WARSAW, Poland (CNS): A German cardinal said his country will not achieve full reconciliation with neighbouring Poland until both nations recognise the grievances of millions of civilians who lost everything in deportations during and after World War II.
“We should remember the present generation doesn’t carry the blame for these events, but bears responsibility for them,” Berlin Cardinal Georg Sterzinsky said.
“The challenge of approaching others without prejudice and working for a united Europe will not be met until Poles expelled from their pre-war eastern territories are understood in Germany, as are the reasons why Germans were expelled from lands now belonging to Poland.
This is causing many unnecessary misunderstandings and conflicts,” he told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI on August 30.
The same day, Polish and German bishops celebrated a Mass in Berlin to commemorate the September 1, 1939, German attack on Poland that began World War II.
Church leaders from both countries called for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation at the Mass at St Hedwig Cathedral.
Cardinal Sterzinsky told KAI that in 1946 his family was expelled from Warmia, in what is now Poland, adding that he had been warned by his mother that “love of enemies” was the “hardest obligation for a Christian”.
The German army invasion of western and northern Poland began a six-year occupation that cost Poland a third of its national wealth and a fifth of its population, including 90 per cent of its Jewish minority.
Polish politicians reacted angrily when Germany’s governing Christian Democrat Union called for expelled Germans to have a “right to a homeland” during its campaign for elections to the European Parliament in June.
However, in an August 22 speech in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the expulsions were a “direct consequence” of Nazi crimes and warned against “falsifying history”.