Schroeder to make first visitto father's war grave
10 August 2004, BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was less than a year old when his father was killed while fighting with the Nazi Wehrmacht in Romania in 1944. This Thursday the German leader makes what is expected to be an emotional first visit his father's grave. Corporal Fritz Schroeder, a 32-year-old tank crew member, was ambushed by partisans near the village of Ceanu Mare in Transylvania. It's unclear exactly how Schroeder's father died but he was buried anonymously with other dead German soldie
10 August 2004
BERLIN - Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was less than a year old when his father was killed while fighting with the Nazi Wehrmacht in Romania in 1944. This Thursday the German leader makes what is expected to be an emotional first visit his father's grave.
Corporal Fritz Schroeder, a 32-year-old tank crew member, was ambushed by partisans near the village of Ceanu Mare in Transylvania.
It's unclear exactly how Schroeder's father died but he was buried anonymously with other dead German soldiers in the local cemetery.
Only months earlier he had written Schroeder's mother, Erika, from the collapsing German front to express delight over the birth of his first son. But he never saw baby Gerhard.
The grave was formally identified as belonging to the Chancellor's father in 2001 after lengthy efforts by his sister to find the final resting place.
Schroeder has made clear in interviews that he views his father as having been "sent to slaughter ... for the criminal regime of Adolf Hitler."
But having grown up without a father the Chancellor is clearly fascinated by the man he never knew and who bears such a striking resemblance to him right down to the piercing eyes.
A large photo of Corporal Schroeder, wearing a Wehrmacht steel helmet, sits on the Chancellor's desk in the hyper-modern Berlin chancellery.
After discovery of the grave Schroeder immediately expressed the wish to make a private visit to the cemetery. Part of the reason for the delay has been fear that it would turn into a media circus with Germany's sensationalist tabloids.
Thursday's trip to Ceanu Mare is taking place without any reporters and Romanian officials are apparently sealing off the cemetery for Schroeder's visit to guarantee privacy.
But the Chancellor's visit to Romania is not just about the past, stress Romanian diplomats in Berlin.
Schroeder will be accompanied by a German business and banking leaders including CEOs of Deutsche Bank, Siemens, Wintershall, Ruhrgas, Zublin and EADS and will meet Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and President Ion Illiescu in Bucharest on Thursday, the diplomats said.
"Big contracts are expected to be signed in the energy and infrastructure sectors," said diplomats who declined to give further details.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper reported a possible natural gas pipeline deal between Wintershall and Romania's Transgas.
Romania, which is expected to join the European Union with Bulgaria in 2007, continues to view Berlin as its most important backer on the path to accession, the diplomats said.
Bucharest wants to conclude a membership treaty with the EU by the end of this year and sign the document in 2005, they said.
The diplomats denied speculation that Romania is lagging behind Bulgaria in preparation and that this could delay membership.
"At the level of the European Commission and heads of state and government there is a very clear view about Romania and Bulgaria joining together in 2007," said a diplomat.
Two major Romanian foreign policy concerns will be raised with Schroeder at talks, the diplomats said.
There is alarm in Bucharest over the worsening crisis in Moldova caused by the closure of Romanian-language schools in the country's breakaway region of Transdniester, they said.
Electricity and gas links have been blocked between Moldova and Trandniester which is a major problem because most of Moldova's power comes from a plant in Transdniester. Many parts of the country have since reported electricity cuts.
Romania has offered to supply power to Moldova and Ukraine is already doing so.
The second problem involves Ukraine which earlier this summer began work on a controversial shipping channel in the Danube River delta which feeds into the Black Sea.
"This will be destructive to the delta to say the least," said a diplomat, adding that Bucharest wants Germany and EU to help win a halt to construction and an independent environmental impact study.
A further theme will be Romania's 65,000-member ethnic German community, said diplomats.
After decades of seeing ethnic Germans leave their historical homelands to move to Germany, the diplomats said pending EU membership was leading to a new phenomenon with Romanian-Germans now returning home to set up businesses or, in some cases, to reclaim former properties.
In addition to having talks in Bucharest, Chancellor Schroeder visits Bulgaria on Friday to meet Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg- Gotha.
Subject: German news