Nuremberg II

HAMBURG |

HAMBURG (Own report) - One of the best-selling German news magazines is suggesting the establishment of an international tribunal to prosecute so-called expulsion crimes carried out on Germans. According to the latest issue of the History Edition of the weekly magazine, Der Spiegel, this tribunal could be modeled on the Nuremberg Trials against the most important Nazi war criminals (Nuremberg II). The edition, which refers to precedence cases, is dedicated to the "Germans in the East". It flanks Berlin's Germandom cultural policy in Eastern Europe, aimed at creating zones of direct influence beyond Germany's borders with the help of the local German-speaking minorities. The "cultural heritage", for example, in what had formerly been East Prussia or Silesia, belongs not only to "those, who are still living there today," but also to the "millions of those, who today are living in Germany and elsewhere", writes the journal of the property claims in regions of Russia and Poland in the guise of cultural policy. The journal's representation is a publicly appealing exacerbation of existing German foreign policy efforts.

Allegedly Unbiased

The Der Spiegel news magazine's most recent issue of its History edition was published at the end of January 2011, with the cover title "The Germans in the East". The journal, which addresses a broad public, has supplemented accounts of the flight and resettlement of Germans from Eastern and Southeastern Europe following World War II with texts on the histories and the current situation of the German-speaking minorities living in those regions today. The authors allege that the earlier controversy around the issue has been supplanted by an unbiased younger generation, making it possible to take positions beyond those of the "expellee" associations and of their critics. To support their alleged lack of bias, the authors make critical observations, which suggest a renunciation of the traditional standpoints propagated by the "expellees" spectrum. They truthfully write, for example, that in the Federal Republic of Germany the image of East Prussia has been, above all, characterized by the East Prussian nobility, for example Marion Countess Doenhoff or Hans Count von Lehndorff. This is a good description of the eastward orientation of both the official cultural policy of West German institutions and the private publishing houses.[1]

German Traces

Beyond these observations - and often in blatant contradiction to them - Der Spiegel transmits not only Berlin's traditional allegation, that German resettlement was "unjust" but also openly places in evidence claims to former eastern territories of the German Reich in the guise cultural policy. For example, in reference to East Prussia, one reads that it "of course belongs to the people who are living there today." "But the cultural heritage, through family relations, belongs as much to those millions, who today are living in Germany and elsewhere."[2] Several articles in the issue are dedicated to representations of the "cultural heritage," including one describing how "dedicated citizens" in the Russian administrative district of Kaliningrad are seeking to preserve "German traces",[3] including initiatives to have the locality Sovietsk renamed into Tilsit and a monument re-erected to Luise, the Queen of Prussia. Der Spiegel acknowledges that in Russia, there is also resistance to this cultural exertion of influence. Moscow is going to great lengths "to make people forget the German past" in the region.

Zones of Influence

Der Spiegel describes Berlin's intended role for the German speaking minorities using the example of Southwest Poland.[4] There the "Silesian" minority, using German state and EU financed subsidies, have created an exceptional situation for themselves, writes the journal. Since 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany, alone, has allocated about 150 million Euros to the German-speaking minority in Poland. The German-speaking minority is now using its enhanced status to demand special rights. More German name signs for locations and monument inscriptions, but, not least of all, comprehensive German school curriculums. In spite of the fact that Warsaw rejects any further detachment by the German language minority from the Polish social context, a round-table has been planned for this year to make progress in the discussion. This procedure shows how Berlin is obtaining new influence in East and Southeast Europe, using Germany's close ties to German-speaking minorities of these countries. By reinforcing its prerogative to intervene, using the growing influence of minorities, Berlin is systematically limiting the scope of sovereignty of the respective countries.[5]

"Not at all so different"

The journal takes a conspicuous position in an article dealing with the prospect of prosecuting so-called crimes of expulsion of Germans in the aftermath of World War II. According to this article, the "expulsions" of Germans from East European countries in the immediate aftermath of the war, are acts that are "not at all so different" from the crimes that have been prosecuted in The Hague before the International Tribunal for Yugoslavia since the 1990s. The fact that these acts were not handled by an international court subsequent to the Nuremberg Trials that prosecuted the main Nazi war criminals has brought great displeasure to the West German population. It is therefore "understandable" that "many post-war Germans," especially among the resettled, have characterized the Nuremberg Trial verdicts "victors' justice" that "had not alleviated historical injustice but rather compounded it".[6]

Learning from Estonia

As Der Spiegel explains, those "crimes of expulsion" could still be prosecuted today citing the precedence of Estonia. In 1994 the possibility of prosecuting certain "crimes against humanity" were written into Estonian penal law, even though the alleged crime had occurred in the distant past. Under this law, two men were convicted, "who in 1949 had participated in deporting civilians to Soviet labor camps." The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has subsequently ruled these and other similar verdicts to be legally binding, in spite of their being in violation of the prohibition on ex post facto laws. It would "be difficult to deny" that also "the expulsion of Germans" under current standards are clearly "crimes against humanity". In light of the confirmation of the Estonian convictions by the European Court of Human Rights, "the genie of Nuremberg" is today, no longer to "be kept in the bottle." "What Estonia can do, others can do too."[7]

An International Tribunal

Camouflaged as suggestive questions, Der Spiegel concludes with the suggestion that an international tribunal should be established to prosecute those, who had committed the so-called crimes of expulsion against Germans - a "Nuremberg II". This sort of tribunal could be based on "an internationally binding treaty with the former nations of expulsion" [8] - meaning the countries of East and Southeast Europe. In the aftermath of World War II, they, on the legal basis of the Potsdam Agreements, had resettled German-speaking minorities - who had been used as "fifth columns" by the Nazis to destabilize those countries - to what became West Germany. The journal's case could be hinged on the fact that since 1949, every West German government has characterized this resettlement of Germans an injustice, which, in principle, should be prosecuted. Just last week, the German Bundestag voted in favor of declaring August 5, an annual commemoration day for the "injustice of expulsion". Only a few years ago, this would have been considered just as unthinkable, as the creation of a tribunal for the "expelling countries" today.

[1] "Who had characterized our idea of East Prussia? Both before the war and even up into the 1980s, it was almost exclusively the nobles - Marion Countess Doenhoff, Hans Count von Lehndorff, Alexander Prince of Dohna-Schlobitten, Esther Countess von Schwerin. This gives the impression that the nobles were galloping around the East Prussian landscape, lovingly, paternalistically speaking to their subjects, the lords were maintaining order. Many in West Germany refused to confront the problematic heritage but rather preferred to nestle in romantic, nostalgic images." "Randlage mit Bollwerksfunktion" Spiegel Discussion with Dr. Andreas Kossert, a historian for Eastern Europe; Der Spiegel Geschichte 1/2011
[2] "Randlage mit Bollwerksfunktion". Spiegel-Gespräch mit dem Osteuropa-Historiker Dr. Andreas Kossert; Der Spiegel Geschichte 1/2011
[3] "Wir leben unseren Traum"; Der Spiegel Geschichte 1/2011
[4] Ein Loch in der Geschichte; Der Spiegel Geschichte 1/2011
[5] see also German Settlements in the East, The Germandom Prize and The Impact of Germans in the East
[6], [7], [8] Aktenzeichen ungelöst; Der Spiegel Geschichte 1/2011