It’s Complicated

From the New York Times

Europe has more than its share of mass graves, a reflection of the extraordinary scale of violence of the previous century. But throughout the Continent the public is far more used to Germans as perpetrators rather than victims, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in Germany itself.

One of the most touchy subjects of WWII is the direct aftermath. Like the article states, 12 million ethnic Germans were uprooted and send back to Germany after the war. A lot of them died on the way back, either from the cold or hunger or they were killed by the survivors of Nazi atrocities. It is a touchy subject. Germans are not allowed to be “the victims”. Up until the German reunification in 1990 when the German-Polish Border Treaty was signed, there were still German territorial claims east of the Oder-Niesse Line.

Here in Lüneburg there is museum called the Ostpreussisches Landesmuseum (East-Prussian Museum) where they preserve “the heritage of the German culture of the East.” They are not immune to controversy. Sometimes when they put on events, they stir up sore feelings between survivors and their descendants and other Germans. Sometimes it’s just weird things that causes a scandal. Last year there was an exhibition of old hunting trophies and such. Along with old hunting rifles and other equipment, there were mounted heads of deer and other animals that had been hunted in the East Prussia. Among them was a deer killed by Hermann Göring. It caused a problem because at first it was just there in the exhibit without any explanation or context about who hunted it. So naturally some people accused the museum of not taking seriously the crimes of Germany’s nazi past and there were protests and uproar. Then the museum had to redo the exhibit and put it in context.

So yeah, it’s complicated over here.