German activist on Germany’s responsibility


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,     June 4

Karlheinz Koppe sent us a most interesting article to follow up on the
question posed by Hans Sinn re: why Germany would have helped cause the
disaster in the Balkans (cf. RN posting of May 14, '99)

I was interested to learn a bit more about who the author, Karlheinz Koppe,
is and I'm sure you will as well.

He is now 70 years old and has cooperated with Hans Sinn on many issues
relating to civilian defence and voluntary peace services. He was the
director of the
German Society for Peace and Conflict Research from 1971 to his retitement
in 1995. He also served as chairman of the German branch of Pax Christi
from 1987 to 1995 and Secretary General of the International Peace Research
Association IPRA from 1993 to 1997. It seems clear that his early
experience of WW II influenced his later involvement in peace research, for
Karlheinz was a deserter from the German army (at the age of 15!) early in

The homepage of IPRA is:

And now on to the article:
Date: Sat, 29 May 1999 13:40:00 +0200
From: karlheinz koppe <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: German Responsibility for the Kosovo War

There are lots of reasons, most of them miscalculations, that incited the
then German Foreign Minister Hans Dietrich Genscher (to whom I pay my
highest respect for his performance as Foreign Minister in all other
matters, especially in promoting the Helsinki process which led to the
Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europa - OECD - and finally to
the end of the Cold War) to start the destablization process in the Balkans
by a premature recognition of Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia. I would
not subscribe to a sort of conspiration theory or longtime deliberated
strategy. The miscalculation of Genscher (followed by most other Western
political actors) belongs rather to the phenomenon described by Barbara
Tuchman as "The March of Folly" (New York, 1984 - the German title is still
more instructive: Die Torheit der Regierenden, The Folly of Those Who
Govern), but once the process [was] initiated, others, especially the US
Administration, [took advantage] - this time indeed deliberately - of the
opportunity to destroy Yugoslavia for many reasons and among them economic
ones not the least. I would add that neither the German Federal Government
nor the White House and the British Prime Minister calculated the
disastrous consequences (the atrocities of the "ethnical cleansing", the
huge numbers of refugees from nearly all parts of the former Yugoslav
Republics) despite serious warnings from peace researchers, peace
activists, and even foreign ministry and military experts: The Western
Governments wanted a heap of small quasi-sovereign Balkan States which they
thought more easily to dominate und economically to control. But instead
they got a destabilized region of which the reconstruction, once the Kosovo
war [ends] (no one knows when and under which conditions this may happen),
will become a heavy economic and political burden not only for the region
but for the NATO allies as well. And it will become a special burden for
the Federal Government, if one considers that the majority of refugees
tries to enter and to stay in Germany. I doubt whether these burdens can be
be set off by economic incentives exspected from the reconstruction process.

(1) the diplomatic miscalculation

Genscher against all advices from the experts of his own Foreign Ministry
and - at this time - from the US as well as from France and Britain
sincerely believed that an early diplomatic recognition of Slovenia's and
Croatia's independence from Yugoslvia would stop the military action of the
central government in Belgrade by which the Yugoslav Government hoped to
end the secessionist moves in the Yugoslav republics, because at the very
moment of the existence of a sovereign Croatia (and Slovenia and later of
Macedonia and Bosnia) these actions would have become an aggression banned
by the UN Charter. And indeed Belgrade (Milosevic) stopped the military
activities and left the fighting to the Serb minoritiy in Croatia, which
succeeded at first by the proclamation of the Serb Republic of Krajina.
>From this moment on, Serbs - in the eyes of the German public opinion
manipulated by the Federal Government an the media - became collectively
the bad people in the Balkans. When later in the 90es Tudjman crashed the
Republika Krajina down and "cleaned ethnically" Croatia, there were no
serious protests from Germany. No one cared at this time of the 350,000 to
400,000 Serbian refugees, no one offered Belgrade any assistance to cope
with this problem. 

In Slovenia this strategy did not work, because the Serb minority there was
too small, the country being ethnically rather homogenous. Later, in
Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Serbs followed the same tactics and proclaimed the
Republika Srbska with the covert support from Belgrade.

When finally under heavy German pressure the European Union agreed on
December 17, 1991 to recognize Croatia on January 15, 1992, in order to
gain another fortnight for negociationg a compromise, Genscher personally
decided to declare this recognition prematurely on December 23 as a
"Christmas gift" to the Croat people. Rumours say that this early
recognition has been agreed by the White House in return for the German
financial contribution to the costs of the Gulf War II (some billions of

(2) The economic background

Croatia was of special interest for Germany since up to this time most
Yugoslav "Guest workers" came from Croatia for three reasons: first, many
Croat families had good knowledge of the German language due to the long
time political relationsship with Austria and to the alliance with Hitler
Germany after the occupation oif Yugoslavia in 1941, when the fascist
Ustasha regime was installed with German support (see point 3). Second,
geographically it was easier to go to Germany from Croatia than from other
republics. Croatia was the wealthiest part of Yugoslavia and many German
big and small industries invested in Croatia in  order to profit of the
cheap labor. Third, Croatia was the tourisst regionm especially by the fact
that the long Dalmation coastline belongs to this country. Hundred of
thousands, if not millions of German families spent cheap holidays in Croatia.

There was consequently a strong German interest to support Croatia's
independence so that the income send by the guest workers and from the
tourism remained exclusively in Croatia (prior to this time these incomes
have been distributed by the central government among all republics) and
became an additionmal source for German investments. Something similar
happened to Slovenia which became - seen the historical and economic ties -
practically the "tenth Land" (provincial state) of Austria.

(3) Traditional nationalistic links

Croats are considered as close friends of Germany because they have fought
during both World Wars on the German side. After the occupation of
Yugoslavia, because Serbs overthrow the Yugoslav Monarchy when it tried to
join the German-Italian "Axis", Croatia became a fascist Republic
(including Bosnia-Herzegowina!) which behaved towards Jews, Serbs, Gipsies
and Muslims even more cruel than the German SS divisions. Some hundred
thousands of Serbs has been murdered between 1941 an 1945. But the Federal
Government continued and still continues to favor Croatia in a spirit of
"Nibelungentreue" (faithfulness until death). After 1945 the Ustasha chiefs
could continue their propaganda from Vienna and Munich without any
intervention from the Austrian and German authorities. Finally the Croats
were emotionally privileged as Catholics, while the Serbs are Orthodox, a
split which dates back to the Seventh Century. It is said that the Vatican
intervened strongly at Genscher in favor of the recognition of Croatia's

(4) The Serbs as traditional enemies of Germany

In the same way as Croats are presented in the German public opinion as
"traditional friends", Serbs are presented as "traditional enemies" of the
Germans (in Austria and Germany alike). The Serbs remember that the
outbreak of WW I started with a "Strafaktion" (punishment) against Serbia
because of the assissinate of the Austrian "Thronfolger" (crown prince)
July 1914 in Sarajewo. They remember the second "Strafaktion" April 19141
when Serbs refused to join the Hitler alliance. Until today the brave and
heroic Serb resistance against the German occupation ist hardly mentioned.
This resistance was much more effective and successful than the resistance
movemnets in France, Norway or Italy.
We shoulöd therefore not be surprised that the Serbs consider the German
support to Croatia in 1991 as a third "Strafaktion". And the participation
of the German Air Force in the bombing of Serbia just now reminds them
inevitably the bombing of Belgrade by Hitler's air force on April 6 and 7,

Taken all these considerations together I can only state that the German
Federal Government is highly responsible for the starting of the
destabilization of Yugoslavia. It may be true that at the beginning all
NATO governments were convinced that the dissolution of Yugoslavia will not
end in a war that goes into its tenth year. There was therefore no
political follow up assessment. Especially the White House thought that the
independence of Croatia was some gift to the Federal Government for its
loyality to the USA. Once engaged in this process the US became very
quickly the leader in this aventure still believing that the air raids will
end Serbia's role within a couple of days - a real March of Folly.

In the subconscience of many Germans and deliberately in the minds of many
political actors on the Right as well as on the Left (Greens included,
where we find conservative ecologists, liberal economists and leftist
pacifists) we see a sort of satisfaction that Germany participates in the
Kosovo War. Joschka Fischer compared the Serb policy against the Kosovo
Albanians with the Holocaust/Shoa - a scandalous and wrong comparison,
because the Holocaust is a terrible but unique example of a meditated and
systematic liquidation of a whole people, precedented perhaps by the
liquidation of Armenians by the Turks between 1915 and 1923 - Fischer
relativated later his statement in saying that it is a duty of Germans to
avoid another Auschwitz (Nie wieder Auschwitz!), but there is no other
Auschwitz in the Kosovo - the feelings of many Germans seem to be: We are
finally not the only people who is responsible of an Holocaust.

There is still an other feeling: Now many Germans feel freed of the
stigmatism of war criminals: We may not be better than others, but at least
we are not worse than others! So the participation of the Bundeswehr in
international wars, especially in the Kosovo, is considered as an
historical set-off of this stigmatization. Many Germans are proud that this
time we seem being on the right and bright side together with Americans and
Britons, we are no longer losers but winners. It is true that the Federal
Government - for the moment - refuses to be engaged in a ground combat, but
this attitude can change quickly once the Americans would be in favor of a
ground attack. It is also true that the Federal Government, especially the
green Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and the social-democrat Defense
Minister Rudolf Scharping, urges for new political-diplomatic approaches.
They are questioning NATO to investigate carefully why and how the Chinese
Embassy could have been hit by NATO rockets, because if there was on an old
city map of Belgrade no Chinese Embassy indicated, as NATO officers
pretend, but only a park (without buildings) why bomb a park? This
insistance and the apologies of Chancelor Schröder in Beijing did not
please neither the White House nor Solana. The motivation behind the German
reluctance is that the Federal Government fears that the still general
approval of the Kosovo war in the German public opinion may diminish in the
case of a ground combat. And this general approval is still needed for
domestic reasons: it gives the Federal Government an opportunity to hide
its failures in nearly all political matters.

The Kosovo tragedy is the consequence of just another March of Folly. Whe
NATO started to threat with air raids, Milosevic, well knowing that he
cannot stand the military potential of the NATO, decided to use a criminal
and inhuman weapon - chasing, violating, killing Kosovo Albanians: for
every NATO bomb one hundred Albanians. We are now at 10,000 bombs -
corresponding to one million of chased Albanians! Who can stand it longer?
Milosevivc the terrible bombing terrorising more and more Serbs or the NATO
governments coping with a million or more refugees threatened by starvation
and  epidemies?

(One will not find many comments of this type in German papers because
reasoning in this  way is considered as a "Nestbeschmutzung" (fouling of
ones own nest) and an injury to German interests and political standing.
There is no censorship in Germany, but a hidden censorship in the minds of
most actors and medias. I fear that the German anti-Serb policy together
with similar politics in the US and in Britain will be the most important
handicap for any equitable solution on the war in the Kosovo. The
indictment of Milosevic before the Court in The Hague, as just as it may
seem, is another prove that NATO does not want a political solution of this
war but a "victory" for which more than a million of Albanians and hundred
of thousands of Serbs will have to pay.)

Dr. h.c. Karlheinz Koppe
Senior Lecturer at the University of Muenster
Wurzerstrasse 136
D - 53175 Bonn, Germany
Tel&Fax: +49 (0)228 363603   email: •••@••.•••
Si vis pacem, para pacem