BERLIN (JTA) — Jewish leaders and political groups in Germany condemned a proposed national day of remembrance for the 12 million ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after World War II.
The proposal was to be heard in parliament Thursday.
Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told reporters that "One could almost call [the proposal] a kind of retaliation" against remembrance of the victims of German war crimes.
The governing political coalition parties — the conservative Christian Democratic Union, its sister party the Christian Social Union, and the center-right Free Democratic Party — proposed the annual memorial day for Aug. 5. On that day in 1950, the association of Germans from the annexed regions signed a Charter of German Expellees in which they "renounce revenge and retaliation."
According to news reports, the parties argued that the memorial day would not dissociate the expulsion of ethnic Germans from German responsibility for the war and for war crimes, but they said it was time that the stigmatization in Germany of expellees and their descendants come to an end.
Opposition political leaders and a group of historians have condemned the proposal as revisionist and avoiding German guilt.
Kramer said such a memorial day could have a "catastrophic effect" on Germany’s image abroad.
The president of the League of German Expellees, Erika Steinbach, told Deutsche Welle that the 1950 charter was about the expellees "overcoming their own justified resentment to say that they wanted to look forward and bring about a peaceful coexistence in Europe."
She said she expected "the sympathy of the German state … for the particular fate of a substantial part of the German people."
Elan Steinberg, vice president of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, called the proposal "a disgraceful distortion of history and
an abuse of truth and memory."
"In reality, ethnic Germans who colonized Eastern Europe during World War II were the unbridled instruments of the brutal Nazi plans for the conquest and plunder of Europe. They served as agents of an evil design," Steinberg said in a statement.
"To link their commemoration to the 1950 Charter of Expellees, which expresses no contrition for the victims of the Nazis, mocks the memory of all who were brutalized by the Hitler regime, Jew and non-Jew," he said.