Controversial Exhibition on Expellees to Open in Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 01.02.2006
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Controversial Exhibition on Expellees to Open in Germany

A group representing Germans expelled at the end of World War II from countries once occupied by the Nazis, has unveiled plans for an exhibition in Berlin despite a raging debate on its focus.


Organizers say the show would also include expellee experiences such as those by Bosnians

The Federation of Displaced People, which has sparked tension with neighboring Poland by calling for the establishment of a center in Berlin to document the fate of "German and European" expellees between 1944 and 1946, said it was planning a three-month museum show from August.

Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen Erika Steinbach

Erika Steinbach is also a Christian Democratic member of parliament

Federation president Erika Steinbach told reporters that the exhibition would focus on international research on the subject of forced migration and "genocide" using 13 examples from 20th-century history.

These would include the massacre of Armenians in 1915 under the Ottoman Empire, the expulsion of Poles, Balts and Ukrainians during World War II, the forced displacement of Germans after the war and "ethnic cleansing" in the Balkans in the 1990s.

No compariso n of sufferi n g

She insisted the show would not "compare the suffering of each affected group" but rather present the facts as documented by historians.

Zentrum für Vertreibung - St. Michaelkirche

St. Michael's Church in Berlin, where the center was supposed to be housed

Last year, the Roman Catholic archbishop in Berlin rejected a request to host the exhibition in a local church because of criticism it would relativize the hardship inflicted on ethnic groups at various points in history.

Poland in particular has raised objections to the notion of a Berlin center for displaced people for fear that it would "unilaterally" spotlight German suffering, putting it on a par with that of Jews and other Polish civilians while playing down its origins in Nazi aggression.

Perma n e n t ce n ter still pla n n ed

Steinbach told the news conference she was confident such a center would eventually be built in Berlin, an idea backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Flucht in den Westen

Expellees fleeing from Poland after World War II

Merkel's partners in government, the center-left Social Democrats, have joined Poles and Czechs in saying they support the idea of a center that would honor the memory of all refugees from eastern Europe and be based in a city outside Germany.

At the end of World War II, at least 12 million Germans were displaced, deported or expelled from countries in eastern and central Europe as the Soviet army advanced, according to the federation.

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