In The Chonicle of Higher Education, R.M. Douglas, associate professor of history at Colgate University, writes on “The European Atrocity You Never Heard About“, wherein:
In the largest episode of forced migration in history, millions of German-speaking civilians were sent to Germany from Czechoslovakia and other European countries after World War II by order of the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union.
Between 1945 and 1950, Europe witnessed the largest episode of forced migration, and perhaps the single greatest movement of population, in human history. Between 12 million and 14 million German-speaking civilians—the overwhelming majority of whom were women, old people, and children under 16—were forcibly ejected from their places of birth in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, and what are today the western districts of Poland. As The New York Times noted in December 1945, the number of people the Allies proposed to transfer in just a few months was about the same as the total number of all the immigrants admitted to the United States since the beginning of the 20th century. They were deposited among the ruins of Allied-occupied Germany to fend for themselves as best they could. The number who died as a result of starvation, disease, beatings, or outright execution is unknown, but conservative estimates suggest that at least 500,000 people lost their lives in the course of the operation.
Most disturbingly of all, tens of thousands perished as a result of ill treatment while being used as slave labor (or, in the Allies’ cynical formulation, “reparations in kind”) in a vast network of camps extending across central and southeastern Europe—many of which, like Auschwitz I and Theresienstadt, were former German concentration camps kept in operation for years after the war. As Sir John Colville, formerly Winston Churchill’s private secretary, told his colleagues in the British Foreign Office in 1946, it was clear that “concentration camps and all they stand for did not come to an end with the defeat of Germany.” Ironically, no more than 100 or so miles away from the camps being put to this new use, the surviving Nazi leaders were being tried by the Allies in the courtroom at Nuremberg on a bill of indictment that listed “deportation and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population” under the heading of “crimes against humanity.”
By any measure, the postwar expulsions were a manmade disaster and one of the most significant examples of the mass violation of human rights in recent history. Yet although they occurred within living memory, in time of peace, and in the middle of the world’s most densely populated continent, they remain all but unknown outside Germany itself. On the rare occasions that they rate more than a footnote in European-history textbooks, they are commonly depicted as justified retribution for Nazi Germany’s wartime atrocities or a painful but necessary expedient to ensure the future peace of Europe. As the historian Richard J. Evans asserted in In Hitler’s Shadow (1989) the decision to purge the continent of its German-speaking minorities remains “defensible” in light of the Holocaust and has shown itself to be a successful experiment in “defusing ethnic antagonisms through the mass transfer of populations.”
Attempting to frame this historical episode into a world-historical, moral perspective, Douglas notes:
It is important to note that the expulsions are in no way to be compared to the genocidal Nazi campaign that preceded them. But neither can the supreme atrocity of our time become a yardstick by which gross abuses of human rights are allowed to go unrecognized for what they are…
Douglas criticizes scholars “for failing to engage seriously with an episode of such obvious importance, and to integrate it within the broader narrative of modern European history. For historians to write—and, still worse, to teach—as though the expulsions had never taken place or, having occurred, are of no particular significance to the societies affected by them, is both intellectually and pedagogically unsustainable.”
So, why then, haven’t we heard about this episode? After having read a couple of Kevin MacDonald’s books, I have a hunch:
Many European commentators have maintained that to draw attention to them runs the risk of diminishing the horror that ought properly to be reserved for the Holocaust and other Nazi atrocities, or giving rise to a self-pitying “victim” mentality among today’s generation of Germans, for whom the war is an increasingly distant memory.
Hmmm, I wonder who sort of ‘European commentator’ would condone the approach of continued silence on the abovementioned episode…
The problem, it seems, is that these German evacuees (like the Ukranians and Armenians) have failed at creating an effective victimology lobbying group, or at effectively controlling the levers of media and culture for said cause.