Removing Traces of German.

Joel at Far Outliers posts an excerpt from R. M. Douglas’s Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War (Yale UP, 2012) that shows a language-related aspect of human insanity:

In each of the expelling countries, governments, residents, and ecclesiastical authorities struggled mightily to eradicate all indications that Germans had ever been present. As Edvard Beneš urged his compatriots, “We must de-Germanize our republic … names, regions, towns, customs—everything that can possibly be de-Germanized must go.” Place names were changed overnight, often by direct translation into the new language (e.g., the substitution of “Zielona Góra” for “Grünberg”); statues and memorials demolished; and fanciful local histories composed that airbrushed into oblivion centuries of German presence. “In Wrocław the government had special teams that roved for years painting over and chiseling out German inscriptions. Derelict German cemeteries were converted into parks, and headstones were used to line ditches and sewers.” The most ambitious—and unrealistic—attempt to accomplish this objective was an order by Commandant Srević of the Banat military region in Yugoslavia that all German signs on buildings be removed within twelve hours, on pain of the immediate execution of the German occupants. Nor was this a passing phase. As late as 1989, applications for visitors’ visas to Poland from Germans born in the Recovered Territories were routinely rejected if the applicant used the former German place name when stating his or her place of birth. The de-Germanization effort extended not only to penalizing the use of the German language, but to putting pressure on residents to abandon German-sounding personal names. The success of the campaign, however, was mixed. Cultural and sometimes physical clashes ensued between settler Poles and many of the indigenes of the Recovered Territories, who had absorbed over the years a high degree of Germanization. New place names could also be rejected by the local population, who sometimes “boycotted new names and even broke road signs that identified the new name…. For them, place name changes on the lands in which they had been living were never the processes of re-Polonisation, but rather Polonisation against their will.”

Consigning evidence of German settlements to George Orwell’s “memory hole” was one thing; putting self-sustaining communities in their place entirely another.

Orderly and Humane sounds like an excellent, if deeply depressing, book.

Comments

  1. Dmitry Pruss says

    Part of the locals’ resentment is said to have been fueled by the government sending all sorts of people who were really socially undesirable for the locals, from urban lawbreakers to the surviving Jews. The West was literally a dumping ground for the people the government itself didn’t like.

  2. J.W. Brewer says

    Joel has a bunch of other excerpts from the same book, going back into June (alternating with excerpts from another book he’s been perusing), which are also interesting-if-depressing.

    I may or may not have mentioned here before the “street names” phenomenon I noticed when I spent the summer of ’82 as an exchange student in West Germany (Neu-Ulm, to be precise). Because of the troubles of German history, naming streets after prominent politicians, generals, etc was a somewhat more hazardous endeavor than it might have been (at least until the recent reexamination of Confederate nostalgia) in the U.S. So my host family lived in a fairly upscale post-war apartment complex where all the streets were named after composers (we were on Johann-Strauss-Strasse), which someone in charge had obviously decided would be a Safely Unpolitical Theme. And there were other such carefully-unpolitical instances, contradicted in the other direction by only one (that I recall seeing) overtly political theme. That was in a more low-income housing project of fairly recent construction on the outskirts of town, where the street names all commemorated the Lost Cities of the East under their former names, z.B. Breslauer-Strasse, Danziger-Strasse uzw. This was just barely on the Bavarian side of the Danube, and Bavaria was, I was given to understand, the one part of West Germany where the expellees were sufficiently numerous and organized as to be a material constituency within the CSU’s governing coalition, and thus able to get some occasional symbolic victories from the state government rather than just being asked to avoid bringing up unsettling historical topics that would be awkward for the national government’s foreign policy.

  3. Joel has a bunch of other excerpts from the same book, going back into June (alternating with excerpts from another book he’s been perusing), which are also interesting-if-depressing.

    Yes, I’ve been reading them (and sending links to my brother, who’s interested in these things), but this is the first that seemed postworthy.

  4. PlasticPaddy says

    The author of the book presumably knows this, but Benes also called for de-Magyarisation in Slovakia (with corresponding “transfer” of the ethnic Magyar population to Hungary?). At the time Benes was making these sort of statements, there were armed militias going around, Partisans had anticipated the Allied liberation by several days. He may have been in the first instance trying to assert political control, and also demonstrate toughness against Germans vis-a-vis the Soviets. He negotiated a protocol for expulsion with Stalin, but he might have planned to do a Czech “go slow” after disarming the militias and getting Soviet troops to withdraw. So I suppose I am saying (1) Benes was an ultra-nationalist (or felt he had to placate ultra-nationalists), it was not only about Germans and (b)Benes was a politician, he might have favoured different policies than ones implied by his intolerant rhetoric.

  5. @ Dmitry Pruss. “Part of the locals’ resentment is said to have been fueled by the government sending all sorts of people who were really socially undesirable for the locals, from urban lawbreakers to the surviving Jews. The West was literally a dumping ground for the people the government itself didn’t like.”

    Could you please state which country or countries in eastern Europe expelled Jews? Am I right in assuming that you mean just after 1945? There were pogroms in Poland in 1945 and 1946 (which may have prompted certain Jews to leave the country — I am not sure) but you speak of expulsions.

  6. @Martin, I think you may be misreading — Dmitry is asserting that the government was sending Jews as settlers to the newly acquired territories.

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    One of the things the Soviet-shill Polish government was doing in the western territories Germans were being ethnically-cleansed from was resettling ethnic Poles who themselves had just been ethnically cleansed by Stalin from the portions of interwar Polish territory that Stalin had taken it upon himself to reassign to the Belarussian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian SSR’s. Some sources suggest that some of the Jews who had lived in those lost eastern Polish territories and had somehow managed to survive the war maybe also got sent west with the ethnic Poles and/or voluntarily went on the theory that Polish-communist rule might be marginally less-bad that Soviet rule, but I don’t know the extent of that phenomenon. I suppose some surviving Jews whose prewar homes were still within the boundaries of Poland-as-adjusted-by-Stalin might also have been resettled in the seized-from-Germany territories if having them go back where they had previously lived was politically unpopular with someone with some pull with the new regime.

    Of course the block quote in the original post was partially about the Czechoslovak situation and partially about the Polish situation, and I’m only guessing that Dmitry P.’s comment was about the Polish part.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Awkwardly, I’m in a part of Berlin where the streets are named after Prussian victories of 1870: Vionville, Sedan… was there a battle around Dijon, too? Next to that is a park where I’ve heard French spoken twice in the last few days.

    the CSU’s governing coalition

    Rather of the CSU itself, which didn’t need a coalition partner (and consequently governed alone) from 1966 to 2008 and again from 2013 to 2018.

  9. J.W. Brewer says

    @David M.: Maybe “the governing CSU’s (party-internal) coalition” would have better expressed my intended meaning. A political party that, especially in a political system where coalition governments are common, can govern without a coalition partner for decades at a time can generally be profitably analyzed (at least for those accustomed to thinking about politics in an Anglo-American way) as itself a coalition whose various components manage to compromise with each other in between elections to an extent sufficient to maintain the party’s collective hold on power at election time.

  10. I just spent the weekend in the Italian village of Fusine in Friuli, which until 1918 was known as Weissenfels and was located in the Austrian province of Krain and was 90% German, 10% Slovenian. Today, thanks to Mussolini, it is about 100% Italian, despite being literally walking distance from the (current) Slovenian border. The church graveyard is still full of German names and inscriptions. The houses look exactly the same as the houses over in Kärnten. The difference in Italy was that German speaking inhabitants were generally given a choice of returning to the Reich or voluntarily “Italianizing” themselves. Even though there were rumors that if you choose the Italian option you might get sent to farm in Sicily or Sardinia, that risk seemed preferable to moving to Hitler’s Germany and being chosen as a colonist to go ethnic cleanse Poland or Ukraine.

    If you travel around the old Habsburg domains extensively, it becomes almost unremarkable that the people living in any given town are often speaking a different language today than what you would have heard 100 years ago.

    I used to work near Bielsko-Biała, an attractive Polish city, half of which (Bielsko/Bielitz) used to be in Austrian Silesia. The town still had a large German speaking population up until 1945. I once went to visit someone in an old somewhat dilapidated apartment building and was surprised to see that the aged brass mailbox flap on the door to the apartment next to them still said “Briefe”, clearly a remnant of some time before 1945. Not visible enough to bother the Communists back in the day apparently. The train station in Bielsko is still proudly inscribed “K.K. PRIVILEGIRTE KAIS. FERD.-NORDBAHN”. Apparently the Polish Government in the 1920s had painted or plastered over that, so it survived the Communist era unscathed until it was uncovered during some restoration work in the late 1990s.

  11. Dmitry Pruss says

    No, of course not expulsions, just sending returnees from the Soviet Union out West. The post-WWII optations were a complicated schema. Generally the Catholics who happened to live East of the new border were robbed of most of their earthly possessions and sent West, and Orthodox / Uniate people West of the new border were sent East. They were officially free to opt (hence the name) but if they didn’t opt how they were supposed to, they were often made to do so at gunpoint. The Jews were in a more poorly defined area, but those who retained their Polish citizenship (typically because they were refugees rather than permanent residents on the Soviet side of the 1939 line of control) could opt to return to Poland, often with their Soviet citizen spouses and children. There people typically haven’t been home for 6, 7 years and probably didn’t quite realize how unwelcome they have become. Coming back to the home ruins was always a shock. They weren’t exactly free to chose where to go either, the government pushed them to go to the new lands. But at the same time Poland was quite permissive to Aliyah, and it didn’t really matter for the returning Jews where they are settled if they already set their sights on Palestine or DP camps in the Western allies occupation zones. Fraudulent marriages to Polish citizens were a hot commodity for the Soviet Jews yearning to leave, too. Some Polish Jews possessed antebellum Polish passports but weren’t allowed to opt to Poland because their official residence in 1939 was East of the Ribbentrop-Molotov line (like Eddie Rosner, the famous jazz trombonist). He still tried to return and served in the GULAG for this transgression.

  12. Bathrobe says

    Everything I’m reading here is completely barbaric. Ethnic cleansing is one of the ugliest types of nationalism.

  13. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    @Vanya:

    Even though there were rumors that if you choose the Italian option you might get sent to farm in Sicily or Sardinia, that risk seemed preferable to moving to Hitler’s Germany and being chosen as a colonist to go ethnic cleanse Poland or Ukraine.

    Italians are past masters at giving the impression that every unpleasantness in our history was truly resolved with tarallucci e vino, but don’t you believe it.

    In this specific case, every source I can find confirms that in 1939 almost all prewar residents of the Val Canale / Val Cjanâl / Kanalska dolina / Kanaltal opted to move to Carinthia, and a large majority actually did. As typical for these sad episodes, figures are imprecise because anyone counting at the time had a bias, and I wouldn’t vouch for later historians either. With this caveat, the most commonly reported figures seem to be Steinecke’s (1984), according to whom:
    — of 6,600 German-speakers, 6,530 opted to emigrate and 5,600 did;
    — of 1,750 Slovenian-speakers, 1,600 opted to emigrate and 100 did.

    Those who emigrated were offered a chance to return in 1948, but hardly anyone did. Italian-language Wikipedia says 20%, but German-language Wikipedia say 20 people and that seems more reasonable — I could also find publications giving it as 0.5%.

  14. @Dmitry Pruss: At the beginning of The Endless Steppe, Esther Hautzig’s Polish-speaking Jewish family is deported from Polish Vilnius in 1940—because they were “capitalists.” Her father and grandfather were apparently affluent enough that the Soviets didn’t want them around, but not influential enough for them to be summarily shot at Katyn. (In the book, Hautzig does not really talk about how the deportation ultimately saved their lives; had they remained, the would almost inevitably have been liquidated by the Nazis after Barbarossa.) Following the end of the war, her father, who eventually became an officer in the Red Army, arranged for the family to be allowed to return to the new Communist state of Poland—but not to Vilnius, which had obviously become part of the Lithuanian S. S. R.

    @Bathrobe: After centuries of cultural mixing and sometimes conflict, it took the heavy-handedness and amorality of Stalin to reorganize the states of eastern Europe as largely monoethnic bodies. Stalin believed, probably correctly, that this served the long-term goal of stability—and specifically, the stability of the post-war Soviet empire. It helped make the population transfers acceptable to various observers (both inside and outside the Soviet Bloc) that—in spite of their vast scale in absolute terms—the transfers seemed like relatively minor disturbances in comparison with the cataclysmic chaos that had preceded them.

  15. Dmitry Pruss says

    Rhyme and reason in the population transfers and cleansings are often hard to discern. The main logic there is arbitrary brutality of the system which decides over a person’s aspirations, no matter how capriciously. Poles from Vilnius were expelled but Poles from the villages around Vilnius were not allowed to go. Greek from Crimea were expelled but Greeks from Azov Sea shores stayed. Lemkos from Krakow area were sworn enemies of Communism but they were forced to join their “Ukrainian brethren”. Soviet women who married Westerners had to leave their husbands and return, but not if they had children in these marriages.
    But of course we have the benefit of knowing the historic facts to judge the verisimility of historic fiction, something which the authors may not have had at the time. Like we know now that Katyn was narrowly specific for the active duty officers of the Polish military, but generally not to the capitalist classes (some people just happened to belong to both groups). Of my Jewish relatives in Warsaw, who we generally into medicine, two joined the Polish military as active duty officers in early September 1939 and were executed in 1941. Not in the better-known Katyn but in the less known but more deadly Pyatikhatki on the outskirts of Kharkov. After Ukrainian independence, the Polish government erected a monument there, with brass plaques honoring every killed officer by name. Alas, it is subject to vandalism, and has been gated and locked, so I can’t even procure photographs of these memorial plaques, the closest these dead people have for the headstones.

  16. My relative (my aunt’s) was shot in Bessarabia for capitalism (family deported to Uzbekistan).

  17. Here’s another excerpt from the Douglas book:

    Accordingly, the Soviet military authorities decided to kill two birds with one stone by tying expellee resettlement to land redistribution. Because most expellees in East Germany, like their counterparts in the West, had already been placed in the countryside—in Brandenburg, nearly 55 percent of the new arrivals were living in settlements of less than two thousand inhabitants in December 1947—this solution had the further advantage that no substantial internal redistribution of the four-million-strong expellee population would be required. Agricultural estates of more than a hundred hectares and those belonging to “war criminals” were broken up and expellees settled on the new smallholdings in numbers out of proportion to their share of the population. By the conclusion of the program, some 567,000 hectares of land were in expellee hands.

    The results, though, generally bore out the prognostications of those British officials who had successfully diverted Ernest Bevin from pursuing a similar will-o’-the-wisp in 1944. The land reform program was an expensive failure. “Even at the end of 1946, three-quarters of the Neubauern (new farmers) had to work without horses … and only one third of the land reform farmers owned a cow. Only one farmstead in four was equipped with a plough, one in five with iron harrows and only one in fourteen with reapers and threshing machines.” Those who received livestock and equipment, moreover, tended to be members of the indigenous population, who profited from their superior connections in the rural communities to those overseeing the redistribution, while “resettlers” were largely overlooked. Lastly, exorbitant and unrealistic state requisitions and quotas, which forced the new farmers to turn over even their seed grain and sowing potatoes to the government, made it impossible for many to generate the minimum required for bare survival. As a result, living standards for the Neubauern were, as state inspectors reported in 1950, “almost unimaginably low,” while the cost of the program, which by 1953 had reached the alarming figure of 900 million marks, was described by Heinrich Rau, the Minister of Planning, as “a bottomless pit.” Rather than acknowledge the failure of the experiment and, as West Germany progressively did, recall the expellees from their initial billets in the countryside to the cities and towns as jobs and houses became available for them, the Soviet military authorities doubled down on their losing investment and announced a large-scale rural housing program in 1947. With practically the entire housing budget of the east going into building farmsteads that the resettlers were rapidly abandoning, reconstruction of war-damaged cities was virtually halted. As one Neubauer recorded, “The despair and anger among the settlers know no bounds…. Whole groups of settlers leave the settlements at night and have fled to the West …” Not until 1950 was this costly scheme discontinued, with very little to show for it.

    (A bit more at the link.) I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was that bad.

  18. J.W. Brewer says

    Just re Katyn, as I may or may not have mentioned before in this venue, the monument to the victims of the Katyn massacre near the Hudson waterfront in Jersey City, N.J. is probably the most in-your-face/over-the-top piece of public sculpture in the NYC metro area. It’s really something to behold if you visit it in person. There’s a photo, together with a description of a recentish controversy re attempting to relocate it and its broader symbolic meaning (Katyn as synecdoche for the much longer list of historical betrayals felt by Polish nationalists in general and those who were emigres in the West during the Cold War in particular) here: https://time.com/5912853/katyn-monument/

  19. That’s an excellent piece (of course when I got to the end I discovered it’s an excerpt from a book, not the product of a Timester). This, to me, is the takeaway:

    A group of Polish Americans immediately protested against the move and launched a lawsuit against the city council: it was their memorial, and they did not feel properly consulted.

    Governments rarely bother to consult locals — they yell “Froggy” and everybody is supposed to jump. Yes, asking for people’s opinion and input is time-consuming and inefficient, but then you don’t end up with embarrassing disasters like this.

  20. I think it was a few years ago when I went to the Szentendre Skanzen Village Museum outside Budapest that I saw an exhibit about the various Hungarian communities that were forcibly expelled in the aftermath of World War II that I really began to appreciate the scale and disruption of these population movements.

    This should perhaps have been obvious to me. If you look at the broad region between Germany and Russia, there is a striking change in the ethnic composition before and after the War, not the least of which being the virtual elimination of one of the major pre-War nations in the region.

    I’m compiling a list of German names of people and places for a project at the moment, and it is full of historical personalities who were from Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Eastern Pomerania, historical Prussia, Livonia, and Estonia among other places where traces of German have been largely erased today. So this subject has been on my mind, and the book sounds like an important if depressing read.

  21. Ethnic cleansing is a barbarity, agreed, but I’ve struggled to see what alternative there was in the wreckage of Eastern Europe after WW2. Many races/ nationalities had co-existed relatively peacably for centuries, but after the Nazis had encouraged ethnic Germans in East Prussia, for example, to see non-Germans as sub-human, I cannot see how the status quo ante could have been restored after 1945. All of my father’s family (apart from him, who was a POW in Siberia then joined Anders’ army over here) were taken from the eastern borderlands of former Poland as slave labour to East Prussia. And some of them settled there after Yalta had removed their homeland, and half the province became part of Poland. They lived on Karl Marx Street — it had formerly been Adolf-Hitlerstrasse!

    I do remember being very shocked as a teenager on my first visit in 1970, on seeing heaps of bulldozed and smashed German gravestones in a local cemetery.

  22. C C Child says

    I recall reading that the anti-German madness went so far that the Russians/Poles even melted down the manhole covers in Koenigsberg and re-cast them to read ‘Kaliningrad”.

    Sic transit gloria…

  23. @C C Child: I was amused when I noticed that in Rome, there are some old manhole covers that have the royal crown of the Kingdom of Italy stamped on them—yet which also say “S. P. Q. R.”

  24. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    I just spent the weekend in the Italian village of Fusine in Friuli, which until 1918 was known as Weissenfels and was located in the Austrian province of Krain and was 90% German, 10% Slovenian. Today, thanks to Mussolini, it is about 100% Italian, despite being literally walking distance from the (current) Slovenian border.

    That contrasts with what I observed in the region of Bolzano — not all that far away from Fusine. I went several times from 2002 to 2010 to meetings at Schloss Korb, near San Paolo, itself near Bolzano. The city of Bolzano is now strongly Italian, but the villages around it continue to have a lot of German speakers. My impression is that Italian is very little spoken in the countryside (and virtually all the people who work at Schloss Korb are German speakers). Mussolini had a bunker constructed there fo use in the case that his buddy Hitler decided to invade (it is now used for producing and storing wine).

  25. John Emerson says

    In the town of New Ulm in heavily German southern Minnesota there remains a monument to Herman the German (Arminius), who defeated the Romans over 2000 years ago. It survived two world wars, I don’t know how. The mayor of New Ulm was removed by the feds for midly expressing doubt about one of the two world wars.

    Sinclair Lewis wrote a story about a highly patriotic Civil War officer of German descent who found himself ignored and insulted at the beginning of WWI.

    In WWI and WWII Bismarck ND remained Bismarck, as far as I know, and was the site of an intenrment camp for German citizens caught in the US in 1941.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_Heights_Monument

  26. David Marjanović says

    I had no idea about that whole Neubauern scheme. Communism does seem to have common origins with Romanticism to some extent.

    in Rome, there are some old manhole covers that have the royal crown of the Kingdom of Italy stamped on them—yet which also say “S. P. Q. R.”

    Oh, that’s embarrassing. Well, sono pazzi, questi romani.

    after the Nazis had encouraged ethnic Germans in East Prussia, for example, to see non-Germans as sub-human, I cannot see how the status quo ante could have been restored after 1945.

    That attitude never caught on much in Germany; why would it have elsewhere?

    Of course I say that with the benefit of hindsight…

    My impression is that Italian is very little spoken in the countryside

    Correct. I guess the population was seen as too large to expel. Mussolini brought in people from southern Italy, but they went to the three big cities and nowhere else. He also cranked up the oppression, but that didn’t last long after WWII; I think it ended in the 1960s. The province has very far-reaching autonomy now. (That’s why Ötzi is not in Rome.)

    The Südtiroler I’ve met do think of themselves as Italians, but they were taught Italian in school as a foreign language, and they’re not all equally good at it. Their Standard German, on the other hand, is unremarkable by Tyrolean standards.

    Mussolini had a bunker constructed there fo use in the case that his buddy Hitler decided to invade (it is now used for producing and storing wine).

    Mussolini had a whole network of bunkers constructed all over the province, most of them artfully hidden in the landscape, In case Hitler decided to invade Italy – or Austria, which he actually had some sort of protection treaty with for a while, because Austrofascism (1934–1938) was much closer to the original than the transalpine version. But his attitude changed around 1938.

  27. January First-of-May says

    I recall reading that the anti-German madness went so far that the Russians/Poles even melted down the manhole covers in Koenigsberg and re-cast them to read ‘Kaliningrad”.

    I distinctly recall having seen a fairly large amount of manhole covers with the old name on them when I visited Kaliningrad in 2012. With some luck in about three weeks I’d be in a position to check if they’re still common.

    OTOH over time Kaliningrad had started to take pride in formerly being Koenigsberg (Kant! Euler! the Teutonic Order!), so for all I know the covers were modern replicas.

  28. @Brett, I was in Modica, a town in Sicily, a few years ago and noticed that the manhole covers still had fasces stamped on them, seem to have been late 1920s vintage. There is actually a surprising amount of fascist-era statuary and art still standing around in Italy. I was surprised to pass an elementary school (istituto comprensivo) in Urbino last summer and see a large stone tablet with a quote from Mussolini praising youth still prominently affixed to the outside wall.

  29. John Emerson says

    There’s a tearjerker of a story by a major French author (Daudet?) about a French teacher’s final class in 1870 when Alsace and Lorraine were taken over by the Prussians. I believe that it was used nationally in textbooks to keep the grudge alive.

  30. “La Dernière Classe,” by Alphonse Daudet. We had to read it in French class; Mme Ruegg (alsacienne!) was trying to turn us all into little French patriots.

  31. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    The glosses strike me as a bit odd. You’d have to be very weak in French to be unable to guess what les batailles perdues means.

  32. David Eddyshaw says

    I remember the Daudet piece well myself. I suppose that says something for Daudet’s artistry, at least.

  33. PlasticPaddy says

    @acb
    I agree.
    “Tout cela me tentait bien plus que la règle des participes; mais j’eus la force de résister”
    I would go with “tempted” rather than “appealed to” for “tentait”, given the later use of résister.

  34. @C C Child: the Russians/Poles even melted down the manhole covers in Koenigsberg and re-cast them to read ‘Kaliningrad”

    I’m tempted to nod assent: “Typical!” – but I doubt it happened on any significant scale in the Russian sector. When I visited in 1995 or 96, a lot of the manhole covers in the city center were old German ones. Not replicas, obviously, but the real stuff.

  35. Ethnic cleansing is a barbarity, agreed, but I’ve struggled to see what alternative there was in the wreckage of Eastern Europe after WW2. Many races/ nationalities had co-existed relatively peacably for centuries, but after the Nazis had encouraged ethnic Germans in East Prussia, for example, to see non-Germans as sub-human, I cannot see how the status quo ante could have been restored after 1945.

    This excerpt from the book explains why that is entirely the wrong way to look at it. It begins:

    The frequently reiterated assertion that the clearance of German populations from Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary has in some way prevented the outbreak of World War III is a proposition so obviously false as hardly to deserve rebuttal. What made for peace in Europe was a lengthy occupation of Germany by both superpowers, which in itself offers a complete explanation of why, so long as it continued, no danger was to be apprehended from that quarter. The successful rehabilitation of the German political system, the inculcation of democratic habits and instincts among the people, and the binding together of postwar Germany within a larger European union are nearly as important factors in the transformation that has taken place in the character of European nationstate interactions since 1945. In these circumstances, the continuing presence of significant ethnic German minorities in Italy, Romania, Hungary, and Russia has not threatened the peace of the continent. There is no reason to suppose that if others had remained in their ancestral homelands a greater menace was to be apprehended.

    But the whole thing is well worth reading.

  36. About demolition of the castle in Königsberg.
    And an argument between a writer and the first secretary of the regional committee.

    All in Russian, but the conversation is a very good example of party etiquette.

    Коновалов: — Я вас дураком не называл.

    Ерашов: — Да. вы только спросили, какой дурак и идиот написал такое письмо? Но ведь подписи этих людей стоят в газете, и вы вызвали меня сюда, значит, вам известно, кто писал и кого вы называете дураком. Словом, я разговор в таком тоне продолжать не буду.

    Коновалов: — Ну, я просто до глубины души был возмущен этим письмом, я не мог сдержаться. Хорошо, давайте поговорим спокойно. Давайте условимся: здесь нет ни секретарей обкома, ни члена ЦК партии. Есть трое коммунистов, поговорим на равных, как коммунисты.

    Ерашов: — Вот это с удовольствием. Поговорим как коммунисты.

    Коновалов: — Вот скажи нам, как у тебя поднялась рука защищать фашистский замок?

  37. (I mean “вы” – >”ты” )

  38. Yes, a nice example.

  39. Kaliningrad toponymy (in Russian):

    К вопросу о советизации Kалининградской области при топонимических переименованиях 40-х годов ХХ века
    https://7universum.com/ru/philology/archive/item/5184

    Топонимика Калининградской области
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7IAzJ2aKoQ

    Топонимика Калининграда. Реки и водоемы
    http://prussia.online/books/toponimika-kaliningrada

    Thank goodness the Pissa River has stayed the same.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pissa_(river)

  40. J.W. Brewer says

    @vanya: There is, it sometimes seems to me, a certain sort of politician who cannot figure out how to get the trains to run on time and then tries to spin that inadequacy as positive evidence of their exemplary non-fascism. But even someone like that can hardly be expected to put up tablets outside elementary schools *condemning* youth as way of underscoring how non-Mussoliniesque they are. (Did the specific quote in praise of youth have any sort of weird illiberal vibe, or was it just a banal platitude of interest only because uttered by a wicked man?)

  41. Pissa

    Or Tilsit – now Sov(i)etsk – on the river Tylzha/Tilse, known for the Treaties of Tilsit and cheese.

  42. January First-of-May says

    Kaliningrad toponymy

    I heard somewhere that only two settlements kept their pre-war names in the 1946 renaming of Kaliningrad Oblast places; in one of the cases, because the old name coincidentally happened to sound sufficiently Russian that there was no reason to change it. I forgot what happened with the other case.

    My mom occasionally likes to rant about how (as far as she is concerned) the name of Zelenogradsk (ex Cranz) contradicts the normal Russian use of city name suffixes (i.e. that it made sense to include one of -grad and -sk, but not both). I’m not actually sure if that’s true, but it sounded plausible enough.

  43. PlasticPaddy says

    @jwb, vanya
    Possibly this quote:
    La giovinezza è un dono divino, che però la maturità consapevole degli anziani deve salvaguardare dalle insensate dissipazioni e dalle malcerte precocità.

    Youth is a divine gift, which however the informed maturity of the older generation ought to keep safe from senseless dissipation and from dubious precocity.

  44. “Giovinezza, giovinezza, primavera di bellezza…”

  45. J.W. Brewer says

    @PlasticPaddy: So one can burnish ones anti-fascist bona fides by taking the side of senseless dissipation and dubious precocity?

  46. That’s how they did it in Greenwich Village and on the Left Bank!

  47. Zelenogradsk … I’m not actually sure if that’s true, but it sounded plausible enough.

    I guess -sks in Kaliningrad region could be somehow related to numerous -sks in West Russia and Belorussia? I do not know who chose those names and where the adminisration and population of the region was from back then, but at least much of fighting took place where -sks are common.

    I wonder why not simply Zelenograd.

    Wikipedia mentions a Zelenogradskij settlement (adjective agreeing with “settlement”) in Moscow region named so in 1939 and, of course, Zelenograd near Moscow built in 58. Which is confusing too: why call a settlement after a green city when there is not a green city around?

  48. David Marjanović says

    Italy is also the place where there’s a party that openly calls itself fascist and is led by a relative of the man himself.

    So one can burnish ones anti-fascist bona fides by taking the side of senseless dissipation and dubious precocity?

    Most definitely. Fascism is very conservative on that.

  49. Roberto Batisti says

    Italy is also the place where there’s a party that openly calls itself fascist and is led by a relative of the man himself.

    Not really anymore: Alessandra Mussolini (the Duce’s granddaughter) apparently retired from politics at the end of 2020; anyway, the various more or less Neo-Fascist parties she led did not openly call themselves that, and in fact they could not, since it is forbidden by Provision XII of the Italian constitution. This is not to say that Neo-Fascist movements and parties are not all too prominent in Italian politics, alas.

  50. @J.W. Brewer –

    But even someone like that can hardly be expected to put up tablets outside elementary schools *condemning* youth as way of underscoring how non-Mussoliniesque they are.

    Seems like a weird response, why wouldn’t any normal politician just take down an inscription left behind by a murderer who led Italy into a number of disastrous wars and bears a lot of responsibility for the political and economic dysfunction in modern Italy? In any case, I may have caused confusion by explaining poorly. The actual quote is not in praise of youth, it is an explicit call for young people to carry the flame of fascism into the future, which reads in full, carved in large letters:

    – ANNO X – ERA FASCISTA Noi vogliamo che i giovani raccolgano la nostra fiaccola, si infiammino della nostra fede e siano pronti e decisi a continuare nostra fatica MUSSOLINI. –

    To be sure, as a tourist I admit that I appreciate being able to see historical relics like this, but if I were a parent I would probably feel very differently.

    Mussolini, of course, did not actually make the trains run on time. Much like a recent American President, Benito’s regime was mostly self-serving, corrupt and incompetent.

  51. it is an explicit call for young people to carry the flame of fascism into the future

    I triedto figure out if there is a reference to fascism in the quote and discovered the alliteration:

    nostra fiaccola … nostra fede … nostra fatica

    But then it continues in the Vanya’s post! …flame of fascism into the future…

  52. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    in Rome, there are some old manhole covers that have the royal crown of the Kingdom of Italy stamped on them—yet which also say “S. P. Q. R.”

    Oh, that’s embarrassing. Well, sono pazzi, questi romani.

    I recall finding it a tad embarrassing the first time I visited Rome too, but lots of municipal stuff there says “S.P.Q.R.” because that’s the (I think) unofficial motto and official coat of arms of the city.

    The coat of arms is also surmounted by a crown, which looks like a ducal crown but may rather have been inspired by the oldest heraldic crown of the King of the Romans, which looks the same according to Wikipedia, and sounds like just the kind of thing 19th-century municipal grandees would have been keen on.

  53. J.W. Brewer says

    1. It doesn’t much matter (for the point I was making – it matters in other contexts) whether or not actually-existing Mussolini made actually-existing trains run on time, because the more likely goal for 21st century politicians is to distinguish themselves from popular received stereotypes of “fascism” rather than the actual historical phenomenon. But I certainly now appreciate that the actual quote is a bit above and beyond a generic “I believe the children are the future” sort of thing. Before that was clarified, I had been focused on the point that even comic-villain dictators sometimes say benign/banal platitudes as often as they say more incendiary or controversial things. The two places I’ve been in my life that seemed notable for trains-running-on-time were Japan and Switzerland, and in both cases it probably correlates with *something* about the national character and culture that is materially different from America (and might not be considered entirely desirable from an American POV, but it would be a bit over-the-top to point to whatever that is as a step down the slippery slope to fascism.

    2. There is a skyscraper in lower Manhattan that was constructed circa 1931 as a bank headquarters, so it has stone carvings on its facade of the then-extant coinage of various foreign nations with which the U.S. engaged in commerce, including Italian coins prominently displaying the fasces. (The German coins are fortuitously still Weimar-era.) But of course the then-extant U.S. silver dime (the “Mercury” version first coined in 1916 and kept in use until FDR hagiography displaced it) had a fasces on its reverse.

  54. J.W. Brewer says

    That said, however, one can easily imagine a U.S. politician of the “Kennedyesque” variety (a few decades back when Kennedyesqueness was still something that lots of ambitious young pols transparently aspired to), using extremely similar rhetoric calling for young people to pick up the torch and maintain the faith and carry on our efforts into the glorious future blah blah blah. You need knowledge external to the sentence itself regarding the particular political cause being promoted by that sort of rhetoric before deciding how “problematic” the sentence should be considered, unless of course your review of the last few centuries has convinced you that charismatic leaders encouraging crowds of young people to get involved in mass political movements with a pseudo-religious character is pretty much always a bad idea regardless of the specific policy agenda being pursued.

  55. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    Seems like a weird response, why wouldn’t any normal politician just take down an inscription left behind by a murderer who led Italy into a number of disastrous wars and bears a lot of responsibility for the political and economic dysfunction in modern Italy?

    Surely for a combination of two reasons.

    First, because the building is listed for its historical and architectural significance. It’s not some random school that fascism defaced with its slogans. It’s the Scuola Elementare “Giovanni Pascoli”, built in 1932 and listed on the Wikipedia page for Urbino as one of the most notable examples of 20th century architecture in town.

    What to do with artistically and historically significant but unfortunately fascist monuments is an unsettled question of undoubted relevance. I appreciate what Bolzano did with its former Casa del Fascio, which was about as tricky a case as you can imagine since they were dealing (very belatedly) with a sculptural allegory of the Triumph of Fascism.

    Second, because this inscription does not seem tricky to deal with. You could take out two or three signs of fascism, and you’d be left with rhetorical platitudes that anyone else could have put on a school facade. That’s exactly what Urbino did, unless Google Maps is outlandishly sophisticated in its censorship.

    The inscription had an attribution to Mussolini, whose chiseling away is quite obvious on the stone. It had the then compulsory fascio on the municipal coat of arms, whose removal left an empty wreath. It may or may not have had a fascist date (1932 – Anno X E.F.), whose traces I cannot even detect.

    Is that too little well-deserved oblivion of fascism? I suspect the greater problem is too much convenient forgetfulness.

    I’d like to see a survey of students at that school. I expect few know who penned that quote and what used to be in that wreath. Given what the inscription says (“We want the young to pick up our torch, be inflamed by our faith and be ready and willing to continue our labors”), I suspect that even if they realized you’re fishing for something objectionable, they’d mistakenly think you’re objecting to a religious inscription on a public school.

    The third candidate explanation, that politicians left the inscription there because they’re kowtowing to fascist nostalgia, does not seem credible in this case. Sadly, there have always been Italians with an unfortunate nostalgia for fascism. But Urbino had communist mayors for 47 years. The Italian Communist Party had many defects (starting with, you know, being communist), but it can hardly be accused of catering to fascist nostalgia.

  56. You need knowledge external to the sentence itself

    Yes, and you can’t even know that it is about politics. We, adults, want…

  57. This is going to blow your mind — it’s not just the occasional Mussolini symbol on a sewer cover. Many, perhaps most of the sites tourists go to see in Rome were built by dictators who seized power violently and suppressed dissent ruthlessly. There’s a whole secret history of people like Augustus and Septimius Severus.

  58. Lenin said “learn, learn and learn”.

    And the school cafeteria featured (anonymous) “Поел, на стол свой оглянись, убрать посуду не ленись!”, “Хлеб — наше богатство. Береги его!” and other unappetizing imperatives. Nothing like the tiny handwritten note in the smoking place in IUM that suggested to consider dropping cigarette butts in the trash bin rather than to the ground if it does not go against anyone creative instincts, of course.

    Just too much propaganda, and not too delicate. The very defence of the banality as banality does not sound comforting. Preserve propaganda and change signatures? Does not sound as a good solution at all.

    On the other hand if you remove the bullshit and do not add bullshit of your own, a couple of Mussolinis won’t harm. Colosseum is much worse, after all.

  59. But Urbino had communist mayors for 47 years. The Italian Communist Party had many defects (starting with, you know, being communist), but it can hardly be accused of catering to fascist nostalgia.

    I know. That’s why I surprised to come across that plaque while I was walking around Urbino. When you see fascist architecture and monuments in a city like Bergamo it makes sense. I suppose I naively thought the Italian Communists had torn down most of the fascist era propaganda in the 1940s/50s. On the other hand, when you take away the name Mussolini, the quote could easily be interpreted as standard Communist dogma as well.

  60. David Marjanović says

    apparently retired from politics at the end of 2020; anyway, the various more or less Neo-Fascist parties she led did not openly call themselves that, and in fact they could not, since it is forbidden by Provision XII of the Italian constitution.

    Oh. The shallow reaches of my knowledge.

    I recall finding it a tad embarrassing the first time I visited Rome too, but lots of municipal stuff there says “S.P.Q.R.” because that’s the (I think) unofficial motto and official coat of arms of the city.

    I knew that, which is why I knew the reinterpretation. But the crown clashes with senatus populusque.

    the quote could easily be interpreted as standard Communist dogma as well

    That must be it.

    Because… over-the-top language like “We want the young to pick up our torch, be inflamed by our faith and be ready and willing to continue our labors” has fallen so far out of democratic fashion that it is itself a sign of totalitarian ideology today.

  61. Frankly, it was always a sign of totalitarian ideology, just like Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you…” The task of the young is to live good lives; any suggestion that they should follow the Way of the Elders or the Common Good (as defined by the Great Ones) is (in the widest sense) totalitarian.

  62. John Emerson says

    When I was very young I was annoyed by those of my elders, radicals and reformists, who wanted to recruit me to fight against the wrongness of others of my elders. I basically wanted society to be there for me to live my life in, not for me to fix. But soon enough I was dragged into the scrum, and I have never been able to leave.

    On the Mussolini inscriptions, maybe their survival was just an instance of proverbial Italian inefficiency (and right after WWII, serious one outcome of serious poverty).

  63. The part about Poland rejecting travel applications if you use the old German name reminds of Greece doing the same to Macedonians, and this is in the last 15 years.

  64. The part about Poland rejecting travel applications if you use the old German name reminds of Greece doing the same to Macedonians

    Gee, just like Spender reminded me of people who pressured blues artists. I guess it’s OK for some people to use analogies but not others.

  65. the quote could easily be interpreted as standard Communist dogma as well.

    🙁

    has fallen so far out of democratic fashion that it is itself a sign of totalitarian ideology today.
    Almost my point.

    But not quite. Propaganda is an essential part of what ‘totalitarian’ is.

    P.S. I wrote it a few hours ago (before LH’s comment) and pressed the button now without refreshing the page. It seems we mean the same thing.

  66. J.W. Brewer says

    I daresay the marketing techniques for blues artists you are referencing* were not limited to that specific example, with e.g. Irish recording artists who did not if left to their own devices wear Stereotypical Folkloric Irish Garb sometimes being told to put it on for the photo shoot for the album cover. And white Nashville singers who only wore cowboy hats and string ties because their manager or someone from the record label told them to, etc.

    *I think that era was followed by an even briefer one in which certain aging bluesmen were pressured by the recording biz to wear psychedelic hippie garb, but that may not have lasted. Although the Slim Harpo song transparently sucking up to his new long-haired white-kid audience is a classic of whatever genre you might think it falls into.

  67. John Cowan says

    In a time of static economics and marginal living such as has characterized almost all of the human race since the Agricultural Revolution, innovation is a sign of desperation. We are still catching up to the fact that this no longer holds, or would no longer hold if it weren’t for rentiers (rant omitted). It’s for that reason that Cicero’s first speech against Cataline the sentence in section 3 containing the phrase novis rebus studentem lit. ‘new:ABL matters:ABL favoring’ is translated thus, at least by me:

    Nam illa nimis antiqua praetereo, quod C. Servilius Ahala Sp. Maelium novis rebus studentem manu sua occidit. ‘For I omit, as too antiquated to mention, how Gaius Servilius killed Spurius Maelius with his own hands for fomenting revolution.’

    (I think my Latin teacher approved of this, though that may just be my own rose-colored glasses.)

    Note that Cicero (though more or less forced to do so by Latin grammar) puts the rhetorical emphasis on ‘killed’ (which is what he wants the Senate to think about doing), whereas I put it on the revolution (supposedly a royalist one in this case with Maelius as the self-nominated new king). In fact Maelius was killed because he bought up a lot of wheat during a famine and sold it cheaply to the poor, which brings me back to my first paragraph. His killing was undoubtedly murder under color of legal authority, even though a dictator (appointed by the consuls, the Senate, and a popular assembly for six months to meet extraordinary conditions) was in power and the killing was by his similarly appointed subordinate, because he was not given the constitutionally guaranteed right of appeal that any Roman citizen had (see Paul of Tarsus) even in such times. The story of royalist conspiracy was at best gossip and at worst black propaganda.

  68. John Emerson says

    The main character of Traven’s “Death Ship” is a man who not only lost his nationality with the post WWI rectification of frontiers. but is identity, since both the new authorities in his place of birth and the authorities in his place of exile refused to issue him a birth certificate or passport. He’d survives by hook and crook and end up signing on to the least attractive job on a port town, a position on a decrepit merchant ship which he finds was scheduled to go down with all hands (but no officers) as part of an insurance scam.

    Traven’s picture of the darkest side of nationalism, law, and capitalism is unmatched, and since Traven was an anarchist rather than a Marxist it is different in kind from most other anti-capitalist books.

  69. John Emerson says

    One interesting thing about The Death Ship is that it is situated on both sides of the boundary between law (legal title and insurance law) and lawlessness (the open sea where often the law effectively does not reach). The open sea is good for this kind of thing — Moby Dick, Jack London’s Sea Wolf.

  70. Of course, framing this event as “the expulsions AFTER WWII” means you’re starting out by ignoring their most important cause – the Nazi wars of conquest which had for their aim the extermination of the Jews and the reduction of the Slavic peoples to helotage, and the greater part of the Volksdeutscher were completely on board with this aim, and came to view their Slavic compatriots as undeserving of the rights that were conferred on them by their German ethnicity. There’s a wonderfully evocative moment in Jiri Menzel’s “I served the King of England”, when the hapless Czech protagonists’s wife tells him that Prague is a beautiful Reich city and it is every German’s inalienable right to walk its streets. Framing the final act of a cataclysmic world event in this way gives the impression that the expulsions were motivated by hatred of Germans and not by serious questions about what to do about the population which proved to be a traitorous fifth column.

    It’s also not the case that the expulsions were done indiscriminately – at least in Yugoslavia, those who participated in the resistance or were known to be sympathetic to it were never expelled, and this included my own paternal great-grandmother. In the Yugoslav land you still encounter German last names quite frequently, in both original and phonetically spelled forms (eg my grandmother was Krajtmajer).

    Finally, re: place names, it’s hardly a secret that during earlier periods German place names were enforced to the exclusion of the Slavic ones. There’s a famous short story by Ivan Cankar, one of the great Slovene authors, about a family writing a letter to the oldest son who is serving in the army, and the father refusing to write Klagenfurt instead of Celovec on the envelope, despite the mother’s protestations that the letter might not arrive if addressed in this way. Much of the “de-Germanisation” was simply a restoration to prominence of the Slavic names that co-existed but were suppressed under the Habsburgs.

  71. David Marjanović says

    The story of royalist conspiracy was at best gossip and at worst black propaganda.

    “He wanted to be king” remained the most effective and least creative excuse for murdering any man throughout the Roman republic.

    suppressed under the Habsburgs

    The Hohenzollerns perhaps, but under the Habsburgs Klagenfurt/Celovec had both names on its train station signage. They indirectly promoted Hungarian nationalism, but not German nationalism, recognizing after all that German nationalism was a direct threat to their own legitimacy.

    the greater part of the Volksdeutscher were completely on board with this aim, and came to view their Slavic compatriots as undeserving of the rights that were conferred on them by their German ethnicity.

    Some definitely, but I’m not aware of any unbiased polls. Instead of a poll, you’ve presented one example, which does not establish that the character thought anyone else did not have the right to walk around in Prague, and… appears to be fictional?

    In any case I have to repeat that such attitudes were at least as widespread in the areas that remained German or Austrian after the war, and then disappeared nonetheless, but the question remains to what extent that was foreseeable in 1945.

  72. PlasticPaddy says

    Re Celovec, the name is given in brackets on the 1869-1887 1:75000 Ordnance Survey Map, but maybe during war time there was extra suspicion–I think there was another thread that discussed this.

  73. My 1905 Baedeker’s Austria-Hungary has only “Klagenfurt” in both text and map, for what that’s worth.

  74. @David Marjanović: Notably, the first major political murder in the Roman Republic (or at least, the first murder of an A-list political figure that we know about with reasonable accuracy) was of Tiberius Gracchus. As the political demonstration around him was getting out of control, Gracchus, trying to get attention of his supporters/bodyguards and to get them to come in and protect him, pointed at himself. Probably, he just pointed at his head to make the gesture as high (and thus as visible) as possible. The optimate senators who killed him claimed that he was gesturing toward his head to indicate that he wanted his supporters to crown him. At this distant remove, it is hard to know how seriously the slander that Gracchus wanted to make himself king was taken, versus how much the proffer of that excuse represented a raw display of political power, with the powerful killers offering a laughable justification for their actions under the expectation that it would go dutifully unquestioned by the lower orders.

  75. Some definitely, but I’m not aware of any unbiased polls. Instead of a poll, you’ve presented one example, which does not establish that the character thought anyone else did not have the right to walk around in Prague, and… appears to be fictional?

    I said it was evocative! My point was simply that the post-war reckoning cannot be viewed separately from the war itself. Maybe I am more on alert for this because these events have been the focal point for Balkan nationalists of various stripes to rehabilitate their quisling forebears and place them on equal footing morally and historically with the communist resistance movement. Unfortunately, because of the post-war political realignment, Western historiography tends to be less than critical of these movements and their present-day successors. Consequently it’s a real struggle to find anything to read on this subject that isn’t absolutely awash in political point-scoring and axe grinding.

  76. @nemanja: You are arguing essentially the same thing stef-l was saying above. I think the rebuttal that languagehat quoted is largely correct, as far as it goes. The reasons that the German people did not and will not precipitate a Third World War is that German territory (however construed) was occupied for a long time, and the whole German political entity was reconstituted along completely new lines.

    The population transfers of other (non-German) people are trickier. We know that, for example, there was not perceived to be any danger of Hungarians living outside the boundaries of the state of Hungary starting a massive world war. However, with regions of large mixed populations, it would be easy to continue to have interethnic strife of the kind that had been a problem in eastern Europe for centuries. Stalin evidently decided that his goals were better served by getting rid of those lingering frictions by separating ethnic groups out as much as possible into different geographical states.

    Although Yugoslavia, I might mention, is an entirely different kettle of fish. In most of eastern Europe, the post-war communist regimes were controlled from Moscow. Large numbers of apparatchiks who had spent years in exile in the Soviet Union returned home to Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, etc. to run those countries after the war. They were totally beholden to Stalin. However, Yugoslavia was different; Tito was not just a Stalinist puppet. There were several interrelated reasons why this came to pass. Of particular importance were the relationships that Tito and his cadre had forged with the western powers during the war. These relationships were facilitated by two things. The first was the location of Yugoslavia along the Mediterranean coast. This coastal location meant that Yugoslavia was primarily part of the Mediterranean theater, where the British and Americans were most active, rather than the terrestrial eastern front. The second reason was that, like many other countries, Yugoslavia had two separate resistance movements, one conservative and one communist. However, the conservative/royalist forces in Yugoslavia proved that they were perfectly willing to work with the Italians and Nazis against Tito’s communists. That was unacceptable to Americans and British, and it meant that all the Allied support for local fighters in Yugoslavia was eventually being directed toward Tito’s people. After the war, Stalin could not forced Tito and his followers out of power in Yugoslavia without provoking stronger protests from the West that he was willing to deal with. (Elsewhere in the southern Balkans, near the geographical limits of Soviet power in the southwest, Stalin agreed during the war that Greece would be part of the Western orbit, and after the war was over, he kept his word—not assisting the Greek communists in their military uprising against the pro-Western government.)

    After the war, Tito was not forced by Moscow to separate out all his country’s ethnicities. Instead, although he did expel a substantial number of Germans and Italians, he still tried to (re)create a multiethnic Yugoslavia. However, it did not, in the end, work out. When the communist systems throughout eastern Europe disintegrated, Yugoslavia was the only country that ended up torn apart by ethnic strife. (Czechoslovakia split along ethnic lines, but peaceably.) There were still a lot of recriminations, four or five decades on, by the Serbs against the Croats for their latter’s World War II atrocities, as well as bitterness against the Muslim Bosniaks over even older conflicts. The multiethnic state was plunged into violence, and only with catastrophic violence (although, of course, nowhere near Second World War levels) and further population transfers was peace restored.

  77. Nemanja suggests that people who shared regions and countries with Germans were asking a question that to me seems inevitable after such a war, What should be done about our neighbors who tried to kill or enslave us?

    I think people aren’t considering that without significant expulsions, the answer would not have been more generous to the Germans, but instead much uglier.

  78. Brett perhaps you did not realize that I myself grew up in Yugoslavia? Anyway, I appreciate your attempt to explain it to me but based on what you wrote you appear to have no more than a passing familiarity with our history so I don’t know if it’s worth engaging with something so replete with inaccuracies and Balkanist cliches.

    Ryan summarized what I was trying to say quite well – what were the realistic alternatives to the mass de-Germanization of Eastern Europe? The Soviet Union had a well founded fear of Anglo American perfidy, and felt, not unreasonably, that it had to do everything in its power to protect itself against another invasion. It’s really high hypocrisy for Americans to view the Warsaw Pact as an affornt to democracy and liberty when the USA has overthrown many democratic governments in its sphere of influence which it felt wer a threat to its security. And that’s without even going into the issue of mass expulsions.

  79. Ryan, I considered it, much uglier things have been done too. And?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lev_Kopelev

  80. David Marjanović says

    It’s really high hypocrisy for Americans to view the Warsaw Pact as an affornt to democracy and liberty when the USA has overthrown many democratic governments in its sphere of influence which it felt wer a threat to its security.

    …where is this topic suddenly coming from?

  81. From nemanja’s fertile set of historical grievances, which get projected onto the rest of the world. Frankly, I have little interest in the ideas of anyone who can justify Stalinist paranoia and brutality.

  82. J.W. Brewer says

    Well, nemanja’s points do underscore that one of the meanest things the Stalinist/Titoist regimes did to the expellees was to deliberately deprive them (except I guess for the percentage that ended up stuck in the DDR) of the inestimable benefits of living under the glories of Communist rule. Consider the following minimal pair I just made up for illustrative purposes:

    As of the beginning of 1947, Family A, ethnic Germans who formerly owned and resided in one of the nicest houses in Novi Sad, are pfennigless refugees living a rather grim existence in a DP camp near let’s say Karlsruhe in the American occupation zone. Family B, as of the same date, are ethnic Serbs who, being on good terms with the new Yugoslav regime, are now living in Family A’s house, which suffered relatively little damage during the war and its aftermath and is frankly much nicer than the one they had lived in before the war and which they could not in those days have afforded. Knowing only that, which family would you guess will have ended up “better off,” both economically and in other dimensions, by 1957? 1967? ’77, ’87, and/or ’97? Many refugees/expellees understandably have difficulty seeing the “felix culpa” angle in their plight, of course.

  83. John Emerson says

    Immigration for any motive is a crapshoot. Some of the poor Norwegian-American farmers I grew up with would almost certainly be better off now if their grandparents had stayed in Norway. Minnesota farmland is good on the average, but there are large areas of boggy and/or rocky soil, so two guys two miles apart will have vastly different outcomes.

  84. J.W. Brewer says

    John E. is certainly correct that you can’t predict very well for any individual instance, so I should probably refine my thought experiment to something like “imagine 100 families from pre-war Jugoslavija, 50 of whom had the fate of family A and 50 that of family B, and make some predictions about the median outcomes X decades later of the two respective groups,” understanding that in each group some will have done significantly better than median and others significantly worse.

  85. Not to mention a percent of the German expellees were murdered on the way out. Others died under the duress of refugee camps. And many of the expellees wound up in Stalinist Germany anyway. There’s no question expulsion was horrific.

    I just wonder whether these communities could have even withstood seeing German neighbors restored to the status quo ante. Sudeten expulsion had a phase known as wild transfer that is at least described as a bottom-up process. It’s hard for me to believe that the rage that was slaked by these killings would have abated more peacefully if the Germans had remained.

    But I don’t know. I can’t say I “justify” or “defend” what happened. But I do find it harder to judge than some seem to.

    It certainly would have been better if people had commingled in peace after World War II. I’m not sure that was in the range of possibilities. I’m not sure counter-examples are meaningful, because France wasn’t treated the way Slavic countries were, and the better outcome in individual eastern areas may actually hinge on a changing sense of justice among the Slavic survivors because of the hardships other German refugees went through.

    “La revolution est un bloc.” Can one separate decades of peace in Europe, and indeed, compared to the 30 years before, even the Cold War was peace in Europe, from the details of the immediate post-war reaction? I don’t know.

    Those who know may be wiser than me. I mean that sincerely.

    Writing as I did about rage being “slaked by killings” feels like it may be accurate, but may instead be an abomination in itself.

  86. J.W. Brewer says

    To one of Ryan’s points, the French had already ethnically cleansed Alsace-Lorraine in 1918-21, expelling >100,000 Germans across the river and subjecting those who remained to heavy-handed assimilationist policies. So there wasn’t much left for them to be tempted to do on this particular issue in/after 1945.

    Looked at from a slightly different perspective, ethnicity and national borders had already been largely (not perfectly) aligned in Western Europe even before WW1 but not so in Eastern Europe. It’s not unfair to observe as a consequence that the comparative lack of brutal “population transfers” in Western Europe in the 20th century may have been more a matter of lack of motive/opportunity than a superior commitment to “bourgeois humanism.”

  87. ethnicity and national borders had already been largely (not perfectly) aligned in Western Europe even before WW1 but not so in Eastern Europe

    The perennial exception to Western Europe being Ireland.

  88. PlasticPaddy says

    @Rodger C
    I do not see a substantial difference between the Irish and other national minorities (Basques, Corsicans, Bretons, etc.) in Western Europe. Or are you saying the Irish sea formed a border with the “Irish nation” that was ignored by the UK? Maybe you are saying that the “West British” and the NI Unionists are a distinct ethnicity to the people that identify with the Irish Republic. This is difficult to substantiate, although there would be cultural and religious divisions (with large numbers of exceptions). I would say the different history of the Irish from some other (including UK) West European minorities is explained by a different geography, a different historical consciousness and a different view of the UK government with respect to (a) guaranteeing minority rights (it assumed local judiciary and locally elected bodies would do this, or just did not care, because Catholics were regarded as potential traitors) and (b) using overwhelming and illicit force against “splittists” (it vacillated).

  89. J.W. Brewer says

    Maybe another way to look at it is that your ethnicity generally needs to control its own nation-state before either a) it can try to expel residents of the “wrong” ethnicity; or b) other nation-states can try to expel your co-ethnics from their territory to “send them home.” Eastern Europe’s 20th century inventory of newly-created (and/or newly boundary-adjusted) nation states was much higher than Western Europe’s.

  90. John Cowan says

    Writing as I did about rage being “slaked by killings” feels like it may be accurate, but may instead be an abomination in itself.

    Evidence from psychological experiments and from history and criminology suggests that it is extremely inaccurate. I think it is Father Brown who says that nothing is more damaging to the soul than to commit murder and get away with it. It is a denial of human solidarity that winds up dividing the world into the killer and everyone else: “…and then they came for me, but …”

    After the Nazis had won their war and killed all the Jews in Europe, if not the whole world (Americans, think on the “population reduction camps” in Scarsdale, Santa Monica, and throughout the South), they would have exterminated the Slavs and Sinti and Roma as well, though they might have kept more of them as slaves for longer without the pressure of war production. Ethnically cleansing China even with Japanese help might have been beyond them, but rendering it uninhabitable would not have been.

  91. lots of municipal stuff there says “S.P.Q.R.” because that’s the (I think) unofficial motto and official coat of arms of the city.

    On this, see Ada Palmer’s first post on Machiavelli at her excellent blog Ex Urbe (“History, Philosophy, Books, Food & Fandom”):

    Many are familiar with S.P.Q.R. (Senatus Populus que Romanus, i.e. the Senate and the People of Rome). This is the symbol and slogan of the city of Rome, and has been from the ancient Republic to today. One finds it on stone inscriptions, modern storm drains, grand coats of arms, sun-bleached baseball caps, tattoos, always as a symbol of pride in the continuity of the Roman people and their republican heart. For we who learn in middle school to place the fall of the Empire in 410 or 434 AD, and the end of the Roman Republic in 27 BC when Augustus became Emperor, it is hard to remember that the Senate and other offices of the Republic continued to exist. They existed under the Caesars. They existed in strange forms under the Goths who replaced the Caesars. There were some struggles in the 550s, but even after the 600s, when we think the political Senate probably ceased to exist, there were still important families referred to as Senators. New senates were periodically reintroduced (the Republic had a big moment in 1144) but even when there wasn’t a Senate, the popes who ruled Medieval and Renaissance Rome had to maintain a careful, wary balance with the Roman mob and the powerful Roman “senatorial” families, who sincerely believed they were descendants of ancient Roman senators. Thus, while S.P.Q.R. is the symbol of the Roman Republic, in a long-term sense it represents more Roman pride in self-government as an idea, whether that self-government operates as it did in the Republic through popular election of Senators from among the members of a select group of oligarchical ruling families, or as it did in much of Christian Rome; by securing minimal concessions from the popes through the ability of the Roman city populace and its wealthy lead families to riot, prevent riots, stop invaders, aid invaders, supply funds, refuse to supply funds, and in crisis moments generally be of great aid or great harm to the pontiff and his forces.

    S.P.Q.R. represents civic pride so deeply that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, many other cities picked it up. London occasionally used to use S.P.Q.L., and one may read S.P.Q.S. on the shield above the door of the civic museum of the miniscule one-gelateria town of Sassoferrato. And so, I have chosen S.P.Q.F. as the slogan for my year in Florence. “But none of those cities have a Senate!” you may object. Neither, sometimes, did Rome, but it always had a Senate in spirit, and so did these other cities who, by adopting S.P.Q.*. proclaim that they love their city as much as Romans love Rome.

  92. we who learn in middle school to place the fall of the Empire in 410 or 434 AD

    I learned 476, when Little Augie was sent home by Edwatcher.

  93. the miniscule one-gelateria town of Sassoferrato

    Now I know how “one-horse town” is rendered in Italian !

  94. January First-of-May says

    I learned 476

    Ditto, though more recently I’ve heard that it’s actually the wrong date and we should be looking at 480 or 486… or 395, I guess. But 476 is what’s usually taught.
    (If I had to pick a date where the Western Empire was irretrievably lost it would be the battle of Cape Bon in 468. Before that there was still a chance, if a slim one. After that it was basically a hopeless final struggle.)

    Whatever happened in 410 and 434? Wikipedia offers multiple options for the former, and I can’t find anything relevant for the latter.

  95. My college class in Roman history ended with 410, which was the sack of Rome by the Goths. It was a big deal; the city had not been sacked by a foreign army in 799 years. I’ve never heard of 434 as a date for the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but that is probably the year when Attila became (co-)ruler of the Huns, who were ceded part of Pannonia right around the same time.

    I have recently been thinking about the question of whether it is possible to give a useful determination (at least approximately) of when the Byzantine Empire ceased to be the Eastern Roman Empire in a meaningful sense. One clear demarcation line is with the fall of Constantinople to the “crusaders” in 1204, followed by the partition of most of the empire into short-lived Outremer states. There was probably very little institutional continuity between the pre-1204 Byzantine Empire and the reconstituted state under the Palaiologos dynasty. However, it was probably much earlier, during the seventh and eighth centuries when, under pressure from the first waves of Islamic invasions, that the empire broke with most of its older, distinctly Roman, traditions. This was when Latin ceased to be an official language of government business, and the armies and provincial administration were reorganized along completely new lines. (For the army, at least, this was a necessity due to changing technology, but it still marked a stark break with the more Romanized past.)

  96. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    when the Byzantine Empire ceased to be the Eastern Roman Empire in a meaningful sense.

    Many years ago (probably 55 years ago) I was trying to get to grips with Byzantium and its history, and one of the things that struck me was how extremely short the “dynasties” were, often as short as one or two generations. It made it hard to believe in any sort of continuity. By contrast (which I was familiar with) there is a continuity (with a bit of cheating here and there) in England all the way from William the Conqueror in the 11th century to Elizabeth II today.

  97. January First-of-May says

    how extremely short the “dynasties” were, often as short as one or two generations

    Mind you, the pre-split Roman dynasties were typically even shorter (it was a rare one that made it to two generations, and offhand I can’t think of any case of three or more), even aside from some extensive periods of mostly non-dynastic emperors. Compared to that Byzantium was the height of continuity.

    (Of course neither compared very well to places like France, Russia, and Japan, each of which were ruled by the same royal house – or branches thereof – for centuries at a time. England is somewhere in the middle, roughly at the same level as China.)

  98. I have recently been thinking about the question of whether it is possible to give a useful determination (at least approximately) of when the Byzantine Empire ceased to be the Eastern Roman Empire in a meaningful sense.

    My understanding is that this is not a particularly productive way to look at it, since both the Byzantines (our name — they called themselves Romans) and the people around them, including those who eventually conquered them, considered it the Roman Empire right down to the end, and it seems a little impertinent to decide that at some point they no longer deserved the name. Who cares what language they used? The Persian Empire used Aramaic; that didn’t make them any the less Persian.

  99. An anecdote from the internet: “Since [Peter] Charanis [later a Byzantine historian on the Rutgers faculty] was born on the island of Lemnos, he recounts that when the island was taken from the Ottomans by Greece in 1912, Greek soldiers were sent to each village and stationed themselves in the public squares. Some of the island children ran to see what Greek soldiers looked like. “What are you looking at?” one of the soldiers asked. “At Hellenes,” the children replied. “Are you not Hellenes yourselves?” the soldier retorted. “No, we are Romans,” the children replied.

    During the messy run-up to the debacle of the Frankish conquest of 1204, the Senate of Constantinople was still active enough to try to pick its own candidate for emperor. (The fellow wisely declined the offer and spent a week or two hiding in the basement of Hagia Sophia until politics had moved on, thereby contributing to a longer lifespan than any of those who had imprudently accepted the throne at around that time enjoyed.)

  100. @Athel Cornish-Bowden: Liz’s monarchial ancestry actually goes quite a bit back farther than William the Conqueror.

    @January First-of-May: Right at the start, the Julio-Claudian dictators and emperors covered six generation, although not quite in sequential order. Julius (generation 1) was succeeded by his great nephew and posthumously (?) adopted son Octavian (call that generation 2). He was succeeded by Tiberias (3), his step-son (and adopted son, and son-in-law, and former son-in-law’s son-in-law, etc.). Caligula was his Tiberias’s great-nephew (5) by blood (and again an adoptee). They initially skipped over generation 4, but Claudius, Caligula’s uncle, covers that one. Finally, the last of the dynasty, Nero, is another blood great-nephew/adopted son (generation 6).

    @languagehat: I think I pointed out before that we don’t consider normally the Persian Empire to have been a single cultural or institutional thing. It is standard to talk about the Achaemenid Empire, then the Seleucid Empire, then the Parthian Empire, Sasanian Empire, and Safavid Empire. In between some of these are periods of foreign (Arab, Mongol, Turkic) conquest* and periods of internal division.

    Moreover, that the Byzantines called themselves “Romans” can hardly be dispositive. Some of the Seljuk’s called themselves “Rum” too—and that didn’t make them any more Roman!

    * Okay, that includes the Seleucid Empire too.

  101. I’d vote for 313, when Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, accepting Christianity and unleashing the wrath of the True Gods on the Roman Empire.

  102. I’m with those who count Byzantium as East Roman Empire till 1453. The state went back to a division of the Roman Empire, the people saw themselves as Romans, and while it looked different from the Roman Empire of 395, that was due to gradual development. It’s comparable to France, which counts its history from Clovis, even if the elite doesn’t speak Frankish anymore, dynasties changed, and in the end even the monarchy founded by Clovis was abolished by revolutions.

  103. David Eddyshaw says

    1453, by the principle of the Ship of Theseus (or, as it’s known here, Trigger’s Broom.)

  104. Some of the Seljuk’s called themselves “Rum” too—and that didn’t make them any more Roman!

    Actually, it does, in my view. I believe in taking people at their word, within reasonable limits. They were claiming for themselves the tradition of the Roman Empire, and there they were in its (then) heartland.

  105. Also, what Hans and DE said.

  106. David Marjanović says

    after the Nazis had encouraged ethnic Germans in East Prussia, for example, to see non-Germans as sub-human, I cannot see how the status quo ante could have been restored after 1945.

    A much more likely reason, I should have said long ago, was the attitude that had caused the “population exchanges” between Turkey and its new neighbors after WWI: the nationalist prejudice that ethnically mixed areas must automatically break out in conflict sooner or later, so the only way to make war impossible is to unmix the landscape completely.

    That said, Upper Silesia was not, or not entirely, unmixed like that, while Lower Silesia, which was not mixed at all AFAIK, got its population exchanged completely. Maybe that’s because Upper Silesia had voted to belong to Poland soon after WWI.

  107. David Marjanović says

    Some of the Seljuk’s

    And in 1453, Mehmet II Fatih promptly took the title of Keysar-i Rum.

  108. This discussion all presupposes *some* year in which the Empire *did* end, contrary to one of the recurrent themes of P.K. Dick’s VALIS, viz. (generally put inside quotation marks within the book*) “The Empire never ended.” Admittedly, this claim is bound up with some other non-mainstream claims such as “In the first century C.E. [the Sibyl of Cumae] foresaw the murders of the Kennedy brothers, Dr. King and Bishop Pike” and “Real time ceased in 70 C.E. … It began again in 1974 C.E.”

    *E.g., “The Hermetic alchemists knew of the secret race of three-eyed invaders but despite their efforts could not contact them. Therefore their efforts to support Frederic V, Elector Palatine, King of Bohemia, failed. ‘The Empire never ended.'”

  109. January First-of-May says

    that we don’t consider normally the Persian Empire to have been a single cultural or institutional thing

    Indeed so, though I’m not entirely sure why. It was certainly at least as continuous as China, and the names “Persia” and “Iran” both date back to at least the Achaemenids.

  110. Some of my previous remarks on this and related topics—including the fundamentally difficulty of ever trying to divide up continuously varying phenomena into smaller chunks without drawing arbitrary lines. It is almost never going to be possible to draw bright lines of demarcation of who was “Roman” and who was not, but I think it is interesting to see how some of the traits and institutions of the empire persisted for a fairly long time, while some others were abruptly abandoned or gradually atrophied beyond recognition.

    The early modern Greeks and Turks using Roman terminology for themselves should certainly not be seen as a surprising development. For well over a thousand years following the fall of Rome to Odoacer, there were people (starting with Odoacer himself) claiming the mantle of being the true successor “Romans.” Sometimes, this meant literally wearing a mantle; the ceremonial dress of Catholic bishops is still based on the garb of Roman prelates from late antiquity.

    The coronation of Charlemagne in 800 was seriously viewed by some at the time as a rebirth of the Roman Empire in the West. Some of the writers in the Frankish court were genuinely awed by this prospect, and they were impressed by some of the trappings of Roman society that the Carolingian court aped. There was the architectural majesty of the city of Rome itself, which stunned the Frankish chroniclers when they arrived. They adopted Latin for imperial administration whenever possible, and they addressed the Carolingian emperors as “Augustus” after they were crowned. The governmental and military structures bore essentially no resemblance to the Roman system of administration, but even for the common people, there were changes in the Carolingian Renaissance that did seem to harken to more peaceful and prosperous Roman times. Literacy rates rose, and agricultural production recovered to fifth-century levels.

    I have a nineteenth-century history book somewhere, which covers the history of the Holy Roman Empire, from the Battle of Actium to the Napoleonic Wars. Although it has been a useful reference work, I’ve never read sequentially it all the way through, since I think its framing is pretty absurd. The introduction is explicit that the book’s approach is based on a belief that many of the institutions of the Roman Empire set up by Augustus were still in existence all the way up until 1806.

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