BERLIN - Germany dedicated its new national Holocaust memorial yesterday with a rabbi's prayer for the dead and a survivor's plea for reconciliation, but disagreement surfaced over how to remember the 6 million Jews killed under the Nazis.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder joined Jewish leaders and hundreds of other dignitaries in opening the striking memorial, a one-block-square, undulating field of more than 2,700 charcoal-colored concrete slabs meant to evoke the helplessness of the Holocaust's victims.
Backers had insisted on a place in the heart of reunited Berlin, a block from the landmark Brandenburg Gate, a major tourist attraction, and near where Adolf Hitler holed up in his bunker during the last days of World War II. The opening was timed to coincide with this month's 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's surrender.
Holocaust survivor Sabina van der Linden riveted the audience with her own story of loss, terror and survival in German-occupied Poland.
An 11-year-old Jewish girl when the Wehrmacht occupied her town in July 1941, she was sheltered at great risk by a Christian family and later survived by hiding in a forest. Her parents and brother died in the Holocaust.
In a message of reconciliation that won the loudest applause of the afternoon, she said there could be no collective guilt for Germans and that her survival represented "a victory of all decent people over evil."
"What have I learned?" said van der Linden, of Sydney, Australia.
"I have learned that hatred begets hatred. I have learned that we must not remain silent and that each of us must fight discrimination, racism and inhumanity."
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