Polish Prime Minister calls for World War II museum

10th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk calls for the creation of a World War II museum instead of a memorial to millions of Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after WWII.

10 December 2007

Berlin (dpa) - Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk called Monday for the creation of a World War II museum instead of a memorial to millions of Germans expelled from Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the war.

Such a museum could take into account the fate of the expellees "in a conclusive and comprehensive context," he said in an interview with the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

The prime minister, who is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday, suggested the museum could be located in the Polish city of Gdansk, formerly Danzig, where he said the war began in 1939.

Poland and other nations in Eastern Europe are opposed to German plans to establish a centre to document the sufferings of German speakers expelled from the region as World War II drew to a close.

Many Eastern Europeans fear such a centre would be an attempt to rewrite history by casting the Germans as victims rather than aggressors in the war.

The German government is expected to decide before the end of the year on a concept for what it called "a visible symbol" to mark the sufferings of the expellees.

Tusk said countries like Israel and Russia as well as Poland and Germany could be involved in the planning for the World War II museum.

"It is possible that during the discussions for such a project we can end the shameful and never-ending conflict about a commemoration for the expellees," he said.

"The problem is not that anyone wants to prevent the Germans from remembering the suffering of their own people. It becomes problematic when this remembrance of the German suffering diminishes another memory - namely that of the collective responsibility of the Germans.

"When we speak of Germans and Poles in World War II, then we need to talk clearly about who the aggressors were and who the victims were. Here there is no room for ambiguity.

"The manner in which the Germans today are turning to history is leading to a situation where the past is once again becoming ballast."

In this context Tusk referred to moves by the expellees' organization Prussian Claims Society to pursue Poland in European courts for the restitution of property lost after 1945.

"The German government has to take responsibility for the possible financial consequences arising from the compensation claims," he said

According to German estimates, some 15 million German speakers were expelled from their homes, with 8 million ending up in West Germany and 4 million in the formerly communist East Germany.

Up to 2 million are thought to have died as a result of the expulsions.

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