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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 11:33 GMT 12:33 UK
Schroeder visits father's grave
Fritz Schroeder's grave
Fritz Schroeder was buried with eight other German soldiers
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has started a two-day visit to Romania and Bulgaria with a visit to the grave of his father.

Mr Schroeder never knew his father, Fritz Schroeder, a soldier who died fighting in Romania in 1944.

The location of the grave was first discovered three years ago, but previous planned visits were cancelled.

This is a deeply emotional event for Mr Schroeder, who grew up without even knowing where his father had died.

The chancellor's sister tracked down the grave in the remote Romanian village of Ceanu Mare, 375 km (235 miles) north-west of Bucharest.

The area was cordoned off to the public on Thursday as Mr Schroeder's entourage arrived.

The chancellor was greeted by an Orthodox priest and an Eastern Rite Catholic priest at the church.

He was given a round loaf of bread and a wreath of mauve flowers as a symbol of grief, before walking inside the church grounds with Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase.


Mr Schroeder's father, an unskilled labourer, is buried in a collective grave with eight other soldiers in the Orthodox cemetery.

Gerhard Schroeder
Schroeder has said he felt no ill effects from being fatherless
The grave is marked with a carved wooden cross and a black marble plaque listing the names of the nine soldiers.

Drafted into the German army in 1940, he was killed on 4 October, 1944 aged 32, along with his comrades as they were retreating.

Many local people gathered in the village to discuss the visit. Some raised concerns that the chancellor may want his father's body dug up and repatriated.

Local farmer Ion Valean, 73, told the Associated Press news agency: "We are proud that the father of a head of state is buried here. We are also happy that they paved the roads."

A stretch of about 18km (11 miles) were asphalted in 2001 when Mr Schroeder had first planned to visit his father's grave.

That trip was cancelled following the 11 September attacks in the US, but Mr Nastase extended the invitation on a visit to Berlin last year.

The BBC's Ray Furlong says that since the discovery of the grave, the chancellor has been asked whether growing up without a father affected him psychologically.

He responded that he did not know, but that he had not felt any ill effects.

Mr Schroeder's visit to the region will resume official duties with political talks in Bucharest, followed by a working visit to Bulgaria on the second day of his trip.

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