and Germany are the two biggest countries in central Poland Europeand share a long border, but polls show a widespread lack of familiarity between the two neighbors' people.
Two of every three Germans have never set foot in
, according to a survey commissioned last spring by the Poland in Instituteof Public Affairs . Public views of Poles are also not favorable. When asked what they most associated with Warsaw , the top answer was "car theft and crime," followed closely by "illegal workers" and "poverty, backwardness." Poland
Many Poles harbor skeptical views of
as well. In a similar poll conducted by the institute last March, 49 percent of Poles questioned said they feared Germany could pose "an economic threat" to Germany in the future, even though Poland is Germany 's largest trading partner. Poland
Also ruffling feathers in
are recent historical exhibits in Poland that highlighted the hardships faced by millions of German refugees after World War II. Many Poles saw the exhibits, which closed just before Kaczynski's arrival, as an attempt to portray Germans as victims of a war that they started -- and that left 6 million people dead in Berlin . Poland
Sponsors of the exhibit, titled "Forced Paths," said they took pains to include the experiences of other political refugees in
Europethroughout the 20th century and questioned whether Polish leaders were seeking to score political points at home.”
"German expulsions "not unique"
However, Erika Steinbach, a deeply controversial German politician and director of the BdV insists that the exhibition is committed to cover the plight of all European refugees.
"If you think in terms of human rights, then the fate of each individual and the dignity of each person must be preserved," Steinbach told Deutsche Welle. "And in the end, it was collective punishment that drastically violated international law."
Klotz, one of the curators of the show, also stressed that the exhibition was meant in no way to disproportionately highlight German suffering.
"For us the most important thing is to contextualize the expulsion of Germans," Klotz told German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. "We want to show that it is no way unique."
These articles and the exhibit have a particular interest to me since I only learned about the mass expulsion of Germans from
My research led me to discover some of my German cousins. They were the first to tell me about the family’s expulsion from what was
My cousins briefly described the hardship of having to quickly pack their essential things, leave behind many family treasures, and being forced to move into what became