War against German Culture – Part Two

Part Two

The Forgotten Genocide Lecture Series

 At the St Louis Community College-Meramec, Kirkwood, Mo.

February 2010

Dr. Kearn Schemm Jr.

Continuation from Part One:

But aside from the eye opening caused by the Easter Rising, Britain and France continued to control the flow of news and American sympathies slowly were molded in their behalf.  Since the British and French navies controlled the seas, trade with Germany dried up and huge arms sales were made to the western allies, giving an economic reason for pro-Allied sympathies.  Stockpiles of weapons and ammunition piled up on Black Tom Island in New York Bay. On the night of July 30, 1916, two million pounds of ammunition were being stored at the depot in freight cars, including one hundred thousand pounds of TNT, all awaiting eventual shipment to Britain and France.  German agents, some American born, some born in Europe, detonated the stockpile to prevent it from killing Germans in the field. The shock was felt for miles around and remnants of ammunition continue to be found in New Jersey to the present day. Americans were outraged and turned a bit more against Germany.  The economic loss made many in the elite more pro-British and interventionist.

Germany declared unlimited submarine warfare against all ships heading for allied ports.  American ships, however, continued to travel to the ports.  In the most famous case, German intelligence officers were informed by Irish and German American dock workers that the Lusitania was carrying war materials destined for the allied armies, indeed her manifest stated that her cargo included an estimated 4,200,000 rounds of rifle cartridges.  The German Embassy did what it could, warning American citizens and other neutrals not to travel on the Lusitania.  When the Lusitania was sunk off the coast of Ireland, where a first explosion, caused by a German torpedo, did not sink the ship, but a second explosion, believed by many to have been caused by the ammunition on board, caused the ship to sink with great loss of life.

As we know, the US entered WWI against Germany and Austria-Hungary in 1917. As a result of American resources, and of our fresh troops, the tide of battle turned against Germany and the war ended with an allied victory.  To ensure German agreement to any terms the allies wanted, the blockade on food to Germany was continued and thousands of German children died in time of peace as a result.

The impact of World War I on German-Americans was huge; the KKK became actively anti-German, burning crosses on the lawns of many German-Americans.  German newspapers were closed, speaking German in public or educating your children in German language schools became illegal. Many were tarred and feathered for alleged disloyalty to the US, Robert Prager, a socialist German immigrant living in the area of St. Louis, was lynched in Collinsville, Ill., after an anti-German mob gained entrance to the jail where he was being held and found Prager hiding in the basement. The police stood aside as the mob marched him beyond the city limits. After allowing Prager to write a brief letter to his parents in Germany and pray, he was hanged in front of a crowd of two hundred people at 12:30 am on the 5th April. “Collinsville Herald” editor and publisher J.O. Monroe said: “Outside a few persons who may still harbor Germanic inclinations, the whole city is glad that the eleven men indicted for the hanging of Robert P. Prager were acquitted.” Monroe noted, “The community is well convinced that he was disloyal. … The city does not miss him. The lesson of his death has had a wholesome effect on the Germanists of Collinsville and the rest of the nation.”

German-American author Kurt Vonnegut described the losses suffered by German-Americans: The anti-German feeling so shamed Kurt’s parents’ generation, he noted, that they resolved to raise his generation “without acquainting me with the language or the literature or the music or the oral family histories which my ancestors had loved. They volunteered to make me ignorant and rootless as proof of their patriotism.” As he put it elsewhere, he lost Europe, and so did most German-Americans of his generation.

The post WWI peace, which was supposed to ensure no territorial changes without the express desire of the population, and which was the promise, which led to Germany’s surrender, was not based on self-determination at all.  Alsace-Lorraine, where 95% of the population of over 2 million spoke German as their mother tongue, was given to France without a plebiscite.  The Sudetenland was granted to the newly created Czechoslovak state, giving 3.5 million German-speakers to the new state, persons that had no desire to belong to Czechoslovakia.  On March 4, 1919, Sudeten Germans peacefully demonstrated in favor of remaining part of Austria. On Czech government orders, Czechs military shot at the unarmed demonstrators. The crashing of hand grenades accompanied the salvos of gunfire and the screams of those mortally wounded – 54 dead and hundreds of injured remained lying in the streets. Among the places where this happened were Arnau, Aussig, Eger, Kaaden, Mies, Karlsbad, Sternberg and Freudenthal. The 54 dead included 20 women and girls, an 80-year-old man, one youth of 16, one of 13 and one only eleven years old! This bloody event that ought to have shaken the world to its foundations remained without echo and was the start of things to come.

Poland, which had not existed for more than 100 years, was rightfully resurrected after WWI, but her borders were drawn in a way to cause the new state to have permanent problems with Germany.  In areas of mixed population, plebiscites were to be held, which was at least better than the situation in Alsace or the Sudetenland, but the rules for the plebiscites were strange:  if Poland received 51% of the votes in an area, the whole area, even the 49% which had voted for Germany, was to go to Poland.  If Germany got even 99% of the votes, the 1% of the area that voted for Poland was ceded to that state.  This led to some 2,000,000 Germans becoming “orphans of Versailles” and becoming Polish citizens against their will.  The city of Danzig, about 95% German, was made into a “Free City” although no one there wanted to be free, they wanted to be part of Germany.

The period of the Weimar Republic saw Germany stripped of the ability to defend itself and subject the whims of her neighbors.  Austria, whose first act as a democracy, was to declare itself an integral part of Germany under the name “Deutsch-Österreich,” was forced to change its name to simply Austria and forbidden from uniting with Germany.  German-speaking western Hungary was only allowed to join Austria in 1921 after a very corrupt referendum, which due to voting irregularities led to Ödenburg, today known as Sopron and Pressburg, today known as Bratislava, being given to Hungary and Czechoslovakia respectively.  South Tyrol was given to Italy without a plebiscite.  All this was done with the intent to decrease the number of Germans, in the words of Georges Clemenceau” There are 20 million Germans too many!”

The post WWI period saw intense Frenchification in Alsace, repression of the German minority in Poland, which led about one million ethnic Germans (one half of the population) to emigrate from Poland between 1918 and 1938 and hundreds of complaints being filed with the League of Nations.  The same was true of Czechoslovakia, where Germans were subjected to arbitrary rules.  Minority laws passed to protect the Germans, Hungarians and Poles were applied in such a way as to discriminate against them.  Discontent grew in all the areas, which had been torn from Germany.  In 1938, Lord Runcimore, a British nobleman charged with reporting on conditions in Czechoslovakia wrote, “”It is a hard thing to be ruled by an alien race; and I have been left with the impression that Czechoslovak rule in the Sudeten areas for the last twenty years, although not actually oppressive and certainly not ‘terroristic,’ has been marked by tactlessness, lack of understanding, petty intolerance and discrimination to the point where the resentment of the German population was inevitably moving to the direction of revolt. . . .” Based on his recommendations, the Sudetenland was unified with Greater Germany.

WWII started over the German-speaking sections of Poland, Hitler, after his bloodless incorporation of Austria and the Sudetenland; felt that he could pull the same thing off with western Poland.  He miscalculated and WWII began.  Although his attack on Poland cannot be justified, we should not forget that in the first days of the war, some 5,000 ethnic Germans were massacred by the Poles, and these massacres were later used by the Nazis as a justification for their own brutal treatment of Polish civilians.


Continuation Part Three