From Irredentism to Constructive Reconciliation: Ethnic German Minorities and Germany’s Relationship with Poland and the Czech Republic since 1990

Subsequently published in Language, Ethnicity and the State (ed. by Camille O’Reilly, Palgrave, 2001), this paper traces the origins of the problems facing Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic today and analyses their impact on, and relevance for, the current and future relationship between the three countries and the situation of ethnic German minorities. In order to do this, I begin with a short theoretical exploration of two core issues – ethnicity and territory – and then turn to give a brief overview of the history of German minority groups in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and of West German external minority policy during and after the Cold War. I then examine Germany’s relationship with each of its two neighbours in the post-1990 period, and in doing so pay specific attention to the role of the German expellee organisations in this process. I will conclude with some observations on the impact of all these developments on the situation of the two minority groups today.

Published

September 2001