Given up for Dead: American GI's in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga


During World War II, prisoners of war were required by the Geneva Conventions to be treated according to established rules. But in late 1944, when a large number of Americans were captured or surrendered during the Battle of the Bulge and elsewhere, their captors had different plans. Those who were Jewish or from some other "undesirable" ethnic or religious group were separated from their fellow captives and sent to the brutal slave-labor camp at Berga. Until now, the story of what these men endured has been a ...

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Given Up For Dead: American GIs in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga

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During World War II, prisoners of war were required by the Geneva Conventions to be treated according to established rules. But in late 1944, when a large number of Americans were captured or surrendered during the Battle of the Bulge and elsewhere, their captors had different plans. Those who were Jewish or from some other "undesirable" ethnic or religious group were separated from their fellow captives and sent to the brutal slave-labor camp at Berga. Until now, the story of what these men endured has been a well-guarded secret.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A grunt's-eye view of a terrible chapter in the last months of WWII: the enslavement of captured GIs, Jews and gentiles alike, to serve the dying Reich. Inspired by Charles Guggenheim's 2003 PBS documentary on the Berga concentration camp, military historian Whitlock offers an account enriched by the voices of many of the GIs who, captured at the Battle of the Bulge, were spirited away to work in the mines of southeastern Germany. Unfortunately for Whitlock, though, Guggenheim's documentary also nourished Roger Cohen's companion volume, Soldiers and Slaves (p. 96), which is far better on the big-picture complexities of religion, politics and psychology that the soldiers' ordeal involved and is much better written to boot. Still, Whitlock acquits himself reasonably well, and though he slips into ill-advised tough-guyisms ("A Soviet operation known as Bagration . . . was a kick in the German ass. On 15 August, another Allied landing . . . was a knife in the gut. . . ."), he provides useful backstory on the Battle of the Bulge and how the GIs were captured in the first place. The best parts here, though, are straight from the mouths of the inmates. One remembers, for instance, that when the Americans objected to the segregation of Jewish soldiers, a German came back with: Well, after all, don't you "separate blacks from whites in [your] own army?" Another, a Catholic, recounts that the non-Jews among the contingent of GIs sent into slavery could not understand how he had been picked for the duty. "We all had one thing in common, though," he concludes, "we were all 'undesirable.' " A third recalls that the slaves of Berga worked on rations of 400 to 600 calories a day-and, as if that were notbad enough, had to deal with brutal guards. "There were no gas chambers in Berga," one German Jew who had survived Auschwitz and then been moved there noted, "but there were other killings." A worthy effort, though readers will want to turn to Cohen's book first.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465091157
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 323,130
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Flint Whitlock is a former U.S. Army officer who served on active duty from 1965 to 1970, including a tour in Vietnam. He has been a military historian since 1986 and is the author of Soldiers on Skis, The Rock of Anzio, and The Fighting First. He is a regular contributor to World War II magazine and WW II History magazine. He is the president of the newly formed Colorado Military History Museum, Inc. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    U.S. POWS In A Nazi Concentration Camp:Described As a Million Dollar Experience Not Repeatable If Offered 2 Million!,

    Flint Whitlock has done it again! After reading and reviewing "Internal Conflicts" I was glad that the conclusion of that book was based on historical fiction. Quite the contrary, I was horrified that the contents of this book are very real and lurid, with such inhumane acts being inflicted to American prisoners of war that were doled out by barbaric men who in the end were given a slap on the wrist. The history of W. W. II is well known. However, "Given up For Dead" is not about the war, politics or the "Battle of the Bulge." It is about the American prisoners Hitler's forces took in their initial success at this battle, specifically 350 of them. The seven main protagonists that Whitlock used were Morton Brooks, Gerald Daub, Anthony Acevedo, Norman Fellman, Joe Mark, William Shapiro, and the only non Jew, Peter Iosso, who, as Whitlock would later write: "By Christmas (1944-45) they would be fighting for their very lives in struggles of great magnitude. And their fates would be intertwined in ways they never could have imagined." The Battle of the Bulge was the largest battle fought by the Americans in World War Two. 600,000 American troops were involved in the battle. The Americans lost 89,500 men while the Germans lost 100,000 killed, wounded and captured. 19,000 Americans were killed, 47,500 wounded, and 23,000 captured or missing. This book chronicles how Hitler's stooges treated Americans, particularly Jewish G.I.'s in captivity. Hitler's attack was so fast and furious, that many soldiers were captured without even their boots on. Immediately, the Geneva conference was flaunted by the Germans. Joe Mark reported after surrendering: "After capture, we were assembled by the road and Krause shared a K-ration with me. While waiting, the Germans prepared their anti aircraft weapons for transport. A German officer told one of the Americans to help. The American said it was against the Geneva Convention to help. The German said "Ja, Geneva Convention" and shot him." There are several books existent of how Germans were treated as POW's in this country, distributed in camps located in Wisconsin, Texas and New Hampshire, et al. There is no American equivalent as to the beastly treatment American G.I.'s were accorded in Nazi Stalag's, or Nazi sentiment if one was Jewish, Catholic,or "an undesirable" in Concentration Camps, used for slave labor. How many of the original POW's made it home? Who liberated them, and how? During the war crimes trials, were the Nazi's that were guilty of atrocities receive punishment commensurate to their crimes? How much did the "Cold War" of the late 1940's affected the outcome of those trials? Were any of the POW's allowed to testify? Since Flint Whitlock did a follow up of the originally mentioned 7 POW's, did any in this groups suffer from "Survivor Syndrome" or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?" You will have to read "Given Up For Dead" to discover the answer. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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