The German president bowed his head and requested for forgiveness for the crimes of the Nazis in opposition to Poland as he marked the 80th anniversary of the Second World Warfare on Sunday.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke at a ceremony within the small Polish city of Wielun, the place the primary bombs of the warfare fell within the early hours of September 1, 1939.
“I bow my head earlier than the victims of the assault on Wielun. I bow my head earlier than the Polish victims of Germany’s tyranny. And I ask forgiveness,” President Steinmeier mentioned, talking in each German and Polish.
“Right here started the path of violence and destruction which was to undergo Poland and Europe for six years. We name it warfare, as a result of we’re at a loss to precise the horror of these years.”
The ceremony, which was additionally attended by President Andrzej Duda of Poland, was held at 4.37am, precisely 80 years after the air strikes that began the Second World Warfare.
Mr Steinmeier was talking in an extended custom of postwar German leaders who’ve accepted the nation’s duty for the crimes of the Nazis.
His actions echoed these of Willy Brandt, the previous West German chancellor, who famously fell to his knees whereas visiting a memorial to the useless of the Warsaw ghetto rebellion in 1970 – a second extensively seen as reopening the best way to pleasant relations.
Sunday’s ceremony didn’t solely tackle the previous. Mr Steinmeier spoke out in opposition to makes an attempt to relativise the crimes of the Nazis or German duty for them in a barely veiled assault on the nationalist Various for Germany occasion (AfD).
“It was the Germans who dedicated a criminal offense in opposition to humanity in Poland. Anybody who claims that that is all previously, that the Nationwide Socialists’ reign of terror over Europe was a marginal occasion in German historical past, casts judgment on himself,” he mentioned.
Though Mr Steinmeier didn’t point out the AfD by title, his feedback have been a transparent reference to the occasion, whose chief Alexander Gauland final yr described the Nazi period as “a speck of birds*** in 1,000 years of superb German historical past”.
Though the German and Polish presidents stood united at Sunday’s ceremony, there are rising divisions between the 2 international locations, not least over Poland’s demand for reparations for the Second World Warfare.
Mr Steinemeier addressed these calls for, saying: “We cannot undo the injustice and the struggling. And we can not quantify the price.”
A Polish parliamentary fee continues to be figuring out a sum to demand in reparations, however preliminary estimates spoke of as a lot as €740bn (£670bn).
Germany has refused to pay reparations, arguing that the problem was lastly settled by the 1990 worldwide treaty on German reunification, which was signed by Britain and the opposite main wartime Allied powers.