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News Archive    Printer Version March 9, 2007   

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German TV breaks taboo with story of refugees

Source: The Independent
By Tony Paterson in Berlin - Published: 05 March 2007

German viewers tuned in to a taboo-breaking television drama last night that for the first time tackled the plight of millions of their countrymen who were driven out of what is now eastern Europe by Russia's Red Army after the Second World War.

The lavish three-hour production - entitled Die Flucht, or the March of Millions - was an attempt to face up to an issue that has been a source of simmering resentment for many Germans for six decades and which is currently the subject of a diplomatic row between Berlin and Poland.

An estimated 14 million Germans were expelled from the former eastern territories of East Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia and Sudetenland at the end of the Second World War. The areas were annexed to Russia, Poland and Czechoslovakia after 1945 and the overwhelming majority of those expelled lost their property and homes for good.

Last night's film, which cost �9m (�6m) to produce and involved the use of more than 2,000 extras to simulate a gruelling trek of refugees across the frozen Baltic, dealt with the expulsion of Germans from East Prussia in early 1945.

Starring Maria Furtw�ngler, whose great uncle, Wilhelm, was a famous conductor feted by the Nazi regime, Die Flucht tells the story of Lena, a Prussian noblewoman who shepherds her retinue of country estate workers to safety by fleeing westwards to escape the invading Red Army. To ensure political correctness, Lena ditches her would-be Nazi husband and falls in love with a French forced labourer.

Furtw�ngler said: "I hope our film will stir discussion among young and old about the worst chapter of German history. Millions were expelled from lands their families had been on for 700 years. I want my children to know what Prussia was and what its virtues were."

The actress, who in preparation for her role met German women who were raped by Russian troops during the expulsions, also caused a stir by publicly demanding an apology from the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, for the Red Army's behaviour in 1945.

But in Poland, German expellees' legal attempts to get their properties returned through the European Court of Justice have provoked a storm of protest from the country's right-of-centre government. Poland has also dismissed German discussion of the expellee issue as an attempt to portray the instigators of the Second World War as victims.

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