D-Day: Schroeder won'tvisit German cemetery

4th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

4 June 2004 , BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the first German leader to attend memorial ceremonies for the 1944 D-Day invasion of France, is seeking to avoid controversy with a decision not to visit German military cemeteries near the battlefields. The move was probably not an easy one for Schroeder, whose father was killed by partisans while serving in Nazi Germany's armed forces, the Wehrmacht, in Romania shortly after allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. Gerhard Schroeder was six months

4 June 2004

BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the first German leader to attend memorial ceremonies for the 1944 D-Day invasion of France, is seeking to avoid controversy with a decision not to visit German military cemeteries near the battlefields.

The move was probably not an easy one for Schroeder, whose father was killed by partisans while serving in Nazi Germany's armed forces, the Wehrmacht, in Romania shortly after allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

Gerhard Schroeder was six months old when his father died and today a picture of of Corporal Fritz Schroeder, wearing a Wehrmacht steel helmet, sits on Schroeder's desk in the hyper-modern Berlin chancellery.

Fritz Schroeder's grave in Ceanu Mare, Romania was only discovered after Gerhard Schroeder took power. The Chancellor has never been to Romania and says he very much wants to make a private visit to the grave of the father he never knew.

During the D-Day ceremonies Schroeder does not plan to visit any of the six German cemeteries were 50,000 soldiers are buried.  

This is partly due to fear of a scandal like that following the 1985 visit of then German chancellor Helmut Kohl and US President Ronald Reagan to a German war cemetery which turned out to contain bodies of former Waffen SS troopers.

Instead, Schroeder will visit a British D-Day cemetery in Ranville at which 200 German soldiers are also buried.

Ex-chancellor Kohl never sought an invitation to D-Day ceremonies in part because his older brother, Walter, was wounded during D-Day and later killed in a strafing run by allied planes.

"D-Day was simply too traumatic for Kohl," says the news magazine Der Spiegel.

Schroeder says the big message of his attending the D-Day memorial is that Berlin is now fully accepted as an equal partner by its former enemies.

"The real meaning of this invitation is that the Second World War is over - once and for all," said Schroeder in an interview with Der Spiegel.

But the D-Day ceremony will also underscore bitter splits in the Western alliance over the Iraq war.

French President Jacques Chirac, who hosts the gathering, strongly opposed the Iraq war as did Schroeder. Among the 17 leaders attending are US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair who both led the war on Iraq.

As the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper noted: "Just at the moment of great pathos about reconciliation the question is whether the West can still be saved."

The paper noted that anti-Americanism was being "fired up" everywhere and becoming a problem for the United States."

But the editorial said the end of the disciplining Soviet threat meant Americans and Europeans had to find new ways to manage a relationship in which transatlantic rivalry and competition were not an expectation.

"If they don't, then the West will dissolve," the paper warned.

Operation Overlord, as D-Day was formally called, in effect ended three months following the 6 June landings, after 600,000 casualties, with the liberation of Paris.

Nazi Germany capitulated in May 1945. Some 3 million German soldiers died during the war and almost 2 million of these are buried in cemeteries outside Germany.

DPA

Subject: German news

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