The Nazis Who Fought For The Allies

“Loyalty to the nation all the time; loyalty to the government when it deserves it.” —Mark Twain

In a Nutshell

A battle in the final days of World War II saw American troops, surrendered German Wehrmacht forces, and French political prisoners working together to defend a castle from Waffen-SS attackers.

The Whole Bushel

Five days after the death of Adolf Hitler, the 23rd Sherman Tank battalion of the 12th Armored led by Captain John C. Lee advanced on Schloss Itter (German for “Castle Itter”), which contained French political prisoners, military detainees, and resistance leaders. The original guards of the castle were under the command of Sebastien Wimmer who decided to flee the castle rather than fight. Without guards in the prison, the French armed themselves with what weapons remained and welcomed the incoming 23rd Sherman Tank Battalion. Major Josef Gangl, intending to surrender to American forces, met up with the 23rd en route to the castle and entered with them after their surrender.

Gangl understood the situation at hand and knew that the SS guards of the castle would be coming back with more troops. This coalition of anti-Nazi Wehrmacht forces, American troops, and assorted prisoners (made up of everyone from pro-Nazi Vichy government members, former politicians, resistance leaders, and even professional tennis player Jean Borotra) dug in for a counterattack by the SS. Remember: these prisoners had only just been released from their jail cells and were now fighting alongside the men who had jailed them.

Around 4:00 AM, The Waffen-SS 17th Panzer Grenadier Division surrounded the castle and began its attack. The inhabitants of Schloss Itter gathered their weapons and attempted to fight back against the assailants in the first and only time during WWII that saw American, German, and French forces fighting together. Major Gangl was killed by the bullet of a sniper during the fight. Eventually, reinforcements arrived from the 142nd Infantry. The extra numbers helped defeat the SS forces.

Major Josef Gangl is celebrated as a hero in Tyrol, Austria, near where the battle took place.

Show Me The Proof

World War II’s Strangest Battle: When Americans And Germans Fought Together
French Leaders Freed
The Last Battle, Stephen Harding

  • rhijulbec

    Thank you for this bit of history.

    • ConnorHaberland

      No problem! Glad my first attempt was actually published.

  • Mom424

    Very cool. I didn’t know this. Awesome.

    • ConnorHaberland

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ve always been interested in WWII history and I can’t even count the amount of memoirs and historical books I’ve read on the subject. I’ll be submitting some more stuff relevant to that time period soon.

      • Liege_Lord

        Congrats on your first list being posted. I have a minor in history with an in depth focus on WWII studies, its great to see people who can appreciate history and want to share it with others. A little thought though, it feels like there is a subtext to this article trying to ammeliorate the guilt of Nazis because they changed sides after being prisioners, subconciously illiciting the image they did not want to be with the Nazis in the first place. It is important to keep in mind all the variables, these soldiers switched sides knowing the war’s end was imminent and the allies were going to be victorious (I.E why Hitler killed himself 4 days earlier, they had already been captures once, etc). These prisoners realized they would be liberated and then a counter attack (I.E 142nd infantry) would come and slaughter them. I know this is speculation, but my academic opinion is more along the line of they “followed the winning side”; similarily to what got these soldiers (who some individuals claim had no choice, they were doing what they thought was best for themselves) to become Nazis in the first place. It seemed like the best choice for them at the time.

        • ConnorHaberland

          I couldn’t find evidence that Major Gangl was a member of the Nazi party. The Germans who fought with the Americans and French were Wehrmacht. It is possible that there were members of the Nazi party among them. There were many Wehrmacht who did not join the Nazi party and simply fought for Germany as Americans for America.

          • Liege_Lord

            This is a true statement and you are correct, I cannot confirm Gangl was a formal member of the Nazi party. I see this as splitting hairs, I will accept the arguement that not all Wehrmacht were “formally” Nazis, but it is fair to argue the majority of them were “Nationalists”, loyal to their country and its success (https://medium.com/da-capo-press/6e27354916b0 Paragraph 4 illustrates a good example of how Gangl feared for his men).

            Affiliations aside, these were soldiers fighting for Nazi Germany, and based on propaganda distributed to the soliders, they were aware what their country was about, ideologically. Being under a trance believing you are a superior race and have the right to displace and murder innocent people was a cornerstone of how Nazi Germany operated, and for better or worse, the Wehrmacht fought for their country. They may not have fully supported Nazism, but they were as indifferent to its injustice as they were indifferent to anti-semtism, it was more about what fed the family. Just because they were not “card carrying members” of the Nazi party does not strip them of their guilt. In fact, it can be argued the foot soldiers are equally responsible as the High Command, without these soldiers actively/phsycially defending Nazi Germany the High Command would have no base army and these attrocities could have been avoided. These soldiers were not even guilty of acquiescence, they were actively fighting to defend Nazi Germany.

            with regard to “There were many Wehrmacht who did not join the Nazi party and simply fought for Germany as Americans for America”, this is why there were draft dodgers in Vietnam. If you do not believe in the ideology of a war, you should avoid fighting in it. Many people who victimized and jailed for avoiding the war, but they knew they did not want to participate in murdering innocents, sometimes you just have to do what is right. The fact that there was more internal resistance to Vietnam in America than there was to World War II in Germany is strikingly noticable and unfortunate. In both cases America/Germany were the aggressor, the local population should of had a lot of power politically speaking being it was not a defensive war.

            Sorry for the lengthy response, I truly appreciate your ability to objectively debate and you point of Wehrmacht not 100% being formal Nazi’s is correct. I argue that it doesnt matter if you carry a membership card, it matters who you fight for. Either way I am glad he changed sides in the end.
            Thanks again for the article I look forward to more to come!

  • Happyspanners

    I loved this. Well done old chap.

    • ConnorHaberland

      Thanks! It means a lot! I’ll try and crank more out.

  • R5h2x

    I love stuff like this when myths are turned on their head. Well Done!!

    • W357C0457

      which myth are you talking about? the one about how there was never french, american and german soldiers fighting off SS from inside a prison? i’ve been waiting all my life for someone to turn that myth on its head lol

  • Phil_42

    Nice Nut Connor.

  • diablo135

    Never heard of this, very cool

  • Chester

    Regardless of war or times your a pretty big piece of shit to betray and kill your own countrymen.

    • Coocoocuchoo

      Not when your country is fighting a war of terror and systematic genocide. It takes the bravest man or woman to be the person who stands up to their own and says “this is wrong”.

      • Chester

        sorry bud said soldiers were just doing their job trying to re occupy a position and fight for their country, i have no respect for traitors, SS or otherwise.

    • diegothedreamer

      I agree with coocoocuchoo I couldn’t say it better myself as for chester u sir are a fucking idiot what would you do if your countrymen were shooting indiscriminately at your location a only a coward would duck their head and wait for it all to finish a true man/woman would fight to keep themselves and those around them alive and honestly if your government and countrymen are putting YOUR life at risk who’s betraying who?

      • Chester

        If my countrymen were shooting at my location indiscriminately i would put up a white flag, reveal myself as their fellow countrymen and theyd stop shooting. These guys didnt go oh lets send a scout out to make sure they know were here no they set up a defense and waited on them like vermin. Say you worked at a prison and all the gaurds left, and you and a group of gaurds knew the army was coming to the prison, would you a. Go out and meet them, let them know that your there, or b. Be a big piece of shit (im assuming youll go with be cause you are a big piece of shit) let the prisoners go, arm them and then wait to shoot them when they come. I dont care what war, what brigade, what whatever, if you knowingly kill your own countrymen or fellow soldiers when there was ample oppertunity to 1. Not kill them and 2. Leave the situation your a piece of shit.

        • ConnorHaberland

          You misunderstand the situation. The Wehrmacht under Gangl’s command intended to surrender to American forces as the war was ending. German soldiers feared surrendering to the encroaching Soviet forces because they knew how they would be treated, especially if they took part in Operation Barbarossa. Gangl’s troops met up with American forces and surrendered. They knew of the guard less prison and both forces went to help the French defend themselves against the fanatical SS troops who would have systematically executed the prisoners had they taken the prison back. The Wehrmacht did not simply walk past the SS as they marched on the prison and start firing on them as the entered. The SS would have killed them since they surrendered and as such Gangl’s troops defended themselves, the prisoners, and the Americans.

          • Chester

            Actually you misunderstood the situation, as the allies had made it very clear at the Potsdam conference any German soldier that fought on the eastern front who surrendered to Americans would be processed, their sector of combat determined and sent back to the Russians. Gangl’s forces surrendered to the Americans knowing full well SS reinforcements were on the way and instead of trying to hold a beneficial position and await relief they chose to surrender, free prisoners arm them and then fight along side US/POW forces against their own countrymen like rats. Had they not helped the Americans and the SS had taken the prison back they wouldn’t have killed their own troops, thats not what the SS did, the commander for cowardice maybe but they wouldn’t have slaughtered Wehrmacht soldiers for it.

          • Liege_Lord

            …. when you are trying to call Nazis “vermin and rats” not for the mass murder of innocents but for deffecting AGAINST their genocidal, maniacal society… you got your wires crossed brother.

          • Chester

            I never said just nazis i said any soldier that would fire on his fellow soldier is piece of shit.

          • Liege_Lord

            where in my top sentence do you see the term “just”? I am merely ellaborating your prior two examples which regarding vermin and rats were specific in mentioning German soldiers during the Third Reich………. um… so ya…. your saying its wrong for Nazis to shoot eachother lol. I argue, no it is not wrong for Nazi’s to shoot eachother.

            If only we had more people like the artifical character Hugo Stiglitz. We could of used more individuals climbing the Nazi ranks for the sole purpose of high ranking assasination. When your fellow soldiers turn out to be literal, evil monsters, you spray left to right with your MP-40 and you don’t think twice.

            Wrong is wrong buddy, and evil is evil. You are so infatuated with loyalty you forget that it is something that is suppose to be earned like respect, it is not necessarily innate. Blind loyalty can be the most dangerous thing on the planet.

          • Chester

            So i guess those American fighter pilots escorting B-17’s on firebombing missions over Japan should have shot down their own planes….. 100,000 civilians killed in a single night.

        • ConnorHaberland

          Also, it was the SS that guarded the prison, and then fled for reinforcements. The Wehrmacht did not free the prisoners knowing an SS reprisal. A prisoner had told the American and German coalition about the prison and that the SS would be back.

    • W357C0457

      like the englishmen who founded america? what an ignorant statement. and it was the SS who attacked the prison, not the other way around.

      • Chester

        Ummm they attacked the American tank battalion trying to occupy the prison.

        • W357C0457

          you only agreed with what i said, wtf lol

    • ConnorHaberland

      The Waffen-SS cannot be defended using this argument. The SS and the Einsatzgruppen systematically murdered their own countrymen if they were Jews, Poles, Slovaks, Roma, etc.

      • Chester

        Yes they did but these were SS panzer grenadiers, not SS concentration camp gaurds. These were guys who fought on the eastern front with defending their country against the Russian offensive.

        • ConnorHaberland

          Yes, and the SS panzer grenadiers were responsible for many atrocities on their own. The entire SS had the same goal as they answered directly to the Nazi higher ups.

          • Chester

            Actually your wrong, considering that “the final solution” wasnt implemented until 1942 and the SS were created in 1933, its impossible to say that their goal was the systematic extermination of jews. In fact the SS goal was to bodyguard Hitler and be the elite armed wing of the Nazi party after theyd won the war. The fact that they became the elite muscle of the German army and implemented in all the worst areas is secondary. Did the SS commit atrocities..yes they did, did the Russians, Americans, British etc etc commit attrocities yes they did horrible things happen in war its very unfortunate, it doesnt mean your not a piece of shit for betraying and killing your own countrymen.

          • ConnorHaberland

            And you don’t think after the implementation of the final solution that they were given the orders to kill “undesirables” as they were encountered?

          • Chester

            No they had specialized units that would go in after areas had been cleared and do that, did they think much of firing on civilian or collateral damage definitely not, but you cannot group all SS soldiers in with murdering thugs.

          • Liege_Lord

            Watch me.

          • Chester

            Watch me classify you as illiterate “Regardless of war or times your a pretty big piece of shit to betray and kill your own countrymen.” my original quote notice how SS isnt in their at all.

          • Liege_Lord

            Sorry bro, even the author of the article disagrees with your interpretation of his own research.

          • Chester

            Ya because the author doesnt know anything about the SS or history.

  • Ray Akridge

    Great story. I am in the middle of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and find anything regarding Germany fascinating.

  • Fameister

    This list reminded me of Schindler’sList. Good article!

  • old_cowboy

    Read the whole story in the recently published book The Last Battle.

    • ConnorHaberland

      I just recently finished reading “Blood Red Snow” by Günter K. Koschorrek. This book is his published memoirs written while fighting in Operation Barbarossa. It’s a brutal book and does not spare any detail such as the deaths of Red Army soldiers or his squad mates. I like reading War memoirs from all perspectives, so I happened upon that one written by a low ranking Heavy machine gunner. He talked of how angry he was in the days after Hitler’s suicide, not because it occurred, but because now Hitler would not be held responsible for what he and his Nazi allies did and commanded others to do.

      • Liege_Lord

        If you are given an immoral command and act on it, you are as guilty as the person who issued the command. Blame is not a finite object that has to belong to one individual, it belongs to all involved.

        • Chester

          What do you consider an immoral act, is killing your enemys infantry immoral?

          • Liege_Lord

            Killing your enemy’s infantry would be case specific based on the ideology, ethics, and morality of the country you are fighting for and the opposing countries as well. If your country is fighting for extermination, discrimination, and overall world domination, it is safe to say that those individuals should maybe consider what they were fighting for.
            Ethics and morality are intrinsic to its local culture and should not be judged from the outside, in this instance I am refering to the poloarized side of the spectrum which is a virtually unanimous moral code of humanity: no genocide or discrimination against people based on culture, race, or creed.

            While morality is subjective to its culture (I.E New Guninea kindnapping murder rituals, cannibalism, etc.) and should not necessairly be judged from our bias standards, once a seperate group, society, or culture is effected (I.E War, the invasion of Poland, France, etc.), that society has stepped outside what would could be considered acceptable Ethics / Morals, more or less the code of “live and let live”, you have to have the “let live” part.

          • Dumas911

            So since we don’t agree with you, we’re unethical? I bet you make your kids set in a corner instead of diciplining them right? I’m pretty sure everyone that joins their nations military understands that if given an order they are to follow it! If not then they need to stay the fuck home! I sure don’t want my tax money to pay someone’s salary who thinks they can pick and choose when they want to serve, what war, and against who. Same as if a Hispanic, French, British person joined the U.S. army and we went to war against them I fully expect them to shoot their countrymen in battle. This isn’t the Olympics where you can choose to compete for your former or duel county citizenship!!! Plain and simple the man did what HE needed to do to make it home to his family at the time. Basically your saying ANYONE belonging to the NAZI party was/is guilty??? Even Schindler???????? Not everyone agrees with their countries leadership, but if you aren’t from the USA, England, etc and enjoyed our freedoms then you don’t know how you’d respond not having the freedom of choice like we do. At the beginning of the war HE DID NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO FIGHT!!! After Hitler was DEAD, he was able to choose to fight with the allies then!!!!

          • Dumas911

            Once again ill say it, he was 100% dead from the start if he refused to fight. He did what was necessary to make it home to family/friends by fighting and increasing his odds!! If you believe in God then you agree he is a forgiving god, and are taught that all throughout the bible, if you don’t believe in God then his ethics don’t matter any fucking way! SELF PRESERVATION AS A SPECIES! ADAPT AND OVERCOME TO SURVIVE. I THINK HE DID.

          • Liege_Lord

            Anyone who knew Nazism was and what they were fighting for was guilty. Simple.

          • Chester

            Ya so i guess all those 10 year old boys, housewives and old men armed with panzerfausts in the ruble of berlin were fighting for nazi ideals instead of y’know their lives and country.

          • Liege_Lord

            Ruble of Berlin? Are you talking about 1945 at the very end of the war… lol. Buddy, when your capital is invaded because your country is exterminating multiple ethnicites and your world leader has committed suicide rather than face repurcussions, I’ll tell you what you do:
            You put down the “panzerfausts” and surrender as civilians to the allies and pray they take you before the Russians do.

          • Chester

            Ya those people didnt have that choice.

          • Liege_Lord

            We are at an impasse. While I acknowledge the importance of chain-of-command as well as following orders in the military, militaries still have law. I’m not saying a soldier should have the right to pick and chose what commands he follows, but there is a set of universal ethics that are formally accepted in first world countries (I.E The Genevia Convention and countless other prohibitions on war). Have you ever heard of the military justice system? It is not as simple as I was told to do something so I did it, you still have to consider your ations. Example: in Vietnam if your commanding officer had you execute civilians, and the MP (Military Police) found out, you would be tried for crimes against humanity. As humans, we are expected to use our higher thought processes, I am sorry to hear you have abandoned yours.

            Maybe to you its as simple as black and white. I am sorry you lack a greater capacity for analytical thought. It is good to know; however, there are drones like yourself for us to hurl at our enemies as fodder. Cheers mate, you’ll make a decent grunt when we need someone to walk into that meat grinder.

            On a final note, “he was 100% dead from the start if he resfused to fight” is 100% incorrect. While there was a severe risk of torture and death for resisting the Nazis, there was an entire underground resistance movement. If “100%” of people who resisted died, there wouldn’t have been a resistance movement… they could have tried to join one, but they were immoral cowards who were traumatized for the aftermath of WWI in tandem to having little to no ethical guidance from their parents who were traumatized as well. Read “Ordinary Men”, this is a well established thought. My final recomendation for you is to learn punctuation, arguements are not won through capitalizations and trailing “!” and “?”s.

          • Chester

            You dont understand the honor of serving ones country and to risk your life for fellow brothers in arms. Hitler is a figurehead just like the president, the United States doesnt cease to exist when your president dies or gets killed this isnt chess, this is life. Hitler died ya so what, they were still fighting for their country, brothers and lives.

          • Chester

            There is no room for morality in war you do what you got to to win or you loose.

          • Liege_Lord

            I guess that is what seperates good people from bad people. A person who discharges their morality in war because its “win or lose” doesn’t understand the concept of “morality” and has a narrow minded disposition of reality. If you can forget your morals at any point, then they never really existed and were just a facade to make yourself try to fit into society. A person with no morals is a sociopath I.E a person who lacks a conscience, this is why so many people involved in mass extermination are considered by definition, sociopaths.
            Sentience and Morality are the cornerstones of what seperate us from other animals and what makes humans special. The word humanity carries within itself an innate sense of morality, something that illustrates a global sense of empathy for our fellow man.
            I appreciate your comments and debate, I hope you can consider my thoughts as I have considered yours.

          • Chester

            In war having morality gets you killed.

  • viktor12

    this is awesome!!!

  • Dumas911

    Immoral or not there were lots of Germans who did not agree with the Nazi party and attempted to kill Hitler only to be caught, and executed. I’m sure there were lots of soldiers who didn’t want the war either but fought anyway to keep from being executed on the spot. Same as any of our soldiers in the military today for the U.S. that don’t agree with some of the war, but they’d be tried for refusing to go. Now unlike our soldiers, those German soldiers who didn’t agree wouldn’t face a prison sentence, they faced swift execution. So with most having families, I’d tried to stay alive to come back home to them to! Same as Christmas 1915 when all the soldiers fighting on both sides just stopped for that one night on thier own, and celebrated Christmas together before they returned to their trenches, and began killing each other again. They had no choice but fight and maybe live, or refuse and die for certain. I’m in no way agreeing with the Nazi’s, just saying I can see why those soldiers switched sides after Hitler was dead.

    • ConnorHaberland

      Even inside the Nazi party, not ever member was inherently evil. Sure, a vast majority were sick, twister Karl Plagge, Oskar Schindler, and John Rabe come to mind. Schindler’s case is well known, but read about Plagge and Rabe. Plagge saved about 1,300 Jewish people as a Wehrmacht major, and John Rabe was a business man in the Nazi party that saved about 200,000 Chinese civilians from the Japanese army during the Nanking massacre by setting up safe zones that sheltered anyone he could find.

      • Liege_Lord

        “Even inside the Nazi party, not every member was inherently evil.”

        Yes… that is obvious, but why are you trying to defend Nazism, just to play devil’s advocate? There were good people in countless evil groups, hell there could even be a good member of Al Queda, does that make the group good? The bottom line is the ideology, the core, the foundation of Nazism WAS inherently evil. These people faught to defend the ideology, the few people who were good people working within the Nazi Regime were absolutely overwhelmed with what is known as “war guilt”, because they understood even though they were helping the resistance it was not overt and it hurt them ethically. Have you even seen Schindler’s List?? He was not a Nazi that was “just following orders”, he sabatoged his own munitions factor to produce tens of thousands of worthless shells to screw up the German front, that is called proactively being a good guy, not acquiescing to mass murder. Despite his proactive steps he was still overwhelmed with guilt for not openly resisting the Nazis, and has been quoted that he hates himself for not doing more.

        • Chester

          Actually Shindler was 100% a member of the nazi party you dont know anything. Theres also more than enough evidence that proves he only started doing said saboteur work and helping jews in 1944 when the wars end was basically a foregone conclusion.

          • Liege_Lord

            “He was not a Nazi that was “just following orders”

            practice reading comprehension man……… I said he was not a nazi that was “just following orders”, I didnt say he wasn’t a Nazi… I clearly stated he was not the type of Nazi who just followed orders but proactively attempted to undermine the Nazi party. This seperates him from the Nazi who only does the killing of innocences knowing its wrong and doesnt even attempt to undermine the atrocities being committed. In fact, thank you for agreeing with me and further proving my point, Shindler WAS a Nazi albeit he wanted to be a good person, he suffered unimaginably from the guilt of not being a full on member of the resistence. He understood that even though he did immense good he did so at the expense of his own morality, and it hurt him greatly, his conscience or guilt is what seperates him from the sociopaths who figured “meh, whats the big deal I was told by an authority to do it.”.

          • Chester

            Really sooooo the years from 1939-1945 his factories wernt using slave labour provided by the SS…oh wait ya they were, see his factories were using concentration camp inmates, and im sure he wanted to be a good person right around the time the Russians launched their offensive. But ya making weapons, spying for the nazis in Poland (in 1938) that was just a miss step, hes not a war criminal at all, he saved like what 20 jews. Hes worse than a nazi that was just following orders, because he wasnt in the military structure, a soldiers duty is to follow orders and do what their told, its not a democracy, he was a industrialist who had no obligation other than to save his own hide to follow orders and he did, he was a good little nazi saw the writing on the wall and then decided ugh oh i better make good or im gonna get hung.

  • ConnorHaberland

    I would like to clarify the purpose of this article was to put a little known and obscure piece of history on display, not to exonerate any members of any branch of the German army or the populace as a whole from war crimes (or indirectly allowing them to happen through ignorance and indifference). Nor was it to in any way defend the Wehrmacht as they, too, were responsible for war crimes as well. There is no underlying message here.

    • Liege_Lord

      Great article. I appreciate your final note of clarity. Aside from the points trying to be proven here, I can appreciate the unique and obscure piece of history you have presented. Morals and allegiances aside, it is an interesting occurance.

  • Gerardo Ospina

    Incredible knowledge nut 🙂

  • Liege_Lord

    Looking back at all these comments it is disconcerting how many people feel morality should be so easily disregarded. Do you honestly think it should be easy to abandon your morals, (I.E your code of life), at a whim?

    • maximusextreme .

      While I certainly don’t agree with everything you wrote here, your Vietnam comments in particular, most of what you wrote in defense of your argument seems correct to me. I do thing there should a distinction between the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS as it pertains to atrocities. You have to imagine yourself as a German in that era. They were still reeling from losing the first war and having the Versailles treaty imposed. Also, their economy was not good until Hitler came along. I certainly am not defending the horrible things that occurred as a result of the German’s waging war; I am just trying to explain that it’s easy to sit in your lazy boy in the 21st century and say they should have all defected or fought against Hitler. In theory that would have been phenomenal, but let’s face it, humans will never stop fighting with one another for what they believe in, even if what they believe in seems horrible to me and you.