Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Volgograd to commemorate the end of the Second World War 70 years ago
Foreign Minister, my dear Sergey Lavrov,
In particular, esteemed veterans here with us today,
And the people of Volgograd!
This site was a place of war. Now it is a place of reconciliation. Russians and Germans will shortly meet here on this stage and play music together. Russian and German music. Their music is a resounding symbol of reconciliation!
Volgograd is the city of heroes! Who were these heroes? They were people! People who experienced unspeakable suffering. Mothers and fathers. Sons and daughters. Civilians and soldiers. This is how we remember them.
Here in Stalingrad, these people brought about the first decisive turnaround in the war. Here in Stalingrad, these people began Europe’s liberation from Nazi dictatorship.
In doing so, they made immeasurable sacrifices. As a German, I bow before these victims in sorrow. And I ask for forgiveness for the infinite suffering that Germans inflicted on others in the name of Germany, here in this city, all over Russia, in the parts of the then Soviet Union that are now Ukraine and Belarus, and all over Europe.
Throughout the world, people are commemorating the end of the war 70 years ago. Each people does so in its own way. It remembers its own victims, its own pain and its own deeds.
However, we are not alone in our remembrance! Germans and Russians can and should commemorate together. And here in Volgograd, we are in exactly the right place for joint remembrance.
The advance of Nazi Germany’s troops was brought to a halt here on the battlefields of Stalingrad. This was the turning point of the war, and this is also where its utmost horrors remain scorched into the earth for all time.
From this ground we stand on rises the warning that links each and every one of us commemorating the war, and which particularly links us Germans and Russians: Never again! Never again should people inflict such inhuman suffering on others!
Esteemed people of Volgograd,
Thank you for receiving us Germans here today. After all, your families had to bear the unimaginable suffering of the war. To this day, our families are pervaded by painful memories; your families, millions of families all over Russia, including the family of your President whose father lost five of his six brothers, as we read today in Germany. And millions of families in Germany, including my own family, are also pervaded by similarly painful memories.
This is precisely why I know that joint remembrance is an opportunity.
- An opportunity for all of us: for Germans, Russians and all the peoples of Europe to say together “Never again!”
- An opportunity for you, the citizens, to tell your governments “Now you are responsible for the people of our nations and you should ensure that peace prevails in Europe!”
- An opportunity for us to practise understanding and to peacefully resolve any antagonisms and conflicts between us rather than stoking old prejudices among different peoples.
Not only do we Germans owe the victims of the war our respect and remembrance, we also owe it to them to learn lessons from their suffering. And so I say as a German that the people of Stalingrad are heroes not only because 70 years ago they forced a turnaround in the war with their blood. They are also heroes because to this day they remind us to work for peace! Let us heed their reminder together! And now let us listen together to the music of peace.