German president speaks of 'deep shame' over Nazi crimes
The German president has expressed his "deep shame" over the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany against Jews during World War Two as he marked the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier came to the Polish capital on Wednesday to take part in official ceremonies commemorating the anniversary of the uprising, together with his Polish and Israeli counterparts, Andrzej Duda and Isaac Herzog.
Speaking before the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, which stands in the former ghetto district, Steinmeier said that "it is necessary but at the same time very hard to come here as a German and as the federal president of Germany."
"The horrible crimes that Germans committed here fill me with deep shame," he said. "At the same time, I'm full of gratitude and humility that I can take part in these ceremonies as the head of the German state.
"As German federal president, I stand before you today and bow to the courageous fighters in the Warsaw ghetto," Steinmeier said. "I bow to the dead in deep sorrow."
Steinmeier went on to thank Poland and Israel for what he called a "miracle of reconciliation".
"Dear President Duda, dear President Herzog, many people in your two countries, in Poland and in Israel, have granted us Germans reconciliation despite these crimes," he said.
"You in Poland, you in Israel, you know from your history that freedom and independence must be fought for and defended. You know how important it is for a democracy to defend itself," he said.
"But we Germans have also learned the lessons of our history," he continued. "‘Never again' means that there must be no criminal war of aggression like Russia's against Ukraine in Europe."
The Uprising, which broke out on April 19, 1943, pitched a few hundred lightly armed Jewish fighters against the might of Nazi Germany’s army in a defiant struggle to prevent Jews being deported to death camps.
It cost the lives of about 6,000 insurgents and ended on May 8, 1943. What remained of the Warsaw ghetto was razed to the ground by German troops.
At its peak, the ghetto's population reached over 400,000 Polish citizens of Jewish descent. The first wave of mass deportations from the Warsaw ghetto to the Treblinka death camp started on July 22 and lasted until September 12, 1942, claiming the lives of some 300,000 Polish Jews.