We Don't Need Falsifiers of History!

Wir Brauchen Keine Geschichtsfaelscher!

Eisfeld, Dr. Alfred. "We Don't Need Falsifiers of History!" Volk auf dem Weg, October 2008, 3-5.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog, Boulder, Colorado

Caption, page 4: Dr. Alfred Eisfeld during his address on the occasion of the commemorative celebration of the Landsmannschaft in front of the Berlin reichstag on August 30, 2008.

A great deal of agitation and indignation has been engendered during the last few months by a mistake-ridden presentation of the history of our ethnic group in a new text book (Geschichte und Gegenwart, Bd. 2. [History and the Present, vol. 2] by Hans-Juergen Lendzian and Christoph Andreas Marx, publ. by the Schoenich Verlag, ISGN 10: 3-14-024902-0, which is now used in schools in [the German state/Land of] North-Rhine-Westphalia. Historian Dr. Alfred Eisfeld, also cultural consultant for the Landsmannschaft d.D.a.R., and vice-director of the Goettingen branch of the Institute for [translated institutional name:] Culture and History of the Germans in North-East Europe (Nordost-Institut), has undertaken a careful analysis of the book and has arrived at a withering critique.

Inclusion of the topic “the German-Russians” in a school text for instruction in the subject of history has taken a long time. Thus the Landsmannschaft happily welcomed a pamphlet on the topic “Aussiedler” issued in 1989 by the Bundeszentrale fuer politische Bildung [Federal Center for Political Education] and made available in large quantities for school instruction. With this pamphlet # 222 and subsequent pamphlets from state offices for political education on the same topic, certain gaps in available school texts were filled in at least a makeshift way.

In the meantime, the Landsmannschaft [...], on its own initiative, has published pamphlets reporting on Aussiedler in Hesse and Bavaria. A similar pamphlet on Aussiedler in Lower Saxony is under preparation.

By placing the topic “German-Russians” into regular school instruction, the above-mentioned text represents a long-overdue step. Regrettably, it present s worse than merely needless mistakes in the description of that history.

(Just a few examples at the outset: on page 368 the village of Halbstadt is called a city, and on 372 one reads “their possessions of arable, forest, grazing lands and meadows often consisted of nothing at all or they were located on the opposite side banks of the Volga.” This “other side of the Volga” is simply an invention by the authors.  The Lutheran church in Kasan, several hundred kilometers north of the Volga-German region, is erroneously included as part of the Volga-German area.)

The statement “The new political system in Russia, the Soviet State, held some initial advantages for Russia’s Germans. The Volga region saw the establishment of the ‘Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic of Volga-Germans,’” and the subsequent listing of alleged benefits (p. 374) corresponds neither to actual conditions in Soviet Russia (the Soviet Union, as of 1922) nor to what we now know from the current state of research in Germany or in Russia. The correct picture looks like this: the educated stratus from the time prior to the grab of power by th Bolsheviks was systematically destroyed, or some opted for migration internally or, for those who managed, to countries abroad.  Introducing  German as the language of officialdom and instruction was intended merely to serve the Soviet power’s intentions. In reality, it was “Nationalist: pro forma; content-wise: Socialist.” And it is the latter that counted.

What pedagogical purpose is served when a heading reads “Germans-Russian,” [in the sense of Germans in Russia - Tr.], but the term “German Russians” [note the important absence of the hyphen - Tr.] is sued within the text? Is this usage intended to suggest a term similar to “German Turks,” “German Moroccans,” “German Palestinians,” “German Kurds,” etc., to indicate people of foreign descent [as opposed to the ever-important distinction, namely, German descent - Tr.]? Does  this usage create clarification  or, rather, confusion?

Especially trivializing is the [book’s] description of the treatment of the vast majority of Germans in Russian on the hands of the Soviet authorities: “About 900,000 German Russians [sic] were resettled. All men and women who were able to work were forced to perform extremely hard labor; this caused family separation, when children often were assigned to institutional homes or placed with Russian families.”  It was, in fact, deportation, not resettlement! Separation from spouses lasting for many years certainly did result in a vast reduction of birth rates. The inhuman work and living conditions, under which extreme hard labor was expected to be done in the infamous “work columns,” has been designated, even by Russian historians, as intentional destruction, that is, genocide. The text does not even mention the hundreds of thousands of dead or permanently disabled German-Russians. And the text does not make clear the real reason for the post-war fate [of our ethnic group - TR.].              

Entirely inadequate and factually erroneous is the description of the time of German occupation of Ukraine. [This is a time span the translator experienced personally, albeit as a very young child - Tr.] It is factual that the Soviet authorities were, due to the rapid advance of the German troops, unable to deport the Germans residing in the Western regions of the Soviet Union [e.g., the area west of the Dnyepr or the Bug Rivers - Tr.] to points East. However, it must be remembered that the Soviet authorities did deport Germans [even from Eastern Ukraine, Crimea, and, especially, hundreds of thousands from the Volga region and the Caucasus - Tr.]!

The authors of the book state: “They (the Germans who were left behind) were declared to be Germans by the German occupiers.” Hidden behind this statement is the unstated canvassing campaign [of ethnic Germans - TR.] via the so-called “Deutschen Volksliste Ukraine” [List of Ethnic German Ethnic, Ukraine]. By means of this racist administrative instrument the Germans within  occupied Soviet territories would (as, for example, previously in Poland) be examined as to their qualification for settlement projects of the National-Socialist regime. This sorting out was ordered by the German Reich and was definitely obligatory for everyone.

The sentence “They were given the opportunity [translator’s emphasis] to resettle in conquered areas of Poland or to remain where they were [again, translator’s emphasis]” simply demonstrates a lack of even basic knowledge of the nature of a totalitarian state. Who, in the Third Reich, and under war conditions, ever had the right to choose where he might wish to be!? [From personal experience, and that of my parents and many others, I know perfectly well that no one was given the choice of remaining in Ukraine when the order to evacuate to Poland came for all ethnic Germans in the greater Odessa region in March of 1944!- Tr.]

For the 350,000 Germans in Ukraine who were placed under occupation by Germany, of most significance was the canvassing via the “Deutsche Volksliste Ukraine” [German Ethnic Listing, Ukraine]. Privatization of the agricultural land that had been nationalized after 1917, that is, in 1920. One merely minor change was that the size of home acreage allowance was increased from 0.5 hectare to 1 [ca. 1.25 to 2.5 acres]. At the same time, deliverable assessments were increased as well. Collectives were transformed into communes and placed under control of the Reichs-German agricultural leadership.

By May, 1942, around 20,000 Reichs-Germans had arrived in Ukraine in order to take up leading roles in agricultural and forestry areas, in industry and transportation, “for the implementation of which the local German population has been found unqualified in human and technical terms, and unreliable in ideological terms.”

The subsequent canvassing of the German population of Ukraine via the “Deutsche Volksliste Ukraine” [German Ethnic Listing, Ukraine] served primarily to determine the qualification of this population for the political resettlement plans of the Third Reich (General Plan, East). Persons who were found to be adequate for Eastern colonization, i.e., for resettlement serving the purposes of “Germanization” of Central and Eastern Europe, were designated “Ost-Faelle” [Eastern Cases”] or “O-Faelle.”

Persons who, according to the ratings by the race and resettlement commander of the SS were found not to be qualified due to race, social or political traits, the so-called “Altreich-Faelle” [Cases for the Original Reich], were at least initially to be brought to the area of the German Reich so that their “ethnic” values might be enhanced. There they were handed over to serve in work details.

In addition, there was also the designation “Volksdeutsche” [Ethnic Germans] who were considered “insufficiently qualified for contact with Reichs-Germans in Germany.” These “Sammellager-Faelle,” [literally, Collection-Camp Cases], or “S-Faelle,” were to be gathered in collection camps, in which “via indoctrination and forced labor” they would be “prepared for living in and with National-Socialist Germany.”

Around mid-October, 1943, there were serious discussions about utilizing Germans from a portion of the so-called RKU [Reichskommissariat Ukraine], and transporting them in “Treks,” toward “Immediate resettlement” of Western Ukraine. According to SS-plans, ethnic German settlement “pearls” were to be established along the larger railroad lines and at significant railroad centers.

The slogan “Heim ins Reich” that was propagated during the war was actually very misleading. There was no intention whatsoever to take the imperiled “Ethnic Germans” to Germany under the “Protection of the Reich” and to settle them in the general area of the German Reich proper. The German Reich was continuing settlement policies begun as early as in the Kaiser era. From the areas that were really to be “Germanized,” a major portion of the Jewish and Polish population was destroyed or removed. The resettlement of the Germans in Russia was ordered and implemented by German authorities. This administrative resettlement at least temporarily prevented access to these German-Russians in Ukraine by Soviet authorities. They paid for this with the permanent loss of their homes, and this loss could never be compensated for by the short-lived, selective preferential treatment of these “Ethnic Germans.”

Germans in Russia could not be held responsible for the occupation authorities’ decision to grant them extra food, clothing, etc. Similarly could the German-Russians not be held responsible for the mass murders of Jews, which were carried out by Romanian troops and by special units of the security police and the SD {Staats-Dienst, or State Service]. It is factual that certain units of the “Selbsschutz’ [home protection, a la militia - Tr.], which were under the direction of the SS and responsible for guarding the German-Russian settlements [villages], were deployed in carrying out executions.  Current research results indicate that this involved a few dozen men, and not all of these were eventually found guilty even by Soviet justice.

During [post-war] judicial proceedings against these “home protection men” in the Soviet Union, a clear distinction was made between the innocent and war criminals. The school text, however, clearly implies a collective guilt. And why, then, is there no mention of mixed marriages (German-Russians and Jews), the partners of which would go to their deaths together  during the German occupation? Similarly, why is there no mention of those German villagers who hid their Jewish villagers from Romanian and German occupiers?

The [book’s] imbalanced depiction of the situation of German-Russians during the German occupation stigmatized them collectively and, overall, as war collaborators and war criminals. Our current problems with integrating Aussiedler is therewith made more difficult and even impeded. This can not be how  we “enlighten” our children in the schools.

There is another effect that must be addressed, one certainly not intended by the publishers. The NPD [an extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi party -Tr.] has taken this exaggerated historical misrepresentation [in this text] as an occasion to play themselves up as a public attorneys on behalf of the Germans from Russia. Our Landsmannschaft decisively distances itself from this notion! The Aussiedler and others who have come home from the Soviet Union or countries of the former Soviet Union to the land of their forefathers made a clear choice for freedom.  They need neither falsifiers of history nor brown protectors.                                                                  

Our appreciation is extend to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller