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Berlin forges deal over WWII expellee centre

AFP · 11 Feb 2010, 17:07

Published: 11 Feb 2010 17:07 GMT+01:00

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The Federation of Expellees (BdV) head Erika Steinbach said she had agreed with the government not to seek nomination to the board organising the planned documentation and exhibition centre in Berlin.

Steinbach, an MP from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU), is something of a hate figure in neighbouring Poland for refusing to accept the German-Polish border after German reunification in 1990, and the prospect of her nomination had sparked unease over the border.

Her participation was also opposed by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, whose Free Democrats (FDP) party is the junior coalition partner in Merkel's government. The Bavarian sister party of the CDU, the CSU, supported Steinbach.

In return, however, the number of seats held by the BdV on an expanded board organising the museum will be doubled to six, Steinbach told reporters in Berlin. Future nominations will be made by parliament, and not by the government as at present, Steinbach added.

"We are convinced that we have found a good solution," she said.

The decision to create the museum by Merkel's government followed decades of agonised debate over how to remember the 15 million ethnic Germans forced to flee to Germany from areas now in countries including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary which were occupied during World War II.

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Many of these ethnic Germans had roots in central and eastern Europe going back centuries, and tens of thousands died as they fled in 1945.

The centre aims to focus on expulsion in general - not just the expulsion of Germans - in order counter accusations that it had put Germans' suffering on a par with that of victims of the Nazis.

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Your comments about this article

19:31 February 11, 2010 by wood artist
The forced relocation of all peoples at the end of the war, overseen by the allies, was little different that similar actions taken by the Third Reich during the war. Of course, there weren't the death camps, at least not generally in the western zones, but the effects were much the same.

People who had lived for generations in a place were suddenly and forcibly uprooted and sent to places where they had no home, no relatives, no job, and frequently little knowledge of the cultural differences. Although many of these people were "ethic Germans" a good number of them had never been in Germany and didn't even know the language.

This would have easily qualified as a crime at Nürnburg, except that only the Third Reich was on trial. By the same token, the forced return of ethnic Russians ended up with many of them killed or sent to the Gulag.

This whole story is a sad event seldom really mentioned during the study of history, especially so in the US.

23:09 February 11, 2010 by 1FCK_1FCK
Indeed - "tens of thousands" is actually in the millions. General estimates of displaced are 12-14 million Germans, with estimates of dead up to 3 million.

This horrible crime perpetrated on millions of people has been shamefully swept under the carpet until recently, and even now leaves those who bring it up open to charges of equating Nazi atrocities with those of the Allies. The simple fact is that both are inexcusable war crimes.

Another facet of this tragedy is the extraordinary amount of cultural artifacts lost throughout the territories taken from Germany. To think that a whole culture, with a legacy of hundreds of years, was wiped off the map in a matter of months is almost unimaginable.
04:35 February 12, 2010 by saucymugwump
Plenty of crocodile tears are being shed for the 10+ million Germans who were forcibly moved to prevent a latter-day Hitler from using cousins in another country as a pretext for invasion. The same thing might happen again today with Russia. Putin and Medvedev have denounced the actions of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Georgia for not recognizing the superiority of their Russian minorities. NATO is the only thing standing in the way of Russia repeating WWII's invasion of the Baltic countries. Let's put things in perspective. The estimate of 3 million Germans killed is the absolute high, with current estimates being in the range of 500,000 to 1.1 million. Compare that to the 25% of Belarus and Poland's population who were killed. Erika Steinbach and other Germans demand compensation for the 10+ million refugees; that compensation should only be considered after Germany finds a way to resurrect the tens of millions of people killed due to Germany's invasion of Europe.
08:25 February 12, 2010 by LMB222
Crocodile tears indeed.

Moreover, those expelled were very eager to support Hitler's NSDAP: while in western parts of the country support was usually 20-50%, inEast Prussia (and Hamburg) it reached 80%.
17:38 February 12, 2010 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen
Everyone in the eastern part of the country was eager to support Hitler because they thought that he was going to get Germany's lost territory back. That's kind of a no-brainer. It's not like people were running around chanting "exterminate all the jews!" or whatnot. Keep some perspective.
02:59 February 13, 2010 by deutschamer
My father was a member of an obsure east prussian ethnic group called the masurisch. He emigrated to the US in 1925 when he was 18. Drafted into the US army during WWII, he fought against his country of birth. He was in the Battle of the Bulge(as we Americans call it) and other lesser know battles. Well, after the war, the masurisch were either killed or forcibly removed to what remained of Germany. They were scattered throughout Germany and the masurisch culture is now dead. Maybe I should sue Poland for our extended family's property back since my father was an allied soldier.
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