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Last Updated: Friday, 2 January, 2004, 14:09 GMT
Germany welcomes D-Day invitation
D-Day landings
The D-Day landings were a turning point in World War II
Germany has welcomed a French invite to attend the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings, which has raised few objections from veterans' groups.

A German Government spokesman said the invitation from French President Jacques Chirac was "a sign that the times have indeed changed".

Allied forces landed on the Normandy coast before liberating France from German occupation during World War II.

Mr Schroeder is the first German leader to be invited to the ceremonies.

The move marks the growing ties between Mr Chirac and the German chancellor and shows how close a relationship has developed between the two countries since they put aside their wartime enmity.

Ten years ago it was deemed too soon to invite a German chancellor to the 50th anniversary, with the late French President, Francois Mitterrand, taking his German counterpart, Helmut Kohl, to a Franco-German youth festival instead.

Jacques Chirac (l) and Gerhard Schroeder drinking together last year

This year, several other leaders including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush, have also been invited to the D-Day ceremonies in June.

British veterans of the 1944 D-Day landings say there is little opposition to Mr Schroeder's invitation.

Royal British Legion spokesman Jeremy Lillies said: "Although there will doubtless be some individuals who are unable to feel reconciliation, it is only individuals.

"It is 60 years and we have, of course, during most of that time actually been allies of the Germans."

Respect

Mr Lillies said the French committee which extended the invitation to Mr Schroeder had a British representative on its board.

Veteran Royal Marine Stanley Blacker, 79, of Shepton Mallet, said he was not against Mr Schroeder attending the anniversary, despite his own personal grudges against the Germans.

If he comes, he comes, as long as he doesn't bring his own contingent as well
Edwin Hannath
National Veterans Association
"At La Cambe there are 20,000 Germans in one cemetery, so no doubt the German chancellor would like to pay his respects," he told BBC News Online.

"I suppose the Germans thought God was on their side, just as we thought he was on our side."

Former Royal Naval Lieutenant Commander, the Reverend Ronald Paterson, 87, was a beach commander on Juno beach during the landings.

He said it was essential that leaders from both sides were represented at the 60th anniversary.

"We are all European now. It is essential to invite all those who fought in the last century to get together so that it can never happen again," he told BBC News Online.

"I never want to see another war for my children, grandchildren or great grandchildren."

Closer bonds

General Secretary of the National Veterans Association (NVA) Edwin Hannath, 83, said he did not mind the presence of Mr Schroeder as long it was not intrusive.

"It was a French invitation - not British - and we can't do much about that," he said.

"If he comes, he comes, as long as he doesn't bring his own contingent as well. As long as there is no encroachment (of that remembrance), I don't suppose that anybody would mind - there won't be any aggro."

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt says that for the French the invite marks yet another step on the road towards ever closer union with Germany.

The bond between the two nations was strengthened by their joint opposition to the war on Iraq.




SEE ALSO:
Should Germans attend D-day events?
02 Jan 04  |  Have Your Say
Germany invited to D-Day events
01 Jan 04  |  Europe
D-day veterans return to beaches
04 Nov 03  |  Hampshire/Dorset
From the battlefield to Brussels
17 Oct 03  |  Europe
Schroeder sees powerful EU
03 Apr 03  |  Europe


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