Germans file suit against Polandover wartime compensation

3rd August 2004, Comments 0 comments

3 August 2004 , LEVERKUSEN - A hardline leader of ethnic Germans expelled from Poland at the end of the Second World War said Tuesday his group would haul Poland before the European courts this year. Rudi Pawelka, the chairman of Preussische Treuhand, said the suits would demand restitution of confiscated homes and farms. Preussische Treuhand is a private company with expellees as shareholders. Its capital is to be spent on legal fees, pursuing claims that many legal experts say have almost no chance of su

3 August 2004

LEVERKUSEN - A hardline leader of ethnic Germans expelled from Poland at the end of the Second World War said Tuesday his group would haul Poland before the European courts this year.

Rudi Pawelka, the chairman of Preussische Treuhand, said the suits would demand restitution of confiscated homes and farms.

Preussische Treuhand is a private company with expellees as shareholders. Its capital is to be spent on legal fees, pursuing claims that many legal experts say have almost no chance of success and which are to be opposed by the German government.

Pawelka said in an interview the suits would be filed in both Polish and European courts "this autumn".

Well over 2 million Germans were forcibly removed after 1945 from pockets of eastern Europe that had been German-speaking for centuries. Redrawing of boundaries was seen by the Allies as a way of ensuring Germany would not go to war to aid ethnic allies abroad.

Pawelka said that since his group believed it stood little chance in Polish courts, it would put an appeal in place in advance to the European Human Rights Tribunal in Strasbourg. A suit before the European Court of Justice was also under consideration.

He said his group believed Poland was in breach of European Union law. Poland joined the 25-member union in May.

Pawelka said suggestions that Poles would be expelled from homes they had occupied for the past 55 years if the group succeeded were "absurd". There were lots of abandoned farms in the southern Polish province of Silesia that the Germans could take over and revive.

"The unresolved issues should be settled by negotiation," he said. "We don't want the Poles to think they are being steamrollered."

Pawelka added, "There are in any case not that many people left who can make claims." He said the group's principal aim was get the Polish government to make an apology for the expulsions.

"We want to set an example, to show that a state which breaches international law cannot pretend nothing happened," he said.

A split between moderate expellees, who accept that Nazi war crimes were the root cause of all the wrongs, and the hardliners, who want to pursue property claims, has become manifest in recent days.

Erika Steinbach, perceived in Eastern Europe as a hostile figure, has appealed in recent days for compromise.

Steinbach has variously suggested that expellees would abandon their claims if Poland and the Czech Republic were to offer token compensation or if the German government offered a lump sum. But Pawelka, who favours migration back to eastern Europe, disagreed.

Compensation by Berlin would require expellees to abandon their "right to the homeland". The right to their native soil was indivisible from their property claims, added Pawelka, who also heads a national club that fosters Silesian German folk traditions.

Steinbach's proposal had implied the expellees were merely grasping for money, he said.

On Sunday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in Warsaw that his government rejected the property claims and would "make this clear to any international court" that heard such a claim.

DPA

Subject: German news

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