German refugees fleeing Russian onslaught in Kurland, October 1944. Photo from Bundesarchiv.
The tragic refugee problem makes headlines every day. Dramatic photo and video scenes repeatedly show us a mass of impoverished humanity on the move. In many of us fortunate enough to have a permanent home in which we’re viewing or reading these stories, the reports evoke empathy. But in some they also produce indifference, or even outrage. Such people are angered that their country is overwhelmed with migrants. Supporting refugees is never cheap and there can be major social consequences from an influx of people of a different culture and religion.
So what is the world to do with the millions of people who have lost their country? As massive and unprecedented as today’s problem sounds, the world faced an even more desperate crisis after World War II—one I described in The Secret She Carried. At that time millions of people were forced to flee the fighting as the Eastern Front fighting pushed into the Soviet Union, then reversed course and ran westward back to Germany. In today’s crisis, the dead number in the thousands. But in the earlier crisis over two million of the 15 million ethnic Germans who were forced out of their homes in Eastern Europe died. Continue reading
Oskar and Erich at Tomaselli Cafe in Salzburg, June 2015.
In The Secret She Carried, an account of two German soldiers meshes with my mother’s story. Oswald Lustig and Oskar Halusa were my Uncle Eduard Hajek’s closest school friends and still teens when they first saw combat. Somehow, both came through the hellish fighting despite multiple life-threatening wounds. Sadly, Eduard didn’t.
I’d been communicating with both men for some time before our first face-to-face meeting in 2010. Fortunately for me, each had put considerable time and effort into preserving memories of their southern Moravian Sudeten homeland over the years. In Germany, Oswald had assembled several books about his part of Moravia and was still an indefatigable information gatherer at age 86 when I spent a couple of days in his home. He was a gracious host and I left loaded with new information. Continue reading
The end of World War II
Photo showing relative size of British bombs of the Second World War. They ranged from 500 lb to 12,000 lb. As the main recipient of such bombs from Britain and America, Germany remains a graveyard for unexploded bombs. Some 2,000 tons of them are discovered annually. [Photo created by the United Kingdom Government is in the public domain; Wikimedia Commons, Raf ww2 bombs.jpg]
Did World War II in Europe end 70 years ago in May 1945? If you read my earlier two part post on the subject (Those Pesky World Wars–they just won’t go away
), you’d know that on a true/false history exam or quiz show, true
would be the correct answer. But outside of that context, false
would also be correct. Technically, the fighting in the European Theater ended with the surrender of Germany, and then in the Pacific Theater a few months later. However, in a way, the war lived on because it left many problems unresolved and created new tensions and turmoil when the victors took or redistributed territory and drew illogical borders through former colonial possessions. The resulting troubles and unresolved issues brought about struggles that to this day show no signs of disappearing. Examples abound in the Middle East, Southern Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe. Continue reading