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Berlin unveils plans for memorial to Polish victims of Nazis

August 29, 2023

The "German-Polish House" memorial is set to be built in Berlin near the German parliament and the Chancellery. Meanwhile, Germany and Poland are still disagreeing about war reparations.

German Culture Minister Claudia Roth at the Chancellery (second from left) speaks at the Chancellery
Roth said knowledge about the suffering of the Poles under Nazi occupation is far too often missing in Germany, especially also among younger peopleImage: DW

Germany on Tuesday announced plans to establish a memorial to Polish victims of the Nazis.

"We urgently need a place of remembrance, a place of understanding and encounter with our neighbor Poland," German Culture Minister Claudia Roth said at a press conference.

What do we know about the project?

The plans were presented by Roth in coordination with the Foundation of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

The "German-Polish house" memorial is to be built in Berlin at the site of the former Kroll Opera. It will be located next to the chancellor's office and opposite the German lower house of parliament, the Bundestag.

Adolf Hitler announced the invasion of Poland from the opera in September 1939, and it also hosted deputies after the 1933 Reichstag fire.

An exact timeline for construction has not yet been decided. German lawmakers are to discuss a more concrete proposal in 2024.

The project originated in 2017 and is designed to commemorate the victims of Nazi Germany's invasion and occupation of Poland between 1939 and 1945. Between five and six million Poles, including three million Jews, were killed by the Nazis.

The exhibition is also intended to explore earlier centuries and the current relationship between Germany and Poland.

Roth criticizes 'anti-German campaigns'

The announcement comes after Jaroslaw Kaczynski of Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party pointed the finger at Germany for allegedly interfering in its neighbor's election campaigns.

Kaczynski called opposition leader Donald Tusk a "Brussels bureaucrat controlled by Berlin" and said his opponent's victory would mean the "end of Poland." Germany's eastern neighbor is set to hold parliamentary elections on October 15.

In her comments on Tuesday, Roth expressed "regret at some anti-German campaigns."

Warsaw has long demanded Berlin pays reparations over destruction Poland endured during World War II.

Berlin argues that Poland renounced any claims to compensation in a 1953 accord between then-communist Poland and East Germany. Kaczynski and other Polish political figures have argued that Warsaw was forced to waive its rights by the Soviet Union.

sdi/lo (AFP, dpa, AP)