REVIEWS

 

 

In the immediate aftermath of World War II some 12 to 14 million Germans were forcibly moved westwards from Eastern Europe and eastern Germany. This ethnic cleansing, which involved many human rights abuses, has, however, not surprising in light of Nazi Germany’s notorious abuses of human rights, given rise to a profoundly conflicted debate about the quality of the victimization defined for these ethnic German expellees. In his analysis, Ulrich Merten, an independent scholar, essentially makes a case for the defense, namely that the expellees were relatively innocent rather than perpetrator victims. Though Merten directly aims to illustrate the fact of their persecution through a historical narrative covering in single chapters each of the homelands of these Germans from Prussia to Silesia, Czechoslovakia  to Hungary, Yugoslavia,  and Rumania, he points to three pieces of evidence which strongly illustrate the expellees undeserved, irrational, and unjustified persecution. In each locale persecution always commences in the wake of the advance of Soviet armies and successful partisan actions in support of a newly installed communist government. Second a final historical summary always shows that in general the ethnic Germans had become fully integrated and loyal citizens of the areas from which they were expelled. Thirdly and most significantly representative and brutally honest eye- witness accounts of multiple pages in length illustrate the complete innocence of these single victims. In his concluding chapter Mr. Merten notes that many governments in Eastern Europe today have apologized for their citizens’ behavior in the late 40s’, thus testifying further to the relative innocence of the expellees. Though Merten’s  account does take sides in an argument, his scholarly tone, the materials he employs, and his explicit denials of any intention to equate the fate of the expellees to the Jews in the  Holocaust, and /or to relativize  the Holocaust, suggests strongly that he is open to further discussion about the character of the expellees. As such this is a sound and level-headed introduction for Americans to a subject of which they are largely ignorant.

 

John Flynn Professor Emeritus  The University of the South. Sewanee TN.