German and Polish leaders to meet amid memorial feud

23rd February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The differences revolve around whether the provocative German head of the Federation of the Expelled, Erika Steinbach, will participate in the project.

Berlin -- The leaders of Germany and Poland will meet next week for talks on issues including a controversial memorial centre for people expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II, Berlin said Friday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk will hold talks on the sidelines of a banquet for the Baltic region in the northern German city of Hamburg Friday, government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said.

Asked whether they would discuss the disputed plans for the centre to be built in Berlin, Wilhelm told reporters: "They will discuss a number of issues of which I can imagine that is very likely to be one of them."

The differences revolve around whether the provocative German head of the Federation of the Expelled, Erika Steinbach, would participate in the project.

Poland fiercely opposes her involvement.

The German government last year agreed on the outlines of a memorial project for ethnic Germans expelled from their homelands that had drawn fire from the Czech Republic and Poland.

The permanent exhibition in central Berlin is to focus on the plight of the refugees, many of whom faced brutal attacks as they were driven from their homes in central Europe in the dying days of World War II.

Berlin has been wrestling for decades with a way to commemorate the up to 14 million Germans forced to leave their homes in central Europe, including parts of modern-day Poland and the Czech Republic, at the war's end without whitewashing the atrocities committed by the Nazis.

The debate has raised hackles among Germany's neighbours, prompting angry warnings against a memorial that put the Germans' suffering on a par with that of the Nazis' victims.

Wilhelm said the German government, which must approve the decisions on personnel, would seek a solution amenable to all.

"We will make the necessary decision in the spirit of reconciliation and consensus that has marked the process until now," he said.

On Thursday, Steinbach blasted what she called Warsaw's use of "blackmail" to block her nomination.

Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, state secretary for relations with Germany, Russia and Israel at the Polish foreign ministry, dismissed the accusation Friday and maintained a hard line against Steinbach.

"I will not argue with this person. She does not exist for me. I will not do her the honour of entering into a debate with her," he told the daily Dziennik.


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