Gerhard Schröder: The enduring shame of the German people

From a speech by the German Chancellor at a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the the Warsaw uprising

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The Warsaw uprising was part of our continent's drive to freedom and liberation from Nazism. I am honoured to have been invited here. This is a very noble gesture towards a country which has brought a lot of pain to Poland by the war it started.

The Warsaw uprising was part of our continent's drive to freedom and liberation from Nazism. I am honoured to have been invited here. This is a very noble gesture towards a country which has brought a lot of pain to Poland by the war it started.

Today we bow in shame in the face of the Nazi troops' crimes. At this place of Polish pride and German shame, we hope for reconciliation and peace. Never again must we allow such terrible wrong. This task unites the peoples of Europe. We Germans know very well who started the war and who its first victims were.

The Polish Home Army uprising began in Warsaw on August 1, 1944. The Polish resistance fighters knew they would not be able to defeat the German occupation force on their own, but they were determined to stake their claim to a free Poland and to try to be independent of the Soviet occupying force that was waiting in the wings.

I would like to strongly assure Poles that my government refuses to back claims by Germans for the return of ancestral property in Poland. The property was lost when ethnic Germans were expelled or fled from eastern Europe in the wake of the Nazi defeat. Germany opposes restitution claims that would turn history on its head,

Today, we are not only good neighbours and partners. We are friends in a united Europe that depends on our close co-operation. Europe ought to see August 1, 1944 as a key moment in the course of events that eventually led to the creation of a community based on shared values.

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