How Germany remembers the world wars

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  • World War One

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The Prince of Wales is visiting Berlin on Sunday to participate in Germany's National Day of Mourning. The wreath-laying ceremony – in the year marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two – takes place in a building that symbolises the country's fraught relationship with the memory of war, writes Chris Bowlby.

Whereas Remembrance Day in Britain prompts a united sense of national pride in military service, and respect for the sacrifices of those who fought in both world wars, Germany's commemoration of the war dead is much more cautious and complex.

Military service in 20th Century Germany is associated with profound shame – focused above all on the victims of Nazi military aggression and the Holocaust. Reinforcing that is a belief that the ground for Germany's Nazi catastrophe was laid by the militarism of the Prussian state that unified the country in the 19th Century and led it into World War One.

It was this militaristic state that built the Neue Wache or "new guardhouse", a classical building on the famous central Berlin street of Unter den Linden, which is now at the heart of the annual day of mourning.