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HOW TO CITE THIS SCHOLARLY ESSAY: Mayfield, James. "Understanding Sexual Violence against German Expellee Women as the Violation of Sacralized Boundaries." Institute for Research of Expelled Germans. http://expelledgermans.org/sexualviolence.htm (accessed Day-Month-Year).

ABSTRACT: This is a scholarly article that deals with the topics of expellee group publications, personal narrative/memoir publications, and historical memory among German expellees. It particularly analyzes the role of women in shaping this memory, usually in the context of sexual violence and victimization.

DISCLAIMER: This paper is not intended to in any way question the validity of their data or the reality of their experiences. The seemingly sceptical use of words like "extermination camp" is not intended to dismiss or criticize their memories, but to show how powerfully the feelings of atrocity and suffering have embedded into their memories and their senses of belonging.

*The italics in parentheses refer to the bibliography below).*


Despite frequent protests by survivors and their descendants that the general public has not “heard their story,” scholars have increasingly documented the mass violence against German minorities in East-Central Europe after World War II. Indeed, historians have interpreted their expulsion through multiple lenses. Norman Naimark has categorized them as ethnic cleansing, focusing on the mechanisms of statecraft that facilitated their removal (Naimark, 2001). Philipp Ther explained the expulsions as the result of state homogenization and ethnic “questions” of who qualified to belong in new integral states (Ther, 2001 ). The lawyer Alfred de Zayas has taken a humanist approach to describe a systematic process of discrimination, forced labor, and “genocide” that was “hidden” by the Allies (de Zayas, 1986, 1998). Chad Bryant assessed them as the outgrowth of anxiety, revanchism, and even the pursuit of a purified Lebensraum (Bryant, 2009). Further, Ben Frommer defined the Czechoslovak expulsions as a “national cleansing” that purged the national space of a vilified Other at the same time as it cleansed the national soul of the infestation and decay that the Germans represented (Frommer, 2004).

Other historians have approached the ethnic cleansings from a gendered perspective, focusing on the disproportionate targeting and mass rape of German women. Naimark, Pertti Ahonen, Wolfgang Samuel, and Elizabeth Heinemann depicted this sexual violence as a unique weapon of modern war that targets the representations of the family, motherhood, and the nation itself. “Gendered violence” has become popularized as a lens for historical analysis, especially after being elucidated by discourse on the Rwandan Genocide and the Bosnian Wars. Many scholars emphasize mass rape against Germans in order to express the magnitude of the ethnic cleansing, depicting it as an atrocity, a tragedy, and an injustice.

Although scholars have thoroughly analyzed women and sexual violence in the expulsion of Germans, few have engaged what the victimization of women represents for the expellees themselves. This project asserts that sexual violence has a far more significant role than sexuality, atrocity, or even women. The abuse of women and children was adopted by expellees as the highest evidence that “innocence” was violated. For this reason, references to rape should not be separated as a gendered violence, but must be seen in the larger context of "sacralized" boundaries that include the elderly, the sick, and children, both male and female. This is evidenced by the pattern of personal accounts to discuss raped women alongside homeless children and the starving sick (Msgr. Albert Büttner). More importantly, this paper shows how these representations helped define and sustain the expellees' sense of community, historical memory, and identity altogether. In the context of Poles expelled to Soviet Central Asia after 1939, Katherine Jolluck has recognized that the experience of ethnic cleansing facilitated the formation of an "identity-in-exile" distinct from that of their national origin. In a similar way, the disparate German minorities expelled from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Poland were united in diaspora by their shared experience of displacement (Jolluck, 2002). They subsumed their distinctive local traditions and histories under a transnational identity as “German expellees” (deutsche Vertriebene). This identity was defined by myths of suffering, survivorhood, trauma, injustice, and innocence, persecuted solely for being German. The history that the expellees wrote for themselves began with peaceful settlement and the cultivation of European “breadbaskets” that ended with a “forgotten genocide.” Their sense of selfhood and solidarity depends upon their emphasis of a victimization of the innocent.

This project analyzes violence against women as the transgression of social boundaries that were sacralized by the new identity markers that women helped define. Steven Jobbitt has demonstrated that the recollection of trauma is often central to the imagining of community (Jobbitt 2011). I argue that the traumas inflicted upon the innocent defined the expellees' sense of selfhood and sustain their myths of suffering and victimization. Therefore, representations of women played a foundational role in defining what it means to be a German expellee. I do not questioning the legitimacy of their claim to innocence, nor the veracity of their historical memory; such is irrelevant for this scholarship. I do not intend to criticize or challenge their stories. Instead, this project will interpret the symbolism, representation, vocabulary, and imagery of women and innocence in the primary source diaries and memoirs of Germans expellees. I will not be looking at contemporary accounts, but how these experiences are embedded in memory in exile. It will focus especially on the “Danube Swabians,” an identity-in-exile composed of minorities expelled from Yugoslavia. To show this, this paper will scrutinize two different types of primary source material in order to access how these representations became embedded into this identity: individual memoirs and expellee organization scholarship. Whilst focusing on women, I will present their abuse under the larger context of the victimization of sacralized innocence.

Before the source material can be engaged, a brief historical overview of the ethnic cleansings is necessary. The details of the deteriorating inter-ethnic relationship and debates over German guilt and nationalism are insignificant for this article. German-speakers from various Germanic princely states settled in East-Central Europe in multiple stages over the last eight-hundred years, bringing their diverse local traditions with them. Small communities were invited to Hungarian dominions such as Transylvania as early as the twelfth century. In order to recolonize the frontiers along the Danube that were depopulated by the war against the Ottomans, the German Habsburgs subsidized the settlement from ethnic Germans in what are now Hungary, northern Serbia, and Croatia, thereby forming the so-called Banat-, Batschka-, and Baranja-Swabian tribes. After the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, most of these colonists became citizens of increasingly exclusionary nationalist states like Hungary and the newfound Yugoslavia. The radicalization of nationalism with ethnic or racialized markers—along with the maelstrom of war and nationalist irredentism—created an environment of revanchism. After the war, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Yugoslavia attempted to purify their national spaces along lines of homogeneity, with Polish Secretary Gomułka insisting that “countries are built on national lines and not on multinational ones.” Similar to the Hitlerian and Stalinist concepts of collective responsibility, all ethnic Germans were jailed, expelled, or executed as enemies of the state for the atrocities of the Third Reich. By 1950, at least 10,000,000 ethnic Germans had been forcibly removed, with as many as 400,000 civilians dead. Yugoslavia's German population of over 509,000 dropped to only 53,000 by 1961 due to mass fleeing, expulsion, and emigration in response to intense government persecution and forced labor in internment camps (see our article). The majority of these Swabians settled in Germany, Austria, Canada, and the United States, where they coalesced into an identity-in-exile as Danube Swabians (Donauschwaben).

There is a significant body of primary source material written by Danube Swabians, including memoirs, diaries, family genealogies, obituaries, and even scholarly writings of survivors and their descendants. Many of these are posted on websites, others published into books as personal narratives and village recollections (Heimatbücher), and many are compiled into massive compendia by Swabian cultural organizations. They are riddled with discussions of “Greater Serbian” chauvinism, Swabian “conscription” into the SS, communist cruelty, and genocidal injustice against an innocent civilian population. Other writings and scholarly publications are circulated by expellee rights groups. Both of these types of source material will be investigated in this essay. The veracity of their claims is irrelevant, since what is important here is the historical memory and sacral myths of the expellee identity.

The two myths that pervade the accounts are a survivor complex and an innocence complex. The survivor complex is most upheld by stories of selflessness, heroism, sacrifice for one’s family, protecting others’ children, and overcoming starvation, the exhaustion of forced labor, and rat-infested hygiene. Overcoming a stolen innocence is itself survival. Tales of defiance against Yugoslav guards, strategies to secure extra rations and maintain social bonds also exemplify this survivorhood. The innocence complex argues that the Danube Swabians were peaceful, introverted workers who became yet another victim of "Hitler's war" and the "world evil" of communism (Leidensweg I, 748). This is most reflected by their recurring argument that the “death camps” were dominated by the "innocent" elderly, the sick, and children, since most of the men were jailed as POWs, deported to the Soviet Union for “reconstruction” labor, or executed. The complex is also captured by frequent stories of family simplicity and childhood innocence degenerating into tales of women being forced to line up for the Soviets' drunken sexual rage as the guards were bribed with liquor to look the other way (Büttner, Hoover Archives, 6). The consistent descriptions of children separated from their mothers, parents from their grandparents, and the starvation of the sick—both male and female—bespeaks this claim to innocence.

These two complexes define the expellee experience as one of victimized innocence and heroic survival in the face of “genocide.” The use of vocabulary like Vernichtungslager (“extermination camp”) simultaneously sustains the myths of being subjected to, and overcoming, the unspeakable. For both complexes, the sources show that the victimization of women represents the highest expression of the violation of a sacralized innocence. Therefore, women have the power to define what it means to be Danube Swabian. Sometimes what women are ascribed to represent is more important than the female voices themselves. What follows is an analysis of two different types of recollections: individual memoirs, and the publications of expellee groups. Each type has a different function in defining their collective historical memory and identity, as discussed below. The paper will dissect writings of not only women, but male children and elderly to unlock this concept of innocence that women embody. It will show that women can represent the severity of war-time atrocity and the nature of ethnic cleansing.

The first category—personal memoir books—is significant in defining the expellee identity. What is important for this analysis is not the individuals or the details, but the imagery and representations they evoke in their memory. There are dozens of books written by female survivors and about other women who overcame “evil.” These women are “celebritized” by expellee groups, at conferences, on message boards, and on websites, thereby demonstrating the power of women in shaping the discourse on the German expellees. Their books are ubiquitous on “suggested reading” lists and they are immensely sought after in expellee gatherings and at academic conferences. After being internalized by their Danube Swabian readers, their tales of suffering recall what it means to be part of the Danube Swabian experience. I have seen many of these survivors drawn to tears after hearing such recollections of trauma, thus proving the connection between their suffering and their sense of selfhood. It is important that most of these books about women depict children or the elderly. In other words, they either describe how female children no older than five survived “against all olds” or frail elderly mothers still traumatized by the horrors of their childhood. Both reinforce the claim to innocence, instilling in the reader the same implied question of the authors themselves: “why was I considered Nazi criminal when I was just a little girl playing with flowers?” This reveals that victimized women must be seen in the light of a larger conception of “innocence” that includes children and the aged, particularly since women too young to be raped can still be subjected to victimization and trauma.

A prominent example of personal memoirs is Elizabeth Walter, most famous for Barefoot in the Rubble. Because she represents the suffering of young children, she is a frequent guest at conferences and cultural gatherings. Only five when she was imprisoned with her whole family in a Yugoslav “death camp,” her story exemplifies the Swabian image of innocents being victimized solely because of their ethnicity. Both for herself and for her community, she insists that “the only crime we had committed was to be born ethnic German” (Walter, 36). Her claim that she is part of a larger community of innocent victims is best captured by her statement that after the Nazis had been defeated, “we…had to continue to pay for Nazi Germany’s actions” (Ibid., 41). Simultaneously, her story of building new lives in Hungary, occupied Germany, and the United States invokes both the survivor and innocence complexes so central to their social identity. A central theme in her work is that at the same time as she was supposedly a “criminal,” she was only just beginning to understand the world around her, playing childish games and struggling with authority. “At the tender age of four, I was considered an enemy of the people. A Nazi. A word that no four-year-old could even know the meaning of what it stood for.” (Ibid., 35). Images of a young girl with no shoes playing with snails occur against the backdrop of rape, starvation, and mass graves. This dichotomy is expressed in her own artwork, which is populated by images of sad, emaciated children behind barbed wire. Her paintings have been used widely at expellee gatherings and on websites because of their power in conjuring this innocence complex.

Walter’s account is predominated by images of abused young women and violated elders, concepts that an innocent child could barely understand but could still inflict trauma on her personal identity. She is emphatic that these “death camps” were dominated by innocent elderly, the sick, and children, rather than “guilty” SS criminals. (Ibid., 59).The Swabian victims were dehumanized and treated as material. Children and mothers were a “burden” to be “disposed of” since they could not work toward socialism. She argues that most of those deported for forced labor in the USSR were women, thereby asserting that “even though” they were women, their dignity was taken away and they were subjected to the bodily exhaustion expected of men. She recalls her memory that “beatings, rapes and killings took place everywhere” and how teenage women killed themselves to avoid suffering the indignity of cases like a ninety-five year-old great-grandmother being tossed out of a wagon and raped ( (Ibid., 20). She describes traumas of mothers being taken away from their own children to be deported to the Soviet Union for the forced labor of “reconstruction.” She notes that mothers who were breastfeeding avoided the loss of their children until weaning was complete. However, she sadly recalls how many mothers pretended desperately to extend this period in order to avoid never seeing their own children again (Ibid., 23).

The separation of families is critical and pervades almost all accounts of the ethnic cleansing. It is critical because it defines the expulsions as a violation of the most sacralized markers of innocence: motherhood, children, and the family itself. The bond between mother and child has been forcibly severed. This is a violation that transcends sexual violence itself. It is an assault on the very essence of Danube Swabian life. Similarly, the Yugoslav seizure of their “ancestral homes” further symbolized the death of the family and the destruction of homeland (Heimat). Central to this “loss complex” was the fact that the Germans were uprooted from “their” Danube river, the “umbilical cord to our past, to our ancestors who had build our own Heimatland.” (Ibid., 102).For these symbolic reasons expressed in Elizabeth Walter’s writings, she is a microcosm of the larger Danube Swabian sense of self, a community dependent upon innocence, suffering, and tragic loss. She considered how mothers would tell stories of their culture as they washed their families' clothing in the river, a culture now lost . Here we see how women and mothers have the power to both transmit and represent the myths of homeland that define a people.

Another example of a personal memoir is A Pebble in My Shoe, written by Katherine Hoeger Flotz and her husband George. Because of the innocence and suffering her story represents, her work is circulated as suggested reading on websites and in the endnotes of expellee scholarship. She is even studied by historian Charles Barber as a gateway into what it means to be Danube Swabian. The book revolves around her and her husband's stories as two child survivors of Yugoslav pogroms and “extermination camps” like Gakowa. The fact that both of their accounts express similar imagery of a “stolen innocence” demonstrates that what is important here is not male or female, but representation of the sacred. Her struggles to overcome crippling illness and starvation, the death of her parents, and escape the “death camps” to build a new home in America reflects the survivor complex that is central to what it means to be a Danube Swabian. Peppered by Biblical quotes and stories of nightmarish trauma that haunted them into their old age, their memoirs maintain the same symbols of victimization used in Walter’s Barefoot in the Rubble.

Jailed at age nine, Flotz describes how the peaceful childhood memories like feeding chickens with the family (Flotz, 26) were replaced by memories of rape, starvation, disease, and severed families (Landry, 170). Her memoirs are perhaps more revealing than Walter’s in proving that women must be interpreted alongside children and the elderly as part of “the innocent.” She repeats that women and the elderly were raped and whipped “for no reason” by Yugoslav partisans. Women had to “line up” and be selected “for their pleasure.” (Flotz, 41). Therefore, women and the innocent no longer possessed sacralized, dignified bodies, but were dehumanized as objects that were “desecrated.” She especially bemoans the destruction of the sacralized bonds of family. She does so by pointing out the anguish of small children being told that their mothers were dead, husbands burying their own wives, children almost bald from malnourishment, and children having to learn to walk all over again to recuperate from their suffering. She describes a nation of orphans, with innocent children being taken away from their executed parents to become resources in the cog of a supposedly nefarious socialist system (Ibid., 41). She refers to the trauma of seeing mass graves filled with children who starved to death or were beaten to death. She describes cases of partisans almost shooting grandmothers but, instead, taking pleasure in methods more focused on violation. In one case, they supposedly bound a grandmother’s hands behind her back with a wire, threw her down a flight of stairs, pulled her up to the top by her hair, and repeated until she was dead. Another eighty-year-old was supposedly raped and left virtually naked, begged for food, and then froze to death in a dilapidated shack. (Ibid., 103).In terms of representation, she is speaking of something far more significant than sexual violence or atrocity. This was not a mere murder or rape. She is lamenting the defilement of sacred boundaries, the ultimate crime against innocents. According to the Danube Swabian historical memory, this was the destruction of dignity and humanity. It was, conveniently, the supreme evidence that their innocent people suffered a human rights tragedy that must be answered for.

At the same time, Flotz’s memoirs capture many of the notions of a hero or survivor complex that defines what it means to be a Donauschwaben. Women can often represent bravery as well a victimhood. Precisely because the “violated” family was so sacral, expellee accounts like this are rife with stories of sacrifice for children, husbands, and wives. This is perhaps best reflected in how her mother risked her life to steal sustenance and everyday toys for her family. Flotz asked her mother “weren’t you afraid?” (Ibid., 21).Such examples reveal the sense of heroic dignity ingrained in the expellees’ historical memory and, conversely, the gravity of the atrocity when it is taken away. In another case, she refers to women who were supposedly ordered to line up for forced prostitution for the guards. One woman stepped forward and volunteered. In response to others’ admonitions, she exclaimed defiantly, “I will sacrifice myself for all of you.” This act of bravery repelled the guards, who supposedly were not interested in “pleasure without force.” (Ibid., 44). Other examples point to heroic mothers who brought three boys across Europe to safety against all odds. There are persistent depictions of women who stole extra flour to compliment the rations of starving children, even those not from the same family. As Flotz’s personal memoirs show, women can represent both hero and victim in historical memory and sustain the very meaning of a social identity.

The third and final example of memoir books is Ingrid Andor’s Bread on my Mother’s Table. Although she is a descendant and her mother an expellee, the story engages the dynamic of Swabian myths, motherhood, and trauma. The book revolves around her mother’s survival of the “death camps,” her traumas, and her heroic escape to build a new proud life for her family in America. It begins with suffering innocents and ends with heroic survival in a new world. It is unique among the three in its focus on the family both during and after the expulsions. In the face of mass death, the survival of the Swabians depended upon the survival of "the family." At the center of this family was the nurturing mother, the very epitome of the Swabian innocence complex. She was inspired to write the book in order to determine what could inflict such life-long trauma on her aged mother. She shows how myths of suffering became embedded in the identity of the family and their descendants. She notes how the very being of her mother was shaped by her trauma. Interestingly, the author was also stimulated by her perception that the Swabian “genocide” had been "hidden."

The great majority of her mother’s accounts speak to the innocence complex. Like the other survivors, she laments seeing partisans “searching for women for their night revelry.” (Andor, 10). Flotz repeats cases of “women of all ages” being “raped repeatedly, and some were even found crucified, hanging naked from barn doors.” (Ibid., 57).She weaps over the memory of “young, beautiful, blond-haired Danube Swabian women” being “taken from their farms and placed in a brothel.” Thereafter, they “all got syphilis” and the few who survived were summarily shot in a pasture. Her accounts are riddled with rapes, “close calls,” and cases of guards blackmailing women to submit to sex in order to avoid being executed. One story particularly embodies the innocence complex she attempts to invoke. One young girl returned “with her clothing disheveled and her innocence destroyed” as she sat “tearfully in the fields” playing a game from her innocent childhood for consolation. (Ibid., 29). As in Flotz’s account, these sacralized young women were converted into desecrated, dishonored, and dehumanized objects. Prostitution and infection best demonstrated that these “innocent” women had even lost control over their own bodies and personhood. This is reinforced by her description of forced impregnation and women whose bodies were so damaged from starvation and rape that they were unable to produce for the rest of their lives.

Andor’s emphasis of suffering women must be seen in the larger complex of sacralized boundaries and “loss.” Her descriptions of rape, pregnancy, sexual disease, and barren women speak to much more than sexual violence against women. They represent a direct assault on the female role of motherhood. Similarly, the book revolves around the destruction of the family itself. The seizure of German property and their expulsion destroyed sacralized foundations of home, family, and one’s own identity. Similarly to the other authors, Andor often discusses the abuse of children in the same context as victimized women. She recalls her trauma of seeing infants “abducted from their carriages” (Ibid., 47).and children being seized from their parents and placed in orphanages to be raised “as Serbians.” (Ibid., 97).In this, German children —both male and female—have lost control over their own bodies, freedom, and selfhood. They have become drones and material for what the expellees regard as an "evil" socialist system. Alongside the ravaged woman, we must understand that the family, the homeland, and their children have also been supposedly defiled. For these reasons, sexual violence against women must be recognized as part of the larger violation of a sacralized complex of innocence.

The second type of primary sources—publications by expellee advocacy groups—must be interpreted separately. Whereas memoir books tell us more about the historical memory of individuals, organized publications inform us about the beliefs that mobilize the Danube Swabian community as an identity in the public sphere. The issues they discuss, the sources they use, and the histories they write define their collective experience. In other words, expellee publications operate as the voice of their identity-in-exile even for future generations (Leidensweg, 1). The myths espoused in expellee literature help survivors, descendants, and advocates make sense of the ethnic cleansing and set the discourse on the subject. Virtually all of the symbolism and the complexes seen in the personal memoirs are found in these organized writings. Many publications depict a romantic history of Germans settling peacefully in East-Central Europe, constructing massive urban trade centers, and a radiant philosophical tradition of ostdeutsche Denker (East German thinkers) (Ostdeutsches Lesebuch I). Other pamphlets assert Swabian innocence by emphasizing human rights, minority autonomy, and the right to homeland. Other organizations have published specific histories on children and women in Prussia prior to their mass violation (Ewert and Pollmann). Little has been written on Swabian women from a gendered perspective. Major groups like the Bund der Vertriebenen (Federation of Expellees) sends out pamphlets regularly on struggles for restitution and political representation. In fact, the Bund is led by the female Erika Steinbach. More importantly, organized publications also give an official, scholarly legitimacy to the community and its interests to “make their story heard.” For these reasons, organized publications must be analyzed to fully understand the innocence complex and what women represent among expellees. These groups are in the position to define how women are represented in their expellee literature and in general discourse for future generations. Whilst there are dozens of such cultural groups in Germany, Austria, Canada, and the United States, the foremost is the donauschwäbische Kulturstiftung (Danube Swabian Cultural Foundation), or DK.

To unlock this “official” identity and womanhood, this project will analyze the central compendium of the DK, the Leidensweg der Deutschen im kommunistischen Jugoslawien (“The Passion of the Germans in Communist Yugoslavia”). Published in 1995 as a compilation of four, one-thousand-page volumes, it forms the “canon” of the Danube Swabian version of history. The four books include a complete history, town histories, personal accounts, stories about the traumas of orphans, and “death list” records of families, women, and children. What is important for our analysis is the how they frame their history, the personal accounts they choose, and what they tell us about what women represent.

The compendium’s interpretation of history is critical because it underscores their claim to innocence and victimizing injustice. It is according to this framework that we must study how the book depicts violence against women. It presents Swabian history as a peaceful settlement along an almost unpopulated frontier, not with the sword, “but the ploughshare.” (Ibid., 6). It paints the next centuries with imagery of proud traditions, tight-knit religious communities, and frontiers converted into European breadbaskets by their Germanic efficiency. Because of this "mutual" growth, the Germans soon controlled 40-45% of Yugoslav industry despite being only 20% of the population. (Ibid., 880. It emphasizes a “Greater Serbian” nationalism that progressively stripped away German rights to language and property (Ibid., 7). . It presents pan-German or even pro-Nazi sentiment as an inevitable result of Swabians’ desperation to secure their basic “human rights” in the face of Serbian discrimination and “politics of reprisal.” (Ibid., 38). It repeatedly insists that the participation of Swabian civilians in the atrocities of the SS was the result of forced “conscription” by the Wehrmacht. This version of history maintains the complex of innocence among the Danube Swabian community. Therefore, violence inflicted upon them ad women in the expulsions was a genocidal crime of violation “of the first order.” (Ibid., 2). The Yugoslav partisans were fighting a “crusade against a mythic demon” that was not Hitler, but Germandom itself as a bacillus to be purged (Ibid., 8). The book’s vocabulary reflects this image, including words like Psychoterror, Säuberung (cleansing), Volksmord (race murder), Vernichtung (extermination), Massenliquidierung, Vergewaltigung (rape), and Unschuld (innocence).

The compendium consistently emphasizes the guiltlessness of the “peaceful” Danube Swabians in the atrocities of the Third Reich. Such emotive trauma is evoked by the man who questioned God after losing his children: “God, I’ll never see them again. God in Heaven, how can you watch along?” (Ibid., 671). A different account reflected that “yes, it was our destiny, but not our guilt, that broke our homeland.” (Ibid., 275). Another lamented the “plundering in a peaceful village with full barns [of harvest].” (Ibid., 249). Others wondered why their “oasis of peace” that the Swabians had cultivated was converted into a “Golgotha of the helpless.” (Ibid., 650). The Swabian identity and its “official” publications insist that their “only crime was being born of a German mother…” For these reasons, the expellees see their identity as a collateral victim of Hitler’s war alongside Jews and Slavs. Just as Elizabeth Walter reflected, the innocent Swabians continued to pay an insurmountable cost for the actions of the Third Reich even after its fall. In fact, the book ends with a warning that their identity should demonstrate to the world the need for justice, humanity, and minority rights instead of the scourges of racism, raped women, orphaned children, broken families, and genocide that they endured.

The overwhelming majority of the book’s hundreds of selected accounts are negative. Unlike in the three personal memoirs above, women seldom represent the surviving hero in this work. Although a significant number are written by females, virtually all of the memoirs discuss sexual violence, dehumanization, and abuse of women. This strategy is intended to reinforce the myth of violated innocence. Peter Flanjak decried how “the Russians” (i.e. Soviets) supposedly “molested and raped all the women they could get a hold of…” (Ibid., 131). Josef Neidenbach painted the story of a partisan who first “looked for alcohol. Thereafter, women and girls were raped. 6 to 10 men per woman. 3 men who helped their women were shot immediately.” (Ibid., 133). According to Karl Bogner’s account, women were “stripped naked and taken out” and could not resist the “Vergewaltigungsversuche” (rape-cravings) of the partisans. After screaming and crying, the partisans got pliers and tore out a piece of flesh from her sexual organs. After the implied rape, she was shot. Importantly, women can be violated without physical contact, implying that we must look beyond rape in understanding what women represent. In telling his story, Nikolaus Franz derided how the dignified bodies of women were subjected to the same crippling work as male forced laborers for Yugoslav reconstruction. Another opposed how partisans would demean women by yelling, “German whores, now you’re going to Russia; there you will learn how to work!” (Ibid., 132). In all these cases, the sacralized women were being objectifying as material, losing control over their own bodies and dignity. Further, husbands being unable to protect their women symbolizes total helplessness (and innocence) in the face of great suffering and moral atrocity. Women represented and “proved” this innocence in wartime and during ethnic cleansing.

Like the personal memoirs above, the suffering of innocent women is almost always accompanied by descriptions of orphaned or starving children, the sick, and the elderly. As in the memoir books, expellee scholarship laments the destruction of the family, with one man lamenting how at the same time as Germans were being wiped out, their children were being taken from them and “sucked into a new national spirit” for socialist re-education as good Yugoslavs (Ibid., 853). In effect, the freedom and individuality of the most sacralized innocence—children—was being dismantled by their victimizers. This reaffirms the view that it is not merely women that is significant for this scholarship, but the sacralized boundaries that women, families, children, and the aged embodied. The innocence and suffering complex is best captured by the statement that the ethnic cleansing was a racist assault against “unarmed women, also those late in pregnancy” alongside “children and the sick only because of their German identity…” (Ibid., 2 ). Although many of these stories are questionable, what is more important is their selection by expellee organizations in order to assert the innocence complex that defines their community identity. The ethnic cleansing, they insist, was a “sadistic rage of victory…against unarmed people.” (Ibid., 249 ). It was humanity altogether that was being assaulted, rather than strictly the bodies of women.

As this research into the personal memoirs and "official" publications among Danube Swabians reveals, women play a central role in defining a community’s experience and its sense of selfhood. These primary sources speak to much more than rape and sexual violence. As we have seen, what women represent is often more powerful than their individual behavior itself. Women can be projected as heroes, as survivors, as victims, as mothers, and as the caretaker of a homeland that has been lost and destroyed. According to the cultural norms that the Swabians defined, such female roles can be viewed as the epitome of innocence alongside children and the elderly. When this innocence is assaulted, it magnifies the atrocity because it is a violation of sacral. Women can symbolize the severity and human catastrophe of wartime experience and the nature of ethnic cleansing. Since the expellee identity was rooted in a claim to innocence and unjust suffering, women have the power to sustain the very meaning of what it means to be a member of a community and a shared historical experience.



Archival Sources

“Bund der Vertriebenen Publications.“ Collection #2011C66-16.220, 1, Hoover Archives, Stanford University.

“A collection of about thirty papers dealing with suffering and migrations of German expellees from Silesia and the Sudetenland.” Louis Paul Lochner Collection, collection #XX031-9.12, 4:21, Hoover Archives, Stanford.

Primary Sources

Andor, Ingrid. Bread on my Mother’s Table: A Danube Swabian Remembers. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse, Inc., 2008.

Gruber, Wendelin. In the Claws of the Red Dragon. St. Michaelswerk, 1988.

Hoeger Flotz, Katherine. A Pebble in My Shoe. Palatine, IL: Pannonia Press, 2005.

The interviews and accounts in Landry, Brian. “Snapshots of a Nightmare: Recollections of Aged Danube Swabian Survivors of Post-WWII Genocide.” Ph.D. dissertation, Gonzaga University, 2008.

The hundreds of personal accounts in Leidensweg der Deutschen im kommunistischen Jugoslawien, Band I. Muenchen: Landesverband der Landsmannschaft der Donauschwaben; Donauschwäbische Kulturstifting, 1995.

The hundreds of personal accounts in Leidensweg der Deutschen im kommunistischen Jugoslawien, Band II. Muenchen: Landesverband der Landsmannschaft der Donauschwaben; Donauschwäbische Kulturstifting, 1995.

The hundreds of personal accounts in Leidensweg der Deutschen im kommunistischen Jugoslawien, Band III. Muenchen: Landesverband der Landsmannschaft der Donauschwaben; Donauschwäbische Kulturstifting, 1995.

The hundreds of personal accounts in Leidensweg der Deutschen im kommunistischen Jugoslawien, Band IV. Muenchen: Landesverband der Landsmannschaft der Donauschwaben; Donauschwäbische Kulturstifting, 1995.

Samuel, Wolfgang. War of our Childhood. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2002.

Walter, Elizabeth. Barefoot in the Rubble. Palatine, IL: Pannonia Press, 2000.

The personal accounts in Zayas, Alfred de. A Terrible Revenge. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 1986.

Secondary Sources

Mainstream Scholarship

Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. New York: Hill and Wang, 2001.

Bryant, Chad. Prague in Black. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Frommer, Benjamin. National Cleansing: Retribution against Nazi Collaborators in Postwar Czechoslovakia. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press 2004.

Heineman, Elizabeth. Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.

Jobbitt, Steven. “Playing the part: Hungarian boy scouts and the performance of trauma in interwar Hungary.” American Hungarian Educators Association (2001).

MacDonogh, Giles. After the Reich. New York: Basic Books, 2007.

Mayfield, James. "Commemoration and restitution for German expellees ignored by the German, Polish, and Czech governments." http://expelledgermans.org/germanexpellees.htm

Mayfield, James. “The forced labour, imprisonment, expulsion, and emigration of the Germans of Yugoslavia." Institute for Research of Expelled Germans." http://expelledgermans.org/danubegermans.htm

Naimark, Norman. Fires of Hatred. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Naimark, The Russians in Germany (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997.

Singleton, Frederick Bernard. A Short History of the Yugoslav Peoples. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Ther, Philipp. Redrawing Nations. Landham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2001.

Zayas, Alfred de. Nemesis at Potsdam. Rockland, ME: Picton Press, 1998.

Zayas, Alfred de. A Terrible Revenge. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 1986.

Expellee Organization Scholarship

Bärbel, Gafert. “Kinder der Flucht - Kinder der Vertreibung 1945-1948.“ http://breslau- wroclaw.de/wb/media/stammtisch/berlin/20071129_kinder_von_breslau_1945.pdf

Blumenwitz, David. Minderheitenschutz und Demokratie. Duncker & Humblot, 2004.

“The Charter of German Homeland Expellees,” Bund der Vertriebenen.

Ewert, Erna and Pollmann, Marga. Frauen in Königsberg 1945-1948. Kulturstiftung der deutschen Vertriebenen, 2000.
Kimminich, Otto. Das Recht auf die Heimat. Osmipress, 1978.

Ostdeutsches Lesebuch I: Deutsche Dichtung der Jahrhundermitte von Baltikum bis zum Banat (Kulturstiftung der deutschen Vertriebenen, 1984).

Wohlandt, Gerd. Ostdeutsche Denker (Kulturstiftung der deutschen Vertriebenen, 1992).