Representatives of German and Greek civil societies met for informal talks at the Federal Foreign Office on 15 December. The motto for the talks was “kAAfeneio”. During this “coffee house” session, the participants discussed plans for future collaboration in youth work and the culture of remembrance.
A large number of German and Greek artists, culture professionals, historians, educators and youth group leaders, as well as representatives of Jewish communities in Greece, took part. Many of the Greek visitors come from Jewish communities and villages that experienced particularly great suffering under National Socialism and Germany’s occupation of Greece. During the get‑together, the participants talked about dealing with history in Germany and Greece and drew up plans for keeping the memories of the shared history alive in future generations in both countries.
Keeping the shared history alive
In his speech to the participants, Minister of State for Europe Michael Roth said that German‑Greek relations were extremely important to him. Since taking up office just under a year ago, he had visited Greece six times. On one visit, he had accompanied Federal President Joachim Gauck to Ligiades, where the latter asked for forgiveness for the crimes committed by the Nazis. Roth said this apology went hand in hand with “an offer to work together, to seek reconciliation and to address our chequered history together”.
The future needs remembrance
Roth said that the Federal Foreign Office had done a great deal since then to put these words into practice. The German‑Greek Future Fund had been set up with the aim of developing a shared culture of remembrance, while the foundations had been laid for a German‑Greek Youth Office. To date, such youth offices had only been set up with France and Poland, which border Germany. Roth said that the new German‑Greek Youth Office showed how important Greece is for Germany as a partner country. The Minister of State added that the success of these projects would largely depend on the support and critical input of civil society in both countries.
This concerns our shared future in Europe – and the future also needs remembrance. It is important that young people in Germany and Greece learn more about the suffering caused by the German National Socialists. We must prevent such ideas from gaining ground once again in Europe. Anti‑Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia are by no means problems of the past. They are still gaining a foothold in our societies today.