Queen Elizabeth II stopped short of apologizing for the Allies' bombing of Dresden during her first state visit to Germany in 12 years and instead acknowledged "the appalling suffering of war on both sides."
The Queen urged Germany and Britain to reject national stereotypes
Hoping to further reconciliation between Britain and Germany, Queen Elizabeth called on the two former World War II foes to learn from history but not be obsessed by the past. Addressing dignitaries in the German capital on Tuesday, the British monarch emphasized her country's current ties with Germany and the success of their modern-day partnerships in NATO and the European Union.
"In remembering the appalling suffering of war on both sides, we recognize how precious is the peace we have built in Europe since 1945," the 78-year-old queen said at a state banquet attended by German President Horst Köhler, among others.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and German President Horst Köhler review the guard of honor in front of the Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2004.
"We owe it to those who built the partnership to continue the process into the 21st century: to learn from history and not be obsessed by it, to look beyond simplistic stereotypes to realize how often we share the same outlook," she said.
No apology for bombings
Queen Elizabeth's three-day visit to Germany had been overshadowed by press speculation that she would use the trip to apologize for the Allied bombing raid on Dresden during World War II.
However, Buckingham Palace said Germany had made no official request for an apology and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said he had told the queen shortly after her arrival that the debate had been "absurd."
"Britain has played a conciliatory role" in improving relations between the two countries, Schröder said.
Calls for a royal apology circulated in British and German newspapers last week after it became known that the queen planned to attend a benefit concert for the rebuilding of Dresden's historic Frauenkirche on Wednesday.
Built in 1738 and completely destroyed in 1945, Dresden's baroque Frauenkirche is being completely restored.
The British monarchy has played a leading role in raising funds for restoring the baroque church -- considered one of the most beautiful in Europe. So far some 93 million euros ($118 million) have been collected. In June, the Duke of Kent attended a ceremony to mark the lifting of a new gilded cross atop the church steeple.
An anti-German trick?
The German press has blamed British media for initiating the rumors of the queen's apology. The daily Die Welt wrote, "this anti-German trick is a way of selling more newspapers."
"An apology by the queen would be a disservice to British-German relations, it would release animosities that have been kept in check by the very fact that each side has learned to deal with the past in its own way," the Berlin-based paper said.
A controversial editorial published last week in the British tabloid Daily Mail by right-wing columnist Simon Heffer generated outrage in Germany, where it received widespread coverage.
Entitled "Sorry, the Germans must never be allowed to forget their evil past," Heffer rejected the notion of an apology and accused the Germans of trying to "rewrite history."