Bacque was educated at Upper Canada College in Toronto and then the University of Toronto, where he studied history and philosophy graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was a member of Seaton's House, one of the school's boarding houses.
Bacque was a mainstream fiction writer and essayist before turning his attention, in 1989, to the fate of German soldiers held as POWs by the Allies after World War II. His recent works include Dear Enemy (2000), with Richard Matthias Mueller, essays on Germany Then and Now. Bacque had just completed a comic drama for the stage entitled Conrad, about a media mogul in prison, which was scheduled for production on October 2, 2009 at the George Ignatieff Theatre in Toronto. Bacque's latest book, Putting On Conrad, about the experiences of producers trying to put on his play in the face of libel chill, is an amusing satire on Canada's literary establishment.
In Other Losses (1989), Bacque claimed that Allied Supreme Commander Dwight Eisenhower's policies caused the death of 790,000 German captives in internment camps through disease, starvation and cold from 1944 to 1949. In similar French camps some 250,000 more are said to have perished. The International Committee of the Red Cross was refused entry to the camps, Switzerland was deprived of its status as "protecting power" and POWs were reclassified as "Disarmed Enemy Forces" in order to avoid recognition under the Geneva Convention. Bacque argued that this alleged mass murder was a direct result of the policies of the western Allies, who, with the Soviets, ruled as the Military Occupation Government over partitioned Germany from May 1945 until 1949. He laid the blame on Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, saying Germans were kept on starvation rations even though there was enough food in the world to avert the lethal shortage in Germany in 1945–1946.
Academic reviewers question three major aspects of Bacque's work: his claims that there was no post-war food shortage in other European countries; Bacque's estimate of the number of German deaths; and the allegation that Eisenhower was deliberately vindictive. Bacque's critics note many of the German soldiers were sick and wounded at the time of their surrender, and say his work does not place the plight of the German prisoners within the context of the grim situation in Western Europe in 1945 and 1946.
Writing in the Canadian Historical Review, David Stafford called the book "a classic example of a worthwhile investigation marred by polemic and overstatement." R.J. Rummell, a scholar of 20th-century atrocities, has written that "Bacque misread, misinterpreted, or ignored the relevant documents and that his mortality statistics are simply impossible." More recently, writing in the Encyclopedia of Prisoners of War and Internment, S. P. MacKenzie states, "That German prisoners were treated very badly in the months immediately after the war […] is beyond dispute. All in all, however, Bacque's thesis and mortality figures cannot be taken as accurate".
Eisenhower biographer Stephen Ambrose, who helped edit Other Losses, wrote "I quarrel with many of your interpretations, [but] I am not arguing with the basic truth of your discovery" and acknowledged that Bacque had made a "major historical discovery", in the sense that very little attention had hitherto been paid to the treatment of German POWs in Allied hands. He acknowledged he did not now support Bacque's conclusions, but said at the American Military Institute's Annual Meeting in March, 1990:
"Bacque has done some research and uncovered an important story that I, and other American historians, missed altogether in work on Eisenhower and the conclusion of the war. When those millions of Wehrmacht soldiers came into captivity at the end of the war, many of them were deliberately and brutally mistreated. There is no denying this. There are men in this audience who were victims of this mistreatment. It is a story that has been kept quiet."
However, in a 1991 New York Times book review, Ambrose also claimed that
"when scholars do the necessary research, they will find Mr. Bacque's work to be worse than worthless. It is seriously—nay, spectacularly—flawed in its most fundamental aspects. […] Mr. Bacque is wrong on every major charge and nearly all his minor ones. Eisenhower was not a Hitler, he did not run death camps, German prisoners did not die by the hundreds of thousands, there was a severe food shortage in 1945, there was nothing sinister or secret about the "disarmed enemy forces" designation or about the column "other losses." Mr. Bacque's "missing million" were old men and young boys in the Volkssturm (People's Militia) released without formal discharge and transfers of POWs to other allies control areas."
A book-length disputation of Bacque's work, entitled Eisenhower and the German POWs, appeared in 1992, featuring essays by British, American, and German historians.
Despite the criticisms of Bacque's methodology, Stephen Ambrose and Brian Loring Villa, the authors of the chapter on German POW deaths, conceded the Allies were motivated in their treatment of captured Germans by disgust and revenge for German atrocities. They did, however, argue Bacque's casualty figures are far too high, and that policy was set by Allied politicians, not by Eisenhower.
Stephen Ambrose said, "we as Americans can't duck the fact that terrible things happened. And they happened at the end of a war we fought for decency and freedom, and they are not excusable."
Jonathan Osmond, writing in the Journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said:
"Bacque […] has published a corrective to the impression that the Western allies after the Second World War behaved in a civilised manner to the conquered Germans […] It is clear that he has opened up once more a serious subject dominated by the explanations of those in power. Even if two-thirds of the statistical discrepancies exposed by Bacque could be accounted for by the chaos of the situation, there would still be a case to answer."
Osmond also called the book "emotive and journalistic".
One of the historians in support of Bacque was Colonel Ernest F. Fisher, 101st Airborne Division, who in 1945 took part in investigations into allegations of misconduct by U.S. troops in Germany and later became a Senior Historian with the United States Army. In the foreword to the book he states:
"More than five million German soldiers in the American and French zones were crowded into barbed wire cages, many of them literally shoulder to shoulder. The ground beneath them soon became a quagmire of filth and disease. Open to the weather, lacking even primitive sanitary facilities, underfed, the prisoners soon began dying of starvation and disease. Starting in April 1945, the United States Army and the French Army casually annihilated about one million men, most of them in American camps."
Crimes and Mercies
In a subsequent book, Crimes And Mercies (1997), Bacque claimed that Allied policies (particularly Soviet, but with significant numbers in other allied countries) led to the premature deaths of 5.7 million German civilians, 2.5 million ethnic German refugees from Eastern Europe and 1.1 million German P.O.W.s due to Allied starvation and expulsion policies in the five years following World War II.
The book also details the charity work conducted by the Allies, primarily Canada and the United States, crediting it with saving or improving the lives of up to 500 million people around the world in the post war period. This work was led by Herbert Hoover at the behest of President Truman, and by the Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, together with Norman Robertson and Mitchell Sharp. This was the largest relief program ever organized, and expressed the ideals of many of the allied combatants.
Crimes and Mercies met with far less hostility from historians, who acknowledge the deaths of hundreds of thousands or more than one million of German soldiers and civilians working in Soviet captivity, and possibly two million who died in the Flight and expulsion of Germans (1944–1950). However, this figure is under considerable dispute as the lengthy academic critique by Hahn and Hahn (2010) makes plain.
Bibliography: books and selected articles
- The Lonely Ones (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1969) London: Macmillan, 1970. First paperback edition published under the title: Big Lonely (Toronto: new press, 1971). Second paperback edition, #148 in the New Canadian Library series; foreword by D.M.R. Bentley. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1978.
- A Man of Talent (Toronto, new press, 1972). Fiction.
- The Queen Comes to Minnicog (Toronto: Gage, 1979). 177 p. Short stories.
- Our Fathers’ War; A Novel (Toronto: Exile Editions, 2006). 628 pp. A novel of World War II.
Contributions to books
- Kroetsch, Robert, James Bacque, and Pierre Gravel, creation. Toronto: new press, 1970. CONTENTS (James Bacque contributions): "The High Snow," pp. 67–72; "A small Film," 73–80; "Sun and Earth for a Dollar," 81–88; "the truth shall make you wierd [sic]," 88-97; "On the morning of the death of Colonel Alexander Ramsay, O.B.E.," 98-114; "The Nancy Poems," 115–119; "A Conversation with Milton Wilson," 120–146.
- Litteljohn, Bruce M., and Jon Pearce. 1973. Marked by the Wild; An Anthology of Literature shaped by the Canadian Wilderness. [Toronto]: McClelland and Stewart, 1973. Includes excerpt from James Bacque’s The Lonely Ones on pp. 144–147.
- Bailey, Don, and Daile Unruh. 1991. Great Canadian Murder and Mystery Stories. Kingston, Ont: Quarry Press, 1991. Includes James Bacque’s "Desire and Knowledge in Key West," pp. 150–158.
- Kick, Russell. 2003. Abuse your Illusions: The Disinformation Guide to Media Mirages and Establishment Lies. New York: Disinformation Co., 2003. Includes James Bacque’s "A Truth so Terrible: Atrocities against German POWs and civilians during and after WWII," on pp. 261–267.
History: books and selected articles
- James Bacque, "The Last Dirty Secret of World War Two," Saturday Night, v. 204, no. 9, whole no. 3714 (September 1989) 31–38. For related stories, (Sept. 1989) issue, see John Fraser, "Diary: Slow Death Camps," pp. 13–14; also John Gault, "A Story he [Bacque] didn’t Want to Know," pp. 43–46. For the response of readers and former POWs to these allegations, see also "Eisenhower’s Death Camps: Our Readers Kick up a Fuss (cover title)," v. 104, no. 12, whole no. 3717 (Dec. 1989) entitled "Other Losses: Letters," pp. 7–13.
- Other Losses; An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II (Toronto: Stoddart, 1989; London: MacDonald, 1989). Futura paperback (London: MacDonald, 1991); General Paperjack (Don Mills: General, 1991).
- Just Raoul; Adventures in the French Resistance (Toronto: Stoddart, 1990). Also Just Raoul; The Private War Against the Nazis of Raoul Laporterie, Who Saved Over 1,600 Lives in France (Rocklin, CA: Prima, 1992).
- Der geplante Tod; Deutsche Kriegsgefangene in amerikanischen und französischen Lagern 1945–1946. Aus dem Kanadischen übertragen von Sophie und Erwin Duncker Berlin: Ullstein, 1989. Translation of Other Losses. Expanded and revised paperback edition (9th printing), Berlin: Ullstein, 2002.
- Other Losses; The Shocking Truth behind the Mass Deaths of Disarmed German Soldiers and Civilians under General Eisenhower’s Command (Rocklin, CA: Prima, 1992). On cover: Foreword by Dr. Ernest F. Fisher, Jr. Col. A.U.S. (Ret.), formerly a Senior Historian, U.S. Army.
- Verschwiegene Schuld: die alliierte Besatzungspolitik in Deutschland nach 1945. Vorwort von Alfred de Zayas. Übersetzung aus dem Englischen: Hans-Ulrich Seebohm. Frankfurt am Main: Ullstein, 1995. Translation of: Crimes and Mercies. The first edition of Crimes and Mercies; the original English version was published two years later.
- Crimes and Mercies; the Fate of German Civilians Under Allied Occupation, 1944–1950 (Boston: Toronto; Little, Brown, 1997). Also published as paperback: London: Little Brown, 1997; London: Warner, 1998, reprinted 1999; Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2007.
- Other Losses; An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans after World War II. 2. rev. edition. Bolton, ON: Fenn, 1999. Includes "Foreword" by Col. Ernest F. Fisher, xix–xxi; also "Introduction to the second revised edition," by James Bacque, xxiii–lxx. Projected new edition: Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2011.
- James Bacque and Richard Matthias Müller, Dear Enemy; Germany Then and Now (Bolton, ON: Fenn, 2000). The published correspondence of James Bacque of Canada and Richard Matthias Müller of Germany.
- Verschwiegene Schuld; Die alliierte Besatzungspolitik in Deutschland nach 1945. Vorwort von Alfred de Zayas. Überseztung aus dem Englischen: Hans-Ulrich Seebohm. Selent: Pour le Mérite, 2002. Translation of: Crimes and Mercies.
- Der geplante Tod; Deutsche Kriegsgefangene in amerikanischen und französischen Lagern, 1945–1946. Aus der englischen Sprache übersetzt von Sophie und Erwin Dunker, Anette [i.e., Annette] Roser. Selent: Pour le Mérite, 2008. Translation of: Other Losses.
- Canadian Historical Review [Canada] 1990 71(Sep): 408–409.
- Power Kills Chapter 13.
- S.P. Mackenzie in J. Vance, ed. The Encyclopedia of Internment and Prisoners of War, 294
- The Scholarship on World War II: Its Present Condition and Future Possibilities. Richard H. Kohn. The Journal of Military History, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Jul., 1991), pp. 365–394
- Note: Food relief shipments to Germany were prohibited by the Allies until December 1945, since "they might tend to negate the policy of restricting the German standard of living to the average of the surrounding European nations". "CARE Package shipments to individuals remained prohibited until 5 June 1946". The U.S. Army In The Occupation of Germany 1944–1946 by Earl F. Ziemke Footnotes to chapter 23, Further referenced to: (1) Memo, European Section Theater Group, OPD, for L & LD, sub: Establishment of Civilian Director of Relief, 8 December 45, in OPD, ABC 336 (sec. IV) (cases 155– ) . (2) OMGUS, Control Office, Hist Br, History of U.S. Military Government in Germany, Public Welfare, 9 July 46, in OMGUS 21–3/5.
- Ike and the Disappearing Atrocities., New York Times Book Review, February 24, 1991 
- Eisenhower and the German POWs: Facts against Falsehood., Review author[s]: Joan Beaumont The Journal of Modern History 1995 The University of Chicago Press.
- Eisenhower and the German POWs: Facts Against Falsehood., Review author[s]: Earl F. Ziemke. The Journal of American History, 1994, Organization of American Historians
- Ike's Revenge? Time Magazine, Monday, Oct. 2, 1989
- "Other Losses: An Investigation into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners of War After World War II." Review author[s]: Jonathan Osmond, International Affairs, 1991, Royal Institute of International Affairs
- Bacque, James (2011). Other Losses: An Investigation Into the Mass Deaths of German Prisoners at the Hands of the French and Americans After World War II. Talonbooks. p. Introduction. Page 106. ISBN 9780889226654.
- Other Losses Introduction
- Wijesinha, Rajiva. "How the Americans and the French treated German Prisoners after the Second World War, and dodged scrutiny". Book Review. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
- Hans Henning Hahn & Eva Hahn. Die Vertreibung im deutschen Erinnern. Legenden, Mythos, Geschichte, Paderborn: Schöningh, 2010, pp. 679-681, 839: ill., maps; 24 cm. D820.P72 G475 2010; ISBN 978-3-506-77044-8.
- W. H. New, ed. Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.
- "Other Losses" in The Encyclopedia of Prisoners of War and Internment, 2nd Edition. Jonathan Vance, ed. (Millerton, NY: Grey House Publishing, 2006), 294–295.
- Gunter Bischof and Stephen Ambrose, eds., Eisenhower and the German POWs (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992).
- S.P. MacKenzie, "Essay and Reflection: On the Other Losses Debate," International History Review 14 (1992): 661–680.