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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 11:49 GMT
Should Germans attend D-day events?
D-Day troops
Germany's Gerhard Schroeder has accepted a French invitation to events marking the 60th annivesary of the D-Day landings.

French President Jacques Chirac, who has a close relationship with Mr Schroeder, has decided to make him the first German leader in history to be invited to the events in June.

Mr Schroeder was said to be "very pleased" at the decision.

Allied forces disembarked on the Normandy coast in the first step towards liberating France from German occupation during World War II, suffering heavy losses as they battled their way ashore.

Is France right to invite Germans to the ceremonies? Sixty years on, is it time to move on and allow them to attend? Or should Germany stay away from events where Allied veterans are remembering their dead?

This debate is now closed. The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:

I agree that we should have a day of combined remembrance for all the men who fell and gave the greatest sacrifice for the country in World War II. I don't believe however that D-Day is the right day for this. D-Day was a major turning point in the War for the Allies a day in which hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers gave their lives to liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi terror. Let veterans remember and grieve by themselves.
Peter, UK

It's acts like these that heal the wounds of war
Luke, Indiana, USA
Several people have mentioned that the Allied veterans should have been consulted. I can't imagine many of them objecting. It's acts like these that heal the wounds of war and help prevent the kind of atmosphere that led to the great suffering and tremendous loss of life that was WWII. May it never happen again. I also think that German military and civilian deaths should be given eulogy, for they were also great, and politics aside, they were human beings too.
Luke, Indiana, USA

Yes of course. I've stood on the Normady Beaches and have been overawed at the respect and attention that the French have accored the Allied War Dead and the Veterans. Indeed our veterans are accorded more respect in Normandy than at home. German soldiers died there too and they have also been commemorated with simple crosses. One such cross on "Omada" beach simply said "To our fallen comrades". It is right that the German leader should pay his respcts to his fallen countrymen also.
Alan, Dartford, UK

Although I agree that Germans should be allowed to come to the D-day celebrations and memorial service, I don't think it is an appropriate time or place to 'forgive' and 'forget'. Many veterans will be at this event to remember what they and their fellow men did for the world. This day is for the memory of the liberation of France and Germany not for the deaths of German soldiers. It was not the right of France alone to make such an important decision.
Jenna Phillips, Surbiton, Surrey England

Hello out there - this is 2004! Instead of celebrating D-days we should all have a collective day of mourning for the millions of lives that have been unnecessarily sacrificed during the various wars of the past. Come to terms with the future and learn to see each other as what we are. Humans who must still learn to share the one habitable planet in our solar system.
Daniela, Berlin, Germany

Freedom won and totalitarianism lost all of Europe should be invited to celebrate such a triumph of the human spirit.
Tony, UK

Yes, Germany should attend. The reason? Germany was never the enemy, Nazism was. And now the far right appears to be slowly rising again in some European cities and countries. How better to defeat the proper enemy than by all the countries of Europe standing together to condemn it? It was the lack of a strong opposition that allowed Hitler to come to power, after all.
Mike, London, UK

It is not for us to decide, ask the D-Day veterans.
Reid Sommerville, Newbury, Berks

I don't think I would have a problem with this if I believed that Chirac's motives for the invitation were sincere. When France should be remembering the British, Americans, Canadians and others for liberating their country, Chirac invites Shroeder to show how "close" they are. It is purely political and has nothing to do with honouring those who sacrificed their lives. That's how I see it.
Mary Ann, US

What we should commemorate is the horror of war for all concerned. And remember that in 60 years of 'peace' we are still having them all over the world. Mothers die. Babies die. I do not care if they are German or Afghan, I just hope that our species will eventually learn not to destroy itself.
Bob, Chester, UK

It is great that the Germans are being represented.
John McShane, London, England.

Embrace the opportunity for all involved to mourn their losses
Stu, Basingstoke
During the Normandy Campaign there was senseless loss of life on both sides. We cannot hold an entire people to account for the criminal actions of the few. In this day and age we need to be able to move on as quickly as possible and heal any international scars that are now past history. So let's forgive but not forget and embrace the opportunity for all involved to mourn their losses.
Stu, Basingstoke

I had a relative in WWII and I thank him for his sacrifice. Not only did he help give the free world a second chance at life, he helped give Germany a second chance to become all that they could be and more. Germany did not let us down. Now, can we learn to forgive so that maybe the world has a shot at peace in its entirety? To those of you who disagree with me, if you will not do this for yourselves or for the sake of your country, will you please do this for the sake of your sons and daughters who are the future?
Christopher Ayres, Las Cruces, New Mexico, USA

This has nothing to do with forgiving Germany of today. There is nothing to forgive because they are not responsible for the actions of a past generation. This is about remembering those that fought to liberate Europe. Those that fought against its liberation cannot be honoured along side those that did.
Michael Hubbard, USA

Whilst no-one could possibly have any objections to Germany being invited to this - it would have been nice if France had had the courtesy to consult the countries that liberated France from Nazi Germany first.
Roger, Whitwick, England

If we can grieve together, as former enemies, maybe we can live together..and find peaceful solutions to our conflicts.Forgiveness - that's a real act of courage, just like the soldiers that died, fighting for their particular side. We cannot continually have it "us" vs. "them" mentality, peace is not won with this attitude. I think this is an excellent opportunity to set aside differences, and look at the similarities. Loved ones lost loved ones.
T.A.Sheppard, USA

This invitation hints at a bit of a political ingratiation
James, Vancouver, B.C. Canada
In spirit, I can agree that a hand of reconciliation might be extended to Mr. Schroeder, especially considering Germany has been a very strong friend over the years and has been one of the most dependable allies in the post-war period. But this invitation hints at a bit of a political ingratiation for Mr. Schroeder's warming friendship with Mr. Chirac, especially in his solidarity with the French leader on various global and EU matters. If this is the case, then there are other more suitable events for this gesture. In fact, if this is the case, it must not take place on D-Day. Not at the rememberance of an event where the blood of thousands of brave Brits, Canadians, Americans and other allies stained the sands of Normandy, giving their lives to liberate France. A more suitable venue for this type of politics would be preferred.
James, Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Of course they should be invited! Today's German people dislike the regime of their ancestors as much as anyone else does. To those people objecting to their participation: where is the forgiveness and will to move forward? Stop living in the past!
Chris Williams, Solihull, UK

I find the whole thing rather disgraceful the memory of those brave men (German, Indian, American, British, Canadian etc.) should have to stand along side some grubby little political gesture.
Trevor, Colchester, UK

I think he is right to have invited Germany to attend, perhaps he should have told the allied collective that he was to invite them. Many nationalities lost citizens on D-day, the Germans were still sons, fathers and brothers to loved ones back home.
Pete, Derby Uk

I am appalled at the insensitivity on this board to the feelings of the veterans of WW2. Seeing that some people think that because these men and women are now "old", their opinions don't matter really angers me. They paid a heavy price so that Europeans could be free of German occupation and this move is a direct insult to them.
Daughter of a WW2 Veteran, USA

I think they should. I'm very surprised to read that some people still have doubts or anger about this idea. Why? Today's Germany has nothing to do with the Nazi state it once was. If we don't allow the Germans to join the D-Day celebrations it means that we look at them the way people were looking at them 60 years ago, and that is both stupid and wrong.
Nicolas, Paris, France

Of course. Veterans should be given the opportunity to attend on their own terms, but the events attended by heads of state should represent the spirit of cooperation which has replaced centuries of fighting among the European nations.
Martin Juckes, Oxford

A lot of people could learn from this gesture. I have met too many Brits who were not willing to forgive the Germans but were more than willing to forgive the Italians for their part in WWII. It seems humankind still has a lot to learn. This is a step in the right direction.
Susan, London, UK (ex USA)

Only to apologise.
Duncan, Salisbury, UK

Chirac should have first discussed this with the countries who went to liberate his country. My father spent the greater part of his youth fighting for freedom, unfortunately the result was that he had a very short life! In his memory I totally disagree with Chirac, if the Germans want to remember their dead then so be it but this should not be combined with remembrance of the allied troops.
John, Birmingham England

We need to learn from, and at the same time to forgive our ancestors, whoever they may be
Randy Kiessig, Mountain View, California, USA
I think that for the most part folks I no longer associate the Germany of today, with that of the 3rd Reich. Sure, we remember what happen, but since the wall fell, the last vestiges of the War, in my opinion, ended. If we are to move ahead as a species, we need to learn from, and at the same time to forgive our ancestors, whoever they may be, for their transgressions.
Randy Kiessig, Mountain View, California, USA

The fact that the overwhelming majority of respondents on this page approve of Germans attending the D-Day commemorations is a tribute to Europe and especially to the German people themselves. They have dealt openly and honestly with the crimes of the Nazis. What a sad contrast with Japan whose Prime Minister worships at a shrine containing the remains of convicted war criminals and thereby incites continuing hatred from the Chinese, Koreans and other victims of Japanese atrocities.
Geoff Cockayne, Leeds, UK

Personally I very much welcome Chancellor Schroeder's participation. If we want to learn from the past, we should do so together, the soldiers who died liberating Europe also liberated Germany. What saddens me is that Chirac's motives are not altruistic or even with learning for future generations in mind - he wants Gerhard there when he has to face Bush and Blair who have just liberated Iraq.
Frank, Frankfurt, Germany

I approve this decision! This is good that the German Chancellor is invited to this event. Now German people have changed. Gerhard Schröder was born around the D-day, how could he have any responsibility in the Nazis' barbarian regime? (If we had to blame the sons, then British people, among others, should blame us because they have been Napoleon's victims...). We have now a real deep friendship relation between Germany and France. You know, in France and Germany we even have a bilingual TV channel in common, "Arte".
Olivier, France

If we want to create a Europe which is free of prejudice, then we need to learn how to forgive
Richard, Swansea, UK
Of course the Germans should be allowed to attend the celebrations. The people responsible for the atrocities committed by the National Socialists are largely dead now. Their offspring cannot be held responsible for the sins of their forefathers. Further, if we want to create a Europe which is free of prejudice, then we need to learn how to forgive. We should never forget, because we must ensure that such atrocities are never committed again. But forgive, we must.
Richard, Swansea, UK

If we cannot come together and mourn our dead together then we can never expect any hope of peace among our people. We must forgive, but never forget and learn from our mistakes.
Hannah, UK

As a German citizen I must say that I was positively surprised by the positive response to Mr Chirac's proposal. Even though I understand that the unbelievable crimes committed by the Nazi regime are still very painful for a lot of people worldwide, I nevertheless believe this to be a big step towards forgiveness and a new Europe.
Stephanie, Hamburg, Germany

Of course they should. In Canada we have had German veterans participating in Remembrance Day observances for 20 years now. We recognise that they grieve the loss of their comrades too.
Bob Humphreys, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Jacques Chirac is right to invite Mister Schroeder. I was "just a lad" during the war, but I remember the hurt, but it has to stop sometime. Now is a good time. Don't get me wrong I still like beating the Germans, but let's be satisfied with GERMANY 1 ENGLAND 5!
John Thacker, Stoke on Trent, UK

Let's stop blaming millions of people who weren't even born for the sins of those long-dead
Ian, Brit in USA
The war is over and very few, if any, of those responsible for starting it are still alive. Let's stop blaming millions of people who weren't even born for the sins of those long-dead. If we are to continue to evolve as a race, then we MUST shed old prejudices and look to the future. Much as it galls me to say this, I must salute President Chirac for having the courage to be the first to attempt to heal wounds that have festered for too long.
Ian, Brit in USA

It is just a way of saying that a German Democrat is closer to an American GI fighting on Omaha beach than he is to a German SS shooting at him. I cannot see what is wrong there.
Xavier, France

We ought also to invite the Poles and so forth which accounted for a large portion of German manpower on the Atlantic Wall. I don't imagine many veterans would resent them - or the Germans - attending.
Ben Turner, UK

I believe that Germans, and any others, who seek to commemorate the tragedies of war, ought to be included. The sadness and loss is common to all, and not only to one side of an armed conflict.
Robert Morpheal, Canada

Yes. The spectre of the Second World War must be put aside; we should forgive, but not forget. And the remembrance should be joint, for all parties concerned.
Rob Davis, Telford UK

It depends on the reason that Mr Schroeder was invited and is attending
Mike, Bristol, USA
It depends on the reason that Mr Schroeder was invited and is attending. If it is to pay respect to the Allied soldiers that liberated Europe that is fine, however, if it is to combine the loss of Axis soldiers in a single remembrance, I think it is wrong. While it is true that many young men died on both sides and that the belligerents are now friends, these ceremonies are in remembrance of the young men of the Allies who fought and died. If we wish to remember all of the soldiers, sailors, and airman who died in the war there must be a better venue.
Mike, Bristol, USA

Perhaps the other allies should also have a say, since it was they who liberated France. Personally I think Mr Chirac is being a little insensitive to those who will mourn those who died.
Eccles, Bristol, UK

Of course Germans should be allowed to attend. Most of the German soldiers who died in the war did not want the war they were involved in. Most probably never even voted for Hitler in the first place. They died fighting because they had no other choice. And they had families and loved ones just like our soldiers. All were victims of Hitler's insanity.
Julian Shaw, Sheffield, UK

I'm French, and I think that French government should have asked the governments of US and Great Britain before. This is a question of memory and respect.
Stephane Mordenti, Thionville-FRANCE

It is quite right that Germans attend. It is a time of remembrance for all. However, there are differences in how I reflect on those who took part in those events, while I give thanks to all the allied forces, I can only reflect on the Germans' losses. The ceremony would need careful wording indeed.
Chris Percy, Hull, UK

I feel this will go along way toward a more united, stronger Europe.
Matthew Wall, Omaha, USA

I think what Chirac is doing is wrong
Paul, London, UK
I think what Chirac is doing is wrong. He should have more respect for the families of the allied veterans who fought so bravely and lost their lives to liberate his country and the rest of Europe.
Paul, London, UK

It's about time we moved on and look to the future. Germany being invited is good it shows that even the darkest days that humanity creates can be overcome and friendships prevail. If only the rest of the world would wake up and see that we are all human beings...
Alec, UK

Why not? with all due respect the 'German soldiers' were doing the same job that the allies were doing, if they had to go to war as Hitler (their leader) wanted, then they had to go to war, they had no choice! I have much admiration for the men and women involved in the war without a doubt in my mind the people who fought for us fought for a just cause and that should never be taken from them; however Germany and the Germans attitude have shifted dramatically since the war so perhaps its time to move on
Brendan, Belfast

This is a fantastic decision - compare it to Gallipoli celebrations where Australia, New Zealand and Turkey mourn the dead in a joint remembrance celebration. It is a sign of growing maturity that reflects the fact that both countries lost brave young men and women - not just the "goodies".
Ash, London

Of course! The French invitation shows that "old Europe", plagued by centuries of war, is actually "New Europe" as it comes together to form growing ties. It is a remarkable display of friendship as the two nations have come to look at the past, present and future in constructive way.
Marc D., Quebec, Canada

I only hope that the veterans themselves have been consulted about it. As long as they've had a chance to express their feelings and this isn't just a political move from Mr Chirac to strengthen the ties between France and Germany, then I don't have a problem with it. Were our fighting heroes shown enough respect to be asked? I doubt that very much.
Ed Teddington, London, UK

Today's Germany is totally different than from it was in the past
Christopher Camilleri, Malta
Today's Germany is totally different than from it was in the past. Fascism has been condemned in the country since the fall of the Third Reich. I believe that it's acceptable for the German leader to attend for the 60th anniversaries ceremonies ... although the crimes of the Nazi party will never be forgotten.
Christopher Camilleri, Malta

The main thrust of the war was to remove Hitler and the National Socialists, not to destroy the German people. There are Germans who see the gradual breakdown of the Nazi system as beneficial. If we are to celebrate a European community, we must view European history in the right light and not perpetuate the hatred that such conflicts can generate.
Leon Kay, Picton Canada

Yes, I think it is right that the Germans should be invited to the D Day commemorations. My father as a professional soldier served with the Indian Army in Eritrea, the LRDG in the Western Desert and with the 21st Army group in Europe, and he regarded war as a leveller - all frontline soldiers suffered the same terrors and knew the same comradeship with their friends. He had a respect for fellow soldiers, though not always for the politicians who sent them. I think we should remember what a curse war is for everyone caught up in it.
Rob, Inverness Scotland

Of course! One would hope that the rest of the world realizes that Germans in general are relieved that D-Day did take place. I am saddened that after 60 years some people still find it hard to forgive.
Juergen Lattner, Dublin, Rep of Ireland

While understanding that nearly 60 years have passed since D-Day, I think it is still important to consider the opinions of the living veterans of WWII. Our great prosperity and relative peace owes a deep debt to the generation who fought and won that war. They should have the final say as to whether or not Germany attends and in what capacity. Yes, Germany and France are friends now, after centuries of trying to blow each other off the map. Perhaps it is time to finally bury the hatchet, but not into the graves of Allied war dead. They gave their lives to bring freedom to Europe. Always remember, but remember faithfully.
Cheramy White, Washington D.C., USA

How else are we going to put the past behind us
Graham Carr, Erin, Canada
Absolutely. How else are we going to put the past behind us except by sharing the grief?
Graham Carr, Erin, Canada

I believe that is very crass and in bad taste to the survivors of the World War II to invite the Germans to the ceremonies. Maybe we should ask the Allied veterans how they feel, or were they not consulted?
Nicholas Murphy, London, U.K.

Absolutely correct! If we are going to go on and on and on reliving the past and commemorating old wars, we should ensure to reflect today's reality. The Germans living today had nothing to do with Hitler and his war. We should learn to separate the two.
Martin Kroes, Bailieboro, Ontario, Canada

I don't think it is France's call. It should be the Allies who invite the Germans and yes, I think it is a good idea, for years fighter pilots on both sides have been meeting up and recognising their similarities, the German soldier on the ground was no different.
John Harding, Eastwood Australia

It is time to forgive, on all sides. None of us should forget, though, that D-Day was made possible by the fact that the Russians had already defeated the Germans. The D-Day invasion was small potatoes next to Stalingrad and the Russian front.
Dan, Manchester

This does reek of the new friendship which has been forged in that Franco-German Empire known as the EU: regardless the Germans should be allowed to join in the celebration of the beginning of the end of their darkest chapter in their history. We are all friends now.
Jonathan Lafferty, UK

Absolutely they should attend! The world must move on. Does this mean though that Britain should be unfairly, constantly reminded of the negative aspects of her Imperial past? This was constantly brought to the fore during recent international events. If we choose to forgive Germany for her recent past then it is only fair that Britain should be afforded the same respect. Remember that the USA and UK were enemies too once! Nations of the World take heed!
Gareth O'Neill, Glasgow, Scotland

Why shouldn't they? Today's Germans are not responsible for what their parents, grandparents have done. D-Day is a great event for all Europeans, German included. They have proven to be a great democracy by having judged their own criminals. It's time for the world to wake up and recognize that they are not the Nazis of 1944. The Germans still suffer from their reputation even after 3 generations. It's not a good idea to alienate a nation.
Luc, France

Could there be any better signal that Europe has changed and that we now aspire to live together peacefully?
Greg, Peterborough

The D-Day commemoration should be an opportunity for us all - Germans included - to remember the bravery of those who died to free Europe, not those who fought to enslave it. As there were very few French who fought on D-Day compared with the British, Commonwealth and American forces, it is wrong for President Chirac to invite the Germans.
Jonathan Hanna, Hillsborough, United Kingdom

To, Jonathan Hanna: What about the Free French Forces who were first ashore and pilots who provided air cover, not to mention the resistance who blew bridges and roads preventing reinforcement to German units, and of course the civilians who were butchered as the SS retreated. As for whether the Germans should attend the commeroration, of course, it is only by commemorating together that the past can be laid to rest. Lest not forget, Germans fell at Normandy too.
Sébastien, Paris, France

Many young Germans died bravely in defending their Country's interests under orders and deserve to have their sacrifices recognised as well.
Dean Laley, Bedford, England

Would we invite Saddam Hussain and members of the Taleban to the opening of the newly reconstructed World Trade Centre when it's completed? It's the same principle ... some old wounds will never heal.
Marcus Mowforth, London

Yes they should be allowed to attend. It is about time people got over what happened and begin to live together. The people that started the war are mostly dead, and the ones that are left should not pay for ever more for what they did. You only have to look at Ireland to see what happens when people pass hatred down to future generations.
June Faulkner, England

Yes, the Germans should attend. We (Europeans) had a decision to make after WW2. We can either kill as many of each other as possible, in two World Wars, destroying the economies of all concerned for those remained, living in abject poverty after the ceasation of hostilities, or work together for mutual prosperity. Thank God for the EU.
On a sepearte point very upset by June Faulkner's comments. As an Irish citizen I know that Eire since independence has been a tolerant,secular,non-aligned neutral society working closely with the UN in trying to bring peace to world trouble spots via the deployment of its army in UN peackeeping efforts, notably Cyprus and Beirut.
Gerry Low, London, England

The D-Day 6th June is a remembrance of the losses to life suffered on that day and everyone should take part from that aspect including Germany. Wishful thinking perhaps but if it helps prevent such losses from happening again, great!
Dave Jones, Canada

It is now a new world, therefore the Germans should be represented at D-Day ceremony
Wole Akinyeye, Ibadan, Nigeria
It is now a new world, therefore the Germans should be represented at D-Day ceremony. After all, the victory of the Allies over Hitler's Germany was a blessing to peace and destruction of authoritarianism et al. Germany has since become a responsible and responsive nation state since the collapse of the so called Third Reich.
Wole Akinyeye, Ibadan, Nigeria

Yes the Germans should attend as they have their dead as well.
David B. Farrell, Montreal, Canada

It is time to forgive past errors and atrocities in order to build a strong Europe where nationalist extremists won't be able to stir hatred. Let we never forget, but let us build a better future together.
Zak, Paris/London

Now is the time to remember, but it is not the time to remember anger and hate.
Vinicio, Prato, Italy

Of course! The German soldiers were doing their duty just as the Allies were. The war is over now and this is the best to show that it truly is.
Michael Greer, Biercee, Belgium

It is about time we all wake up to the fact that today's Germans are not responsible for their country's past. In fact Germans still suffer unjust discrimination from all other Europeans as a result of the war. This discrimination is what people should be worrying about today.
Nico van Leeuwen, Dutch (living in Germany)

D-day marks the beginning of the end not only for Nazi Germany, but for something much more ominous. Up until WW2, France and Germany had been bitter rivals; a rivalry that resulted in various wars. After WW2, we began to learn to live together not only as neighbours, but as close friends. The result has been a long time of peace and prosperity for Europe, and the dream of an eventual Union.

The time has come to for Germany and France to remember the war dead together. 60 years is more than enough for everybody to gain the necessary closure. More damage can be done these days by excluding Germany than by including it. France and Germany will remember the war dead together. In my opinion this is the best way to honor those who made it all possible.
Nils, Frankfurt, Germany

I guess, after 60 years, it really wouldn't do any harm inviting the Germans; they were involved in the event, after all. The real question is why did anybody invite the French?
Mark, London

I believe it is time to move on from harbouring resentment against the German people. An invitation is a fine way to change the nature of memory. Thank you, France.
Warron Conroy, Barcelona, Spain

Germany invited to D-Day events
01 Jan 04  |  Europe


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