Reconciliation and forgiveness on 60th anniversary of Warsaw Uprising

Warsaw Uprising Monument

World dignitaries from Germany, Great Britain and the US paid homage to the nearly 200,000 fighters and civilians who lost their lives during the 1944 Warsaw Rising. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said his country was ashamed of the Nazi crimes, and also made clear that there must not be any room for property restitution claims from Germany. Such claims have been advanced by organizations of Germans resettled from areas given to Poland by Stalin after World War II.

"At this place of Polish pride and German shame we hope for reconciliation and peace."

Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski underlined the dramatic accomplishment of the Polish resistance fighters.

"We are thinking, with respect about the Polish underground, about the resistance leaders who had to shoulder the burden of the dramatic decision despite the fact that they could alter history and that they awaited help from the allies, failed to come. They sent a clear signal of just how determined Poles were in the struggle for freedom and independence. I bow my head with huge respect for the heroes of the 63 bloody days."

During the Warsaw revolt Soviet forces, which had approached Warsaw by the time the uprising was in its second week, did practically nothing to prevent Warsaw from being destroyed by the Nazis. Russian president Putin was conspicuously absent at ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the rising. There were no apologies from Moscow. So why can Germany afford to try to draw lessons from history and Russia can't? Bartlomiej Suchocki, Russian analyst from the East European Study Centre in Warsaw:

"I think that Russia, for it's own interests, should somehow redefine it's past. The problem is that Russians completely do not know what the Red Army has been doing on our territory. They don't know about the repressions toward the underground state in Poland. They don't know that the Red Army actually stood at the Vistula River and waited and didn't help the Warsaw Uprising. They feel rather sorry that Poles today look like they forgot about the victims, Red Army soldiers, 700 thousand soldiers killed on Polish territory."

But as the former Warsaw rising fighters sat listening to Gerhard Schroeder, and other dignitaries, are ordinary Polish citizens really ready for Polish German reconciliation?

"I think he should apologize in the name of the entire nation. These are very old times and we are civilized people, able and ready to forgive. But I believe everything will be fine."

"I wasn't very happy to see Mr. Schroeder.' I find it difficult to explain but it made me feel uneasy."

"I guess it's like to award somebody for the fact that he had cut somebody else's hand. And now the victim pays for the award. I object to the medal the Chancellor received, but then we should think about reconciliation and peace."

History makes note of the fact that Western allies, the UK and the US, were slow to help Poland in its fight for freedom and liberty during the Second World War. Though Germany has repeatedly apologized for it's role during the war, the US and the UK have yet failed to say sorry to Poland, for not having come to the assistance of the Warsaw rising. This point was raised by Polish prime minister Marek Belka who said the allies should think of apologizing for their lack of action as Warsaw was being over-run by the Nazi war machine. Analyst Marek Matraszek who is with CEC communications:

"Well I think the interesting thing is that essentially for the last 60 years the west - Britain, America, Germany even, have understood very little of the Warsaw Uprising. I think that certainly the first goal was to show to the former allies how important this is to the Poles. I think it has been achieved. I think a number of allies, strictly Britain and the US need to go a step further. I think that whereas Chancellor Schroeder to show that he understood the importance of actually saying something substantive during these commemorations was achieved.

"But the British and the Americans, I think, still have to take on board that what happened in 1944 is a strain on the honour of the allies. And I think that admission, and perhaps not of guilt, but certainly some sort of apology still has to be forthcoming. Apologies are no justification, perhaps, but I think, we need some deeper recognition by, especially the British, that not enough was done to help the Poles in 1944."

Sixty years on, Poland and Germany may have come to terms over the Warsaw rising, but at least when it comes to Russia and the allies, observers say some pages of history are yet to be written.