Articles on the Bosnia Conflict



Bosnia-Herzegovina Journal #13:
A Visit to Germany
By Peter Lippman
January 29, 2013

2012 Journal index

Journal 1: Sarajevo. September 25
Journal 2: Tuzla. October 11
Journal 3: Srebrenica. October 13
Journal 4: Bratunac, Višegrad, Elections. October 26
Journal 5: Krajina - Banja Luka. November 6
Journal 6: Krajina - Kozarac, Prijedor. November 12
Journal 7: Guilt, Responsibility, and Politics. November 20
Journal 8:Travnik, Mostar, Animal Farm. December 13
Journal 9
: Activism in Sarajevo, Return to Srebrenica, Prijedor Revisited, December 19
Journal 10:
Krila Nade; The Missing; Tycoon Arrested; March 1st Coalition, December 26
Journal 11: Macedonia and Kosovo, January 2, 2013
Journal 12: The Roma of Kosovo, January 11, 2013
Journal 13: A Visit to Germany, January 29, 2013

Previous journals and articles

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In mid-November I traveled from Kosovo to Göttingen, Germany. I had not visited Germany in 21 years. I was invited to Göttingen to give a talk for the Society for Threatened Peoples (Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker). The Society, several decades old, is an admirable human rights institution, and it stood up for the preservation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, against atrocities, when the going was very rough. It still does so. So I was honored to be invited - and the flight from Prishtina to Frankfurt was quite convenient.

Göttingen is a charming university town. Around a thousand years old, it has an impressive history as a center of intellectual achievement, especially in science and philosophy. Max Planck, Heinrich Heine, Max Weber, and Arthur Schopenhauer all lived there; so did the Brothers Grimm.


Göttingen scene


Coming from southeastern Europe, you can't help but be struck by the clean streets, the orderliness, and the atmosphere of comfort reminiscent of an affluent suburb. In a posting on Facebook, I remarked that:
--The trains are as clean as people's living rooms.
--There are street signs bearing the name of each street.
--There is toilet paper available in every restroom.
--Old things are well-preserved.

I was given a tour of this most pleasant town by Jasna and Laure, friendly and helpful staff of the Society for Threatened Peoples. Buildings made of stone, and others with exposed-beam construction, along with a Gothic church or two, lined a circular pattern of roads on the inner part of the old town. I was shown into a public hall built in 1270, adorned on the inside with murals of peasants with scythes and dancing gentry. In the center of this neighborhood stood a fountain with a statue of a girl, the "Gänseliesel" holding a pet goose and a basket of flowers. Postgraduate students, upon finishing their doctorates, traditionally come to the square and kiss the Gänseliesel. This supposedly makes her the most kisséd girl in the world (because there are so many PhDs in Göttingen, I suppose).


The Gänseliesel


Göttingen's history goes back to feudal times when rulers like Otto the Child, Otto the Mild, and Otto the Evil, took turns with the likes of Albert II the Fat and Otto the One-Eyed to build fortifications around the town and to do battle with other cities for regional power.

During World War II Göttingen suffered much less damage from bombing than many German cities; apparently the Allies and Germany had an informal understanding that the Allies would not bomb Heidelberg and Göttingen, in return for German bombers steering clear of Cambridge and Oxford.

Jasna and Laure guided me to the home of the Society for Threatened Peoples, where they showed me around the two-story building and its numerous area offices. I met an Iraqi Kurd who was working with a Kosovar Albanian in the Middle East section, a room stacked with books and magazines. The hallway walls were lined with artwork and photos from situations worldwide where human rights campaigns are ongoing. One wall displayed several dozen issues of the Society's periodical, "Pogrom." I also met several staff and friends who were, like Jasna, from Bosnia. I rested up and prepared for my talk the next day.


Display of Pogrom magazine covers at the offices of Society for Threatened Peoples


The talk went well. Around forty people showed up, and I'd guess that half of them were from the former Yugoslavia. Most were former refugees from Bosnia now long since settled in Germany - some living there twenty years already. There were also Roma and Bosniaks from Kosovo, Bosniaks from the Sandžak, and a Torbeš from Debar, Macedonia.

Having just spent a couple of months in Bosnia, that's what I discussed the most, and the content of my talk was similar to that of my recent series of reports. After an overview of the political situation (describing the Dayton straitjacket) and a description of the economic situation, I talked about the domestic politicians and the role of the international community. RS President Dodik says "Bosnia-Herzegovina makes me sick." The "anti-nationalist," "social-democrat," and above all autocrat Zlatko Lagumdžija makes historic deals with reactionaries, profiteers, and separatists. And the international officials have pretty much - effectively, if not rhetorically - turned their backs on Bosnia for a half-dozen years. Meanwhile, large foreign companies are moving in and plundering the country.

I discussed the activist movement, touching on five or six local organizations with whom I had met and which I felt were positive actors on the scene. Asked by the organizers to address routes for change, I advocated some obvious things: simplify the Bosnian government; remove corrupt officials; ban war criminals in politics; ban hate speech; pressure the Bosnian government to cooperate with the international community; and promote a change of the Dayton constitution.

What's less obvious is how to bring about these desired changes. For my taste part of the answer, as always, lies in support of the grassroots movement for change in Bosnia. In my recent reports I introduced a number of organizations and described their campaigns and struggles. Even in the period since I was in Bosnia, and even though it is winter, these campaigns have picked up. I have more recently mentioned the March 1st Coalition (for example, in my tenth report), and I was glad to be able to talk about this campaign with people in Germany, as a concrete campaign in which they could participate. And among other things, I noted that the entire catalogue of changes needed has to be considered a long-term struggle, with no easy fixes on the horizon.

My presentation was being translated into German, but as much as anything else, I was talking to what I felt was a representative group from the Bosnian diaspora in Germany. These are the people who activists from Prijedor, for example, reach out to, who could offer critical assistance in making change happen in Bosnia. My impression is that people want to help, that they care with all their soul; indeed many people in the diaspora have already been helping and participating in crucial ways. I hope that the time is coming when they can make an even greater difference.

Afterwards we had an informal gathering and I met some of the local Bosnians. There was a family from near Banja Luka with their daughter, 18, who was born in Germany. She spoke better English than Bosnian, and told me that once, when she entered into a math class, she encountered a teacher who had been in the army in Prizren, Kosovo. He said to her, "You have no business being here. Why don't you and your family go back home and solve your own problems, instead of coming here and taking our jobs and our money?" Later, when he saw that she was an excellent student, he changed his mind about her.

The gathering lasted congenially into the late evening; at one point some of us even sang some Bosnian sevdalinke.


Backing up a bit, here's something that happened when I arrived in Göttingen. Landing at the train station from Frankfurt, I was met by Jasna and Laure, and they immediately took me to a pleasant restaurant by a lake in the countryside. There we had a fish dinner, together Tilman Zülch, general secretary of the Society for Threatened Peoples.

In the late 1960s Tilman, a human rights activist, founded an advocacy group to call attention to the genocide taking place in Biafra at that time. In 1970 he founded the Society for Threatened Peoples. Since then, the Society has focused on the defense of minority and indigenous rights. It holds consultative status at the UN Economic and Social Council, as well as participatory status in the Council of Europe.

In the 1990s the Society devoted much attention to Bosnia and later to Kosovo. Other concerns of the Society are the Kurds and the Roma - it sent Paul Polansky (whom I quoted in my last posting) to Kosovo to research and advocate for that country's Roma population. The Society has offices in Germany, one in the Kurdish area of Iraq, one in Bosnia, and several in other parts of Europe.

As we were talking about Bosnia and various other human rights problems, Tilman used the word "Vergangenheitsbewältigung," and checked to see if I knew what it meant. I didn't, and I asked Jasna to write down the eight-syllable word so that I could study and comprehend it.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung means "coming to terms with (bewältigung) the past (Vergangenheit)." I hadn't known the word, but to a significant extent, the meaning is something that I have been focusing on in Bosnia and in my reports, especially in this recent visit. That is why it was "love at first sight" for me when I learned the word.

When I talk about "memory" - in the context of Bosnia, the US, or anywhere else - I see the process of coming to terms with the past as an integral part of justice. Protecting and calling upon memory in the service of justice involves satisfaction of the following needs: to acknowledge war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been committed; to apprehend and legally process the perpetrators; to establish restitution for the crimes; and, one hopes, to hear a sincere apology from the perpetrators.

These are some components of justice. Add to that, in the case of Bosnia, the need for detailed descriptions of the crimes to the extent of the location of mass graves, leading to the discovery and identification of the missing. And just as important in the Bosnian struggle for justice is the ongoing struggle to refute the war atrocity deniers, as well as the freedom, in Bosnia, to remember those crimes at the places they were committed.

There's more to Vergangenheitsbewältigung. For the Germans it has meant coming to terms with the past collectively. That collective response to the past implies recognition of a nation's participation in the past. Germany has done much work in this regard.

During my stay in Bosnia, Hikmet Karčić called my attention to the writings of Karl Jaspers, the prominent 20th-century German psychiatrist and philosopher. Shortly after World War II, in his book The Question of German Guilt, Jaspers addressed the responsibility of Germany as a nation for the war crimes and atrocities that had been committed. In examining the question of guilt, he identified "criminal guilt" as distinguished from "political guilt," the latter being the more widespread phenomenon, in which people are implicated by virtue of being citizens. Jaspers considered that all citizens of a state are in some way involved in the political conduct of that state, and given that, all citizens somehow experience the consequences of that state's policies.

In principle, the response to the commission of a crime is punishment. But that axiom does not work in the case of collective political responsibility for massive crimes, because collective punishment is not only wrong; it is another crime.

But once the crimes have been committed, and to the extent that there has been collective involvement in the crimes, then that population has the moral obligation to own up to its participation in the crimes and to participate in rectification of the damage done. As Americans we all have this responsibility after the genocide of the Native Americans and after slavery, just to name two items from the long list of US-sponsored crimes against humanity.

In this vein, an American friend commented to me that the Germans have done better with these things than the Americans, at least to the extent that you see anti-racism posters mounted prominently in some parts of Germany. People who go around in the US wearing t-shirts with anti-racist messages tend to be looked on as oddballs.


Anti-racism poster in Göttingen


This discussion came about after I posted on Facebook a photo I had taken of such an anti-racist poster in Göttingen. This posting prompted quite a correspondence, starting with a clarification of the meaning of "Vergangenheitsbewältigung." I had interpreted it as "confronting the past," a direct translation of the corresponding Bosnian phrase (suočavanje s prošlošću). I was quickly corrected by several people who made it clear to me that in the German expression, it's a matter of "dealing with the past," "coming to terms with the past," or "coping with the past." That's a more accurate translation, but I'm still partial to the Bosnian phrase, because of the connotation of the process as nothing less than a struggle.

This is a struggle that people in all the former republics of Yugoslavia must go through to the extent that any of them were responsible for war crimes; and it's clear that that's a large extent.

Here's an excerpt from the Facebook discussion of "Vergangenheitsbewältigung."

--Holger: "'Coping with the past' or 'process of coming to terms with the past' are two more possible translations. There is a lot of past to cope with in Germany, so a special word is required to describe it."

--Jeff: ".even though (or perhaps because) the Germans have a more spectacular recent past in that regard than we do, in many ways they are much more actively engaged in an open discussion calling Neo-Nazi exactly what they are and are trying to figure out how to raise their kids so that it is addressed on a societal level. We seem to have resigned ourselves to enduring these nonsensical terms that equate the exact same thing with patriotism and then have to hear about 'post-racial society' which we clearly aren't."

PL: "In Germany, there's been a real confrontation with the past (ok, somehow that phrase still feels right)...and we haven't had that in the US. We learn about the genocide of the Native Americans even in elementary school, and about the slavery too - but we haven't really confronted it. No apology, no reparations, no real self-examination on a national scale. Only the occasional Clintonesque apology (Guatemala, Japanese internment). If that confrontation were to happen, I bet it would bring a halt to our ongoing exportation of mass murder, our addiction to violence, our militarism."

Holger: "The real confrontation with the past happened in West-Germany in the late 60s, when the generation born in the 40s really wanted to know what their parents involvement was with the Nazi system. Why didn't they act against it? Why couldn't they? Or could they? This was a painful process happening in many families. It has led to a situation where nothing that happened in the past is glorified anymore in Germany. The crimes of the Nazis have just overshadowed everything.Patriotism has become a negative word in the German language. A politician publicly announcing to be proud to be German would have to resign (as has happened). Yes, Germans are very sensitive about this.

."And here is an example of what Germans mean when they talk about 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung'. There used to be a myth that the regular German army, the Wehrmacht, was fighting a clean war like any other army and that the war crimes were only committed by the SS and other Nazi special forces. This was a very convenient excuse for the generation of ex-Wehrmacht soldiers. This myth was destroyed by the exhibition Crimes of the German Wehrmacht: Dimensions of a War of Annihilation, 1941-1944. The introductory text says it all."

Hessie, whom I quoted in an earlier report, touched on the relationship between war trauma and examining the past: "Wherever it has happened, all those traumas will not just disappear, neither in the consequences for those persons themselves nor will they disappear with their death; they will affect the next generation and even more generations. And in a perverse way this will lead some to switch from being victims to persecutors, as [trauma] nourishes revenge, as long as the role of victims is not changed by themselves actively taking control of the consequences of what happened to them.

"I mention that we managed to function; that doesn't mean to live really, as part of our energy is bound up on keeping those traumas from disturbing our functioning. The effects of those more-or-less hidden traumas on our health are visible on many levels as well, through psychosomatic influences, not to mention through the widespread, so-called illnesses of civilization.

"For me dealing with the past is not the same as facing it or confronting it. First you develop some way that you are no longer disturbed by it. Facing it is the next step, if you can manage to do so. You cannot force someone to do it, as there is a risk of a total destruction. I remember the effect on one person of my generation who couldn't cope with life when she was forced to face the fact that her father had been an architect of the concentration camps. She committed suicide. Confronting the past is the next step, wherein you make changes to actively do something about the consequences of past history."


At a certain point during our lunch, with no preface, Tilman began to talk about his own traumatic childhood experience. He described his family's flight from the Sudetenland in 1945, as Soviet troops were advancing upon that part of Czechoslovakia. Tilman's family was part of the ethnic German population of that country, inhabiting the western perimeters that bordered along Germany and Austria. They, along with well over three million other Sudeten Germans, were expelled from Czechoslovakia and driven into Germany.
[note - it has been pointed out to me that it is accurate to say "Soviet troops" rather than "Russians," as there were many nations gathered in that political and military alliance, not just the Russians. I have left "Russians" in place where it is a quotation.]

Tilman was about seven years old at that time. He said, "There were nine people in a wagon, it could hold no more. Thousands of people were fleeing in the snow and they had 850 kilometers to go. There were cannons booming in the background, as the Russians were catching up. There was a man carting an older woman in a wheelbarrow."

Tilman spoke with grim irony about the specter of the man and the wheelbarrow, which I experienced as a metaphor for the slim hope of the fleeing refugees for arriving alive in dreadful conditions. At one point the coach bearing Tilman's family turned off the main road in order to escape the oncoming troops. They came to a crossroad where they encountered a couple of wounded soldiers, who informed them that they were heading straight for the front line. They turned back. In the end, Tilman said, only about 40% of the people in this column of refugees made it to Germany alive. And along the way, some 240 women were raped by the Russians.

I have long been aware that millions of Germans were displaced after the war. I had heard the figure of twelve million driven out of Poland, Czechoslovakia, northern Yugoslavia including Vojvodina, Hungary, Romania, and other parts of Eastern Europe. A number of German friends and acquaintances of mine were descended from people who had been expelled the east after the war. But I had not thought about the ramifications of this expulsion in human terms. Tilman's words began to bring this home to me.

Tilman mentioned that "fourteen million people were expelled from eastern Germany." I was confused. I asked him about this. He said, "You're confusing eastern Germany with central Germany." He meant that what we knew of until 1989 as East Germany had, before World War II, been the central part of Germany, which also encompassed a significant amount of territory that was taken over by Poland after the war. So there were Germans who lived in eastern Germany (now part of Poland) who were German citizens, and then there were ethnic Germans who were citizens of other countries in Eastern Europe. Most of these populations were expelled.

In the course of the conversation and afterwards I was rather shocked by all this as I learned more details about the starvation, rape, and massacres that were perpetrated upon the displaced Germans. In the Baltic Sea the Soviets torpedoed and sank two ships bearing escaping Germans. In that attack at least ten thousand people, including thousands of civilians, were killed. The British Air Force likewise bombed and strafed ships carrying fleeing Germans, along the way mistakenly bombing two ships that the Germans had loaded with Jewish concentration camp prisoners.

Chaos reigned in larges swaths of Eastern Europe after the war. Figures on displaced and expelled Germans vary between twelve and fourteen million, and the expulsion is characterized as the largest European population movement in modern times. The displacement took place in phases, first with flight organized by the Nazis where they were still in control, but aware of imminent defeat. After the defeat, many local Germans were placed in provisional internment camps. More Germans then fled out of fear, during a time when unorganized revenge attacks were widespread. Thousands of Germans were killed in these attacks, and hundreds of thousands more fled.

Finally, there was a period lasting until 1950, in which organized expulsions took place, including Saxon communities dating back many centuries. German communities were driven out in expulsions planned by the "host" countries, with the approval of the victorious Allies. And one of the most dreadful parts of this story is that of the children, thousands of whom were orphans or were separated from their families in the chaos. Large numbers of these children died before having the chance to arrive to a place of refuge.

Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin agreed that the borders of Poland would be moved to the west, giving the eastern portion of Poland to the Ukraine (and thus to the Soviet Union), and the eastern portion of Germany to Poland. In a speech before the British House of Commons in late 1944, referring to the removal of the Germans, he said, "For expulsion is the method which, insofar as we have been able to see, will be the most satisfactory and lasting. There will be no mixture of populations to cause endless trouble as in Alsace-Lorraine. A clean sweep will be made. I am not alarmed at the prospect of the disentanglement of population, nor am I alarmed by these large transferences, which are more possible than they were before through modern conditions." (quote from p. 110 of Fires of Hatred; Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe, by Norman N. Naimark.)

I hate to think what measure of uprooting, murder, rape, and torment it would have taken to alarm Winston Churchill.

Karl Jaspers is described as having "opposed totalitarian despotism ... or a regime that regarded humans as mere instruments of science or ideological goals." We know about Stalin; it seems that Churchill too regarded humans as mere instruments.


I recalled what my friend Hessie had told me back in Sarajevo: After World War II, "in world opinion, it was not permissible to acknowledge that Germans, not even those who were children, had suffered, and to some extent that is still the case." For a few weeks, again on the Internet, I corresponded with some friends about these issues. I will share here some of the information I received.

Hessie: "I heard a lot about the tragedy of those expelled Germans after WWII and I met many of them... This matter of the expelled is a story more or less little spoken of. There were many children on this terrible route to the western areas; they were placed in centres to protect them from bombing in the cities. Many got killed or lost on the way; many very young children did not even know their names when they arrived, and not all of their identities could determined. There were hours and hours of broadcasting in the years after WWII in Germany, with people asking if anyone had seen or met a person they were missing. You could see flyers all over as well with such questions about missing soldiers, especially those who had been war prisoners of the Russians.

"To me it was a trick of the writing of history that the DDR [East Germany], which before WWII had been central Germany, came to be called East Germany. I had the impression that somehow this was to make people forget the former eastern part of Germany.

 "I think that relinquishing those territories to other countries was justified - but in doing so, those who were expelled not only physically lost their homelands but as far as I can see, in the memories of the younger generation this switch also worked successfully. Those who were expelled, if ever they speak about it, constantly face this misinterpretation, and somehow this creates another obstacle to speaking about what happened.

 "[Regarding the numbers of expelled Germans], there are many different numbers and it depends which countries were included that decided to expel Germans, how many were killed before leaving, how many arrived in the western or DDR part of Germany. There was so much chaos that I doubt it is possible to have really reliable numbers. Some of those who left didn't arrive, but some children survived, joining up with families they met on their way. There is a case that if I remember well, two brothers met for the first time again in the nineties, as one of them had been brought up by a Polish family.

 "One thing is clear: there was an enormous mass of people hungry, freezing, exhausted wandering from east to west, without any organisation or help; those who were expelled were even being attacked by airplanes, and many died in the bombing of Dresden. Some survived the way one of my classmates did, under a heap of dead people, thus protected from the burning phosphor.

"[Regarding the subsequent recording of these events] I don't know that this was really done in Western Germany. Even in the books now on the market about those first bad years after WWII, those who were expelled are simply not mentioned. Somehow everybody seems to remember only the time when it started to become better, the Wirtschaftswunder. The time in between seems to be a time of collective forgetting. The expelled hadn't been welcome at all. Arriving with just the clothes they were wearing, they had to use everything from those who were required to take them into their houses.

"I guess this topic of the expelled ones wasn't that interesting for our writers; they wrote a lot about other topics, all the atrocities against the Jews, and about soldiers who returned but did not find their families, or learned that they [the soldiers] had been declared dead and their wives had married again. I never saw a serious book about the expelled. In my opinion the problem was, and may still be, that this tragedy had been deemed to be accepted because of all the atrocities done by Germans during Nazi time, and writing about this would show suffering and we had no right to have suffered."

Holger: "What you describe happened to most families in eastern Germany. My mom's family fled from [.] before the Red Army got there. She then endured the battle of Berlin in a basement, witnessing the arrival of the Soviet troops. This is not the right place to tell you what happened in those days, but for the next two years after the war there was no food. My mom never spent much time in school.

"Why is it not politically correct to talk about this trauma? Because at the same time, it was the end of fascism. Officially Germany was liberated by the Allies, including the Soviets. It ended a period that was much worse than the suffering of the German population at the end of the war. That my mom and my grandmother didn't feel liberated is a sticky issue.

"It is also not politically correct to feel sad about the homeland that was lost. These thoughts had to be swept under the carpet to be accepted again as a nation and also as a pre-condition for German reunification in 1990. Germany has committed to maintain all Soviet war memorials in the country. What happened to the civilians in those days remains private."


The office complex inhabited by the Society for Threatened Peoples is located in a building named after Victor Gollancz, a British Jew who was a leftist before World War II, a publisher, and a human rights activist. Early in the war he became very distressed about the fate of the Jews under the Nazi regime, and he was one of the first to predict the eventual murder of six million Jews. A prolific commentator, he wrote about German guilt in a pamphlet titled "What Buchenwald Really Means." There, he concluded that not all Germans were guilty, recalling the thousands who had been persecuted because of their opposition to Nazism, and thousands more who were simply terrorized into compliance or inaction. In the early postwar period he advocated for the humane treatment of German civilians, a cause for which he actively campaigned for several years.

Meanwhile, during the war Gollancz had become a promoter of the Zionist colonization of Palestine as well. But during the 1948 war that resulted in the creation of Israel, he campaigned to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians who were under fierce attack.

Gollancz, then, took positions according to his principle of defending the underdog, regardless of whether his positions were going to make him popular. I see how this characteristic resonates with Tilman Zülch and the Society for Threatened Peoples, many of whose staff are, like Tilman, themselves personally familiar with displacement.


So why am I going on about Germany and things German, long ago and far from Bosnia?

It's not that I have more sympathy for the Germans than for anyone else. I have brought up this history of their massive expulsion because I see it as yet another crime unaddressed. The expulsion strikes me as a form of collective punishment against the Germans, and there were few like Gollancz to speak out against it. Now that history is buried - not forgotten by the survivors and their descendants, but hidden to the world. I marvel at the strength of the survivors to have picked up and carried on without turning their injuries into a grievance that caused further great damage, as generally happens.

I bring up the case of the German expulsion because it reminds me of similar situations. Half the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina, more two million people, were displaced. Nearly a million Albanians were displaced in Kosovo, as were most of the Roma and a large part of the Kosovo Serb community as well.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) uses the words of Euripides, 431 BCE, to describe the state of being a refugee or asylum-seeker: "There is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one's native land."

So I have written of these things out of an impulse to revolt against the practice of expulsion regardless of when and where it happens; no population should be subjected to uprooting. Such treatment is objectionable regardless of what crimes may be pinned on a population or on its leaders. Pretty much everyone in former Yugoslavia has had bad leaders in recent decades, but that does not justify the mistreatment that so many civilians have experienced.

Meanwhile, it is normal for people to be obsessed with their own victimization as something that is dearer than that of anyone else. For these people it is difficult to acknowledge the suffering of their "enemy," and equally difficult to avoid equating revenge with justice.

It was Hessie who said to me, back in Sarajevo, that "being a perpetual victim means that you will always be expecting to receive something from someone." She elaborated by saying that a person who remains stuck in the role of the victim is not only disempowered, but also runs the risk of being transformed into a persecutor. Fixation on one's victimhood tends to justify any behavior; it is not uncommon for victims to squander their "moral capital." Hessie further pointed out that a person who has been victimized and overcomes her feeling of victimization is particularly well-placed to empathize with other victims and to help them through their recovery from trauma.

Given the calamity that befell some of my ancestors in World War II, I have been lucky to escape that trap myself. I don't advocate forgetting history by any means, nor forgiveness, particularly; that is entirely a personal matter. But it is ultimately the duty of the victim to reach beyond his or her individual story in order to recognize the suffering of other people on all sides. Many people I know in Bosnia-Herzegovina, intelligent activists and others, have done so. They are waiting for their gestures to be reciprocated. While one must never cease to demand justice, those who are not prepared to acknowledge the humanity in others remain susceptible to manipulation by the same demagogues who led them into the destruction of their country in the first place.

Thus another side of Vergangenheitsbewältigung can see erstwhile victims coming to terms with their history and renouncing revenge. Anger at one's mistreatment is justified; transforming that anger into productive work is urgent.

All this is not to imply that everyone is equal in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Kosovo, in former Yugoslavia, or elsewhere. I am comfortable with the term "aggression" as it is used to describe the initiation and prosecution of the conflicts, and the balance of force was at times so unequal that said conflicts could not be accurately termed a "war." But when the smoke clears and the dust settles, still it is necessary to take leave of recriminations at some point, enough to take the side of the next group that is being persecuted, a la Gollancz and, one hopes, to cut short the cycle of retribution.

I wish to believe that most of the activists with whom I've been in contact in the former Yugoslavia have assimilated this lesson. So I don't worry too much about their opinion, nor that of anyone else, when I take the side of the Roma or Serbs if they are being mistreated by the Albanians in Kosovo, or when I take the side of the Croats or Serbs if they are being mistreated by Bosniaks in Bosnia. Any position that falls short of this is simply irresponsible.

It happens that it is the consideration anew of the story of the expelled Germans that brings this position into new clarity for me.

When I consider the torments visited upon those millions of Germans, and more recently upon the Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs, Albanians, and Roma, I have an overwhelming feeling that humans are just fodder for some historical meat grinder. What pulls me out of that depressing thought is my acquaintance with those people who, to the best of their ability, continue to struggle for justice against the odds. They not only know right from wrong; they believe that things can be made better through that struggle.

So here, finally winding up this series of reports, I remember and thank a few of those brave activists for their fight and for what they have taught me and what they have shared with me, and I wish them all power and strength in their continued work:

Damir Arsenijević, Danijel Senkić, Darjan Bilić, Dražana Lepir, Dražen Crnomat, Džafer Buzoli, Edin Ramulić, Emin Mahmutović, Emir Hodžić, Emir Suljagić, Emsuda Mujagić, Erëblir Kadriu, Ervin Blažević Švabo, Fadil Banjanović Bracika, Gordan Isabegović, Hasan Hadžić, Hasan Nuhanović, Hikmet Karčić, Mirsad Duratović, Nedim Jahić, Nerin Dizdar, Reuf Bajrović, Satko Mujagić, Senad Subašić, Staša Zajović, Sudbin Musić, Šani Rifati, Vahid Kanlić, Zulfo Salihović.

(This list is, of course, far from complete and I apologize to those I have omitted.)

I also thank Roger Lippman for patiently proofreading all my texts.

And thank you for reading them.

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