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Gauck remembers Czech massacre victims

Published: 11 Oct 2012 07:33 GMT+02:00

"I would like to pay my respects to the victims by visiting Lidice," a village 20 kilometres northwest of Prague, said Gauck - the first German head of state to visit the site since the lethal raid by Nazi commandos on June 10, 1942.

"There was a great wrongdoing, a great failure, and we carry a great responsibility," Gauck told reporters earlier, following talks in Prague with his Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus.

"It's very important to speak about this bloody and terrifying past … (and) to pass our knowledge to future generations," Gauck said.

The former pastor in communist East Germany was paying his first visit to the neighbouring Czech Republic since he took office in March.

"We should show respect and mourning to those affected so much by former generations of Germans," said Gauck.

"We have been waiting for this apology for 70 years," Marie Supikova, a survivor of the massacre who was born in Lidice in 1932, told a public Czech broadcaster.

The massacre was part of a retaliatory sweep that saw 15,000 people detained, killed or taken to a concentration camp after the assassination of senior Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich in a bomb attack by a Czech paratrooper trained in Britain.

In Lidice, the Nazis executed all men, sent the women to a concentration camp and local children to Germany for re-education, or to gas chambers.

On June 24, 1942, the Nazis also killed more than 30 people in the village of Lezaky about 100 kilometres east of Prague.

Now both members of the EU, neighbours Germany and the Czech Republic are focused on healing wounds dating back to World War II including Nazi massacres of Czech civilians and Prague's retaliatory post-war expulsion of ethnic Germans from the borderland regions of then Czechoslovakia.

In a move towards reconciliation last month, Czechs laid to rest the bodies of 12 German farmers killed by vengeful Czechs after World War II near the central city of Jihlava. They had previously been in a mass grave.

AFP/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

11:07 October 11, 2012 by wood artist
These actions appear to change nothing, but, in fact, they change everything. Today's Germans have no direct responsibility for what happened, nor do the Czechs. However, by acknowledging that terrible things happened, they have taken great steps towards a better future, and even if it's only symbolic, it's still important. My thanks to both countries, to both peoples, for "bothering" to set the record straight, and to posthumously accept responsibility. Would that more countries, my own included, would take such actions.

wa
14:08 October 11, 2012 by Hendrich Stein
The evolution of the ambiguities surrounding this horror can't be forgotten because it can't ever be repeated needless to say.

Perhaps If we agree that it is impossible to ever happen again, we can also agree to forget. Forgetting is to heal and is exponentially harder than forgiving, just like beliefs are harder to change than attitudes.

No one today can remotely fathom or contemplate such a nightmares because we were not victim to the era, and the stimulus of the times that triggered what we might deem as an abnormal response today.

People do terrible things, even today. Germany is nothing like it was 7 decades and a few generations ago. Times have changed here.
14:46 October 11, 2012 by raandy
How many years must pass when we only hear about this in History class?
19:41 October 11, 2012 by steel jaws
For many years, before Hitler grabbed power in Germany, German speaking people had lived peacefully together with both Czechs in the Sudetenland and also in the German areas confiscated by Poland following two world wars. The trouble between the inhabitants was largely imported by extremists from all sides.

It is good to see that currently most young Europeans are able, and want to, live in peace and co-operation. Nevertheless, there is always a danger that things may change. We already have groups within Europe who are spreading hate, not only from the far left and right, but also in the name of religion.

To condemn whole generations of the Germans for the Nazi atrocities may be fashionable, but completely overlooks the situation which existed in Europe at the time. The Governments were responsible then for what happened and it is so only right that a political representative should apologise. But why only the Germans? Crimes were committed on all sides before and after, as well as during the two world wars.

The average working European is quite happy when he/she is not drawn into battle with others, but it is not the soldier or normal civilian who decides whether an armed conflict is started, they just take the blame when things go wrong. Over four hundred young Britons, who joined the army in the belief they were there to defend their own country, have lost their lives fighting in Afghanistan. Will anybody apologise in fifty years time for what has be done to them, or to others in that country?
20:02 October 11, 2012 by joysonabraham
some always tries to paint glossy picture as though these kind of things will never happen and so we shall forget all the past and so on. In reality these kind of things can happen anytime, at least in smaller forms. The reaction of people to many smaller or not so smaller issues and listening to what many talk in very private gatherings you have every reason to believe that if a charismatic leader with some allegiance to extremism in any direction becomes popular, majority will go his way. Once started If anything prevents any such action in any country in the future, it will never be an action from within the country. It will be, as always, by outside forces. Because more than in the past people are less inclined to stand up for others rather will try to save themselves by shutting off or doing nothing.
07:08 October 12, 2012 by Purple_Heart2004
This is a disgrace, Where are the cerimonies in memorial for the Germans that were slaughtered by the Czechs in 45/46, i.e. ethnically cleansed? Where are the Cerimonies for the East Prussioans that were Raped, slaughtered and ethnically cleansed? What about the Pomeranians and Silesians? The German President needs to stand for his people who were horrible wronged and and have never been accounted for. He is a Traitor of the first degeree and proves that modern Germany is a Vassel State. He must have cases of knee pads from being on his knees all the time for artificial wrongs. Have the Russians apoligized? Have the Americans and the British for fire bombing civilizians?
17:34 October 12, 2012 by kentchap
@Purple_Heart2004

The fact that you may have been wronged doesn't erase the Germans' guilt for what they did to millions of innocents during WW2 on their crusade to spread their barbaric version of "civilisation" all over Europe.

You complain about being a vassal country; I think you should be thankful to the Allies that they allowed you to have a country at all after all you did all over Europe during the war. And you should be ashamed that you were not able to rid yourselves of Hitler on your own, you needed foreigners to step in and rid you of him.

You lost an unjust war that you started, now just get over it and take what you've been way too generously given.
00:29 October 13, 2012 by raandy
kentchap

Most germans I know ,do not try to erase the Holocaust. or justify it.Nor did they complain about the brutal allied occupation of their country. under the allied occupation hundreds of thousands of German women were raped and the country was starving, there was no medicine, people died by the thousands as a result,The German prisoners died of starvation and illness by the thousands, not a story we like told. The Eastern Europeans keep the war prisoners for 5 to 10 years after the defeat most died in the mines , Don't take my word for it, read the book "After the Reich " The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation by Giles Mac Donogh, You never were told these facts in your history class.All documented,

a quote from the NY Times

"An account of tragic human experience, all too little known,in the words of those who lived through it. It is not only fascinating story but a unique and valuable historical document"

It was to the allies advantage that Germany get up and running ,hence the Marshal Plan, surely you didn't think America set this up because of altruism.
13:31 October 16, 2012 by kentchap
raandy,

Thanks for recommending the book. I have family in one of the Eastern European countries that fought on Germany's side during WW2 and have first hand accounts of how the prisoners of war and civilians were treated by the Red Army in that case. However, one should not forget that it was not state policy and was not done in the name of a dodgy racial superiority ideology.

I agree that he Marshal Plan was set up with the practical goal of counterbalancing the expansion of the Soviet Union in Europe, but we should not forget that in the process many former Nazis have been whitewashed and turned into respectable civil servants and genuine efforts to root away nationalism and racism from German society were given minor priority. We see the results today - events like the racist riots in Rostock and Hoyerswerda, the failed integration of the Turkish minority proclaimed loudly by no other than Angela Merkel and the NSU murders scandal are just the tip of the iceberg. Combine this latent racism with the German culture of heel clicking and unquestionably listening and following authority and you have a potentially very dangerous mix.

It's quite obvious what the political views of Purple_Heart2004 are and I dare say they are not as uncommon in the German society nowadays as the German politicians and many average Germans would have us believe.
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