April 10, 2015

1943. The Wehrmacht's Lice Epidemic

Lousy Aryans in Russia
German 4th Army prisoners being marched through the streets of Moscow after Operation Bagration. July 17, 1944 (source)
The parentheses indicate portions that did not pass Soviet censors for military or propaganda reasons.

(For more, see the complete 1943 Moscow reports.)
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

June 27, 1943

The German troops in Russia form the lousiest army in the world. I mean that literally. The one thing about them that really shocks the Russian fighting man is the number of lice on the average captured German soldier.

This condition was particularly bad during the Russian winter. One of the big differences between the Red Army and Hitler's Wehrmacht is that the Russian soldier knows how to keep clean and still protect himself from the cold. The ordinary German soldier is so busy keeping from (getting killed here in the Soviet Union) dying that he doesn't bother too much about personal hygiene. Consequently, he gets lousy.

(The Red Army man, on the other hand, gets up in the morning and washes with snow, even at forty below zero. Believe me, I've seen it at Stalingrad and Rzhev.)

The German command is trying to combat the louse that infests the invincible, Aryan Nazi soldier. They are using all kinds of propaganda. Soap is scarce in the German army, and propaganda has not been a very good substitute. (Bulletins that I have seen in captured German dugouts warn against the louse as a major enemy. It seems that the lice in Russia are definitely non-Aryan.)

One German headquarters tried to raise hygiene standards by ridiculing particularly lousy units. This headquarters issued a special cross to an unclean squadron. It was a big wooden affair in the shape of an iron cross, but instead of a swastika in the center there is a very life-like louse with legs akimbo. This cross was found over one German dugout on the Moscow front. (The Russian command had some trouble getting a Red Army man to inspect this dugout.)

But seriously, the (Russian) louse has turned out to be a very valuable ally to the United Nations. The German troops have run on to typhus in this country, and it has been a problem for the Nazi medical corps. And a soldier can't keep his mind on fighting if he's busy scratching.