A German History Lesson

Regarding the Oct. 23 [World Edition Oct. 25-31] article "New School Straddles Europe's Divide," it is good to know of the growing friendly contacts being developed by the University of Viadrina in Frankfurt-on-Oder and the University of Poznan in Poland. However, I must comment on the contents under the subheading, "Nazi invasion."

The reference to a boundary drawn by the Allies in 1945, and illustrated by the map, names the "Oder and Neisse Rivers." The original Allied agreement envisaged that the border should be along the Oder and the Glatzer Neisse Rivers. This Neisse River is south of the city of Breslau. Due to an Allied error, the implementation of the agreement took place along the line of the Lausitzer Neisse. This error was publicly acknowledged at the time, but no action was taken to correct it.

This territory ceded to Poland was that part of Germany known as Silesia. It has been the homeland of Germans for centuries.

The reference to "the forced expulsion of nearly 7 million ethnic Germans from Poland" is somewhat misleading. The German citizens expelled from Silesia and other parts of Germany east of the Oder River were not expelled "from Poland," but from Germany, as it then was. The number involved was on the order of at least 13 million, mainly women and children, many of whom were brutally mistreated. About 2 million died during this enforced expulsion.

I am writing this as a British subject who served with the British forces from 1940 to 1969 and with the British Ministry of Defense from 1969 to 1985.

Harry A. Scutts

Pattensen, Germany

Much as the reporter is to be praised for his report on activities to include Poles in education activities, his historical knowledge about those former eastern German territories is one-sided. The map shows the former German territories, settled by Germans since the Middle Ages, from which about 12 (not 7) million fled from the extreme brutality of approaching Soviet troops in 1945. Those who could not get away in time were killed by the Russians and Poles or expelled under the most inhumane conditions. This was the result of Allied agreements, at the instigation of Stalin and with Roosevelt's connivance.

It would lead too far to describe the grave injustices done to the German population of territories further to the east, including the city of Danzig, whose inhabitants were 97 percent German and 3 percent Polish. These grave injustices, which were the result of the earlier Treaty of Versailles after World War I, led directly to Hitler. There are books enough available today that contain information about these conditions. It would be advisable for American reporters who deal with this part of the world to study the history of our former country, and not to rely on Polish reports that were the standard information during the Communist period in Poland.

Hans Sackner

Schorndorf, Germany

The other side in Jerusalem

The Nov. 27 [World Edition Nov. 29-Dec. 5] article, "Struggle for Jerusalem's Land and Soul" - camouflaged by elaborate graphics - is a travesty. It presents a picture completely outside its historical context, with prejudicial language. (What is an "ultra-Orthodox Jew," pray tell? It is not a designation used by anyone acquainted with Judaism or Israeli politics.) There is only one sentence in the presentation that refers to the 1948 conquest of East Jerusalem by British-trained Jordanian troops, Glubb Pasha's famous legion, the subsequent expulsion of the 1,000-year-old Jewish community there, and the violation of Jewish cemeteries and shrines and denial of pilgrims' passage. (Contrast that if you would with the fact that the Jordanian Wafd controls and manages Muslim holy places today despite all the conflict.) As a 50-year-long Monitor reader and contributor, I find it shameful and regrettable, and I bitterly resent it.

Sol W. Sanders

New York

Editors note: "Ultra-Orthodox Jew" is often used in Israel to denote the most politically right-wing religious Jews.

Letters for publication must include your address and telephone number. All letters are subject to editing. Mail to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail (200 words max.) to OPED@CSPS.COM.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.