Saturday, February 4, 2017

Nazi-Occupied Germany: A Phrase to Exculpate Germany

The book "Bieganski: The Brute Polak Stereotype" shows how through folk and popular culture, history is manipulated to exculpate Germans and to indict Poles and other Eastern Europeans. This blog continues that work. 

Blog reader Sue Knight has just alerted me to a new wrinkle, one so devious I had never imagined it. The use of the phrase "Nazi-occupied Germany."

I thought that phrase so weird that it must have been used only once, in the BBC piece Sue mentioned. A quote from that piece: 

"But Bertha was one of the lucky ones. Back in Germany, Bertha's mother and father had made arrangements to escape from Nazi occupied Germany. In a dangerous journey they slowly made their way across Europe and in 1944, five years since they were last together, Bertha's family were finally reunited in England."

I was wrong. I googled the phrase "Nazi occupied Germany" and found thousands of instances, including from the past month, as here:

"Join Sonja Maier Geismar, a St. Louis survivor, in a conversation with Armando Lucas Correa, author of The German Girl, the story of a twelve-year-old girl’s harrowing experience fleeing Nazi-occupied Germany with her family and best friend, only to discover that the overseas asylum they had been promised is an illusion."

This phrasing exculpates Germans. They are not responsible for Nazism; they were "occupied" by something foreign over which they had no control.

In fact Germans were themselves the Nazis, and significant numbers of Germans voted for Hitler.

Ironically, the same media and scholars who refer to Nazi Germany as "Nazi occupied Germany" often refer to Poland, a country that was attacked, occupied, and all but destroyed, as being responsible for Nazi crimes committed in Poland, as in the phrase "Polish concentration camp" and other similar shiftings of responsibility and guilt.

Polonia would benefit from engaging in the public sphere and contributing to changes in how WW II is discussed. 


  1. So many references to "Nazi-occupied Poland"! Wow. I didn't realise. Now this cannot just happen surely?

    This has to be a political agenda being moved forward.

    You say: "Ironically, the same media and scholars who refer to Nazi Germany as "Nazi occupied Germany" often refer to Poland, a country that was attacked, occupied, and all but destroyed, as being responsible for Nazi crimes committed in Poland, as in the phrase "Polish concentration camp" and other similar shiftings of responsibility and guilt."

    Now that is the point. I have no objection to the word Germany being omitted in this context - maybe we can define Nazis as "Martians" - given that I am 99.9 per cent recurring sure that there is no-one on Mars to be libelled by the charge.

    After all no-one gives the Russians a hard time because of the millions killed by Stalin, or the Chinese because of the millions killed by Chairman Mao.

    So why should Germany be held to a higher standard?

    What I object to is substituting Poland, and making it guilty of the crimes of its Nazi occupiers.

    Which is why I feel I have to keep speaking up - and am grateful to all who do

  2. @Sue

    This is a BBC article from 2008. Strange no-one picked up on it at the time. It's archived and it doesn't look as if you can post comments on the page but you could try writing to their complaints dept.

    You could point out that the normal formula for the BBC was always "Nazi Germany". They might amend it even this late in the day.

    1. Any corrections are published separately. There may well have been a correction at the time. Their archives only go back to 2012.

    2. None of this looks real - it seems like the media just like to troll Poland. Rule #1: don't feed the troll. If you want to stop this from happening,

      1) find out who is doing it and identify them - by name - in the press.

      2) ensure that any kind of a car accident suffered by or suicide committed by or alcohol poisoning suffered by such a person gets good publicity

      3) repeat steps 1 & 2 as needed

      results guaranteed

      you could also then cut embassy staff to relieve the Polish taxpayer of having to fund such amateurs.

  3. Hello Michal and all, I only just became aware of it. Its a totally new expression to me. Its hard to keep pace with it, and pick up on everything, as there seems to be so much. For example, I was reading an biography of Shirley Jackson, a writer I really admire, and noted that a little drop of poison about how "unter" us Poles are had been gratuitously inserted. I just try to tackle one issue a month.

    And if I can use it as an occasion for giving a witness to the truth - Christianity being called "the way of the truth" - then I can feel positive about it all, rather than depressed.

    Somewhere I have a quote about another programme the Beeb put on. And I will see if I can find it..

    Yes, this is from a review of Generation Wars, a programme made in Germany, told from the German point of view.

    "Poles, whenever they appear in Generation War, are portrayed as angry, rude, and filthy. In several scenes they sport anti-Semitism through either their actions or comments. This is not to say that there was no anti-Semitism among Poles in a pre-war or occupied Poland, but Generation War shows anti-Semitic Poles as contrasted with young German friends enjoying their lives in Berlin during the war with their Jewish friends."

    Now, I have no problem with Germany telling its story. I was surprised to find myself watching "Das Boot", and was very moved by it. And ashamed at myself for cheering at all those 1950s war movies were German subs got torpedoed.

    But once again, I do object to Poles/Polonians/Poland being routinely "untered" and moved to the Nazi side.

    I try to tell our story, in as much as I can, without untering others, and am simply asking for the same courtesy in return.

    Did I write to the Beeb about it? No. I only have so much time for Polish Media Issues, and I feel a bit daunted by the Beeb.

    Maybe I will have a go next month. Just ask them what to expect next, so I can brace myself!

  4. I like the cartoon for this blogspot. It is very apt.

    Note the long-term progression: 1) The de-Germanization of the Nazis in Holocaust films; 2) Milgram's experiments, which "proved" that anyone can act like a Nazi, and so Nazism "just happened" to develop in Germany and not elsewhere; 3) the increasingly-Germanless Holocaust (e. g, the Jedwabne "revelation"; 4) Poles and Germans effectively on the same side (e. g, Jan Grabowski and his JUDENJAGD); and now 5) Germany as a nation "occupied" by the Nazis.

    Where will it end?

    1. Yes, are Germany and Poland changing sides in the current version of WW2?! Who would have thought it, within living memory of the events. How devious politics are, and why does anyone want to get involved in them?

      By the way, its not that I want Germany to continually be reminded of WW2. After all, didn't both sides do some terrible unGodly things? But to substitute Poland...

      As I have suggested before, if the world must keep memorialising WW2, without apparently learning a single lesson from it, and the Axis Powers have to be changed, can we just call them Martians. At least no-one gets slandered that way.

    2. All this has been, slowly but surely, going on for decades.

      In the early 1960s Dawid Wdowinski, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor, testified at the Eichmann trial. He warned of the casualness with which German guilt was already then being soft-pedaled, and suggested that it was driven by the financial interests of Israel in collusion with West Germany.

    3. And Jan don't forget the Biblical warning that the whole world - all its institutions - are lying in the power of the one who is called "the father of the lie" - Satan the devil.

      He told the first lie ever told, in Eden, when he told Eve that she would not die if she disobeyed her Creator.

      We still live in the chaos and suffering caused by that first lie.

      And here we have the truth being turned on its head within living memory of the events. It can be a life-saving lesson, if it makes us stop and think seriously about what the Inspired Scriptures are telling us.

      Its urgent that we do.

  5. But that's the point of the whole thing. From an Israeli perspective, the perpetrators are the same because the narrative is that Jews are only safe in Israel (because they need to boost their numbers there). From a German perspective, the reasons for internationalizing the perps are obvious. From a Russian perspective showing that those pesky Eastern Europeans are anti-Semitic, racist, etc helps to establish that their independence should be checked (with Russian oversight presumably - after all the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, had hundreds of Jewish generals, etc). From a liberal perspective, this puts pressure on the Eastern Europeans to comfort to the new "allow for more immigrants" narrative/goal.

    All of this trolling makes complete sense for all involved. Except, of course, the locals. But, hey, the world is not fair.

    1. Hi Charles, Yes, I think you are right. This is the (un)lovely business of politics as usual.

      And its one reason why I always try to avoid the Defensive Corner, as this doesn't really have anything to do with what Poland did, or did not do.

      For example, fighting against Hitler is usually seen as a DoublePlusGood thing - but not when Poles do it.

      When the facts don't fit the politics, then it seems the facts must go.

      What to do about it?

      Its an interesting challenge, to say the least.

      I think we should go on telling our own story - separate from the Defensive Corner Agenda - as so many of us are doing. We must not let ourselves be goaded into retaliating in kind.

      Above all, for me, is that I feel I am being given a valuable lesson about the way "the world" works. And what an incentive that is to keep right out of its divisive politics and its cruel wars.

    2. Charles, you make excellent points. You may be interested to know that all the arguments, used to delegitimize Poland today, are recycled versions of the same arguments that had been made, by the powers that be, since the time of the Partitions.

      A British scholar named Boswell has studied this. For details, please click on my name in this specific posting.

    3. Thanks again Jan for the immense amount of work you do - and for not getting discouraged.

  6. Who are the scholars who refer to Nazi Germany as 'Nazi occupied Germany'? I have seen this phrase used in some articles in newspapaers and online blogs, on a few occasions but I have never seen it used by academics or serious private scholars.


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
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