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Former Chancellor: World War II Lessons Should be in Conscience of Germans

Lessons Germany has learnt from World War II should be kept in the conscience of the German people and the whole nation, former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt told Xinhua in a recent interview.

Asked what lessons Germany should learn from the war that ended on May 8, 1945, Schmidt, 86, said one of "the most important lessons" was the insight that the genocide against Jews was a "colossal crime."

"One should do anything to ensure that such a crime would never be repeated," he said firmly, hitting on the desk with his fist.

Another lesson is that "Germany needs a moral standard for its domestic and foreign policies," he said, adding that Germany drew this lesson "not immediately after May 1945, but over a couple of years."

"So the important lessons that were to be learnt by the Germans have been learnt in the course of 60 years since 1945. For the future, there is no additional lesson from the war to be learnt."

"But the lessons which have been learnt must be maintained in the conscience of people and the conscience of the nation," said Schmidt, who was a soldier during the war.

The former chancellor was 14 when Adolf Hitler came to power. He was told that his paternal grandfather was Jewish. The family secret has then been guarded ever since he was drafted into the air force in 1937.

"My memory is full of awful experiences," said Schmidt. "I have never had the idea of becoming a soldier for so long time, but altogether the war was one evil after another."

Only few Germans did foresee Germany's defeat when Hitler started his war against the Soviet Union, he said.

When he was 22, Schmidt participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union. "I was one of those who did foresee Germany's defeat and the end of Hitler at that time," he said.

In April 1945, one month before the ending of the war, Schmidt was captured by the British army, and then was sent to a British camp of prisoners of war in Belgium.

In 1953, Schmidt entered politics and in October 1969, he became the defense minister in Willy Brandt's cabinet. During the economic crisis in the early 1970's, he was the minister of economy and finance.

When Chancellor Brandt resigned in 1974, Schmidt was elected the 5th chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and served on the post until 1982.

On the world order after World War II, Schmidt said: "The war and its consequences have changed the world order considerably."

"However, not only the war, but also other events; for instance, the liberation of China under Mao Zedong also has changed the world order. It is not only the consequence of world war II, but many other factors that have changed the world order. "

Before World War II, the United States, France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands did have colonies in other continents. But all the colonies became sovereign states after the war.

"This was not a direct consequence of World War II. It was even more a consequence of economic exhaustion of the colonial powers," he said.

"But it may have happened otherwise if World War II did not happen," he said.

Asked whether Germany and Japan, which launched the war in Asia during World War II, are qualified to have permanent seats on the UN Security Council, he said "they won't get it. And in both cases, the request is superfluous."

"It will be prevented by the five veto powers that do exist," he said, adding that the current five permanent members will not allow their veto right to be detracted.

Some changes in the UN Security Council might be "thinkable," he said. "But there will be no new members with the right to veto."

(Xinhua News Agency May 4, 2005)

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