JERSEY holds a special place in the affections of Germany, the country’s ambassador to the UK has said.
Speaking ahead of his visit to commemorate Liberation Day, Miguel Berger thanked the people of Jersey for their friendship and expressed his admiration for the relations that have developed with Bad Wurzach, the town in Baden-Württemberg to which hundreds of Islanders were deported in 1942 and 1943.
‘Visiting Jersey as the representative of the German government nearly 80 years after the Island was liberated from occupation gives me the opportunity to acknowledge the crimes perpetrated by the German government of the time but also to underline how grateful Germany is for the friendship of Jersey and its people,’ the ambassador said, adding that he was honoured to have been invited to attend the Liberation Day ceremony.
Mr Berger, who took up his role in London last May, said that one of the first official events he attended following his appointment marked the 75th anniversary of a twinning between Oxford and Bonn which began just two years after the end of the war.
But he acknowledged the different circumstances of what he called the ‘vibrant’ twinning between St Helier and Bad Wurzach, signed in 2002.
‘The special friendship…is a testament to the goodwill of the people on both sides, especially considering that the first contacts came about as a result of the deportation of British citizens to Germany, to places like Bad Wurzach. Reconciliation is never easy but this example shows me that personal connections are the most effective path to reconciliation,’ he said.
That example offered hope, he added, for the people of Ukraine currently facing ‘Russia’s war of aggression’ which he described as ‘not only a challenge to post-war order in Europe but also a human tragedy’.
‘The terrible killing of civilians and prisoners of war, the rape and torture, the abduction of children calls for accountability. We support the establishment of an international court, so that perpetrators can be brought to justice.
‘One day the question of reconciliation will arise. This will by no means be an easy task for Ukrainians. It will also require Russians to acknowledge their actions and show that they have learned from their mistakes. I have my doubts that this will be possible under the current Russian leadership. The fact that I have been invited to celebrate this Island’s liberation from German occupation with the people of Jersey shows that reconciliation is possible,’ he said.
Putting Liberation Day in its wider context, the ambassador said that it afforded a moment to reflect on the close relationship between Germany and Jersey as well as the United Kingdom, based on our common values of freedom, human rights and democracy.
‘My message is also that after the UK’s exit from the European Union, Germany and Europe are still your partners and friends. New obstacles were created, affecting people-to-people contacts but also businesses, which have made the relationship between Jersey and the EU to some extent more complicated, but we all hope that we can overcome these challenges and create an even deeper partnership,’ he said.
On his first visit to Jersey the Ambassador said he wanted to learn what could be done to improve people-to-people connections and to explore the potential to assist with youth exchange, tourism links and the Island’s economic relationship with Germany.