World War II ended 70 years ago – Remembering Weizsaecker’s speech
70 years ago World War II ended in Europe.
This is a time for reflection and a time to remember the dead.
As a German I think the best possible words on this have been written and said already. In fact already 30 years ago by Richard von Weizsäcker, probably the greatest President that Germany had. His speech on the 40th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe on 8 May 1945 was remarkable. Most notably, Weizsäcker spoke of the danger of forgetting and distorting.
Von Weizsäcker during his speech on 8 May 1985
“There is no such thing as the guilt or innocence of an entire nation. Guilt is, like innocence, not collective but personal. […] All of us, whether guilty or not, whether young or old, must accept the past. We are all affected by the consequences and liable for it. […] We Germans must look truth straight in the eye – without embellishment and without distortion. […] There can be no reconciliation without remembrance.”
“We must not regard the end of the war as the cause of flight, expulsion and deprivation of freedom.
The cause goes back to the start of the tyranny that brought about war. We must not separate 8 May 1945 from 30 January 1933.”
I highly recommend to have a look at the full speech. It is available in an English translation.
- Speech in the Bundestag on 8 May 1985 during the Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the End of War in Europe and of National-Socialist Tyranny, Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, (PDF).
- Excellent obituary of Richard von Weizsäcker in the Guardian.
- Richard von Weizsäcker Wikipedia
- Picture of Richard v. Weizsäcker by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1991-039-11 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons