German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, asks Poland for forgiveness at WWII ceremony
- Kamran Mofid
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“In no other square in Europe do I find it more difficult to speak, and to address you in my native language of German ... I ask for forgiveness for Germany’s historical guilt and I recognise our enduring responsibility.” Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Piłsudski Square, Warsaw, 1 September 2019
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks at the commemoration ceremony of the 80th anniversary of the start of WWII,
in Wielun, Poland, Sunday 1 September 2019. Photo: time.com
Germany’s president expressed deep remorse for the suffering his nation inflicted on Poland and the rest of Europe during World War II, warning of the dangers of nationalism as world leaders gathered Sunday in the country where the war started at incalculable costs.
“This war was a German crime,” President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told Poland’s top leaders. Steinmeier expressed his sorrow over the mass killings Adolf Hitler’s regime committed in Poland, which paid a huge price for being the place war began on Sept. 1, 1939. The German president expressed gratitude to Poles for the gestures of forgiveness Poland has bestowed in return.
Eighty years ago, the Second World War began
The front page of London’s Evening Standard newspaper on 1 September 1939, announcing the German invasion of Poland
‘Germany, the "Third Reich," invaded Poland, effectively drawing the entire world into war. It was a war that raged for six years in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and in the Pacific, arming some 110 million people. By the end, over 60 million people had died.
Six million European Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. Europe was laid to waste. Millions had been driven from their homes. Or deported. And for the first and only time in human history, atomic weapons were used.
When it comes to the question of who was responsible, there was and remains today not the slightest doubt - in contrast to the historical debate about the First World War. The Nazis wanted this war and started it. By the end, Germany was not only defeated - it was annihilated. With the Holocaust, it committed a crime that will never be forgotten.
In addition, more than 9 million Germans lost their lives - among them, 3 million civilians. Cities were lost in the Allied carpet bombings. Germany lost land in the east. Twelve million were driven from their homes. The country lay, after this devastating war, in ruins.’- Deutsche Welle (DW) Editor-in-Chief Alexander Kudascheff, writing on the 75th anniversary of the WWII.
Not forgetting Coventry's Message of Hope and Wisdom
The Most Important Lessons of WWII: Remember, Forgive and Reconcile: These were the Lessons of Coventry Cathedral’s Provost Howard to the World
“...tomorrow morning Coventry will lie in smoke and ruins.” – Josef Goebbels, Ministry of Propaganda
At this time of nationalism and bombast, the Coventry message of hope reminds us of our shared humanity across backgrounds, faiths, civilisation and cultures. And at a time when our country is divided, pitting itself against our European neighbours, we’d do well to remember the hopeful and enduring story of Coventry.
The Enduring Beauty and Wisdom of Coventry Cathedral
This is Why Coventry Cathedral Has Inspired the World
After the devastation of World War Two, Coventry Cathedral, inspired by its visionary Provost, Richard Thomas HOWARD, did something remarkable – they sought forgiveness and reconciliation rather than revenge and more wars of destruction.
The very Reverend Richard Thomas HOWARD (12 June 1884– 1 November 1981), Provost, Coventry Cathedral, 1933 to 1958
Richard Howard: The Man who has inspired us all to reimagine a better world: A World of Hope and Healing
This is Coventry’s Message to the World: Remember and Forgive, Reconcile and make Peace
A Message of Humility, Kindness and Hope
A Message for Our Time, A Message for All Time
14 November 1940: The Destruction and Rebirth of Coventry
“On 14 November 1940 the Luftwaffe launched its most devastating bombing raid of the Second World War so far. The target was Coventry, a manufacturing city in the heart of England with a beautiful medieval centre.”
‘in just one night more than 43,000 homes, 71 factories, the entire city centre, two hospitals, two churches and the police station had been destroyed by 449 German bombers, dropping 30,000 incendiary bombs. An estimated 568 people had died in the raid on the first night of bombing, with over one thousand people sustaining serious and life-threatening injuries;
‘as a result of their efforts, the Nazis coined the verb Coventrierung (literally, to Coventrate) to describe total annihilation of a city through aerial bombardment;
‘the next morning, while the rubble was still smouldering, Richard Howard, the cathedral Provost, had taken a piece of chalk and written on the sanctuary wall: “Father, Forgive”;
‘Richard Howard had made a bold move to break the cycle of vengeance. When the 1940 BBC Christmas Day service was broadcast from amongst the ruins of the cathedral, he vowed that, once the war was over, the cathedral would work with the people who had previously been their enemies “to build a kinder, more Christ-like world”;
‘inspired by the cathedral’s stonemason, who had made a wooden cross from the debris, Provost Howard made a cross from the nails that originally held the roof together. The destroyed altar was remade from the rubble, the crosses were placed on the new altar and the words “Father, Forgive” were inscribed on the wall behind;
‘After the war ended, the cathedral donated a “Cross of Nails” to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was also destroyed in the war. Today there are over 170 Cross of Nails Centres across the globe, each one owning a cross made from three nails from Coventry Cathedral, symbolizing the road to forgiveness and reconciliation…’ Father Forgive: It’s Impact on Me
The Coventry Litany of Reconciliation: The Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation the World Ever Needs
This is, once again, the timeless and noble message from Provost Richard Howard and Coventry Cathedral to those who think anger, revenge, retribution and war are what is needed to settle personal, regional and international disputes:
‘In the midst of war – a time when anger and defiance could have ruled the day – Provost Howard chose the harder, more transformative path. I wonder how our world might be changed today if we took on living the words of this Litany.’
‘After the bombing of Coventry Cathedral in 1940, Provost Richard Howard put the words “FATHER FORGIVE” on the wall behind the charred cross in the ruins of the destroyed cathedral in 1948. Not “Father forgive Them” – because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3,23). These words moved generations of people and are prayed in the Litany of Reconciliation every Friday at noon outside in the ruins, and in many other places around the world.
The Litany of Reconciliation, based on the seven cardinal sins, was written in 1958 by Canon Joseph Poole, the first Precentor of the new Cathedral. It is a universal and timeless confession of humanity’s failings, but it evokes us to approach these sins and weaknesses in the forgiveness of God’s love.’...Continue to read
There you have it: This is Coventry's Message of Hope
Photo: Anne Mofid