Daily Mail UK
By Tim Shipman
August 18, 2013
Germany has called on Britain not to celebrate the centenary of the First World War but to focus on the idea that the European Union brought peace to the continent.
The government in Berlin recently sent a special envoy to the UK amid fears that the way Britain marks the Great War could affect relations with Angela Merkel’s administration.
Andreas Meitzner called for talks with defence minister Andrew Murrison as well as officials from the Foreign Office and the Department of Culture who are handling the commemorations, which start next year.
A German envoy has voiced concerns over the commemorations taking place to mark the 100-year anniversary of World War One
The German envoy says it would be better to focus on the shared loss of all countries involved in the conflict
But Norman Walter, press attaché at the German embassy in London, said ‘it would be easier’ for Britain to adopt a ‘less declamatory tone’ if it wants Germany to take part.
In an interview yesterday he said: ‘We can’t tell you how you should celebrate, but our feeling is that issues about who was guilty and all that should be left more or less to historians and shouldn’t feature dominantly in politicians’ speeches.
‘The biggest single contribution to the start of the First World War was Germany, but others played a part. Whether it was a win or not, it wasn’t worth it.
‘We would prefer not to have any celebrations, having lost. We don’t want to commemorate the battles. We want to commemorate the dead.’
He said that commemorations on the continent would focus on the benefits of the EU. He said: ‘The European idea is something that helped us overcome the situation where a war like this could start, where European countries could go to war with one another.
‘It may sound far-fetched here, but it doesn’t elsewhere in Europe. The European community will very much be part of the German commemoration. Thankfully we have the European Union.’
He told the Mail: ‘This attitude is unacceptable. The Germans might want to forget their history and pretend things didn’t happen, but we are not prepared to do that.
‘As for Europe being a cause of peace, this chap’s obviously forgotten the reaction Angela Merkel got from the Greeks the last time she went there. People dressed up in Nazi uniforms, accusing her of completing Hitler’s work.
‘I don’t think people in Greece are celebrating peace. The European Union seems to be having the opposite effect.’
Tory MP Chris Skidmore, a historian who sits on the Speaker’s advisory committee on the war, told the Mail the events to mark the 100th anniversary should focus on why the war began and acknowledge the victors.
He said: ‘The Great War still casts a shadow over modern Europe today. It’s entirely right that we be respectful and commemorate the fallen from whichever side. But it would be a failure to history if we didn’t recognise not only the causes and consequences of the war, but that there were winning sides and losing sides.’
The Centenary Advisory Board of historians, writers, religious leaders and retired military figures is the main body advising the Government on commemorations.
Professor Sir Hew Strachan of Oxford University, one of the panel members who has called for a greater emphasis on celebrations, said: ‘I understand Germany’s position. There is no virtue in offending Germany.
‘But if we are going to be honest to the history of this war from a British perspective, then it can’t all be about waste and futility. A lot of people fought and died thinking it was worthwhile. We need to respect what those motivations were.’
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