Kneeling in Warsaw 50 years ago, Willy Brandt impressively asked forgiveness on behalf of the Germans for the Nazi crimes. On the anniversary, Federal President Steinmeier paid tribute to the historic gesture, but also looked to the future.

Berlin (dpa) – 50 years after Willy Brandt fell to his knees in Warsaw, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recognized the importance of German-Polish relations.

“The partnership between Germany and Poland is an important condition for a successful future,” Steinmeier said in a video message at the anniversary. “But we will not forget the past either. Not the suffering of the people of Poland, not the historic courage for reconciliation, not even a kneeling one to remind us of that. ‘

Steinmeier also welcomed the Bundestag’s decision to erect a memorial to the Polish victims of the Second World War in a prominent place in Berlin. «This monument is a visible sign against forgetting. At the same time, it should be a constant reminder of a brighter future, ”he said. At the end of October, the Bundestag asked the federal government to create such a memorial.

On December 7, 1970, Brandt laid a wreath at the monument to the heroes of the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, just before the treaty was signed in which the Federal Republic recognized Poland’s western border. After adjusting the wreath loops, the SPD politician fell to his knees. The gesture received worldwide attention as a request for forgiveness for the crimes of the Nazi era and as a symbol of reconciliation. On Monday, the head of the cabinet of the Federal President, State Secretary Stephan Steinlein, will lay a wreath at the ghetto monument in Warsaw.

Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz praised the kneeling as a “deeply human gesture” and praised Brandt’s policy of relaxation towards the Soviet Union, the GDR and the other Warsaw Pact states “as a great liberating change for Germany and Europe”. The SPD candidate for chancellor called for a new European Ostpolitik in the “Rheinische Post” (Monday). “Germany will only promote a new Ostpolitik in cooperation with the European Union,” he said. “We therefore want to convince our neighbors, including Russia, to accept the European integration process.”