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Germany plans new center on Nazi occupation

May 5, 2022

Almost 80 years after the end of the Second World War, the German government has approved a concept for a documentation center in Berlin. Its focus: the effects of the Nazi era in Europe.

black and white photo, 1943, womwn and children with hands in the air, Nazi soldiers
This 1943 photo shows Jewish women and chaildren being deported from the Warsaw Ghetto Image: CAF/dpa/picture-alliance

In 2020, the German Bundestag advocated creating a documentation center for the victims of the German war of extermination and the Nazi occupations. Two years later, the federal government approved a proposal by Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth for the realization of the "German Occupation of Europe in the Second World War" (ZWBE) documentation center, which was designed by the German Historical Museum (DHM).

Chancellor Scholz welcomes timing

The idea is to illustrate the dimension of the Nazis' reign of terror across Europe. With its decision to establish another memorial and documentation site in Berlin, the German government is advancing key remembrance policy projects decided on in the previous legislative period.

Olaf Scholz, man gesticulating stands in front of two microphones
It's a good thing this is happening now, Olaf Scholz saidImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Speaking on the sidelines of a special cabinet conference earlier this week in Meseberg, north of Berlin, Chancellor Olaf Scholz underlined the importance of remembering Germany's historical responsibility, the German occupation and the destruction caused by Germans — in particular in view of the current war in Ukraine.

Policy of remembrance

The "reorganization of remembrance policy" is a "key project for the German government," according to Claudia Roth, who said on Wednesday that the new concept deliberately places German remembrance policy in a European context.

The center aims to shed light on how the devastating Nazi dictatorship with its war, destruction and extermination, including the atrocities of the Holocaust, affected all of Europe. Its focus will be placed on victims in Poland, the Baltic States, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Greece.

The new documentation center's goal is to contribute to a better understanding of the present. "Above all, this remembrance should be directed toward the future and make clear how important democracy, the rule of law and active diversity are for the European project and for our country in the heart of Europe, how crucial our commitment is in and for Europe," Roth said.

No location yet

Meanwhile, the Bundestag still needs to vote on the concept, and the question of a suitable location in Berlin is also still pending.

The World War II Documentation Center is not the only memorial in need of a home — three other memorials are supposed to be built in the German capital: for the victims of communist tyranny, the Polish victims of war and Nazi terror, and Nazi victims among Jehovah's Witnesses.

This article was originally written in German.

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