POLISH PREMIER VISITS NAZI CAMP SITE IN RESPONSE TO GERMAN EXPELLEES’ EXHIBITION
TV Polonia, Warsaw
10 Aug 06
Presenter] And now about the Berlin exhibition that was opened to
the public today and that has been arousing enormous controversy
for a long time. The exhibition devoted to expulsions in Europe was
organized by the head of the German Expellees Association, Erika
Steinbach. Most Polish commentators feel that this is a successive
step leading towards the obliteration of the truth about World War II.
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski broke-off his holiday today and
visited the German concentration camp site at Sztuthof [Polish:
Sztutowo – in northern Poland]. He said that he had done so in order
to recall who had been the aggressor and who had allowed this enormous
crime. Here is [reporter] Jacek Karnowski:
[Reporter] A successive exhibition, and successive controversies. The
expellees are taking care that the memory of their wrongs will remain
constantly alive. In Berlin, they are showing their fate alongside
that of other nations that have lost their homelands: Armenians,
Bosnians, Jews. There is also a lot about Poles – those who were
expelled from the East and from the Zamosc region.
[Erika Steinbach, head of the Expellees Association, with Polish
translation overlaid] I would also like this exhibition to be
visited by Poles. This would please me very much, we could talk
[Reporter] The German expellees thus want to be perceived like other
victims of ethnic cleansing. And this is what arouses the greatest
fears. There is little room here for any indication of who was the
exclusive perpetrator of the wartime cataclysm.
[Jaroslaw Kaczynski, prime minister of the Republic of Poland]
There was an aggressor at the time, there was a state that admitted
enormous atrocities, there were authorities with wide social support
that decided on these atrocities and that planned them.
[Reporter] In reply to the exhibition, the prime minister today visited
the former camp at Sztuthof, a place where the Germans murdered 65,000
people. He paid homage to completely innocent victims, those who were
not aggressors but also those who resisted.
[Helga Hirsch, commentator, in German, with Polish translation
overlaid] There is no coincidence that the Polish prime minister
travelled today to Sztuthof. I can say that I am sad that Poles cling
so strongly to their stereotypes. We here perceive your suffering.
[Reporter] The Berlin exhibition is a testing ground. If it is
well-received, the road to the construction of the Centre Against
Expulsions will be considerably shortened, and then the expellees
will write their fate into the German identity on a lasting basis.
[Frank Herold, Berliner Zeitung journalist, in German, with Polish
translation overlaid] The subject of the expellees is not the main
problem in Germany, but the interest is indeed large. The expulsions
play a greater role in public debate than they did 10-15 years ago.
[Reporter] Erika Steinbach cannot in fact call herself an expellee. Her
parents occupied this house in Rumia [near Gdansk] after the outbreak
of war [in 1939]. Her father was a soldier in the Wehrmacht and her
mother was an official from Berlin. Despite this, she is close to
the success of her life – the construction of the centre.
[Professor Czeslaw Madajczyk, Polish Academy of Sciences] This is
also a bit of a test of the resistance of the Polish side – how far
such things will be accepted and how far not.
[Reporter] Small groups of German and Polish young people protested
against the exhibition. But the head of the German parliament turned
up at the opening. For some Poles, this is proof that the expellees
are successfully persuading the German elites to their point of view.
[Irena Lipowicz, expert on German affairs] This threatens to bring a
deviation from the very much tried and tested line of Polish-German
reconciliation that was commenced by the letter of the Polish bishops
to the German bishops [in 1965].
[Reporter] Sixty years after the war, we can thus see the beginnings
of a successive struggle for memory. This is why the authorities in
Warsaw are returning to the idea of calculating all Polish losses
from the wartime years.
[Krzysztof Olendzki, deputy minister of culture] The point is for us
to know how large was the scale of genocide, to become aware of this,
so that this can never happen again.
[Reporter] Contrary to announcements, the Polish-German treaty of
1990 was not shown at the exhibition in Berlin – this was the treaty
in which Berlin renounced its claims to its former [eastern] lands.