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Poland-Current Issues Recommended


How the memory of international crimes is distorted in public discourse

Uniwersytet Warszawski

Wydział Dziennikarstwa i Nauk Politycznych

Scientific editors

Artur Nowak-Far

Łukasz Zamęcki

Warsaw 2015

Ministry of Foreign Aff airs, Republic of Poland

© Copyright by authors, Warsaw 2015

© Copyright by the Ministry of Foreign Aff airs, Republic of Poland, Warsaw 2015

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in

any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical

methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations

embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

Proofreading: Grażyna Waluga

ISBN 978-83-65427-08-3

Typesetting and layout: Zakład Grafi czny UW. Zam. 132/2016


Artur Nowak-Far

Introduction: Defective codes of memory in the present world . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Martin Mendelsohn

Libel actions in the USA against the use of defective code of memory . . . . . 13

Dieter Schenk

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies, or negligence?

Th e German law perspective and historical revisionism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

Media context of defective codes of memory: A case study on German

press recourse to false predicates to describe Nazi annihilation camps

and concentration camps established by the Germans in occupied Poland . . 33

Marta Jas-Koziarkiewicz

Defective codes of memory, or about the reaction of German Internet

users to media content . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

Michał Bilewicz, Anna Stefaniak, Marta Witkowska

Ethnicisation of responsibility: Psychological aspects of defective codes

of memory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

Artur Nowak-Far

Defective codes of memory about genocide crimes: Fundamental problems

of axiological and legal assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

Filip Rakiewicz

References to the so-called “Polish concentration camps” as an infringement

of personal interests: A civil-law perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105

Witold Kulesza

Defective codes of memory versus collective memory as a general interest

under the protection of criminal law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141

Natalia Sienkiewicz-Bożyk, Magdalena Sykulska-Przybysz

Accessibility of legal recourse concerning defective codes of memory

in Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163

Ewa Rosiak-Zięba

On the so-called “Polish concentration camps”: A logical pragmatic

perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177

6 Table of Contents

Zbigniew Greń

Scope for challenging stereotypes in the context of defective codes

of memory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191

Artur Nowak-Far

Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201

Abstracts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207

About the authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213

List of abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219

Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221



Artur Nowak-Far

There is only a fine line between the immediate and the long-term, or even eternal, perspectives. Storytelling is a good case in point. Real-time coverage can perpetuate specific beliefs and judgments about any important event. It can set in stone certain expressions that will gain the power of fixed idioms of language. It can determine identity, and the content and manner of communicating in the world.

It seems to me that the original purpose of storytelling was to facilitate dialogue between group members. The first stories were most probably told about ancestors. Repeated from generation to generation, they strengthened the sense of values shared by families and tribes, and passed on messages of what was considered important, and socially signifi cant for the community. Stories were meant to bring families and tribes closer together, feeding into their knowledge about themselves, contributing to their identity.

Over time, storytelling also became part of intergroup dialogue. That is because a group can draw on its history for uniqueness, distinctness, and sometimes even pride. Moreover, stories can be narrated to convince others, the strangers, of these special features. Such stories contain a tailor-made set of arguments, opinions, and declared beliefs, the purpose of which is to get the message about one group across to members of other groups. We find here the expression of how a group would like to be seen by its environment; moreover, such information can be designed to caution members of other groups or even convey the gist of mutual relations.

Today’s world is global. Th e scale and intensity of information exchange is without precedent in the world’s history. No group functions in an isolated space. No information can by itself shape anyone’s consciousness, without proper verifi cation. This means that nowadays it is groups, including entire nations and countries, that engage in an intriguing dialogue with each other about their identities, and what makes them up. An important element of this dialogue, which involves many threads and many entities, is history – especially the history of mutual relations and ensuing patterns which form a global experience.

It is in this scale, intensity and network character of discourse that traditional

ideas enabling nations and countries to self-defi ne collide with each

other. More and more oft en, a common picture of history, valued by all

and avoiding the us/them dichotomy, is emerging from this collision. We

already know that for this valuable eff ect to occur, all the participants of the

process leading up to it must fully reveal the truth. In this sense, it is the

truth that triggers a new form of history policy, one which is the expression

of conciliation necessary to build a common future.

Accumulated over years, prejudices that foster nationalism, or even

chauvinism, do little to reach this state of mutual historical dialogue between

communities large and small. Th at is because nationalism and chauvinism

focus on building identity by taking short-cuts: they glorify a nation’s

identity, including its history, a process that oft en goes hand in hand with

building unfounded stereotypes of other groups. It is nationalism and chauvinism

that do not allow telling yourself and others the truth.

Defective codes of memory are among the phenomena that prevent

“taking the path of truth” described here. Th ey should be understood as

false statements (i.e. not meeting the Aristotelian criterion of truth) characterized

jointly by the following features:

(a) falsehood that manifests itself in distorting relevant predicates of

collective historical memory of events which are important to the

identity of an individual, a community or many communities,

(b) distortion of the above-mentioned predicates of historical memory

by means of euphemisation or by employing syntagms which convey

grossly misrepresented information,

(c) taking advantage (both consciously and unconsciously) of the phenomenon

whereby the adequate context of all statements about past

events fades out over time.

Examples of defective codes of memory abound. Modern history tends

to be given quite a bizarre refl ection in the current public discourse. It is

all too easily that such erroneous terms as “Armenian genocide,” “Herero

extermination” or “Polish concentration camps” fi nd their way into international

historical discourse, which is otherwise fairly dependable. Th ey spoil

this discourse, putting its language at a risk of permanent contamination.

Th ey are also insidious, for many people fail to notice them in discourse.

Defective codes of memory by and large result from ignorance. Even so,

one cannot rule out that they are used deliberately to off end a group, or to

reproduce a subtle signal of a more or less explicit contempt for this group.

Defective codes of memory are set in diff erent contexts, perform different

functions, and need not always be used on purpose. Th ey also evoke

Introduction: Defective codes of memory in the present world 9

diff erent emotions. Th e key thing about them is, to my mind, their ability

to reverse – by the power of language – the moral order stemming from

the lesson the international community is taught by history. With regard

to crimes prosecuted by the international community, they are dangerous

because they eff ace the memory and assessment of actions which had led

up to these crimes. At the same time, they undermine the right to truth

which we – as the international community – have a duty to demand not

only in our own name, but especially in the name of the victims.

Th is motivation was behind eff orts, undertaken by outstanding scholars

of diff erent specialities, that have resulted in this publication. Aft er all, defective

codes of memory are primarily a linguistic phenomenon. At the same

time, they have an important pragmatic dimension that manifests itself in

media practices and the application of law. Hence, this publication combines

refl ections from the fi elds of linguistics (including philosophy of language),

media studies, and legal studies. Eminent scholars and practitioners in these

areas from Germany, Poland, and the US have contributed their pieces.

Th e publication opens with two studies: by Martin Mendelsohn from

New York, a well-known international lawyer who has repeatedly sought

the truth on behalf of victims of genocide before courts in diff erent countries

of the world, and by Professor Dieter Schenk from Berlin, who has

not only fathomed the mechanics of twisting historical truth, but has also

successfully stood up for this truth in a number of spectacular court cases.

In his piece, Martin Mendelsohn looks at the way measures to eliminate

defective codes of memory from the public discourse can be applied before

US courts. Th e chapter by Professor Dieter Schenk sets out the possible

social and legal qualifi cations of the use of defective codes of memory in

the practice of social life of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In the section of the book on the media dimension of the use of defective

codes of memory, the study by Professor Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz from

Warsaw shows results of her analysis of German press articles featuring

the defective code of memory “Polish concentration camps.” She arrives

at the very important conclusion that the running of press titles by editorial

boards is inept: despite previous corrections, the defective code of

memory in question will oft en appear in subsequent materials. Th e research

also shows that the problem has not entered media debate in Germany yet.

Th e article by Marta Jas-Koziarkiewicz, Ph.D., presents the results of her

research into how Internet users reacted to President Barack Obama’s use

of a defective code of memory about German Nazi concentration camps.

According to her fi ndings, the incident sparked off a considerable public

reaction; Internet users tried to interpret it, while also doing their best to

ensure their community learnt the truth. Th e study by Professor Michał

10 Artur Nowak-Far

Bilewicz from Warsaw and his team focuses on the ethnicisation of responsibility

for crimes committed in pursuit of political ideas propagated in the

20th century. In their opinion, it is an oversimplifi cation to shift responsibility

onto entire nations – the standard of truth should be higher, and

more accurate in identifying responsible entities.

Th e legal part of the book begins with a piece by Professor Artur Nowak-

Far (Warsaw) on the fundamental axiological and practical problems with

defi ning and combating defective codes of memory about the crimes of genocide,

wherever they were committed. Th e author observes that the narrative

which is being constructed nowadays with the use of mass media targets

a global audience. What such targeting entails is that the broadcaster accepts

diff erent legal classifi cations of this narrative according to specifi c contexts

of reception in the event that the narrative violates somebody’s interests.

In each legal order the use of a defective code of memory causes a clash

of protected interests, with the freedom of speech being one of them. But

from the duty to maintain a fundamental moral order arises the imperative

to protect truth on behalf of the victims of genocide. It is therefore a praxeologically

justifi ed counterweight to the requirement of guaranteeing the

freedom of expression, at least in those societies whose members fell victim

to genocide, but most probably also in those which produced the perpetrators.

Th e text by Filip Rakiewicz (Poznan) is an interesting attempt to

demonstrate this special responsibility by formulating and testing a hypothesis

on whether Polish law could protect the personal interest of a sense of

national identity. Such protection would also apply to the use of defective

codes of memory that violated the said interest. Th e use of defective codes

of memory was also addressed by Professor Witold Kulesza (Lodz) in the

nuanced context of collective memory which is also treated as a legal interest.

Drawing on Polish-German relations and historical examples of crimes

of genocide committed in Poland, the Author noted that their memory is

part of the common good – common memory of those events. Th e text also

assessed whether current Polish legal regulations which could be applied

to prevent defective codes of memory from distorting this common memory

are fi t for purpose. Th e collection’s legal section ends with a chapter

by Natalia Sienkiewicz-Bożyk (Trier) and Magdalena Sykulska-Przybysz,

Ph.D. (Gdansk and Trier), who discuss the instruments available in German

law that could be used to limit the negative impact of defective codes of

memory on the quality of German public discourse, and on the common

Polish-German memory of the victims of genocide in Poland during the

Second World War. Th e Authors pointed to the constitution as the source

of protection norms for all personal interests in Germany, while concrete

norms are generated by case law. In the model of responsibility, the key

Introduction: Defective codes of memory in the present world 11

issue is objective selection of a piece of information that is believed to have

infringed personal interests by an average (abstractly standardized) recipient.

Combating defective codes of memory in the media, especially the press,

is complicated by the fact that their civil liability is regulated at the level of

federal states, rather than the federation itself.

Th e publication ends with texts from the fi eld of linguistics, which

strongly emphasize the pragmatic analysis of language. Th e fi rst one, written

by Ewa Rosiak-Zięba, Ph.D., (Warsaw), examines the syntagm “Polish

concentration camps” from the perspective of logical pragmatics. Th e author

notes that the syntagm stands out against other syntagms commonly used

to describe similar phenomena that occurred in the late 19th century in

Namibia, during the Boer wars in Transvaal, or during the Second World

War in Croatia. Th e author also stresses that in order to neutralize the

prominence and impact of defective codes of memory, it is necessary to

put them in the right context, which means enhancing historical knowledge

of their potential recipients. Th e second linguistic text, by Professor

Zbigniew Greń (Warsaw), parses a selected defective code of memory in

its social context. Th e piece makes the point that repeated use of a code

may turn its syntagms into an idiom of language. As a result, the recipient

of messages with defective codes of memory does not carry out their full

semantic decomposition. Th is in turn can make it more diffi cult to eliminate

stereotypes, and may distort communication for good.

All of the presented texts lead to the conclusion that the use of defective

codes of memory is a major communication problem between individuals

and larger groups. It thus represents an interesting and little explored

research area, which may come as a surprise given the social importance

of the problems posed by defective codes of memory.

Th e publication presents the results of research done by the above-mentioned

practitioners and scholars. Every piece of research occupies a diff erent

position in the scholarship and practice of the author, refl ecting as it

does their individual, very rich experience; needless to say, the research is

also based on diff erent methodologies. What all the presented studies have

in common is a shared concern that the international discourse does not

employ communication codes which would distort history, and make unacceptable

re-evaluations in the context of the narrative about the crimes of

genocide. What inspired the eff ort of this book’s authors was a conference

organized by the University of Warsaw, the Warsaw School of Economics

and the Ministry of Foreign Aff airs in October 2013. Th e ensuing time of

refl ection allowed the researchers to get a better grasp of the phenomenon

of defective codes of memory. Unfortunately, in the intervening period the

MFA continued to grapple with the use of defective codes on memory in

12 Artur Nowak-Far

media discourse related to Poland. And it is these experiences that many

scholars used and continue to use as their research material. From this

point of view, the contributions to this book are an important synthesis of

practice and theory.

Berlin – New York – Warsaw, May 2015



Martin Mendelsohn

Th is paper is inspired by the title of a White Paper presented to the

governments of the United Nations on 10 December 1942 by then-Foreign

Minister Edward Raczynski. Th at White Paper is titled: Th e Mass

Extermination of Jews in German Occupied Poland.

When I saw this, I was struck by the irony and the tragedy that has

been brought by historical ignorance and mischief. It is ironical that in

1942 Poland’s Foreign Minister properly identifi ed the site of the concentration

and death camps as “German occupied Poland.” And yet, 70 years

later, the world has fallen into a habit of sloppy history by labeling German

Nazi constructed concentration and death camps in Poland as Polish death

camps. It is wrong as a matter of history; it is wrong as a matter of logic;

it is wrong as a matter of morals. And yet it has become accepted practice

in civilized and liberal societies to fl aunt one’s ignorance by referring to

Auschwitz, for example, located in Silesia, an area that literally had been

annexed by Nazi Germany and considered by the Nazis to be part of the

territory of the Th ird Reich, as a Polish death camp but not a Nazi German

death camp.

Th is mischief has been the source of embarrassment and agony not

only to the people of Poland, but to all of us who understand history and

understand the brutality of the Holocaust was such that misinformation,

exaggeration and hyperbole have no place. We are here today to explore

this phenomenon and to discuss possible corrections and solutions to this


Please ask yourself: aside from Austria and Germany, what do the

following nations have in common: Albania, Belarus, Belgium, Croatia,

Czechoslovakia, Estonia, Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Latvia,

Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Serbia, the U.S.S.R., Ukraine?

Th ey are all bound by the historical fact that each of those nations fi elded

Waff en-SS National Legions consisting of their own citizens who volunteered

14 Martin Mendelsohn

to fi ght on the side of Nazi Germany while wearing German uniforms

with their own nation’s colors and symbols. Please note that of the nations

conquered by Nazi Germany, only Poland did not supply a Waff en-SS

National Legion. Poland is unique for another reason as well: More Poles

have been honored by Yad Vashem in Israel for saving Jewish lives during

the Holocaust than any other nationality. So why, we may all ask, do some

otherwise careful historians paint Poland as the exemplar of an Anti-Semitic

nation in Central Europe?

It is diffi cult if not impossible to explain. Even the most casual historian

of the period knows that all of the extermination camps in Poland were

located in areas either annexed to Nazi Germany, i.e. Auschwitz-Birkenau

and Chelmno or in that part of Poland directly ruled by the Nazis through

the “General Government,” e.g. Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor and Treblinka.

Ironically the fi rst use of the term came from a man we all revere—

Jan Karski writing in a US magazine during the war. But at that time it

was intended as a geographic term for purposes of clarifying location for

American audiences not a political one.

So the question facing us now is how to educate the public about the

mistake and how can we go about correcting it. Not an easy task under the

best of circumstances. Because I am a lawyer I have been asked to come

up with a legal solution for use in the United States. Th e law in the US is

both complex and simple—much like the country itself—we have freedom

of the press and expression and we expect our courts to protect it fi ercely.

Libel of a public offi cial or public fi gure in the US must be made with

actual malice for an action against the libel to be successful, see NY Times

v. Sullivan (376 US 254 [1964]). In this case Sullivan, the Commissioner of

Police for Montgomery, Alabama sued for libel because the NY Times ran

an advertisement seeking funds to pay for the legal defense of Dr. Martin

Luther King, Jr. Th e advertisement contained some inaccuracies and Sullivan

sued, claiming that because he was responsible for the police department in

Montgomery, Alabama and the text of the advertisement contained some

inaccuracies he had been libeled. At the same time there were other judgments

in the South against various national (usually Northern) newspapers

totaling more than $300 million dollars. Th is was the case that went before

the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision written by Justice William

Brennan the Supreme Court held that actual malice or a reckless disregard of

the true facts has to be present for the plaintiff to prevail. Actual malice was

defi ned as knowing that something was false or having a reckless disregard

for the truth. Th is was not to be found in this case because among other

things, the advertisement was prepared by others and no employee of the

Times actually made any contribution to, or approved, the text. Th e Court’s

Libel actions in the USA against the use of defective code of memory 15

ruling, however, had broad application in the law of libel and changed the

way those libeled could seek relief in the US. An interesting sidelight is

that, Justice Hugo Black, who wrote a concurring opinion supporting and

agreeing with the result, was a Senator from the state of Alabama before

he was appointed by President Franklin D. Rossevelt to the Supreme Court

in 1937. In the famous Pentagon Papers case (NY Times v. United States,

403 US 713 [1971]), (there’s the pesky NY Times again) about the release

of documents commissioned by the US government regarding US involvement

in Vietnam, from World War II to 1968, the Supreme Court denied

the government’s attempt to control the right of the NY Times and later the

Washington Post to publish the documents. Th e US government actually

sought a court order to forbid publication and it was granted in the court

of fi rst impression, the US District Court in Washington, D.C. Th e Supreme

Court reversed the District Court by a 6–3 decision and established and

reinforced the freedom of the press to publish what it wanted to without

seeking permission from the government or being subject to any kind of

prior restraint by the government. Now, no governmental body in the US,

local, state, or national, has any power at any time to attempt to infl uence

the press about what it can or cannot publish.

Since the unanimous holding by the Supreme Court in the Sullivan case,

the US legal system is not friendly to those who seek relief from libel except

in the most outrageous cases. But because most US publications are sold in

London, the preferred alternative used by US lawyers is to bring a libel action

in the UK. It works because England has a very plaintiff -friendly libel system

and under British law and practice once the writ has been issued in

a libel action the burden of proof shift s to the defendant to prove the truth

of the alleged libel. Th ese are the same rules that applied in the US before

the decision in the Sullivan case. I believe that just fi ling the suit in the UK

will attract the right kind of attention and bring the right people to a meeting

convened to discuss and resolve this embarrassing historical error.

I am afraid there is not a satisfactory legal solution in the US for this very

diffi cult problem. If it becomes necessary, I also believe there is a practical

solution in the US for the problem. If the erroneous fact is originally published

in the US, at least by traditional publishers of books, magazines and

newspapers what follows may help: Each of these institutions has an internal

“style and usage” manual that has a set of rules about language and usage.

On September 3, 2013, the day that I submitted this speech so it could

be translated, Th e New York Times published an article about the beginning

of the trial in Germany of Siert Bruins accused of killing a Dutch resistance

fi ghter. Th e story is titled “Ex-Nazi, 92, Goes on Trial in War Death” on

page A-9. Toward the end of the article, the following phrase appeared, “[…]

16 Martin Mendelsohn

the Sobibor Death Camp in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1943.” Th at morning,

I sent an e-mail to the publisher of Th e New York Times asking whether

the phrase “Nazi-occupied Poland” is now normal usage for his newspaper.

Th at aft ernoon, the Publisher sent me an e-mail; let me quote from it:

I asked our Standards Editor your question and here is his reply. By all means feel

free to use it in your speech… Yes, a couple of years ago we added an entry to our

stylebook specifi cally cautioning editors and writers to avoid phrases like “Polish

death camp,” which could give the misleading impression that the camps were run

by Poland. Instead we use phrases like “Nazi death camps” or “death camps in

Nazi-occupied Poland.” On a couple of occasions in the past when the misleading

phrases were inadvertently used, we have run corrections.

So, we now know that my suggested approach has validity and we are

all empowered by the example set by Th e New York Times to insist that

responsible media act with integrity and use the same formula that has been

and is now used by Th e Times.

Appropriate representatives of the Polish government should contact

each of the companies and request a change in their respective “style and

usage” manuals. I am sure the requests will be favorably received. And if

not, then the stage has been set for a successful libel action to be brought in

the US as the publishers have been put on notice of their factual error and

if they continue to publish what they now know to be not true then one

can reasonably argue that it is being done with malicious intent to defame

the Polish nation and its people. Th e same approach should work with

responsible internet publishers in the US and the UK as well but I am not

aware of any action for libel in either country against internet publishers.

I am sorry I could not off er a greater multitude of ideas to solve the

problem or be more positive about solutions for this issue. It is a problem

that all democracies have in determining how to regulate free speech in

a free and open society whether that country is Poland or the US.

Th ank you very much.

Warsaw, Poland

October 11, 2013





Dieter Schenk

For more than half a century aft er the Second World War, errors of

memory shaped the political landscape in Germany – and we continue to

be preoccupied with them to this day in the form of erroneous codes used

by neo-Nazis and federations of expellees.

1. National Socialism and contradictions of memory

Memory is a “reliable companion,” writes the political scientist Helmut

König. Rather than settling for a faithful reproduction of the past, it is creative

and imaginative, and adopts what is foreign as its own. Memories are

a mixtum compositum made up of what we have experienced, told, desired.

So there is no way the past could return to consciousness through memories

in a truthful manner, the less so as memory is tuned to the current

interests of the person recalling memories, and takes into account possible


So memory creates a link between the past, the present and the future,

a connection that is unique to every individual and that determines his or

her identity. We recall memories without realizing, we can hardly infl uence

it. Th e writer Cees Nooteboom put it metaphorically like this: “memory is

like a dog that lies down where it pleases.”2

Th e war generation had individual images of memories, usually with

a negative tinge. Such memories can be very painful and lead to repression.

Repression is an attempt to forget, for example, to push conscience and guilt

aside, as was the case in the post-war period when the once mighty Th ird

1 H. König, Politik und Gedächtnis, Velbrück Wissenschaft , Weilerswist, 2008, pp. 71 ff ., 76.

2 C. Nooteboom: Rituale, as cited in: König, Politik, pp. 81–83.

18 Dieter Schenk

Reich lay in ruins, and the idolised “Führer,” an equivalent of the ideal ego,

was exposed as a criminal.3

Repression may also be a psychological reaction to traumatic experiences

of a victim who unconsciously transfers this trauma onto the children, something

I have experienced in Tel Aviv, in one Jewish family. Not uncommonly,

memory is manipulated by faking facts. Take Hans-Werner Giesecke, a military

prosecutor who demanded death penalty for 38 Gdansk Post Offi ce

employees. Aft er the war he maintained that as a senior fi eld judge he had

handed down only two death sentences, while the actual fi gure exceeded 60.4

It is pride, shame and the fear of punishment that act as censors in

individual memory. Th ese emotions order the past according to their own

needs and wishes. Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, the Reich minister of

armaments, and a war criminal, asserted during the Nuremberg trials that

he had had no knowledge of the extermination of Jews, and escaped death

penalty. When I was interviewing him in 1980, a year before his death, he

had this to say: “I didn’t know, because I didn’t want to know.” I confronted

him by saying that he was present during Himmler’s abominable speech at

Poznan City Hall on 4 October 1943, in which Himmler glorifi ed the mass

extermination of Jews5. Speer conceded that Himmler did address him by

name: “Mr Speer, as you know […],” on that occasion, but “Himmler was

short-sighted, and I had been gone by then.”6 Was Speer lying or did he

repress his memory? We now know that he had detailed knowledge about

the death factories in Auschwitz.7

It is characteristic of collective memory, especially aft er wars and a fresh

political start, to punish, forgive and forget.8 Of the Federal Republic of

Germany it was characteristic to forget: perpetrators and fellow-travellers

lapsed into collective silence. Forgiveness manifested itself in collective

3 A. Mitscherlich, M. Mitscherlich, Unfähigkeit zu trauern. Grundlagen kollektiven Verhaltens,

R. Piper & Co., München, 1967, pp. 31, 37, 77.

4 Th e Ministry of Justice of Hesse Wiesbaden, catalogue No. I p G 230, Giesecke personal

fi les; State Archive of Hesse Wiesbaden, catalogue No. 520 F 275 F8 14838, Records of denazifi

cation of Giesecke; cf. D. Schenk, Die Post von Danzig. Geschichte eines deutschen Justizmord,

Rowohlt, Reinbek, 1995, pp. 188–203, 224 ff .

5 Text available in Polish at: H. Himmler, “Poznańska mowa do gruppenführerów SS

4 października 1943 r.”, Kronika Miasta Poznania 2009, no. 2, pp. 315–332 (note of scientifi c


6 Part of the interview with Speer in: D. Schenk, BKA. Die Reise nach Beirut. Ein Politischer

Tatsachenroman, Rowohlt, Reinbek, 1990, pp. 338–348.

7 “Das Sonderprogramm Prof. Speer”, in: Auschwitz-Birkenau: www.susannewillems/


8 H. König, Politik, p. 12.

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 19

repression, with the aim to achieve a new political orientation and national

identity. Most Germans put the blame for the horrifi c acts of the Th ird Reich

only on Hitler and a small group of major war criminals. Th ey believed

the Germans were entirely in the right to see themselves as the seduced,

as those who fell victim to the war and its consequences. In 1952, German

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer told the German Bundestag that it was time

to stop sniffi ng around for Nazis.9

As opposed to memory, historiography clings to the past as a point of

reference. For example, it has been historically proved that the lack of prosecution

of crimes in the post-war period is a disgrace for the German judiciary.

Th ere has been no ‘zero hour’, for where would so many Nazis have

disappeared? 1951 saw the founding of a Federal Criminal Police Offi ce,

whose staff recruited in 100 percent from members of the former security

police, while half of the management was implicated in some of the most

serious Nazi crimes.10 By 1959, as much as 65 percent of the management

were former SS members, while 73 percent of senior offi cials used to belong

to the NSDAP.11 Th e Federal Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution

became a haven for two cliques going back to the Reich Main Security Offi ce

in Berlin, and the SD (Security Service) posts in Paris.12 Aft er 1945, almost

all Nazi prosecutors and Nazi judges were taken over by the German judiciary.

By 1966, 60 percent of division heads and 66 percent of lower-ranking

managers at the Federal Ministry of Justice were affi liated to the Nazi party.13

Th ere has been no reliable research on memory lapses conducted with

respect to the Nazi past. From research for my book on the Nazi roots

of the Federal Criminal Police Offi ce (BKA) I know that former SS and

Gestapo members were regarded at the BKA as a clandestine community

who would work hand in glove to clear themselves of accusations, deny

everything, never blame each other, and show no remorse or sympathy with

the victims. Even so, two of them committed suicide. You could express

9 N. Frey, Vergangenheitspolitik, C.H. Beck, München, 1997, pp. 86, 137, 219, 231, 270,

297, 405.

10 Cf. D. Schenk, Auf dem Rechten Auge blind: Die braunen Wurzeln des BKA, Kiepenheuer

& Witsch, Köln, 2001, pp. 282 ff .

11 Bundestagsdrucksache 17/8134 of 14 December 2011, p. 36; I. Baumann, H. Reinke,

A. Stephen, P. Wagner, Schatten der Vergangenheit. Das BKA und seine Gründungsgeneration

in der frühen Bundesrepublik, Luchterhand, Köln, 2011, p. 58.

12 www.taz.de (2/3 October 2013).

13 Die Rosenburg. Das Bundesministerium der Justiz und die NS-Vergangenheit. Eine

Bestandsaufnahme, hrsg. M. Görtemaker, Ch. Saff erling, Vandenhoeck & Ruprech, Göttingen,

2013, p. 67; cf. R. Giordano, Der perfekte Mord. Die deutsche Justiz und die NS-Vergangenheit,

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2013.

20 Dieter Schenk

it by citing Nietzsche: “’I did that’ says my memory. ‘I couldn’t have done

that’ – says my pride, and stands its ground. Eventually, memory gives in.”

Since the 1990s, a consensus has prevailed in German society to no

longer ignore National Socialism with silence, but rather condemn it as

a genocide and crime against humanity.

Th is is naturally at odds with family memory. Th ere are no Nazis in most

families: “Grandpa was no Nazi.” Loyalty towards family members led to

a situation where passive participants of events would become resistance

fi ghters, active executors of Nazi policy would turn into critical minds who

had always been against, while benefi ciaries would assume the mantle of

victims of the regime. Th e Germans became a nation without active subjects,

without people performing certain functions, without perpetrators.

Subsequent generations want their relatives to appear in roles that have

nothing to do with past atrocities. In family conversations, they seize on

every strange remark so as not to hear incriminating circumstances; they

ask no critical questions, they distort the facts and invent a new history that

has no place for a sense of guilt, but focuses instead on excessive tearfulness,

a deeply racist and hostile image of the Russians and the Poles, and

servility to the Americans.14 Th e sons and daughters of former Nazi bigwigs

form a separate chapter. Th ey usually separate the good father from the

evil Nazi, as if criminals had split personalities. Th is is quite diff erent with

my good friend Niklas Frank, who had the courage and honesty to pillory

crimes of the Governor General and his corrupt wife, for “when thinking

about his parents, he had piles of corpses before his eyes.15

2. Stereotypes and defective codes – excursion

By the time of National Socialism, a number of stereotypes had been in

circulation about Poles. Joseph Goebbels commented on this in his diary

when travelling through the captured lands in 1939; here is not the place

to enumerate them. Although Germans and Poles share over a thousand

years of history living side-by-side, their relations are determined by myths,

prejudices, stereotypes and superstitions.16

14 H. Welzer, S. Moller, K. Tschuggnall, “Opa war kein Nazi.” Nationalsozialismus und

Holocaust im Familiengedächtnis, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 2002, pp. 11, 13, 200 ff ., 207.

15 Cf. D. Bar-On, Last des Schweigens. Gespräche mit Kindern von NS-Tätern, Köber-

Stift ung, Hamburg 1993; N. Frank, Der Vater. Eine Abrechnung, Goldmann, München, 1987;

N. Frank, Meine deutsche Mutter, Bertelsmann, München, 2005.

16 German Culture Forum for Eastern Europe: Poland, www.kulturforum.info; cf.

T. Szarota, Stereotype und Konfl ikte. Historische Studien zu den deutsch-polnischen Beziehungen,

Fibre, Osnabrück, 2010.

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 21

Let us leave the days of National Socialism aside for a moment. In recent

decades, a German cliché of choice has been that Poland is an El Dorado

for organised groups of car thieves. However, offi cial statistics say something

diff erent: according to the Bundeslagebild Kfz.-Kriminalität 2012 of

the Federal Criminal Police Offi ce, 148 vehicles (2011 = 157 vehicles) were

stolen for good from German citizens in Poland in 2012, or 12 vehicles per

month. Meanwhile, a total of 18,554 vehicles, or nearly 1,500 per month,

were considered irretrievably stolen in Germany during the same period.

Unfortunately, these obvious facts do not prompt the Federal Criminal

Police Offi ce to challenge the negative stereotype.

Since 2008, this cliché has been perpetuated in a court judgement: the

Higher Regional Court in Rostock dismissed the claim by a German insurance

policy holder whose car had been stolen on his way to Gdansk. Th e

court cited gross negligence of the owner who had left his car keys in

the ignition. From the legal conclusion of the judgement: “Everybody knows

that car theft s are common in Poland. Especially in Poland, one should

take into account that some Poles are on the lookout for chances to steal

a vehicle – in particular luxury cars – as in the case of this Audi A8, or

spontaneously take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.”17

3. Lapsus linguae and defective codes of memory

If someone talks about “Polish concentration camps,” it is a slip of the

tongue, provided that no extreme right-wing intention can be seen in the

overall context. Th e same is true when this happens in the press or on television,

as in the German dailies Bild, and Die Welt, in DPA (German Press

Agency) and on ZDF (Second German Television). As far as I can tell, these

dailies would subsequently off er their apologies. Such false statements, made

in a thoughtless and indiff erent way, breach the journalistic duty of care,

result in libel, and cannot be tolerated given the Nazi concentration and

extermination camps located on Polish soil and the 6 million Polish war

victims, including three million Polish Jews, so there can be no connivance

of this. In such cases, it is recommended that corrections be demanded in

each individual case, an institution that has been rooted in the German

press law since 1874. It is based on the principle of audiatur et altera pars

is, which is anchored in national press regulations.18 Th e use of defective

codes on the Internet can also be controlled through Google Alerts.

17 OLG (Higher Regional Court) Rostock, fi le No. 5 U 153/08.

18 Cf. W. Seitz, G. Walter, G. Schmidt, A. Schoener, Der Gegendarstellungsanspruch:

Presse, Film, Funk, Fernsehen und Internet, C.H. Beck, München, 2010.

22 Dieter Schenk

4. Lapsus memoriae and defective codes of memory

Th ere was no automatic or collective recruitment to the NSADP or

the SS in the Th ird Reich. Moreover, a candidate had to fi ll in and sign an

application form for admission.19 Even so, many members of the so-called

“Flakhelfer-Generation” quote memory gaps when asked about their joining

of the NSDAP (and sometimes the SS) as 16- or 18-year-old Hitler’s boys.

We must not forget about their age – some were almost children. Th e way

this stigma was tackled in post-war Germany was usually more important

than the membership of a Nazi organisation itself, because they were too

young to be guilty. Unlike Günter Grass, who revealed his past in 2006, and

self-critically refl ected on his, as he put it, “bad behaviour of yore,” other

leading politicians and intellectuals want no truck with party or SS membership.

Th is applied to many prominent fi gures, including four German

Federal Presidents, a Federal Chancellor and a total of 26 ministers. Doubts

oft en appear as to whether amnesia is not merely claimed in defence, as

in the case of the former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. In his

youth, Günter Grass missed the right moment to disclose his past, which

led to decades of anguish. He took fright at himself aft er one day he caught

himself humming an SS tune while shaving. His works abound in ciphers.

For example, the narrator of his short story “Crabwalk” says:

It is a good thing he can’t guess the thoughts that against my will come creeping

out of the left and right hemispheres of my brain, making terrible sense, revealing

anxiously guarded secrets, exposing me, so that I am horrifi ed, and quickly try to

think about something else.20

It was no lapsus memoriae when, aft er 1945, scores of former Gestapo

offi cials brazenly lied that they had never been in the SS. Th ey would refer

to their SS ranks as “rank standardisation,” an allegedly unmeaning complement

to the police rank. Th e same applies to faking a state of necessity

arising from the duty to follow orders.21

Memory loss was certainly no affl iction of Heinz Wolf (born 1908), from

1933 on a staunch Nazi lawyer who worked his way up issuing death sentences

at the Special Court in Gdansk. Aft er the war, he claimed to have

been demoted to Gdansk for “opposing party discipline.” In Gdansk, he

would allegedly intercede – as far as possible – for people persecuted by the

19 Federal Archive in Berlin, BDC- fi le No. BDC/PH/9325/MU/jg, Runderlass RFSS.

20 G. Grass, Im Krebsgang. Eine Novelle, Steidl, Göttingen, 2002, p. 190.

21 A. Rückerl, Die Strafverfolgung von NS-Verbrechen 1945–1978, C.F. Müller, Heidelberg,

1979, pp. 181–184.

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 23

Nazis, and pass decisions on their early release. His claims were taken at

face value, and in 1949 Wolf was named a prosecutor, soon to be promoted

to chief prosecutor. Between 1961 and 1966, he was a member of Hessen’s

Landtag, acting as a legal-political spokesman for the CDU faction. Th en,

from 1964 to 1975, he was governor in the district of Limburg-Weilburg.

Named an honorary citizen of Limburg, he was decorated with the Grand

Cross of Merit on Ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic

of Germany, and had a sports hall named aft er him.22 It was by no means

a single case. For example, out of 403 deputies of Hessen’s Landtag born

aft er 1928, 92 were NSDAP members and 200 belonged to its affi liates.23

5. Historical revisionism and defective codes

Let me move to this topic by quoting a short poem by Primo Levi, who

survived the concentration camp in Auschwitz. He wrote it on 10 January


You who live safe

In your warm houses,

You who fi nd warm food

And friendly faces when you return home.

Consider if this is a man

Who works in mud,

Who knows no peace,

Who fi ghts for a crust of bread,

Who dies by a yes or no.

Consider if this is a woman

Without hair, without name,

Without the strength to remember,

Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,

Like a frog in winter.

Never forget that this has happened:

Or may your houses be destroyed,

May illness strike you down,

May your off spring turn their faces from you.

22 Federal Archive in Berlin, fi le No.: ZBII-1653A.1 (Personal fi les of Wolf Az. RJM-Ip8-


23 A. Kirschner, NS-Vergangenheit ehemaliger hessischer Landtagsabgeordneter, Vorstudie,

2013, MDl.pdf, www.hessischer-landtag.de; cf. Schenk: Danzig 1930–1945, pp. 123 ff .

24 Dieter Schenk

I would like to have this poem in memory when the names “Sobibor,”

“Majdanek” and “Auschwitz” are mentioned, and I would like to recite it at

a meeting of the Federation of Expellees, or in the so-called “camaraderie” of

neo-Nazis who dare to ridicule Willy Brandt’s genufl ection. I would like to

ask them all whether they know what they are doing when they change historical

facts, manipulate, falsify, one-sidedly interpret and conceal sources.

Oft entimes, they do not wear military boots or have bald heads, and are

quite clever at disseminating defective codes, whilst trying to operate below

the threshold of punishability. And they take advantage of the anonymity

of the Internet. Th e use of Nazi uniforms, slogans, emblems and swastikas

or the so-called Hitler salute is punishable under section 86a StGB (Criminal

Code). Th e torrent of hatred and encouragement of violence or an attack

on human dignity meet the criteria of incitement of the masses, which in

Germany is punishable under section 130 StGB. What is meant by this is

the potential off ense of endangering a legal interest. Th e criminal law protects

public peace and human dignity,24 the dissemination on the Internet

is also punishable. Th e English term ‘hate crime’ seems more pertinent to

me than ‘incitement of the masses.’25

While surfi ng the Internet in preparation for this article, I came across

a 142-page study on the Sobibor extermination camp, written by a team of

anonymous authors. It is an established fact that about 250,000 Jews were

murdered in Sobibor between March 1942 and October 1943.26 In contradiction

to this, the authors use pseudo-scientifi c methods to try to prove that

it was a transit camp for Jews, which never had any gas chambers.27 In connection

with the Sobibor lie, I fi led a complaint with the prosecutor’s offi ce

in Freiburg about the incitement of the masses. Th ere is also the Majdanek

lie. It is the subject of a German Nazi book, published in Great Britain.28

Whilst browsing the Internet, I read that texts by Holocaust denier David

Ivring were on sale at a meeting of the Homeland Association of Silesia.

In addition, fl ags with the slogan: “Silesia is not Poland” were seen there.29

24 StGB (Criminal Code), 51. Aufl ., Beck-Texte im dtv, München, 2013.

25 Cf. Never Again/Victim’s Perspective Hate Crime, Warsaw/Potsdam, 2009.

26 Enzyklopädie des Nationalsozialismus, hrsg. W. Benz, H. Graml, H. Weiß, 3. korr.

Aufl age: Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 1998, p. 734; Enzyklopädie des Holocaust: die Verfolgung und

Ermordung der europäischen Juden, vol. 3, hrsg. I. Gutman, E. Jäckel, P. Longerich, J.H. Schoeps,

Argon, Berlin, 1993, vol. 3, p. 1333.

27 http://fk -sbh.net/2009/12/die-akte-sobibor-vollständig/.

28 J. Graf, C. Mattogno, KL Majdanek. Eine historische und technische Studie, Castle Hill,

Hastings, 1998.

29 Press release of the Ministry of Internal Aff airs of Lower Saxony on the Landtag

meeting of 18 June 2009.

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 25

It is because of such names as David Ivring, Ernst Zündel and Bishop

Richard Williamson that the Auschwitz lie went down in German law history

as incitement of the masses. For the extreme right, Auschwitz remains

the butt of cynical attacks. Th is February, a 49-year-old engineer was charged

of inciting the masses before the district court of Ratzeburg. He had posted

online a video entitled: Please take me to Auschwitz. It shows his Asian

girlfriend Sandy in front of a crematorium furnace. Th e man tells her to

wave and say “bye-bye,” and goes on to say: “Sandy, the furnaces are still

warm. Bye-bye Sandy.”30

Th e video is not only disgusting. It also refl ects the tendency towards

disseminating revisionist codes by diff erent means. Easy to see through as

these codes are, they fi nd a receptive audience in people who are susceptible

to them. Historical distortion is a method employed by neo-Nazis and

far-right Federations of Expellees alike. Th e diff erence is that the Offi ce for

the Protection of the Constitution monitors neo-Nazis, while the Homeland

Association of Silesia is subject to observation, although its Chairman Rudi

Pawelka claimed in 2011 that “Poles also participated in the Holocaust.”31

Moreover, between 2008 and 2012, the Land of Lower Saxony provided the

Homeland Association of Silesia with support to the tune of 200,000 Euros.32

Finally, mention should be made of musical events organised by the

far right: the so-called right-wing rock. Radical right-wingers use music as

resounding political propaganda, an identifi er and instrument of power.

Actually, it was no diff erent between 1933 and 1945. Conditioning is achieved

by combining destruction and killing with matching music.33 At concerts,

hate images and bits of ideology are put across openly or subliminally, or

the psychological barrier of using violence is broken. Music is used to attract

young people and bind them to the community. Lyrics of songs such as

“Polacken-tango” or “Th e Train to Dachau” are utterly revolting.34

On the Internet, you can fi nd far-right message boards and publications

featuring the kinds of statements quoted below:

• Between 1945 and 1947, 1250 Polish concentration camps and 227

prisons where inmates were tortured were run east of the Oder

30 www.taz.de/1/archiv/digitaz/artikel.

31 Press release of the Ministry of Internal Aff airs of Lower Saxony on the Landtag meeting

of 18 June 2009; short inquiry in the Landtag of Lower Saxony of 9 September 2011.

32 Data of DIE LINKE political grouping in the Lower Saxony Landtag, dated 3 February

2012, www.lag-antifa-nds.de.

33 F.K. Prieberg, Musik und Macht, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 1991, p. 235.

34 Reports of the Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution of 2010 (pp. 101–106); 2011

(pp. 106–112); 2012 (pp. 124–128); cf. RechtsRock. Bestandsaufnahme und Gegenstrategien,

hrsg. Ch. Dornbusch, J. Raabe, Unrast, Münster, 2002.

26 Dieter Schenk

and Nysa Rivers; Polish savage orgies of murder are described

in detail.35

• Aft er 1945, 6–8 million Germans allegedly lost their lives in Polish

concentration camps.36


• 15 million Germans were brutally expelled from East German lands.

Well over 2 million people are believed to have lost their lives.37


• Th e Federal Republic of Germany is a makeshift country, Greater

Germany continues to exist, has legal capacity, while Austria is still

a German state;38 the Free City of Danzig has never collapsed as

a subject of international law either.

• Finally, it is claimed that it was Poland, not Hitler or the Th ird Reich,

that wanted to start the Second World War as an aggressor. With its

mobilisation, Poland allegedly declared war on Germany.39

It was mendacious constructs like these that Professor Bartoszewski,

Poland’s then Foreign Minister, refuted in his impressive and moving speech

to the German Bundestag on 28 April 1995. Here is an excerpt from his address:

Knowledge about the concentration camps, the places of torture and the gas chambers

set the course of my future life once and for all: against hatred, against discrimination

of people on any grounds – race, class, nationality or religion, and against the

intellectual rape of historical lies and intolerance for those who think diff erently.40

Well-known Polish and German historians, e.g. from the Centre for

Historical Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin41 – not

forgetting about Norman Davies – refuted the false statistics and explained

the lack of diff erentiation.42

35 Deutsche Heimat, No. 98, September–December 2011.

36 www.panzerarchiv.de, http://forum.panzer-archiv.de/viewtopic.php?t=4523.

37 D. Stein, “Ein schlesisches Drama”, Junge Freiheit 2013, No. 28 (Rede Rudi Pawelka).

38 http://fk -sbh.net/2009/11/der-staat-der-deutschen/; http://fk -sbh.net/2009/10/grosdeutschland-


39 http://fk -sbh.net/2009/09/polen-wollte-den-krieg/.

40 www.bundestag.de.

41 Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin (ed.), Historie. Krieg und seine Folgen, yearbook

part 1.

42 J. Barcz, W. Góralski, “Der Vertrag über gute Nachbarschaft und freundliche Zusammenarbeit:

Konzepzion, grundsäatzliche Regelung und begleitende Vereinbarungen”, in:

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 27

6. Is right-wing extremism a marginal phenomenon

in Germany?

Far-right circles continue to produce defective codes of memory, usually

out of conviction and sometimes out of tactical calculation; some people

give it up, but the core is hard and cannot be rehabilitated. German neo-Nazis

appear in Poland’s football stadiums or on the right-wing music scene.

Th ere is no structured cooperation between German and Polish right-wing

extremists, explains the Federal Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution,

and their contacts are rare. Th e underlying ideological assumptions are too

far apart and irreconcilable,43 as Poland was and is a hate fi gure for the

German Nazis.44

Th e German Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution maintains

contact with the Polish Internal Security Agency. According to information

released by the Federal Government earlier this year, cooperation was

established in connection with:

– liberation anniversary of Auschwitz,

– World and European football championships,

W. Góralski (Hrgs.), Historischer Umbruch und Herasuforderung für die Zukunft , Elipsa,

Warschau, 2011, pp. 269–294; A. Friszke, Polen Geschichte des Staates und der Nation, VWF,

Berlin 2009, pp. 129 ff ., 475–479; M. Gniazdowski, “Zu den Menschenverlusten, die Polen

während des Zweiten Weltkrieges von den Deutschen zugefügt wurden. Eine Geschichte von

Forschungen und Schätzungen”, Historie. Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Historische Forschung

Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaft en 1 (2007/2008) (henceforth: Historie. Jahrbuch)

, pp. 65–92; W. Góralski, “Die deutschen Restitutions- und Entschädigungsansprüche

gegen Polen. Zur endgültigen Beilegung eines Streits des Völkerrechts”, in: Historischer

Umbruch, pp. 520–550; I. Haar, “Die deutschen Vertreibungsverluste. Kritische Anmerkungen

zu den Opferangaben in der Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen in Ost-

Mitteleuropa”, Historie. Jahrbuch 1 (2007/2008), pp. 108–120, 161–165; W. Sienkiewicz,

S. Troebst, Illustrierte Geschichte der Flucht und Vertreibung Mittel- und Osteuropa 1939 bis

1959, Warschau–Augsburg 2009, pp. 170–201; R. Traba, “Krieg und Zwangsaussiedlungen.

Ein Beispiel für die Asymmetrie des kulturellen Gedächtnisses in Polen und Deutschland”,

Historie. Jahrbuch 1 (2007/2008), pp. 126–128; R. Traba, R. Zurek, “Vertreibung oder Zwangsumsiedlung.

Die deutsch-polnische Auseinandersetzung um Termini, das Gedachtnis und

den Zweck der Erinnerungspolitik”, in: Historischer Umbruch, pp. 409–451; J. Sulek, “Der

polnische Beitrag zur abschlieβenden Friedensregelung in Bezug auf Deutschland. Die gemeinsame

Überwindung des deutsch-polnischen Grenzstreits”, in: Historischer Umbruch, pp. 108–

144; Szarota, Sterotype und Konfl ikte; R. Zurek, Żurek R., “Geschichtspolitik: Wie viele Opfer

forderte die Vertreibung? / Polityka historyczna: Ile ofi ar wypędzeń?”, Dialog 90 (2009–2010),

pp. 75–78.

43 Letter by the BfV (Federal Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution) Az. 2A2

-049-00187-0000-0044/13A of 26 September 2013 to the author.

44 Cf. Gemeinschaft Deutscher Osten (henceforth: GDO), Rundbrief Sommer, 2011, p. 44 ff .

28 Dieter Schenk

– participation of German nationals in Polish National Independence


Corrupted by suspicious informers and rocked by scandals, Germany’s

constitution protection authorities were admittedly unable to identify the murderers

and right-wing terrorist of the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

Th e former Federal Commissioner for Personal Data Protection, Prof. Hans

Peter Bull, suggests that the Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution be

replaced with experts and analysts recruited from among scholars, while it

is not only the Humanist Union that demands its complete dissolution.46

Secret services, too, produce defective codes with a view to deceiving,

although this goes against the grain of democracy and brings little credit

to open society, even if the aim is to fi ght neo-Nazis. Th e German Offi ce

for the Protection of the Constitution hired informers among the leadership

of the Nazi party NPD, which indirectly put this agency in charge

of the party (let me recall the concept of agent provocateur). Th e Federal

Constitutional Court disapproved of such conduct, however, which was the

reason for the failure to ban the NPD in 2003.47

On the other hand, democratic principles should not be taken to their

extremes. Th e German state pays the NPD millions of Euros, because the

Act on Parties requires it to do so.48 I ask myself what stops the legislator

from amending this regulation and giving discretion to act. Why does the

state fi nance a Nazi party whose newspaper posts on its message boards

information whereby Germany is “governed by the Central Council of Jews,”

“real racists sit in the German Bundestag,” and the national football team

is no place for “the blacks.”49

Civic anti-Nazi organisations (NGOs) in Germany are better at raising

awareness and preventive measures than the state. Since 1994, Poland’s

NEVER AGAIN association has been exposing Polish right-wing extremism

in an exemplary way.

One may argue that the 23,150 right-wing extremists registered in

Germany (2012), of whom 9,600 are believed to be keen on using violence,

cannot pose a serious threat to a nation of 80 million.50 But the fact that

45 German Bundestag – print No. 17/12307 s of 7 February 2013, p. 14.

46 Press release of the Humanist Union in Berlin of 20 September 2013, www.humanistische-


47 Suspension of ban proceedings by the Federal Constitutional Court, decision Az. 2

BvB 1/01 of 18 March 2003.

48 Parteiengesetz (Act on Parties) Bundesamtsblatt, I p. 1748 (2011).

49 http://ds-aktuell.de/?p=3259.

50 Report of the Federal Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution 2012, p. 56.

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 29

1,733 cases of inciting the masses were registered in 2012 (1,605 cases in

2011) speaks for itself.51

Th e NPD won only 1.3 percent of the vote during the general election three

weeks ago, a result that is far below the 5 percent threshold. But this is still

560,000 people who cast their ballots for a Nazi party, mainly in Saxony and

Th uringia.52 In addition, the latest representative research shows the alarming

trend of anti-Semitism, hostility towards Islam and social Darwinism penetrating

into the heart of society. Every tenth German wishes for a “Führer.”53

Let us go back to what I said at the beginning: the repression of guilt

originates from the ideology spread by the Nazis: the Jews are not human

beings, they are rats, as presented in the propaganda fi lm Der ewige Jude

(“Th e Eternal Jew”). Consequently, the theory of exclusion permits any

cruelty, including killings, without compromising “decency,” as Himmler

put it in his Poznan speech: “When 100 corpses lie there, or when 500 or

1000 corpses lie there – to have gone through this and to have remained

‘decent’.” What ensues from that gives a depressing insight into the abyss of

negative human abilities. Th e conscience of a guilty perpetrator can use this

“permission” to isolate itself from blame. It disappears from his consciousness,

and he feels innocent. It is the greatest possible repression, presumably

a mental region (GAU) of the psyche. Th e sentence spoken by Himmler is

in its conciseness a terrible code that, in my opinion, holds the key to the

repression of Nazi crimes also in the minds of neo-Nazis.


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51 Report of the Federal Offi ce for the Protection of the Constitution 2011, p. 36; 2012,

p. 37.

52 Offi cial results of the 2013 Bundestag election, confi rmed by the Federal Returning

Offi cer.

53 O. Decker et al., Mitte im Umbruch, Rechtsextreme Einstellungen in Deutschland,

Friedrich Ebert Stift ung, München, 2012, p. 31 ff .

30 Dieter Schenk

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No. 17/10319 Stand der Umsetzung von Vorhaben der deutsch-polnischen Zusammenarbeit

und ihre Förderung durch die Bundesregierung (17 Jul. 2012)

No. 17/12307 Belastung der deutsch-polnischen Beziehungen durch Aktivitäten des Vereins

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No. 17/14644 Musikveranstaltungen der extremen Rechten im zweiten Quartal 2013

(26 Aug. 2013)

No. 17/14635 Rechtsextremismus im ländlichen Raum (27 Aug. 2013)

No. 17/14665 Entschädigung von deutschen Staatsbürgerinnen und Staatsbürgern polnischer

Herkunft wegen Verfolgung im Nationalsozialismus (30 Aug. 2013)

No. 17/14754 Die polizeiliche Erfassung von Hasskriminalität als politisch motivierte Straftaten

(16 Sept. 2013)

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Friedrich-Ebert-Stift ung, Berlin, 2012

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Bonn, 2013

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nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg, hrsg. N. Frei, Walstein, Göttingen, 2006

Frei N., Vergangenheitspolitik. Die Anfänge der Bundesrepublik und die NS-Vergangenheit,

C.H. Beck, München, 1999

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Geschichte verstehen – Zukunft gestalten. Ausgewählte Aspekte der deutsch-polnischen Beziehungen

1933–1945, hrsg. K. Hartmann, Neisse Verlag, Dresden–Wroclaw, 2009

Gniazdowski M., “Zu den Menschenverlusten, die Polen während des Zweiten Weltkrieges

von den Deutschen zugefügt wurden. Eine Geschichte von Forschungen und Schätzungen”,

Historie. Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen

Akademie der Wissenschaft en 1 (2007/2008)

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& Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2013

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endgültigen Beilegung eines Streits im Spiegel des Völkerrechts, in: Historischer Umbruch

und Herausforderung für die Zukunft . Der deutsch-polnische Vertrag über gute Nachbarschaft

und freundschaft liche Zusammenarbeit v. 17. Juni 1991. Ein Rückblick nach zwei

Jahrzehnten, hrsg. W.M. Góralski, Elipsa, Warschau 2011

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Hastings, 1998

Grass G., Im Krebsgang, Göttingen, 2002

Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 31

Haar I., “Die demographische Konstruktion der ‘Vertreibungsverluste’ – Forschungsstand,

Probleme, Perspektiven”, Historie. Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Historische Forschung Berlin

der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaft en 1 (2007/2008)

Haar I., “Die deutschen ‘Vertreibungsverluste.’ Kritische Anmerkungen zu den Opferangaben

in der ‘Dokumentation der Vertreibung der Deutschen in Ost-Mitteleuropa’”, Historie.

Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der

Wissenschaft en 1 (2007/2008)

Herwig M., Die Flakhelfer. Wie aus Hitlers jüngsten Parteimitgliedern Deutschlands führende

Demokraten wurden, DVA, München, 2013

Himmler H., “Poznańska mowa do gruppenführerów SS 4 października 1943 r.”, Kronika

Miasta Poznania 2009, No. 2, pp. 315–332

Historischer Umbruch und Herausforderung für die Zukunft . Der deutsch-polnische Vertrag

über gute Nachbarschaft und freundschaft liche Zusammenarbeit v. 17. Juni 1991. Ein Rückblick

nach zwei Jahrzehnten, hrsg. W.M. Góralski, Elipsa, Warschau, 2011

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and Germany, Warsaw–Potsdam, 2009

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der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaft en 2007/2008, No. 1

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hrsg. M. Görtemaker, Ch. Saff erling, Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2013

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Witsch, Köln, 2001

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Fibre, Osnabrück, 2010

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Ile ofi ar wypędzeń?”, Dialog 90 (2009–2010)







Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

1. Introduction

Since 2004, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Aff airs has been actively

raising historical awareness by monitoring foreign media and intervening

whenever the so-called defective code of memory is used, i.e. false expressions

denoting the Nazi annihilation and concentration camps that were

established by the Germans in occupied Poland. It is a very valuable initiative:

cultivating historical memory, and making sure generations that were

happily unscathed by the war do not form a skewed image of it.

It is only natural to choose the media as the object of interest, given

their social infl uence, and the functions they perform. Th e amount of time

spent with the media is considerable in European countries, and with its

large media market Germany is no exception. In 2012, the average German

would spend 7 hours a day using the media.

Media users dedicated the least time to reading daily papers. Even so,

this medium is far from being forgotten. 50 million Germans aged over

14 read a daily several times a week, while more than 10 million did so

several times a month; only 9.22 million declared reading a paper once

a month, sporadically or never.

34 Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

Chart 1. Number of minutes Germans spent with the media in 20121
















magazines and dailies Internet radio TV other

Table 1. Frequency of the daily press use in Germany in 2012 (people aged over 14)2

Frequency Number of readers in millions

Several times a week 50.34

Several times a month 10.25

Once a month 1.40

Sporadically 5.13

Never 3.09

In 2013, 68.9 percent of the German population who had turned 14 were

newspaper readers. Out of this group, 64.7 percent read dailies, mainly

regional subscription dailies (51.6 percent), such as Augsburger Allgemeine,

Rheinische Post and Kölnische Rundschau.

Th e highest percentage of readers was among people over 50, lower

in the age group from 30 to 49, and the lowest among the people aged

between 14 and 29. One can look optimistically at this data – almost half

1 Own compilation based on data from: http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/77176/

umfrage/dauer-der-mediennutzung-in-deutschland-von-2006-bis-2012/ (access: October 2013).

2 Own compilation based on: http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/171897/umfrage/

haeufi gkeit-zeitung-lesen-in-der-freizeit/ (access: October 2013).

Media context of defective codes of memory… 35

of the youngest readers, and over a half of 30 to 49-year-olds read daily

press. Born aft er 1964, they take their knowledge about the Second World

War also from the media.

Chart 2: Newspaper readership in Germany in 2013 (percent/millions of people)3








0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80

newspapers in general


regional subscription dailies

street sale dailies

supra-regional subscribtion dailies


sunday papers

Chart 3. Newspaper readership in Germany according to age groups in 2013















residents in total 14-29 years of age 30-49 years of age from the age of 50

Th e time of contact with the media goes to show their social function.

Th e role of mass media in the organisation of democratic society has been

refl ected upon by such theorists as Harold D. Lasswell, Paul F. Lazarsfeld,

Robert K. Merton and Charles R. Wright. In his internationally recognized

textbook on mass communication, Denis McQuail gives a full catalogue

3 According to: http://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/162737/umfrage/reichweiteder-

zeitungen-in-deutschland/ (access: October 2013).

36 Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

of the social functions of the media: Information, Correlation, Continuity,

Entertainment and Mobilisation.4 According to McQuail, Information

responsibilities include reporting on developments at home and abroad,

off ering advice on how to solve everyday problems, and familiarising with

innovations. As Correlation McQuail describes suggesting interpretation

frameworks for the covered events, shoring up role models and standards,

building consensus, and setting priorities in society. Continuity manifests

itself in socialisation that is compatible with the dominant system of values.

Entertainment is the suggested way of spending one’s free time. Germanspeaking

theorists of mass communication have added some details to this

catalogue. Pointing to diff erent areas of community life (social, political and

economic), they classifi ed the following as social functions: socialisation

(Sozializationsfunktion), social orientation (soziale Orientierungsfunktion),

recreation (Rekreationsfunktion) and integration (Integrationsfunktion).

Roland Burkart of the University of Vienna emphasises the importance of

mass media as a vehicle for behavioural patterns, social norms and values.

He points out that the role of orientation is to make it possible to fi nd one’s

bearings in the wealth of detail.5 Franz Ronneberger, the late German sociologist

and media expert, who originated the theory of PR, drew attention

to the social dimension of enabling entertainment (Rekreationsfunktion).6

Th e Swiss media expert Ulrich Saxer (died 2012) had a slightly diff erent

view on the task of providing relaxation (Gratifi kationsfunktion).7 According

to the above-mentioned researchers, what makes the integration function

important is that it points out socially accepted behaviours and standards to

a diversifi ed society, whilst creating social loyalty to values.8 Meanwhile, the

eminent German theorist of mass communication and psychologist Gerhard

Maletzke emphasised the media’s ability to provide an individual with the

necessary sense of belonging.9 Noting the media’s leading role in the pro-

4 D. McQuail, McQuail’s Mass Communication Th eory, 6th ed. Sage Publications 2010,

pp. 98, 99.

5 R. Burkart, Kommunikationswissenschaft , UTB, Wien–Köln–Weimar, 2002, pp. 378–411.

6 F. Ronneberger, “Leistungen und Fehlleistungen der Massenkommunikation”, in: Politik

und Kommunikation. Über die öff entliche Meinungsbildung, hrsg. W. Langenbucher, Piper,

München–Zürich, 1979, pp. 127–142.

7 U. Saxer, “Funktionen der Massenmedien in der modernen Gesellschaft ”, in: Medienforschung,

hrsg. R. Kurzrock, Colloquium, Berlin, 1974, pp. 22–33.

8 Cf.: F. Ronneberger, “Integration durch Massenkommunikation”, in: Gleichheit oder

Ungleichheit durch Massenkommunikation? Homogenisierung – Diff erenzierung der Gesellschaft

durch Massenkommunikation, hrsg. U. Saxer, Ölschläger, München, 1985, pp. 3–18.

9 G. Maletzke, Bausteine zur Kommunikationswissenschaft 1949–1984, Wissenschaft sverlag

Spiess, Berlin, 1984, p. 139.

Media context of defective codes of memory… 37

cess of mass communication, Professor Wolfgang Donsbach of the Dresden

Technical University underlines their duty not to harm the community.10

2. Objective and research method

Following interventions by the ministry, erroneous expressions are

deleted by the media, and corrections are published. In his 2008 article

“Geschichte für Populisten. Wie Polen mit Kritik an ausländischen Medien

Politik macht,” the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s journalist Th omas Urban attributed

the inaccurate wording to the use of mental shortcuts, the purpose of

which is to help German readers locate the camps on the map of Europe.11

Polish diplomatic posts receive letters of apology from editors who express

regret at human oversight, error or unconscious use of unfortunate wording.

Some media outlets show their “lack of bad intentions” by prohibiting

such terms in their stylebooks. In another article written for the Polish

reader, Th omas Urban also mentions “recommendations” about avoiding

such wording “because of its ambiguity.”12

Table 3. Examples of apologies13

Outlet Form/date of


Excerpt from the apology letter

DPA letter and


18 February


You are right to point out our serious error in the editorial

dispatch about the Berlinale. Sobibor was certainly no “Polish

camp,” but a German extermination camp established by the

Nazis. DPA has explicit rules prohibiting the use of such inaccurate

terms. A member of our editorial staff did not comply

with these guidelines last Th ursday. Our error was corrected

the same day []

We would like to apologise to all those who felt hurt by the use

of this incorrect expression [].13

10 Cf.: W. Donsbach, Legitimationsprobleme des Journalismus. Gesellschaft liche Rolle der

Massenmedien und berufl iche Einstellungen von Journalisten, Alber, Freiburg–München 1982.

11 T. Urban, “Geschichte für Populisten. Wie Polen mit Kritik an ausländischen Medien

Politik macht”, Süddeutsche Zeitung of 27 November 2008; available on the TransOdra website:

http://www.transodra-online.net/de/node/3102 (access: October 2013).

12 T. Urban, “Polska–Niemcy: nowi prezydenci. Czy nowy początek? Diabeł tkwi w liczbach”,

Forum 29 (16 July 2010).

13 Author’s emphasis. Quoted from the translation of the letter, posted on the website

of the Ministry of Foreign Aff airs: http://www.msz.gov.pl/pl/polityka_zagraniczna/przeciw_



38 Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

Die Welt correction,

26 November


In its edition of 24 November, Die Welt published an article

entitled ‘Asaf’s journey around the world’ (page 28). It included

the following sentence:[]

For this sentence I apologise with deep regret, because this sentence

is false and implies that the Majdanek concentration camp

was a concentration camp established by the Poles. A sentence

like this should have never appeared in the newspaper in the fi rst

place [] Th e terrible crimes committed there are German crimes

and it is the Germans who bear sole responsibility for this.

I regret that by distorting facts cited in the article we caused

concern and dismay in Poland []

I can well understand that the cited expression created bitterness

in Poland and is not used, and that relations between Poland

and Germany which are strained in some respects need to be

repaired. I am really sorry about that…

I am all the more devastated as the grotesque distortion of facts

in our paper may have created the impression that Majdanek

was a Polish concentration camp.14

Die Welt letter and


12 February


[] I deplore our serious mistake in the Kompakt and Online

editions of Die Welt. In a fi lm review of ‘Die Kinder von Paris’

one of our guest contributors wrote about “the Polish extermination

camp”. What she meant was the German concentration

and extermination camps in the territory of Poland.

We are fully aware that the ‘Polish camps’ have never existed.

Th ere are no bad intentions behind this wording. It is a regrettable

mistake which should have never happened to the author

and which should have been spotted by the desk editor and the

duty editor. Unfortunately, the uncorrected phrase appeared in

some publications. We would like to offi cially apologise for this

mistake. It has already been corrected in the Online edition


(access: October 2013). DPA published the correction and letter on 18 February 2013 on its

website: http://www.dpa.de/Pressemitteilungen-Detailansic.107+M593b17ef84b.0.html (access:

October 2013).

14 “Author’s emphasis. Excerpt from an article by editor-in-chief Th omas Schmid, entitled

“Die WELT bedauert zutiefst und entschuldigt sich,” posted on the daily’s website on

26 November 2008. Apologies were published in two languages; German and Polish; see


html (access: October 2013).

15 Author’s emphasis. Quoted from a letter of apology translated by the MFA and posted

on its website: http://www.msz.gov.pl/pl/polityka_zagraniczna/przeciw_polskim_obozom/

interwencja_ambasady_rp_w_berlinie_die_welt (access: October 2013); correction in the online

edition was also published on 10 February 2011, see: http://www.welt.de/print/welt_kompakt/

vermischtes/article12496830/Die-Kinder-von-Paris-Razzia-vor-der-Deportation.html (access:

October 2013).

Media context of defective codes of memory… 39



letter and


13 March


Our weekend edition of 9 March featured the article ‘Silent

Heroes’ (Stille Helden) in which we made an unfortunate error.

Th e piece could have led readers to believe that the Belzec extermination

camp where 500,000 people were murdered in Nazi

times was a ‘Polish camp’. Th is is certainly not true. Set up and

run by the Nazis, the extermination camp near Lublin was

a German camp on Polish soil. Please forgive us the unfortunate

expression that is off ensive to the Poles [].16


Although some media outlets admit their mistakes and lay down rules

to eliminate them, this gives no warranty that incorrect expressions will

not be used again. Examples include Die Welt, which has made three such

errors since 2004: on 24 November 2008 (“Asafs Reise um die Welt”),

10 February 2011 (“Die Kinder von Paris: Razzia vor der Deportation”),

and 15 February 2013 (“Filmemacher Claude Lanzmann erhält Ehrenbär

der Berlinale”); and the Focus: on 18 February 2013 on its web portal www.

focus.de (“Filmemacher Claude Lanzmann erhält Ehrenbär der Berlinale”),

and 18 April 2013 (“Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto”) in the print and

online versions of the magazine. Th ey exemplify recurring mistakes since the

MFA campaign began. Before that, foreign press would also use inaccurate

terms to refer to Nazi concentration and extermination camps. FAZ.net,

the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s online edition, contains a free archive

article about French collaborator Maurice Papon, dated 18 September 2002.

Entitled “Verbrechen Nazi-Kollaborateur Papon aus Haft entlassen,” the

piece describes the Auschwitz concentration camp as ‘Polish’.17 Another

time the daily used a defective code of memory was in 2011. A 1966 article

about SS man Kurt Bender, available in Der Spiegel’s archives, refers to the

extermination camp in Sobibor, established and run by the German Nazis,

as ‘Polish.’18

16 Author’s emphasis. Quoted from a correction of 13 March 2013 translated by the MFA

and posted on its website; see: http://www.msz.gov.pl/pl/polityka_zagraniczna/przeciw_polskim_


w;jsessionid=0A5145BC34D78F642C1D4875A66DF259.cms2 (access: October 2013).

17 “Die meisten der Deportierten waren im polnischen Konzentrationslager Auschwitz

umgebracht worden oder unter den dort herrschenden Bedingungen ums Leben gekommen

[…];” (author’s emphasis); as published at: http://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft /verbrechen-

nazi-kollaborateur-papon-aus-haft -entlassen-172809.html (access: October 2013).

18 “Und sie riß ehedem mächtige Männer aus kleinbürgerlicher Idylle – wie Kurt Bolender,

der einmal Teillagerführer im polnischen Vernichtungslager Sobibor war und nach dem

Krieg als Portier in Hamburg nur noch Schlüssel aufh ängen wollte […];” (author’s emphasis);

in: JUSTIZ; NS-VERBRECHEN; Peitsche bewahrt, Der Spiegel 52/1966 (19 December



40 Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

Topography proves a weak excuse in the apologies and corrections

written by those who use the inaccurate wording. Th e explanation left is

that of a mistake.

With these false expressions being used by the media of so diff erent

stripes, it is worth having a closer look at specifi c cases. Th is article is a case

study of their use by the German press between 2011 and 2013.

Case study is a qualitative method that allows to build a detailed picture

of an unusual phenomenon, and to draw conclusions about its causes, consequences,

features, and social conditions.19 According to David A. Snow

and Leon Anderson, what enables a comprehensive analysis is the application

of many diff erent research methods and techniques, and the effi cient

use of triangulation, i.e. comparison of data from diff erent sources.20 Such

choice of research methods makes it no doubt easier to remain axiologically

neutral, and achieve inter-subjective verifi ability. According to Stake’s

typology, I conducted a collective case study, analysing a series of cases.21 In

accordance with Robert K. Yin’s classifi cation,22 it is of exploratory nature.

Its primary objective is to identify circumstances in which erroneous designations

of Nazi extermination and concentration camps are used.

My case study should be treated as an introduction to further and

broader studies. I have not exhausted all research methods. Findings made

so far suggest that it would be necessary to interview managing editors and

text authors, and examine editorial stylebooks, especially the procedures

and habits connected with their use. Of particular value would be focus

interviews with recipients of media coverage. Th ey should be conducted

among the readers immediately the material with the incorrect phrase has

been released, which makes it much more diffi cult to apply this qualitative

research method. Alternatively, the method of competent judges could be

resorted to. Qualitative research among editorial staff and recipients of

media coverage could help determine the intentions of those who broadcast

these messages, and the feelings of those who receive them. However, the

1966), p. 57; as published at: http://wissen.spiegel.de/wissen/image/show.html?did=46415595&

aref=image036/2006/03/22/cqsp196652056-P2P-058.pdf&thumb=false (access: October 2013).

19 Description of the research method can be found, among others, in: R.D. Wimmer,

J.R. Dominick, Mass media: Metody badań, Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego,

Kraków, 2008, pp. 191–197.

20 Cf.: D.A. Snow, L. Anderson, “Researching the Homeless. Th e Characteristic Features

and Virtues of the Case Study”, in: A Case for Case Study, eds. J. Feagin, A. Orum, G. Sjoberg,

University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill (NC), 1991, pp. 147–173.

21 R. Stake, Th e art of case research, Sage Publications, Newbury Park (CA), 1995.

22 R. Yin, Applications of case study research, Sage Publications, Newbury Park (CA),


Media context of defective codes of memory… 41

scope of this study had to be limited given the implementation time, and

the planned volume of the publication. Principally, I conducted quantitative

and qualitative analyses of journalistic materials. Th is makes it possible to

discover the explicit (quantitative analysis) and partly intentional (qualitative

analysis) content of messages. It helps to establish what was communicated

and how, by and for whom, and sometimes leads to conclusions about the

eff ects a message has had.

I worked on a purposive sample, drawing on a record of cases posted on

the MFA website, in which Polish diplomatic missions intervened against

the expressions “Polish concentration camps” and “Polish extermination

camps”. Press titles (including their online editions) were selected according

to whether archival materials were easily available. Th e MFA list of German

papers that used defective codes of memory is long for an untypical phenomenon.

It includes supra-regional dailies, such as Bild, Die Welt, Süddeutsche

Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Junge Welt; regional dailies:

Der Tagesspiegel, Westdeutsche Zeitung, Berliner Zeitung, and Rheinische

Post; and local ones, such as: Gäubote – Die Herrenberger Zeitung, and

Trierischer Volksfreund. It also features magazines: Der Spiegel, Stern, Focus,

Elbe Wochenblatt, Kölner Wochenspiegel, and rtv; there is also the online

edition of the fi lm magazine fi lmab.jmmv.de. Th is compelled me to introduce

a time limit. Choosing recent years seemed to make the most sense

from the point of view of the study’s usefulness for the MFA. I analysed

a total of 14 press articles.

Table 4: Sample under content analysis

No. Press title Date Article title

1 Die Welt (Kompakt

and Online editions)

10.02.2011 “Die Kinder von Paris”: Razzia vor der


2 Frankfurter Allgemeine


7.03.2011 Beweisanträge ohne Ende

3 Augsburger Allgemeine 13.04.2011 Prozess gegen mutmaßlichen KZ-Wachmann.

München: Überlebende von Sobibór wollen

Demjanjuks Schuldspruch

4 Berliner Zeitung 4.05.2011 Nazis auf der Flucht. Die verbannte


5 fi lmab.jmmv.de 6.05.2011 Das 21. Filmkunstfest 2011, Spielfi lme

6 Trierischer Volksfreund 16.01.2013 Den Trierer Opfern ihren Namen wiedergeben

7 Die Welt 14.02.2013 Filmemacher Claude Lanzmann erhält

Ehrenbär der Berlinale

42 Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

8 Focus (online edition) 18.02.2013 Filmemacher Claude Lanzmann erhält

Ehrenbär der Berlinale

9 Elbe Wochenblatt 9.03.2013 Stricknadeln für das KZ

10 Focus 18.04.2013 19 April 1943: Aufstand im Warschauer

Ghetto. Symbol des jüdischen Kampfes

gegen die Nazis

11 Gäubote – Die Herrenberger


20.04.2013 Der Jugend Geschichte vermitteln.

Herrenberg: Mordechai Ciechanower singt

in der Alten Turnhalle

12 Kölner


4.07.2013 Die Hölle überlebt

Auschwitz-Überlebende Anita Lasker-Wallfi

sch besuchte Europaschule

13 Rheinische Post 27.08.2013 Überlebende aus Konzentrationslagern zu

Gast in Xanten

14 Kölnische Rundschau 25.10.2013 Schleidener Weg der Erinnerung

I took advantage of my familiarity with the German media system when

presenting the wider context of the phenomenon under scrutiny, in particular

when presenting the media’s public reach; defi ning the social functions

of the media; highlighting elements of the debate about historical

truth and its artistic vision triggered by the screening of the Our Mothers,

Our Fathers series; characterising individual press titles; and defi ning the

legal framework of the media’s activities. I also used the available statistical

data, examined legal regulations, and did a critical review of the extensive

literature on the subject.

3. Our Mothers, Our Fathers

Th e public debate on the Second World War, the responsibility for starting

it and its course is part of the social context of the phenomenon under

scrutiny. Leaving aside the impression the Death Mills23 documentary made

23 Death Mills (“Die Todesmühlen”) was part of a programme to re-educate the Germans.

From January 1946, the 22-minute documentary was shown in cinemas in Bavaria, and from

March 1946 in Hesse, Hamburg and Berlin. Th e British occupational authorities decided not

to screen it. Th e fi lm contains authentic footage recorded during the liberation of the concentration

and extermination camps Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau and

Majdanek. In 2006, it was shown again in Hamburg’s Metropolis cinema as a starting point

for a discussion on its propaganda eff ect. See: L. Wendler, “Die Todesmühlen – erschütternder

KZ-Film im Metropolis”, Hamburger Abendblatt of 4 April 2006. Article available in the

Media context of defective codes of memory… 43

on the Germans from the American occupation zone, it was German writers

of Group 47, Günter Grass and Heinrich Böll, who initiated the discussion

about the past24. Th e guilt of genocide was driven home to the German public

by the American four-part series Holocaust – Die Geschichte der Familie

Weiss, which was broadcast from 22 to 26 January 1979 on channel three of

federal states’ public TV stations forming the ARD group. From 10 to 15 million

Germans are estimated to have learnt about the existence of Auschwitz

at the time.25 Th e campaign of playing down guilt began with an article by

Ernst Nolte entitled “Th e Past Th at Will Not Pass,” which was published

in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 6 June 1986. Th e author argued

for ending the reckoning with Nazism.26 Th e article started off a “historians’

dispute” (Historikerstreit), which caused quite a sensation in Germany

and Europe. Continuing for several months in the media, the controversy

about memory ended inconclusively. As Magdalena Latkowska observed, it

was followed by many “attempts to reconstruct the events and memory of

the Th ird Reich and the Second World War, undertaken on many levels,

including scientifi c, literary and artistic.”27 One such artistic attempt is the

TV series Our Mothers, Our Fathers (“Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter”), produced

by the public TV broadcaster ZDF. Screened in Germany between

18 and 20 March 2013, it drew a multi-million viewership, breaking ZDF’s

previous rating records. Much of the audience were viewers aged between

14 and 49, who only had a chance to watch the Death Mills or the Holocaust

on the Internet (chart 4).

Channel one of Polish television (TVP1) broadcast the fi lm on 17–19 June

2013. German media would comment on the Polish criticism of the way

Home Army partisans were portrayed both before and aft er the series

premiered in our country. An example is Gerhard Gnauck’s article in Die

Welt of 26 March.28 References were made to offi cial protest letters sent

online archive of the daily: http://www.abendblatt.de/kultur-live/article389818/Die-Todesmuehlen-


24 Cf.: K. Wóycicki, Niemiecki rachunek sumienia. Niemcy wobec przeszłości 1933–1945,

Atut Ofi cyna Wydawnicza, Wrocław, 2004.

25 F. Bösch, “Film, NS-Vergangenheit und Geschichtswissenschaft ”, Vierteljahrsheft e für

Zeitgeschichte 54 (2007), p. 2.

26 E. Nolte, “Die Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will. Eeine Rede, die geschrieben,

aber nicht gehalten werden konnte”, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 6 June 1986. Available

at: http://www.hdg.de/lemo/html/dokumente/NeueHerausforderungen_redeNolte1986/

(access: October 2013).

27 M. Latkowska, “Historikerstreit – przyczyny i skutki jednego z najważniejszych niemieckich

sporów o historię w XX wieku”, Studia Interkulturowe Europy Środkowo-Wschodniej

6 (2012), pp. 4–24, at p. 24.

28 G. Gnauck, “Polen werfen Weltkriegs-Epos Ignoranz vor”, Die Welt of 26 March 2013.

44 Ewa Stasiak-Jazukiewicz

Chart 4: Viewership of Our Mothers, Our Fathers episodes in millions of people/percent of

market share29


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