Erika Steinbach


Erika Steinbach

Erika Steinbach (born July 25, 1943) is a German conservative politician who has been representing the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the state of Hesse as a member of the Parliament of Germany, the Bundestag, since 1990. She is one of two candidates elected directly from Frankfurt. She is also a president of the Federation of Expellees. Erika Steinbach studied music and was a member of concert orchestras before becoming a fulltime politician.

Offices

Steinbach has also been president of the controversial [http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2135984,00.html] Federation of Expellees ( _de. Bund der Vertriebenen, BdV) since 1998 (succeeding Fritz Wittmann). Since 2000, she has been a member of the national board of the "CDU-Bundesvorstand". In addition, she is on the boards the Goethe-Institut, the national broadcasting company ZDF, and the Territorial Association of West Prussia. She also is chairwoman of the Centre Against Expulsions.

Since 2005, she has been a member of the German parliamentary committee for human rights and humanitarian aid and spokesperson for human rights and humanitarian aid of the CDU/Christian Social Union fraction.

Biography and career

Steinbach's father, Wilhelm Karl Hermann, was from Hanau (in Hesse, western-central Germany).de iconcite web | title= Erika Steinbach bestreitet Sinneswandel | work= Die Welt| url= http://www2.welt.de/data/2005/11/03/798145.html?s=2 | accessdate=2005-11-03] . He was sent in 1941 to annexed by Germany Rumia in Poland to serve as a technician with the rank of a Luftwaffe "Feldwebel" (Non-commissioned officer in the German air force) at the local airfield during the war. Rumia had been renamed Rahmel and incorporated during the German invasion of Poland into Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia administrative district by Nazi authorities. Erika's mother, Erika Hermann (née Grote), lived in Berlin but visited the town occasionally. Steinbach was born there as Erika Hermann.

In January 1944, her father was sent to the Eastern Front. In January 1945 with the beginning of Soviet Army advances on German occupied territories in Poland, Steinbach's mother, three months before the advancing Soviet army reached the area decided to leave Nazi occupied Poland and went to Schleswig-Holstein together with her children.pl icon cite journal | first = Piotr | last = Szubarczyk | authorlink =Piotr Szubarczyk | coauthors =Piotr Semków | year = 2004 | month = May | title = Erika z Rumi | journal = Biuletyn IPN | volume = 50 | issue = 4 | pages = 49–53 | id =|url = http://www.ipn.gov.pl/biuletyn5_40.pdf | format = Dead link|date=June 2008 – [http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&lr=&q=author%3ASzubarczyk+intitle%3AErika+z+Rumi&as_publication=Biuletyn+%5B%5BInstitute+of+National+Remembrance%7CIPN%5D%5D&as_ylo=2004&as_yhi=2004&btnG=Search Scholar search] ] After several years of wandering through parts of Germany, in 1948 the family found refuge in Berlin, where Steinbach's grandfather had become mayor of one of the districts.

The following year, Wilhelm Karl Hermann returned from Soviet captivity and the family moved to his homeland in Hanau. There, Steinbach finished her education and started studying the violin. In 1967 she had to abandon her music career due to serious bone illness. In 1972, after knowing him for nine years, she married Helmut Steinbach, the conductor of a local youth symphonic orchestra. She then graduated from a school of civil administration and moved to Frankfurt, where she started working for a Communal Evaluation Office.

In 1974 she became the head of a sub-unit of that organization responsible for the computerization of all public libraries in Hesse. The same year she joined the Frankfurt branch of the CDU party. In 1977 she was elected a chairman of the city council and held that post until 1990, when she was elected a member of the Bundestag. In that year she voted against the confirmation of German-Polish borders. In 1997 she criticised the approval of Czech-German Declaration. Because of this, Steinbach is often regarded as the troublemaker in the relations between Germany and it's east neighbours [http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erika_Steinbach#Politik] (see: International criticism).

Federation of Expellees

Steinbach became noted by the press for the first time when she was among the strongest opponents of German ratification of the border treaty with Poland. In 1994 she joined the Federation of Expellees and in May 1998 became the head of that organization.

As Steinbach's parents had no roots of any kind in the area of her birthplace, and her father had been only deployed there as part of his duties in the German occupation force, her birthplace was considered "an accident",en icon cite book | author =Patrick Blum | title =The Battle for Expelee Memory | year =2004 | editor = | pages =11-13 | publisher =National University of Ireland | location =Maynooth | id =| url =http://www.nuim.ie/publications/research/research_record_2004.pdf | format =pdf | accessdate =February 26 ] and the legitimacy of her speaking on behalf of the German expellees was questioned.de icon cite journal | author = Gabriele Lesser | year = 2003 | month = September 19 | title = Zentrum gegen Versöhnung | journal = die tageszeitung | volume = 58 | issue = 12 | pages = | id = | url = http://www.taz.de/pt/2003/09/19/a0097.1/text ] de icon cite journal | author = Jörg Lau | year = 2004 | month = May 27 | title = Gedenken mit Schmiss|journal = Die Zeit | volume = | issue = 23 | pages = | id = | url = http://www.zeit.de/2004/23/Steinbach-Portr_8at ] However, as the 1953 German Federal Expellee Law includes all categories of people who had to leave for whatever reason the areas held by Germany during World War II, she holds officially the status of an expellee.de icon cite web|author = Bundestag | year = 1953 | url = http://bundesrecht.juris.de/bvfg/index.html | title = Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der Vertriebenen und Flüchtlinge | format = | work = Juris.de | publisher = German Ministry of Justice | accessmonthday = February 28 | accessyear = 2005] Nevertheless, the German law included two main categories: "Vertriebene" (expellees who usually had lived in Eastern Europe for centuries; Erika Steinbach's case is uncommon since she was born in the East, however to newly arrived immigrants of "free will") and "Flüchtlinge" (people who the Nazis forcefully re-settled to an occupied area and who were consequently expelled after the war). In proportion, the number of "Vertriebene" is much higher than the number of "Flüchtlinge". Whether Erika Steinbach's parents are part of any of these two groups is questionable. Erika Steinbach's father's ancestors have roots in Silesia (not in Pomerania), yet he did not grow up there.

Steinbach was re-elected as president of the Bund der Vertriebenen by an overwhelming majority on May 8, 2004de iconcite web | author = | year = 2004 | url = http://www2.bund-der-vertriebenen.de/presse/index.php3?id=94 | title = BdV-Präsidentin Erika Steinbach mit überwältigender Mehrheit wiedergewählt | format = | work = Bund der Vertriebenen website | publisher = BdV | accessmonthday = May 8 | accessyear = 2004]

Centre Against Expulsions

Currently she campaigns for the building of a "Centre Against Expulsions" ( _de. Zentrum gegen Vertreibungen), a memorial devoted to the victims of forced population migrations or ethnic cleansing in Europe, situated in Berlin. Initially together with the late SPD politician Peter Glotz, she chairs the "Centre Against Expulsions" foundation. The initiative, supported by the CDU/CSU fraction in the Bundestag, has caused much controversy, both in Germany and abroad, and has resulted in much criticism of Steinbach.

International criticism

Steinbach's position as head of the Federation of Expellees arouses much controversy in some countries which were occupied by Germany during the Second World War.

Steinbach's public pronouncements have been criticized for causing a deterioration in German-Polish relations due to stirring up controversy regarding the rights of Germans who were expelled from Poland after World War II. [http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,444037,00.html] This controversy has led to Steinbach's negative reputation in Poland, where she and the Centre against Expulsions are frequently associated with Nazism. One example of this was a 2003 cover montage of Polish newsmagazine "Wprost" that depicted her riding Chancellor Gerhard Schröder while wearing an SS uniform. [http://www.spiegel.de/img/0,1020,721659,00.jpg] In 2007 "Gazeta Wyborcza", a popular newspaper in Poland, reproduced a fragment of an [http://bi.gazeta.pl/im/1/4383/z4383661X.jpginformation leaflet] presenting Steinbach as a descendant of the Nazis, and reminding of recompensations for Poland for losses caused by Germans. [http://wiadomosci.gazeta.pl/Wiadomosci/1,80273,4383674.html?skad=rss] (original article in Polish).

In 2006 she was involved in a controversial exhibition on the expulsions in Europe in the 20th century. [http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2135984,00.html] [http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,2144,2129971,00.html] . The exhibition was criticized by some before it even opened. However, most visitors have called the exhibition not at all "revisionist", though some called it "amateurish". It does explicitly mention the invasion of Poland and Nazis crimes as major part of the reason for the indifferentiated expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe. Furthermore, it also treats the expulsions of Armenians, Poles, Turks, Greeks, Latvians, Karelians, Ukrainians, Italians and other peoples - topics many Europeans are unfamiliar with. The last item of the exhibition was a reconcilitory suitcase from Poland dedicated to a peaceful Polish, German and Ukrainian future generation. A group of Polish victims of Nazis visited the exhibition and pointed out that neither Death marches (Holocaust) nor expulsion of Warsaw civilians were mentioned [http://serwisy.gazeta.pl/swiat/1,34239,3589698.html] .

In May 2008 Steinbach started a serie of lectures about the "German colonization of East-Middle Europe" at the University of Potsdam. However, the persisting obstructions of some students and other young antifascists who protested against the Steinbach's allegedly revisionist view on German history by throwing waterfilled balloons and blocking the entrances compeled her to cancel the further lectures [http://www.welt.de/politik/article2061642/Erika_Steinbach_sagt_Vortraege_nach_Protesten_ab.html#vote_2061963] [http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/0,1518,556128,00.html] . On June 11, 2008 a full meeting of the students council decided (with 146 against 7 votes) to protect the right of freedom of opinion and speech and invited Steinbach again, assuring that these rights will be asserted against a small minority, if necessary under police protection and the local Mayor, supported by several Political Parties, showed his displeasure about the intolerant minority and requested the University council to repeat Steinbach´s invitation [http://www.maerkischeallgemeine.de/cms/beitrag/11224669/60709/Oberbuergermeister_fordert_Universitaet_auf_sich_dem_Konflikt_zu.html] . Nevertheless, the National Federation of Victims of Nazi-regime (Antifascist Alliance) proclaimed their support to the further protests [http://www.maerkischeallgemeine.de/cms/beitrag/11230875/60709/Uni_Studenten_verteidigen_die_Meinungsfreiheit_zur_Not_mit.html] [http://www.potsdamer-toleranzedikt.de/index.php?article_id=260] .

External links

* [http://www.bundestag.de/mdb/bio/S/steiner0.html Bundestag biography]
* [http://www.bund-der-vertriebenen.de/derbdv/praesidentin.php3 Federation of Expellees]
* [http://www.z-g-v.de/english/index.html Centre Against Expulsions]
* [http://www.warsawvoice.pl/view/3182 The Warsaw Voice] newspaper article, "Border Dispute", 2003
* [http://lists.delfi.lv/pipermail/minelres/2003-August/002908.html Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] article about Centre Against Expulsions, 2003

References


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