Germany marks 'liberation' from Nazis 70 years on

World War Two veteran and former sapper and military engineer Nikolai Melnikov, 92, poses for a picture in front of the Monument to Eleven Sappers near Volokolamsk in Moscow region, Russia, April 13, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
World War Two veteran and former sapper and military engineer Nikolai Melnikov, 92, poses for a picture in front of the Monument to Eleven Sappers near Volokolamsk in Moscow region, Russia, April 13, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP) - Germany on Friday celebrated its "liberation" from the Nazis 70 years ago, with the speaker of parliament Norbert Lammert hailing the willingness of the country's neighbours to forgive.

During a joint session of parliament's two houses attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck, Lammert paid tribute to both Western Allied forces and the Soviet Army "who ended the National Socialist terror regime at unimaginable loss" to their own ranks.

Lammert said May 8, when Nazi Germany capitulated, marked a "day of liberation" for Germans, quoting a watershed 1985 speech by then president Richard von Weizsaecker.

"Today we remember the millions of victims of an unprecedented annihilation campaign against other nations and peoples, against Slavs, against the Jews of Europe," he said.

Lammert, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats, said the willingness of European nations to reconcile with Germany after the war was "historically unique".

The session ended with a brass band performing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy", the anthem of the European Union.

Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday laid a wreath at the site of the Battle of Stalingrad in Russia as part of commemorations to mark the defeat of Nazi forces in WWII.

Merkel will shun Russia's Victory Day parade on Saturday due to tensions over the Ukraine crisis but will visit Moscow a day later to lay a wreath at the grave of the Unknown Soldier and hold talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.