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GERMANY CAREFULLY PLANS RITES TO MARK WWII DEFEAT

SHARE GERMANY CAREFULLY PLANS RITES TO MARK WWII DEFEAT

Five months of war anniversaries recalling the fall of the Nazi Third Reich 50 years ago loom ahead in 1995 for German leaders who would rather look to the future than once again dredge up their embarrassing past.

Events from the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp to Germany's final defeat on May 8, 1945, will be marked with many solemn speeches and acts of reconciliation with former foes.But even the best-planned events could, if mishandled, turn into a public relations disaster for the democratic Germany that arose from the ashes of World War II.

With the uproar over possible German participation in last June's D-Day commemorations still ringing in their ears, officials are now very cautiously drawing up their plans to recall the horrors of the war.

"It seems like only yesterday we had the 40th anniversaries of all these events," one senior bureaucrat moaned. "I hope we don't do this again until the 75th anniversary - I won't be around any more to see it all."

The 40th anniversary of the war's end went off well, thanks to a speech by then-President Richard von Weizsaecker stressing Germany's responsibility for genocide against the Jews and calling May 8 the nation's day of liberation.

But the first major 50th anniversary event - a 1988 speech recalling the "Kristallnacht" pogroms against Jews - ended in uproar when parliamentary speaker Philipp Jenninger appeared to justify Adolf Hitler's appeal. Jenninger resigned in disgrace.

Before the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France, there was an embarrassing uproar over whether Chancellor Helmut Kohl should attend the ceremonies. In the end, only a senior diplomat represented Bonn.

After that, Kohl and Germany's present-day allies seemed to agree to mark the end of the war in Berlin with a ceremony stressing their reconciliation and cooperation since 1945, rather than the fighting that led to Hitler's defeat.

But officials and foreign diplomats in Bonn say Germany, where details for such events must often wait until Kohl gives his final approval, could run into severe scheduling problems if the government does not decide soon on how it wants to mark May 8.

Britain has already invited Germany and the wartime Allies to a youth festival in London on May 7, and Paris and Moscow are expected to announce events of their own soon, they said.

"If the Germans don't make their minds up quickly, they could find someone else has invited everybody for May 8," one diplomat remarked.

The year's first major event, the Jan. 27 anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, presents no problem for Bonn, since the former concentration camp is in Poland.