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Merkel to Prioritize Expellee Center

DW staff (jp)November 18, 2005

Chancellor-to-be Angela Merkel has stepped up support for the construction of a controversial center of remembrance for Germans expelled from Poland after the war in reprisal for the Nazi invasion of the country.

WWII Germans -- victims as well as perpetratorsImage: dpa - Bildarchiv

Merkel's stated commitment to the planned Center Against Expulsions in Berlin comes as a stark contrast to the resistance demonstrated by Gerhard Schröder and his coalition of Social Democrats and Greens towards the project.

"We want to make a clear sign in the spirit of reconciliation by building a center for the expelled people in Berlin in order to remember the injustice of these people and to show our opposition to the expulsion," Merkel said.

Speaking in Berlin, Merkel told lawmakers from her Christian Democratic Union and their Christian Social Union sister party that she would "personally commit myself to this task."

Tackling sensitive issues

Zentrum für Vertreibung - St. Michaelkirche
Berlin's St. Michael's Church is expected to house the centerImage: dpa

Ahead of a planned visit to Warsaw next week, she said her incoming power-sharing government would not shirk from tackling the sensitive issues of Germany's tumultuous past.

"Difficult problems in the future can only be mastered when we have a clear view of our own history," Merkel said. "Talking to our neighbors can help bring about progress and dispel concerns."

Strained relations

Wahlen in Polen - Lech Kaczynski
Lech Kaczynski won Poland's presidential race in SeptemberImage: dpa - Bildfunk

Relations between Berlin and Warsaw have been strained over plans to build the center, with detractors -- among them Polish president-elect Lech Kaczynski (photo) -- insisting they represent an attempt at German revisionism.

Expellee organizations reject the accusations and argue the project is designed to demonstrate solidarity with all victims of persecution.

Merkel was also quick to stress the center has no intention of playing down German guilt, but, she said, "injustice cannot be met with further injustice."

Despite ongoing tensions with Germany, which reached a peaked when Kaczynski used anti-German rhetoric in his recent election campaign, the president-elect has insisted he wants close relations with Germany.