memorial, monument, military, concentration camps
On December 7, 1970, while in Poland to sign the Warsaw Treaty, German chancellor Willy Brandt visited the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The towering stone and bronze monument commemorates the bloody confrontation between Polish resistance groups and German military that took place on the eve of Passover in April 1943, when seven hundred Jewish insurgents wielding only pistols and homemade grenades fought against the well-equipped SS, who, in the end, leveled and incinerated the entire ghetto. More than seven thousand Jews died in that uprising, and an additional forty-two thousand were rounded up and deported to concentration camps. Under gray and steely skies, Brandt now stood face-to-face with a monument to that event. Surrounded by international dignitaries, journalists, and photographers, Brandt slowly carried a large memorial wreath to the steps of the monument, laid the wreath on the ground, and straightened the ribbon. Then, without ceremony, he dropped abruptly and heavily to his knees. Motionless, wordless, arms hanging down with one hand folded atop the other as if captured mid-sacrament, Brandt riveted his gaze to the ground for about half a minute while cameras clicked frenetically, and onlookers held their breath. In a speech delivered in March 1971 at the Christian-Jewish Week of Brotherhood, Brandt recalled that moment, saying, “As I stood in Warsaw at the beginning of December, the burden of recent German history, the burden of a criminal racial policy, lay upon me. I then did what people do when words fail, and I memorialized—for my compatriots—the millions who were murdered.”
"From Stumbling Blocks to Stepping Stones What America Can Learn from Germany about Reconciliation,"
BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 61:
1, Article 9.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol61/iss1/9