German WWII expellees seek recognition
19 August 2007, Berlin (dpa) - The entire German nation should recall the sufferings of the millions of German-speakers thrown out of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, the head of the federation of expellees said in Berlin Saturday. Speaking at a gathering in Berlin to call for a national day of remembrance for the victims of the time, Erika Steinbach called for the victims not to be forgotten. "A nation without a memory is like a plant without roots," Steinbach, head of the federation of German e
19 August 2007
Berlin (dpa) - The entire German nation should recall the sufferings of the millions of German-speakers thrown out of Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, the head of the federation of expellees said in Berlin Saturday.
Speaking at a gathering in Berlin to call for a national day of remembrance for the victims of the time, Erika Steinbach called for the victims not to be forgotten.
"A nation without a memory is like a plant without roots," Steinbach, head of the federation of German expellees (BdV), said.
The fate of the those thrown out of countries like Poland and the Czech Republic affected all Germans, she said.
Steinbach noted that the Nazi regime under Adolf Hitler had perpetrated atrocities beforehand.
"But all too often the fact of Nazi rule over Europe is abused to evade a full historical debate or even to justify the mass displacement of people," she said.
Roland Koch, prime minister of the western German state of Hessen and a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) called for the fate of those displaced not to be ignored.
He made particular reference to the expulsion of ethnic German from the Czech Republic.
And he backed BvD calls for a centre based in Berlin to highlight the sufferings of those driven from their homes.
European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering, like Steinbach and Koch a CDU member, said no injustice should be "relativized" merely because of its place in history. He called on both sides to refrain from claims against each other.
The BvD is in favour of a German national day to be proclaimed to mark the sufferings of those who suffered expulsion, persecution and death during the final days of the war and afterwards as well as for a centre to mark their suffering.
According to Polish international affairs expert Jaromir Sokolowski, the speeches of Steinbach and Poettering failed to underscore Nazi Germany's responsibility for the post-WWII exodus of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe.
"Today Germans must be very clearly reminded that ethnic Germans fled or were expelled from Eastern Europe after the war because Germany's Nazi dictator Adolf Hilter began the Second World War by attacking Poland in the first place," Sokolowski told Poland's TVN24.
Steinbach has dismissed Polish objections to setting up a centre for the expellees.
"The Polish government is on its own on this. Other European countries either have no objection or simply don't care," said Steinbach, who has become something of a hate figure in Germany's eastern neighbour.
The BdV's activities have exacerbated a deterioration in relations between the two European Union members following the coming to power of President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw, the Polish prime minister.
The Polish prime minister said in June that Poland's population would have been much larger without the war started by the Nazis.
President Kaczynski has taken a hard line against having Poland's weight being cut by comparison with Germany's in decisions taken by the European Union.
Estimates put the number of ethnic Germans expelled after the war, many from western Poland and the western Czech Republic, at between 13 and 16 million.
Many of them died or were killed during their journey to the west.
Polish objectors charge that many of the leaders of the BdV were Nazis and accuse them of attempting to revive wartime animosities, apart from dispossessing Poles of properties they have owned for the past 60 years.
Subject: German news