Thanking for participation in Afghanistan mission Bush omits Poland

20 12 2007

Source: Onet.pl & PAP Polish Press Agency; 20 Dec 2007
Translation from Polish: MoPoPressReview

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On a press conference the American President George W. Bush said, he’s not satisfied with the political progress in Iraq. He also thanked the allied countries for their participation in Afghanistan mission, expressing his fears over their possible withdrawal from this country.

Mr Bush expressed his concern for some allied countries’ intention to withdraw from this country before the situation in Afghanistan stabilises. – ‘I’m most concerned that some people say <<We’re tiered with Afghanistan, we’re thinking about backing out>> – he said.

‘My aim is to help the allies in finding a task they will be able to realise, and to convince them that we need time before the experience of democracy in Afghanistan works‘ – declared Mr Bush thanking the British, the Canadian, the Danish, the Australian and “other allies” for their effort.

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Poland’s new government to back out from Iraq sooner than expected paper reveals today

15 12 2007

Author: Izabela Leszczyńska
Source: Dziennik daily
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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The government wants, as Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk pledged in his Parliament speech, to have Polish soldiers withdrawn from Iraq by October 2008. However there are signs that the pledge might be implemented sooner.

Poland was to send two more military contingents to Iraq, however as we found out yesterday, this figure will be reduced to just one. Even though the government has presented the president with a motion to extend the Iraq mission to November 31st 2008.

‘September and November as only for contingency arrangements should the withdrawal prolong’ – explains Vice-Admiral Tomasz Mathea, deputy Chief of Staff.

Major Dariusz Kacperczyk, from the Operations Headquaters, adds that between March and April Iraqi 8th division will overtake the responsibility for the zone controlled by the Polish military.

Preparations for the come back are already in full swing. Our base in Divaniya is in the process of stock-taking of the equipement gathered in Iraq through the last five years. The ninth contingent is checking everything: the number of cars, helicopters, containers. The Support Inspectorate, which has alredy prepared the plan of withdrawal, determined 100 tons of equipment will need to be transported. Two ships will be needed for this purpose.How does the government justify its decision? ‘The British are reducing their mission to 2.5 thousand soldiers, AMericans plan to reduce theirs from 160 thousand to 132 thousand, Australia also plans reductions. Why would we still have our soldiers in Iraq, since 74% of Poles want them out?’ – asks Bogdan Klich, Defence Minister.

The Iraqi are alarmed. Iraq’s Ambassador in Warsaw Walid H. Shiltagh announced that the government in Baghdad is going to request for the mission to be extended. ‘The Iraqi government considers this a last request for extending the mission of the multinational force’ -says the ambassador. The diplomat already talked about this with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he is soon going to meet with the Ministry of Defence.

President Lech Kaczyński is also against the withdrawal. ‘If president does not support this motion, he risks that the mission will terminate abruptly with the end of 2007, as the current mandate is in force until then’ – replies Bogdan Klich.

The President’s Office hasn’t yet issued a statement. ‘It’s too early’ – We heard at the president’s press bureau.

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The ‘disinterested’ opinions of Gerhard Schröder

9 09 2007

Source: gazeta.pl news portal
Author: PAP Polish Press Agency
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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The former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder criticised European Union last Saturday for “becoming a hostage of nationalistic, anti-Russia interests of individual EU member states”.

Schroeder then said more precisely that who he meant were “the authorities of Poland and leaders of several other EU member states”.

The former chancellor, who currently is the head of a German-Russian company constructing the Nord Stream pipeline (between Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea), was sharing his opinions in Moscow during a meeting presenting the Russian edition of his diaries ‘Decisions. My life in politics’.

The meeting took place in Moscow’s Hotel President, owned by the Chancellery of the President of Russia, and among the participants was Dmitry Medvedev, the first vice-prime minister of Russia, who is named as Vladimir Putin’s successor in the Kremlin.

Medvedev, who also is the chairman of Gazprom’s board of directors, is the author of the preface to Schroeder’s book.

“EU should reject primitive interests”

The former chancellor also said that the EU should reject those primitive nationalistic interests, as they are an obstacle in European integration and improving relations with Russia.

Mr. Schroeder also criticised the plan to place elements of US anti-missile shield in Central Europe: ‘It’s being presented as a matter between Poland, Czech Republic and USA, whereas it is a matter of the whole EU’.

According to the former head of German government, such perspective is as illogical, as saying that the problem of Polish meat export to Russia is somethinng on a European level.

Mr. Schroeder emphasised that some EU member states are using the EU to solving their own problems. ‘It is detrimental for the European integration. For the benefit of Europe, one should put individual countries’ interests aside’ – he pointed out.

The Russian media in their reviews of Schoder’s book note, that he warns about the danger that is in the ‘turn to nationalism, observd in Poland, which is unsteerable, which may cause harm to German-Russian relation, which would be disastrous for Europe’.

‘Emotions in the Baltic states and Poland need to be cooled down’ – reported the Russian media citing Mr. Schroeder.

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Germany: a hostile friend

1 09 2007

Source: Wprost weekly of 2 Sep. 2007
Author: Krystyna Grzybowska
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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Should we acknowledge the German domination in Europe and humbly take in the attacks of the German media and some of the German politicians on this country? Or should we continue the hard policy of defending national interests, like the Germans do, on the European and international stage? As far as the relations with Germany are concerned, these are the options Poland has. Think not Poland has to do talk with Germany knelt down. Germany respects a nation that respects itself; and won’t be frightened. This is one of the reasons they treat Russia with such respect. The lesson they’ve got in Stalingrad got deep into their minds.

German patriotism

We are not a superpower; not with us the German government is competing in pursuit of being the first in Europe, or the leading world superpower. Chancellor Merkel receives such praise in Germany not due to her new orders in internal politics or important reforms. She’s so popular because she maintains strong position “in the world of Bush, Sarkozy and Putin”. It’s about influencing the world – because 62 years after the war the Germans are regaining self-confidence, which they lacked for decades. German self-confidence is however always combined with nationalism and arrogance. That’s how it was in history, and how it is now.

For a long time the word ‘patriot’ was regarded in Germany as offence – complained ‘Die Welt’ daily in one of it’s commentaries. And that makes the Polish accusation of German chauvinistic attitude towards them absurd. It is true, that one of the elements of de-Nazification of the West Germany was avoidance of presenting attachment to Vaterland, as there was the fear that it would turn to nationalism. I didn’t, however, notice any indications of patriotism in German everyday life – because patriotism in Polish, French or American style doesn’t exist there. The national euphoria during the recent football world cup faded away together with the event. Despite president Horst Koehler’s calls to continue with this patriotic enthusiasm. Germans don’t know what is patriotism. You need ages of fighting and efforts to keep territory, to have freedom; and also humility, to know what it means to love one’s home country.

German courage

For hundreds of years Germany, or German states and their variable coalitions to be more specific, have been pursuing to take other people’s territories in possession – until it ended with a barbarian war started by Hitler. Today Prussia is being glorified, and called German’s pride. ‘Der Spiegel’ weekly devotes pages to descriptions of the might and great merits the Prussian state made to the Germans. Grateful readers are sending letters thanking the paper for having courage to have this difficult subject published. “You rehabilitate the the biggest, and politically and culturally the most influential German state, dissolved in 1947 by the winners. No institution either in the East, or in the West, has ever had that courage” – wrote Joerg Ulrich Stange from Sleswig-Holsatia. It isn’t the first or the only attempt to rehabilitate the disgraceful German past.

The most worrying is the tone of the media, which accuse Jarosław Kaczynski, and the current Polish administration, of nationalism. “Prime-minister’s rhetoric, seasoned with nationalism, falls on the fertile ground among the elderly, who lived through the German occupation” – wrote the conservative German ‘Focus’ weekly. Is that supposed to mean, that those Poles who made it to survive and escape the death from German barbarians, are nationalists? One is tempted to paraphrase the famous Jacques Chirac’s quote “The Germans didn’t use the opportunity to be quiet”.

There are several words and terms the Germans shouldn’t use in relation to other nations, and most importantly in relation to Jewish and Polish nations. One of those is ‘nationalism’. It sounds cynical, coming from a country that apparently has overcome nationalism; although it’s citizens can freely associate in fascist parties like NPD, and bald-headed “patriots” run around East-German city streets bashing every foreigner who happens to be of different skin colour than a typical blonde would have had. Recent violence, that affected people of Hindu origin, highly-skilled professionals – which the richest country in Europe constantly lacks, prove how multiculturalism and tolerance work in the soul of an average simple German.

In the German East nationalism is visible straight-forward, whereas in the West it proliferates in beer pubs, manifested in complaints on Polish car-thieves and dirty Turks. On the other hand, political correctness and fear of the Muslims mean that the Germans are having even more mosques built, like the one in Cologne, although there already are over 2500 Islamic temples in the country.

Criticising Kaczyński, and accusing him of nationalism, when he warns Civic Platform party (PO) of being over-submissive towards Germany, is another attack on Poland, a country which hasn’t done anything wrong to the Germans, which was ready to put aside the past and reconcile with a nation that has done her so much harm.

Polish-German idyll

It were the Germans who began to revise history, when they recognised they can allow themselves for that. And the recent Expelled Associations’ congress in Berlin showed that this revision could have European dimension. The sole presence of the European Parliament’s president Hans-Gert Poettering on this undoubtedly anti-Polish event, only proves this point. How is the Polish government and the Polish public supposed to react for such demonstration? Should we pretend that everything is all right, and Erika Steinbach and her federation is a margin – like the politicians of German left and right would want us to believe?

Polish politics is a deep crisis. Parliamentary opposition, although among which there are many patriots, is demolishing the state in plain view of Europe and to German praise. The German media for some time have been trying to influence the Polish public, fighting together with the Polish opposition with Kaczyński brothers. They are almost certain that PO will win the next elections and form coalition with The Left and Democrats (LiD), which will finally relieve the nationalist tendencies in Poland. And there will be idyll between Poland and Germany: the way the Germans want of course.

People who defend the theory about the marginal role of the Federation of Expellees cite positive examples: for it was the enthusiasm for “Solidarność” that was the impulse for Merkel to get into politics – wrote Thomas Urban, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung correspondent in Poland. Germans like symbols, symbolic gestures are to fix problems between the two nations. The joint declaration of German president Johannes Rau and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwaśniewski in 2003, according to Poettering, has provided a final solution for the claims. ‘Bla bla bla’ – one would want to say. 22 families have to leave their homes, because these homes will be returned to the Germans. Further evictions are on their way.

If the next Polish government is to lead the equal partnership policy with Germany through trivial declarations, we will find ourselves in a corner, and without any chance for regaining the position the current government has undoubtedly won. We might also learn that the Polish veto against Russia is a betrayal of European interests – while the Baltic pipeline is only a gesture of German-Russian reconciliation.

We are fed up with the symbols of Polish-German reconciliation. German politicians very eagerly refer to the Letter of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops, and the famous quote “We forgive and we ask for forgiveness”. Today these words are getting new meaning, Poles ask for forgiveness for they must be guilty. Hans-Gert Poettering assured he represents the 27 European Union member states – and this is another example of the German arrogance and disrespect for other nations, especially Polish. Unconvincing is the argument, that Poettering as a German Christian Democrat wants to win the favour of the expelled as voters – because he does it at the expense of Polish fears, and he doesn’t care if he increases the tension between the Polish and the German.

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Germany ist gut: the birth of a soft superpower

29 08 2007

Source: Przekrój no. 3237
Author: Łukasz Wójcik
Translation for this blog: MoPoPressReview

The Germans are starting to not be ashamed of their power. Despite the Polish concerns, what they want is not hegemony – but to be a global player: who supports peace, democracy and builds prosperity.

The best view over the new Germany is from the railway station in Berlin. Unlike in most European capitals travellers do not arrive in the Old Town or near the cathedral, like in Cologne. In Berlin you arrive in the middle of the government district. When you get off the train, through the glass walls of the most modern of European railway stations, you can see all the important buildings for the German democracy: Bundestag building, the Reichstag, on the left, covered with the glass dome designed by Norman Foster. On the right the square and edgy building of Chancellor’s Office, which the locals nicknamed the “washing machine”. Only Spree and a massive lawn separate these buildings from the train station. The Berlin Republic needs to be visible.

In Bonn the state symbolism was reverse. The then-capital of the West Germany was placed in a small town near Cologne; the low-risen buildings were to demonstrate the restraint post-war political ambitions. A small castle upon a hill was towering over the city: the seat of Allies’ commandment. The first FRG Chancellor Konrad Adenauer had to run up and down the hill to run the country’s business. His successor, for the next several decades, needed to consult the Allies on important matters. The last time on uniting the two German states.

We could witness the German awakening for the first time during the last year’s football world cup: it was the first time after the war, when the Germans were so openly manifesting their Germanness. Stadia were filled with red-black-gold colours, and before each match thousands sang the German national anthem. A sight you you wouldn’t be likely to witness twenty years ago.

For the last half year the symbolic modern buildings have been filling up with content. Holding the presidency of the G8 and the European Union, the Federal Republic of Germany has shown that it doesn’t want to be a global player: it is a global player. At the Heiligendamm summit the inconspicuous Angela Merkel forced the world’s most powerful countries to acknowledge global warming, and made USA to declare carbon dioxide emissions cut. Two weeks ago Angela Merkel again achieved the impossible: she reanimated the EU Constitutional Treaty, that seemed lost forever.

The awakening of the New Germany

The awakening of the new European superpower has begun nine years ago. With Gerhard Schroeder in 1998 the 1968 generation got into power. Both aware of the historical responsibility, and ready to end the national penance and open a new chapter in the country’s history. Shroeder was the first to start an active foreign policy outside the European Commonwealth.

‘Sending Bundeswehr to Kosovo was a breakthrough’ – says Piotr Buras of the Centre for Foreign Relations in Warsaw. ‘For the first time since 1945 a German soldier was to be stationed outside the country. As the then-German Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping put it Germany changed the “no more wars” rule to “no more Auschwitz”. And this justified the military intervention protecting the Albanians in Kosovo, whom the Slobodan Milosevic’s troops were putting in imminent danger of genocide’.

That’s how the three-step German comeback to international politics begun. First step was to engage German troops in all possible humanitarian missions. After the successful mission in Kosovo the Bundestag, which has to issue its consent for participation in every foreign mission, started to give its consent more often. German soldiers showed up in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, and Afghanistan. But when the Americans started to look for allies before their intervention in Iraq, Germany said “no”.

And that was the second stage: namely Germany making herself independent from the USA. Only Schroeder and his Foreign Office Minister Joschka Fischer could make this process happen. Due to political reasons: as having eight thousand German soldiers on UN missions was showing Germany feels responsible for the things going on in the world. But mainly due to psychological reasons: as the Kohl’s and Gensher’ humble gratefulness towards the USA was replaced with Schroder’s and Fischer’s criticism towards the American superpower. That was the influence of the 1968 revolt in which they both participated.

Denying Americans the help they wanted, Schroeder not only gained the votes of thousands of Germans opposing the war in Iraq, but also found his relationship with Jacques Chirac on a fast-track, and his profile on European political scene sky- rocketing: he was a Yankee-buster. And that was the beginning of the come-back stage. Active in humanitarian missions and openly criticising the United States, Germany went to the lead of Europe. And begun to defend their interests. They’ve become a normal country.

Reaching this point took Germany several generations. Since 1949, when Allies agreed for the FRG, German politics was being done under the Konrad Andenauer’s catchphrase “the more Europe the better for Germany”. The disaster of the Second World War made Germans realise that positioning their country tight within international organisations is the only way to peace in Europe – and at the same time – to rebuilding their country.

That’s where the German commitment to European integration comes from; regardless of the differences on national interest between France and FRG – especially in relation to America. For the Germans the USA were a guarantee that the Red Army won’t take over their country, for the French – an obstacle in regaining their position in Europe. Germans, however, thought that that if there will be French-German co-operation, other countries will follow the unlikely duo. And they were right.

Europe’s good boy

For over 40 years Germany have been acting as the “good boy of Europe”. As the heir of the Third Reich they have been doing penance and paying the largest contributions to the EU on time. In the 1980’s West Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher said that ‘Germany doesn’t have national interests, as her interests are identical to European interests’.

The people of Genscher’s generation were the last among German politician who lived through the war, and as grown-ups felt they owe the Allies the unpaid historical debt of gratitude. Their last political act was uniting West and East Germany in 1990 and launching the EU accession process of the Eastern European states. Helmut Kohl was the last politician to use the adjectives ‘German’ and ‘European’ interchangeably.

The change in the attitude would be best illustrated by comparing the German rhetoric on introducing Poland to the EU, and the way Berlin justified the Nord Stream pipeline. Kohl forced the EU enlargement in the name of historic justice and paying-off the war debts. In his logic, EU enlargement was good for Europe and therefore good for Germany.

In the pipeline case, Schroeder turned this logic over: Germany’s energy supply safety he presented as the interest of Europe. To some extent this way of thinking was also adopted by Angela Merkel in Brussels summit, when she forced double majority voting system as a solution benefiting the whole EU; not mentioning that it is at the same time very favourable for Germany.

Merkel’s personal ambitions

Germany’s awakening to the role of a superpower has three reasons: internal, external and personal. Despite the problems with economic growth, Germany are still the world’s third largest economy, and the biggest global exporter. Naturally German politicians have to take care of German enterprises businesses worldwide. And to do that they have to build their country’s strong position in international politics.

Second reason, the external, is the international community’s growing expectations towards Germany. Both USA and Europe expect Germany, which are an economical superpower, to take more responsibility for the world. Germany are now taking part in all the key international negotiations: not only with Russia, but also around Iran and Palestine.

The third reason is called Angela Merkel. The German chancellor, accused at the beginning of her term for inadequate experience in international politics, has during the last two years shown massive political talent, outdoing her predecessor by far. Some are already talking about a distinctive “Merkel style”. Heavy analyses are carried out prior to any decision – and when it comes to action, her moves are calm yet firm. She never looses her aim from her eyesight.

Merkel’s focus on the international stage have one more reason: they take attention from her failures in internal politics. Christian-Democrats and Social-Democrats coalition is falling apart, the partners are unable to agree on key reforms, and the rows caused by SPD’s falling support turned to open conflict that paralyses the government. Unable to succeed inside the country, Merkel escapes to foreign policy.

This is benefiting CDU/CSU and one social democrat: Fran-Walter Steinmeier, the former chief of Schroeder’s cabinet, and currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Merkel has great contacts with the Americans and Israel, to balance Steinmeier takes care about good relations with the Arab world and Russia. Building his position in SPD at the same time.

Soft superpower: no plan though

Despite the historical stereotypes and fears, the emerging superpower is not aiming at any defined target, and the successes on different fields are not conjoined with a cohesive plan of developing the German potential. It’s not domination whet the Germans are after. Their political aims do not go beyond the ambitions of a large European country: focusing on their own national interest, the need to impact international politics: as a global player – taking care about peace, supports democracy and stimulates economic growth – not a hegemony.

So far Germany is reacting, not initiating. Also on the EU level. The former German government was open that it intended to transform the EU into a federal state with its own president and government, which caused shivers down many Polish right-wing politicians’ spines. Chancellor Merkel never mentioned such a project. Like the Kaczynski brothers she doesn’t mind referring to the “national interest” of her country.

‘Angela Merkel is the best chancellor Poland could dream for’ – says Buras. ‘Her policy is foreseeable, as it’s just pragmatic. She doesn’t surrender herself to the pressures of interest groups, and surely she won’t follow Gerhard Schroeder’s footsteps and will not get a seat in the board of some Russian corporation’.

It is her attitude to Russia that should ultimately convince Polish politicians that Poland and Germany have the same road to follow. Merkel raised in the former East Germany is immune to the charm of former KGB agents, which she expressed during her May meeting with Vladimir Putin in Samara. There was no Russian-German entertaining on a hunt, and the Russian president heard some bitter words about democracy in his country. He also found out that Berlin is outraged with the Russian ban on Polish meat import.

Regardless of the worries there are in Poland, Germany will always talk with Russia over our heads. But it doesn’t always have to be another Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Berlin needs Russia to solve problems like nuclear Iran-threat or Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is the level of international politics, Polish government is rather not engaged in.

That is why Poland should strive for German support for her Eastern policy – not the other way around. Merkel has proven that she’s open to rational argumentation. If Polish government is able to convince Germany that Europe needs democratic Ukraine, that Russian games with gas are dangerous for Germany as well – it could turn out Poland has a powerful ally in her talks with Russia.

The perfect time for this is now, because the Germans are starting to do foreign policy on a scale adequate to their potential. You might of course organise a coalition-of-fear againt the giant, but maybe better it is to think where Polish and German interests overlap and try to help one another.

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If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 





Poland will not return priceless art works to Germany

6 08 2007

Source: Gazeta Wyborcza 4-5 August 2007
Author: Bartosz T. Wieliński in Berlin
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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For over a week the Polish and German media have been heating up the debate over German art works, that Poland acquired after the Second World War. It is for instance the so called ‘Berlinka’: the collection of old prints and manuscripts (by Goethe, Beethoven and Mozart, inter alia), and a collection of aircrafts from the beginnings of air travel. During the war the Germans relocated them to Silesia region, where after 1945 they were found by Polish authorities, gaining control over the Recovered Territories.

Since 1992 their return is being negotiated. Today Warsaw refuses to return them saying that these collections are a compensation for the Polish works of art destroyed during the war by the Germans. Polish experts estimate these losses at 20 billion dollars.

Last Friday the German Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily wrote, that Polish stubbornness is unlawful, and reminded that Poland had broken off the talks in 2005. FAZ called the German government to be more firm in demanding the return of their national treasures. Later the German press referred to these works of ar as “loot” or “hostages”. Yesterday Anna Fotyga, the Polish Foreign Affairs Minister, called these remarks a “Cold War relic”. While the Polish Government’s Plenipotentiary for the Polish-German relations said that these claims made by Germany are ‘a defeat of the peculiarly understood reconciliation, forced by the scriptwriters of the Polish foreign policy in the early nineties.’

INTERVIEW
with Prof. Tono Eitel, German diplomat and main negotiator of the return of the German art works

Bartosz T. Wieliński: Why do the Germans call Berlinka a “loot”? Poland did not steal it.
Toto Eitel: I don’t see anything wrong with that. When as a result of war some goods are taken oven and relocated, they are called loot. Berlinka is a “looted art”. There also exists another term “stolen art” – but this applies to the works of art that the Germans have stolen from Poland during the war.
No one had stolen Berlinka or the collection of air crafts. Poles have found them on the lands granted to Poland after the Seond World War. They did not destroy it, but have taken care of it. Why do you want them back?
Because that’s what the international law says. The Hague Convention of 1907 forbids confiscating art works. These belong to Germany, Poland couldn’t have taken it then. Nowadays only Warsaw and Moscow refuse to agree with that argumentation. The Berlinka collection has an exceptional value for the Germans. If these were paintings, sculptures, no one would have made so much fuss about it. But this is about the manuscripts of our most wonderful artists, including the manuscript of our national anthem. This is our national heritage, and it just belongs to Germany.
Beethoven’s scores and Goethe’s manuscripts are Europe’s heritage. Does is matter in which European country they are placed?
I disagree. Beethoven was a German, he was writing in German. His manuscripts should be placed here. How would you feel if the manuscripts of Sienkiewicz or Mickiewicz were in German storage? Poland would be demanding them back, as firmly as we do.
The Germans seem to forget that they had themselves been destroying Polish collections. The SS were burning the collections of the libraries of Warsaw for days.

We are not forgetting. We have always been saying that destroying the Polish culture the Germans have committed terrible crimes. However the attitude of Nazi Germany, the large-scale disregard to international law, cannot be an example for other countries. The Ukrainians have returned our works of art, and we had been plundering and exterminating them too. Kiev acknowledges that this is the law.
Poland thinks that Berlinka and other German collections are substitute restitution. You have destroyed our works of art worth of 20 billion dollars – we are taking yours then. That’s fair.
I don’t agree with this opinion. There isn’t such solution in the international law. Besides, Poland had renounced her claims of restitution from Germany in 1953, which was repeated in the treaty of 1970.
But it was the Soviet Union that forced Poland renounce these claims! And it was Moscow, who received compensation money from Germany after the war. Passing only some leftovers to Poland.
But you can say Poland received one fourth of the territories of the German Reich. I cannot accept the argument that what was signed during the communism doesn’t apply today. Thank God that system collapsed, but the Polish state continues to exist, and law is law.
Most of the 180.ooo German works of art taken over after the war are in Russia. Russia doesn’t want to give it back to you either, nevertheless German press only attacks Warsaw. Why?
Because people can’t understand why we are not able to come to an agreement with a country that we are in friendship with, with which we are in NATO and the EU. We can’t come to an agreement although we’ve been negotiating for 15 years now.
Did you come to any joint conclusions during the negotiations?
No, although we continued the talks. Once in Poland, once in Germany. Unfortunately in 2005 Poland broke off the talks. We were not given any reasons. The subject was just cut.
Maybe because Germans all those years have been demanding everything, that Poland refused in advance. Wouldn’t it be better to found an institution, for instance in Wrocław, a European city with a Polish-German history, and deposit Berlinka there?
Why not? Such solution was never excluded. But both parties need to seek the solution together. And for the last two years Poland doesn’t want to.

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C O M M E N T
by Włodzimierz Kalicki
Gazeta Wyborcza daily

A burgler breaks into our house. Whatever he was capable of carrying – he had taken out and stolen. At the end he set fire to our house, and the rest of our treasures perished in the fire. When he was running away, he lost his coat.
Years gone by, he comes with a generous proposal: if you can still find in my apartment anything that I stole from you, I can give it back to you. But on one condition: you’ll give me back the coat I lost. And don’t mention the things I burned – that doesn’t exist any more.

A farce? Not only. This is the newest line of German argumentation: if Warsaw gives us back Berlinka and air crafts collections, we’ll give them back whatever we still have in our storages of the things we robbed from Poland.

What about the treasures of the Polish cultural heritage, that – in large part – were being destroyed in a planned, organised fashion? German negotiator thinks that it doesn’t have anything to do with the return of Berlinka.

Poland will not agree for that.

Any potential return of Berlinka is possible only as a response to Germany’s compensation for destroying Polish cultural treasures. The compensation could, for instance, have the form of a foundation. A foundation seeking, around the world, and buying off, the works of art that were stolen from Poland by the Germans; a foundation that would also promote Polish-German joint cultural initiatives.

Nudging one another will not bring us closer to solving this problem. Only a reasonable compromise, that the public opinion in Poland and Germany will accept, will let this outrageous row end. The outrage is evidently caused by Germany.

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If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 





Is this the time to stop hating Poland?

4 07 2007

The Polish Dziennik daily reports on a debate that started in Israel, after one of internet portals asked the question: ‘Is this the time to stop hating Poland?’

The row over the relations with Poland, and whether Poland is a nation of murderers or Rigtheous Among the Nations is explained in Dziennik by Adar Primor, the editor-in-chief of the English language edition of the Israeli Haaretz daily. He took part in this debate publishing an article in Haaretz, in which he criticised Israeli stereotypes on Poland and the Polish. According to him, Poland is curreently the most pro-Israeli country in Europe. See Adar Primor’s article in Haaretz: “There is a new Poland” . Polish Dziennik published translation of this text together with a commentary for the Polish readers, which is translated into English below.

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Source: Dziennik daily, July 4th 2007
Author: Adar Primor, editor-in-chief of the English edition of Haaretz
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

“IN ISRAEL WE SEE THE NEW FACE OF POLAND”

After having read my article, a reader said he will apply for a Polish passport. Others protested against including Poland in Nazi Germany. Some criticised the racism in Israel.

I was born in 1965 in Jerusalem. I was always aware of my Polish roots (my grandfather was born in Będzin, my grandmother in Katowice), and I had also known that my mother’s family was murdered on Polish soil during the Holocaust. As a proud Israeli, I always had a strong Israeli identity, thefore I wasn’t paying much attention to its Polish element.

My mum talked with her parents in Polish (however imperfect her Polish was), and when she was driving, my grandmother always shouted to her: “Uważaj” (look out, be careful) from the back seat, giving fright to other passengers. The same loving grandmother always watched us to make sure that we ate everything we had on our plates – which apparently was connected with some Polish (Jewish-Polish?) character feature, which “no Pole can get rid of”. But that concludes the list of things connected with Poland in my life.

When I was 12, my grandfather got ill. Once I heard him raving through his sleep. I came closer, but I wasn’t able to understand the word he kept saying. I asked my mum. “Będzin” – she said. It was the first time I heard the name of his home town. For the first time I understood what home country means. Although grandfather had left Poland over fourty years ago, this country was still alive in his heart.

This is why I was so excited when last month Polish embassy in Tel Aviv invited me to go on a trip to Poland, organised for Israeli journalists. Although I’ve been working for 12 years in “Haaretz” as foreign affairs editor – and I was also preoccupied with the news from post-communist Poland – I wasn’t sure whether the image of Poland that formed in my mind on the basis of media reports (and the interviews that I have done) does reflect reality. The text “There is a new Poland”, which I wrote after almost a week in Kraków, Auschwitz, Łódź and Warsaw summarises my new experiences and thoughts.

As one could have expected, the article published 15th July in Haaretz, did not go unnoticed. I think that no other article that I have ever written received so many reactions.

Some of them were positive, even warm. One of my colleagues journalists, who also went on that trip to Poland, praised me for “courage to fight for normality”, and added that he wouldn’t be surprised if readers stoned me. Meanwhile, pat of the readers – much larger than I expected – joined my colleague in praise. One of them visited Poland after sixty years (he had left in 1946) and saw a completely different country. Another person said, that after having read my article, he will apply for a Polish passport in the embassy. Others joined the historical debate and protested against the mental process in which many Israelis include Poland in Nazi Germany. Some of the readers said, that if we could forgive the Germans there is no way we could blame Poland. Others criticised racism in Israel itself.

On the other hand, one journalist who was born in Poland, and who has visited the country of her birth many times, both professionally and as a tourist, said that she doesn’t agree with some parts of my analysis, which – as she says – goes too far. More critical was my mother-in-law, who lived in Poland during the war. She survived together with her parents thanks to many Poles, who risked their own lives and were hiding them in barns and other places. Nonetheless she will never forget the horrible day in 1948, when she saw her parents being killed by a group of unidentified Poles, who could not stand the fact that Jews were coming back their homes. Her reaction to my article was deeply sceptical. ‘It is hard to believe that the Poles have really changed’ – she said.

Some readers were commenting that until the Polish government tolerates anti-Semites in coalition, and until it is ready to pay full compensations to Polish-Jewish emigrant, whose property was confiscated, one cannot talk about normality or a full reconciliation.

Nari Livneh, author of features in Haaretz, who visited Poland recently and discussed that visit in several articles, wrote: ‘Some things never change, and Poles also didn’t change’. In another feature, she summarises in one sentence the view, that still many Jews and Israelis share: ‘I would never trust the so called “New Poland”, or “New Germany/France/Hungary” or any other “new European country”, because something like that doesn’t exist‘.

The lively debate that my article provoked, can be concluded in my opinion with the words that the wounds have rather healed over, but some still have very visible scars.

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