German lawmaker denies revisionism over start of WWII

11th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A German politician in Chancellor Angela Merkel's party on Saturday denied accusations of historical revisionism over comments she made regarding events leading up to the start of World War II.

Christian Democrat lawmaker Erika Steinbach, who heads a body representing Germans driven from their homes after 1945, said her critics were trying to get her and the group she led branded as historical revisionists.

In a speech in Berlin Saturday she denounced what she said was a "blatant attempt" to portray them as "falsifiers of history".

"Everybody knows it was our country that started World War II," she said.

"Everybody knows the barbarousness of Nazi Germany and the limitless suffering it caused Europe."

Steinbach was responding to the controversy created by her remarks to Die Welt newspaper on Wednesday.

"Unfortunately, I cannot change the fact that Poland had already mobilised in March 1939," she told the daily.

Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's invasion of Poland six months later marked the start of World War II.

German officials on Thursday moved quickly to distance themselves from Steinbach's remarks.

"...We have to be careful that ill-thought-out statements do not weigh on relations between Germany and Poland," Cornelia Pieper, an official in charge of German-Polish relations, said in a statement.

Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle of the Free Democrats, the junior partner in Merkel's coalition government, underlined the point in comments to appear in Bild am Sonntag weekly on Sunday.

"We do not have the right to authorise debate that qualifies Germany's heavy responsibility for the outbreak of World War II," he told the paper.

In her speech Saturday, Steinbach also spoke up for the 15 million Germans expelled from central Europe at the end of the war, calling for a memorial to mark what they endured.

Germany has been working with Poland and the Czech Republic towards the creation of a memorial for all the European refugees created by the war -- and not just the 15 million expelled Germans.

Steinbach has been something of a hate figure in neighbouring Poland for having refused to accept the German-Polish border, which was redrawn after World War II, when East and West Germany merged in 1990.

© 2010 AFP

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