We should remember all the Allied war dead – and the Germans, too – Telegraph Blogs

An international graveyard (Photo: PA)

Baroness Warsi is quite right to say that we should remember the foreign soldiers who fought alongside the British during the First World War.

As she puts it in her speech today, “Tariqs and Tajinders fought shoulder to shoulder with Tommies in Flanders, Ypres, Gallipoli and Passchendaele.”

That line echoes one of the great speeches of the war, delivered by the Turkish general, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, later Turkey’s first President. After he had defeated the Allies at Gallipoli, he said in honour of the Allied war dead, “Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie, side by side, here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

My great-grandfather was killed at Gallipoli – and I remember being extremely moved by reading those lines on a Turkish monument when I visited his grave for the first time 20 years ago. It strikes just the right note of collective mourning.

We should commemorate the German war dead of the First World War in the same spirit. On several recent trips to Germany, I have been struck by the muted commemorations of the war – partly because of the shame of German political conduct before and during the war; but even more so because of the feeling that the First World War led to the abject moral behaviour of the Germans in the Second.

I visited a First World War cemetery near the middle of Berlin that few Berliners, or Germans, visit – while we still make the much longer pilgrimage to Allied graves on the Western front. The reasons for the different treatment of the war dead of the two sides are of course understandable.

But the Berlin cemetery – like those of the Western front – is also full of dead teenage boys who can hardly be accused of any blame for the angry currents of international politics. They deserve to be remembered, too.


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Source: telegraph.co.uk

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