Germany should not forget the crimes committed by the Nazis in occupied Serbia during World War II, the vice president of the Bundestag said following a visit to the Balkan country for a commemoration.
Claudia Roth, a top Greens party member, last month became the first senior German official to attend the annual memorial for the victims of the Nazi massacre in the central Serbian city of Kragujevac.
The Nazi army killed an estimated 2,800 people in Kragujevac on October 21, 1941, in a retaliatory massacre of civilians in response to Serbian resistance attacks on the Wehrmacht.
The date is marked annually as the Day of Remembrance of the Serbian victims of World War II.
Roth told RFE/RL that the Balkans and Serbia are often too far on the fringes of the German people’s remembrance of WWII, having been overshadowed by other atrocities committed under Nazi rule.
The massacres in Kragujevac and Kraljevo, another town in central Serbia where Nazi troops killed some 2,000 people, “left deep scars for those who survived and lost loved ones, as well as in the collective memory.”
“My intention in attending was to underline that we will not let the crimes of the Nazis and the Wehrmacht be forgotten and that, building on that remembrance, we want to foster good and friendly relations with our Serbian friends and partners," Roth said.
Full reconciliation can only be achieved through an honest reckoning with and acceptance of historical events, Roth said.
“My impression is that the desire for reconciliation is incredibly strong in Serbian society, as elsewhere. I am, therefore, glad that, guided by the idea of ‘remembrance into the future,’ we can continue the pursuit of properly working through black spots in our history and our remembrance activities together with our Serbian partners,” she said.