History à la Carte

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - Once again the German government's "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation" has caused a scandal. Because of recent historical revisionist allegations of two of the foundation's officials, the Central Council of Jews in Germany has announced that it is suspending its membership on the foundation's board of directors and may possibly resign. The allegations in question relativize Germany's sole responsibility for starting the Second World War. In spite of the public discussion provoked by these allegations, the foundation, which in fact is under German government control, has "made no significant move". This is why the Central Council of Jews in Germany finds it impossible to continue its participation, according to its General Secretary Stephan Kramer. Allegations falsifying history have also been made by other foundation functionaries. Referring to the author of an extremist right-wing magazine, the internet portal of the regional German League of Expellees (BdV) of the state of Hesse, whose chairperson is also on the foundation's board is repeating the allegation, that former Czech President "Benesch had called for the mass murder of Germans in 1945". Obvious incompetence and revisionist efforts have already led several prominent historians to resign from their functions in the foundation. In spite of this renewed scandal, the German government is maintaining its support for its foundation.

Escalation

With their public statements, two auxiliary board members of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation" have caused the current scandal. They had been nominated last July by the German League of Expellees (BdV) and elected to their functions by the German Bundestag. One of them, Arnold Tölg, BdV Regional Chairman in Baden Wurttemberg, had told a right-wing weekly that "while the victors were rightfully putting the German war criminals on trial in Nuremberg, those same countries [Poland, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, gfp] had committed crimes similar to those committed by Hitler Germany, in regards to slave labor."[1] The other, Hartmut Saenger, vice chairman of the BdV Regional organization in Hesse and a lecturer in adult education at the BdV, suggested in a news article that Poland could share the blame for launching World War II. In addition he claimed that it was Great Britain, who "turned it into a world wide conflict with its war for Danzig, which then became a global conflict when the USA entered" because of its interests in the Pacific.[2]

No Consequences

When the two BdV representatives' revisionist allegations became known this summer, they caused a miner wave of media indignation. But further-reaching consequences impinging on their work at the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation" were not forthcoming. Formally the foundation is under the auspices of the German Bundestag, but de facto under German government control. Among other things, the foundation is supposed to erect a "Site of Living Memory" at a prominent location in the German capital,[3] with which Berlin seeks to permanently keep the memory of the resettlement of Germans alive. The Central Council of Jews in Germany has reacted because the work of the foundation is evidently being influenced by people, who are unabashedly casting doubt on Germany's sole responsibility for the war. In his letter to the German Federal Chancellery's Cultural State's Minister, Bernd Neumann, Stephan Kramer, General Secretary wrote that, for the time being, the Central Council of Jews was suspending its membership on the foundation's board and was explicitly leaving open the option of a permanent resignation. The BdV functionaries' "revanchist positions" [4] were not the only reason. Kramer also criticized the fact that in the aftermath of the mild media debate of the revisionist allegations of those two functionaries, no "significant substantial move or even noticeable revision" has been made of decisions concerning their membership on the foundation's board.[5]

A Dilemma

The Central Council of Jews' criticism has exposed a dilemma, the German government can resolve only with great difficulty. To be able to make a permanent theme of the resettlement of Germans and subsequent claims, Berlin had decided, among other things, to erect, with the help of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation," a central memorial. This memorial is to keep the resettlement of Germans alive in national memory, long after most of those members of the resettled associations, who had experienced resettlement, have - in a foreseeable future - passed from the scene. Since, in establishing the planned memorial, the resettled associations, along with their right-wing sections, cannot be ignored, there are people at different levels of the foundation, whose political views are controversial. This applies not only to the cases of Arnold Tölg and Hartmut Saenger.

Mass Murderer

The internet site of the regional BdV Association of Hesse carries statements pointing also to revisionist tendencies. On the site, the Regional Chairman, Alfred Herold is quoted as having said; it fills "us expellees with a great deal of discord" when "May 8 is celebrated only as a day of liberation."[6] Alfred Herold is a full member of the board of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation". The internet site of the BdV Hesse - for which Alfred Herald is also responsible - has elsewhere published allegations concerning the resettlement of Germans and therefore the main theme of the "Flight, Expulsion, Reconciliation Foundation". One reads that in Eastern Europe there were "efforts, already in 1918, to drive the Germans out" even though the Sudeten German "Fuhrer" at the time, Konrad Henlein "had had no intention of destroying Czechoslovakia".[7] The BdV Hesse additionally claims: "Benesch called for the mass murder of Germans in 1945." The source provided for this allegation was a "retired senior teacher," who was an author of a right-wing extremist magazine.[8]

Visiting an Occupied Country

Controversial declarations were not only made by Tölg (BdV Baden-Wuerttemberg), Saenger and Herold (BdV Hesse), but also by Stephan Grigat (Eastern Prussia Homeland Association), member of the foundation's board, with his extraordinary claim - calling his trip to North Eastern Poland, a "visit to an occupied country". Manfred Kittel, the foundation's director, has also been heavily criticized in the past. In the 1990s, Kittel's book entitled "The Legend of the 'Second Guilt', "was described as "a new product of young conservative historical revision".[9] This book is not mentioned in the official list of the foundation director's works.[10] The line of thinking behind a "feasibility study" on the influence in the BdV of former Nazi activists, drafted "under the coordination of Manfred Kittel" [11] was commented in the press: "on this basis, one could even put Heinrich Himmler’s basic National Socialist convictions into question."[12] Three members of the foundation's Scientific Advisory Panel have resigned out of protest, since the beginning of 2010 alone, among them Polish historian, Tomasz Szarota [13] and Czech historian Kristina Kaiserová [14]. Szarota complained that "not a single researcher is represented" among the German members of the advisory panel, "who takes a critical approach to the grotesque image of history, the exaggerated number of victims and the Nazi pasts of many of the BdV functionaries".[15]

Imperative Will

Since the withdrawal of the Central Council of Jews, total chaos seems to have broken out in the government's foundation. Foundation board member, Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke, from Hamburg, was quoted as having said "especially at the reconciliation, the Jews must be present, just like the Poles and the Czechs."[16] Poles and Czechs are not represented in the foundation. The fact that Berlin is still sticking to its state supported foundation in spite of this scandal, shows, above all, its imperative will to keep the memory of the resettlement alive and to hold onto subsequent claims on various countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe.

[1] "Da klafft eine Gerechtigkeitslücke"; Junge Freiheit 07.01.2000
[2] Historischer Kontext; Preußische Allgemeine Zeitung 05.09.2009
[3] Konzeption; www.dhm.de/sfvv
[4] Zentralrat der Juden verlässt Vertriebenen-Stiftung; newsticker.sueddeutsche.de 06.09.2010
[5] Zentralrat stoppt Mitarbeit in Vertriebenen-Stiftung; www.welt.de 06.09.2010
[6] Besiegt oder befreit? www.bund-der-vertriebenen-hessen.de
[7] Die Ursache der Vertreibung darf nicht auf den Zweiten Weltkrieg reduziert werden; www.bund-der-vertriebenen-hessen.de
[8] Es handelt sich um die letztes Jahr eingestellte Zeitschrift "Nation und Europa".
[9] Willi Jasper: Endlich wieder normal? Ein neues Produkt jungkonservativer Geschichtsrevision: Manfred Kittel über die angeblich geglückte "Vergangenheitsbewältigung" nach 1945; Die Zeit 40/1993
[10] Direktor; www.dhm.de/sfvv
[11] Institut für Zeitgeschichte: Jahresbericht 2008
[12] Bis zur Harmlosigkeit verstrickt; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 20.02.2010. See also Expelled From Among the Living
[13] see also A Propaganda Ploy
[14] see also Weichen für die Zukunft
[15] "Steinbach soll eigenes Museum bauen"; Stuttgarter Nachrichten 15.01.2010
[16] "Gerade bei der Versöhnung müssen Juden dabei sein"; www.domradio.de 07.09.2010