06.10.2022

Steinmeier in Belarus called for a common memory culture

The German Federal President attended the opening of the memorial at the site of the Trostenets concentration camp and agreed with the President of Belarus to create a bilateral historical commission. In the tract Blagovshchina near Minsk on Friday, June 29, with the participation of the presidents of Belarus, Germany and Austria, the second phase of the memorial complex was opened “Trostenets” on the site of a former Nazi concentration camp. For the Federal President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, this was his first visit to Minsk.

Steinmeier arrives in Minsk late

The President of Germany arrived in the Belarusian capital with an hour and a half late. As Steinmeier later explained at a meeting with Belarusian and German historians, this was due to technical problems with the aircraft.

“In the morning in Berlin, it turned out that my plane was out of order,” the distinguished guest said and apologized for being late. Participants of the conference “Remember for the sake of a common European future” warmly welcomed Steinmeier, and then did not let him go for a long time after the event, wanting to personally shake hands and take a photo as a keepsake.

Presidents task historians for fall

However, the schedule of the visit suffered not only because of the breakdown of the aircraft, but also because of the hospitality of Alexander Lukashenko: the official dinner of the presidents and bilateral negotiations were delayed.

Following the talks, Frank-Walter Steinmeier talked about the agreement with the Belarusian president “to hold a conference with the participation of historians of the two countries in late autumn.” According to him, President of Belarus Lukashenko “is ready to think about how to use today’s event (opening of the memorial – Ed.), Which is historical, so that we still have a European, but already common culture of memory.”

“With accuracy we can say today that stability and peace on this continent will be long-term only when we have the courage to be open, when we will turn our eyes to the past. Just as we need the courage to look to the future together, ”Steinmeier emphasized.

Lukashenko thanked Germany for the enormous contribution to normalizing relations between Belarus and the EU: “It would be wrong if I did not thank for the enormous contribution that you have made to the normalization of relations between the European Union and Belarus. We are very grateful to you for this. ”

Historical memory discussion

At a conference at Johannes Rau Minsk International Education Center, the German Federal President spoke of the need to move towards a common memory culture. “It is very important to look self-critically where we are. Because at the very beginning, it seems to me, we need to state that the European culture of memory is not today’s state, it is a way, and we need to see where we are on this path, ”he said.

According to Steinmeier, it is necessary to realize the historical responsibility for preserving memory and pass it on to future generations. In this regard, the president spoke particularly warmly about the work of the German People’s Union in caring for military graves.

Germany participated in the financing of the memorial

By the way, this union, along with the German Foreign Ministry, was one of the main sponsors who financially helped create the memorial in Blagovshchina. The Foreign Ministry of Germany transferred 500 thousand euros, the German People’s Union for the Care of War Graves – 200 thousand euros, and in general, German organizations and individuals raised 1 million euros for the construction of the second stage of the Trostenets memorial complex.

German historian Kristiane Janeke in an interview with DW expressed gratitude to Belarus: “For accepting us in this historic place – which was not taken for granted.” According to her, in Germany they know little about the Trostenets concentration camp and today’s opening of the memorial, and the visit of the federal president will help make it possible to spread knowledge about this tragedy.

Historians know more about Trostenets

The Belarusian historian Igor Kuznetsov called the opening of the memorial in the tract Blagovshchina an important step in uncovering the truth about the death camp “Trostenets”. In terms of the number of victims, it takes fourth place after such notorious Nazi death camps in Europe as Auschwitz, Majdanek and Treblinka.

At the same time, Kuznetsov noted that the opening of the memorial is only the beginning of the journey. Soviet historians initially called the number of victims of the Trostenets concentration camp – 206,500 people, and this number was not specified in the future. Specifically, in the tract Blagovshchina, where a memorial was opened with the participation of the presidents, according to German data, up to 80 thousand people were shot, of which about 30 thousand were Jews deported from Austria, Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. “We know about 29 thousand names of deported Jews and only about 150 names of Soviet citizens who died here,” the expert noted.

A fly in the ointment in the organization of the celebrations was added by the fact that the Belarusian authorities removed the crosses put up by civil activists five days before the event at the scene of the execution of political prisoners by the NKVD officers. “We apply double standards: victims of Nazism can be remembered, victims of Stalinism cannot”, stated Igor Kuznetsov.

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