German WWII expellee centre plan angers Poles
18 July 2005, WARSAW - A leading Polish daily on Monday slammed plans by Germany's Federation of Expellees to build a centre in Berlin focused on the fate of ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after the WWII defeat of Nazi Germany.
18 July 2005
WARSAW - A leading Polish daily on Monday slammed plans by Germany's Federation of Expellees to build a centre in Berlin focused on the fate of ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after the WWII defeat of Nazi Germany.
The plans of the federation, lead by controversial German MP Erika Steinbach, have gained the approval of Germany's opposition Christian Democrats CDU-CSU. The party is expected to win power following Germany's mooted September parliamentary ballot.
German Social Democratic chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has agreed with Polish and Czech officials that a centre against expulsions should focus on the post-WWII mass expulsions of various ethic groups, including Poles from territories now belonging to Ukraine. Schroeder also agreed the centre should not be based in Berlin.
"CDU leader Angela Merkel doesn't understand the arguments which Poles have been using for some time," Polish-German affairs specialist Jerzy Haszczynski wrote in a scathing editorial comment in Monday's establishment Rzeczpospolita daily.
"She assures the centre will not become a monument to German martyrdom and will not change the German approach to the history of the Third Reich and its consequences. She says it can be realised in the spirit of reconciliation with neighbours, but there is nothing that would indicate this is the case," he charged.
"For the last five years nothing in the project plans has changed - German suffering still takes priority while other cases of expulsion, although numerous, are only a modest addition," Haszczynski wrote.
"The fear that young Germans will become convinced that the victims of the Second World War were two nations - the Jewish and the German - is still real," he warns.
Haszczynski points out that in the future young Germans will see only two large monuments regarding WWII in Berlin: to the victims of the Holocaust and the centre documenting the suffering of expelled Germans.
"It is difficult to imagine the Centre Against Expulsions will be built in the spirit of reconciliation," Haszczynski said. He accused its founder, Erika Steinbach, and her Union of Expellees of activities which have "nothing in common" with reconciliation.
Haszczynski also accuses the German politician of building her political career on attempts to compare the suffering of expelled Germans to those of Holocaust victims.
"The consequence is that Poles are portrayed as a nation of perpetrators," he says.
"We stand before another Polish-German battle over memory. What is worse is this time it will be with the participation of a party ruling Germany," he concluded.
Historians agree that millions of ethnic Germans were forced to leave Eastern Europe for fear of reprisals in the aftermath of the defeat of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany.
Some were indigenous to Poland, the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, while others had arrived with Hitler's armies during the war. Some estimates claim that up to 2 million Germans died in the expulsion process.
Poland was the first country to be attacked and occupied in September 1939 by Nazi Germany, triggering the start of World War Two. By the war's end in May 1945, some six million Polish citizens perished under Nazi rule. More than half were of Jewish origin.
Subject: German news