Concept for a forum for remembrance and exchange with Poland: Presentation by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin on 15 September

flags on poles from left to right: Germany, Poland and the EU

Flags of Germany, Poland and the EU, © dpa-Zentralbild

15.09.2021 - Article

The Second World War began in September 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland. It was here that the demonic violence of the racial-ideological war of annihilation in Central and Eastern Europe became apparent for the first time, bringing immeasurable suffering to the country’s people.

black and white picture of German soldiers
Germany’s invasion of Poland - start of the Second World War in September 1939© A0009_dpa

The destruction of entire cities, relocation and mass executions were intended to permanently wipe Poland off the map. Germany bears full responsibility for the crimes committed in Germany’s name and at the hands of Germans, and will continue to do so in future.

On 30 October 2020, the German Bundestag therefore decided to establish a forum at a prominent location in Berlin dedicated to the Polish victims of the Second World War and the National Socialist occupation of Poland. An implementation concept was elaborated under the leadership of the Federal Foreign Office with the support of a German-Polish commission of experts and a political advisory council.

At the presentation of the concept in Berlin on 15 September 2021, Foreign Minister Maas said:

The suffering of the civilian population of Poland was largely overlooked for many years in Germany’s collective memory of the Second World War. Last year, the Bundestag therefore took a ground-breaking step with its decision to establish a forum for remembrance and exchange with Poland. I was happy to accept our parliament’s remit on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office – it was in fact very important to me personally.

The future forum for remembrance and exchange with Poland could become a milestone for German-Polish reconciliation. For addressing the past is not something we only owe to the dead. For Germans and Poles it remains the basis of our common path towards the future.

Historical and forward-looking at the same time

Prior to his statement, Foreign Minister Maas had handed over the concept to President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble. The core element is a future forum for remembrance and exchange in Berlin, one goal of which is to focus on joint remembrance and the communication of historical knowledge. At the same time, however, it is designed to facilitate exchange between Germans, Poles and their European neighbours, thereby helping to intensify our good neighbourly relations. In short, the centre should at the same time be historical and forward-looking, both German-Polish and European.

With the start of the new legislative term, the concept will be presented to the new deputies, who will be invited to make a decision on it. The invitation will contain ten concrete recommendations for the planning and construction of a forum for remembrance and exchange in the coming legislative term. Click here to read the concept paper in full (in German).


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