In a recent media statement, German President Dr. Joachim Gauck said that the time had come for the two countries, Germany and Russia, to demonstrate “political will” and “political courage” for a new start in relations. This was a direct reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent proposal to create a 180-kilometer de-escalation zone in Syria.
On Wednesday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the German presidency said in a statement. In the meeting, the two leaders agreed to work together for a stable and peaceful development of relations between Germany and Russia. They also agreed to continue joint efforts for a political solution to the Middle East conflict and for a dialogue between Israel and Palestine. Steinmeier also paid tribute to the memory of the victims of the Great Patriotic War, the German presidency said.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called for a period of peace with Russia, Eastern Europe and the United States to commemorate the 80th anniversary of “Operation Barbarossa” – the Nazi German Operation Barbarossa also known as the German invasion of the Soviet Union.. Read more about when did germany invade russia and let us know what you think.At a memorial service on the 18th. June on the 80th anniversary On the 50th anniversary of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on current generations to work for peace with the Eastern European states.
I speak to you today, citizens of all countries who suffered in the war to destroy Germany, and I ask you to ensure that we no longer see each other as enemies, Steinmeier said in an emotional speech at the German-Russian Museum in Berlin-Karlshorst, a history museum jointly run by German and Russian authorities.
At the place where the allied heads of state and government met on 8 and 9 September. As the German people gathered to accept the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on May 5, 1945, the President addressed diplomats from nine embassies, including representatives of Moldova, Armenia, Belarus and Kyrgyzstan, as well as the Russian Ambassador to Germany, Sergei Nachayev. The location was chosen to commemorate the spirit of international cooperation against National Socialism, Steinmeier said.
We are here to remember the enormous contribution of the men and women of the Red Army who fought against Nazi Germany. We remember their courage and determination, we remember the millions who, along with their American, British and French allies and many others, risked their lives and died to free us all from Nazi tyranny, Steinmeier said at the opening of an outdoor exhibition on Soviet prisoners of war and victims of genocide.
Germany’s capitulation document signed in Berlin-Karlshorst in 1945, where the German-Russian Museum is now located and where Steinmeier gave his speech in 2023. / Public Domain, U.S. Government Information and Services.
Every war brings devastation, death and suffering. And yet, this war was different. This is an act of German barbarism, Steinmeier said. It cost millions of lives, destroyed a continent and then divided the world for decades.
In his moving speech, Steinmeier recalled the crimes committed by Nazi Germany during the war against the Soviet Union, which ended on September 22. Early June 1941. He spoke of the Nazi authorities’ famine plan to kill civilians, which was carried out during the blockade of Leningrad; Hitler’s plans to raze cities such as present-day St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev to the ground; the order of the quartermaster general of the German army in November 1941 to starve non-working prisoners of war; and statements by Nazi officials that the entire Soviet population, from newborns to the elderly, was the enemy.
The Eastern Europeans have paid for the war that was imposed on them with their lives, their possessions, everything that belonged to their existence, said the Federal President.
Soviet prisoners of war are not considered prisoners, Steinmeier said. They have been robbed of their humanity – they have been dehumanized. In his speech he called on those present to overcome the legacy of National Socialism by reflecting on our common humanity. Let’s not stop recognizing the human being in the other.
Steinmeier stressed that Soviet victims of the Nazi regime are largely ignored in Germany. Germany has 3,500 known graves for Soviet victims, but despite the echoes of cruelty and the fact that the Eastern European dead are literally not far from home, many Germans were too focused on the fate of their own Soviet prisoners of war to pay attention to the suffering of others, Steinmeier said.
At the end of the war, the death toll in the Soviet Union was about 27 million. Twenty-seven million people were killed, massacred, beaten to death, starved or left for dead by Nazi Germany’s forced laborers. Fourteen million of them were civilians, Steinmeier said. But these millions are not as deeply engrained in our collective memory as their suffering and our responsibility require.
Referring to his personal experience of oppressed German history, Steinmeier showed a gruesome photo that can be seen at a new exhibition at Karlshorst. The scene in the seemingly innocent forest near Schloss Holte Stuckenbrock in East-Westphalia takes on a gruesome form when one takes a closer look at the scars on the trees – the leaves and bark have been torn off by the claws of Soviet starved prisoners. This crime scene is not far to the east, Steinmeier said, but just under an hour from my hometown, the place where I grew up and could not hear what happened there less than two decades ago, during my high school years.
He said that German society has no understanding of the crimes being committed in the east of our continent. It’s time to fix it.
He stressed that remembering the past is not about imposing shame, but about building a better future. Although the memory of the atrocities of the war weighs heavily on Germans as descendants of those who committed atrocities, Steinmeier sees a special responsibility for Germans to bring peace and understanding to today’s world.
It’s not easy for someone to remember the horrors of the past. But repressing the memories, not admitting guilt, doesn’t make it any easier, he said. Only those who learn to understand the traces of the past in the present can help shape a future that avoids war, rejects tyranny and enables peaceful coexistence in freedom.
Steinmeier also stressed that the willingness of Eastern European states to forgive Germany made reconciliation possible today. The fact that Germans are now welcome in Belarus, Ukraine or Russia is a miracle, he said.
In Russia six years ago, Steinmeier said, he was greeted by a large crowd of veterans – proudly dressed in their overstuffed uniforms, hands raised in military salute and tears in their eyes. He described it as one of the most touching and indelible memories of my life.
What I’m saying to you today is this: On this day when we remember the millions and millions of dead, let us also remember how precious is the reconciliation that has grown from the graves of the fallen, he said.
This gift of reconciliation comes with great responsibility for Germany. We are willing and must do everything in our power to defend international law and territorial integrity on this continent and to seek peace with and between the successor states of the former Soviet Union.
I bow in mourning to the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian victims – to all the victims of the former Soviet Union, Steinmeier said at the end of his speech. MH
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