Friday, June 09, 2006

The Racist Refusal to Recognize Germans as Victims

Another problem I have with the abstracts for the German diasporas conference is the fact that there are a disproportionate number of papers dealing with the Nazi persecution of Jews. I thought it was a conference on German diasporas not the Holocaust. Out of 66 papers 13 deal primarily with Nazi crimes against Jews. This is despite the fact that far from being participants in the Holocaust many members of German diaspora groups fought against the Nazis in Allied armies. In the USSR over 30,000 Russian-Germans fought in the Red Army against the Nazis from June to September 1941. In contrast in 1943, the total number of Russian-Germans fighting in military units organized by the Nazi occupation authorities only reached 20,000. Yet, the stereotype of all ethnic Germans being Nazis guilty of killing Jews is still perpetrated in the US, Canada, UK and elsewhere by people who claim not to be racists.

Far from consisting of perpetrators of crimes most German diasporas found themselves subjected to extreme repression during and after World War II due to their ethnicity. Even in the US nearly 11,000 German civilians including naturalized US citizens found themselves interned without due process. Unlike the internment of Japanese there has been no admission, apology or compensation from the US government for this injustice. Instead US textbooks, media and leftists professors consistently claim that only ethnic Japanese were interned without a solid basis in the US during World War II. This Germanophobia is still justified by the US intellectual elite even as interned and relocated Japanese and Italians have received public apologies.

In other countries the treatment of ethnic Germans during the 1940s consisted of ethnic cleansing and a complete denial of all human rights. I have already blogged alot on the plight of the Russian-Germans. The German diasporas of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Yugoslavia also met horrible fates. Between January and March 1945, the Stalin regime transported nearly 112,000 ethnic German civilians from Romania, Hungary and Yugoslavia to forced labor camps in the USSR. Over 50,000 of these slave laborers were women. Additional levies of forced laborers from Upper Silesia, East Prussia and other areas of Germany during the first half of 1945 increased the number of "mobilized" and "interned" civilian Germans from outside the USSR to over 272,000. They served in the GUPVI (Main Administration for POWs and Internees) camps engaged in mining, construction, forestry and other heavy labor. During the five years the Stalin regime maintained these men and women in the USSR more than 66,500 perished from poor material conditions, overwork and physical abuse. Even today survivors of this crime against humanity remain banned by Russian law from seeking any restitution from the Russian Federation including a simple apology.

In addition to deportation to forced labor in the USSR the Ostdeutsche also suffered other forms of deadly persecution. Executions and deaths in concentration camps in Yugoslavia claimed the lives of over 50,000 Volksdeutsche between 1945 and 1948. Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and Russians forcibly expelled over 12 million ethnic Germans from east of the current German-Polish border westward. In the largest act of ethnic cleansing in modern history close to 2 million men, women and children perished. These victims usually do not even rate a footnote in the standard narrative of World War II put forward in English speaking countries. I took three German history courses as an undergraduate including one on World War II and only found out about the expulsions after I graduated.

The victimization of German diasporas in the USSR, Romania, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and even the US during and after World War II is impossible for anybody not blinded by Germanophobia to ignore. Yet, even at a conference on German diasporas there is barely mention of the fate of the Ostdeutsche. In contrast to the 13 papers on Nazi persecution of Jews there are only eight paper abstracts that even mention any of the above crimes against German diasporas. Only the Soviet deportation of Russian-Germans to Kazakhstan and the expulsion of the Sudetendeutsche receive what I would consider the minimally acceptable amount of coverage with two papers each.

World War II has been finished now for over 60 years. It is time to treat it as an historical event not a propaganda tool. A conference on German diasporas should deal with those diasporas in all their aspects including their mistreatment at the hands of Russians, Poles, Czechs, Yugoslavs and Americans. It should not instead focus on the crimes of the German state against Jews. There are plenty of other conferences where people can engage in such repetitive overkill.

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