On Germany’s National Day of Mourning (Volkstrauertag) 2020, the victims of war and tyranny were remembered within the context of the end of the Second World War 75 years ago. All over Germany, individuals came together to remember the victims at countless memorial sites in large cities and small villages alike – as far as the regulations allowed. Elsewhere, people remembered digitally, with the help of commemorative videos and livestreaming, and individually with cemetery visits.
The national remembrance ceremony, organised by the Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge (the Germany War Graves Commission), was held in the plenary chamber of the Bundestag (the German Parliament) in Berlin with a commemorative speech given by HRH Prince Charles. Due to the pandemic, just 50 people were in attendance. Traditionally, this event takes place under the patronage of the President of the German Parliament with live broadcast on television (recording available in the multimedia libraries of ZDF, Phoenix and Parlamentsfernsehen, the German parliamentary television channel). Each year, the Volksbund focuses on specific days of commemoration and partner nations. This year’s focus was on the momentous and changeable history of German-British relations.
Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the President of the Volksbund, opened the ceremony with a welcome address. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier then recited an expanded version of the Totengedenken, the traditional tribute to the dead. Young voices from the United Kingdom, the Republic of Moldova, Israel and Germany spoke on matters of war and peace from a contemporary perspective. Music was provided by the string ensemble Furiant Quartett live in the chamber and the soprano Kathleen Ziegner and the Music Corps of the Federal German Army on video. British and German solo trumpeters played last farewells, also via video.
The Volksbund, a not-for-profit entity, enjoys a special and historical privilege: it is the only organisation permitted to hold an event in the plenary chamber of the Bundestag and receive civilian guests.
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