Poland and Germany must put past behind them: German president

14th July 2009, Comments 0 comments

Polish authorities have repeatedly expressed concern about initiatives by Germany to create a memorial dedicated to the millions of Germans who were expelled or fled from Poland and other east European nations at the end of World War II.

Warsaw -- Poland and Germany must put to rest mutual recriminations over their joint history, German President Horst Koehler said in a Polish newspaper interview published Monday.

"My predecessor Johannes Rau and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwasniewski declared in Gdansk in 2003 that in Polish-German relations there was no more place for claims, mutual blame and counting the crimes and losses of the past. I personally fully support the Gdansk declaration," Koehler said, quoted by Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza daily.

"There is no serious political force in Germany that wants to rewrite history," he added.

Polish authorities have repeatedly expressed concern about initiatives by the German Federation of the Expelled to create a memorial in Berlin dedicated to the 12 to 14 million Germans who were expelled or fled from Poland and other east European nations at the end of World War II.

Warsaw is concerned that the project could serve as an opportunity rewrite history by diminishing Nazi Germany's responsibility for the crimes of the war.

Koehler -- who on Monday met Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, known for his suspicion towards Germany -- told Gazeta Wyborcza he would visit the Polish village of Skierbieszow, in southeast Poland, where he was born during the war in 1943.

"My family was displaced and had to flee, but we were never expelled. I don't feel like an expellee but I understand the meaning of the term," he told the newspaper.

Berlin has been wrestling for decades with how to commemorate Germans who were expelled or fled as the Soviet army advanced into areas which, since 1945, have belonged to neighbours like Poland or the Czech Republic.

In doing so, Germany has run the risk of being accused of whitewashing the war crimes committed by the Nazis and of putting the suffering of Germans on a par with that of the regime's victims all across mainland Europe.

AFP/Expatica

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