German group returns ship's bell to Poland

16th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

16 October 2006, Berlin (dpa) - A group of former German refugees have sent back to Poland a ship's bell with a tragic history, nine weeks after an uproar among Poles about why the item was lent for display at a controversial exhibition in Berlin. The private exhibition depicts 20th-century ethnic purges and includes in that category the 1945 rout of the Germans. The bell came from the wreck of a liner Wilhelm Gusthof that sank, drowning 9,000 German civilians in history's worst maritime disaster. Warsaw d

16 October 2006

Berlin (dpa) - A group of former German refugees have sent back to Poland a ship's bell with a tragic history, nine weeks after an uproar among Poles about why the item was lent for display at a controversial exhibition in Berlin.

The private exhibition depicts 20th-century ethnic purges and includes in that category the 1945 rout of the Germans. The bell came from the wreck of a liner Wilhelm Gusthof that sank, drowning 9,000 German civilians in history's worst maritime disaster.

Warsaw demanded its immediate return to the Polish coast guard, whereas organizers insisted they would keep the bell on show in Berlin till the Forced Routes exhibition ends on October 29. Sources said it was prematurely taken off display on Thursday.

The bell of the Wilhelm Gustloff, sunk by a Soviet torpedo in the Baltic, recalled the terrors of the Germans' escape from the Red Army, never to return to towns and rural areas where they had lived for centuries.

Poles argue the exhibition, a dry run for a museum planned by the former refugees, is insulting and pins blame for the expulsions on them instead of on the Nazis. Warsaw's municipal museum successfully obtained a return of two exhibits just after the show opened.

The Wilhelm Gustloff was sunk in the Baltic by the Soviet Navy as it carried refugees westward. Treks overland by starving refugees were strafed and many civilians slaughtered.

The show is taking place in a rebuilt palace, the Kronprinzenpalais, on Berlin's main avenue, Unter den Linden.

DPA

Subject: German news

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