This is a terrible idea:
“…efforts are being made to commemorate the suffering of Germans driven from Eastern Europe. Led by the Association of the Banished, the plan is for a museum and centre dealing with the expulsion of Germans from countries which include the former Czechoslovakia and Poland.
Erika Steinbruch, conservative MP and head of the association, told The Observer: ‘We want to make it clear what happened to these people, the 15 million who were thrown out of their homelands in the Baltics, Romania, so many countries. They were chased out because of their German ethnicity.
‘This discussion is necessary. Every life is equal. The Jews who suffered in Germany were German. There were Germans in the Balkans who lost their homelands after the Hitler-Stalin pact. These were Germans who suffered under Hitler.
‘There is a more relaxed discussion now. That’s necessary. It is part of the process of self-discovery, of the very complicated moral problems Germany has with itself. This is only just starting. I’m very optimistic we can do this.’”
Yes, bad things have happened to Germans and ethnic Germans, during and after the war, not to mention those who went to the concentration camps even before the war. But the people heading the “Association of the Banished” have never really been able to understand that all this would never have happened without the holocaust and the other horrors of an aggressive war started by Germany. Many of those who suffered after the war had been among the active perpetrators of the Nazi atrocities, and also those who didn’t participate in them but approved of what happened, so indiscriminately commemorating them effectively amounts to an attempted white-wash. And saying that “The Jews who suffered in Germany were German” goes even further; it is simply repulsive because it lumps together the perpetrators and their victims (not that every German was a perpetrator, but she isn’t even trying to make a distinction between victims and victimizers).
Reminds me of the definition of CHUTZPA (ie nerves)– which is a man convicted of killing his parents asks the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.
In my comment at Daily Pundit I wrote :
“This is about individual suffering (and guilt). You basically say that German back then were collectively guilty and deserved whatever they got. There is no collective guilt, though, you have to look at individual cases to decide who was guilty or not. Remember, Hitler also wasn’t elected by a majority and seized power. Dissenters were sent to concentration camps, too, so many simply didn’t dare to speak up. For that reason it was simply wrong to indiscriminately drive out or murder people just because they were German.”
Like I wrote above, it would never have happened without the holocaust and World War II, and its perpetrators needed to be punished. Also, it simply is human to want revenge, and not to look too closely if all of the people you are taking revenge on are guilty or not. It also is understandable that Poles and Czechs didn’t feel like living together with Germans anymore. But, looking back more than fifty years later it is not asking too much to differentiate instead of using a blanket-condemnation.
Update: Bill has told me by now to read Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners”, on German collective guilt for the Holocaust. Well, here’s a choice quote on Goldhagen and his book:
In his most recent book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Goldhagen asserted that blame for the Holocaust should be placed on ordinary Germans and their unique brand of anti–Semitism. When contemporary historians from both sides of the Atlantic challenged him on this point, he eventually conceded that he had underestimated how factors other than anti–Semitism helped lead to the Third Reich’s crimes. “I skirted over some of this history a little too quickly,”
This is from a review of his article “What Would Jesus Have Done? Pope Pius XII, the Catholic Church, and the Holocaust” in the New Republic.
Anti-semitism was an important factor, but in no way the only one, that contributed to the shaping of German society over the ages. I also can’t see why some people see his book as the only authoritative source of information on the issue.