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Letter to Anja Moric

Verfasst: So Feb 12, 2023 5:58 pm
von John Tschinkel
Beitrag von John Tschinkel » Sa 9. Mai 2015, 21:23

Dear Anja Moric,

Thank you for your e/mail response to my “Open letter to Anja Moric” which I posted on the Gottschee Forum.

Since then, I read (and re-read) your Diplomsko Delo: “Usoda Kočevskih Nemcev; Ohranjanje Identitete Kočevskih Nemcev” dated Ljubljana 2007.

On page 9 of “Usoda …” you list the Biography of Ludwig Kren. There you say that Kren was editor of the Gottscheer Zeitung in Klagenfurt between the years 1971-1996. However, you fail to mention that between 1939 and 1941, Kren was Assistant Editor to Herbert Erker who edited the Zeitung during the same period, i.e. the newspaper that was used to persuade the Gottscheer to give up their homeland. (Such omission is standard in Gottscheer writings describing the biographies of their leaders of that time). Erker became the editor of Klagenfurt version in 1962 and remained such until Kren took over in 1971. That you also made this omission is not surprising given that Kren was the principal source of information for your Diplomsko Delo.

The objective of the Diplomsko Delo was, as you say in the summary: “In this diploma work, I tried to introduce the keeping of Gottscheer German’s identity in the present time and also to try to find out which sort of identity is kept the most. I was also interested in the role of the Gottscheer associations, in which the Gottscheer Germans and Slovenia are trying to unite.” But in your summary you do not give even a hint that this may be happening.

In your e/mail of April 28 you said that you are “aware of historical facts.” Of course, 8 years have passed since your Diplomsko Delo and perhaps now you are more “aware” of the attitude of the Gottscheer Arbeitsgemeinschaft vis-a vis Slovenia. (The AG was formed in 1960 and chaired ever since by Viktor Michitsch).

However, I wonder if you are fully “aware” of the ongoing hostile posture which I described in my “Open letter”. (The attempt to deny Slovenia membership in the EU and the ongoing effort for return of properties are only a few examples of such hostilities). The two Gottscheer organizations in Slovenia both resigned their membership in the AG due to this. The GHGA, a member of the AG and fully aware of this hostility, however, did not resign. Instead, it continues to send its directors to policy meetings where these postures are formulated.

It is likely that even now (2015) you are unaware that this hostile posture has been propagated by Kren and Erker who, edited the Gottscheer Zeitung for 34 years after 1962. This is when the first editor Fritz Högler (1955-1962) was forced to resign because he resisted the renewed politization of the paper. After 1962, Högler became Editor of the “Gottscheer Gedenkstätte”, the Gottscheer Association in Graz. This association was a fierce opponent of Klagenfurt and deeply committed to stay unpolitical and keep the former Nazi’s out of its leadership ranks. (In 1997 Kren tried, illegally and unsuccessfully, to take over the Gedenkstätte. (See the “Gedenkstätte” publication of Jan/Feb 1997).

The main objective of the GZ under Kren and Erker was to deflect any blame for the tragedy of the “Umsiedlung” from the Lampeter Nazi leadership and transfer this blame onto the Slovene. Examples of such blame were the closing of German schools, the firing of school teachers, denial of ethnic rights, forced assimilation, etc, etc. (Any Nazi connection was carefully omitted). While there was some truth to this immediately after WWI, the repeated delivery of these highly exaggerated facts was used to instill this as Mantra in the Gottscheer diaspora. This Mantra was, willingly, accepted by those who needed comforting reassurance for abandoning their homeland. Especially by those who were given refuge in the US while hiding or denying any connection to the defeated Nazi war machine. (Some immigrants were actually deported when the authorities discovered lies on the immigrant’s application. I too, denied that I was a member of the Hitler Youth and was relieved that the consulate official, who reviewed my immigration application in 1950, did not probe deeper).

The Mantra was also willingly accepted by those Gottscheer who immigrated to America and Canada before WWII. These folks, totally cut off from their former homeland during the war, were completely unaware (until after 1945) that a resettlement had even taken place and, of course, they had no idea that the resettlement was executed by the then Gottscheer Nazi leadership under SS Sturmbannführer Lampeter.

However, immediately after 1945, they united in an organization called “Hilfswerk” to help their, now homeless, friends and relatives. The leader of this noble effort was Adolf Schauer, a truly honorable Gottscheer, who was instrumental in opening the floodgates that allowed the homeless to immigrate to the US.

These floodgates allowed also the influx of Lampeter’s closest associates. And by 1966, the entire board of trustees of the “Hilfswerk” was already composed of these recent immigrants, displacing former trustees. (See Petschauer, page 152). Its president became Ernst Eppich who came to the US in 1952. Eppich, 20 years old in 1941, then a likely candidate, if not a participant, in Lampeter’s storm trooper organizations. (Similar to the other members on the “Hilfswerk” board). And in 1970, Ernst Eppich was made an “Honorary Member” in the Gottscheer Landsmannschaft in Germany. Its president was no other than Richard Lackner, Lampeter’s right hand man in 1941.

After the resumption of the GZ in 1955, leaders of Gottscheer organization in the US made their annual pilgrimage to meetings in Germany and Austria where Erker, Kren, Lackner and Michitsch were always present. There, most of these American leaders were made “Honored Members” and given “Medals” and “Honor Rings”. And after their return home they made certain that the Mantra, adopted at these meetings became solidified in the US. That this succeeded is evident in the writings of Gottscheer immigrants in which the Mantra -- blame the Slovene – always dominates.

The Mantra was threatened when Hans Herman Frensing published the results of his research in “Die Umsiedlung der Gottscheer Deutschen” in 1970. (The Resettlement of the Gottscheer Germans). To prevent its publication Frensing was extensively pressured by the AG. And after it appeared, most copies were immediately purchased by organizations under the AG to keep it out of the hands of readers.

To counteract Frensing, the AG commissioned Erich Petschauer in 1971 to write his “Jahrhundertbuch”. (The English translation appeared in 1984). Not surprising, the Mantra continued to dominate in this book as well and any reference to a Nazi connection was carefully avoided.

The biggest threat to the Mantra arrived from the Internet. This is where divergent opinions as well as rebuttals, can be published freely. However, the owner of was threatened by Victor Michitsch with a law suit unless entries conflicting with the Mantra were removed. (The owner did not respond). Also, Viktor Michitsch publicly castigated Georg Marschnig for writing and publishing his 2009 PhD Dissertation “Gottschee Global” on the Internet. And Michitsch threatened me with legal action and publicly denounced me in the Zeitung for breaking “Omerta”.

In your diploma work you say: “I tried to / … / introduce the keeping of Gottscheer German’s identity in the present time and also to try to find out which sort of identity is kept the most”. And you also say: “I was also interested in the role of the Gottscheer associations, in which the Gottscheer Germans and Slovenia are trying to unite”.

Regarding your first objective you may have already come to realize that the Mantra is kept alive but remains hidden under a feel-good sentiment (Heimatschollenseligkeit) over our heritage. This will no doubt become apparent in Toronto where Bob Reese surely will not violate the Mantra when he talks about the resettlement.

Regarding the second objectives, you cannot but conclude that, given the ongoing hostility between the AG and Slovenia, a likelihood for reconciliation between the two does not exist. However, you might point out in your June speech in Toronto that a resignation of the GHGA from the AG would be a meaningful gesture of friendship toward Slovenia. I believe many Gottscheer would welcome this. It would bring honor to the GHGA and admiration for you for defending your fellow Slovene and your Country.

With best wishes, John Tschinkel, 6 May, 2015
John Tschinkel