History in post-war Germany, as in any other country, it evolved. And its very first revolution was the myth of the “pure Wehrmacht”, which supposedly did not stain itself in crimes on the Eastern Front. It’s worth just recalling that 10 thousand officers and 44 generals almost went straight from the Wehrmacht to the Bundeswehr. Obviously, the NATO army really needed experienced military personnel tested in battles, able to pass on the experience to the future elite of the Bundeswehr. Conrad Adenauer, December 3, 1952, speaking in the Bundestag, said on this occasion:
“We are convinced that the good reputation and great achievements of the German soldier, despite all the scoldings of recent years, are still relevant for our people and will remain so ... Our task - and I am sure that we will solve it - should be a synthesis of moral values of the German soldier tradition with democracy. "
Actually, before the beginning of the 80s in the Federal Republic of Germany it was the Einsatzgruppe SS and SD that blamed all the crimes on the Eastern Front, leaving the Wehrmacht with a clean and professional army. But studies in which the treatment of Soviet civilians with the German civilian population was described in great detail and “truthfully” have been respected at all times.
Such a condescending attitude to the “spotless Wehrmacht” was explained very simply - more than 10 million men served in the Eastern Army, that is, in every German family there was someone from the Wehrmacht. How is it possible to name ordinary soldiers, officers and generals war criminals? Indirect recognition of the crimes of the Wehrmacht came to Germany only in the early 90s, when most of the perpetrators were either in old age, or died. Exhibitions were organized that directly linked the Wehrmacht and the Holocaust, and the main function of the army in the genocide was revealed - the identification and identification of Jews, the construction of concentration camps and filling them with unfortunates. Historian J. Ferster, exposing the German army and its role in World War II, said:
“The bitter truth is that the Wehrmacht became Hitler's voluntary assistant in his racial and ideological war in the East. With regard to the Holocaust, the Wehrmacht acted in different faces - a murderer, an assistant, an accomplice. ”
But not all historians in Germany share this view. Let me give an example of F. Remer, who, describing the fierce nature of the war on the Eastern Front, indirectly blamed the Soviet troops on this, along with the Nazis. The problem, according to Roemer, was that in the initial period of the campaign both sides were so stained with blood that "a return to the forms of a" normal European war "was ruled out." And this point of view, along with the recognition of Wehrmacht crimes, also takes place in modern Germany.
The Hamburg Institute for Social Research in 2001 created a big scandal in German society when it organized a traveling exhibition, The Crimes of the Wehrmacht (Verbrechen der Wehrmacht - Dimensionen des Vernichtungskrieges 1941 bis 1944), and also published a book of the same name. The conservative-minded part of German society (let's call it that) openly expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the Wehrmacht here once again appeared as a bloodthirsty gathering. It was more correct, according to this part of the population, to clearly distinguish between SS criminals and honest soldiers. At the exhibition, they showed the results of the work of four battle groups - A, B, C and D, each of which was up to the battalion. These SS groups worked within the framework of Army groups “Center”, “North” and “South” and destroyed civilians in 1941–42 in clear coordination of efforts with the rear units of the Wehrmacht.
An interesting background to this exhibition. She was born in 1995, and its organizer Jan Philippe Reemtsma at the opening said:
“The purpose of this exhibition is to show how unsteady the line was between norm and crime, and how wide was voluntary participation in the massacres.”
For several years, the exhibition traveled throughout Germany, causing either outrage (the “anti-historical propaganda show”) or reflection from Wehrmacht veterans. One elderly veteran of World War II put it:
“I was a simple soldier of the Wehrmacht from 1941 until the end of the war in Russia, Italy, France and Germany, and I don’t feel at all hurt if I finally try to analyze the role of the Wehrmacht in the war. The statement that the crimes were committed by the SS, while the Wehrmacht always remained noble and pure, unfortunately, does not correspond to reality. "
In 1999, a certain Pole Bogdan Muzialu expressed the opinion that some of the 1433 photographs at the exhibition did not document Wehrmacht crimes, but captured the punitive actions of the NKVD. The exhibition was temporarily closed and it was found out that only 20 photos really were not related to the Wehrmacht, but recorded the actions of the Finnish and Hungarian units, as well as the actions of the NKVD. In 2001, the Wehrmacht Crimes resumed work, and no more such allegations have been reported. However, she provoked a definite reaction: the Christian Democratic Union of Germany still considers it to be provocative and insulting the memory of the “honest and noble” Wehrmacht.
An important issue in connection with the crimes of the Wehrmacht was the count of the number of innocent people stained with blood on the Eastern Front. Here, German historians have no unity.
Democratically minded scientists say that from 60% to 80% of Wehrmacht soldiers and officers committed crimes, which is about 6-8 million people. Munich historian Dieter Paul considers this nonsense and speaks of several tens of thousands of soldiers - this point of view is very fashionable now among the conservative German establishment. The historian Ulrich Herbert does not agree with the Democrats: he and his colleague Rolf Dieter Müller argue that in the Wehrmacht only 5% of the personnel participated in the killings. A more or less reasonable explanation is offered by the historian G. Knopp in the book “History of the Wehrmacht”:
“Of course, one cannot indulge in illusions. The soldiers who took part in hostilities and are stationed behind the front line can hardly be divided into “good” and “bad”. Front-line soldiers and rear soldiers were part of the criminal war of worldviews, and often only the case decided whether the soldier becomes a criminal or not, for example, if the unit was sent to fight partisans. Given that the 3,3 million Wehrmacht soldiers who were involved in the hostilities in Russia in June 1941, and the fact that 1942 to 7000 Russian political workers were eliminated before mid-8000, it becomes unclear how most of the soldiers could remain not involved in these crimes. "
Guilt for the Holocaust Above All
In modern Germany, to the forefront when referring to the history of Nazism is the fault of the mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War. Learning from Nazi crimes - the "lessons of Auschwitz" - is an integral component of teaching history in German schools. The inclusion of materials on the history of the Holocaust in school textbooks is inextricably linked with “overcoming the past” - a complex process of nationwide learning from the history of the Third Reich, a call for moral purification, for perceiving and comprehending the truth about Nazism, for developing immunity in relation to totalitarian ideas, racism and militarism. This is exactly what the official point of view on the history of the 30-40s looks like, and it certainly has the right to be. Moreover, it can be argued that the history of the Holocaust should be studied in more detail in Russian schools, which now, unfortunately, is not observed. In this sense, it is useful to take an example from German school history books. However, further study of the perception by modern Germans of the realities of the Second World War is puzzling.
Let us cite the opinion of German scholars concerned with the problems of historical memory. Professor G. Zimon from Cologne claims that not all gymnasium graduates are aware that Paris was once occupied by fascist troops. Dr. M. Keyser from the University of Bielefeld says that in general it cannot be argued that German schools have developed a unified program for teaching the history of World War II - it all depends on the land on which the educational institution stands.
In the minds of the German profession, it still seems to be a war. So, the privat-docent of the mentioned Bielefeld University Dr. H. Heinz issued the following:
“The Russians did not gain anything from this war, they only suffered losses! It was not a great patriotic war - it was a war of a small elite, a war of apparatchiks and dogmatists ... What kind of victory is this if you lost 40 million people killed ?! What victory is this ?! It was a victory for the generals, not for the people! But as a scientist, as a specialist in the field of social sciences, I cannot say that the Russians won! According to my methodological and moral positions, I am an individualist. I only think about specific people, about Russians. I do not think about Russia. I see millions of corpses of men and women left without sons and spouses. If so many people died, it means that there was no victory! They all had to go to the funeral, and not hold parades and demonstrations! This is XNUMXth century behavior! In a sense, this is the rehabilitation of all their politicians and generals who have made these mistakes! But what does victory mean? What did the Russians enter Berlin? But what does this mean in our time? It meant something in the time of Frederick the Great. Or in the time of Caesar. In our time, there can be no talk of victory when millions are killed! And who is winning? .. Such a price was paid for nothing! But this is our idea ... We are talking now about the representation of people, and not about empirical facts. The result of the war was not the liberation of Europe, but the Cold War, the atomic weapon and all that exploitation. The liberation of Europe was the price of unleashing wars in developing countries. These were demonstrative wars between East and West over various spheres of influence, and in these wars millions were killed and died ... They were deprived of power due to the so-called balance of forces, which actually did not exist. This is all ideology! I think that such thinking is a prerequisite for the next war. May 9, you should visit your cemeteries and steles, remember those young people who died without knowing why! ”
The most unpleasant thing in this tirade is that in the minds of many of our compatriots such a thing wanders, and they often dare to voice it.
The key idea of the “guilty complex” in Germany is, as mentioned above, responsibility for the mass genocide of Jews. To a lesser extent, it is said about the killing of madmen and the destruction of gypsies. To reproaches regarding the fate of Soviet prisoners of war in the fascist Reich, one can hear in response: “How did you feel about the German prisoners?” Not enough attention is paid in German schools to the terrible history of the siege of Leningrad and, accordingly, few can clearly tell something about it. The second and third place in the memory of the Germans are war crimes committed by the Nazis in the republics of the Soviet Union. But about such a "trifle" as the economic damage from the hostilities of the Third Reich, generally not talk.
At the same time, Bernhard Schlink's novel The Reader, which was filmed in Hollywood, was included in school textbooks on literature. Let me briefly recall the plot: 15-year-old Michael Berg meets 36-year-old Hannah Schmitz, an affair begins, alternating with reading books through the lips of a young man - Hannah could not read. As a result, it turns out that Schmitz worked as an overseer in Auschwitz during the war years and is guilty of the death of three hundred prisoners. The discussion that follows is about the “gear in the mechanism” and the small link in the chain, which she “was unable to break.” In general, in the book, and even more so in the film of the same name, an image is formed that causes, if not compassion for Hannah, then sympathy for sure. I must say that to study this novel in German schools, a number of teaching aids are used, which step-by-step explain the method of working with the “Reader”. The life of the heroine Hannah Schmitz, we note, is written off from the biography of Hermina Rhine (nee Braunsteiner), which the famous "Nazi hunter" Simon Wiesenthal caught in New York in 1964. This sweet and poorly educated woman in Majdanek quickly rose to the position of deputy commandant of the women's section of the camp and received the nickname “Mare” from her prisoners (she kicked women and children with forged boots). And in the book “Reader” Michael tenderly called his dear Hannah a horse, because she has “smooth and tender, and her body is strong and strong.” Such is modern German pedagogy!