Tasks and Objectives
The foundation ZENTRUM GEGEN VERTREIBUNGEN (Centre against
Expulsions) was founded in the spirit of reconciliation with all neighbouring
peoples. It declares its solidarity with all victims of expulsion and
The foundation has four equal-ranking tasks, human rights
always being central to them:
In an overview in Berlin, the fate of more than 15 million German victims
of deportation and expulsion from all over central, eastern and
south-eastern Europe with their culture and their history of settlement
is to be made accessible, as is the fate of the 4 million German late
repatriates who have been coming to the Federal Republic of Germany
or came to the former GDR since the 1950's, above all since the
end of the 1980's. These expelled and deported persons had their
homes in the whole of central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, where
they had settled for centuries. Many thousands of them suffered years
of forced labour and internment. Almost 2.5 million children, women
and men did not survive the pains of displacement, torture, forced labour
or months of being raped. People must not be left alone with this fate.
It is a task for the whole of Germany. The complex processes are to
be reproduced in a modern form of museum. Additional space for sadness,
sympathy and forgiveness is to be accommodated in a requiem rotunda.
We wish to illuminate the changes in Germany as a result of the integration
of millions of uprooted compatriots, and this integration has had its
effects on all areas of life. The sociologist Eugen Lemberg spoke of
the "origination of a new people of inner Germans and eastern expelled
persons" as early as 1950. For example, nothing in the religious
structure in Germany remained the way it had been since the Augsburg
Peace of Religions in 1555.
The "invisible escape baggage", as the poet Gertrud Fussenegger
called it, was also technical, handicraft, agricultural or academic
know-how. In addition, there were seven or eight hundred years of independent
cultural identity and experience in living alongside and with one another
with Slav, Magyar, Baltic or Romanian neighbours. The German expellees
brought their intercultural competence here with them. With their early
profession of loyalty to a Europe in which peoples live in peace with
one another, they were way ahead of most people in Germany. Why? They
know more intensively than others that Europe does not end at the Oder
and Neiße Rivers or the Bavarian Forest. The French political
scientist Alfred Grosser called the integration of the expellees
the greatest task for social and economic politics ever mastered by
Germany. Nevertheless, this magnificent achievement has remained unprocessed
and unknown to a great extent in this country.
Expulsion and genocide of other peoples, especially in Europe, are
an indispensable part of the ZENTRUM GEGEN VERTREIBUNGEN. In Europe
alone, more than 30 ethnic groups are or have been affected by such
breaches of human rights. From Albanians, Armenians, Azeris, including
Estonians, Georgians, Ingushetians, Crimean Tatars, Poles, Chechen
and Ukrainians right down to Belorussians and Greek Cypriots as well
as the singular persecution and mass destruction of Europe's Jews
by National Socialism.
The community of nations indolently turned a blind eye to the genocide
of the Armenian people in 1915/16 by the Ottoman Empire. Ethnic
"land consolidation" by enforced resettlements were not
only tolerated, but also adopted by the League of Nations in 1922,
and Hitler included the lack of interest of the community of nations
in his calculations for his terrible plans of destruction. "Who
now talks about the destruction of the Armenians?" he said in
1939, continuing step by step cruel acts against our Jewish fellow-citizens
and European Jews.
He opened Pandora's box wide. This meant that there was no stopping
it after him. Alongside the expulsion of the Germans, the displacement
of the eastern Poles by Stalin and also that of the Hungarians by
Bene took place in the post-war period.
Even now, we still see pictures of violence in the Balkans and in
Chechnya, driven in a vicious circle of revenge and retribution. Not
to mention other continents. Justification is sought again and again.
It does not exist! Displacement, expulsion and genocide can
never be justified. They are always a crime, contradicting human rights
and carried out by following the archaic thinking of the bloody vendetta.
The foundation is not willing to accept this, but will repeatedly
exhort and encourage people to have sympathy and to show their interest.
All the victims of genocide and displacement need a place in our hearts
and in historical memory. The ZENTRUM GEGEN VERTREIBUNGEN wishes to
provide such a place. We wish to make clear that human rights are
indivisible. Dialogue with our neighbouring peoples is an indispensable
part of this.
Awarding a prize to people who sharpen the sense of responsibility through
their actions is one of the foundation's tasks. The prize may be awarded
to individuals as well as to initiatives or groups who have turned against
the breaching of human rights by genocide, displacement and the deliberate
destruction of national, ethnic or religious groups.
The prize is awarded on the basis of the Fourth Hague Convention of
1907, which expressly placed civilian populations under protection during
and after war-like actions. It is awarded on the basis of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, of the International Pact of 1966,
the resolution of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations
of 1998, as well as of the Copenhagen Criteria of the European
Council of 1993.
This prize may be awarded to anyone who has acted in this sense in an
exemplary way in politics, art, philosophy or by practical work.