Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe

Book Review: Orderly and Humane by R.M. Douglas

            Full disclosure, Ray Douglas was one of my history professors at Colgate University.  

            That said, Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans After the Second World War delves into a history many people have forgotten, even those who lived it.  After World War II ended, millions of German-speakers remained in Eastern Europe.  Some of them were settlers sent East by the Nazis, to Germanize the conquered territories, but most of them came from families that had been there since the Middle Ages.  The governments of the newly liberated countries, especially Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia, considered the “ethnic Germans,” called Volksdeutsche in the book, as guilty as the Nazis for the war and all the suffering visited upon the peoples of Europe.  Furthermore, the continued presence of Volksdeutsche outside of Germany would be a threat to Europe’s future peace.  Eastern Europe, with support from the Western Allies and the Soviet Union, began forcing the Volksdeutsche to leave for Germany in mass expulsions that lasted from the end of the war to the early fifties.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Making Sense of North Korea: How We Know Anything

North Korean is in the news again.  Lately, the stories about the impossible state have been relatively normal, even by the DPRK’s standards: the secretive leader Kim Jong-un may have health problems, he may be purging the country’s leadership.  National rulers develop health problems, same as the rest of us, and dictators conduct purges to protect themselves.  With all things North Korean, some skepticism is warranted.  The first question we need to ask: how do we know about this?  How do we know anything about North Korea in general?  Most of the outside world’s knowledge about North Korea comes from defectors.  Another important source of information on the DPRK were the negotiations conducted under the auspices of the Six Party Talks, or the Agreed Framework talks of the 1990s. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Asahi Shimbun and Comfort Women

            In August, the Asahi Shimbun retracted thirty years worth of stories about comfort women when they realized their source, Yoshida Seiji, was not reliable after a review of his testimony.  Yoshida Seiji approached the Asahi in 1982 when he claimed that as an army officer in the 1940s he was personally responsible for taking Korean women from Jeju Island to serve the Japanese Army.  After citing Yoshida’s testimony sixteen times over thirty years, Asahi editorial re-examined Yoshida’s accounts, determined they are not verifiable and issued retractions.