Erzwungene Wege

I don’t think there is any exhibition in recent years that has generated so much controversy as the one on expelled people’s now open in the Kronprinzenhalle in central Berlin.

I took the opportunity of spending some time at it earlier today.

And I come away convinced that it ought to be shown all over Europe in the years to come.

During the 20th century more than 30 peoples in Europe have more or less lost their right to their own homes. And although it is not easy to estimate how many people have been affected, it is reasonable to talk of between 80 and 100 million people.

That’s a huge amount of human suffering.

But there is also the loss of a diversity in important parts of Europe that had been preserved over the centuries. Areas might have become more homogeneous, but Europe as a whole has become a poorer place, even leaving all of the suffering aside.

It’s not large, but it’s very telling in the facts that it portrays. And the steady stream of people just standing in silence reading, looking at small items or listening at some of the stations were this is possible is impressive.

You can see that it is an exhibition that makes an impression.

For every people that has been forced to flee there are those guilty of having done it, and there is often a complicated story leading up to it. That’s why it has been so sensitive to bring up the fate of the millions of Germans expelled from Central Europe in 1945.

Isn’t this to seek to ”relativize” the crimes of Hitler and the Holocaust? And is it right to even mention the expulsions from Poland after the crimes the Nazis had committed against that nation?

But this isn’t the only aspect that has lead to controversy.

There is the perennial debate on whether the mass murders of Armenians in 1915 should be called a genocide or not. Although the facts are generelly recognized, the term is still highly controversial in Turkey.

But there are more sensitive cases shown in moving details in the exhibition.

The expulsion of Finns from Vyborg and Karelia. The expulsion of Italians from Istria and Dalmatia. Or the enormous ”exchange” of people between Greece and Turkey after the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923.

Not to speak about the ethnic cleansing of the far more recent Balkan wars.

But all this is part of our history, and the exhibition is just presenting the facts without either pointing fingers or judging concerning responsibility. In taking this approach it in fact becomes even stronger.

Well worth a journey to Berlin. That I found it particularly strong perhaps has its background in me having lived through ethnic cleansing and seen the human tragedies.

Let’s hope that there will be a wider future for the exhibition.

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