Thursday, August 16, 2007

Polish Trustees trigger scandal with controversial poster of German MP

The Polish Trustees on Thursday denied libelling a conservative German member of parliament by showing her posing with a Nazi officer and what appears to be a Teutonic Knight in a poster, Poland's PAP news agency reported.

The Polish Trustees is a group opposed to compensating ethnic Germans who fled or were expelled from Polish territory after the Second World War.

It was created to counter the activities of German organisations called the Union of Expellees and the Prussian Trustees.

The Polish Trustees poster depicts conservative German legislator Erika Steinbach, head the Union of Expellees, standing along side a Second World War Nazi officer and what appears to be a Teutonic Knight.

A quote attributed to Nazi German Dictator Adolf Hitler is also emblazoned on the poster.

The controversial Polish Trustees published the poster to protest celebrations planned this month by German expellees commemorating their homelands prior to the Second World War on what is now Polish territory.

The German Union of Expellees on Thursday threatened to sue the Polish organisation for libel in connection with the poster.

Polish Trustee head, Law and Justice (PiS) Senator Dorota Arciszewska, said the group had not broken any laws in publishing the poster, but was simply exercising its right to freedom of expression.

Erika Steinbach sparked outrage in Poland by opening an exhibition in Berlin focused on the fate of ethnic Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after Nazi Germany's Second World War defeat.

The vast majority of Poles slammed the move as an attempt revise history by casting Germans as victims of the Second World War.

There is also much concern in Poland's north-east that former German owners may reclaim the properties they abandoned after 1945.