The Federal Republic of Germany faced in its early years a huge challenge by millions of displaced ethnical Germans from Eastern Europe and from former territories of the German Reich who fled to the west German occupation zones at the end of World War II. Beside the numerous material and social necessities imposed in the early postwar period the newly formed republic had to fulfill the obligation of incorporating these citizens into the new state. The legal part of the solution for this challenge was the enacting of the Federal Expellee Law (“Bundesvertriebenengesetz“, 1953). Article 96 of this law states the Federal Republic’s obligation to preserve the cultural goods of the communities of displaced Germans from Central and Eastern Europe.
This law is still in effect and the basis of the cultural and research funding program “German Culture in Eastern Europe” sustained by the German Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media upon a decision of the German Bundestag. Cultural and scientific institutions like universities can apply for projects of small and medium extent. The applicant for project funding must be a German institution, however it is welcomed if a project is undertaken in international collaboration with foreign institutions.
While in previous decades the aim of the program concentrated on preserving the ethnical German identity in contrast to the Eastern European majority populations, the program was especially since the 2000s reformed and sees its mission in “building bridges to Eastern Europe” by remembering and reconstructing the multicultural past of many regions of Eastern Europe where German-language population groups played a considerable role for centuries. Despite being originally devised only for ethnic German minorities, the program as a matter of course also promotes projects on German-language Jewish culture from Eastern Europe as part of Germany’s historical responsability.