updated 6/5/2004 10:10:15 AM ET 2004-06-05T14:10:15

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder defended his decision to participate in D-Day ceremonies in France in remarks released Saturday, saying the successful landing of the Allied armies in Normandy should be celebrated as part of the road to liberation from the Nazi regime.

“The victory of the Allies was not a victory over Germany, but a victory for Germany,” Schroeder wrote in a letter to be published Sunday in Bild, the country’s most-read daily newspaper.

Schroeder, the first German chancellor to take part in ceremonies honoring the June 6, 1944, invasion, was criticized at home when the trip was first announced by some who said he was neglecting the memory of German war dead.

But the chancellor said his trip will include a visit Sunday to a war cemetery in Ranville, where soldiers from eight nations, including Germany, are buried.

He plans to lay a wreath at a cross commemorating all the soldiers and another at the grave of an unknown German soldier.

Being asked to take part in the main ceremonies is “a great honor for our country and for our democracy,” he said.

The chancellor said nobody expects “that we feel guilty for the crimes and genocide of an unspeakable regime, but we carry a responsibility (to acknowledge) our history and for our history.”

In support of Schroeder, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw wrote the Berliner Zeitung newspaper in remarks published in German Saturday, saying he was happy the chancellor was taking part in the ceremonies.

“It is a symbol for the long way Europe has come,” Straw said. “Sixty years ago our fathers and grandfathers were at war, our cities and houses were bombed and destroyed. Now we have finally put war on our continent behind us.”

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