How the memory of international crimes is distorted in public discourse
Wydział Dziennikarstwa i Nauk Politycznych
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
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Proofreading: Grażyna Waluga
Typesetting and layout: Zakład Grafi czny UW. Zam. 132/2016
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction: Defective codes of memory in the present world . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Libel actions in the USA against the use of defective code of memory . . . . . 13
Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies, or negligence?
Th e German law perspective and historical revisionism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
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
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
Defective codes of memory about genocide crimes: Fundamental problems
of axiological and legal assessment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
References to the so-called “Polish concentration camps” as an infringement
of personal interests: A civil-law perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
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
On the so-called “Polish concentration camps”: A logical pragmatic
perspective . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
6 Table of Contents
Scope for challenging stereotypes in the context of defective codes
of memory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 201
Abstracts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
About the authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
List of abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
Index . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221
INTRODUCTION: DEFECTIVE CODES OF MEMORY
IN THE PRESENT WORLD
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
LIBEL ACTIONS IN THE USA AGAINST
THE USE OF DEFECTIVE CODE OF MEMORY
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
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 ). 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 ), (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.
October 11, 2013
DEFECTIVE CODES OF MEMORY: BAD HABITS,
INTENTIONAL LIES, OR NEGLIGENCE?
THE GERMAN LAW PERSPECTIVE
AND HISTORICAL REVISIONISM
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,
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,
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
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
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
• Aft er 1945, 6–8 million Germans allegedly lost their lives in Polish
• 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/.
41 Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin (ed.), Historie. Krieg und seine Folgen, yearbook
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
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
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),
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).
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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30 Dieter Schenk
No. 17/8134 Umgang mit der NS-Vergangenheit (14 Dec. 2011)
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
Eigentümerbund Ost e.V. in Polen (7 Febr. 2013)
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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Eichmüller A., Keine Generalamnestie. Die Strafverfolgung von NS-Verbrechen in der frühen
Bundesrepublik, Oldenbourg Wissenschaft sverlag, München, 2012
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Geschichte verstehen – Zukunft gestalten. Ausgewählte Aspekte der deutsch-polnischen Beziehungen
1933–1945, hrsg. K. Hartmann, Neisse Verlag, Dresden–Wroclaw, 2009
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Historie. Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen
Akademie der Wissenschaft en 1 (2007/2008)
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Jahrzehnten, hrsg. W.M. Góralski, Elipsa, Warschau 2011
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Grass G., Im Krebsgang, Göttingen, 2002
Defective codes of memory: Bad habits, intentional lies… 31
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Demokraten wurden, DVA, München, 2013
Himmler H., “Poznańska mowa do gruppenführerów SS 4 października 1943 r.”, Kronika
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MEDIA CONTEXT OF DEFECTIVE CODES
OF MEMORY: A CASE STUDY OF GERMAN
PRESS RECOURSE TO FALSE PREDICATES
TO DESCRIBE NAZI ANNIHILATION CAMPS
AND CONCENTRATION CAMPS ESTABLISHED
BY THE GERMANS IN OCCUPIED POLAND
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
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
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
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,
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
[…] 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:
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/
Media context of defective codes of memory… 39
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,
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
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
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
(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