No One Ethnic Group
Has A Monopoly On Suffering

By Judy Andreas

A JOURNEY BACK TO YOUTH, is a World War 11 documentary which was produced in 2001.  In this powerful piece, Alexander Gutman, a Russian Jew, interviewed several German women who had survived a rape orgy and the subsequent unspeakable years in the Soviet Concentration Camps.  
Gutman's documentary uncovered the too often concealed facts from the history of the Second World War; events that occurred after the occupation of East Prussia by the Red Army. The women in the film had been mere teenagers at the time of their ordeal.  They had been among thousands of girls and women who were deported to the Soviet Union with the acquiescence of the Western powers, for slave labor.  The women in this film were among the vast numbers of tortured souls who barely survived the horrors of Stalin's camps;  horrors which they experienced alongside many fellow countrywomen and girls. 
In February 1945 at the Yalta Conference, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin agreed to a deal that would destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands (many say the real number was in the millions) of Germans; Secret Order 7161.  This order allowed the Red Army to "mobilize and intern for assignment to work in the USSR all able-bodied Germans".  In this manner the USSR's war ravaged economy was to be revitalized. With that decree the fate of four women ­ Charlotte, Traute, Delheid and Dora - was sealed. Along with thousands of others, they were forced to march to work camps and endure a regime of hard labor. On the way they were denied food and water.
"We weren't shot or killed, but we were more likely to die than to survive," Charlotte recalled.  "The Russians didn't care what happened to us. They told us that Germany was responsible for everything in the war and had to redeem its guilt."
Rape, humiliation, and torture were commonplace in the camp. "Scarcely a single girl avoided being raped," Charlotte stated. The Russian soldiers saw it as a "harmless form of amusement." Even more gruesome was the punishment reserved for those who stepped out of line.  Those unfortunate girls were stripped, laid on the floor, and beaten with a leather whip.
Charlotte's sister, Gretchen, became seriously ill during her punishment.  She was sent to an infirmary.  One day, Charlotte climbed in through the window to visit her sick sister.   Gretchen warned her: "Don't come back again or they will punish me." The next day Gretchen , who was critically ill with dysentery, was forced to clean the hut from top to bottom. Later, the guards told Charlotte: "If you want to see your sister, go to the morgue."  
Today Charlotte is free, but she will never be free of the memories and the pain. Those demons will haunt her for the rest of her life.
The mental and physical torture the detainees endured only ended when they were released after five years. But to their despair, they were not allowed to return to Germany.  They had nowhere to go."
However,  the suffering of the women did not end there. The most cruel irony is the blame these older Germans continue to endure from the young. Charlotte's daughters, Korina and Koni, hold her mother's generation accountable for the Second World War.
Gutman's documentary, A Journey Back To Youth, after being rejected by many film festivals, was finally accepted by the 34th International Film Festival in Houston Texas, where it won the main prize: the Platinum Remi Award.  However, when it came to New York City, the producer was confronted by loud protests and even death threats:
" He ought to be killed for making such a film.  Shame, a Jew making a movie about German suffering"
Why shouldn't a Jew make a movie about German suffering?   I applaud Mr. Gutman for putting truth above ethnicity.  Perhaps it is time that the world stops ignoring these victims of the war.  Perhaps it is time that the world opens its eyes to the suffering of the millions that is chooses to ignore.
Why is it that even today, the suffering of Germans deported to Russia during the Russian occupation of Germany goes unrecognized?   Forgive me for my naivete, readers, but isn't all suffering equal?   Aren't we all members of the human race?  In the eyes of American jurisprudence and in the eyes of God aren't all men created equal? 
"What really raises one's indignation against suffering is not suffering intrinsically, but the senselessness of suffering."  Friedrich Nietzsche
Copyright:  2006



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