16 April 2004
WARSAW – The majority of German military symbols and Nazi- era place names on German war memorials in Poland’s south-central Opole province have been removed, newspaper reports said Friday.
“Now we will be perceived as a tolerant region, respectful of history,” Opole regional governor Elzbieta Rutkowska said, quoted by Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza daily.
Following the collapse of communism, controversy erupted over the German World Wars I and II memorial monuments and graves to fallen German soldiers in the early 1990s when local Opole ethnic Germans began renovations.
Some graves and monuments were decorated with German military symbols such as iron crosses, swords and helmets and were also emblazoned with names given to local towns by the Nazis.
Of the 67 registered German war memorials in Opole province, one has been left with a Nazi-era town name, Gazeta reported.
Residents of Mechnic refused to replace the Nazi-era town name “Moosdorf”, now visible on the memorial, with its historic German name – Muchenitz.
The drive of Governor Rutkowska to remove controversial German military symbols and Nazi-era names from memorials were strongly opposed from the outset by representatives of Poland’s German minority.
According to German minority representative Henryk Kroll the action was discriminatory. His organisation has filed a complaint with Poland’s ombudsman.
“There is no law which would order any changes whatsoever on the memorials,” Kroll told Gazeta.
Subject: German news