May 22, 2005

The Unknown Genocide?

In the upcoming Genocide segment that I'll be adding to the website, I will have at least a half dozen instances of genocide and mass murder. One instance of a massive crime against humanity I'm not sure whether to add. It seems to have the qualifying features, but it's strange that the first I'd even heard of it was in a history class the eighth semester of college.

Tennessee Congressman B. Carroll Reece, a Republican, called it genocide in 1957. The Stuart Center of DePaul University held a 1993 exhibit on ethnic cleansing of the mid-40s and called it an unknown holocaust. What was it?

Those of you who didn't click the link in the title will be surprised to learn it was a massive migration, largely coerced, of Germans out of newly Soviet holdings. Ultimately between 7.75 and 10.25 million Germanic peoples were expelled or fled from Eastern European countries (Poland, then-Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and other Soviet and Eastern European states). Many of the people were forced out, while many others fled for fear of reprisals or out of the newly-hostile climate to the defeated Germans. Germanic land and property were seized on the justification that a state of war existed with Germany.

While moving a huge number of people solely because of their ethnicity is always ethnic cleansing, the true holocaust portion is in the deaths that resulted: German Heimatvertriebene argue that two million people were killed in this process. Sort of a 'Das Trail of Tears' thing.

I don't know how accurate all this information is, though I do know a few things about history. First, German used to be the lingua franca for Central/Eastern Europe, and it was widely spoken among merchants and politicos. This is not the case any longer. Second, one of the main parts of old Germany, Prussia and Konigsberg, are now Polish, Lithuanian and Russia. Third, I know that the Russians annexed/stole Poland's territory back to the Curzon line (remember WWI?) and then in exchange gave their puppet Poland parts of Germany to the Oder-Neisse Line. All three of these things were achieved because the German populations werereduced so thoroughly as to be politically impotent.

Of course, one of the main things that the Nazis did to justify their wars and adventures was to annex German states or protect German rights. Unfortunately for European peace, they weren't entirely wrong - there really were Germans in the Sudetenland and Danzig Corridor that wanted German citizenship. By removing the Germans from the many countries of Eastern Europe, the Soviets and the Allies were supposed to be de-clawing future such arguments from Germany.

The Allies were definitely in favor of this move, perhaps to punish Germany, perhaps to weaken its argument for war, and perhaps in deference to the Soviet Union controlling the areas in question. But it's also true that the Soviets had a viciously anti-German bent for a while, and that the expulsion of 8-10 million Germans and the death of 2 million German refugees wasn't where it stopped. East Germany, the GDR, was for years pillaged, looted and literally raped by the Red Army. There were likely several million rapes in the years after World War II, something Stalin excused as soldiers having their fun. It is interesting that, placed in context, the German people - most of whom had no more culpability for the Holocaust than their contemporary French, Romanians, Croats or Hungarians - have indeed paid in blood for the war and the Holocaust.

I suppose I will include this episode of history in the genocide article, after I've researched it better, because it's such a horrendous event that so few people have even ever heard of. If there's one thing to be said for Germans, they follow orders well. The world told Germans to feel bad, shut up and play nice and they continue to do all three.

2 Comments:

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