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February 20, 2020 / Congau

Neglecting Historical Facts

Historical facts are slippery. It is not always the magnitude of the events that make them stick to the collective memory, not the incontestable evidence and not even the nearness in time.

Everyone has heard about the sinking of the Titanic which over a hundred years ago cost maybe 1500 lives. That was bad of course, but what was so special about it that it deserves to remain fresh in the memory even today? There have been many much greater accidents since then that are totally forgotten.

Who has heard about the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II? 12 to 15 million ethnic Germans were driven out of former German territory in what had become the Soviet Union and Poland and from other eastern countries. It happened under miserable conditions, people being packed into railway cars for days, and exposed to hunger, cold, violence and rape. As many as 2 or 3 million may have perished on the way.

Why isn’t this general knowledge? It’s not like it’s a secret, for how could such a massive fact be hidden, (Look it up on Wikipedia, for example:  but it just doesn’t matter that the information is readily available, for it doesn’t sink into the collective consciousness until it has been popularized by the invisible hand of the historical marketplace.

The Germans were of course the villains after the war and popular opinion can’t handle nuances. The bad guys must be remembered as bad only and the Germans were guilty, right? Yes, of course they were guilty, especially the women and the children…

Now that you know this story, how will this information affect you? Very little, probably. Just being given a piece of fact will not edge it to your mind, and if it’s not repeated over and over again, it will not become a vivid reality to you.

But you will continue to mourn the Titanic.


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