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Opening address Ambassador Géza Andreas von Geyr to the International Academic Conference „Front. Society. Diplomacy. Culture“

23.06.2021 - Rede
Opening address Ambassador Géza Andreas von Geyr to the International Academic Conference
Opening address Ambassador Géza Andreas von Geyr to the International Academic Conference© Deutsche Botschaft

Yesterday on the occasion of the anniversary of Nazi Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union, I have laid down a wreath at Moscow’s Victory Park (Park Pobedy) to honour an unbelievable number of victims which the peoples of the former Soviet Union and its Allies suffered during the War. The Minister in the Government of Moscow, Sergey Cheryomin, has accompanied me.

Yesterday, moreover, a concert was given in St Petersburg; young German and Russian musicians performed Chaikovsky and Beethoven, led by maestro Gergiev. The concert was dedicated „to the memory of the fallen“ and it is part of the Year of Germany in Russia.

As German Ambassador, I am very grateful for the fact that this commemoration can take place in togetherness. We are thus facing the inconceivable injustice committed in the German name.

In addition, I am grateful for the readiness of the people in Russia to reconcile with us. This stands proof for human greatness.

Germany is and will stay committed to its responsibility for the beginning of the Second World War, for the attack on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, as well as for the incredible crimes committed during that war. And it was Nazi Germany responsible for the unique atrocity and crime against humanity of the Holocaust.

These are historical facts that cannot be denied or relativized.

For us Germans remembering and handing down this memory to the future generations is and will remain our obligation.

We preserve the memory and pass it on so that, what once happened, will never happen again.

I am saying this knowing that analysing the historical facts and evidence can often lead to results, which are bitter, which may hurt.

Historians are committed to truthfulness and to an impartial look at their sources. Only this dedication to honesty leads to history being written as it was.

At the same time a historian is not only dealing with the past but is very much engaged with the future. Federal President Steinmeier has said a few days ago in a speech commemorating the 80th anniversary: „Only those who learn to understand the traces of the past in the present will be equipped to help shape a future which avoids wars, rejects tyranny and makes possible peaceful co-existence in freedom.“

An eminent German historian on the First World War, Imanuel Geiss, once said that he as an historian had thought to have an entirely peaceful profession. But then he has realized when the Yugoslavian wars broke out in the 90ies that historical arguments were used by different sides in order to deliberately fuel a crisis.

We must be very careful that history is not misused as a weapon.

All the more, it is important and valuable that we are looking together into historical epochs, give each other access to sources in archives, analyse and discuss them together and that we build a dialogue across borders – just as today’s conference does.

In our German-Russian relations, we have created extraordinary precedents of togetherness in dealing with difficult parts of our joint history.

Just two examples:

The German-Russian historical commission has published a joint history book on the period of the 18th until the 20th century. It is ground breaking as a successful approach to deal jointly with even the most difficult topics.

Again, I want to thank you, Professor Tschubarjan and your colleagues for this important work.

Initiated by our foreign ministers, German and Russian historians and archivists are currently exploring the fate of Soviet and German prisoners of war and internees of the Second World War. A year ago I had the honour to hand over to you, Mr Schwydkoj the first 20,000 copies of documents of the German Federal Archives.

As this work continues and we delve deeper into the sources, more and more fates of soldiers and civilians finally come to light.

Reflecting on all this on this very day – I think we should go one step further.

I would like to make this proposition here in Moscow, here in Europe, as a European.
Could we or should we not attempt to work on a joint European history book?

A European history book written by eminent European historians with their presentations and evaluations of our joint history, including the most difficult periods.

Certainly a big task, but most definitely one that would be worth it!

It could serve as a contribution of European historians to ensuring that what happened will never happen again.

Maybe this conference could be a good impulse for such an endeavor.

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