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June 5, 2013

Memory from Nazi Germany and Images of the Trial of Bradley Manning

By Kevin Anthony Stoda

Nazi-led Total War (1943-1945) under Goebbels and Hitler brought only further starvation and destruction to his homeland--even after Thoelking had been thrown in the brig and he had been threatened with charges of aiding and abetting the cause of the enemy. Why should not a soldier (Manning) speak the truth about war to his comrades and the powerful military brass in such an instance? Likewise, why should soldiers be prohi


by Kevin Stoda, Historian & Human Rights Activist

I am   listening to news right now about the military trial of Bradley Manning, which is taking place in my homeland, the USA.  Bradley Manning   is on trial for "aiding the enemy"--an incredibly broad statute that can be abused--and has been misused historically by horrible regimes to put people--including soldiers--in prison. 

At times the charge of aiding an enemy has led to execution of the person who has been charged with "aiding the enemy".  Theoretically, Bradley Manning can receive the death penalty from the military court he is now in. In many situations, like in the Bradley Manning case, the charge of "aiding the enemy" has actually been used by authorities to simply to make others shut-up, to make soldiers and citizens stop complaining, and stop being critical of the government.

Let me give you a real example of the way the Nazi regime and military brass abused the charge of "aiding the enemy".  This true tale was shared to me by an aging farmer whom I met in northern Germany on his own farm about three decades ago.

Vignette of Nazi Era Military Courtroom

The name of the farmer's last name whom I visited in Germany some decades ago was Thoelking. His daughter, Monica Thoelking, had gone to my alma mater, BethelCollege  to study English a few years earlier.  A few years later, I myself studied in Germany starting.  In late 1986, I visited the Thoelking family farm.[1]  

One afternoon, just after Christmas, I went out for a walk around the edges of the family farm with one aging German veteran from WWII, the father of Monika Thoelking.  As Herr Thoelking and I walked around his farmstead, we chatted about his travels over the decades in prior times to both America and England.  Under way, Herr Thoelking also took time to share about war, prison, and military trials in WWII.

I should preface the vignette here by noting that during the Nazi-regime, many German farmers did not necessarily have to serve in many of the most dangerous military roles during the Nazis because   farmers   had been an important factor in the Nazis rise to power. Farmers were considered Hitler's political base, and the ideal of the German family farm was part of the nation's Nazi mythology.  

Herr Thoelking, this particular German farmer's son, lived near Cloppenburg in the plains of northern Germany.  Thoelking was one of the lucky farmer-soldiers who was able to remain on or near his father's farm during WWII, i.e.  while simply doing training and war preparation with local militias. (This would be like many of our USA-farmers today now doing training with a local ROTC.  Just as in the USA today, the   ROTC-like   troops near Cloppenburg could have been sent overseas, but many usually stayed in the home front for much of WWII.)

That particular winter afternoon in Northern Germany, Herr Thoelking mentioned to me that he had learned to know many British soldiers at the end of WWII, especially as he himself was initially imprisoned for many months at the end of the war in the British-occupied sector of North Saxony.  (At that time he had first learned to speak some English.)  Herr Thoelking added that he had been released from British prison camps in early autumn 1945 to help with the potato harvest. 

Interestingly, Herr Thoelking soon revealed,  he had also been in prison as a soldier under the Nazi regime--just two years earlier.  In short, Herr Thoelking noted that he had also been in prison under Hitler.

Herr Thoelking explained that in 1943, news of Italy's Surrender to the Allied forces arrived quietly in Germany.  In response to the news,  soldier Thoelking had  made the mistake of openly speaking his feelings.  He was young, upset, and  brash.   Herr Thoelking had muttered loudly for all his comrades to hear, "Das wird wohl das Ende sein!" In English this means simply,  "That's it. That's the end.  It's over!"  In short, he was revealing publicly before his comrades what many hungering Germans already knew, namely that total war would not  lead to victory. The retaking of the continent by the Allies had begun.

Immediately, a by-the-book German officer had had Herr Thoelking arrested, and court-martial proceedings were begun against him for Herr Thoelking's ostensibly having uttered treasonous statements about the future of the Fatherland.  His words had aided the enemy.

Luckily, as Thoelking was the elder son of a local farmer, he was imprisoned near his home in Cloppenburg.  Soon, with the help of friends in the military nearby and with help of a local judge who-already-knew-his-family intervention in his case was successful.  The charges against her Thoelking were soon dropped by the actions of a local judge who knew the Thoelking family.  Upon his release, however, Thoelking was forced to continue serving on local military patrols till the Allied forces arrived in Northern Germany and capture his unit more than a full-year later. 

In short, two years of Nazi-led Total War (1943-1945) under Goebbels and Hitler brought only further starvation and destruction to his homeland--even after Thoelking had been thrown in the brig and he had been threatened with charges of aiding and abetting the cause of the enemy .  Why should not a soldier speak the truth about war to his comrades and the powerful military brass in such an instance?  Likewise, why should soldiers be prohibited from sharing or leaking facts about crimes and reckless actions to the press in the time of war in a country, like the USA--which claims to be better than the Nazi regime in so many ways?

Bradley Manning

According to Aaron Mate and the press today (June 2013)  in the USA, "The military trial of Army whistleblower Bradley Manning is underway. Manning is accused of providing more than 700,000 secret U.S. government documents and cables to WikiLeaks, the largest disclosure of state secrets in U.S. history. Manning faces more than 20 charges, including violating the Espionage Act and aiding the enemy. He has already pled guilty to 10 lesser charges of misusing classified material.The trial began Monday with the defense and prosecution presenting starkly contrasting accounts. Manning's defense lawyer, David Coombs, said Manning wanted to reveal the human costs of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Coombs said, quote, "[Bradley Manning] believed this information showed how we value human life. He was troubled by that. He believed that if the American public saw it, they too would be troubled."

All-in-all, evidence shows that Manning's decision to leak what amounts to less than 1% of all federal documents classified on a daily basis by the Obama regime was based on thoughtful conscientious decision making.[2]   He is a hero and an example for all whistle-blowers and real citizen soldiers anywhere. This contrasts significantly with the previous vignette or incident from 1943 concerning Soldier Thoelking in Nazi-Controlled Germany.  Thoelking simply spoke out and told the truth from his gut and with anguish.  Nonetheless,  Thoelking was allowed to walk under the Nazi military courts while our now-a-days  USA Defense Department refuses to stop punishing the young Bradley Manning, even though, Manning has a post-My Lei Massacre set of American military courts backing him up in his very just and rationale decision to release documents that revealed that the USA was acting recklessly and dangerously in Iraq less than a decade ago. 

Marjorie Cohn has explained that there are multiple reasons why Manning was almost forced to speak out and claim "Foul" to the entire system of War in Iraq and Afghanistan. Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild.[3]  She is also co-author of "Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent". 

In her recent article "Bradley Manning's Legal Duty to Expose War Crimes", Cohn has detailed that for these following reasons soldiers, like Manning have  needed  to speak up--but have been kowtowed into doing nothing.

(1) Manning fulfilled his legal duty to report war crimes. He complied with his legal duty to obey lawful orders but also his legal duty to disobey unlawful orders. Section 499 of the Army Field Manual states, "Every violation of the law of war is a war crime." The law of war is contained in the Geneva Conventions. 

(2) Article 85 of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions describes making the civilian population or individual civilians the object of attack as a grave breach.  This meant that any crime needed to be prosecuted but to-date the DOD has not prosecuted nor has the federal government.  Manning spoke up.

(3) Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requires that the wounded be collected and cared for. Article 17 of the First Protocol states that the civilian population "shall be permitted, even on their own initiative, to collect and care for the wounded." That article also says, "No one shall be harmed . . . for such humanitarian acts." The firing on rescuers portrayed in the "Collateral Murder" video violates these provisions of Geneva. Manning was the one who released this video because the DOD was hiding it from those in courts asking for it.

(4) Section 27-10 of the Army Field Manual states that "maltreatment of dead bodies" is a war crime. When the Army jeep drove over the dead body[in one of the videos released by Manning], it violated this provision. 

(5) Enshrined in the US Army Subject Schedule No. 27-1 is "the obligation to report all violations of the law of war." At his guilty plea hearing, Manning explained that he had gone to his chain of command and asked them to investigate the "Collateral Murder" video and other "war porn," but his superiors refused. "I was disturbed by the response to injured children," Manning stated. He was also bothered by the soldiers depicted in the video who "seemed to not value human life by referring to [their targets] as "dead bastards.' "

(6) The Uniform Code of Military Justice sets forth the duty of a service member to obey lawful orders. But that duty includes the concomitant duty to disobey unlawful orders. An order not to reveal classified information that contains evidence of war crimes would be an unlawful order. Manning had a legal duty to reveal the commission of war crimes.

American leaders and the American military need to be brought to justice for these crimes.  The trial of Manning has now reached farcical stage or kangaroo court stage.  American's and media need to get the government and DOD in line with basic rules and principles that they fail to follow in a so-called post-Nazi planet.


[1] I wrote of this meeting with veterans of WWII in Germany, Japan and the USA in this lengthy article, called "30 Minutes with Ojii-san", at


For more on the Nazi regime and what life was like for farmers and those living in the countryside, download this:http://search.yahoo.com/r/_ylt=A0oG7j1R265RARgA_TtXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE0cWtzZGRmBHNlYwNzcgRwb3MDMgRjb2xvA2FjMgR2dGlkA1FJMDM3XzE2Nw--/SIG=12rbc87fp/EXP=1370442705/**http%3a//cclayton1.edublogs.org/files/2011/12/The-Nazi-regime-2k3jav7.pdf

[2] "Coombs [Mannings Lawyer] responded [to the DOD's prosecution in court yesterday] by arguing that Manning was selective, saying, quote, "He had access to literally hundreds of millions of documents as an all-source analyst, and these were the documents that he released. And he released these documents because he was hoping to make the world a better place'".

"The trial is expected to run to the end of August. Supporters of Bradley Manning gathered outside FortMeade as the trial opened."http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/4/bradley_manning_trial_wikileaks_lawyer_sees

[3] Marjorie Cohn is author of  "The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse", as well as "CowboyRepublic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law". Cohn describes only a small number of the crimes that Manning was forced to speak out about in "Bradley Manning's Legal Duty to Expose War Crimes" at


Submitters Website: http://eslkevin.wordpress.com/2009/07/09/3-big-paradigms-hol

Submitters Bio:

KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global issues.

"I am from Kansas so I also use the pseudonym 'Kansas' and 'alone' when I write and publish.- I-keep two blogs--one with BLOGGER and one with WORDPRESS.- My writings range from reviews to editorials or to travel observations.- I also make recommendations related to policy--having both a-strong background in teaching foreign languages and degrees in teaching in history and the social sciences.--As a Midwesterner, I also write on religion and living out ones faith whether it be as a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist perspective."

On my own home page, I also provide information for language learners and travelers http://www.geocities.com/eslkevin/-,- http://the-teacher.blogspot.com/-& http://alone.gnn.tv/