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Protocol Office Article 2012.04.01 Day of Na­tion­al Mourn­ing

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Federal Government resolved that the New Guardhouse (Neue Wache), a neo-classical 19th-century structure in the centre of Berlin designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, should be designated the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Following its restoration, the memorial was dedicated on 14 November 1993.

Since then, the victims of war and tyranny are remembered here each year on the Day of National Mourning (the Sunday two weeks before the first Sunday in Advent) in a simple ceremony, during which the Federal President and representatives of the other federal constitutional bodies lay wreaths at the memorial.

The Day of National Mourning has had a long and eventful history. The German War Graves Commission (VDK) has organized the annual central commemorative ceremony since 1924. The original purpose of the Day of National Mourning was to honour and remember the millions who died in World War I. It was temporarily replaced by the annual “Heroes’ Memorial Day”, observed in March between 1934 and 1945, which however did little to alter the original meaning of the Day of National Mourning. The Day of National Mourning was reinstituted in the Federal Republic of Germany in the early 1950s. Since then it has been observed each year in November as a special day of remembrance for the victims of both world wars and tyranny. The German War Graves Commission, which sponsors numerous events, is supported in its endeavours by the Federation and the German states. The Federal President, for example, has assumed the patronage of the Commission’s central commemorative ceremony in the plenary chamber of the German Bundestag.

On the Day of National Mourning, flags are flown at half-mast throughout the country at the highest federal authorities and the agencies within their remit as well as at the public-law corporations, institutions and foundations under the supervision of federal authorities.

At the dedication of the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany at the New Guardhouse in Berlin on 14 November 1993, the Day of National Mourning, Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl delivered the following statement:

“The New Guardhouse in Berlin will be a place of remembrance and commemoration for the victims of war and dictatorship. As the Central Memorial of the Federal Republic of Germany, it is an important symbol of reunited Germany and its constitutional democracy based on human dignity, human values and human rights. The Federal Government selected the sculpture ‘Mother with Dead Son’ by Käthe Kollwitz for this memorial because the works of this great artist are inseparably linked with a system of government that is permanently committed to these principles. Remembering the death of millions of innocent people is a warning to each and every one of us to actively promote our free and democratic system at all times and in all places, to defend it resolutely against its enemies and do all in our power to promote the peaceful coexistence of people and nations. It is one of our foremost duties to pass on these insights to the coming generations so that the horrific experiences of the past will never be repeated.”

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