Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Germany remembers Stauffenberg on execution anniversary

The commemoration ceremony for Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and his co-conspirators took place at the site of his execution, the Bendlerblock, on Tuesday. The Bendlerblock is now the German Defense Ministry.

July 20 marks the 66th anniversary of the execution of Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, the German army officer and leader of a resistance movement that very nearly assassinated Adolf Hitler in 1944.

The large number of politicians, senior military officers, reporters, and representatives of various memorial organizations present at Tuesday's ceremony are a testament to the importance Germany still attaches to the resistance movement that crystallized around Stauffenberg during World War Two.

The resistance hero was executed along with four of his co-conspirators in the courtyard of the Bendlerblock building, and the first commemoration took place here in 1952, under the supervision of Ernst Reuter, Berlin's first post-war mayor.

Reuter's central message that day – that the failure of Stauffenberg's plot did not mar its moral importance for Germans after the war – was taken up by the current mayor, Klaus Wowereit, as his own guiding theme.

" 'Their work was not in vain' - Ernst Reuter's sentence has become the motto of this commemoration in the past 58 years," Wowereit said in his speech. "By their actions, the women and men of the resistance set ethical benchmarks, and so became role models."

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg echoed the mayor's sentiments, and spoke of the emotional intensity with which the resistance movement's actions still resonate directly today. "They show us living today that even in the darkest days of dictatorship, there was another, a better Germany," he said.

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