Warsaw Mayor Calls For German WWII Apology

Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski has called on German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to apologise to Poles for Germany's WWII aggression.

Schroeder should offer his apology during his scheduled 1 August visit to Warsaw for ceremonies commemorating the 60th anniversary of the bloody Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis, he said.

Kaczynski was speaking as Polish veterans of the uprising were questioning moves of reconciliation by the leading German expellee group BDV following a seminar on the uprising held by the group in Berlin.

"He (Schroeder) should know that a certain act of expiation is needed, similar to that of Chancellor Willy Brandt more than 33 years ago," Kaczynski told Poland's TVN24 news channel.

At the time, Brandt knelt before the monument to the Heroes of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and apologised for German war-time atrocities against Jews.

"Today I think it is time for a similar gesture towards the Polish people," Kaczynski said, adding that without it Schroeder's visit during the uprising's anniversary would be "highly unfortunate."

Meanwhile, some veterans of the uprising have said the presence of any German officials at the 60th anniversary ceremonies would still be "premature".

"Speaking plainly, in my opinion their presence is unwelcome," veteran, historian and journalist Stefan Bratkowski wrote in this week's edition of Poland's Wprost newsmagazine.

Kaczynski said the gesture by the German Union of Expellees (BDV) hailing the uprising during a seminar on the issue in Berlin on Monday was not appreciated in Poland.

He called the meeting an "attempt to create a certain completely false balance" between the fate of Polish insurgents on the one hand and that of Nazis and Germans expelled from eastern Europe after the war on the other.

"This is putting the victims and the perpetrators on an equal footing," Kaczynski said, adding this was a "dangerous" move for Polish-German relations.

Auschwitz survivor and former Polish foreign minister Wladyslaw Bartoszewski also termed the meeting a "provocation", and Polish veterans of the uprising especially criticised the fact that not a single veteran was invited to participate.

BDV president and controversial German right-legislator Erika Steinbach who headed the meeting entitled "Empathy, the path to coming closer" said she was "puzzled" by the reaction of the Polish veterans.

The meeting had been intended to "send a signal" that citizens of a common Europe "must be empathetic to one another", she said.

Tensions between Germany and Poland have flared in recent months over BDV plans to build a centre devoted to the post-war expulsion of Germans from eastern Europe.

Fearing that history may be skewed, Poles are also angered by the BDV's support for the plans by some Germans expellees from former German, now Polish, territories to launch civil compensation suits for lost properties against Poland.

The 1944 Warsaw Uprising is viewed by historians as the bloodiest battle in turbulent Polish history. It was launched 1 August 1944 by the Polish Home Army (AK), a clandestine force battling the Nazis.

The desperate offensive was aimed at repelling German forces from the city and, according to many historians, to forestall its take-over by the advancing Soviet Red Army.

At least 18,000 AK partisans and more than 100,000 Polish civilians were slaughtered in 63 days of savage battles against a Nazi force of 50,000 troops. Historical records show some 16,000 German troops were killed.

The Uprising was crushed by the Nazis on the 2nd of October 1944. More than 80 percent of Warsaw was destroyed on orders of German dictator Adolf Hitler.

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