Restitution

FREIBURG/BERLIN |

FREIBURG/BERLIN (Own report) - A touring exhibition scheduled to open Friday in Freiburg, exposes how the Federal Republic of Germany has been dealing with the Nazi government's abduction and forced Germanization of children. Several hundreds of thousands of children, particularly from the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia had been snatched from their families and kidnapped by the German occupiers because of an alleged non-Slavic ethnic origin. The Nazi's objective was to retrieve "Germanic ethnic substance" through adoption by German families. It remains unknown, how many kidnapped children lived in West Germany. The West German Ministry of the Interior helped to obscure the identities of these children throughout the post-war period. The Federal Republic of Germany continues to refuse to compensate the forced Germanized individuals. Their "fate, as such" constitutes "no criminal offense under a special settlement regulation," according to Germany's current Minister of the Finances. Slovakian survivors of forced Germanization are expected May 9, for the opening of the exhibition in Freiburg. The exhibition is scheduled to also be shown in Berlin and Hamburg.

According to the order handed down by Hitler's Army Group Center, at least 40,000 Soviet children, up to age 14, were to be "registered" for either abduction for work or to be Germanized.[1] How many actually were abducted from that region of the Soviet Union, first to Poland and then to Germany, is unknown. Polish historians give even higher figures, calculating that the German occupiers of Polish territory had abducted more than 200,000 minors. A credible inventory of similar Nazi crimes committed, for example, in Czechoslovakia and the other occupied countries has never been undertaken by those in power in the post-war Germanies - West or East. Children had also been abducted from Yugoslavia and Norway.

Several Hundreds of Thousands

When the concerned nations demanded information about their abducted children, to have them repatriated, the German Ministry of the Interior used an "administrative ruse" back in 1952.[2] Given the fact that possible available records would be archived in the youth welfare offices, these subordinate departments from this section of the Ministry were outsourced and removed to local autonomously administrated municipalities. Whoever would seek to track down kidnapped children would have to inquire at all localities of West Germany. "Several hundreds of thousands of children" could "no longer be traced," according to a 2010 study on the "mass child fostering by the German youth welfare offices."

Lifelong Search

Only by chance, could some of the kidnapped children trace their true origins back to their home countries. In an interview with german-foreign-policy.com, Christoph Schwarz, curator of the exhibition in Freiburg and chair of the private association, "Abducted Children - Forgotten Victims," spoke of the results of this - often lifelong - search. For example, Johanna Kunzer only learned her true long-sought identity in 1990. Altogether, her foster mother had kidnapped her six times, as the Red Cross attempted to return her to her natural mother. Hermann Lüdeking, who had been kidnapped from Poland as a child, never learned who his real parents were, in spite of his tireless efforts. He never found traces leading to his origins.

Limited Means

In West Germany, none of the kidnapped children have successfully been officially recognized as victims of the Nazis. Every government of the Federal Republic of Germany has ruled - and continues to rule - out restitution to these direct victims of the Germanization mania. Those who were turned down by German authorities, after having learned of their past, entered a "process of cumulative traumatization."[3] Even the federal charity Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future" (EVZ) refuses any material compensation to the abducted - "due to limited financial means."

Capability

Just as limited are the means of the German Ministry of Finances. According to a written response from the ministry's Section V to the Parliamentary Petition Committee, "a total indemnity of those persecuted ... would, by far, surpass the economic capacities of the Federal Republic of Germany."[4] The author of this appraisal is Ministerial Director, Dr. Kurt Bley - the same Dr. Bley, who, as an EVZ Foundation Board of Trustees member, conflates the limitations of the state's capabilities with those of that charity foundation.[5]

Compensation for War Victims

As the exhibition in Freiburg points out, the refusal of restitution to Nazis' victims stand in an inadmissible discrepancy with the German government's payments to the culprits themselves. They have been - and are still being - compensated for their deadly achievements. "For example, until 1998, an SS guard at the Auschwitz extermination camp was paid a war victims' compensation. Over the years, this has amounted to more than 60,000 Euros for his deadly craftsmanship."[6]

Habitual Crimes

With Slovenian witnesses from that period, the exhibition in Freiburg documents the particularly gruesome treatment of anti-fascist partisans and their families. As photos show, the fathers were executed by the dozens; the children were kidnapped and rediscovered, only by chance, in the post-war period. Robbing children from their parents, who were murdered during so-called mopping-up operations, were among the habitual crimes committed by the German occupiers in Czechoslovakia.

Berlin and Hamburg

As Schwarz emphasizes, "to make known the extent of injustice inflicted upon the abducted children" and to demand restitution from the German government is "the primary objective of this exhibition." Following the exhibition's residence in Freiburg, it will be displayed in Berlin and in Hamburg. There are victims of these Nazi abductions still living in these two cities, according to information obtained by german-foreign-policy.com. In our interview with him, Christoph Schwarz said that "additional offers to put on this exhibition would be appreciated."

The exhibition will be on display at the Square of the Old Synagogue in Freiburg until Mai 16. Entrance is free of charge.

[1] Vgl. Generalleutnant R.A. Rudenko: Die Gerechtigkeit nehme ihren Lauf! Die Reden des sowjetischen Hauptanklägers im Nürnberger Prozess der deutschen Hauptkriegsverbrecher. Berlin 1946. Alexander von Plato: Hitlers Sklaven. Internationales lebensgeschichtliches Dokumentationsprojekt zur Sklaven- und Zwangsarbeit, Wien 2008.
[2] M.-J. Leonhard: Schwarzbuch Jugendamt. Eine Streitschrift gegen die Masseninobhutnahmen durch deutsche Jugendämter, Bochum 2010.
[3] Auskunft der Psychoanalytikerin Dr. Luise Reddemann, 23. März 2014.
[4] Schreiben vom 17.05.2013.
[5] See Politischer Steuerungsauftrag.
[6] Presseerklarung des gemeinnützigen Vereins "geraubte kinder - vergessene opfer" vom 02.05.2014.