I am sure some would like to present him with a "suitcase" for his next encounter with the Deranged Leader!
British pay homage to Hitler plotter
From Roger Boyes in Berlin
ACCOMPANIED by Irish pipers and 70 Royal Dragoon Guards, Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, yesterday became the first British politician to attend a strictly German event: the commemoration of the failed plot to blow up Hitler in 1944.
In the German calendar, the parade in Bendlerblock, Berlin, where the chief anti-Hitler conspirator, Count Claus von Stauffenberg, was shot, is seen as a solemn reminder of the perils of tyranny.
The presence of Mr Browne was a break with more than 60 years of tradition and highlighted new military realities â British and German troops serving shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan â that have qualitatively changed the Anglo-German relationship.
As Mr Browne addressed more than 200 German army recruits and the assembled British soldiers no one was left in any doubt that it was a sym- bolic moment for the two countries.
Count von Stauffenberg placed a briefcase full of explosives in Hitlerâs Wolfâs Lair bunker before dashing back to the Bendlerblock, which now houses the German Defence Ministry, to take control of Germany with a group of fellow officers. The plot failed but the count became a role model for postwar generations.
Yesterday Mr Browne developed the message, drawing a parallel between the bravery of the plotters and the need to act against modern tyrannies such as that of Saddam Hussein.
âTyrannies can be resisted with decisive determination, while seeking to protect the innocent,â Mr Browne said. âStanding in this town, which was almost entirely destroyed in the war but now stands as a testament to resilience, energy and architectural ambition, I can see that traumatised nations can be rebuilt and prosper.â
During the Iraq invasion sharp differences soured relations between the Chancellor then, Gerhard SchrÃ¶der, and Tony Blair, the Prime Minister. British and US soldiers stationed in Germany began to feel that they were outstaying their welcome. Now a critical moment has been reached.
The election of Angela Merkel as Chancellor last September changed the tone. Although Germany is still adamantly against military participation in Iraq, it is now active in several military operations abroad. It has just taken the lead role in the European Union election-monitoring force in the Congo. âOur military co-operation in Afghanistan and elsewhere has never been so close,â a spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said, âand awareness is growing about the common challenges facing us.â
Mr Browne told the parade: âYour armed forces in Afghanistan provide security in order to allow the Afghans and the international community to undertake the vital reconstruction of the country. They do so alongside troops from the United Kingdom and other Nato allies.â
The Browne visit was intended to signal British enthusiasm for Germanyâs new, more active international role. This was underlined by President Bush last week during a visit to eastern Germany.
After the Iraq invasion Germany found itself isolated as a foreign policy player. Now it is being treated as one of the most influential European states.
THE JULY 20 PLOT
With the war turning against Germany, senior Nazi officers planned a coup in the hope of negotiating a favourable surrender. On July 20, 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg left a bomb in a suitcase in Hitlerâs Wolfâs Lair bunker. The bomb killed three officers and a stenographer, but Hitler escaped with minor injuries. In the following weeks of retribution about 200 plotters were shot, hanged, hung up on meat hooks, forced to commit suicide or strangled with piano wire.