75 Years Since the Deportation of the Volga Germans
This year marks the 75th anniversay of the deportation of the Volga Germans to Siberia and Kazakhstan where they faced extremely difficult legal and material conditions. The official day of rememberance of this crime against humanity is 28th of August. I have written a lot on this blog and elsewhere about these events. Most of those posts deal with the basic narrative and facts surrounding the deportations, special settlement restrictions, and mobilization into the labor army. For this post I want to do something different. I want to examine why it has taken so long for this anniversary to be regularly commemorated even by those of us of Russian German heritage and more importantly why it is still almost completely unknown and ignored by everybody else. The standard claim that these crimes were somehow hidden doesn't stand up to scrutiny. The information available since the early 1990s is much greater than that published before the collapse of the USSR. But, the basic narrative has been known since September 1941. Rather there have been other factors at work. First, the Russian Germans have largely been deemed unworthy victims by the intellectual elites of the US and other major powers due to a continued false conflation of all ethnic Germans including loyal Soviet citizens with Naziism. One can understand the use of this lie in the Russian dominated USSR to prevent any return of the land and other collective property forcibly confiscated from the ethnic Germans. Its popularity and in many cases official backing by large numbers of the academic and cultural elite in the US is another matter altogether. Fortunately, this narrative has lost much of the dominance it had as recently as 20 years ago. Deniers and minimizers of the Soviet crimes against ethnic Germans like Deborah Lipstadt and Charles Maier have lost much of the power they had in the 1990s. Most people in the US are no longer content to silently accept the claim that ethnic German children from the Volga deserved to die in Siberia in 1941 because of the Holocaust. This is a huge step forward. But, there can be no doubt that it was largely as a result of genocide deniers like Lipstadt that popular awareness of the deportation of the Volga Germans as an ethnically targeted crime against humanity remained retarded for so long.