Thomas Schirrmacher
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Michael Schwartz. Ethnic “Cleansing” in modern Times

22. Juli 2015 von · Leave a Comment 

Michael Schwartz. Ethnische ‚Säuberungen’ in der Moderne: Globale Wechselwirkungen nationalistischer und rassistischer Gewaltpolitik im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert: … Darstellungen Zur Zeitgeschichte, Band 95. Oldenbourg Verlag: München, 2013. 697 pp. € 69,00.

Michael Schwartz, a assistant professor at the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich-Berlin (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin) and a private lecturer at Münster University (Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster) for recent and modern history, has written a classic on a disturbing topic which should stir all free states around the world. It is quite rightly observed on the jacket of the book that

“Ethnic ‘cleansings’ are the dark side of our modern democratization and nation-building. As early as the 19th century, the Balcans and the non-European colonies developed into locations where this form of problem resolution was learned. Beginning in 1914, these techniques of violence came back to hit Europe. In both of the World Wars, their destructive power exceeded everything that anyone could have imagined. Since that time, developments in the world have been shaped by ethnic ‘cleansings.’ – from Palestine, India/Pakistan all the way to Rwanda, where in the past there would have been peaceful alternatives. Michael Schwartz describes the global connections and showcases the shocking diversity examples of acts of ethnic violence in our modern world. This difficulty has never been presented with more urgency and dedication.”

What is understood by ‘ethnic cleansing’ is the removal of an ethnic, national, or religious group from a certain territory. This occurs through violent displacement, resettlement, population exchange, deportation, or murder. The term emerged internationally during the wars in Yugoslavia in 1992 as a loan translation out of the Serbian (etničko čišćenje) and has established its use around the world over the past decade. The term and the word ‘cleansing’ always belong in quotation marks since it is a euphemistic expression by the perpetrator.

Of course, the term designates something which is much older. Ethnic ‘cleansing’ is in a certain sense a broader term for genocide, which represents the worst, but not the sole form, of ethnic ‘cleansing.’ On the back side of the book at hand, he above all refers to the intention to drive out or remove an ethnic group out of an area claimed by the perpetrators.

The victims of ethnic ‘cleansing’ often belong to a party (for instance an ethnic or religious group) which likewise has wings which utilize violence. Indeed, as the consequence of a planned population exchange, it can be that those who are perpetrators and victims in a region are found to be the victims and the perpetrators in another region. In the case of a shift in the distribution of power, revenge can result in perpetrators and victims exchanging roles.

The central thesis of the book is as follows: Ethnic ‘cleansings’ are unthinkable without the context of the modern West. They are closely linked with the emergence of modern nation states and with nationalism as a legitimization of modern states (p. 6). According to the historian Michael Schwartz, deportations and the displacement of people groups are the dark side of the building of nation states – up to the present day. In his new book he successfully places this thesis in a global context. Ethnic ‘cleansings’ are the signature of modernity. They are, as Michael Schwartz writes, the dark side of democratization and of the building of nation states: ‘The formation of ethnically homogeneous states has not been a natural development and in no case a peaceful development. Rather, it has been a violent process which has not been concluded’.

Surely there were ethnic ‘cleansings’ – according to Schwartz – in the past (7), above all at the beginning of the banishment of Muslims from Spain in the 17th century. This is when ethnic ‘cleansings’ gradually began to replace religious ‘cleansings.’ But present day Europe, according to Schwartz, actually did not begin until the Serbian and Greek revolts of 1804 und 1821, when the modern nationalism of Western and Central Europe leapt over to Eastern Europe (6). According to Schwartz, this is where one finds the final transition from religious to ethnic ‘cleansing’ (9). If in 1555 the saying was “cuius regio eius religio (who rules the region, decides on the religion),“ beginning in the 19th century it was “cuius regio eius natio“ (who rules the region decides on the nation). In 1555 it was set down that those who had the wrong religious affiliation had to emigrate – if not worse – and then it came to be applied to the wrong ethnic background.

Already according to the writings of Edward H. Carr (1945), ethnic ‘cleansings’ were seen to be a consequence of the 1789 French Revolution. That is when massive ‘sacrifices’ of human life were taken for granted for the idol of ‘nationalism.’ Therefore, genocide and ethnic ‘cleansings’ are inconceivable without the modern administrative state. This idea has been primarily defended by Zygmunt Bauman, for whom above all the holocaust would not have been conceivable without the modern industrial society and its bureaucracy. In such a society, the legal and authoritative guidelines and the breakdown of events into individual, rationally optimized processes technically and morally enabled things which as an overall picture would have actually scared away the parties involved. For this reason, the Holocaust was not the result of uncontrolled feelings. Rather, it was the result of the rationality of the modern state (Zygmunt Bauman. Dialectic of Modernity. London: Sage, 2000).

Schwartz provides many proofs and examples of this view, which extends far beyond genocide. Ethnic ‘cleansings’ are for that reason a part of modernity and, with that said, also a part of the history of democracy. They cannot be simply assigned to dictators.

“He correctly emphasizes that the comprehensive population exchange between Greece and Turkey, as was regulated in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, was if nothing else a work of two democratic states, namely France and Great Britain. And Churchill as well as Roosevelt saw their optional courses of action largely in relation to the world of experience brought on by Lausanne. Ethnic ‘cleansings’ thus actually not only comprise a dark side of modernity. Rather, they are also the dark side of democracy, as the American sociologist Michael Mann once formulated it” (Carsten Kretschmann, FAZ).

Schwartz addresses colonial genocide around 1900 in Southwest Africa, the Indian massacres of 1947, and our present day Near East conflicts, to mention just a couple of examples. They allow one to surmise that completeness with respect to his topic is not to be achieved, even if the term were to be specified more precisely and rigidly limited.

However, Schwartz mentions examples not only briefly. He takes them up more rigorously, handling them in a thorough manner. And he does this with respect to every ethnic ‘cleansing’ that has its own research debate. For instance, Schwartz does this with the question of the genocide of Armenians and the question of whether the displacement of Germans from Eastern Europe in 1945 comes under this rubric (according to Schwartz) or whether it was a ‘humane’ and legally enacted resettlement (according to what were once socialist states).

As a rule, however, Schwartz emphasizes certain features. On the one hand, that applies to the ‘early places of learning,’ above all in the Balkans, where nationalization and ethnic ‘cleansing’ have sinisterly gone hand in hand since the early 19th century. On the other hand, this applies to World War I, the consequence of which was not only that colonial powers ‘returned home.’ Rather, at the same time, people groups became victims of arbitrary treatment and violence: Armenians (‘genocidal deportation’) and likewise Greeks (‘deportation and genocide’) and Jews (‘impeded deportation’). Above all, however, this applies to the racist displacement and resettlement policies of the Nationalist Socialist regime, in particular with respect to the killing of Jews.

Schwartz treats “’cleansing’ settlement democracies in American and Australia in the 19th century (189-202), genocide and deportation in the colonies around 1900, for example in Southwest Africa and in the Philippines (202-219), and how this spilled over into colonies within Europe (220-235). What followed was “national liberation through displacement” with respect to Muslims in the 19th century: Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria (238-261); alternating projects of intervention and coexistence in Bosnia, Herzegovina, Croatia, and Macedonia (261-297), and the culmination in the 1912/13 Balkan wars (298-309) – in 1912 the victims were primarily Muslims and in 1913 primarily Christians.

All parties to World War I at least played with the thought of ethnic ‘cleansing,’ be it as an ‘ordered population exchange’ (309-318) or as displacement. The climax in World War I was the genocide of Armenians (61-98) and of Ottoman Greeks (98-114).

“The Concept of ethnic ‘cleansing’ in the intellectual discourse of World War I was not the sole possession of a single party involved in the war. Between 1914 and 1919, the fronts escalated on all sides. What fascinated intellectuals and academics was the thought of organizing a post-war future with ‘clean’ separations between nations and, with that, having peace, even thereby hoping to safeguard humanity” (60).

World War I brought on population movements in a magnitude which had been inconceivable up to that time. For instance, Czarist Russia itself deported 700,000 ethnic Germans and up to one million Jews from its western provinces to the east. The worst example of such excesses was surely the murder of Armenians by Turks.

According to Schwartz, there were three models (319-424) during the period between the World Wars from 1919-1939. There was the 1919 Versailles model with protection for minorities, which was hardly able to be asserted. There was the 1929 Moscow model with federalism and autonomy, and finally there was the model of the Lausanne Agreement, which planned peaceful population exchanges to avoid violent separation of ethnic groups but which in reality ended in ethnic ‘cleansings.’

The 1923 Lausanne +Agreement separated “Turks” and “Greeks” (396-424), for instance, whereby the forced resettlement of two million people from two empires became two nation-states. From 1918 to 1925, 1.38 million Germans living in Poland migrated to the scaled-down German Empire.

The Third Reich and the Holocaust are naturally featured (425-466), but so are the resettlement agreements of World War II generally (467-491). The transfer plans of the anti-Hitler coalition follow (492-519). Stalin’s punitive actions initially followed cries regarding class-struggle, but then increasingly became ethnic ‘cleansings’ (519-532). A very good presentation is made of the movement of refugees during World War II and displacement after World War II, with a total of 2 million deaths (532-564), and the 1946-1950 forced resettlement which was enacted (564-578). There were 31 million people in Central and Eastern Europe who became the victims of forced migration policies (579). In parallel, there were 30 million victims as part of decolonization, 4 million of whom met their death (579-580).

Schwartz gives a detailed discussion of the two large cases of ethnic ‘cleansing’ after 1945 with millions of victims, respectively: the displacement of Germans from central and eastern Europe (564-578) and the population exchange and displacement on the Indian subcontinent (580-599) when the British colony disintegrated into two states. In the process, the number of victims is difficult to estimate. Schwartz comes to a number of 17.5 million victims, of whom 200,000 – 600,000 were fatal victims (580-599). Finally, Schwartz presents the situation in Israel and Palestine since 1947 (600-621).

From my point of view, it is very unfortunate that the book ends at around 1950 – apart from brief perspectives on Palestine and the Indian subcontinent. What has happened since 1950? What has happened in eponymous Serbia? How does the thesis of modernity as a precondition for ethnic ‘cleansings’ relate to ‘cleansings’ in Africa (e.g., Sudan) or in the Near East (e.g., Turkey and the Kurds, IS in Syria and Iraq)? One can only hope that the author makes up for this in a subsequent volume in order to bring the debate completely up to date!

Not always, but often and above all at the beginning, resettlements and population exchanges have been planned as civil and sensible means. However, practically without exception, they have slowly or more quickly slipped into violent conflicts. For instance, this occurred at the end of the British colonial era in India, where theoretically all Muslims were released to resettle in Pakistan. Hindus were likewise released to leave Pakistan. And yet, when the stream of resettlers brushed up against each other as they passed, the atmosphere heated up more and more until it evolved into an unbelievable amount of bloodshed.

The September 1913 agreement in Constantinople between Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire counts as the first peace agreement which foresaw a planned population exchange between the contractual partners, with the goal of an ethnic rectification. Both preceding Balkan wars (1912/1913) were threatened by strong ethnically justified violence, by which civilians on both sides were killed and displaced. It was hoped that with the peace agreement, the problem would be able to be resolved by geographically separating the involved ethnicities.

The World Evangelical Alliance congratulates the new International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship

22. Juni 2015 von · Leave a Comment 

The World Reformed Fellowship  (WRF) installed a new International Director during its General Assembly, which occurs every three years. Prof. Dr. P. J. (Flip) Buys, from South Africa, took over from Prof. Dr. Samuel Logan, who had previously been president of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and who served as International Director of the WRF since 2005.

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), to which the World Reformed Fellowship belongs as a member, congratulated the new International Director of the WRF on his election. Thomas Schirrmacher, who was a plenary speaker at the WRF General Assembly, brought the wish for God’s blessing from the WEA General Secretary, Bishop Efraim Tendero, who is from the Philippines. With warm words, Schirrmacher thanked Dr. Logan for a decade of top quality cooperation between the WRF and the WEA, as well as between their representative Theological Commissions, especially in the areas of religious freedom/persecution of Christians and understanding Islam. Schirrmacher said, “I know only a very few Americans who have such a heart for all cultures and who really want to hear from all of them. Sam, we are truly going to miss you!“

Picture BQ359

From Left: Paul R. Gilchrist (WRF International Director until June, 2005), P. J. (Flip) Buys, Thomas Schirrmacher, Rick Perrin (Board President, WRF), and Samuel Logan (WRF International Director until March, 2015)

Dr. P. J. (Flip) Buys was born in 1947 in South Africa. His doctoral dissertation was an exegetical study of the relationship between evangelization and church development. Buys is a pastor of the Reformed Church of South Africa and has initiated numerous projects in the field of HIV/AIDS and the resulting poverty. He teaches as an adjunct professor of missiology for Northwest University in Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Prof. Dr. Samuel T Logan, Jr, was Professor of Church History and President of Westminster Theological Seminary, 1991-2005. He then became the International Director of the WRF. He is a pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

In his plenary speech for the WRF General Assembly, including representatives from Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist churches from 79 countries, Thomas Schirrmacher spoke about religious freedom. He represented Martin Bucer Seminary, of which he is the Rector, and which is a member of the WRF. He was accompanied by the faculty of Martin Bucer Seminary in São Paulo. Schirrmacher is also an individual member of WRF, as is the Vice President of Martin Bucer Seminary, Prof. Dr. Thomas K. Johnson, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in America, who is a frequent contributor to the WRF website.

In addition to Thomas Schirrmacher, the WEA was represented by Christine Schirrmacher, who, along with the Indonesian evangelist Dr. Stephen Tong, sketched the worldwide situation in relation to Islam in plenary speeches.

The World Reformed Fellowship is an international Protestant association which unites theologically conservative Reformed denominations (including Presbyterian, Anglican, and Reformed Baptist churches), along with national churches and individual congregations, colleges and seminaries, mission agencies, and certain key individuals.

The host church of the WRF General Assembly was the Presbyterian Church of Brazil, which has more than 1 million members, 8,315 ordained ministers, and 5,392 congregations. The second largest WRF member denomination is the Presbyterian Church in America, with 1,800 congregations, mostly in the US and Canada, but individual congregations in several other countries.

Important Reformed educational institutions from around the world belong to the WRF, including Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (USA) and the Centro Presbiteriano Pos-Graduacao Andrew Jumper of Mackenzie University in São Paulo, Brazil. Martin Bucer Seminary cooperates with both institutions.

When they apply for membership in the WRF, new members have to identify themselves as affirming at least one of the following historic confessions: the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, the Gallican Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, the London Confession of 1689, the Savoy Declaration, the Second Helvetic Confession, The Thirty Nine Articles, the Westminster Catechism, or the WRF’s own statement of faith.


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My word of greeting to the delegates of 
Bridge 2015, Bucharest (April 20-24, 2015)

20. Juni 2015 von · Leave a Comment 

Here the original letter as PDF-Download.

Dear leaders of the European Freedom Network and its Partner Organisations,
dear fellows in fighting human trafficking and other evils,
dear sisters and brothers,

I greet you all from the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA). I hope you all received our present from WEA, two books from our Global Issues Series, one on “Human Rights,” one on “Human Trafficking.” This is to show that we appreciate that you invest time and energy, prayer, and time to help those to become free who cannot help themselves and, in the main, are forgotten by this world.

I hope you all feel well in your host country Romania. Teaching there several times a year at a state university more than a decade now, I have come to love the country, its people, its churches, and its politicians. You will meet many of those people in power, so bless them, that they might be brave agents of change for the good.

I especially send greetings from our new Secretary General of WEA, Bishop Efraim Tendero from the Philippines, who now represents 600 million Christians in the churches belonging to national and regional Alliances worldwide and who sends his blessings on all your discussions and new plans you might decide on. Bishop Ef just visited the General Secretary of the United Nations, who thanked the Evangelical Alliance for its broad engagement against human trafficking. The world needs us, both our witness to the gospel and our active engagement to change evil into justice and peace.

Dedicated Christians are not born to lie in the sun on the beach and celebrate their freedom in Christ while sleeping or swimming. Instead they are free to serve in the dirtiest places of the world. We hate the persecution of Christians, yet we love the persecutors and try to show them this love directly. We hate prostitution, especially forced prostitution, but we only can help those involved by being where they are and showing them the love of Christ through direct contaact. We hate sexual chaos, but the chance that you meet a dedicated Christian at the death bed of someone dying of AIDS is very high. We fight alcoholism and drug addiction, but not by writing against those involved from a desk far away, but by being with them and inviting them to our homes, churches and clinics.

Christians have to walk in the mud to help those walking in the mud. If you do not want your shoes or feet to get dirty, BRIDGE 2015 is the wrong conference to attend!

Those who are well, or think themselves to be well, do not need a doctor, as Jesus said. Jesus himself as the foremost doctor of the human soul and body, decided to go to the deepest places of earth, yes, even down to hell, to save us. We also are called by him and like him to follow people into their deeptest distress.

I want to thank you all, that you are investing so much time and energy into fighting for the slaves of all kinds today, into building up networks and into trying to convince the big mass of Christians still sleeping.

May the Lord give each of you the wisdom of His Holy Spirit to discuss how you (and we) can cooperate more, so that your programs reach out both to future young leaders in fighting for freedom, and to those who are not free yet. And this is all for the glory of the Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

Thomas Schirrmacher

News items on the website of the World Evangelical Alliance

15. Juni 2015 von · Leave a Comment 

My Word of Greeting to the President of the Romanian ISHR

5. Juni 2015 von · Leave a Comment 

Dear Mrs Caspari,
dear leaders, members and friends
of the Romanian Section of the International Society of Human Rights,

In December 1989 a dispute over religious freedom which arose in Timisoara, the city where I teach regularly at the University of the West, became the starting point of the Romanian Revolution. The Communist government wanted to get rid of a pastor, because he often criticized the government, but his church members and then a steadily growing number of all kind of citizens protected the pastor, including some from Romanian, Hungarian and German backgrounds alike. The harsh and brutal reaction of the government became a signal for protests all over Romania, the beginning of the end of a rule against human rights. We very much regret those people that died, yet it was the Romanian people who fought for freedom and human rights against a dictatorship.

The history of the brave Romanians involved with the IGFM/ISHR started well before this, but it was a proud and obvious sign of a new area, that they gathered quickly and founded our Romanian Section in 1990 at a time, when no one knew what would be coming. But they wanted to assure that the new Romania would be built around the idea of human rights.

Thus the fact, that the Romanians elected a President from Sibiu, with his fight against corruption and being from German descent, proves that Romania has learned to go beyond racism, government control, government corruption, and to give human rights a fair chance. The Romanian ISHR played a vital role in this.

On behalf of the International Council of the ISHR, I congratulate you to the 25th birthday of your section and thank you for all your work done in the last 25 years. On behalf of the worldwide ISHR family, I am proud that we have so many experienced human right fighters in our midst. I hope that your history will someday be written so that others may learn from your good example.

Yours, Thomas Schirrmacher
President of the International Council of the ISHR

Thomas Schirrmacher