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Last Updated: Friday, 28 January, 2005, 06:19 GMT
European press review

Papers across Europe on Friday provide vivid coverage of yesterday's ceremonies at the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz on the 60th anniversary of its liberation.

The ceremony struck the editorialist of the leading French daily Le Monde with "a feeling of urgency" at the thought that those the paper calls "the direct witnesses... who can tell us the whole appalling truth", are dying out.

The memory must be preserved, and the "singularity" of the Holocaust asserted, the paper argues, because "every time anyone has deemed it fit to contravene the principles of the UN charter and depart from the international order dreamt of in 1945, there has been a reopening of the door to a possible return to the unimaginable".

Liberation notes that what it calls "Europe's great day of communing in memory of the Holocaust" was "marred" by some discordant notes.

"In Russia," the paper notes, "20 members of parliament signed a violent pamphlet this week demanding a ban on all Jewish organizations... for propagating an 'anti-Christian' religion".

The memory must be preserved
Le Monde

"In Germany," it adds, "the neo-Nazi NPD also distinguished itself when its representatives in Saxony's regional parliament refused to take part in one minute's silence in memory of the victims of the Holocaust."

And in the European Parliament, the paper goes on, "it took some lively exchanges before a resolution on anti-Semitism could be the object of a massive consensus".

In Russia, a commentary in Russkiy Kuryer notes ironically that "in some respects, we continue to lead the world".

The paper cites the Global Forum against anti-Semitism which found Russia, as it puts it, "one of three countries infected with a hatred of Jews".

Speaking at the Auschwitz ceremony, it notes, President Vladimir Putin "availed himself of an excellent opportunity repentantly to declare his shame at the anti-Semitic manifestations which still have not been eradicated here".


A commentary in Warsaw's Trybuna welcomes President Aleksander Kwasniewski's remark in his speech at the memorial that Poland has not forgotten that it was liberated from the Nazi occupiers by Soviet troops.

"This is worth emphasizing," the paper believes, "because in our national media the notion of 'liberation' has been completely ousted by that of 'invasion'."

"We hear that one occupation was replaced by another which was no better," it adds, but this is a "falsification of history".

"Even those with the most vivid imagination," the paper argues, "would be unable to convince the visitors to Auschwitz-Birkenau that the Soviet soldiers were no different from the SS butchers".

Spain, which supported Hitler... should be very sensitive
El Periodico

Barcelona's El Periodico finds "no excuse" for what it sees as Spain's low profile at the Auschwitz ceremony, pointing out that the speaker of the Spanish parliament found himself rubbing shoulders with heads of state and government, monarchs and prominent royals.

The paper welcomes the tribute to the Holocaust victims held on Thursday in the Madrid parliament, and the fact that it will from now on be an annual event, but it regrets its belatedness.

"It took much too long," it says, "for a Spain which, through Franco, supported Hitler, to commit itself formally" to marking the anniversary.

"A country that lost 6,000 of its citizens in the concentration camps and sent another 45,000 to fight on the criminals' side, should be very sensitive to such matters," it argues.

Shared contemplation

In Germany, Die Welt sees Thursday's commemoration as an example of what it calls "the Europeanization" of the Holocaust memory.

The paper suggests that Europe is seeking to create a common identity by remembering the mass murder of Jews.

A German crime in which many Europeans were involved
Die Welt

"As a result, it adds, "Auschwitz is becoming an emblem not just of Nazi crimes but also of a Europeanization of national views of history."

The paper observes that for decades countries in Western as well as Eastern Europe failed to acknowledge the scale of their collaboration with the German occupiers.

"'Auschwitz denotes a German crime in which many Europeans were involved," it points out.

As the paper sees it, this does not relieve Germany of its historic guilt, but it does mean that responsibility is shared.

The way the Swiss Le Temps was struck by the ceremony would appear to justify this thesis.

"The dead [of Auschwitz]," the paper says, "have brought the living together in shared contemplation".

"These living," it adds, "are a Europe united as it has never been before by the memory of its self-inflicted evil."

'Time of deepest shame'

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung expects the Nazi era to continue to inform the Germans' self-image for the foreseeable future.

The paper argues that the outrage of a "vast majority" when faced with today's activities by far-right extremists, suggests that "it is still true that nothing moves this country more than the time of its deepest shame".

It adds that the willingness of tens of thousands of Germans to murder millions of people for being Jews, Roma, Russians or dissidents "is beyond anybody's understanding and therefore beyond any explanation".

And the attempt to punish the perpetrators in German courts, the paper adds, led to the "frightening realisation" that most of them were "ordinary people" rather than "sadist monsters, compulsive criminals or half-wits".

"All Germans who seriously think about themselves and their country will continue to be haunted by this", it believes.

The European press review is compiled by BBC Monitoring from internet editions of the main European newspapers and some early printed editions.


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