Cohesive Force for Europe

BERLIN/BUDAPEST/SIBIU | | rumaenienungarn

BERLIN/BUDAPEST/SIBIU (Own report) - With her appearance at yesterday's annual reception of the German League of Expellees (BdV), the German chancellor has again demonstrated her appreciation of its significance for Berlin's foreign policy. Already at last years BdV annual reception, the chancellor had declared that the resettled Germans serve as a "link" to their regions of origin in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and, along with the local German speaking minorities, as "an extraordinary cohesive force" in an increasingly integrated EU. Hungary is a current example. That country improved its bilateral relations by declaring a day of commemoration of the resettlement of Germans. On Monday, Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag, participated in the commemoration ceremonies for the resettled Germans held in the Hungarian parliament. Unexpectedly, a prominent Germandom functionary has recently been appointed deputy chairperson of one of the ruling parties, in Rumania - in an effort to improve relations to Germany, according to observers. At the same time, extreme right wing forces remain active in the "expellees" associations. In late 2012, one of the largest homeland associations awarded its "Cultural Prize for Science" to a prominent publicist, who denies that Germany bears sole responsibility for World War II.

A Good Tradition

The German Chancellor's appearance at yesterday's annual German League of Expellees (BdV) reception has a long tradition. While still a member of the opposition, she had paid her respects by attending the event back in 2005. Last year, Merkel referred to her "participation at the Expellees annual reception as a good tradition." Only conflicting schedules - "something unexpected" - could thwart her participation.[1] Not only Merkel, but also the German Interior Minister was on hand at yesterday's reception.

Ethnic Integration

In her speech at last year's BdV reception, the chancellor underlined the resettled Germans' role for Berlin's foreign policy, a primary motive for the great attention paid by the German government to the "expellees'" associations. The resettled Germans serve as a "link" to their regions of origin in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, where German-speaking minorities are still living today. These minorities, while rooted in their countries, have again close links to Germany, with the active assistance of the German Interior Ministry and various private organizations. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[2]) They are predestined to serve as "mediators (...) between the peoples," according to Merkel.[3] The German-speaking Eastern and Southeastern European minorities and their "rich cultural heritage" are "part of our German identity" and could, in the long run, develop as "a extraordinary cohesive force in Europe." With their close relations to the power centre on the continent, they "contribute to European integration."

Bridges to Germany

The meeting of a German-Rumanian government commission in Sibiu, Rumania, last week, is a current example of this "cohesive force" of Southeast European Germandom. The Parliamentarian State Secretary in the German Interior Ministry, Christoph Bergner, met with the State Secretary in the Rumanian Foreign Ministry, George Ciamba. The commission is meeting on a regular basis. Representatives of the German speaking minority are also participating. Since 2008, even associations of the resettled Germans - homeland associations with "Rumanian-German" roots - have also been involved. "The German and Rumanian sides" are aware "that it is of prime importance for the overall European interest," to "reinforce" Rumania's German-speaking minority's "identity and viability." Only then would it "be capable of building cross-border bridges," explained Bergner.[4] The "bridges" built by the German speaking minority are also comprised of German companies' investments, profiting from the double advantage, of low Rumanian wages and German speaking intermediaries in Sibiu. (german-foreign-policy.com reported [5]).

More than the Minimum Pension

According to a recent census, the minority, comprising less than 40,000 people, has always received comprehensive assistance from the German government. In 2013, it will be allocated 1.72 million Euros by the German Interior Ministry and 440,000 Euros by the foreign ministry. Even the government of poverty-stricken Rumania will support the German speaking "bridge builders" with approx. 1.45 million Euros in 2013. The support Rumania's German-speaking citizens receive, on an average, clearly surpasses the minimum pension of that country's more than 600,000 non-German-speaking pensioners.

Top Government Positions

The unprecedented financial support, as well as the important role played by German companies in and around Sibiu, home to a portion of the German-speaking minority, have significantly contributed to Klaus Johannis' success. Johannis, the longtime chairman of the minority organization "Democratic Forum of Germans in Rumania" (DFDR), has been mayor of the former Hermannstadt since 2000 and was confirmed in office last year by a clear majority. He has excellent relations with official and private bodies in Germany, and, in late 2009, he had already been in consideration for Rumania's interim prime minister.[6]. At the end of February 2013, he unexpectedly joined the PNL ruling party and was elected First Deputy Party Chairman later that month. Observers assume that PNL Chairman Crin Antonescu, who is seeking to embellish his image "on the European stage," initiated this move. His image was severely tarnished by antidemocratic manipulations. Antonescu is courting Berlin by announcing that he could envisage Johannis, who had been closely cooperating for decades with the German government, in top government positions, such as prime minister or even as president of Rumania.[7]

Memorial Day for the Germans

Another example of the "cohesive force" of German-speaking minorities and resettled Germans could be observed last Monday in Budapest. At a memorial service in the Hungarian parliament, attended by numerous parliamentarians and members of the government, the resettlement of a significant number of Hungary's German-speaking minority in the aftermath of World War II was commemorated. The presidents of the parliaments of both countries along with BdV President Erika Steinbach were among those, who held speeches and presented messages of greetings. Hungary is the first country in Eastern and Southeastern Europe to set aside a memorial day commemorating the resettled, which was observed January 19, 2013, for the first time.[8] According to the BdV, its association has been working "for a long time" very closely with the "top political level" of the Hungarian establishment. Back in 1995, Budapest expressed "its apologies for the banishment;" by 2006, one could at least point to "the creation of a national memorial and a monument in Budapest." Then in 2007, "a memorial conference" was held "in the Hungarian parliament, on the banishment of the Germans."[9] The cooperation with the German-speaking minority and the resettled Germans is certainly beneficial to Hungary. That country maintains close relations to Hungarian-speaking minorities in Slovakia, and especially in Rumania, for which there is identical support and, therefore, identical possibilities for influence as are being demanded for the German-speaking minority.[10]

Open-minded Reevaluation of History

Inside the associations of resettled Germans, being used by Berlin to create, in cooperation with the local minorities, the "cohesive force" for the Europe of the future, there are also other forces in action. These are using Germandom policy to make property claims or even openly put into question German guilt for the Second World War. For example, Rudi Pawelka is a member of the BdV National Committee, whose annual reception Chancellor Merkel honored yesterday. Pawelka is also the chair of the Silesian Homeland Association, in which the activities of ultra right-wingers have been tolerated. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[11]) Hans-Günther Parplies, Chair of the North Rhine-Westphalian BdV Regional Association, is also a member of the BdV National Committee. He, along with Pawelka, is a member of the Supervisory Board of the "Prussian Trust Fund," which has initiated lawsuits to regain property rights over estates that once belonged to resettled Germans, but, became Polish property after World War II.[12] Stephan Grigat is Vice President of the BdV and speaker of the East Prussian Homeland Association, which awarded its "Cultural Prize for Science" to the publicist Ret. Maj. Gen. Gerd Schultze-Rhonhof. He received the prize for his "contribution toward an open-minded and truthful reevaluation of the preceding history and the causes leading up to the Second World War." His most famous piece of work - evaluating particularly Poland's role before September 1, 1939 - bore the programmatic title "The War, which had Many Fathers."

[1] Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel beim Jahresempfang des Bundes der Vertriebenen am 20. März 2012 in Berlin
[2] see also Cultivating Relationships, Wertvolle Stützpunkte and Hintergrundbericht: Die Föderalistische Union Europäischer Volksgruppen
[3] Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel beim Jahresempfang des Bundes der Vertriebenen am 20. März 2012 in Berlin
[4] 16. Sitzung der deutsch-rumänischen Regierungskommission in Sibiu/Hermannstadt; www.bmi.bund.de 06.03.2013
[5] see also Übernahme and The Germandom Prize
[6] see also The Impact of Germans in the East
[7] Ethnischer Deutscher erhält Spitzenamt in Regierungspartei; www.spiegel.de 23.02.2013
[8] see also Ansichten eines Mitteleuropäers
[9] Jährlicher Gedenktag im ungarischen Parlament für die vertriebenen Deutschen; www.bund-der-vertriebenen.de 07.03.2013. See also A Special Relationship and Tragsäulen der Zukunft (II)
[10] see also Pillars of the Future and Tragsäulen der Zukunft (IV)
[11] see also Ostfahrten
[12] see also "Geklautes Land" and Proprietors in Waiting