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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 December 2004, 11:04 GMT
The year in issues: World War II
The US elections, the insurgency in Iraq, Yasser Arafat's death, this year had its big news stories. But what else made a splash in 2004?

The BBC News website looks at some the issues that this year got the pundits pondering and the critics questioning. Click on the links below to find out more.

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World War II

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World War II

Many thought when they attended the 50th anniversaries of the momentous events of World War II 10 years ago they would - and should perhaps - be the last ceremonies.

D-day commemoration
Could we make the same sacrifice today?

But it was clear in 2004 that the epic mid-20th Century struggle continued to exert a powerful grip on the imagination. The 60th anniversaries of a number of events were used as an occasion to reflect on the present as much as the past.

In the run-up to the anniversary of D-Day, President Bush equated his campaign against the scourge of terrorism with the battle against the Nazis.

The remarks were widely seen as an attempt to bring an element of clarity to his own multi-faceted war on terror, and as such were criticised by some. But there seemed to be little doubt that the commemoration - with its focus on a clear cut battle of good versus bad - had taken on an added poignancy as a result of what are seen as today's more complicated battles.

And as the veterans gathered to remember their role in defeating tyranny and liberating Europe, British pundits for their part pondered whether today's youth would be prepared to band together and put their lives on the line for their country as their forefathers had done.

But if the British ended up feeling gloomy about the present juxtaposed with the past, the Germans used the anniversaries to draw a line between themselves and the Nazis. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder referred to D-Day as the liberation not just of Europe, "but also the liberation of Germany".

The remarks, which to some implied that Germany was shaking off responsibility for those years, raised a few eyebrows. But they were also seen as part of a broader effort by a country which has struggled for so long with such a burden of guilt to find brighter perspectives on the past.

For the first time, much was made of the anniversary of the attempted assassination of Hitler by a group of military officers, an event which provided characters the country could celebrate rather than castigate.

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, who on 20 July, 1944 placed a bomb under Hitler's table which killed four but left the Fuehrer alive, was not always a post-war darling - his allegedly amateurish tactics were often criticised in the years that followed the war, while left-wingers frequently questioned his motives.

Polish Home Army
Some 200,000 died in the Warsaw uprising
But in 2004, the aristocratic colonel was the subject of a string of films and documentaries, and the chancellor himself laid a wreath at the spot where Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators were executed to mark the 60th anniversary of his death.

A new era in German-Polish relations dawned symbolically with the attendance of Chancellor Schroeder at the anniversary of the Warsaw uprising, in which 200,000 people were killed by the Nazis. He was the first German leader to be invited to the commemorative event, which was in any case banned for decades by the communist authorities.

In 2004, with Poland firmly in the Western fold as a new member of the European Union, the anniversary took on ever greater significance.

And the French marked the 60th anniversary of their deliverance from four years under the Nazis in August. Unlike the D-Day landings or other big battles of 1944, the French took centre stage in the liberation of Paris - although admittedly the uprising began as Parisians heard the guns of the approaching Americans.

But this year's anniversary was not overshadowed by the disputes of previous years about the extent of the uprising and who had really been involved. In 2004, there was no suggestion that it had been anything other than a unifying French achievement.


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