As mentioned when first I blogged about scratch building this barn, I have more to say about its role in my new diorama. The historical context for this project is near the end of World War II, in the European Theater of Operations.
Germany’s military situation as the Allies encroached on its territory from the west, and the Soviet armies from the east, was exacerbated by the immense losses of personnel and weapons its armies had suffered. One effort meant to at least blunt the enemies’ advance was the establishment of a kind of home guard force called the “Volkssturm” (lit. “People’s Storm”), which was formed in September 1944.
Volkssturm units were comprised of conscripted males between the ages of 16 and 60, who weren’t already serving in the armed forces. They received only a few days’ training, and were typically armed with vintage German weapons, or captured ones from conquered nations. They wore their own clothes, with only an armband on the left sleeve proclaiming their status. Volkssturm “troops” posed more of a risk to German civilians than to the soldiers they opposed. There were instances where local Nazi party officials ordered Volkssturm men to kill their real or imagined foes.
To the barn I added a couple of Volkssturm posters I found the internet, sizing them appropriately. Such propaganda posters, meant to buck up morale, were liberally plastered on the walls of buildings throughout Germany.
The somber scene of a hanged Volkssturm volunteer shown above portrays the end which an untold number of its members met in the chaotic final months of the war. Any soldier believed to have surrendered, or otherwise shown cowardice, risked being tried by a kangaroo court, then executed, often by hanging. Placards hung around these men’s necks proclaimed their supposed crimes. The placard in my diorama reads something like, “The one who refuses to fight, must die!”
As someone with an interest in military history I am well acquainted with the enthusiasm shown by many people, who by no means are all neo-Nazis, for the Third Reich. You might be surprised at how many German tanks and aircraft, recovered from swamps or other venues where they were abandoned by their crews, have been restored to running order. This takes place in France, Poland, and Russia, nations whose populations were victims of Nazi cruelty.
Just to make it clear, I am not among those that harbor respect for Germany’s armed forces, let alone its political system, between 1933 and 1945. This history must be remembered, if only to prevent its happening again. I intend never to model a scene that shows the Wehrmacht as anything but defeated. Thankfully, for decades the German people have worked hard to put those 12 years into the proper context. Ironically, though, the Japanese continue to portray themselves as victims of the war they prosecuted in the Pacific.