The news that Erika Steinbach has decided not to stand as a member of the council for the the new museum dedicated to Germans expelled from their homes after World War II has come as a relief to the majority of Poles, Czechs and Jews but it does not solve the problem that this museum is being built in the first place.
Steinbach is president of the Federation of Expellees (BdV), an organisation that seeks to represent the interests of all Germans who were forced to leave their homes in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II. Steinbach is known for her controversial views and there are hints of revisionism in her attitude to Germany’s part in the Second World War. She seeks to focus on the plight of German expellees after the war rather than looking at the plight of all expellees and the reason behind these expulsions. What is more, Poles note the fact that Steinbach voted against the act reconfirming modern Polish-German borders in 1990. The Czechs, on the other hand, remember the fact that she was a vehement critic of the implementation of the Czech-German Declaration in 1997.
The amount of ill feeling caused by the Centre Against Expulsions and the proposed museum is unsurprising. Rather than discuss the whole problem of expulsions in a wider context, the Centre Against Expulsions eagerly lists the history of each expelled German ‘tribe’ (together with coat-of-arms) as well as listing how many people from each particular nation were expelled and by whom (which country). The attitude here is one of lost tribes, a glorious past as well as finger-pointing and the shifting of responsibility for the expulsion of Germans away from the country that instigated World War II. It is not therefore surprising that most Central and Eastern European citizens find the idea of such a museum repulsive.
With Erika Steinbach being at the forefront of this shift in attitude to the outcomes of, reasons and responsibilities for World War II, the sigh of relief that she will not be a part of the council for this museum can be heard across Europe. The museum council numbers thirteen members of which three have been allotted to members of BdV. With the resignation of Steinbach, the council, curiously, will only number twelve with no one taking her place which leads to the suggestion that her resignation is probably only temporary and that she will soon be back leading the fight for the construction of the museum. In the meantime, behind the curtain, she will be pulling the strings anyway.