Germans, Americans unite for Volkstrauertag

I’ve covered several war memorial services throughout Europe since I arrived at Spangdahlem, Germany, in September 2013. However, I hadn’t attended a German service commemorating those who had died.

The country sets aside the second Sunday before Advent, known as Volkstrauertag, to reflect and mourn for all victims of war or suffering.

I attended Bitburg’s service Nov. 16, 2014, led by its mayor, Joachim Kandels, which featured a wreath-laying by several community organizations including the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base.

Perhaps nothing I say or write could possibly convey the significance of what this observance means to the German people = the tragedy, the loss, the suffering and the legacy.

Yet, in compiling this blog with my photos, I wanted to include the following speech in German and translated in English from Joachim Gauck, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany, during his Volkstrauertag remarks during a plenary session of the German Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 18, 2012.

 Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

“Wir denken heute an die Opfer von Gewalt und Krieg, an Kinder, Frauen und Männer aller Völker.” / “Today, we remember the victims of violence and war — children, women and men of all nations.”

 Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

Wir gedenken der Soldaten, die in den Weltkriegen starben, der Menschen, die durch Kriegshandlungen oder danach in Gefangenschaft, als Vertriebene und Flüchtlinge ihr Leben verloren.” /  “We remember the soldiers who died in the two world wars, the people who lost their lives through acts of war or afterwards in captivity, as displaced persons and refugees.”

Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

“Wir gedenken derer, die verfolgt und getötet wurden, weil sie einem anderen Volk angehörten, einer anderen Rasse zugerechnet wurden, Teil einer Minderheit waren oder deren Leben wegen einer Krankheit oder Behinderung als lebensunwert bezeichnet wurde.” / “We remember those who were persecuted and killed because they belonged to another people, were of another race, were part of a minority or whose lives have been designated as unworthy of life because of an illness or disability.”

Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

“Wir gedenken derer, die ums Leben kamen, weil sie Widerstand gegen Gewaltherrschaft geleistet haben, und derer, die den Tod fanden, weil sie an ihrer Überzeugung oder an ihrem Glauben festhielten.” / “We remember those who lost their lives because they resisted tyranny, and those who were killed because they held fast to their beliefs or their faith.”

Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

Wir trauern um die Opfer der Kriege und Bürgerkriege unserer Tage, um die Opfer von Terrorismus und politischer Verfolgung, um die Bundeswehrsoldatinnen und -soldaten und anderen Einsatzkräfte, die im Auslandseinsatz ihr Leben verloren.” / “We mourn the victims of wars and civil wars of our day, to the victims of terrorism and political persecution who lost their lives, the Bundeswehr soldiers and soldiers and other forces deployed abroad.”

Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

“Wir gedenken heute auch derer, die bei uns durch Hass und Gewalt gegen Fremde und Schwache Opfer geworden sind.” / “Today we commemorate those who have become, by hatred and violence against foreigners and the weak, victims with us.”

 Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

“Wir trauern mit allen, die Leid tragen um die Toten, und teilen ihren Schmerz.” / “We mourn with those who mourn for the dead, and share their pain.”

Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

“Aber unser Leben steht im Zeichen der Hoffnung auf Versöhnung unter den Menschen und Völkern, und unsere Verantwortung gilt dem Frieden unter den Menschen zu Hause und in der ganzen Welt.” / “But our life is a symbol of hope for reconciliation among people and nations, and our responsibility is true peace among people at home and around the world.”

Germans, Americans observe Volkstrauertag

Editor’s note: The full text of President Gauck’s speech can be found at the following website: http://www.bundespraesident.de/SharedDocs/Berichte/DE/Joachim-Gauck/2012/11/121118-Volkstrauertag.html

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