In Poland, she remains Germany's most hated living politician. Her unashamedly revanchist political views once prompted a Warsaw news magazine to portray her on its front cover clad in a sinister, swastika-covered Nazi SS uniform.
But yesterday, Erika Steinbach, probably the last surviving bęte noire in Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative government, took the first step towards bowing out of politics altogether after she started an explosive row over who was to blame for starting the Second World War.
Mrs Steinbach, 67, announced her formal departure from the leadership of Ms Merkel's Christian Democratic Party after enraging Germany's Central Council of Jews by inferring that Hitler's invasion of Poland in 1939 was merely a response to Poland's military mobilisation earlier that year.
"I am beginning to get the impression that you can't say what you want in Germany any more, even if one is talking about facts," is how the veteran right-winger responded to criticism from within her own party and its liberal coalition partners about her remarks. A Polish government spokesman said her comments were identical to " Nazi propaganda".
Historians hastened to point out that Poland's mobilisation in early 1939 was a response to the Nazi regime's massive rearmament programme. But Mrs Steinbach maintained she had made her remarks to support her own organisation, Germany's two-million member Expellees' Association, which represents the estimated 12.5 million Germans who were forced out of eastern Europe after 1945.