BERLIN/KIEV (Own report) – One of Berlin’s government advisors is calling for Russia’s expulsion from the Council of Europe. The Russian government’s actions against the Crimean Tatars and its banning their Mejlis – a political organization – along with other measures, make it “no longer possible to justify continuing Russian membership in the Council of Europe,” according to a current position statement published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). This demand is made at a time when the Crimean Tatars have been drawn into the spotlight throughout Europe, by the openly politicized Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). Whereas public perception of Crimean Tatars has been predominated by their 1944 deportation, their collaboration with the Nazis, which had preceded their deportation, has been obscured. As historians have ascertained, in 1942, “every tenth Tatar on the Crimean Peninsula was in the military” – on the side of Nazi Germany. Crimean Tatars fought on the side of the German Wehrmacht against the Soviet Union, excelling in the notorious “efforts to crush the partisan movement” and turned their Jewish neighbors over to the Nazis’ henchmen. Already in the 1920s, leading Tatar functionaries had complained of a “Jewification” of their communities, in their protests against Moscow’s resettlement measures of Jewish families. Later, exiled Crimean Tatars volunteered their services for the West’s cold war efforts to destabilize Moscow. The Mejlis, which today is quite controversial among the Crimean Tatars, stands in this tradition.
Ten Percent in the Military
Immediately following the invasion of the Soviet Union, and even more so, by the end of 1941, when it became clear that – unlike France, a year earlier – this new Soviet adversary could not be conquered in a “Blitzkrieg,” Berlin began forging plans for winning over Soviet linguistic minorities (“Volksgruppen”) to collaborate with the Nazis in the war against Moscow. The attention of strategists in the German Foreign Ministry and in the Reich Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories fell on the approx. 200,000 Crimean Tatars. The idea was encouraged by the hope that, with the Tatar’s help, officially neutral Turkey could also be won over to enter the war. Ankara saw itself as the protective power for Turkic-speaking minorities, including the Tatar linguistic group on the Crimean Peninsula. The foreign ministry established its first contacts to Turkish generals, favorable to Tatarian interests. In December 1941, they brought two exiled Crimean Tatarian politicians living in Turkey to Berlin to plan the collaboration. At first the Nazi leadership was hesitant. The original plan had been to banish the entire Crimean population – including the Tatars – to prepare the peninsula for the settlement of “Volksdeutschen” (ethnic Germans) from South Tyrol and annex the peninsula into the German Reich. However, because the war was not progressing as expected, Adolf Hitler agreed January 2, 1942 to the recruitment of Tatarian soldiers into the Wehrmacht and January 18, the creation also of Tatarian combat units.
In return for their collaboration, the Nazi occupiers permitted the Crimean Tatars special privileges. “Tatarian elementary schools were opened, Tatarian journals and magazines were allowed and a national Tatarian theater was organized,” Manfred Oldenburg reports. Around 50 mosques were reopened. By the end of 1941, the Crimean Tatars were allowed to form their local councils “to administer their school, scholastic, religious and cultural affairs.” In the hopes of a more comprehensive self-administration, “a large number of Tatars were prepared to collaborate with the German occupying forces.” Also in late 1941, the Nazi occupation troops began firing ethnic Russians, “on a wide scale, from their positions in administrations and businesses,” replacing them “with collaborating Crimean Tatars,” writes Oldenburg. Motivated by this preferential treatment, the Tatars began “to develop a feeling of superiority, particularly regarding Russians,” which quickly led to “rebellions within the Slavic population.” At the same time, Berlin brought Crimean Tatars into the German Reich to be on hand for relevant contacts and other assistance. This led, at the initiative of the Reich Ministry of the Occupied Eastern Territories, to the creation of a “Crimean Tatar Central Office.” On March 17, 1945, with an order of Berlin, the “Crimean Tatar National Committee” was recognized by the Ostministerium [Ministry of the Occupied Eastern Territories] as the independent representative of its people.”
In the campaign to free the Crimean Peninsula from Nazi terror, supported by Crimean Tatars, more than 200,000 Soviet soldiers and partisans, 20,500 prisoners of war and 8,000 civilian prisoners, 38,000 Jews as well as thousands of Roma were killed. When the occupiers were finally forced to retreat, they left scorched earth behind – and the destruction of 80 Crimean Tatar settlements, murdering a large segment of the inhabitants. This was how the occupiers expressed their gratitude for the Crimean Tatar’s collaboration.
German efforts to manipulate the Crimean Tatars for German foreign policy objectives have not ended with Germany’s defeat in World War II.The Federal Republic of Germany continued these efforts under altered conditions. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.