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The German government on Tuesday presented plans for a “German-Polish House” in Berlin to serve as a memorial to Polish victims of World War II and detail Germany’s brutal occupation of its neighbor between 1939 and 1945.
The documentation center is intended to inform visitors about the past, be a space for encounters between Germans, Poles and others, and at the same time become a memorial with a “striking artistic element,” according to the plans, which were presented by German Culture Minister Claudia Roth at the Chancellery.
“The knowledge about the suffering of the Poles under German occupation, the knowledge about the millions killed, murdered, is far too often missing in Germany and in Europe, especially also among the younger generation,” Roth said, according to German news agency dpa. “But precisely this knowledge is the prerequisite for developing an emphatic, dignified remembrance of the victims.”
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“The planned German-Polish House will commemorate Poland’s suffering between 1939 and 1945, and the violent deaths of more than 5 million Polish citizens, including some 3 million Jewish children, women and men,” according to the concept.
It will give information not only about acts of war, but also show everyday life under Germany’s “six years of occupation terror” and the Polish citizens’ armed resistance, including the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising by Jews in 1943 and the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
A man with a Polish flag places flowers after a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the Nazi-German invasion of Poland and the beginning of WWII at the memorial to Polish Soldiers in Berlin, Germany, on Sept. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)
The project was mandated almost three years ago by the German parliament. In a resolution approved by most parties at the time, it called on the German government to “create a place in a prominent location in Berlin that, in the context of the special German-Polish relationship, is dedicated to the Polish victims of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Poland.”
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On Tuesday, the culture minister presented the location of the former Kroll Opera near the German Reichstag parliament building and the Chancellery as a possible location. The Kroll Opera was used as a temporary seat for the Nazi parliament after the Reichstag burned down a month after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933. It was there that Hitler gave his speech announcing Germany’s attack on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.
While the focus will be on Germany’s occupation of Poland, the exhibition will also include themes that touch directly or indirectly on those years such as forced labor, war captivity, deportations and flight. Several parts of the permanent show will be dedicated to the Soviet occupation and Germany’s loss of its eastern territories after the war, dpa reported.
It will also highlight earlier centuries and the present-day relationship between the two countries, which has been characterized by inequalities.
Poland’s ambassador to Germany, Dariusz Pawlos, said his country would study the key points of the concept for the German-Polish House carefully. He offered “our support, our help, our open-mindedness”.
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Pawlos told dpa that Poland hopes the documentation center will be realized quickly.
However, the planning and building of the German-Polish House will take several years, German officials said.