Germany asks Poland to forgive WWII crimes

TEHRAN, Sep. 01 (MNA) – German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked Poles for forgiveness for German atrocities committed during World War II in a speech in Wielun, the first city bombed by the Luftwaffe.

"I pay tribute to the victims of the attack on Wielun. I pay tribute to the Polish victims of German tyranny and I ask for forgiveness," Steinmeier said in German and in Polish on Sunday.

Steinmeier, alongside a number of heads of state and government, was in Poland to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of WWII. In Wielun, he was accompanied by Polish President Andrzej Duda and the mayor of the city, Pawel Okrasa, among others.

Before dawn on September 1, 1939, the Luftwaffe bombarded the sleeping defenseless city that had no military significance. Some 1,200 people were killed.

The first bombs were dropped on the town's hospital, which had a red cross painted on its roof. Some 75 percent of the city center was destroyed.

The attack marked the beginning of WWII, in which six million Polish citizens perished, including three million Jews.

"We cannot forget about World War II even when its witnesses are gone... in order to make sure that what happened in Wielun and later in many other places in Poland and abroad is never repeated," Duda said.

“It is the Germans who committed a crime against humanity in Poland. Anyone who claims it is over, that the national-socialists’ reign of terror over Europe is a marginal event in German history judges that for himself,” Steinmeier added in the presence of his Polish counterpart.

The Polish president thanked his German counterpart for choosing to come to Wielun for the anniversary commemorations, saying it would help spread the knowledge about the bombing of the city among Germans.

"Thanks to your presence here... the Germans will learn about the tragedy of Wielun and its inhabitants and [what] the beginning of World War II looked like," Duda said.

The heads of state will later tour the Wielun museum and meet with local survivors of the September 1, 1939 bombing.

“I saw dead bodies, the wounded... Smoke, noise, explosions. Everything was burning,” Wielun bombing survivor Tadeusz Sierandt, 88, told AFP ahead of the anniversary.

MNA/PR

News Code 149551

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