--- SEARCH ---
Learning Chinese
Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes
Exchange Rates
Hotel Service
China Calendar

Hot Links
China Development Gateway
Chinese Embassies

Germany's 60-year Reflection on World War II

Germany has gained international respect and trust for its heart-felt apology, contrition and billions of reparations to victims of the Nazis 60 years after World War II ended.

However, Germans felt differently in the first decade following the end of the war. Most people saw their land occupied and viewed this as a major defeat.

When then West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer was asked in early 1955 if there should be an official event marking the 10th anniversary of the liberation from the Nazis, he answered: "You don't celebrate your defeats."

In 1949 and 1954, the Bundestag adopted amnesty laws and some Nazi leaders were released. The vast majority of Nazi judges, scientists and bureaucrats simply stayed in office.

Then came the Frankfurt Auschwitz trial in 1963, which for the first time drew wide public attention and aroused people's interest in the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed in Europe.

In April 1965, then West German President Heinrich Luebke attended the 20th anniversary of the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. His speech broke silence in the German society about the Nazi crimes.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, there was remarkably little public discussion of the Holocaust. There was some scholarly work done on it, which I don't think was extensively read," British professor Sir Ian Kershaw told the German radio Deutche Welle.

The rebellious post-war teenagers kept asking their parents: What is the Holocaust? What did you do in the war? Are you a Nazi party member?

In December 1970, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt went to Warsaw, Poland, and sent an unmistakable image out to the world when he fell to his knees before the monument at the site of the Jewish ghetto.

Then came the TV series of Holocaust in 1979. "The impact of it was to stir up interest more widely in Germany in the fate of the Jews under Nazi rule," said Kershaw.

"It's only in the 1980s that this starts to make real headway in public consciousness," he added.

A turning point is the historic speech delivered by then West German President Richard von Weizsaecker at the Bundestag on May 8,1985.

He declared the day the "Deutsche Reich" submitted to an unconditional capitulation a "Tag der Befreiung," or a "day of liberation" for Germans.

"Anyone who closes his eyes to the past is blind to the present. Whoever refuses to remember the inhumanity is prone to new risks of infection," he affirmed.

In an interview with Xinhua, Eberhard Sandschneider, director of the Research Institute of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said that the debate is necessary for Germany to recognize the dark side of its history.

"There was a huge public debate in Germany going on for years, partly still going on today. It was very emotional, very difficult, but a necessary process for understanding one's own past and finding a new position for Germany in a unified Europe," he said.

Germany has also worked to face up to the crimes committed by the Nazi regime and acknowledged its obligation to provide material restitution.

A total of US$104 billion have been paid in compensation to the victims, and about US$624 million continue to be paid each year to about 100,000 pensioners.

In 1952, West Germany and Israel and the Jewish Claims Conference signed the Luxembourg Agreement, making available payments to Israel, which bore a heavy financial burden of accepting many victims of Nazi persecution.

In 1956, West Germany approved Federal Law for the Compensation of the Victims of National Socialist Persecution. Over four million claims have been submitted under this legislation.

In 2001, the Bundestag approved the establishment of a fund worth 4.5 billion dollars to compensate labor slaves under the Nazi regime.

In order to keep the holocaust relevant to next generations, the German government built the Topography of Terror Memorial Museum in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the war in central Berlin. The Holocaust Memorial in downtown Berlin will be open to public on May 10.

Meanwhile, the Nazi dictatorship and the Holocaust are widely discussed at schools. The Nazi history, including Hitler's rise to power, his establishment of a dictatorship, the persecution of the Jews culminating in the Holocaust, and Germany's instigation of World War II, is compulsory courses at all types of schools in Germany and at all levels of education.

"The memory of the National Socialist era, of war, genocide and infamy, has become part of our national identity. It has left us with an abiding moral and political duty," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said.

As a result of its reflection on the past and heartfelt contrition, Germany, now one of the major players on the international stage, has established good relations with its war-time enemies.

"I believe that if we have not had the debate, German reunification would have been much more difficult if possible at all," Sandschneider said.

(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2005)

German Law to Ban Neo-Nazi Demonstrations Goes into Force
German Chancellor Laments Nazi Death Camp
Print This Page | Email This Page
About Us SiteMap Feedback
Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688