Zentrum gegen Vertreibung
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Franz-Werfel Menschenrechtspreis

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Our Foundation
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 genocide.

The foundation has four equal-ranking tasks, human rights always being central to them:

  • First:
    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.

  • Second:
    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.

  • Third:
    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 Beneš 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.

  • Fourth:
    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.

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