Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen's address at the Volkstrauertag on 13 November 2016

Det talte ord gælder.

Hochverehrter Herr Bundespräsident,
sehr geehrter Herr amtierender Präsident des Volksbundes,
sehr geehrte Damen und Herren Präsidenten und Vizepräsidenten des
Bundestages, des Bundesrates und des Bundesverfassungsgerichtes,
sehr geehrte Frau Bundesministerin,
sehr geehrte Abgeordnete
sehr geehrte Damen und Herren

Ich fühle mich sehr geehrt heute hier zu sein – an diesem Tag, an dem
wir den Opfern von Krieg und Gewaltherrschaft gedenken.
Den gefallenen Soldaten. Den getöteten Zivilisten. Den Opfern von
Terror.

Wir trauern um sie alle.

We are reminded that every single victim of war and conflict is also
some one’s brother or sister – son or daughter – parent, husband or
wife.

And we are reminded that one of the most important human abilities
is: Reconciliation.

Personal reconciliation with the tragic loss of relatives and friends.
National reconciliation with the past and with former enemies.

The history of mankind is a history of both acrimony and revenge.
But Germany and the rest of post-war Europe have managed to look
beyond those dark instincts. We have learned from the past in order
not to repeat it.

We have sought for peace, respect and mutual understanding – and we
have been awarded stability, security and prosperity in return.
We have chosen the path of reconciliation.

And Germany has led the way.

You have fought historic ignorance. You have shed light on the dark
past.

And you have worked to overcome the demons that haunted our
continent for centuries.

That is an impressive achievement of immense importance to us all.

You have not only reunited Germany – your self-insight and
responsible politics have helped Europe reunite.
Thank you.

***

Yet - we must not believe that history is over.
Genocide, war and ethnic persecution are not only realities of the past.
They are very present.
We saw it in the Balkans in the nineties. We see it in Syria today. In
many parts of the world conflicts lead to poverty, persecution and a
future without hope for millions of fellow human beings.

We Europeans must stand by victims of conflict and oppression all
over the world. Europe has formidable powers at its disposal as a
force for good.

Strong core values.

Liberty. Democracy. Equality. Respect for human rights and human
dignity. This is what Europe is built upon.

On this basis, we must continue to promote peace and stability abroad.
And on this basis, we must continue to ensure the safety and security
of our citizens at home. Here in Europe. Take their concerns seriously.
Show that we are worthy of their trust.

And while doing so, we must remind ourselves of what history has
taught us.

We must never again be blinded by simplistic solutions and populism.
But always look to our European legacy of enlightenment, rationalism
and humanism, conceived through centuries.

We must not let the ghosts of the past slip through our back door.

Nie wieder.

***

If we want to learn from history, we must keep it in mind.

My mother did that.

She was born in 1936 in Bornholm – the small Danish island in the
Baltic Sea - North of Germany.

By the end of World War II the Soviet Union bombarded the small
town she lived in. Twice.

The town was devastated. Nearly erased. My mother was a little girl at
the time.

To her Europe at war was a personal memory – as it is to many of you
present here today.

But to most of us – Europe at war is history. Told by our parents or
written in letters.

To my children – and to the youth present here today – it is a history
long gone.

This is a good thing.

But our common history of division must not be forgotten. We must
carry it with us as we plan a better future without divisions.

Europe is facing a defining moment in time.

A 100 years after the Battle of the Somme in the First World War – a
tragedy of senseless killing – we are united in a union of peace.
But also a union under pressure.

We face cowardly terrorist attacks – attempting to break down our
free and democratic societies.

We face slow economic growth with millions of European citizens out
of jobs. Nationalism and protectionism are becoming false symbols of
hope.

This must not lead to further division. Instead, we must stand together.
Safeguard the immense achievements of European cooperation.
And Europe needs Germany to keep on leading the way.


***

For the past 70 years, peace and stability have characterized the
relation between Denmark and Germany.

We do not only share a common history – we also share a common
border in Schleswig-Holstein.

For centuries this border region was a victim to war and power
politics.

Today it is a remarkable example of reconciliation.

This is no historic coincidence. It is a result of hard work, visionary
politicians and responsible citizens.

They have made the intentions of the Copenhagen-Bonn declarations
of 1955 come true.
Declarations stating, that every man and woman living in the border
region is free to choose his or her national and cultural belonging.

The Danish-German border region has become a remarkable example
that peace, trust and reconciliation can come true if we are guided by
the lessons of history.

***


Let us find solace in this lesson. Let us be inspired by this lesson.
My grandfather witnessed the First World War from a distance.

My mother witnessed devastation during the Second World War up
close.

I myself witnessed the cold war.

For generations, families have been torn apart by war and conflict.
But we have also learned that it doesn’t have to be like that.
I learned that 26 years ago.

On the 2nd of October 1990, my wife and I fastened the seatbelts in
our wrecked Volvo and headed for Berlin.

We took the ferry to Rostock – and reached the Brandenburger Tor at
midnight. Just in time to witness the official reunification of Germany.

In my passport there are two stamps from that trip. One from the 2nd
of October saying: Rostock, DDR. The other from the 3rd of October
saying: Rostock, Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

To me these stamps prove that reconciliation is possible.
That the European legacy of enlightenment will prevail.

And this leaves me with hope.

Hope that the memory of the many victims we mourn today will help
us build a better world.

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren, liebe Freunde,
lassen Sie uns die Bemühungen für Frieden, Freiheit und Freundschaft
fortsetzen – sowohl zwischen unseren beiden Ländern, als auch
zwischen den Völkern Europas und der gesamten Menschheit.

Wie eine altjüdische Weisheit sagt: "Das Geheimnis der Versöhnung
heißt Erinnerung”.

Vielen Dank.

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