Mass Exodus of Germans From Eastern Europe: The Last Nazi War CrimeHistorians in the News
tags: Nazi, WW II, Nazi War Crime
In an article published recently in Czech magazine Literarni Noviny, historian Eva Hahnova challenges Western historiography's attempts to rewrite the story of the mass exodus of Germans from Eastern Europe at the close of the Second World War. The historian argues that while this event has been blamed on the marauding Soviet hordes, primary historical sources show that the exodus was actually carried out by German officials, and that the ineptitude and violence with which it was done constitutes the last massive crime committed by the Nazi regime.
Pejorative stereotypes about the Russian people in Western literature and journalism have a long and rich history, and are present in many interpretations of the past. Today the most striking example of this phenomenon is the contemporary interpretation of the Second World War. For example, when celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the Munich edition of the Suedetendeutsche Zeitung had a front page story about another anniversary.
The article, entitled "The Tragedy About Which We Must Never Forget: The Expulsion of 15 Million Germans Began 70 Years Ago," noted that as a result of the Soviet January offensive on Berlin, "women, children, and the elderly, alone or in groups, went West." The advancement of the Red Army, a harsh winter and the sinking by the Russians of ships with refugees in the Baltic Sea are said to have caused much suffering, and many did not survive. But equally terrible things, the article notes, awaited those who stayed behind and met face-to-face with Soviet soldiers, including the killing of civilians, mass rape of women and girls, as well as looting, arson, and deportation to forced labor camps in the USSR. Such a fate, the newspaper said, awaited Germans on the territories of present-day Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Romania, as well as the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. "The further east they lived, the more severe was the approaching revenge and retribution," the paper commented.
Assertions about Soviet or Russian barbarism towards millions of German refugees are part of the established treatise on the end of the Second World War, and are characteristic not only in Germany, but in the Western consciousness generally. And few people understand that we are talking about an image which was originally spread by Nazi propaganda.
"What our people are experiencing today can be compared with the invasion of the Huns and the Mongols in bygone centuries," German newspaper Volkischer Beobachter wrote on January 25, 1945. A day later, the conversation turned to a "red plague advancing from the east toward German land." On February 10, readers were told of "murders, abuse, capture and deportation of people to forced labor, the destruction of all the fruits of generations of labor and the desecration of everything that gets in the way of the Bolshevik hordes."
All the 'Soviet atrocities' were held to have been "proven and thoroughly checked by testimony of witnesses," including the mass rape of women: "German women are being raped, and then killed together with women and the elderly, in the aims of exterminating our people." Famous writer Ilya Ehrenburg, who was referred to as the "Pet Jew of the Kremlin" in Nazi propaganda, was claimed to have cynically written about "the extermination of the Germans and other nations" as part of a Bolshevik plan to attack Europe. ...
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