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Germany Remembers Nazi Resistance


BERLIN (AP) - Germany commemorated the 55th anniversary today of the most famous assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler by swearing in army recruits at the building where the plotters were executed.

The 432 recruits, wearing green berets and gray jackets, marched to a snare drum beat into the courtyard of the Bendlerblock for the first swearing in at the site since World War II, attended by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his Defense Minister.

Once the supreme headquarters of the Nazi army, the Bendlerblock was chosen for its symbolism as the government returns this year to its prewar capital Berlin. Today's ceremony was intended as yet another sign of how far Germany has come since the Nazi defeat.

Addressing the troops, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder emphasized that Germany's army has proved it can be a force for democracy - not militarism - particularly with its role in NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia, the army's first battle since the war.

``The Kosovo deployment has shown everyone that our military really is a force for peace,'' said Schroeder, who was accompanied by Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping.

``Our soldiers put into practice what we have learned from history: to take responsibility for human rights, including in places where German armies have wreaked terror and crime in the past.''

Heavy security surrounded the event, where about 600 leftist protesters rallied earlier in the day. Previous swearing-ins have drawn protests and strong criticism, including complaints that they cost too much and are antiquated references to the nation's militaristic past.

On July 20, 1944, Lt. Col. Claus von Stauffenberg left a briefcase bomb in a conference room at a field headquarters in East Prussia where Hitler was meeting with top aides.

After seeing the bomb go off - and believing Hitler dead - Stauffenberg sped to Berlin, where he was to have seized the Bendlerblock along with fellow plotters.

Instead, the headquarters became the site of the Stauffenberg's execution, along with other conspirators. As many as 200 plotters eventually were killed - shot, hanged or in some cases strangled with piano wire and strung up on meat hooks - after being tortured by the Gestapo to reveal the names of others in the scheme.

Today, the Bendlerblock officially is called a ``Memorial to German Resistance.'' It contains a museum on Nazi resistance and has been the site of previous commemorations of the assassination attempt.

It also has been the offices of the Defense Ministry outside the postwar capital, Bonn, since 1993. It will continue to serve that role after most of the government completes its move to Berlin, as the Defense Ministry will remain in Bonn.