The Forgotten Genocide Lecture Series
At the St Louis Community College-Meramec, Kirkwood, Mo.
Dr. Kearn Schemm Jr.
Continuation from Part Two:
The war against the Hitlerian Reich was justified on many levels; however, what once again became a war on German culture during and after that war was not. Germans were once again interned in large numbers in Britain, Canada, Australia and any countries allied with Britain. In the United States, starting in 1938, three years before we entered the war, the FBI developed a list of German-Americans it considered suspicious; it did the same with Germans in South American countries. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but before Germany and the US were at war, German-Americans were picked up and interned, eventually as many as 30,000 may have been interned in US camps: the same camps that housed 120,000 Japanese Americans. Several thousand German-Latin Americans were kidnapped from their countries and brought to the US for internment as well. The US State Department encouraged their home countries to arrest them, seize their assets and deport them to the US. Brazil set up its own internment camps in which some 15,000 German-Brazilian leaders, many of whose families had been in Brazil since the 1820s, were incarcerated for the duration of the war.
After the Nazi attack on the Soviet Union the entire ethnic German population of European Russia, millions of people, were deported in cattle cars to the Soviet Far East. Hundreds of thousands of these Germans died in the transports. This although ethnic Germans were accounting of themselves well in the defense of the Soviet Union, indeed one of the heroes of the defense of Brest was an ethnic German by the name of Wagner. To this day, the descendants of these deported ethnic Germans have not received an apology for their treatment at the hands of Soviet authorities. To this day, they are forbidden from returning to their home regions, although all other ethnic “enemies of the state” have long since been allowed to return to their homes.
The bombing terror of German cities during the war took a tremendous toll, I can’t begin to give you an accurate figure of the dead, since it has been deliberately falsified and revised downward since the end of the war. One example should suffice: Dresden. Shortly before the attack on Dresden, British Prime Minister Churchill said that, “there are one million Germans too many.” On February 14, 1945 his Bomber Commend did their best to eliminate many of those “million too many.” After the attack in 1945 it was estimated that close to 250,000 people, mostly refugees from the east, had met their end there, based on an actual counting of corpses in the destroyed city by German authorities, Today, under American and British pressure, the city now claims that a figure of only between 18,000 and 25,000 were killed there. Kurt Vonngut, one of my favorite authors, was a POW in Dresden and lived through the firestorm there. He spoke of “hundreds of thousands” of dead in the attack.
As Soviet troops marched towards the west, and conquered German territory, they treated the civilian population with unheard of brutality. In the villages of Gumbinnen and Nemmersdorf whole populations were wiped out. These atrocities led to the two largest maritime catastrophes in history, as German civilians ran in terror from the Soviet army. These were the loss of the ships “Wilhelm Gustloff” and the “General Von Steuben,” both refugee ships torpedoed by Soviet Submarines. On both ships, there were between 7,000 to 10,000 people were on board, mostly women and children, died. Have you ever heard of either of those ships? Let me see the hands of those who have.
By the time the war ended, several million women had been raped by Soviet soldiers who should have been their liberators. Virtually every woman in Berlin and Vienna, and many women in smaller German towns suffered this ordeal. In the west it was better, but there were far too many incidents of rape by French colonial troops and even by American troops. The use of rape against German women was the largest application of rape as a weapon of war in human history.
Perhaps the greatest of all these atrocities was the treatment of German prisoners of war. The Soviets held many until 1956, 11 years after the war ended and hundreds of thousands died at their hands. The Yugoslavs buried 3,000 alive in a seaside bunker that they walled up. The US had huge POW camps in the Rheinwiesen, or Rhine Meadows. Camps in which there was no shelter, not enough food (and local people were forbidden from giving food to the captives, on fear of being shot). Estimates of German POW losses in US and French camps range up to 800,000.
Once the Nazis were defeated the Polish, Yugoslav and Czechoslovak authorities had their chance to even the slate. Poland and Yugoslavia set up numerous concentration camps for ethnic German citizens. In some of these camps, infant mortality was 100%. In Poland 60-80,000 Germans died in these camps, after the war had ended. Polish authorities now admit that close to 99% of these people were innocent of any crime against Poland or the Polish people.
In Czechoslovakia, many of the Nazi concentration camps were kept in use, but now for Germans rather than Jews, the most famous of which was Theresienstadt, which saw service until 1946. All Germans were forced to wear armbands with an “N” for “Nemec” for German on them. They were subjected to much the same legal discrimination that Jews had suffered under the Nazis. There were many massacres of unbelievable brutality. In all, about 240,000 Sudeten Germans were killed during this period.
The Poles, Czechs, Hungarian, Yugoslavs, Romanians and Soviets were given the right to expel all or part of their ethnic German populations, only the Romanians made very little use of this right. About 1/7th of the ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia perished. Virtually all of the ethnic Germans from Yugoslavia, Poland and Czechoslovakia lost their homes and were never paid any compensation for their losses. Add to this the Germans from Germany proper (east of the Oder-Neise line) and you have the largest act of ethnic cleansing in world history, with a total of some 15 million people expelled from their homes of whom approximately 2.5 million lost their lives. You have to imagine this; one third of the area inhabited by Germans was emptied of its inhabitants. One third! Are you familiar with these facts? Have you heard about the camps for Germans, the Expulsion? The two and one half million dead? Please show your hands if you have. Very few Americans know about these events, because our press was silent at the time, and continues to be silent to this day about these atrocities.
Today, the war against German culture and language remains in effect. Little is written that is positive about Germany or the Germans, whether in Germany, Switzerland, Alsace, Austria or elsewhere. We are exposed to a non-stop torrent of abuse of the good name of the Germans in movies, TV and radio, in cartoons and even in the public schools. Jokes are made about “German Peacekeepers.” How could there be such a thing! In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Slovenia, Serbia and Croatia discriminatory anti-German laws known as the Benesch Decrees, Bierut desrees and the Avnoj Decrees are still in effect. Germans are excluded from getting their properties back, by law, although Jews and others can get their properties back. Even probably anti-Nazi Germans, who attempt to reclaim their properties, are prevented from so doing by the decrees. In Poland the German minority continues to live in such fear that they are afraid to ask for rights granted them in present day, democratic Poland. The same applies to the Czech Republic, where the inhabitants of the few German villages that remain are so terrified that they do not even request bi-lingual signs for their villages. In Alsace I have seen a group of ten Alsatians, speaking German among themselves, immediately switch to French when a police officer draws near. And in the United States, German-Americans interned during WWII in the same camps as Japanese Americans continue to be denied the restitution granted the Japanese over twenty years ago.
Yes, my name is Kearn Schemm, and I am a German-American. I am also a person who believes in standing up for the weaker guy, the guy everyone picks on. The Germans are the weaker guys who have been so cowed, so frightened by the 90 year war against the Germans that they are terrified to open their mouths and state the basic fact: we are people too. Our pain counts too. Wrongs done to us need to be remedied also.