Day of memory derided as hollow

Germany remembered the victims of Nazism yesterday with a mixture of humility and, in the words of one opposition MP, "hollow pathos".

Marking "Holocaust Day" on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the two houses of parliament held a joint session, the German flag flew on government buildings and schools had a special history lesson.

It was a solemn occasion, disturbed only by the clamour of East European Jews who have yet to be be compensated, groups representing the anti-Nazi resistance and the enduring row over a gigantic tombstone that is supposed to be erected in memory of almost 6 million Jews.

"The Day of Commemoration is in danger of turning into a farce," declared Green MP Volker Beck. "Many victims are asking: `which victims are being commemorated today?'"

He replied: "Not the tens of thousands who deserted from the Wehrmacht". For five decades Mr Beck has tried in vain to decriminalise soldiers who had refused to follow orders. Deserters remain traitors under the laws, and are thus deprived of a war pension.

And Germany has paid only partial compensation to many East European Jews, and none at all to survivors in the Baltic republics.

That is not to say that the German state has suddenly become tight- fisted. A Holocaust memorial is to be erected in the centre of Berlin, engraving the names of known Jewish victims on a slab of granite the size of a football pitch. But many Jews feel that the government should pay more attention both to the victims, and to the preservation of the camps where they suffered, than to erecting artificial shrines.