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Readers Sound off on Germany's Ship Tragedy, Medal of Valor

The 1945 sinking of a Nazi ship full of refugees and controversial plans to introduce a bravery medal for German soldiers had readers dashing off responses.

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The Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed and sank 60 years ago

The following comments reflect the views of DW-WORLD.DE readers. Not all reader comments have been published. DW-WORLD.DE reserves the right to edit for length and appropriateness of content.

Film about Germany's Titanic

Yes, I had heard of the tragedy. It is mentioned in the World Almanac in their list of ship sinkings as the greatest loss of life at sea. A recent Smithsonian magazine had an extensive article on the incident. -- F.W. Fallon, US

In answer to the question posed on the Web site, no, I had never heard of this disaster in spite of studying the history of WWII for many years and visiting numerous war-related sites and Gedenkmalstaette. Would it be possible to produce a half-hour documentary for broadcast on Deutsche Welle to spread the story? -- Susan Roll, Canada


In answer to your question, I had heard of the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff. I wonder when the film and TV industry -- German or other -- will tackle the horrible story of the wholesale rape of millions of German women after WWII so well documented in Norman Naimark's "The Russians in Germany: A History of the Soviet Zone of Occupation, 1945-1949?" -- Dr. David Brook, US

I hope that this film will have English subtitles and that Canadian Public Library will purchase it in many cities in my country. In Toronto, there are many branches of Toronto Public Libraries that carry German DVDs and literature. I love German movies and I beg the person who is responsible to subtitle all the German movies in English. Please, please DW make an impact on this problem. -- Agatha King, Canada

German bravery medal

A German soldier in Afghanistan

Readers said German soldiers who display bravery on duty should be honored

I think it's an excellent idea. The German soldier -- and the EU soldier in general -- are going to have to play a more active role in the world to help keep the peace. The Iron Cross is over played in modern culture, and I think it's time to demystify the whole biker symbolism that has grown up around it and bring it back to its original meaning. The cross itself goes back to 800 AD and the more modern version of the Iron Cross is from 1813. If it'll motivate the soldier then it seems like small potatoes compared to the real issues that we all have to face in securing world peace. -- Steve Real, US

I think the choice of a new medal for bravery should be the Iron Cross for reasons of tradition and the fact that its prior use did not diminish the service performed by its soldiers no matter what regime was in power. -- James Duggan, US

Yes, Germany should give out its medal of honor. It is an independent nation as the others. It should be an iron cross as that is part of German history and should be honored for its long tradition for centuries. -- Robert Heimann, US

The Iron Cross is a wonderful decoration of historic meaning. The origin of the Iron Cross is wonderfully German. In response to the need of currency and precious metal during the Napoleonic wars, Germans turned in their jewelry and purchased iron jewelry ( Berliner Eisen Schmuck). Soldiers who served their country had always received a monetary award or even allowances and pensions. The Iron Cross, however, signifies an award that is given for purely selfless service. An award without monetary value shows true selflessness. -- Peter Stock, Christmas Island

I am amazed that Germany does not have a medal to honor the courage of your soldiers. Courage and bravery are not vices. If you desire to have a free and independent nation, you will need an army. An army is created to fight and die if necessary to defend a way of life. If I were you, I would honor those who do so. And for Germany, there is no greater historical symbol than the Iron Cross. Do not allow 13 years of your history to destroy that. -- William Pope Douglas, US

There are decorations for military bravery in every country in which armed forces exist. In Germany, after WWII, there has been no award of this kind. After more than 60 years since and with its own armed forces deeply involved in peacekeeping operations, I firmly believe that the Iron Cross should be reintroduced. It was not a specific Nazi symbol, but an existent award used by Nazis. I believe that German people must not fear Nazi revival if this decoration will be introduced again. Moreover, it represents a piece of European history, well known in the world. And generally speaking the valor associated with this symbol is good, even if used for fighting for the wrong party. Don't fear this symbol: Germany will be not a "Nazi" state if she will adopt the Iron Cross, just as Italy is not a fascist state because we still use the gold medal for bravery! -- Guido Boarelli, Italy

If the German government pays attention to traditionally pacifist political parties, for length of duty, special achievement etc., then the Bundeswehr will continue as a soft army. On the other hand, if the German government wants to restore the prestige of being a German soldier, then this traditional award must be established. It is a pity that they felt the need to consult about these issues with the Americans and British for approval. -- Luis Inarra, Mexico

As mentioned in the article, the war has been over for 60 years. Debts, right or wrong, have been paid, and it is time to move on. It seems to me that one way to decide on the medal would be to ask the German people, especially the German soldiers, what they would like to see, not what would be acceptable in other countries. -- A. Reinhardt Knapp, US





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