Willy Brandt's Warsaw genuflection 50 years on

Fifty years ago, Willy Brandt went on his knees in Warsaw in a gesture of humble apology towards the victims of Nazi crimes in Poland. The gesture was the prelude to a policy of reconciliation between Germany and Poland. Why do so many Poles take a critical view of the gesture?

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Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

The gesture still jars with the propaganda

Gazeta Wyborcza explains why Willy Brandt's behaviour rubbed people the wrong way in Poland at the time:

“Brandt's gesture of humility and atonement torpedoed all the anti-German post-war propaganda practiced by the communists. Germany was portrayed as Poland's eternal, deadly enemy, constantly striving to destroy our country. ... So it's worth remembering that just like in the communist era, even today not everyone in Poland appreciates Brandt's gesture. Given the party interests of many politicians, it's still more convenient to present Germany as Adenauer in his Germanic coat rather than as Brandt on his knees.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Don't forget the Poles' suffering

Germany still does not adequately recognise the non-Jewish Polish victims of the German occupation of Poland during World War II, the Frankfurter Rundschau observes:

“This has to be said loudly and clearly, and it's not a question of downplaying the suffering of others. It's about a lack of awareness of the problem. The country was both the site of the genocide of the European Jews and of an extermination campaign against the Polish population. This is particularly clear when you consider that six million Poles were killed, of whom three million were Jews. Today, two out of three Poles feel that the suffering of their forefathers has not been adequately recognised. And they're right.”