Saturday, October 16, 2004
British bid to mend war scars. (Hat tip: LGF)
BRITAIN has taken an important step towards healing the scars of World War II by publicly acknowledging the horrors of RAF bombing raids carried out on the cities of the Third Reich.
The gesture comes shortly before a state visit to Germany by the Queen and marks a new stage in relations between the two countries.
The Queen will host a concert in Berlin in November to raise money for the final restoration of Dresden's Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), destroyed in an Allied bombing raid in February 1945.
Another raid was recalled in a moving ceremony in a cathedral in the north German city of Brunswick. Britain's ambassador to Berlin, Peter Torrey, paid tribute to the 560 victims of the RAF's raid, exactly 60 years ago, on Brunswick.
"It was a bleak and terrifying moment in the modern history of Brunswick," said Sir Peter in the nave of the cathedral. "How can we explain to our children the madness that was unleashed in those days? How can we explain that such a beautiful and historical city as Brunswick became the target of attacks from the air?"
Tears ran down the cheeks of survivors of the attack in the congregation. Never before has a representative of the British Government given voice to their suffering.
"This is a highly significant moment for our city and for relations between our two countries," said Werner Hempel, the cathedral dean.
The subtle realignment of the relationship between Britain and Germany has been under way for some time, but the past few months have been critical. In speeches in Hamburg and Dresden, British officials have accepted the German wish to mourn their dead openly and without shame.
However the British have not gone so far as to apologise for the raids. Sir Peter offered no apology and stressed Brunswick had military targets including a tank factory, an aircraft repair works and a railway junction. Moreover, British cities were also under heavy bombardment.
"Two years before the Brunswick attack, in April 1942, Bath was bombarded two nights in succession by German aircraft. Over 400 people were killed, 12,500 homes damaged or destroyed."
The new mood in the British-German relationship stems from two facts. The first is a British recognition that the partnership is still mired in World War II. The second element is that Germans feel they should no longer be judged against the yardstick of Hitler's crimes.