Kohl to stay in his bunker on D-Day

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The Independent Online
A GERMAN government spokesman said yesterday that Chancellor Helmut Kohl considered it 'inappropriate' for German representatives to take part in ceremonies connected with the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings on 6 June, if the ceremonies were 'concerned with military battles'.

Mr Dieter Vogel thus partly confirmed a report in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper which said German diplomats have been banned from accepting invitations to D-Day ceremonies at the Chancellor's insistence. Mr Vogel emphasised, however, that German diplomats could attend ceremonies to commemorate the dead and ceremonies which were intended to strengthen reconciliation.

Mr Kohl was reported to be angry that he was not invited to the D-Day celebrations. This has been officially denied, with the gloss that Mr Kohl had, in any case, never asked for an invitation. This, though technically true, appears to ignore the fact that informal approaches were made and rebuffed.

Hans Stercken, head of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said yesterday that he regretted that Germany was not invited to the ceremonies. He argued that there should be a way for today's allies in the European Union and Nato to 'go beyond this'.

It is not the first time that such embarrassments have arisen. In 1984, Mr Kohl had already bid, unsuccessfully, for an invitation to the 40th anniversary celebrations. This year's are due to be attended by, among others, President Mitterrand, President Clinton and the Queen.

The Frankfurter Rundschau argued that the diplomatic embarrassment was mainly the Chancellor's own fault. 'If (the Allies) want to remain amongst themselves for the anniversary, it is, of course, their perfect right,' the paper said. But it was wrong for invitations to be rejected by the Germans. 'Whoever slights his friends in this way should not be surprised if old wounds are torn open and if new mistrust grows.

'The impression is growing that Germans have still not understood that the Allies were fighting for them, in Normandy and the Ardennes . . . The military defeat of Nazism was the only chance for Germany to become free and democratic,' the paper said.

Though the Rundschau's arguments may be theoretically valid, it is also true that the continued emphasis by the Allies on the military defeat of Germany 50 years ago causes widespread dismay in Germany, which would much prefer to look to the achievements of a united Europe. Victory celebrations have become more high-profile the further the events themselves recede.

British officials say, however, that this trend may be reversed, and that the D-Day anniversary celebrations will 'put a line' under all the anniversaries that have come before. It is planned that next year's celebrations of the end of the war will stress the achievements of post- war co-operation rather than yet again emphasising Allied prowess and German defeat.

In 1995, officials suggest that 'the objective will not be to celebrate the end of the war, but the beginning of the peace', and to pay tribute to the progress towards a united Europe in the past 50 years. Germany will thus be an honoured participant, for the first time. For Helmut Kohl, however, this change of tone may come too late. Many opinion polls suggest that his Social Democrat challenger, Rudolf Scharping, will oust him as Chancellor in elections in October. Mr Kohl may only be able to watch next year's jamboree from the sidelines.

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