Mr Foreign Minister, my dear Enzo,
Mr President of the Region, Madam Prefect, Mr Mayor, President Cardi, President Ricci,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you very much for asking me to participate in this memorial ceremony.
The fact that I am permitted to be here, on Germany’s behalf, is not something to be taken for granted. Not even today, not here in this place. A place in which my fellow Germans inflicted such pain and suffering.
770 people were killed in a matter of days in the area of Monte Sole and Marzabotto. The cruelty and barbarity of the actions which were committed by Germans still leave us aghast.
770 casualties. 770 people who had friends and families. 770 individual stories. 770 lives that we will never forget.
We remember the families that were wiped out: the Gamberinis, the Laffis, the Tondis, the Venturas, the Tonellis, and so many others.
In all, more than 200 of the victims were children. They had lives ahead of them. But they were murdered with the rest.
It is with sorrow and shame that I pay my respects, as German Foreign Minister, to the victims and their families, who suffered such immeasurable pain as a result of this atrocious crime.
I myself belong to the Social Democratic Party of Germany, a political party whose members were persecuted and killed by the Nazis. I therefore admire all those who put up resistance to the Nazis, in Germany and elsewhere. We are all brothers and sisters in the fight against racism, extremism and fascism, especially now.
For this reason too, I, as Germany’s Foreign Minister, am profoundly humbled to be allowed to attend this event. It should by no means be considered a matter of course that, over the long years since the war, a deep friendship has taken root between Germany and Italy, in the place of hatred and revenge. This friendship is a great and precious gift, which we must treat with care.
It is you, the people of Italy, who made this possible, by reaching out to us in a spirit of reconciliation.
Your invitation asking me to participate in this event today – together with the victims’ families – is one such gesture of reconciliation. I personally was very much moved to receive it.
We commemorate the people who were murdered and who suffered at the Nazis’ hands. What was done to them remains as shocking and incomprehensible today as it was at the time.
But Marzabotto and the area of Monte Sole is now not only the site of a war crime, it also stands as a symbol of hope. For every stone that has been reset in mortar also constitutes a victory of life and a triumph of humanity over the atrocities of the past.
In places like Marzabotto we look back together on the darkest chapter of our history. But this contemplation of our past also casts a light on the long journey that our two countries have completed since then.
A journey marked by friendship and mutual trust in a united Europe. And it was this trust which also stood at the beginning of our path towards a culture of shared remembrance, which had been missing for so long.
In places like this, however, as in other sites where atrocities were committed in Europe, the path taken by the pioneers of European unity appears incredibly courageous. The fact that the vision of a united Europe got off the ground could be called a miracle, and Italy played a crucial role in bringing about this miracle. It still plays a crucial role in the EU and must continue to do so in the future.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The names of the people who were murdered here serve as a sombre reminder to us all.
We have not forgotten them, and nor have we forgotten where hate and racism can lead.
They must never be allowed to have a place in our societies ever again.
The fact that we are here together today demonstrates that rapprochement is possible even after the most atrocious crimes. The Italian people have my heartfelt gratitude for this. We would like to work with you day in, day out, to preserve this legacy.
We must defend and build on what we have achieved: peace, trust, partnership and unity.
Our friendship has thrived for 70 years due to the cooperation and links between Italians and Germans in our two countries.
And if nationalists around the world are calling for greater isolation, let us together take a stand for more international cooperation, for greater freedom, for greater respect, and for greater German-Italian friendship!