German supermarket chain Edeka has apologised after one of its stores set up a separate checkout for Polish customers, which resulted in intervention from the Polish embassy.
One of Edeka’s stores in the city of Cottbus put up signs saying that one counter was “mainly for German customers” and the other “mainly for Polish customers”. Radio Zet reports that Polish customers have been complaining to the firm for months that the store had forbidden Poles from being served at the “German” checkout, even if there were no other customers.
Last week, the issue came to wide attention after photos of the two counters were posted on Facebook by Maciej Sergel, a Pole visiting the store, attracting hundreds of negative comments and reactions.
This led to intervention from the Polish embassy in Berlin, which on Friday announced that it had “received an explanation and apologies” from the firm, which admitted that “Polish customers can rightly feel discriminated against” by the separate tills.
However, the company also issued a statement explaining that there were initially good intentions behind the separate Polish counters, reports Radio Zet. The store in Cottbus, which is just 40 km from the border with Poland, is popular with Polish shoppers, and so it had tried to provide Poles with service in their own language at one checkout. But Edeka admits that the decision ended up sending “an unfortunate message”.
Germany is home to one of the world’s largest Polish communities. Data from the German Federal Statistical Office show that in 2017 there were almost 800,000 people with exclusively Polish citizenship in Germany. In addition, there are many German citizens with Polish roots.
Relations between the two countries are still often be overshadowed by the history of World War Two and the brutal German Nazi occupation of Poland. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday that “it is important for the younger generation of Germans to look differently at the past” and “not forget about the crimes committed in occupied Poland”.
Last year "more Polish workers returned home than left the country for the first time in nearly a decade, fueled by Brexit concerns and a booming local job market."
Germany also became the top emigration destination, having trailed the UK since 2005 https://t.co/9mUx8HylIA
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 16, 2019
Main image credit: Maciej Sergel/Facebook
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.