German post-war refugeesdeny wanting homes back

6th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

6 August 2004 , BERLIN - Erika Steinbach, leader of some two million Germans born in eastern Europe, denied Friday her group was seeking money or the return of homes and farms, saying they would renounce all claims if a settlement were reached with Poland and the Czech Republic. She also criticised the plans by a hardline expellee group to sue Warsaw in Polish courts and the European Human Rights Tribunal for recovery of property confiscated when Europe's borders were re-drawn after the Second World War. A

6 August 2004

BERLIN - Erika Steinbach, leader of some two million Germans born in eastern Europe, denied Friday her group was seeking money or the return of homes and farms, saying they would renounce all claims if a settlement were reached with Poland and the Czech Republic.

She also criticised the plans by a hardline expellee group to sue Warsaw in Polish courts and the European Human Rights Tribunal for recovery of property confiscated when Europe's borders were re-drawn after the Second World War.

At a Berlin news conference, she said her Federation of Expellees (BdV) had repeatedly dissociated itself from the activities of the Preussischer Treuhand, a private company raising legal fees to reclaim real estate seized over 50 years ago in communist-ruled nations.

"I am delighted every time an expellee says he will forget about his property claim in Poland," she said.

Instead, she said, her group sought a general legal settlement. Such a settlement could be reached by next year and would benefit both eastern governments and the expellees by creating certainty, she added.

"Sixty years after the end of the war, we ought to solve this nagging issue about property once and for all," she said.

Steinbach called for Germany to pass a law that regulated the issue, but she refused to specify what such a law should say, saying only that she could accept a settlement in which the expellees received no land or money at all.

The expellees' demand for contrition has strained German relations with Poland and the Czech Republic for decades. Both nations, which suffered vast destruction and killings from Nazi invasion and occupation, are angered by the German group's demand for apologies.

Steinbach criticised German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who said Sunday in Warsaw during ceremonies to mark the 1944 Warsaw Uprising that his government would actively oppose any lawsuits brought by expellees in any international court.

"The German chancellor found good and proper words to express sympathy for the victims of the Warsaw Uprising," said Steinbach. "I stand firmly behind that. But elsewhere, more than any politician before him, he showed that German policy has a false bottom."

She said this ambiguity had not created trust between Germany and its neighbours, yet it had offended the expellees.

"The great majority of us are not seeking compensation or the return of property. After all, most of us never owned real estate."

She asserted that under German law, the expellees could still play the card of their valid claim to the lost assets, yet Berlin was telling neighbouring countries that such a claim had no validity.

The ethnic Germans were expelled from their villages and towns across the new borders from 1945 onwards.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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