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German president remembers Czech victims of Nazism

President Joachim Gauck has completed his first visit as German head of state to the Czech Republic. He met victims of Nazi atrocities and spoke of his grief over what they had endured.

Gauck honored the victims of Germany's Nazi past on Wednesday by visiting a memorial to victims of a wartime massacre in the Czech village of Lidice.

The German president laid a wreath at a memorial to the child victims and met survivors, saying he had come to show his "respect and sorrow" to the victims.

On June 10, 1942, German forces executed some 170 men from Lidice. False evidence had linked the village with the assassination of senior Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in Prague.

All the town's women and most children were sent to concentration camps. Only a few children, those considered racially suitable for Germanization, were spared, being handed over to SS families. The village, along with a neighboring settlement Lezaky, were completely flattened.

Gauck had met Czech President Vaclav Klaus at Prague Castle in the morning, subsequently travelling on with his counterpart to the memorial, northwest of the capital.

"We Germans know about the deep wounds that the occupation of your country left behind," said Gauck at wreath-laying. "We feel sympathy for the victims and we honor the brave Czechs who were able to resist the brutal suppression."

Need for remembrance

Both leaders called for the memory of the Nazi terror to be preserved for future generations.

Those atrocities had been at the "root of all fates" of the Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia after the war said Gauck, a subject that still causes controversy.

Klaus said he greatly appreciated that Gauck had wanted to visit Lidice, after the German president wrote him a letter expressing regret on the 70th anniversary of the massacre.

The killings were reportedly carried out on the orders of Hitler and with Heydrich, the founding head of the Third Reich's SD intelligence service, who was viewed by many as a potential successor to the Nazi leader.

rc/msh (dpa, AFP)