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Rede des Sondergesandten der Bundesregierung für die Länder des westlichen Balkans, Manuel Sarrazin, anlässlich der Gedenkveranstaltung des 83. Jahrestags der Zerstörung der Alten Nationalbibliothek in Belgrad

05.04.2024 - Rede

Dear Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all, let me express my gratitude toward you for the opportunity to speak to you today at the location of the Old National Library of Serbia. Representing the German Federal Government, I am deeply honoured by the opportunity to address you all today.

At this very site, amidst the echoes of history, we confront a touching reminder of the scars that still linger in the Serbian collective memory. Eighty-three years ago, on the 6th of April 1941, the skies above Belgrade darkened with the onslaught of hundreds of German planes. In a relentless barrage, bombs rained down upon this city, killing countless civilians, shattering homes, and destroying the very fabric of its cultural heritage.

In this devastating act of blind aggression, the German Luftwaffe not only obliterated the physical structure of the Serbian National Library at this very site. It also laid waste to a treasure trove of knowledge and literature. Over half a million books, along with invaluable manuscripts, prints, maps, journals, and archival documents were reduced to ashes. It as an assault not just on brick and mortar, but on the very soul of a nation – a strike against the pillars of Serbian identity and historical memory.

Today, as we stand in the shadow of this tragic history, I wish to express the deepest remorse and sorrow on behalf of the German people. We acknowledge with unwavering humility the gravity of the crimes committed against the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we cannot rewrite the past. However, we bear a duty to confront it with honesty and humility. We must acknowledge the dark chapters of our history and ensure that the lessons learned are not consigned to oblivion. Only by facing our past with courage and candour, we can succeed in building a future founded on justice, reconciliation and mutual understanding. This is a necessary step to ensure that similar crimes are never repeated.

That underlines the importance of today’s memorial ceremony.

Thank you for your attention.

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