It was the largest ethnic cleansing to have ever occurred in human history.
Between 1944 and 1951 more than 12.5 million people were driven from their homes and possessions in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Yugoslavia, and other Eastern European countries. More than 750,000 died from mass executions, starvation, and exposure. Thousands were herded into concentration camps and used for slave labor. Many more were orphaned and became “wolf pack children,” living and dying like wild animals of the forest. Literally, millions of women and girls were repeatedly raped.
What people am I speaking of? The Polish, the Jewish, the Romani (Gypsies)? No, not this time. I am speaking about the ethnic Germans whose families had lived outside the present-day borders of Germany for many generations.
Near the close of WWII and afterward, the Soviet Government – with tacit approval from Britain and the United States, and a whole lot of help from partisans and vengeful nationals – initiated and sustained a program to eradicate up to 13.5 million ethnic Germans from all over Eastern Europe.
In the frenzied “payback” – to people who had identified themselves as citizens, not of Germany but of the land in which they lived – many non-Germans (e.g. Swedes, Fins, etc.) perished as well simply because they spoke German.
The subjects of genocide, atrocities, racism, and ethnic cleansing lead out discussion to usually focus our contempt on the usual suspects – the Nazis, the Germans, and all the other perpetual “bad guys” on whom we love to vent our hatred.
We must begin to stop pointing the finger at others and begin examining ourselves
The harsh reality is that all of us are made of the same material. Every one of us is capable of the same awful crimes. No one has a monopoly on virtue or on evil. There are no usual suspects or usual victims.
Look across human history. Every ethnicity has had its turn to play the role as the aggressor – and has played it with gusto. And every ethnicity has played the part of the oppressed. We must begin to stop pointing the finger at others and begin examining ourselves.
Try looking inside. It’s not a pretty sight. The prophet Jeremiah said, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve,” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, NLT).
Yet, as ugly as the inside looks, God loves us and can administer the cure to our heart’s terminal condition – sin. The blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, can cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7) and His Holy Spirit can inwardly transform us (2 Corinthians 5:17). Let us humble ourselves before God, acknowledge our common frailty, forgive our friends and adversaries alike, and ask our heavenly Father’s forgiveness.
Dear Father in heaven, here and now I confess my own sins to you. I am the bigot. I am the racist. My own heart is full of hatred and poison. Please, take it all from my heart and cleanse me of every stain. Please create in me a clean heart, make it obedient to You, and fill it with Your love for all humanity. Amen.
Information from: “The Savage Peace: Post-WWII Retaliation against Minorities,” BBC documentary, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8kh_X-7ojY; “Ethnic Germans: A Forgotten Genocide,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23pNOPJt93s