General George S. Patton confronts an SS General

Troops of the U.S. 5th Infantry Division entering Metz on 18 November 1944
Troops of the U.S. 5th Infantry Division entering Metz on 18 November 1944

The heavily fortified border city of Metz had been seized from the French in 1870, returned to the French in 1918 and again seized by the Germans in 1940. The US Third Army’s struggle to liberate it had taken nearly three months and heavy casualties.

Sergeant Leonard O’Reilly discovered SS Major General Anton Dunckern hiding in a brewery on the 20th Novemebr, during a thorough search of Metz following its occupation on the 19th. At first Dunckern demanded to be allowed to surrender to a senior officer but, with a cocked pistol prodding him in the stomach, soon changed his mind. He was later brought before General Patton.

Although Patton spoke German fluently he chose have the interview translated because he would not demean himself to speak to him directly:

Patton
You can tell this man that naturally in my position I can­not demean myself to question him, but I can say this, that I have captured a great many German generals, and this is the first one who has been wholly untrue to everything; because he has not only been a Nazi but he is untrue to the Nazis by surrendering. If he wants to say anything he can, and I will say that unless he talks pretty well, I will turn him over to the French. They know how to make people talk.

Dunckern
. . . I received orders to go in the Metz sector and defend a certain sector there, and the reason I did not perish was that I could not reach my weapons and fight back.

Patton
. . . He is a liar!

Dunkern
There was no possibility to continue fighting. The door was opened, and they put a gun on me.

Patton
If he wanted to be a good Nazi, he could have died then and there. It would have been a pleasanter death than what he will get now.

Dunkern
. . . It was useless to do anything about it under the circumstances. (He asked permission to ask a question; it was granted.) I was fighting against American troops and captured by them, and therefore am to be considered a prisoner of war of the American forces.

Patton
He will be a prisoner of war of the French forces soon. They have a lot they want to ask him.

Dunkern
I consider myself a prisoner of war of the American forces, and I have not been captured by the French forces.

Patton
When I am dealing with vipers, I do not have to be bothered by any foolish ideas any more than he has been.

Dunkern
I consider myself a prisoner of war since I fought as a soldier and should be treated as a soldier.

Patton
You also acted as a policeman – a low type of police.

Dunkern
I acted as an officer of the police in an honorable and practical manner, and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Patton
This is a matter of opinion – no one who is a Nazi policeman could act in an honorable manner.

Dunkern
I can only say that during every day of my life I have been honest, rightful, respectful, and humanitarian.

Patton
If this is the case, do you have anything you want to say by way of giving me information or by talking about the German people that will change my opinion?

Dunkern
No one will be able to stand up against me to testify that I did anything against the rules of humanity or human treatment.

Patton
I understand German very well, but I will not demean myself by speaking such a language. I think before I turn the General over to the French, I will send him to the Army Group who may question him or have some special investigators question him, and they can do things I can’t do.

Dunkern
I am not worried about having myself investigated. Of course, there may be some mistakes I have made, which is only human, but I am not worried about inhuman acts charged against me.

Patton
. . . I have great respect for the German soldiers; they are gallant men, but not for Nazis. Have the guards take him outside and have his picture taken and then we’ll see what we will do with him. Also tell him that those bayonets on the guards’ guns are very sharp.”

See The Patton Papers: 1940-1945

An early picture of Nazi party member Anton Dunckern later SS Major General
An early picture of Nazi party member Anton Dunckern later SS Major General

Anton Dunckern was subsequently sentenced to 20 years hard labour for his role as SS Police chief in charge of the Strasbourg region, but released in 1954. He died in 1985.
Contemporary Newsreel featuring Metz amongst several stories from this time, including Peleliu:

Troops of 5th Infantry Division conducting a house-to-house search in Metz on 19 November 1944
Troops of 5th Infantry Division conducting a house-to-house search in Metz on 19 November 1944

4 thoughts on “General George S. Patton confronts an SS General”

  1. The enslaved, tortured and murdered understood what people like this did. The soldiers like Patton and his Third Army understood. Leave it to diplomats and politicians to free scum like this. What a travesty!

  2. Another innocent SS guy,lol. The allies declared the entire SS a criminal organization because of the enormous crimes they committed . There was no way to really separate the field soldiers of the waffen SS from the ones who ran the death camps. Within the SS a lot of them transferred from one to the other. The 3rd SS panzer division was originally formed from camp guards who brought their brand of brutality to the battlefield and took part in many massacres of civilians and pows on the eastern front. In the postwar years there was a huge effort to whitewash the history of the waffen SS as just soldiers but there were so many atrocities they took part in, that image could never convince people.

  3. In actuality, this Nazi served less than one year of his 20 year sentence of hard labor. And, like all of his fellow Nazis, denied his involvement with any of the mass murders that they were once so proud of. General Patton was completely right about this man’s character.

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