Twisting history

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).

Having said all that I do disagree with the concept of collective guilt. Bill Quick links to the same article and approvingly quotes this comment at

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.

7 thoughts on “Twisting history”

  1. Goldhagen’s book is very good. His book is authoritative because he is the only one to have researched over 400 years of German history to make a very convincing case of the kind of anti-semitism that had become accepted. (Neighboring France being only marginally better in that department, btw). He never argued this was the only or main factor. But it can certainly be argued it was a necessary factor, given the scale and ferocity of what happened, and the number of people involved.

    To take but one example, that infamous picture of a German soldier shooting a woman at close range, as she turns away in a vain attempt to shield the child in her arms. We have this photo today because the said soldier sent it to his wife. That was no mad, indoctrinated, 18yo SS. Just a Whermacht guy showing the folks back home what a good job he’s doing. Thousands awful pictures like this one have been documented since; who knows how many have since been burned or are gathering dust in attics throughout Germany and Europe.

    Goldhagen then goes on to show that much slaughtering was performed by married men in their 30s, 40s or older, people who did not grow up with the Nazi party and proved to be extremely zealous and creative in the Nazi enterprise. A strong, entrenched, socially acceptable anti-semitism was necessary. The fertile soil, the solid foundation were there. It’s hard to see how a few years of Nazi power alone could have produced, and unleashed, such a murderous wave.

    While it makes for very dark, chilling reading, I certainly recommend the book.

  2. Well said Ralf. It gets sicking to hear so many in this country refer to Germans as if they were all some kind of blood thirsty animal. What’s ironic is that Russian are seldom treated in a similar manner, even thought the unelected dictators that ran that country in the bad old day killed far more. Russians are treated more as the victims of their own state (as they should be), why don’t Germans get the same? It’s funny to see that the tendency in most leftest to associate Nazi Germany with the heights of all evil and to take a far kinder view of the USSR also seems to be present in most people posing as rightists such as Quick.

  3. Ralf,
    Thanks for your thoughts. Goldhagen’s work in that dept is exagerrated, especially compared to the plain facts presentation of Ordinary Men, there are many flaws in his thesis chief among them the fact that the Final Solution would have been impossible without massive collaboration from non-Germans – i.e. the Ukranian guards at Auschwitz, which I visited two weeks ago. The broad European racial pecking order that National Socialism attemped to erect, the fact that the last defenders of the Reichstag were Norwegian adn French SS men, has always been downplayed I think, just as some Germans said ‘we were just following orders’ so many in the rest of the Continent found it easy to say ‘we were just doing what the Germans made us do’.

    I took a tour of the new Bundestag/Reichstag last year and was greatly impressed with everything I saw, the efforts to not forget either the National Socialist nor the Stasi past (the memorials to the victims of the Wall were particularly moving). You can’t argue with the fact that Jewish people are voting with their feet, leaving France and Germany, Israel and the U.S. are the only countries currently experiencing Jewish immigration.

    About the most sensitive questions relating to the Germany issue in Poland, I talked to our guide there two weeks ago and he said that the fears of the Polish older generation were ridiculous, whether it be about Jews reclaiming almost worthless properties that were seized by neighbors during the War or Germans wanting to return to their heimats, i.e. buying up Poland when she becomes a full-fledged E.U. member, “The world has changed, let them come, are the Lithiuanians still afraid that we want Vilnius?”

    I am someone who tries to fight contemporary anti-Americanism that I see in Germany AND the inability to see Germans except thru the prism of the world wars (and I say this as someone who greatly admires the work of Fritz Fischer, Griff Nacht der Weltmacht which connects German geopolitical aims in WWI with WWII). The past is the past, what matters is what lessons we draw from it today. I do not think a paralyzed pacifism, while understandable, is an adequate answer to the problems of terrorism and Jew-hatred we as members of western civilization are now confronting in the world. I think that’s one the reasons you write for the Chicago Boyz, and I thank you.

    Charles Ganske

  4. sorry Ralf by that line about immigration I meant to say that Jews are coming BACK to Berlin, especially from the former Soviet Union, and this trend was noticeable when I was there last year. The placing of the comma might have been misinterpreted. :)

  5. I should have written that much better, not to be too sensitive but our guide indicated that the properties TODAY, whatever their value in 1939, are mostly worthless and there is little incentive given the lengthy legal hurdles for anyone to try to reclaim them. Also I am aware that in the Czech Republic no claims on land or assets lost before 1948 and the Communist power grab is considered valid.

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