Scrapbookpages Blog

March 20, 2010

More self-flagellation by the Germans

In the news today is an article with the headline Study: Dresden Bombing Exaggerated.

The city of Dresden after it was bombed in World War II

Here is a quote from the article:

(March 19) — On Feb. 13-15, 1945, British and U.S. bombers pounded the eastern German city of Dresden with 3,900 tons of high explosives and incendiaries. How many people lost their lives in the devastating firestorms that followed has long been a subject of contention — the Nazis claimed the dead numbered close to 500,000; modern historians have estimated up to 40,000.

Now a five-year study by a panel of German historians has concluded that about 25,000 people died in the attack, far fewer than most experts thought. Researchers pored over records from the city’s archives, cemeteries, official registries and courts. They discovered that the death toll among refugees from the Eastern Front was lower than previously reported. They also dismissed the idea that hundreds of thousands of bodies could have lain undiscovered in the smoldering ruins.

The German people love to beat themselves up and atone for their past sins; they consider it wrong to have any pride in being German or to have any loyalty to their country.  Can you imagine Americans doing a five-year study to prove that a war crime committed against America was not so bad?

I know this is hard to believe, but I didn’t even know about the bombing of Dresden, until I got on the Internet in 1993 and read about it on a news group.  Americans don’t agonize over war crimes like today’s Germans.

The bombing of Dresden took place during Fasching, or what we call Mardi Gras. There was an unknown number of people in the city for the festivities. There was also an unknown number of refugees in Dresden who were trying to escape the Soviet Army which was advancing westward.  The names of these thousands of people are unknown; the bodies could not be identified or even counted because they were burned to ashes. So even a five-year study could not possibly determine the number of deaths in the Dresden bombing.

A war crime is not defined by the number of people killed.  So what does it matter if 500,000 or 25,000 people were killed in the Dresden bombing?  Apparently, it matters to the Germans who don’t want to feel good about themselves, but only want to feel guilt.

But that’s not all the German guilt in the news today:

Bernhard Schlink, the author of The Reader, which was made into a movie, has a new book out, called Guilt about the Past.  That is a title that will certainly resonate with the Germans who can’t get enough of feeling guilty about the past.  For the Germans of today, Guilt has replaced national Pride. (I wrote a review of The Reader which you can read here.)

Here is a quote from an article about Schlink’s new book:

“I don’t know of any intellectual who would say, ‘Let’s close this chapter. It’s over. Let’s move forward’,” he says of the Holocaust. But the passage of time, though it might not heal wounds, will perhaps allow clarity of vision. In Germany, he argues, the era of genocide “has become such an undoubted integral element of our cultural and historical memory because it’s not as painful as it used to be before. It’s more painful when it’s about the guilt of your father or your mother or uncle or professor – or the teacher whom you respected. When it is about a great-grandfather, the pain disappears”.

Can you imagine Americans today feeling guilty about our “era of genocide” when almost the entire race of Native Americans was wiped out?  Americans never even give this a thought.  The natives were in our way and we got rid of them.  What’s wrong about that?  Americans have more pride in themselves than any other people, and we don’t let past sins bother us.

Bernhard Schlink said in an interview:

For them (the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Nazis), to seek to understand the motives of a death-camp guard itself ranks as a kind of complicity in evil. “You have to condemn. Period.”

The great-grandchildren of the American soldiers who killed POWs at Dachau certainly don’t “condemn. Period.”   No, we take great pride in the fact that Americans came into Dachau with guns blazing and mowed down the Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the camp.

According to the article about Bernhard Schlink’s new book Guilt about the Past, it took long years of struggle for the German people to tell the now-conventional story of genocide (the Holocaust) at all.

As quoted in the article, Bernhard Schlink said:

“When I was growing up in the 1950s these stories (of German suffering) were told so much more than any Holocaust story,” he recalls. “So I grew up with stories told by my teachers, by relatives… about the expulsions of Germans from central and eastern Europe, and about the bombings. Teachers told about their times in camps in Siberia. All these stories disappeared in the 1960s once we realised (sic) the Holocaust in its full dimensions – not just in figures and numbers… but what it actually meant.”

I lived in Germany in the 1950s, during the American occupation.  The American Army had taken over the SS garrison at Dachau and Americans in Germany were not ordered, but expected, to visit the former Dachau camp.  I decided not to go because others who had gone to Dachau reported that there was nothing there to see except pathetic German refugees.  I didn’t know at that time that these were the “expellees.”  There were plenty of homeless German refugees on the streets at that time, so I didn’t have to go to Dachau to see them.  Bernard Schlink is right — the Germans didn’t talk about the Holocaust in the 1950s.  They were still suffering from the aftermath of World War II and they had no sympathy for the Holocaust victims.  Now the pendulum has swung too far the other way, in my humble opinion.

2 Comments »

  1. Well the guilt is not only for having helped Hitler into power and for the Holocaust, but for having attacked their neighbors. One can argue how much mainly powerless ordinary individuals knew about the Holocaust, but nobody can deny Hitler’s aggressions against his neighbors. It took years to build up that war machine, and it was not some sudden event that burst out on Sept 1 1939. Hence the Germans feel guilty for that too.

    Comment by Paulo — June 26, 2010 @ 2:38 am

    • In 1918, Poland was not a country; it had not been a country since 1772. The Polish people had not fought in World War I, but in the Treaty of Versailles, land that had belonged to Germany, Austria and Russia for 146 years was given to the new country of Poland. There were a lot of ethnic Germans living on the land that was now Poland. The Poles starting killing the ethnic Germans and taking their farms away from them. The Poles also chased thousands of Jews out of their new country and forced them to move to Germany. This was the start of the events that led to Kristallnacht.

      The Armistice that the Germans signed to end World War I was based on Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points. Point #5 allowed for the people in a given territory to vote for which country they wanted to be citizens of. The ethnic Germans in Silesia, which was in Poland, voted to be citizens of Germany, but this was ignored. Germany was divided into two parts, as a result of the Treaty of Versailles, and the Germans wanted to build a highway and a railroad across Poland so they could have access to the other half of Germany. The Poles refused to even talk to the Germans about a right-of-way across the “Polish Corridor,” so Hitler was trying to negotiate with them through the British.

      When the British saw that the Poles would never give in, they made a promise to the Poles to defend them in case of an attack by Germany. This led to the British and the French declaring war on Germany. After Poland was conquered in 28 days, Hitler refused to fight his “neighbors” until he learned that the British were going to try to take control of neutral countries around the North Sea to cut Germany off from valuable mineral supplies in case of war. That’s why Hitler made a pre-emptive strike on Norway and Denmark and that was the real beginning of World War II.

      How many countries has America attacked without a declaration of war? Do Americans feel guilty about that? No! Do Americans feel guilty about taking land away from the Native Americans and killing millions of them? NO! President Roosevelt gave half of Europe to the Communists at Yalta. Do Americans feel guilty about putting Roosevelt into power? NO, NO, NO!

      Comment by furtherglory — June 26, 2010 @ 8:04 am


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