Queen 'reconciles' with Germany by dining at Nazi propaganda office

The Queen's "reconciliatory" state visit to Germany was overshadowed yesterday by embarrassing revelations that the Berlin venue chosen to welcome her with an official banquet was a Nazi propaganda centre in which Adolf Hitler condemned the British as warmongers.

The Queen's "reconciliatory" state visit to Germany was overshadowed yesterday by embarrassing revelations that the Berlin venue chosen to welcome her with an official banquet was a Nazi propaganda centre in which Adolf Hitler condemned the British as warmongers.

The three-day visit is the Queen's fourth to Germany and officials in both countries have stressed that it will mark the beginning of a new era of Anglo-German understanding.

But the occasion has been marred by a row in British and German newspapers over an alleged popular German demand for a royal apology for Britain's bombing campaigns in the Second World War.

Germany's mass-circulation Bild newspaper carried a front-page story yesterday disclosing that the Queen had been invited to attend an official state banquet welcoming her to Germany in a building used by Hitler for his propaganda speeches.

In a banner headline, Bild announced: "Queen dinner tonight in Hitler's Heroes' Chamber." The paper asked: "Will the Queen lose her appetite?'' and "Whose idea was it to choose this venue?"

The paper pointed out that the banquet, hosted by Horst Köhler, the German President, was being held in Berlin's Baroque Zeughaus building which was used by Hitler for lavish ceremonies celebrating Nazi heroes and for wartime propaganda speeches.

In an address at the site where the Queen was due to have dinner last night, Hitler told his followers on 16 March 1941: "When France and England declared this war, England began immediately to attack the civilian population."

German officials said the Zeughaus building had been chosen for the banquet because the normal venue, Berlin's Bellvue presidential palace, was being renovated. The British embassy said in a statement: "It is always possible to find something in the past. We prefer to look forward during this visit and not back."

Britain and Germany have said that there have been no official demands for an apology for Royal Air Force bombing of German cities. But the issue has been widely discussed and German historians and MPs have said that the Germans would welcome such a statement.

Buckingham Palace has said the Queen will "acknowledge and commemorate" the suffering caused to people on both sides but not apologise. She will host a concert in Berlin tomorrow to raise money for the restoration of Dresden's Frauenkirche church,devastated in an Allied attack on the city in 1945 which killed 50,000 people.

During the Queen's last state visit to Germany in 1992, eggs were thrown at her car when she visited Dresden for a church service of reconciliation. She will not visit the city this time.

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