BERLIN- An exhibition opened in Berlin on Thursday commemorating the expulsions of Germans and others from eastern Europe after 1945, drawing condemnation from Polish leaders.
The show opened without major disturbance, although around 30-40 people gathered t
o protest outside. Some held banners emblazoned with Polish slogans.
“This is a very bad, worrying and sad event,” Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski told reporters at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp Stutthof, in what is now northwestern Poland.
“It is not doing anything positive for Poland, Germany or Europe.”
The exhibition was organised by the Centre Against Expulsions — a body closely linked to the League of German Expellees, representing 12.5 million Germans evicted from eastern parts of the defeated Third Reich after World War Two.
Poland’s conservative government and many Poles believe the organisation aims to portray Germans as victims of a war they started.
The League, led by Erika Steinbach, a member of Germany’s ruling Christian Democrat party, hopes the show will pave the way for a permanent expellees’ centre.
This idea has made Steinbach a hate figure for many Poles. A weekly magazine has portrayed her in a black SS uniform straddling the former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
In an address marking the opening, Steinbach did not respond to Polish criticism and said the show was intended to commemorate all the victims of forced expulsion in Europe, not just Germans.
Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939 after a secret pact between Adolf Hitler and Soviet leader Josef Stalin to partition the country.
After Germany’s defeat, Poland’s borders were shifted west and many Germans were forced to flee. Thousands died on the trek from Poland, Hungary and what was then Czechoslovakia.
At the same time, Poles from the east of the country were uprooted from land which became part of the Soviet Union.
“It is very dangerous to try to reduce the World War Two history to the problem of expulsions without mentioning the murder of Poles and the Holocaust,” Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Kowal told Polish news agency PAP.
“Poland is clearly saying ‘no’ to such attempts (to set up a permanent centre).” — Reuter