Gruesome Harvest Book Review
Gruesome Harvest by Ralph Franklin Keeling was originally published in 1947 by the Institute of American Economics in Chicago. Although World War II was history’s most catastrophic and destructive war, this book documents that the death and suffering of Germans increased after the end of the war. What lay ahead for Germany after the war was, as Time magazine later phrased it, “history’s most terrifying peace.”
Gruesome Harvest documents in graphic detail the rape of German women after the war. For example, a letter written by a priest smuggled out of Breslau, Germany on September 3, 1945, stated:
In unending succession were girls, women and nuns violated…Not merely in secret, in hidden corners, but in the sight of everybody, even in churches, in the streets and in public places were nuns, women and even eight-year-old girls attacked again and again. Mothers were violated before the eyes of their children; girls in the presence of their brothers; nuns, in the sight of pupils, were outraged again and again to their very death and even as corpses.”
When Russian soldiers “liberated” Danzig they promptly liberated all the women of their virtue and chastity. A Russian soldier told the Danzig women to seek shelter in the Catholic cathedral to protect them from the rapes. After hundreds of women and girls were securely inside, the Russian soldiers entered and “playing the organ and ringing the bells, kept up a foul orgy through the night, raping all the women, some more than 30 times.” A Catholic pastor in Danzig stated,
“They even violated eight-year-old girls and shot boys who tried to shield their mothers.”
Gruesome Harvest also documents the intentional starvation of the German people after World War II. Keeling in his book quotes Senator Homer E. Capehart of Indiana, Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, Senator Albert W. Hawkes of New Jersey, American journalist and radio broadcaster Dorothy Thompson, British publisher Victor Gollancz, and many other people to support his claim.
The devastation of Germany by total warfare cast serious doubt on Germany’s postwar ability to survive. Never before in history had a nation’s life-sustaining resources been so thoroughly demolished. Returning from victory in Europe, General Omar Bradley stated,
“I can tell you that Germany has been destroyed utterly and completely.”
The German people put up a brave struggle for existence despite the harsh conditions. Malcolm Muir, publisher of Business Week, stated after a five-week tour of Europe, including Germany:
“The Germans are making every effort to help themselves…It is not unusual to see a milch [dairy] cow hitched to a plow, a woman leading the cow and a small boy guiding the plow.”
However, despite the best efforts of German farmers, the food situation became critical and then catastrophic.
Millions of Germans were also sent to the Soviet Union to be used as slave labor. According to the International Red Cross (ICRC), France also had 680,000 former German soldiers slaving for her in August 1946. Of this number, 475,000 had been captured by the United States and turned over to the French for forced labor. After 320,000 German prisoners had been delivered, the French returned 2,474 of them to the United States because they were severely malnourished and unfit for work. Associated press photographer Henry Griffin, who had taken pictures of the corpses piled in Buchenwald and Dachau, said of these returned Germans:
“The only difference I can see between these men and those corpses is that here they are still breathing.”
The ICRC also reported that in August 1946 Great Britain was using 460,000 Germans as slave laborers; the United States 284,000; Yugoslavia 80,000; Belgium 48,000; Czechoslovakia 45,000; Luxembourg 4,000; and Holland 1,300. Keeping such large numbers of Germans away from their families was a direct attack against the German home and family.
The ICRC condemned the Allied slave labor system:
The United States, Britain, and France, nearly a year after peace, are violating International Red Cross agreements they solemnly signed in 1929.
Investigation at Geneva headquarters today disclosed that the transfer of German war prisoners captured by the American army to French and British authorities for forced labor is nowhere permitted in the statutes of the International Red Cross, which is the highest authority on the subject in the world.
Although thousands of the former German soldiers are being used in the hazardous work of clearing mine fields, sweeping sea mines, destroying surplus ammunition and razing shattered buildings, the Geneva Convention expressly forbids employing prisoners “in any dangerous labor or in the transport of any material used in warfare…”
“The American delivery of German prisoners to the French and British for forced labor already is being cited by the Russians as justification for them to retain German army captives for as long as they are able to work,” an International Red Cross official admitted. “The bartering of captured enemy soldiers by the victors throws the world back to the dark ages—when feudal barons raided adjoining duchies to replenish their human livestock.”
Keeling was highly critical of the Allied denazification program after the war. The Allied program of denazification set out to ruin the lives of millions of Germans simply because the Allies thought that Germans who joined the National Socialist party had made a political mistake. The denazification decrees authorized in the Potsdam Agreement were inconsistent with the Potsdam declaration that “discrimination on the grounds of…political opinion shall be abolished.” Potsdam permanently dissolved the National Socialist party and its affiliated organizations and institutions. The Potsdam Agreement commanded that
“Nazi leaders, influential Nazi supporters and high officials of Nazi organizations and institutions…shall be arrested and interned” and that all lesser Nazis “shall be removed from public and semi-public office and former positions of responsibility in private undertakings.”
Gruesome Harvest also discusses the mass expulsion of German expellees after the war. The surviving expelled Germans continued to face unimaginable hardships and suffering in Germany after the war. This is because, as Brig. Gen. William H. Draper, Jr. reported, the industrial output in the American and other zones was “far below that necessary to maintain the minimum standard of living.” Many of the surviving expellees died in Germany after the war. Millions more of the expellees were impoverished, without the assets they had lost in the expelling countries necessarily enriching those who took possession of them.
Keeling commented on the hypocrisy of the forced expulsion of Germans under the Potsdam Agreement:
Potsdam calls for annulment of all Nazi laws which established discrimination on grounds of race and declares: “No such discrimination, whether legal, administrative or otherwise, shall be tolerated.” Yet these forced migrations of German populations are predicated squarely on rank racial discrimination. The people affected are mostly wives and children of simple peasants, workers, and artisans whose families have lived for centuries in the homes from which they have now been ejected, and whose only offense is their German blood. How “orderly and humane” their banishment has been is now a matter of record.
I recommend Gruesome Harvest to anyone wanting to learn more about the brutal postwar treatment of Germans after World War II. Along with books by Alfred de Zayas, James Bacque, and the book Orderly and Humane by R. M. Douglas, Gruesome Harvest is an important book that documents the inhumane Allied postwar treatment of the German people.
 Keeling, Ralph Franklin, Gruesome Harvest: The Allies’ Postwar War Against the German People, Torrance, CA: Institute for Historical Review, 1992, p. XII.
 Ibid., p. 58.
 Ibid., p. 1.
 Ibid., pp. 67-68.
 Ibid., pp. 22-24.
 Ibid., pp. 25-28.
 Ibid., pp. 31-32.
 Ibid., p. 13.