Merkel to reject plea by Chinese chief to see Nazi sites
Published 05/03/2014 | 02:30
GERMAN chancellor Angela Merkel will refuse to show the Chinese president Holocaust memorial sites when he visits Germany this month because Berlin fears that it will be drawn into an embarrassing row between Beijing and Tokyo over Japan's perceived failure to acknowledge past war crimes.
Beijing has made it clear that it wants Tokyo to adopt Germany's attitude to war guilt and fully accept responsibility for the suffering inflicted on China by Japan's brutal military invasion of the country in 1937. China claims that Japanese troops killed 300,000 people during the conflict. An allied tribunal estimated that 142,000 died.
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, had planned to make an official tour of World War II memorial sites in Germany when he visits later this month in order to highlight Japan's alleged failure to acknowledge its war guilt.
'Der Spiegel' magazine reported yesterday that Mrs Merkel had turned down Mr Xi's request for her to join him on what he apparently hoped would be an official visit to Berlin's football field-sized Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe – the city's largest Holocaust memorial site.
Mrs Merkel was also said to have turned down a request for her to accompany Mr Xi on a visit to Berlin's Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism.
German government sources told 'Der Spiegel' that Berlin wanted to avoid becoming involved in a dispute over war guilt which was currently straining relations between Beijing and Tokyo.
However, a spokesman insisted that Mr Xi was "welcome" to visit Germany's World War II memorial sites in his own time.
China has recently drawn unflattering comparisons between Germany's atonement for World War II crimes and Japan's alleged reticence over the subject.
To highlight German contrition, Chinese state television recently showed footage of the 1970 visit to the site of the Warsaw Ghetto by Willy Brandt, the former West German chancellor. Mr Brandt famously fell to his knees to demonstrate Germany's will to atone.
German sources said Beijing clearly saw Mr Xi's visit as an opportunity to embarrass Japan. But an unnamed German diplomatic source told Reuters news agency earlier this year: "The Germans are really uncomfortable with this kind of thing. They don't like China constantly comparing them with Japan and going on about the war."
Despite Beijing's criticism, Japan has repeatedly apologised for the suffering it inflicted on China in 1937 and during its World War II occupation of the country.
But contradictory comments by conservative politicians have kept the dispute running and cast doubt on Tokyo's sincerity. (© Daily Telegraph, London)