13 May 1945 German deserter execution
The 13 May 1945 German deserter execution occurred five days after the capitulation of Adolf Hitler's Wehrmacht, when a court martial of captured German officers imposed a death sentence upon each of two deserters of the Kriegsmarine, Bruno Dorfer and Rainer Beck. The trial occurred in an abandoned Ford Motor Company assembly plant outside Amsterdam, which at the time was a Canadian-run prisoner-of-war camp.
A German firing squad, supplied with captured German rifles and a three-ton truck by the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, and escorted by Canadian Captain Robert K. Swinton, carried out the sentence.
In an analysis of the incident the historian Chris Madsen notes that faced with the huge task of disarming and evacuating the German armed forces in the Netherlands under discipline and without disorder, the Canadian military authorities felt obliged to work with their German counterparts. As a matter of mutual convenience the German command hierarchy was allowed to continue to function following the surrender, and this included the sentencing and execution of individuals such as Dorfer and Beck.
In popular culture
- The incident provided much of the material for the final episode of Secret Army, a BBC drama series about the Belgian resistance in World War II.
- The Italian-Yugoslavian film The Fifth Day of Peace (Italian title: Dio è con noi;1969) dramatised the story of the two German sailors.
- The 2006 Dutch film Black Book by director Paul Verhoeven includes the execution of a major character which is directly (but loosely) based on this incident.
- Chris Madsen, 'Victims of Circumstance: The Execution of German Deserters by Surrendered German Troops Under Canadian Control in Amsterdam, May 1945 Archived 2012-10-08 at the Wayback Machine.' article on canadianmilitaryhistory.ca website, viewed 2012-11-25
- The Fifth Day of Peace on IMDb
- Article about Rainer Beck on German Wikipedia
- Menschlich bedrückend, Article in Der Spiegel magazine 12 September 1966 about the incident (in German).
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