It is safe to say that this division had nothing to do with the concentration camps and they would not even have known what happened at the concentration camps or that it was the British who started the concept. Yep, back in 1901 during the Second Anglo Boer War one Lord Kitchener had the great idea of destroying farms and herding the women and children and their servants into concentration camps to deny support for the marauding Boer Commandos. Yep, and thirty thousand women and children died in those camps and it caused Apartheid in later years. Did they ever apologise? Nope, said it was not done on purpose (another crap legal argument) and unlike a certain liberal US presidential candidate, it does matter. They did die and so it is. That same Kitchener later became famous as the figure of the 1915 "I want you" recruiting posters. Being also a suspected homosexual that really is rather sinister to be honest, I for one would have run away.
It is also a non-argument that a soldier captured in uniform must be treated according to the Genève Conventions, something the Allies except the Soviet Union signed. That means not being executed without trial, medical attention, food and water. A spy has no such protection, by the way, and can be executed which shows you the value of a uniform during war times. Yet, if we go a bit west, to France, you will find a scene where four members of the German SS Charlemagne Division surrendered to the Free French Army. They were brought to a famous French general called Leclerc and asked why are they, being Frenchmen, in German uniform? They asked why he, general Leclerc is in British Army uniform (the Allies supported the Free French with equipment)? The result was all four of them being executed on the spot.
It was another war crime committed by the "good guys" and there are many more examples. Fair enough, a lot of things happen in wartime which is rather bad and should be left alone. I also know what you are thinking...most would now say but "the German did worse, you know they did this too and often also" and quote the well-known instances where indeed war crimes were committed, not only by the SS but also the German Army.
From a legal viewpoint you are talking crap. One of the major legal rules of the Nuremberg War Tribunal was exactly this, the denial of the "tu quoque" principle in law. In other words, the German and later Japanese defendants could not defend themselves by stating truthfully "yeah we did that but so did you and since we both have dirty hands it is highly unfair of you to take us to trial, what is good for one is good for the other."
This rule is still standing in law today - you cannot wash your hands or say that you acted under orders. It comes down to two wrongs don't make a right. Now why did the learned judges at Nuremberg denied the use of the "tu quoque" principle? Well they had serious moral high ground problems and it came out during the Donitz trials because the German U-boats sank merchantmen without warning. According to the rules of war the merchant ships should have been stopped and searched for contraband and if found it could be confiscated or destroyed, hence here sunk, hence they committed a war crime and their commander, Karl Doenitz was accused of being a war criminal.
As everyone knew those were archaic rules before the submarine came into being and last properly used by the Confederate Navy in 1863 where you think of the splendid cruise of the CSS Alabama under command of Captain Raphael Semmes (if you can ever read his book "Service Afloat" which free on the internet, do so). The Alabama took no less than 65 prizes before being cornered and sunk by the USS Kearsage next to the coast of France. We even have an Afrikaans folk song about the CSS Alabama and take note; it was not a slaver as some of our less than highly educated politicians believe. With a surface raider you can stop a ship and search it. With submarines you cannot and the US Navy did not even try. They sank the entire Japanese merchant fleet in exactly the same fashion as did the German Navy attacked the Allied merchantmen. A classic example of "tu quoque" if ever and Donitz received a letter as such from a high ranking American Admiral to this effect. He could not use it to defend himself so the double standard reigned and it is a disgrace in law.
So why am I mentioning this and the execution of German soldiers by Allied soldiers without trial? Because it is a war crime and stop trying to explain it with arguments which comes down to legal crap, it will not stand no matter how much finger pointing you want to do. We can learn from history, if you read my books, even the fiction ones, you will see I keep on saying look at history for answers. There really is nothing much which is new in life. You getting divorced, yeah, happened before, millions of times. You have pathetic government, yeah nothing new; will happen again I am sure. And so it goes on.
My point here is there are always double standards and you have to be really careful not to become just another finger pointer. It bothers me when I see men and women looking down on others because they have a nice job and have not yet lost their income. You have no idea when that will happen to you and if a white man in this country you will have a 7% chance on find a job again. It is a slow death and you will find your so called friends now avoid you like the plague and most probably your family too. I made a comment yesterday, "it is easy to be liberal and understanding if you are well fed and has hope." It was after I read an article by an Afrikaner liberal trying to say how great things are in South Africa when it is most certainly not. I get that too, when a man sees his dreams become a nightmare of corruption and pathetic leadership only able to blame a system which ended twenty one years ago already he has to apply double standards to justify his decisions in life. Yep, I feel pity for such people. It is easier to execute the poor sods in front of you than to look at root causes. Double standards are so easy it is frightening.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a practicing commercial law attorney for eight years. He also wrote several books on business, law, counter terrorism and security issues. He is a widower and lives in Bloemfontein, South Africa.