Letters to the Editor

Letter: Reconciliation

June 11, 2014

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To the editor:

I appreciate Chad Lawhorn’s story on the Douglas County German prisoners of war who did agricultural work in 1945. Nearly 400,000 German prisoners of war found refuge in the United States, and Americans gave them liberties far beyond that required by Geneva treaties. Many prisoners returned home with fond memories of their treatment in Kansas and the United States; some even returned home with new skills and college degrees earned here.

Yet their experience contrasts sharply with that of some American citizens. Any discussion of prisoner-of-war treatment, the work they did and the liberties they enjoyed, should be placed within the context of the experiences of some less-privileged American citizens, those without the benefit of white skin, who found themselves less welcome in Lawrence and other communities. German prisoners of war, accompanied by guards or minders, could enjoy Lawrence restaurants, barbershops, movie theaters and stores. Yet the overwhelming majority of local facilities barred black Americans. On the West Coast, Japanese-American citizens lost their homes, farms and liberty as the government forced them into and confined them to concentration camps during the war.

If Americans were at their best in their humane acceptance and treatment of German prisoners of war, they were at their worst in their treatment and exclusion of fellow citizens, black Americans and Japanese Americans.

To paraphrase Chad Lawhorn: “It is amazing who was not allowed in our fertile fields.”

As we have reconciled with former foes, I believe we still have reconciliation work to do among ourselves.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 2 months ago

"The method of nonviolence seeks not to humiliate and not to defeat the oppressor, but it seeks to win his friendship and his understanding. And thereby and therefore the aftermath of this method is reconciliation."
- Martin Luther King, Jr., 1956

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 2 months ago

Reality is reality, you can't give with one hand and slap with the other and then brag about how equal you are. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 2 months ago

Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, among many others, were also shot and killed. So I would say that Martin Luther King, Jr. was in mighty fine company.

Scott Burkhart 1 year, 2 months ago

David, I just wonder if your omission of Indigenous Peoples and their treatment in Lawrence was intentional or maybe you have some reconciling to do too.

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