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Statement by Foreign Minister Maas on the first meeting of the German-Polish expert commission

10.02.2021 - Press release

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (10 February) regarding the first meeting of the German-Polish expert commission for establishing a forum for remembrance and exchange with Poland:

The Federal Government has never left any doubts as to Germany’s responsibility for the Second World War. While our minds are rightly focused on the Holocaust, that darkest chapter in German history, some gaps in our memory do exist. These include the particular suffering of the civilian population of Poland during the Second World War. Poland is where the madness of the racial-ideological war of annihilation in Eastern Europe began. The destruction of entire cities, mass executions and relocation were meant to permanently wipe Poland off the map.

The German Bundestag has therefore decided to establish a forum in Berlin for remembrance and exchange focussing on the Polish victims of the Second World War and the National Socialist occupation of Poland. We have a dual obligation in this regard: commemoration of the Polish victims of German aggression, as well as of their suffering and the bravery they showed through resistance – while at the same time enabling exchange to take place between Germans, Poles, and our European neighbours, with a view to deepening our relations. To my mind, that means this forum for remembrance and exchange must at the same time be historical and forward-looking; both German-Polish and European.

Background information:

On 30 October 2020, the German Bundestag 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; it will serve as a place where exchange, learning and debate about German-Polish history can take place. A first proposal for this forum is to be drawn up by the summer of 2021. The Federal Foreign Office is the lead ministry for the project. It will be implemented by a commission comprising Polish and German experts from the fields of academia and civil society that is being chaired by former Ambassador Rolf Nikel. The first meeting, which will be opened by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, is being held today at 17.00. The aim of the first meeting is to have an initial exchange and to agree on a rough outline for the project. The expert commission is scheduled to meet once per month. A project group has been set up at the Federal Foreign Office to support the work of the expert commission.

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