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Letter: Don’t Call Them “Nazis”

This letter is in response to your article about Airman Kosierowski which appeared in the Levittown Tribune last Friday. 


On behalf of the German-American community of Long Island, I would like to present a point-of-information and correction with regards to your article. 


Since WWII the American media has consistently and quite incorrectly referred to all members of the German armed forces during the Second World War as “Nazis.” Not only is this incorrect it is also unwarranted. 


The term ‘Nazi’ refers to an actual card-carrying member of the National Socialist German Workers Party – the political party of Germany at the time. 


At its height, less than 2 percent of the entire German population were ‘Nazis.’ 


In point of fact the officers and more specifically, the Generals of the Wehrmacht, or German Army in English, held an opinion that could at best be described as ameable indifference and at worst be described as seething resentment towards the Nazis and Adolph Hitler. (The Generals even had a humorous and condescending nickname for Hitler, ‘The Bohemian Corporal.’) 


This hatred and resentment fully manifested itself on July 20, 1944 when Colonel Klaus Graff von Staufenberg led a courageous group of Army officers against Hitler. (The 70th Anniversary of this incredibly brave act is in 2 ½ weeks).


In the US, we don’t use the term ‘Republican soldier’ or ‘Democratic sailor’, right? German officers and soldiers of the Wehrmacht were just that German, including my grandfather, Willi Martin Dienstbach. 


He wasn’t a barbarian or a war-criminal. He was just a plain ordinary soldier, just like the American soldiers. He answered his countries call and he served — HONORABLY. Yes, there were atrocities but there also was compassion as noted by Mr. Kosierowski.


I would also like to thank Mr. Kosierowski for referring to his former adversary, as ‘German.’ For 100 years, Americans of German ancestry (including myself) and German immigrants have had to endure

perpetual hatred and discrimination — in the press; on television; in the movies and in everyday American life. 


The first step in eliminating racism is first by doing away with the practice of negative labeling. It is through this first step that, ultimately, true understanding can be achieved.


Laurence C. Dittmer, Historian


Brooklyn Schuetzen Corps,


s.V. von 1858