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German Press Review: A Collective German Shame

Newspapers focused their attention on Chancellor Schröder's speech honoring the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising. Slow steps toward improving relations without ignoring the past echoed through German dailies.

"Shame and dishonor are the hackneyed words always used to describe the guilt of the Germans in the past." This is how the Stuttgarter Zeitung began to describe German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s attendance at Sunday’s ceremony in Poland. Schröder was the first German Chancellor ever to be invited to attend the ceremonies. The Stuttgarter Zeitung went on to note that the chancellor’s words were a clear, unembellished and necessary message from Germany to Poland. He hoped the countries would be good neighbors, but noted that it was still probably too early to become close friends.

The Neue Osnabrücke Zeitung opined on the chancellor’s clear words that the crimes of the past must neither be forgotten nor suppressed, but that Germany must seek to build a close relationship with Poland, especially since the nation became a member of the EU last May. The paper praised Schröder for hitting the correct note in his speech and thought that the Polish invitation to a German leader to take part in the uprising's remembrance was a definite step in the right direction.

According to the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, "The connection of the two countries via the EU is a huge chance for the future. Germany will find new markets and new challenges, and well-qualified workers, indeed because Germany is at the hub of the West for Poland".

But it will take more than economic developments to overcome the rampant mistrust between the two countries, even though Poland no longer has anything to fear from its large neighbor, wrote Bonn's General Anzeiger. Involvement in international organizations could be one of the ways the two countries reach out to each other. German and Polish troops now serve together under an international banner, and Poland is a member both of the EU and NATO.

The Bild Zeitung put it much more simply: "Sometimes it is good to listen to one’s neighbors. And the German Chancellor did just that in Warsaw." The paper recalls the words of the first German Federal President Theodor Heuss: "There is no collective German guilt, but there must be a collective German shame."

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