National Geographic : 1945 Jul
War's Wake in the Rhineland Bert Briandt from Arne GI's Provide Music for a Merry-go-round at a Belgian Carnival In Verviers, near the German Rhineland border, joyous citizens gave their liberators a wild reception. These two are enjoying their last chance to play before plunging into enemy territory. The German popula tion of near-by Eupen, also in Belgium, gave conquering Yanks a chill welcome (page 4). The Rhinelanders are bewildered. Until a few weeks before V-E Day most of them hon estly thought that Germany was winning the war. Such had been the effect of Goebbels' propaganda on the average citizen (page 10). Suddenly they heard of Allied tanks only a few miles away, and a few moments later the tanks were rumbling and belching fire through their streets. But they also are mad-mad at Hitler, mad at the Allies, mad at everybody in the world except themselves. There are, of course, exceptions-doubtless lots of exceptions. In nearly every town it has been possible to find some responsible citizens willing to cooperate. There has been from the first a strict ban on any fraternization between the populace and the Allied soldiers. Fines ranging from $50 to $125 have been imposed for engaging in casual conversations with Rhinelanders; so the soldier has not had much opportunity to judge his unwilling hosts except from neces sarily superficial observations. These have not been favorable.* Apparently, aside from the disruption of life * See "Americans Help Liberated Europe Live Again," by Frederick Simpich, Jr., NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC MAGAZINE, June, 1945. due to bombing, the Rhinelanders suffered few hardships during the war. They are well fed and well dressed. Huge stores of wines and liquors have been uncovered in almost every town. In one small city an American division found itself in unexpected possession of 250, 000 bottles of high-quality champagne, pre sumably brought from France by German troops. There also were about 50 hogsheads of cognac. Because of strict antilooting or ders sternly enforced, the supply was left un touched. But messes notably improved after entering Germany, because we overran Ger man Army food dumps. Contrasts in Belgian Welcome The First Army's advance from the western border of the Reich to the Rhine started on September 11, 1944, when, late in the after noon, spearheads crossed the Luxembourg line north of Trier. Within 24 hours another group crossed the Belgian line on September 12, near the small town of Rotgen (page 13). With a couple of minor exceptions, these sol diers became the first enemy troops to step on western German soil for more than a cen tury-that is, under actual war conditions.