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Lars G Petersson, 'Broken Oath'

Pen Press Publishers 2004; ISBN 1 9047 5412 0

The fate of those brave men who deserted the German army during the Nazi dictatorship, and what became of them after WW2, is something which few people know much about. That these circa 20,000 deserters were either shot, or placed in labour battalions was bad enough. Yet having been branded with a “criminal record” for their war resistance, they suffered more fiscal, social, and employment discrimination once they were back within civilian society. As former “criminals” they were restricted in the kind of employment they could undertake and expressly denied a war pension. In Broken Oath, Lars G Petersson focuses on what befell three of these deserters and how they were shamefully treated as “ex-criminals” once the Nazis had fallen from power. This is starkly contrasted with the fate of many ex-Nazis who came back into powerful positions within the German Federal government and in particular those who acted as Nazi military judges. Military judges during the Nazi period took on the role of both investigating and prosecuting officer – judge, jury, and executioner. One of these officers, Erich Scwinge, also framed the laws which he administered in such trials – something like a prototype Judge Dredd! Yet men like this were allowed to prosper after the Allied victory, whilst conscientious objectors were rejected by the incoming authorities. While not being a definitive work on this subject, Broken Oath does raise some important questions about one of the many shameful aspects of the post-war relations between the Allies, the new German government and the former Nazi regime.