German president to mark Brandt's Warsaw kneeling

17th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Germany's president said Wednesday he will mark in Poland next month the 40th anniversary of former chancellor Willy Brandt's historic kneeling before a monument to victims of the Warsaw Ghetto.

"Completing our reconciliation with Poland remains an historic task that I am personally commited to," Christian Wulff said at celebrations marking the 30th birthday of the German-Polish Institute in Darmstadt, western Germany.

On a grey winter morning on December 7, 1970, Brandt spontaneously fell to his knees on the wet ground before the memorial and joined his hands as if to implore pardon, creating an iconic image of post-war reconciliation.

On April 19, 1943, the Nazis began liquidating the Warsaw Ghetto, where just 60,000 people remained after the vast majority of the 450,000 imprisoned there had died of hunger or disease or had already been sent to death camps.

Hundreds of poorly armed Jewish paramilitaries in the Ghetto then rose up, in Europe's first urban revolt against the Nazis, but after several weeks the Germans regained control and burned the area to the ground.

An imposing monument was inaugurated in 1948 at the site of the last stand of those who were unable to escape. Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder attended the 30th anniversary of Brandt's gesture in 2000.

Pre-war Poland was considered Europe's Jewish heartland. It had a thriving Jewish community of some 3.2 million, or around 10 percent of the country's total population.

© 2010 AFP

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