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Walbrzych, Waldenburg as was – the massive crimes against humanity nobody minded about as the victims spoke German

Tom Winnifrith
Thursday 26 August 2021

I follow the account @AuschwitzMuseum on twitter. Each day, in fact several times a day, it sends out the bare details of someone sent to Auschwitz, usually accompanied by a photo. When they arrived and what was their fate. Say what you like about the Germans, they were damn good at record keeping so in most cases we do know the exact fate. Each day you see the smiling faces of little boys and girls in happier times. Most of those were sent straight to the gas chambers. It is an upsetting twitter account to follow but an unpleasant reminder that one’s daily upsets are really trivial, they mean nothing at all. Today’s tweet is below:

26 August 1905 | A German, Rudolf von Mayer, was born in Waldenburg (today Wałbrzych in Poland). An assessor. In #Auschwitz from 30 May 1941.

No 16962. He perished in the camp on 19 August 1942. One of at least 77 people imprisoned in Auschwitz for homosexuality.


The reason Meyer was there is interesting. Members of the LGBTQ community often claim that the suffering of their community as part of the holocaust is downplayed. It should not be ignored and we should call it out for the evil it was. But 77 folks. That is out of 1.3 million. It should be viewed in perspective.

What struck me about the tweet was where poor von Mayer was born. Waldenburg was a town inside what is now Poland but it was actually Prussian from 1742 although it had a large German speaking population before then. It became part of Germany in 1871 as part of the reunification process and stayed so until 1945. Waldenburg was in every respect as German as Beethoven, Bismark and Bratwurst. And then it was not. It was Polish.

After the war, ethnic Germans from across Eastern Europe were forcibly evicted from places where their  families had lived for centuries. Admittedly, there were also some who had moved out east during the period of Nazi expansionism. Most had not and the numbers are truly appalling. Between 12 and 14 million German speakers were forced to leave their homes to head to a bombed out, starving and devastated Germany. And during these evictions, around 1.5 million are thought to have died. Some starved on the way, some just collapsed weakened by disease or hunger but, I am afraid, many tens if not hundreds of thousands, were murdered. Men, women and children killed in cold blood.

This matter was raised in the Houses of Parliament but, perhaps understandably as we still came to terms with not only those Britons who had died in the war but the sheer scale of Nazi atrocities against the Jews and others, there was scant sympathy for dying Krauts. We in the West knew what was happening and we just did not care. It was understandable but it was wrong for those dying were almost all innocents just like the folks pushed into the gas chambers at Auschwitz. What happened was ethnic cleansing on an almost unparalleled scale.

Peter Hitchens chronicles the horrors of what happened in his book “The Phoney Victory” which is an excellent read but is a part of history that folks too often forget.

Waldenburg is a bit unusual in that some of its Germans were not expelled but were allowed to stay in order to keep vital industries, notably coal minds, from grinding to a halt. There is still an ethnic German community there today, albeit a small, one. But in most of Eastern Europe the Germans are long gone and those who try to apologise for what were war crimes against them, such as the Czech leader Havel find that few in their countries feel the need to apologise. It is a horror few seem to recognise.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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