The Cowards of Kosovo
By David Binder - May 27, 2004
"Courage on the battlefield is our common property, but you will find not infrequently that very respectable people lack civil courage." -- Bismarck
Americans of my generation (Jahrgang 1931) grew up believing that German soldiers were brave. We had to, hearing the grim stories of our fathers and uncles from World War I and our older brothers from World War II (mine was killed in action in 1944).
Alas, no more.
From what I hear and read from the battleground that is Kosovo, the German contingent of KFOR "peacekeepers" is led by men who plainly lack bravery. I don't extend that characterization to the ordinary Landser; they are only following orders, as one would expect of German soldiers. I mean the officers.
We are talking about the commanders of the 3,600 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed mostly in southwestern Kosovo, with headquarters in the ancient city of Prizren. Specifically General Holger Kammerhof, the KFOR commander, and his deputies.
According to the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), 61 KFOR soldiers were among the 900 persons wounded in the Albanian mob violence that began March 17 in Kosovo. Some were Italian soldiers defending the Serb monasteries and churches at Decani and Pec; some were Greek soldiers defending churches in Urosevac. Not one German was reported among the wounded.
Similarly, German military installations are intact "in contrast to Italian and others belonging to KFOR which were destroyed because they at least made some resistance," a Serbian churchman told me. The toll in Prizren and vicinity was horrific: Nine Serbian Orthodox churches damaged or destroyed, including four medieval shrines, their frescoes, icons and scriptures. Among them were the Holy Mother of God Ljeviska Church and the Holy Archangels Monastery, both from the 14th century.
Serbian church officials reported Colonel Dieter Hintelmann, the KFOR commander in Prizren, told them on April 10 that the German force "could not prevent the burning of the churches because 500 Albanian women and children blocked their vehicles from leaving their base."
Not only German soldiers but also the 3,500-strong UNMIK police under Commissioner Stefan Feller (from North Rhine Westphalia) largely failed to act against Albanian mobs bent on torching Serb buildings. On April 6, Wolfgang Zillekens, the UNMIK police commander for Prizren (also from North Rhine Westphalia) stated that he was proud of the work of his detachments "during the recent demonstrations" and that he did not expect "mass" actions in the future. That makes sense only because nearly everything Serb in his jurisdiction has already been destroyed.
Here is what Father Sava Janjic, spokesman of the Decani Monastery, had to say this week: "Germans definitely did not do anything to protect a single Orthodox church in Prizren. Demonstrations in Mitrovica began in the morning of March 17. They could have deployed their forces in Prizren to prevent escalation of violence but they remained in their base with very few soldiers outside. When the mob gathered in the streets of Prizren they say that they could not protect the Bishop's residence from Molotov cocktails and had to evacuate the priest. Afterwards the church was burned.
The Seminary, the residence, Serbian homes were in flames. But they still had time to block the road which goes along the gorge of Bistrica river to the Holy Archangels Monastery... The crowd...headed several hours later after burning the Prizren holy sites towards the monastery which is 5 kilometers to the south. They did nothing... When the crowd came to the monastery they only evacuated the monks and let Albanians burn the monastery... The German flag over the monastery is still fluttering intact."
"Now they keep 35 Serbs from Prizren in a gym in their base and refuse to let our Church representatives visit them because many of them were beaten and have bruises and the Germans are afraid of photographs. They did not even allow a Serbian Orthodox priest to serve an Easter mass for these 35 wretched refugees. They previously did not give permission for these refugees to be taken to the Serbian enclave for the Easter holidays." Bishop Artemije of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo- Metohija, said of the Germans, "Their mission has failed. They should leave."
Father Janjic added, "We wish they could leave the Balkans after all they did in both World wars, and not be engaged in peace missions in the Balkans."
Copyright 2004 David Binder
Posted for Fair Use only.