Hugo Grotius
Egyetemes történet
Magyar külpolitika
Nemzetközi jog
Nemzetközi politika





HUGO GROTIUS (Huig de Groot), a modern természetjogi felfogás és a modern politikai irodalom egyik megteremtője, aki a természet-jogon alapuló nemzetközi jog alapjait fektette le. »»

Fornaro, Pasquale
Népi németek Lengyelországban, Franciaországban, Magyarországon és Csehszlovákiában. Mítosz és valóság

(KOCHANOWSKI, JERZY: Die «Volksdeutschen» in Polen, Frankreich, Ungarn und der Tschechoslovakei. Mythos und Realität)

For several years the German Institute of History in Warsaw (Niemiecki Instytut Historyczny w Warszawie) has been well known for its intense activity in the field of History research and also for its numerous editorial initiatives which led to the publication, considering only the works edited by the German publishing house within the series of Einzelveröffentlichungen des DHI Warschau, of twenty volumes in the last seven years. A remarkable production of a high scientific quality that embraces themes of great international interests in the historiographical research with special regard to the issues of modernization, nationalism, the role of the Church and the cultural stratifications in the regions of Central and Eastern Europe. But mostly, specific problems such as the historical and social development of Poland and the Polish-German relationship are analysed in a wide chronological order, however, the last two centuries and a half are mainly in the focus of the research.

An interesting and well-structured study has been published recently, on the occasion of the last scientific initiatives produced by the Institute, edited by Jerzy Kochanowski of the University of Warsaw and by his young collaborator, Maike Sach, on the “ethnic Germans” living in some European states (Poland, France, Hungary and Czechoslovakia) between the two World Wars. The volume offers also a special and very useful look into the postwar period until the second half of the seventies, in relation to the integration of German people in the Federal Republic of Germany.

It is an extremely valuable work, and we must say right ahead, it is able to fill a series of “gaps” of information which, unfortunately, still exist in several countries, although some praiseworthy initiatives have been taken in this direction such as, for example, of the Italian-German Institute of History in Trento (we think, among other things, of the international conference organized in July, 1993, on the subject of “Minorities between the two Wars”, afterwards published in a volume, Le minoranze tra le due guerre, edited by Umberto Corsini and Cesare Zaffi for the publishing house il Mulino, 1994, and containing the texts of the conference).

This volume, which gathers an important number of contributions by some specialists from the countries examined, and not only, but also from other areas of Eastern Europe (such as Romania and Ukraine), starts with a short but meaningful preface by the editors. They explain the circumstances of the birth of this scientific project which is on the base of the collection of studies, and they immediately try to analyse the meaning of the term Volksdeutsch,included in the German vocabulary since 1933, in order to denominate the people of German origins but living in another state without holding German citizenship. It would be absolutely useless to search for a word with a similar meaning in the Polish encyclopedia or vocabularies from the thirties, since the concept did not exist yet. Things changed drastically with World War II, and if today, after more than half a century, a survey would be made in Poland on the words that provoke terrible memories or sad associations of concepts, surely this term, Volksdeutsch, would be on the top of the list. From this point of view, personal experiences during the Nazi occupation would be crucial, but so are the literary works or films continuously produced on this period in the postwar years.

The historians, however, as the editors of the volume claim, scarcely and unwillingly treated this issue. In general, the researches continued to adopt almost entirely, old cliché of interpretation. Some problems regarding particular aspects of the history of “ethnic German”, most of all in the postwar period (their singular affairs in the lager and labour camps, the reprisals suffered, the mortality rate, etc.) have been strictly controlled by censorship, themes that constituted even a taboo until not many years ago.

This resistance of the old generation of Polish historians in the approach of the study of the problem of “ethnic Germans” seemed, in fact, hard to die. Neither the turning point of 1989 served to overcome these resistances. It was clearly evident when, in 1997, a part of the Polish scientific world was puzzled about the notice of an editorial project entitled “Germans in Poland, 1945-1950” worked out by a group of Polish and German historians. (It must be said that, in the end, the project was fulfilled and not less than four volumes, containing several documents relating to the issue of the Volksdeutsche, were published in Polish between 2000 and 2001, and in German between 2000 and 2004.)

The idea of organizing a conference on the Volksdeutschewas conceived in this context and the congress was held in Gliwice at the beginning of April, 2003. This scientific meeting intended to widen the research field, not focusing the attention only on Poland, but opting for a kind of comparative approach, analysing also experiences of other countries. This meant, as the editors explain, to examine, in a first phase, three states which border Germany: Poland, Czechoslovakia and France (with the Treaty of Versailles all of them acquired territories with German population); but afterwards, considering the complexity of the issue of the Volksdeutsche, they decided to invite other historians too, from Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia.

The structure of the volume reflects almost faithfully the same thematic articulation of the conference. In fact, it is divided into four sections, each of them containing special contributions. Here only some notes on the sections are given because we tried to focus on the main thematic points.

The first section consists of two large introductory essays offering a general picture. One essay was written by Ingo Haar (From the “ethnic groups paradigm” to the “right for a Heimat) and the other by Gerhard Wolf (German minorities in Poland as an instrument of Berlin’s expansionist foreign policy). While the first essay offers a complex view on the German foreign policy, on the “biopolitics” with reference to the deutsche Volksgruppen in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (from the forced migrations during the Nazism, to the expulsions of “ethnic Germans” after 1945), the other summarizes the history of Germans in Poland since the twenties, through the economic support offered by the Reich to them until the end of the war. The author enters in some particular details on their relationship with the Nazi policy, from the general enthusiasm when Hitler took power, to the adhesion to the Nazi organizations (the Deutsche Volksliste), their recruitment in the Wehrmacht and in the Waffen-SS and also in their authonomous “self-defense” militia (the Volksdeutscher Selbstschutz) responsible of an extremely high number of murder (at least 20-30,000).

In the second section, “The German minorities, 1918-1939”, other interesting essays are collected such as the one byChristiane Kohser-Spohn (The expulsion of the Germans from Alsatia 1918-1920). It is evidenced how the outbreak of the Great War interrupted the approach between the Alsatians and Germans with the consequent development of nationalist hatred in every social class, focusing also on the modalities of “territorial purification” applied by the Alsatian authorities towards the Germans between 1918 and 1920. Winston W. Chu (Metropolis of minority: Germans in Łódź and in Central Poland, 1918-1939) examines, with a different view on the German population in Poland, the phenomenon of the displacement from West to East (Veröstlichung) of the political importance of this community, underlining the German’s benefits obtained by this policy in Łódź. Krisztián Ungváry (The doubted assimilation. For a genesis of the “German question” in Hungary between the two World Wars) deals with the problem, scarcely considered hitherto, of discrimination of the Germans living in Hungarian territory, generally called “Swabians”, because of their origin from the Southern part of Germany. All this was in conjunction with the anti-Semitism that had been developed in the country before Hitler’s taking of power («Many Hungarian antifascists – affirms the author – were not antifascist because they were democrat, but because they were racist», p. 120). Natalija Rublova (The Germans in the Soviet Ukraine, 1933-1939) describes the reprisals to which the Germans were subjected to in Ukraine – 350,000, according to a census in 1926 – and the famine provoked by the Soviet power in 1933 with the consequent escape of the Volksdeutsche from the countryside to the cities; she also speaks about the mass deportations over the Ural in June 1941, at the beginning of the German-Soviet war. Ota Konrád (German University professors in Prague before and after 1938/39) reconstructs, on the basis of a careful research in the archives, the phenomenon of the heavy adhesion – more than three quarters of the total – to the NSDAP by the professors in the German University of Prague.

The third section, the largest one, is dedicated to the “Years of war 1939-1945”. The contributions are offered by Isabel Heinemann (“German blood.” The experts of race in the SSand the ethnic Germans), who, based on a rich statistical documentation, examines the changes which took place in the ethnic balances in the Eastern European territories annexed by Germany, with the expulsion of the natives and with the settlement, since 1939, in more waves, of the Volksdeutsche, first in the Baltic States, then in Eastern Poland, in the end around the area of Chelm and Lublin (the responsible of these displacements was not a civil institution, but the same head of the SS, Himmler); by Rainer Schulze (“The Führer calls!” For the recovery of the Eastern Volksdeutsche), who reconstructs, on the base of seven treaties of ethnic displacements elaborated in order to guarantee an adequate Lebensraum to Germany, the phenomenon of the forced settlements of the Volksdeutsche (from here derives the motto “heim ins Reich”) on the conquered territories between October 1939 and January 1941 in Eastern Europe; by Jean-Marc Dreyfus (The policy of Germanisation in Alsazia 1940-1945), who returns to the theme of Alsatia describing the phases of its forced ethnic, cultural and economical re-Germanisation during World War II, with the consequent deletion of any signs of French administration. Dreyfus mentions also the equally forced recruitments, most of all after 1942, through the ideological indoctrination of the local German population in the Wehrmacht and in the Waffen-SS. Furthermore, Tatjana Tönsmeyer (“The late awakening”. The Germans in Slovakia 1939-1940) deals with the controversial relationships of the political organization of local German minorities, the Volksgruppenführung,as with the Slovak State as with the German Reich; Nobert Spannenberger (Between swastika and the crown of Stephen. The German’s Volksbund in Hungary, 1938-1944) widely describes the tormented genesis of the German Volksbund in Hungary (VDU), founded at the end of 1938 and tolerated by the Hungarian government, even if its aim, the German minorities’ social and political emancipation, turned out to be a failure; Volker Zimmermann (“People’s comrades” of first or second class? Reichs and Sudeten Germans in Bohemia and Moravia, 1938-1945) considers the delicate problem of the sense of disadvantages that, in general, was felt by the Sudeten Germans in their relationships with the Reichs Germans (their self-definition was Volksgenossen which meant second-class citizens in comparison to the lucky brothers who were living in the homeland; later, after the fall of Hitler, this diversity served them to try to separate their responsibility from that of the Nazism). At last, Ottmar Traşcă (Romanian Germans in the Wehrmacht and in the Waffen-SS, 1940-1944) examines, based on a rich and so far scarcely analysed documentation in the archives, the particular history of the Volksdeutsche’s recruitments in Romania (the main role of the «Ultra-Nazi» Andreas Schmidt, head of the Volksgruppe) in order to assign them in the Wehrmacht and in the Waffen-SS (this phenomenon lasted also after Stalingrad, until 1944).

The fourth section, the last part of the book, is entitled “After 1945: collective responsibility, rehabilitation, expulsion and myth of the Volksdeutsche”. This section is opened by the essay of Ágnes Tόth (The collective sin. The process against the German minorities in Hungary, 1945-1946), who analyses the juridical and political measures adopted in this country immediately after the war in order to persecute «the fascist Germans» (about half a million of people). It is followed by a dense essay written by Jerzy Kochanowski (Traitors or fellow citizens? State and society in Poland in front of the problem of the Volksdeutsche before and after 1945), where the author proclaims a different opinion – in opposition with, usually negative, one-dimensional judgement which is still predominant – on the people who were included in the Deutsche Volksliste. According to his researches, this opinion was taken in consideration by the Polish government in exile already in 1943 when they were working on the dispositions of a law. In fact, speaking of these Germans, not only the collaboration with the Nazi crimes should be mentioned, but also their solidarity, which in some cases, helped to hide and save some Jewish people. Also the measures of the law in the postwar period are deeply examined in this essay, based on a rich documentation, in relation to the treatments of the Germans, starting with the law in 1943 until the law of July, 1950, which ordered the suspension of every sanction previously applied.

After the contributions of Christof Morrisey (Carpathian Germans of Slovakia. Collective memory and integration in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1945-1975), dedicated to the presentation of various organizations to support the expelled Germans, and of Eugeniusz Cezary Krόl, (The image of the ethnic German in the Polish cinema after World War II), that is a report of Polish films in which the image of the «evil Volksdeutscher» predominates, this section is ended with the essay written by Stefan Zwicker (The representation of the Sudetendeutsche in literature, journalism and cinema in the postwar period in Czechoslovakia and in Germany), where the author, in an articulated manner, deals with the image of the Sudeten Germans in a series of countries in relation to the problem of their “stains” from the past. They were believed to be guilty by the Czechs and also by the Germans (!) of the Democratic Republic, meanwhile they were represented overall as innocents according to the press and to the films produced in the Federal Republic of Germany.

“Myth and reality” is the subtitle of this book. And, in fact, this volume is able to guide the reader, in a scientifically impeccable manner and with some extremely original and interesting new approaches, on a mainly unexplored territory where until now it has been easy to construct stereotyped, false and misleading images on a category of people – the Volksdeutsche – who had lived, not more or less than the others in the continent the collective drama of the dark years – unfortunately not far away of the mentality of someone – when nations, peoples, races were not able to appreciate, because they were distracted by totalitarian and xenophobe ideologies, the most authentic values of living together and of human cooperation: in a word, the values of peace.

Jerzy Kochanowski – Maike Sach (Hrsg.), Die «Volksdeutschen» in Polen, Frankreich, Ungarn und der Tschechoslovakei. Mythos und Realität, fibre Verlag, Osnabrück 2006, pp. 431.



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