Choosing Between Compassion or Politics
'The Belsen Trial', that I read second time recently, chronicles the circumstances and entire proceedings of the war crimes trial of Josef Kramer, the Nazi camp commandant at Auschwitz and his forty-four accomplices, wreaking havoc on the inmates that were generally Jews. The questions, also raised by the author, that strike any reader without fail need wider soul searching. For instance, man's horrendous inhumanity to man is inexplicable? Is it quite impossible to believe that a nation that boasted not without reason, of its contribution to science and culture could have sunk to such depths of degradation? Right Hon. Lord Jowitt qualifies the enigma, "....I think, find the answer in the general acceptance of the Fuhrer principle.....oath that all S.S. members took: I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, as Fuhrer and Chancellor of the Reich, faith and steadfastness. I pledge to you and to those whom you trust your orders, unwavering obedience unto death."
However, there were courageous dissenters like Dr. Fritz Kraemer who differed with Hitler's doctrine. Despite not having the compulsion of Jews, he escaped Germany in 1938, fought against Nazis in Battle of Bulge and Battles of Ruhr and Rhineland that won him battlefield commission and Bronze Star in US Army's 84th Infantry Division...the 'Rail-splitter4'. Henry Kissinger, widely speculated to have been discovered by Dr. Fritz Kraemer wrote, "Kraemer values were absolute. Like the ancient prophets, he made no concession to human frailty or to historic evolution; he treated intermediate solutions as derogation from principles".
Seeing people like Hitler and Dr. Fritz Kraemer, poles apart, one understands, there is enormous confusion-blitz that pollutes every literate person's mind. Driven by the same urge, in Berlin in September 2000, I picked up Joachim C. Fest's book, 'Hitler' from a book stall which circulated through several hands with queer facial expressions of immigration officers when I was exiting Germany from Hamburg. I found it a remarkable book that, in my view, dealt with Hitler in an absolutely just manner above earthly anger, prejudice, bias, or favor, depicting him as the kind of stuff, he was. One also comes across such comments, "He stands like a statue, grown beyond the measure of an earthly man". Recently a new British editorial project has commenced publishing (Zeitungszeugen) Nazi era news with historical analysis in Berlin, reported 'The Local'. It would help further dragging out truth from the crevices of bias, prejudice and ignorance. "I am not sure what impact the Zeitungszeugen project will have", the German Jewish journalist Ralph Giordano told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. "But what is certain is that Hitler might have been militarily defeated, but he hasn't been beaten intellectually even 60 years after his downfall". The project is claimed to be a necessity to educate the young generation.
In another act of transparency, while Germans celebrate fall of Berlin Wall nineteen years thence and that is screening of 'Swastika', a film that depicts the personal side of Hitler's life, has been permitted in Germany. Grumbling by certain quarters is inevitable but perhaps plausible comments have also come forth, pointing that Germany was now mature to handle Nazi legacy and some even recommending that it should be shown in every school.
Conversely, Germans' miseries that war heaped on them are further unfolding. A justified debate has almost entangled the German foreign minister, Mr. Westerwelle. In an opinion article written for daily Bild, Erika Steinbach, president of the Federation of(WW-II) Expellees accused foreign minister of trying to "buy the confidence" of neighbouring countries at the expense of millions of Germans' lingering grievances. She is a vociferous campaigner for the rights of about thirteen million Germans expelled from their homes and hearths after WW-II from Eastern Germany, including some territories that are no longer part of post Cold War unified Germany.
In January 2009, a mass grave of Germans, having 1800 corpses, was also unearthed in Polish city of Malbork that was part of Germany before WW-II and known as Marienburg. "They are the remains of women, men and children," public prosecutor Waldemar Zduniak told the paper. "A portion of the corpses display bullet wounds". The entire WW-II events till last day by German soldiers testify that they were never shot down as bunch of partridges ever. In all probability, these were the German prisoners or the civilians whose killing soothed the ire of their captors. Incidentally the mass grave happened to be in the Soviets controlled area. The information is not only enigmatic; it is a riddle to resolve, with a big question mark?
The tragedy, taken up by Erika Steinbach, has been presented euphemistically. The sordid tale actually crystallized after WW-II when 12 million Germans were forced to migrate. It haunts their living posterity even today. Dr.Hubertus Hoffmann, a victim himself, bemoaned "... two million Germans had been killed during the displacement, hundreds of thousands of women were raped, 400,000 civilians were forced by the USSR into slave working camps in Russia, 650,000 were brutally treated in camps in Poland and the Czech Republic, 12 million lost their homeland and family roots, their entire wealth, one third was unemployed, and a great number resided in primitive camps". Such a large chunk of German population living in territories of Silesia, East Prussia, Pomerania, and Sudetenland was afflicted with adroit savagery by the occupation force. Ordinarily and justly though, the whole world should have been clamoring with twice bigger trumpet about such a mega massacre that could be termed safely as 'holocaust'. Thoroughly bruised and embittered by the vagaries of time, it was justified if the victims would have at least sounded hostile but the Charter, 12 million Germans' representatives drew was remarkably benign and courageous. It read,"... We, the expelled persons, renounce revenge and retribution... We have become homeless and foreigners upon this earth. God placed people in their homeland. Separating people from their homeland through use of force means to kill their spirit. We have experienced and suffered this destiny. Therefore, we feel called upon to demand that the right to one's homeland, as one of the fundamental rights given by God, be recognized and realized... The nations must realize that the fate of the German expellees, just as that of all refugees, is a world problem....We call upon all cultures and people of good will to participate actively, so that out of guilt, misfortune, suffering, poverty and affliction, the way to a better future for all may be found". Should it not be assumed that they were and continued to be meted with callous indifference by the world community that has not acted at all for last over six decades? Nothing justifies colossal and willful evasion to bandage a deep wound on the face of humanity and lingering pains of the victims. One salutes the victims for their patience, tolerance and steadfastness. Even though they are grieved and most of them have traveled already to their eternal abode, they renounced 'revenge and retribution' in the opening premise.
Bitter message in the new millennium is, own up your people without any reluctance or burden of conscience. Planting the people back to the ancestral roots is the collective obligation of the parent states/races as well as the world community, no matter in which part of the world catastrophe occurred. The responsibility is great and the issue needs to be addressed straight and square by shunning myopic interests of geo-politics. Erika Steinbach view point does not necessarily mean sacrificing the good neighborly relations but it requires Mr. Westerwelle to address mega human tragedy with equally colossal dexterity of the stature of Castlereagh or Metternich and not sweep 12/13 millions Germans' woes under the carpet. Erika Steinbach deserves standing ovation anyway for pioneering the just and passionate cause of the victims. Still more I would solicit Mr. Ban Ki-moon's attention to this immeasurable social catastrophe as well.
(The author is a retired BrigGen from Pakistan Army, holds PhD degree in IR and author of a book, "The New Great Game: Oil and Gas Politics in Central Eurasia" by Dr. Makni--his acronym. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)