Bacque James - Crimes and Mercies

Author : Bacque James (Saturday Night, September 1989)
Title : Crimes and Mercies The Fate of German Civilians Under Allied Occupation 1944-1950
Year : 1997

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Injustice has been with us since time immemorial, and will persist for as long as mankind exists. Two thousand years ago the Romans noted a thought that even then was a platitude: homo homini lupus. Man is indeed a wolf to other men. The seventeenth century experienced the 'Thirty Years' War' (1618—48) with its incredible massacres of the civilian population. In Germany alone, one-third of the population perished in the name of religion. But Europe had seen many other genocides, fratricidal wars and natural disasters. We remember the Albigensian Crusade of the thirteenth century, launched by Pope Innocent III in 1209 against the Manichaean heretics of southern France, during which entire cities were exterminated in the name of the 'true faith' (over 20,000 men, women and children were slaughtered in Beziers alone), accompanied by the establishment of the Inquisition, the widespread practice of torture to obtain confessions and/or recantations, and culminating in innumerable butcheries of recalcitrant heretics and the 'Bыcher de Montsйgur' in 1248, where more than 200 leaders of the Cathar hierarchy were burned at the stake. War, famine and pestilence have also punished the twentieth century. Indeed, the two so-called World Wars of the first half of the century could very well be called our 'thirty years' war', beginning in 1914 with the murder of the Austrian heir to the throne in Sarajevo and ending with the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. James Bacque gives us an account of crimes and mercies in the twentieth century. How have we lived up to our democratic principles, to our Judeo-Christian values of love, solidarity and forgiveness? Bacque shows us that, in war as in peace, suffering is personal, not collective. He shows us the dreadful statistics of the calamities inflicted by the victors on the Germans after the Second World War, but he asks us to personalize that pain, to see that behind statistics there is flesh and blood, lest we too become as indifferent as statistics. The facts are so horrifying that they are hard to comprehend. The work I have done myself in The German Expellees and Nemesis at Potsdam revealed the horrifying statistics behind the mass expulsions of fifteen million Germans from the Eastern Provinces and the Sudetenland into the Occupied Zones in 1945- 50. At least 2.1 million are known to have died. Chancellor Adenauer himself wrote in his memoirs that six million of them died. And the (West) German government under Adenauer in 1950 determined that 1.4 million prisoners of war had never returned to their homes.1 They are missing to this day. Bacque revealed what had happened to them in his book Other Losses (1989). And now he uncovers evidence that as many as five million Germans may have starved to death while under Allied government after the war. These figures are so shocking that he has sent the whole manuscript to a world-famous epidemiologist, whom I met when he was working in Geneva as a special consultant to the World Health Organization. He is Dr Anthony B. Miller, Head of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics at the University of Toronto. Miller has read the whole work, including the documents, and checked the statistics, which, he says, 'confirm the validity of Bacque's calculations and show that slightly more than five million deaths of German civilians occurred in Germany as a whole during the post-war period through to the census of 1950, over and above the reported deaths. These deaths appear to have resulted, directly or indirectly, from the semistarvation food rations that were all that were available to the majority of the German population during this time period.' After the fall of the communists, Bacque visited the KGB archives in Moscow where he found further evidence of the startling death figures in Other Losses. Those archives contain documents revealing some of the worst crimes of the twentieth century, committed by the Soviets. It is remarkable that such evidence was not immediately destroyed, but carefully preserved instead. As the Russian historian Dmitri Volkogonov has written in his book, Lenin: 'Lenin was not moved to halt the crime against men and women aged between fourteen and seventeen, and merely wrote "For the archives" on the document, thus establishing the tradition that no matter how callous, cruel and immoral an act of the regime might be, it would be recorded and stored in the archives for a history that would never be written as long as that regime lasted.'2 Now Bacque has used those documents, along with others newly declassified in the Hoover Institute Archives in Stanford and the Library of Congress, to determine the fate of the majority of German civilians who were neither expellees nor prisoners of war. The most important of these papers belonged to a man I knew and admired, Robert Murphy, a sound, decent, warmhearted American who was the diplomatic representative of the US government attached to the American military government in Germany from 1945 onwards. Ambassador Murphy witnessed and deplored the vengeance inflicted on Germany under JCS 1067, the chief American directive on occupation policy pursuant to the purportedly abandoned Morgenthau Plan. In this section of the papers, which, so far as Bacque can determine, is published here for the first time, Murphy wrote in 1947 that 'owing to the present high death rate in Germany', the population would shrink by two million in the next two or three years. The evidence of that population shrinkage is clearly revealed in the two censusses of 1946 and 1950. This fate is a reminder not only of the vengeance that awaits the crimes of the totalitarians, but of the way the totalitarian view can, like a virus, infect the body politic even in a democracy. Much of what Bacque tells us is new or very little known in the English-speaking world. Even the reasonably well-informed will be amazed to read about such disturbing facts as the deliberate continuation of the food blockade against Germany and Austria for eight months after the signing of the armistice of 11 November 1918, a blockade that cost an estimated one million lives needlessly. They will wonder whether in 1945 it was necessary and justifiable, in the light of the principle of selfdetermination of peoples, to deny fifteen million Germans the right to live in their homelands and to subject them to a form of 'ethnic cleansing', first forcing them to flee, then expelling them in a way that caused millions more deaths after the end of hostilities - deaths that were in the name of 'peace'. Professional historians will probably demur and insist that of course they know all about these events. The reader, however, is allowed to ask why, if they do know, have they not written about it? Why have they failed to inform the public? Why have they not attempted to place these events in perspective, compare them to other wars and massacres? In its core, Bacque s book poses fundamental human-rights questions that must be answered. He writes about the sufferings of German, Austrian, Japanese and other victims - and why not? Indeed, human-rights principles are tested not on the 'consensus' victims or on 'politically correct' victims, but rather on unpopular individuals and peoples. It is frequently the controversial cases, where hardly anyone wants to recognize the persons in question as victims, that allow us to vindicate the universal imperative of respect for human dignity, the dig-nitas humana. At this juncture it is important to stress that Bacque is just as keenly aware of, and sensitive to, the sufferings of victims of German and Japanese aggression. They deserve our respect and compassion. Yet Bacque is persuaded that there are other 'unsung victims' who must not be forgotten. Readers may react with a sense of discomfort at Bacque's revelations, for a variety of reasons. First, because these grotesque crimes were committed in the name of the virtuous democracies, the United Kingdom, the United States, France and Canada. Secondly, because we hardly know about these crimes. Thirdly, because the victims have been consistently ignored and have received neither compassion nor compensation. Fourthly, because the intellectual establishment, the universities and the press have failed to come to grips with the implications of these events. Of course the defeated Central Powers in the Great War and the Axis powers in the Second World War committed many horrendous crimes. Some of these crimes were the subject of prosecution, at the Leipzig Trials of 1921-22, at the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-46 (and twelve additional Nuremberg Trials under Control Council Law No. 10), and at the Tokyo Trial of 1946- 48. Tens of thousands of war criminals have been convicted, and several thousand have been executed. Justice, however, demands respect for the presumption of innocence of the accused, and for rigorous observance of due-process guarantees in determining individual guilt. No one should be subjected to arbitrary or discriminatory treatment on the basis of guilt by association. Individual responsibility must always be established on the basis of credible evidence; and individual actions must be judged in the proper historical and political context - not in the light of subsequent events and/or knowledge which cannot be attributed or imputed to the accused. The concept of collective guilt is repugnant to human dignity and unworthy of any system of justice. Still, it is this concept of collective guilt that has hitherto characterized and pervaded the approach of historians and journalists to the issues raised by Bacque. Because the Germans are perceived as collectively guilty, they somehow have no rights. Only a few voices have been raised to acknowledge the injustices perpetrated by us and our allies over so many decades. Only a few courageous individuals like Herbert Hoover, George Bell and Victor Gollancz have dared to remind us of the moral dilemma. Indeed, how could we go to war in the name of democracy and self-determination and then betray our own principles in the peace settlement? More concretely, how could we go to war against Hitler's methods only to apply similar methods during and after the war? Bacque's chapter on the flight and expulsion of the Germans at the end of the war gives us much food for reflection. In this context it is worth recalling what the British publisher and philanthropist Victor Gollancz concluded in his book Our Threatened Values: 'If the conscience of men ever again becomes sensitive, these expulsions will be remembered to the undying shame of all who committed or connived at them . . . The Germans were expelled, not just with an absence of over-nice consideration, but with the very maximum of brutality.'3 Surely the inhuman treatment of Germans by ostensibly compassionate Americans and Britons constitutes one of the many anomalies of the twentieth century. And yet very few persons outside Germany are aware of such discriminatory, undemocratic, infrahuman treatment. Ask anyone whether he has ever heard of the ethnic cleansing of fifteen million eastern Germans. Besides the enormous cultural and economic consequences of this demographic revolution in the very heart of Europe, the phenomenon of compulsory population transfers raises many questions that go beyond the purely German experience, since the right to live in one's homeland, the right to remain in one's home, and the right of refugees to return to their homes, is one of the most fundamental human rights that require affirmation and vindication. On 26 August 1994, the United Nations Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities adopted resolution 24/1994, which reaffirms this right to remain and right to return. It is not difficult for the reader of this book to apply this resolution to some of the events described here by Bacque. Let us hope that many more Canadian, American, British and other historians and journalists will take these matters seriously and devote to them the attention they deserve. Especially now with the opening of the archives of the former Soviet Union and of the former communist states of Eastern Europe, it is to be expected that important new revelations will come to light. Bacque has already taken advantage of the new opportunity and conducted research in the Moscow archives. Let us also hope that Russian, Polish and Czech historians will take this opportunity to come to grips with aspects of their own history that hitherto could not be researched. We owe James Bacque our recognition for his courage to raise new and uncomfortable questions. We thank him for the answers he proposes. Let the debate begin. ALFRED DE ZAYAS. Member of the New York Bar. Visiting Professor of International Law, Chicago. J. D. Harvard Law School. Dr Phil. (History) University of Gцttingen, Germany. Geneva, November 1994. ...

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