Germany commemorates its dead from COVID in national ceremony

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Germany honors on Sunday the memory of its some 80,000 fellow citizens killed by COVID-19 during a ceremony also intended to show solidarity with the families of victims who died in solitude because of the virus.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel and Head of State Frank-Walter Steinmeier will attend a mass in the morning in the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, an emblematic place in Berlin dedicated to peace and reconciliation.

Then they will take part in a ceremony broadcast by public television around 11:00 (GMT) at the Konzerthaus, a concert hall in central Berlin, where Mr. Steinmeier will give a speech.

The number of guests was limited due to the health crisis.

“It is very important to take a break to take leave with dignity for all those who died during the pandemic, including those who did not succumb to the virus but also died in solitude,” said the Minister. Head of State at the announcement of this national commemoration.

At the same time, the heads of the 16 German regions invited the population to symbolically place a candle in the window every evening of this weekend.

“We want to realize what we have lost”, they declared in a common appeal, “but also together to find strength and hope”.

For Mr. Steinmeier, a social democrat, it is essential to distance oneself from daily statistics, and to remember that “behind every number, there is a destiny”.

In March, he had met relatives of victims, who, beyond the pain of losing a loved one, also revealed their suffering at not being able to accompany them in their last moments, hold their hands, or be able to organize a real funeral.

Michaela Mengel, one of his interlocutors, burst into tears remembering how she witnessed the last moments of her daughter, on the screen of her phone.

She had last seen her shortly after she was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve. “She had oxygen tubes in her nose, she was looking at me with her big eyes,” Mengel said. She couldn’t speak. “I said to her: bye, my darling, I love you, mom will come back”.

Several media have also regularly published for months testimonies of relatives to give a face and a posthumous voice to the victims.

The commemoration comes as a third wave of the epidemic marked by the rapid spread of variants has gripped Germany, which sees the number of new infections and deaths soar again, as the vaccination campaign took a long time to take off.

“The scale of the deaths is so dramatic that we need just now” such a national ceremony, where “an entire society is taking part in honor of all these far too numerous deaths,” said Heinrich Bedford-Strohm , the president of the Evangelical Church of Germany with the agency DPA.

Especially since the measures to fight the virus are called to harden in the country.

The government of Angela Merkel wants to impose a national lockdown, including curfews and new restrictions on contacts, with the aim of fighting more effectively against the virus and putting an end to the confusion of the management of the crisis until ‘here conducted with the regions, competent in health matters.

“The virus does not forgive half-measures, they only worsen it,” the Chancellor warned on Friday, defending in the Bundestag the law which should strengthen her powers. The green light from parliament is expected next week.