Germany 'unable to share in D-Day tribute'

4th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, June 4 (AFP) - Germany will be unable to play a full share in this weekend's D-Day anniversary ceremonies despite the presence for the first time of a German chancellor, according to one of the country's elder statesmen.

BERLIN, June 4 (AFP) - Germany will be unable to play a full share in this weekend's D-Day anniversary ceremonies despite the presence for the first time of a German chancellor, according to one of the country's elder statesmen.

Former German president Richard von Weizsaecker said that while the Allied landings in northern France were "a decisive step" to liberating Germany from the Nazis, it was the end of the war on May 8, 1945 that really counted.

"I don't think that they will be celebrating together, but each remembering in their own way," he told foreign reporters late Thursday.

Weizsaecker, then an army lieutenant, was far away on the Eastern Front in present-day Ukraine when the Allies stormed ashore in France on June 6, 1944, known ever since as D-Day.

On Sunday, world leaders, including US President George W. Bush, Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and others, will jointly commemorate the landings.

Among them will be Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the first German leader to take part in the ceremonies.

"The day itself left countless casualties on all sides. Most of them could not have realised what the day would mean for them," Weizsaecker said.

"June 6 is remembered by the troops and citizens of different countries in different ways.

"Of course it made a difference if in June 1944 you were in a concentration camp in Poland or were, say, in Munich and thought of the words promising the final victory for Hitler."

In 1985, in a speech that sparked controversy, the then-president said the end of the war should be seen not as a defeat for Germany but its "liberation" from fascism.

"It didn't remain uncontradicted," he recalled laconically of the furore.

He said he had decided to make the speech after indicating that he did not want then-US president Ronald Reagan to speek on the theme of May 8, 1945, in front of the Bundestag lower house of parliament during a visit to Germany.

"May 8 was a German matter" 40 years after the war ended, he explained.

Weizsaecker, who was close to some of the officers implicated in the failed July, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, recalled that more people died between then and the end of the war as in the previous five years of conflict.

After the war, Weizsaecker defended his diplomat father against charges in connection with the Nuremberg war crimes trial.

His father was convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail, but released early.

Weizsaecker, a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, was a two-term president of Germany between 1984 and 1994.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

 

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