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HELGA'S STORY

BY STEVE LISTER

Copyright 2008 by RFPublications

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Author's foreword:
Someone once said that history is written by the winners. Perhaps it no longer applies so much nowadays, in an age of independent journalists who no longer automatically toe the party line where their own nations are concerned, but it is certainly a truism where older wars are concerned. Those who won wars in the past got to tell their version of how it really was; the vanquished were seldom heard. We all know about the Holocaust during World War II, when the Nazis murdered millions of Jews, together with millions of people of other races and religions. I am not in the business of Holocaust denial, and have never sought to minimize the tragedy of Nazi war crimes. However, it is a fact that these crimes have been reported to the world in such a way, and at such length, that they will never be forgotten. Holocaust museums, many in Germany itself, ensure that the victims will always be remembered. Whole libraries of books commemorate the atrocities, and a never-ending flow of films re-enact them. Television documentaries and the anniversaries of wartime events remind us constantly of these monstrous crimes. An entire nation and its people have been demonised because of them, and continue to be so today, although many Nazis were not even German, just as not all Germans were Nazis.
There was another holocaust at the end of that war, and it continued for a long time after, during the first years of "peace", a holocaust that has gone ignored and unreported, because "history is written by winners". It's victims are no less tragic than those of the Nazis, and their sufferings deserve our belated recognition, even if it is now too late for them to receive justice. The victors in the war inflicted this holocaust on the vanquished, and, in the process, sank to the same level of barbarity as those they had fought against. I want to highlight the plight of millions of Germans, soldiers and civilians alike, and those who supported them in the war, such as Cossacks, Croats, Hungarians, Austrians, and Slovenians. I know many people will say "Serve them right", or "So what? They were only Germans", or "They had it coming". Others may say "They did it to others, so they should have it done back to them". A common view is that "They started it", as if that simple statement on its own is sufficient justification for the very worst excesses. The fact is that Germany inflicted so much misery on others, but is that really an excuse to demonise all Germans? Or Cossacks? Or Croats and Slovenians? Must the nation of Germany, re-united after a forced partition lasting forty-five years, remain in some ways an international pariah when the majority of its citizens alive today were born after the war? During the UN action to liberate Kuwait in 1991, we were constantly told by world leaders that the quarrel was not with Iraq's people, but only its government. How different from the way the world has treated Germany!
Let me put things another way. Some years ago, my wife, Annaliesse, and I were on holiday in southern Germany. In Freiburg, we met an old widow woman. We could sense an air of tragedy about her, but it was only when talking to her friends later that we learned the full extent of it. Her husband had been a trade union leader who had opposed Hitler. He was interned in a concentration camp before the war started (he was not Jewish!), and was executed later. Her parents, declared pacifists, lived in Stuttgart, and were killed in an RAF bombing raid on a residential area of the city. Her only son was drafted into the Wehrmacht, and was declared missing, presumed dead, somewhere on the eastern front. Her two daughters, aged seventeen and fourteen, were raped and murdered in 1945 by French soldiers who also looted and wrecked her house. She was raped as well, although not as often as her daughters. She was then forced to watch as they were violated repeatedly. These soldiers were never arrested or prosecuted for their crimes. The French army took the view that Germany was a conquered country, not a liberated one, and she and the girls were "legitimate plunder".
This would have been tragic enough for anyone, and it is amazing that this lady was still alive. The outrages she had suffered would have driven many to suicide. She had never remarried, and had lived alone with her tragedy for thirty-five years. Her grief for her daughters, husband, and parents must have been intolerable enough, but the uncertainty about her son's fate only added to her nightmares. For some years, she had clung to the hope that he might, just, be alive. It was, of course, a forlorn hope.
She was soon made to realize that justice was in short supply for the losers in the war. The victorious allies established the principle of collective guilt, whereby the entire German nation was held to be guilty of the Nazi crimes. As far as I am aware, this concept has never been used against any other nation, certainly in the modern period of history. The French people were not punished for the crimes and aggression of Napoleon. Italians were not persecuted because of Mussolini's actions. Many Japanese Army and Navy officers were tried for war crimes, but their guilt has never been held against the ordinary people of the land. Iraq's people were not held to be guilty of Saddam Hussein's atrocities. More recently, in the nineties, Yugoslavia's Serb population were not punished for the crimes of their leaders. General Eisenhower is on record as saying in 1945 that all the German people, the entire nation, had to be punished, and he certainly went a long way to carrying that out. No one has ever apologized to this lady we met, or even acknowledged that she suffered from the crimes committed against her and her family. Instead she was branded a war criminal deserving of further punishment. Yet how can anyone with a shred of humanity explain to her that she was a criminal and not a victim?
The case of this particular lady was, perhaps, extreme, but by no means isolated. It was one of many cases where whole families endured untold and lasting brutality, which has gone unreported and unnoticed. It was in Eastern Europe, in the Soviet Union and what is now Poland, the Czech Republic, and in the former Yugoslavia, that these atrocities amounted to holocaust proportions, near genocidal in their ferocity. The dark side of human nature is present in us all, not just in Germans, and that includes me, as you will find out later. On the allied side, it manifested itself in many places, and in many forms, both in the closing days of the war, and in the years after.

(Full text in preparation pending author's agreement).