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Commemorating German resistance fighters

It was 20 July 1944 when Graf von Stauffenberg and his fellow conspirators attempted to assassinate Hitler. The plan was to detonate a bomb at Hitler’s headquarters. The assassination attempt failed. The dictator was only slightly injured – and the resistance fighters paid for their deed with their lives.

Wreaths at the memorial centre at the former National Socialist execution yard in Berlin-Plötzensee

Between 1933 and 1945 almost 3,000 people were killed in Plötzensee following unlawful verdicts handed down by National Socialist courts

Photo: Bundesregierung/Rickel

The German government has paid tribute to them.

At a memorial service in the former prison in Berlin-Plötzensee the German government praised the courage of the resistance fighters led by Graf von Stauffenberg. Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt opened the ceremony and stressed that on this day all those who stood up and opposed the National Socialists’ regime of terror were to be commemorated.

"We pay tribute to them and their families, to their individual courage, their vision and their resolve. Many of them paid for their convictions with their lives. Others were imprisoned, interrogated, locked up, and tortured, and were lucky to escape death," he said.

In Plötzensee there was a prison and an execution ground. Between 1933 and 1945 almost 3,000 people were killed there following unlawful verdicts handed down by National Socialist courts.

Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt speaks at a commemorative ceremony in the former prison at Berlin- Plötzensee.

Christian Schmidt opens the ceremony

Photo: Bundesregierung/Rickel

A call to act

Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt pointed out that the narrative of German resistance is today more topical than ever before. "It is a narrative of internal fighting, of wrestling with one’s conscience, of decency and honour, courage and moral fibre". These are not "old-fashioned topics". The 20 July is, he pointed out, a "call to act: an encouragement to stand up for what is right and to fight what is wrong".

Commemorating with respect and gratitude

As well as the Federal Agriculture Minister, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen, the Vice-President of the German Bundestag, Ulla Schmidt, and Andreas Paulus, judge at the Federal Constitutional Court, attended the ceremony.

The remembrance speech was given by Axel Smend, Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Memorial Foundation for July 20, 1944. After his speech representatives of the constitutional organs of the Federal Republic of Germany and the state of Berlin, and representatives of the Memorial Foundation for July 20, 1944 laid wreaths and commemorated the victims of National Socialism.

Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen, and Bundeswehr Inspector General Volker Wieker inspect the troops at the oath-taking ceremony on the Ministry of Defence parade grounds.

Federal Minister of Defence Ursula von der Leyen at the oath-taking ceremony

Photo: Bundeswehr/Sebastian Wilke

Swearing allegiance

In the evening, an oath-taking ceremony is traditionally held in Berlin. This year 320 young people who are doing voluntary military service in all branches of the armed forces, stationed at various different bases, swore allegiance to Germany’s Basic Law or constitution. In front of their officers and comrades, families and friends they took a public oath "to loyally serve the Federal Republic of Germany and to courageously defend the right and the liberty of the German people".

The main event with a solemn ceremony was held on the parade ground of the Federal Ministry of Defence at Berlin’s Bendlerblock. The address was given by Federal Minister of Defence, Ursula von der Leyen. As this year’s guest speaker, Professor Doctor Michael Wolffsohn from the Bundeswehr University in Munich spoke to the young soldiers.

Military resistance is extremely important in the Bundeswehr’s understanding of its military tradition. This is underlined by holding the public oath-taking ceremony on 20 July. The ceremony is an important part of the Bundeswehr’s internal leadership – the values on the basis of which soldiers act responsibly and independently.

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