Warsaw: The expulsion of millions of Germans from eastern Europe after World War II was a "crime", the new leader of a group representing the exiles said in an interview with a Polish newspaper on Monday.
"I`m convinced that the expulsion was not only a crime but also a huge error, since re-drawn borders alone should not bring about ethnic cleansing," Bernd Fabritius told the Rzeczpospolita daily.
Fabritius took over last week as head of the Federation of the Expelled (BdV) from Erika Steinbach, who was deeply unpopular in Poland and accused there of putting the Germans` suffering on a par with that of the Nazis` victims.
More than five million Germans were expelled after World War II from German territory that had been allotted to Poland by treaty as compensation for eastern land it had lost to the Soviet Union.
Around 4.5 million Poles from the eastern area were re-located elsewhere in Poland, mostly to the former German territory.
"I believe the Germans had a right to stay where they had lived for centuries," said the Romanian-born Fabritius, who described them as victims of the consequences of a war triggered by Nazi Germany.
Millions of other Germans were also forced to flee to Germany from territory now in countries including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.
Poland lost almost six million citizens, or around 16 percent of its population -- most of them civilians -- in World War II.