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Press Release No. 14 | 25 April 2012
Research – Planning – Expulsion: DFG Presents Exhibition on “The National Socialists’ General Plan East” in Poland

Impetus for Coming to Terms with a Particularly Difficult Chapter in German-Polish Relations/Close Cooperation with Academy of Sciences and National Institute of Remembrance

A special exhibition is set to tour Poland in the coming months. Under the title “Wissenschaft – Planung – Vertreibung”/“Nauka – Planowanie – Wypędzenia”, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) and its Polish partners will remember the “General Plan East” devised by the National Socialists, which was designed to scientifically underpin and advance the “Germanisation of the Eastern territories” after 1942 and which would have robbed millions of Polish citizens of their livelihoods. The exhibition was opened on Tuesday, 17 April in Warsaw, where it will remain until 30 May. It will also tour Lublin, Wrocław, Poznań and Gdańsk until the beginning of October. As DFG partners, the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) and the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) are also involved in the project.

“The General Plan East is a particularly difficult chapter in German-Polish relations. We hope that our exhibition will provide an impetus for coming to terms with this chapter and enable it to be jointly discussed,” said DFG President Professor Matthias Kleiner at the opening of the exhibition in Warsaw, which was attended by numerous guests from politics, research and society.

The “General Plan East” was developed in 1942 by Konrad Meyer, a Berlin-based agricultural researcher, and sent as a memorandum to Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the SS. It provided for the settlement of 5 million Germans in annexed Poland and the conquered western part of the Soviet Union over the next 25 years. In return, millions of the Slavic and Jewish inhabitants of these regions were to be enslaved, expelled or murdered. The DFG contributed considerable financial resources to the development of this plan; it was one of its largest individual projects. “The General Plan East shows the great extent to which the DFG – and German science as a whole - placed themselves at the service of the National Socialist regime, and how closely politics, academic research and research funding were linked,” emphasised DFG President Kleiner in Warsaw, adding: “In this respect, the DFG must shoulder its share of responsibility.”

Beginning in 2000, the story of the “General Plan East” was reconstructed by an independent group of historians led by Professor Rüdiger vom Bruch (Humboldt University of Berlin) and Professor Ulrich Herbert (Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg). The group was commissioned by the DFG to examine the development of the largest German research funding organisation during the Third Reich and during the period from 1920 to 1970. The exhibition “Wissenschaft – Planung – Vertreibung: Der Generalplan Ost der Nationalsozialisten” [“Research – Planning – Expulsion: The National Socialists’ General Plan East”] was based on works by Isabel Heinemann (now a professor at the Westphalian Wilhelm University of Münster), Sabine Schleiermacher (now a private lecturer at the Charité - University Medical Centre Berlin), Willi Oberkrome (now a professor at the Albert Ludwigs University of Freiburg) and Patrick Wagner (now a professor at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg). It has been displayed in more than 20 German cities since 2006, primarily at major universities, but also at the concentration camp memorials at Bergen-Belsen and Mittelbau-Dora. The exhibition’s documents have now been translated into Polish for the exhibition’s Polish destinations.

Twenty years ago the DFG would not have thought of designing such an exhibition, let alone bringing it to Poland, acknowledged the DFG President in Warsaw. “But in the last 20 years, Europe – and with it, German-Polish relations – has changed radically. Many contacts – economic, cultural, scientific and political – have been established and fostered during this period. We are now close partners in the European Union. All this has had an effect on the way we perceive one another,” Kleiner explained.

The idea of bringing the exhibition to Poland came from the President of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Professor Michal Kleiber. “We were delighted to accept this invitation and are aware of its special significance,” emphasised the DFG President. He also thanked his PAN colleagues and Dr. Lukasz Kaminski, the President of the Institute for National Remembrance. This institution, which is housing the exhibition, is the DFG’s other Polish collaboration partner.

The patrons of the DFG exhibition’s tour of Poland are Bundestag President Professor Norbert Lammert and his Polish colleague, Marshall of the Sejm Eva Kopacz. Vice President of the German Bundestag Petra Pau and Acting Marshall of the Sejm Eugeniusz Grzeszczak also took part in the opening ceremony, as did political representatives from both countries.

Further Information

Media Contact:

  • Marco Finetti,
    Head, DFG Press and Public Relations,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2230;

Other DFG Contacts:

  • Dr. Christian Schaich,
    International Affairs,
    Tel. +49 228 885-4329,
    (Organisational issues pertaining to the exhibition and research collaboration with Poland)
  • Dr. Guido Lammers,
    Scientific Affairs,
    Tel. +49 228 885-2295,
    (Questions on the General Plan East and general historical questions)

Detailed information on the exhibition, as well as the catalogue and other documents and information materials in German (and partly also in Polish), can be found at: