German expellees open controversial exhibition

10th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

10 August 2006, BERLIN - Germany's movement of former refugees Thursday recalled its suffering in the aftermath of World War II in a controversial Berlin exhibition it hopes will become the core collection of a permanent museum about ethnic purges. There has been anger in Poland, the Czech Republic and other eastern nations at the group's plans for a memorial to 14 million dispossessed ethnic Germans who fled from eastern Europe in the confusion after the Second World War. The 600-square-metre temporary ex

10 August 2006

BERLIN - Germany's movement of former refugees Thursday recalled its suffering in the aftermath of World War II in a controversial Berlin exhibition it hopes will become the core collection of a permanent museum about ethnic purges.

There has been anger in Poland, the Czech Republic and other eastern nations at the group's plans for a memorial to 14 million dispossessed ethnic Germans who fled from eastern Europe in the confusion after the Second World War.

The 600-square-metre temporary exhibition in the Kronprinzenpalais museum on Berlin's central avenue, Unter den Linden, treats the German experience as just one episode in a century of similar expulsions.

Other photos and souvenirs illustrate the 1915-1917 genocide of the Armenians in Turkey. The flight of Jews from Nazi Germany and the "ethnic cleansing" of the 1990s in former Yugoslavia are also mentioned.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski criticized the exhibition as "an ominous, offensive and sad event." Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Kowal called it an attempt to manipulate history.

The venue is just across the street from the federal German History Museum, where a temporary exhibition began in May, showing how the refugees, an impoverished underclass in post-War Germany, struggled back on their feet.

Erika Steinbach, leader of the German expellees federation BdV, said Thursday just before the evening inauguration that she was still planning a permanent Berlin memorial and documentation centre.

The BdV decided several years ago to shift its focus from the German experience only to the wider pain of the whole 20th century.

Critics have accused the BdV of bias because it insists the expulsions, which were allowed by the Allied powers, were unjust. There are also fears that a memorial would undermine the message that the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes were uniquely reprehensible.

The German government has been wary of the BdV plans, and instead backs a European network to study expulsion history. The ranking speaker at the inauguration was a non-cabinet official, Norbert Lammert, the speaker of the Bundestag parliament.

Bernd Neumann, Chancellor Angela Merkel's top culture aide, earlier proposed that the less controversial federal exhibition on post-war resettlement be made a permanent one.
The BdV exhibition, "Forced Routes, Expulsions in 20th Century Europe," runs until 29 October.

DPA

Subject: German news

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