On the morning of 13 May 1945, five days after the formal capitulation of Hitler’s Wehrmacht, a German military court delivered death sentences on two German naval deserters, Bruno Dorfer and Rainer Beck. The trial occurred in an abandoned Ford assembly plant on the outskirts of Amsterdam, a site used by the Canadian army for the concentration of German naval personnel. Later that same day, a German firing squad, supplied with captured German rifles anda three-ton truck from the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and escorted by Canadian Captain Robert K. Swinton, executed the two German prisoners of war a short distance outside the enclosure. Dorfer and Beck were among the last victims of a military legal system distorted by the Nazi state. At the time no one, Canadian or German, questioned the justice of the event.
This tragic incident demonstrated a disturbing degree of cooperation between Canadian military units and the defeated German military. Why did German deserters like Dorfer and Beck continue to die after the end of the war? The executions were a matter of convenience. The Canadian military allowed the German military structure to function after the capitulation. Under this questionable arrangement, the German armed forces in Holland disarmed, concentrated, and evacuated themselves. To accomplish the gigantic task in an orderly and disciplined way, Canadian military authorities mistakenly relied on the vanquished German military leadership.
German commanders and military judges continued to apply an irregular military law against deserters; and Canadian restrictions on these actions remained limited and hesitant. In this situation, larger political and strategic considerations worked against deserters like Dorfer and Beck. Canadian reactions, during and twenty-one years after the execution, reflected a sad record of indifference and callousness for these unfortunate victims of latent Nazism.
"Victims of Circumstance: the Execution of German Deserters by Surrendered German Troops Under Canadian Control in Amsterdam, May 1945,"
Canadian Military History: Vol. 2
, Article 8.
Available at: https://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol2/iss1/8