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Joint Commemorative Ceremony at the former shooting range/memorial site in Kessariani

Joint Commemorative Ceremony at the former shooting range/memorial site in Kessariani

Joint Commemorative Ceremony at the former shooting range/memorial site in Kessariani, © German Embassy Athens

02.06.2021 - Rede

Address by Minister of State for Europe at the German Federal Foreign Office, Michael Roth

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Mr Mayor,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for receiving us today in Kessariani. It was my wish to be with you here today. This place reminds us of the horrors of World War II, the Holocaust and Nazi terror. It is a place where more than 600 people lost their lives during the German occupation.

Most of these people fought against the Nazi occupiers. They stood up against the cruelty, and they lost their lives in this fight. Many belonged to the political left and were forced to suffer as prisoners in the Haidari concentration camp before being brought to this place. Some were murdered here just because they were Jews.

The importance of fighting for one’s beliefs, and of fighting for justice, is more topical than ever. We can see this in the developments of the past years and months. We must never forget the harm that was inflicted on so many people in Greece by the cruel actions of the Nazis.

We cannot undo these cruelties. But we can do our part to ensure that they are never repeated. Not for history’s own sake, but to draw lessons from the past for the future.

Today, I came here to commemorate, to show respect for those who fought against the Nazi regime.

As Germans, we bear a special responsibility. I came here, like other representatives of Germany before me, because we must never forget. A common future needs common commemoration, and the two are closely linked.

I am aware of the deep wounds that the German occupation left among the Greek people.

During my previous visits to Greece, I had the opportunity to talk to many people. Some witnessed and survived the horrible massacres of entire Greek villages; others were survivors of the Holocaust and the genocide of the Roma, or their descendants. These people expressed grief over the murder of their sisters, fathers and brothers, and they were often filled with anger at the indifference long shown by Germans. But I also met people who expressed hope; hope that it was possible to learn from the mistakes of the dark past and to share in grief.

The past is never entirely behind us. We must always ask ourselves what we can do better, how we can contribute to peace and reconciliation. Reconciliation and forgiveness cannot be ordered or decreed. Both are a gift from those who have suffered terrible loss and pain. And for this gift we are eternally grateful.

This is why I am deeply grateful that, 80 years after the beginning of the German occupation of Greece, we stand here together, as close partners in a unified Europe. Today, we are fighting together for a Europe of peace and diversity, without hatred towards others, without antisemitism, without nationalism and without fear.

I am grateful that our diplomatic bilateral relations, which were resumed 70 years ago, have evolved so fruitfully, intensively and broadly. We have many promising bilateral initiatives, such as the newly established German-Greek Youth Office, through which we are building bridges, uniting people and shaping our future together.

For me, it is especially important that we encourage young people to hold on to the horrible lessons from the past and to stand together for unity and peace in Europe. Let’s work together to ensure that Greece and Germany stand side by side for a sovereign, strong and united Europe – which is the best way to ensure lasting peace, justice and prosperity.

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