East-West ties dealt blow when German failed to visit Poland
The last-minute cancellation by Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher of his visit to Poland was a serious setback to his attempt to revive normal discourse between Western and Eastern Europe.
But Mr. Genscher felt that with the Polish regime trying to deny him any contact with opposition elements in Warsaw, he had no choice but to call off the visit.
Also, the Polish regime had told him he would not be allowed to visit either the grave of a German soldier killed in World War II nor the grave of the recently murdered Roman Catholic priest, Jerzy Popieluszko.
West German journalists in Warsaw reported that, in addition, the Polish government had excluded all but its loyal supporters from a reception to be given for Genscher.
These restrictions made it impossible for Genscher to go through with his visit, which already had been criticized by the right wing of Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Christian Democratic Union.
These are deputies who, among other things, speak for the Germans who were expelled from Poland after 1945. They were caught off base when the Kohl government, with no warning, abandoned the party's traditional course last year and guaranteed a huge commercial bank loan to East Germany without any firm promise of political concessions in return.
But it had been known since June that Genscher hoped to visit Poland this year. He had always opposed Western economic sanctions against Warsaw and thought it was now time to end Poland's isolation.
This gave the representatives of the expellees plenty of time to organize their opposition.
In addition, Chancellor Kohl revived a practise suspended by his Social Democratic predecessors of addressing annual gatherings of groups of expellees from Eastern Europe. This elicited sharp queries from the Polish, East German, and Soviet press as to whether the new government in Bonn, unlike its forerunner , disputed the post-World War II border.
The German expellees had already attacked Hans-Jochen Vogel, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party, for failing to try to meet any of the opposition Poles during his own visit to Warsaw earlier this month.
The Foreign Minister of a government supported by the expellees could hardly ignore Poland's banned trade union Solidarity and remain in office.
Genscher clearly hopes that the Warsaw government may yet relent, allowing him to reschedule his visit in the new year.
Two days after the cancellation, Genscher went on television, not to rail at the Poles, but to declare that West Germany did not now and never would question Poland's borders and that he still hopes to help Warsaw overcome its political and economic isolation. Genscher added that he believed the mere fact that he had intended to visit Warsaw had already contributed to this goal.
He had hoped that his visit to Poland would set a signal for the American government and eventually pave the way to renewed US-Soviet arms control negotiations.