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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"The chance to recall some of the worst crimes of the century"
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The BBC's Barnaby Mason
"Some Jewish groups have complained about attempts to write a line under the history of the Holocaust"
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Thursday, 27 January, 2000, 15:12 GMT
Work starts on Holocaust memorial

A huge site had to be cleared for the memorial

Germany has marked an annual day of remembrance for the six million Jews who died under Nazi rule by starting to build a memorial to the victims.

Nobel peace Laureate and Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel praised the government for the memorial day introduced four years ago, but said asking Jews for forgiveness would give a much stronger message into the next century.

Plans for a monument are totally inappropriate
Eberhard Diepgen, Mayor of Berlin

At the groundbreaking ceremony dedicating the site for a huge new memorial in the heart of Berlin, Chancellor Schroeder said: " We can never take an enlightened, free, peaceful and tolerant society for granted."

Architects' plans are for a field the size of two football pitches with 2,700 close-set concrete pillars a hundred yards away from the Brandenburg gate.

Controversial memorial

The massive structure will not be finished for several years and critics have said it will encourage neo-Nazi vandals.

Berlin's Mayor Eberhard Diepgen has refused to have anything to do with the plans.

He said the memorial was inappropriate in the centre of the city.

Jewish cemeteries in Berlin have been attacked before
Elie Wiesel, from the World Jewish Congress, said he did not believe that the nation should bear collective responsibility for events during World War II.

"None of you have committed sin," he said, adding that the children of murderers were not themselves murderers.

But, he said it remained true no nation and no system had inflicted so much pain in so short a time.

Stockholm conference

The ceremony in Berlin coincides with the second day of a major conference in Stockholm, aimed at ensuring that the millions who died at the hands of the Nazis are not forgotten.

Swiss home affairs minister Ruth Dreifuss told delegates that the internet had fast become a means for spreading racist neo-Nazi propaganda.

And she said it had become "a cross-border vector for racist theories and the fomentation of hatred and discrimination."

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See also:
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Berlin's battle to build memorial
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World alert for rise of far right
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Why have a National Holocaust day?
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The long fight for Holocaust compensation
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Uncomfortable questions in Stockholm
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Is there a Holocaust 'Industry'?
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Blair unveils Holocaust memorial plan
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Nazi slave cash bill drafted
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10 Jan 00 |  UK
High Court battle over Holocaust book

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