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Zdrajcy Narodu?: Losy Volksdeutschow W Polsce Po II Wojnie Swiatowej (Polish Edition)

Jan Paczkis|Sunday, January 3, 2010

TRAITORS TO THE NATION? THE FATE OF THE VOLKSDEUTSCHEN AFTER WORLD WAR II is the title of this Polish-language book. The Volksdeutsche have been misrepresented, in certain Holocaust circles, as Poles allowed to become Germans--in effect a Nazi favor to Poles. Far from it! To begin with, Hitler defined Poles and Germans racially, rejecting the notion that a Pole could ever become a German, notwithstanding linguistic and cultural Germanization.

(See Peczkis review of Mein Kampf).

The real issue was the recovery of "German blood": Polish-speaking Germans and Poles of German descent could and should be re-Germanized, and thus made available to the Reich. There were 4 classes of Volksdeutsche in the Reich-annexed western and northern Polish provinces: (I)--Pre-WWII politically-active German speakers, (II)--Pre-WWII politically-inactive German speakers, (III)--Semi-Polonized Germans (including entire groups deemed to be Germanic, such as the Silesians and Kashubians), and (IV)--Completely-Polonized Germans. (p. 26). The Deutschstammige in the GG (General Government, or German-occupied central Poland) were divided into (A) and (B)--corresponding to the (III) and (IV) of the other classification. (p. 47).

Pressure to sign the DVL (Deutsche Volksliste) was motivated in large part by the manpower needs of the Wehrmacht, and men of Volksdeutsche classes (I), (II), and (III) were obligated to serve in it. (p. 34). However, in some places such as Upper Silesia, even those not on the Volksliste were frequently conscripted into the German Army. (p. 41).

The pressure for qualified individuals to become Volksdeutsche was great in the Danzig (Gdansk) area, Pomerania, Silesia, and, to a lesser extent, Wartheland. (p. 30, 51, 113). German colonists living in central Poland also faced pressure to sign the Volksliste. (p. 44). However, individuals with German blood, and living singularly in the GG were, with some exceptions, not forced to become Volksdeutsche. (p. 45).

The Volksdeutsche, from the beginning of the German occupation, and regardless of geographic region of Poland, got better provisions than ethnic Poles, and were isolated from them. (p. 42). Volksdeutsche of classes (I) and (II) had essentially the same rights and privileges as the Reichsdeutsche. The Volksdeutsche of classes (III) and (IV) were generally exempt from deportations and forced labor (pp. 38-39, 48), and class (III) Volksdeutsche enjoyed many educational and other privileges (e. g., adequate food rations) denied ethnic Poles. Class (IV) Volksdeutsche had few obvious privileges, and were earmarked for resettlement into the central Reich, after the war, for intensive re-Germanization.

This work doesn't support the "Anyone could sign the Volksliste" idea. For instance, in the Danzig (Gdansk) area, the applicant initially had to be half-German, and have at least two German grandparents. (p. 35). This was, in time, relaxed somewhat. The applicant in the GG attempting to qualify as a Deutschstammige had to bear some hallmark of belonging to the German people--formally to have at least one German grandfather, but informally to have any German ancestor (as from a town originally founded by Germans), to bear a German-originating name, or even to be a Lutheran. (p. 45, 47-48). Three-fourths of the members of a certain Polish village were added to the Volksliste because they were Poles of Dutch descent. (p. 119).

Active Nazis, notably the SS, came primarily from class (I) and (II) Volksdeutsche in the Reich-annexed areas. (p. 40). Silesian Nazis, on the other hand, belonged to class (III).(p. 122). Many of the more Polonized Volksdeutche (III) and (IV) recount giving into pressure to sign the Volksliste only to protect themselves from deportation, etc. (p. 244 ). There were instances of Volksdeutsche disobeying German orders to avoid fraternizing with Poles, and aiding them instead. Many of the Wehrmacht conscripts deserted at the first opportunity, and served in Allied armies.

The postwar punishment and rehabilitation of the Volksdeutsche was a complex process. Many Volksdeutsche faced expulsion from Poland along with the Reichsdeutsche of the Recovered Territories. They were often first placed in Communist-established transit camps, which had high mortality (1945-1947), as follows: Potulice 4,000-5000, Jaworzno 7,000, Swietochlowice (with its notable Jewish U.B. (Bezpieka) Commander, Solomon Morel) 1,800-2,500, and Sikawa >1,000. The total number of victims of these camps was in the few tens of thousands. (pp. 155-156). After about 1950, the remaining Volksdeutsche became largely a non-issue in Communist-ruled Polan
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