GERMAN and Polish Christians in churches in Poland and Germany commemorated the start of the Second World War 80 years ago, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. They made a plea for a united Europe that will withstand tyranny and work towards unity.
“Today is the 80th anniversary of the day when German troops invaded Poland, and thus started the Second World War that caused huge amounts of distress and misery to the countries of Europe, and especially over Poland,” the Polish-born Pastor Manfred Rekowski said.
Pastor Rekowski, who is President of the Protestant Church in Rhineland, was speaking to a congregation in Rheydt, in Rhineland, which was connected via a Skype link to a congregation in the town of Pasym, in Poland.
Peace should not be taken for granted, he said. “We must realise that peace and reconciliation must always be earned again — 80 years after the beginning of the Second World War.”
Every year, a joint Polish-German Roman Catholic service takes place in Wielun, at 4.44 p.m. on 1 September, to mark the hour that German planes bombed the city. The President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, asked the Polish nation for forgiveness.
In an unusual move, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, joined the German and Polish Presidents, and guests from 30 countries, in Warsaw, at the last minute. Having the two highest German representatives present was seen as sign of solidarity with Poland.
On the eve of the anniversary last Saturday, leaders of the Protestant Churches in Germany (EKD) joined Protestants in Poland for a service in Holy Trinity Evangelical Church, Warsaw, pledging more co-operation and more exchanges with Berlin Cathedral in the future.
The Polish and German Catholic Bishops’ conferences issued a joint statement signed by their respective heads: the Archbishop of Poznan, Dr Stanislaw Gadecki, and Cardinal Reinhard Marx, of Munich and Freising.
“Therefore, at this special historical moment we urge that our relations should never be marked with violence, mutual suspicion, or injustice. It is up to us today to strengthen and deepen the unity of Europe, despite the historical distinctions of individual nations and states, but built on Christian foundations,” the statement read.
The former chair of the EKD, Dr Wolfgang Huber, preaching in St Nicholas’s, Potsdam, said: “Just as in Germany defending the right of existence of the State of Israel is a fundamental obligation of the German state, in the same way the active commitment to a good political future of the Polish state and to the well-being of its citizens is one of the basic political obligations of our country.”
The Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, raised the issue of reparation from Germany. Experts say that, because of the Cold War, Poland received less reparation than its Western neighbours. The Nazi’s largest concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, was in Poland. Six million Poles and three million Jews were killed in Poland.