Letter: A handshake with Germany

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The Independent Online
Sir: How sad to see the attitude being struck by the exclusion of official representation of Germany at the forthcoming commemorations of D-Day (' 'War is over' line to Germany', 23 March). If the lessons of history are to have any positive impact on the way we approach the future, then surely it is not only appropriate but entirely right that we should take every opportunity to reinforce the process of reconciliation.

Reconciliation is not about forgiving, or indeed forgetting, but rather creating a basis of understanding that will help to lessen the ill effects of prejudice.

Recently, on a visit to Toc H's birthplace in the Belgian town of Poperinge, a few kilometres behind the Ypres salient, I met a very elderly lady who, as a child, witnessed the horrors of the 1914-18 conflict, and then endured the occupation of her country during the Second World War.

This remarkable woman felt unable to extend the hand or reconciliation to anyone from Germany. That was until last year, when she met a group of young people from Germany and England who, under the auspices of Toc H, were working together on the war graves of both nations.

At the end of the project, a young German student held his hand out to her, and, after a pause, she took it. Peter was the first German she had had any physical contact with in more than 80 years. When asked what had prompted her to accept the hand of friendship, she simply said: 'It is time to put away the past and to look to the future.'

Yours faithfully

MIKE LYDDIARD

Director

Toc H

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

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