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Press Information published by the International Auschwitz Committee


When Willy Brandt fell to his knees: To this day an enduring appeal to keep on confronting the dark sides of one’s own national history

Foto: adn / Konzept: Christoph Heubner, Karl Lehmann




Throughout the world Holocaust survivors are now remembering Willy Brandt’s gesture of humility on 7 December 1970. That was the day when he, as the Federal Chancellor of Germany, knelt in humility at the Ghetto Memorial in Warsaw, acknowledged his home country’s guilt towards the Jews of Europe and the Polish people and asked for forgiveness for what he himself had constantly resisted. All the more did his gesture of compassion and the recognition of German guilt and responsibility impress all those people in the world who had suffered torment, persecution and death by Germans during the years of Nazi dictatorship and World War II.

In an interview in Warsaw with the journalist Gabriele Lesser, the Auschwitz survivor and Polish Vice President of the International Auschwitz Committee, Marian Turski, said:

“For me, this acknowledgement of guilt gave me immense satisfaction. In March 1968, the atmosphere in Poland was still alive with the anti-Semitic hatred of the communist party and the invasion of the Warsaw Pact countries in Czechoslovakia. That’s why it was so overwhelming to experience this gesture in Warsaw, shortly after the suppression of the Prague Spring. But for me, to this day, this kneeling gesture remains an enduring appeal to keep on confronting the dark sides of one’s own national history and personally acknowledge them. Because no single nation has ever always acted angelically and in a good way.”

And in Berlin Christoph Heubner, the executive Vice President of the IAC added:

“With this gesture, Willy Brandt has remained deep in the hearts of the Holocaust survivors and many people in Poland. And he gave post-war democracy in Germany a legitimacy of humanity and credibility which lives on to this day.”


For further Information

Christoph Heubner

Executive Vice President
International Auschwitz Committee
Phone ++ 49 (0)30 26 39 26 81