Merkel angers Poles with plan for Berlin memorial

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The Independent Online

Mrs Merkel, widely tipped to become Germany's first woman chancellor after elections this September, told Polish leaders during a visit to Warsaw on Tuesday that if she was elected her government would back plans for a memorial centre in Berlin for the expelled Germans.

The issue has long been a source of contention between Berlin and Warsaw. Alexander Kwasniewski, the Polish President, insisted during Mrs Merkel's visit that most Poles remain resolutely opposed to the project because of its attempt to portray Germans as victims of the war.

"A memorial would give Poles, Czechs and other nations which suffered under the Nazis the impression that there was an attempt being made to revise history," Mr Kwasniewski said. "Many Poles fear German expellees would try to regain their lost property."

But Mrs Merkel said although she was aware of Poland's concerns, she could not accept a ban on German expellees commemorating their plight. "We are not trying to relativise suffering, just document it," she said.

The idea of a memorial centre is rejected by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Social Democrat-Green coalition. Last year he allayed Polish concerns about potential German property claims in Poland.

Lech Kaczynski, Warsaw's Mayor and a candidate for the "Law and Justice" party, said Poland would not view Germany as an EU partner if a memorial was built.