Bomber drops in

By Rachel Fletcher, May 2, 2008

An apology by a former German bomber pilot has been welcomed by Jewish war veterans and others.

Willi Schludecker, 87, returned to Bath last week to apologise for three raids on the city in April 1942, in which he had taken part.

Mr Schludecker, one of the Luftwaffe’s most decorated pilots, dropped nearly 4,000kg of bombs on the city.

At a memorial service to the victims of the attacks, he said through a translator: “I was a bit nervous when I was invited here but I had to come. In England, there has always been friendliness towards me and never hatred. At the time, we did not realise fully what we had done. The war was madness.”

After the war he refused to re-join the Luftwaffe, explaining: “They misused me once before and I didn’t want to give them the chance to do it again.”

Peter Wagerman, national chairman of the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (AJEX), praised Mr Schludecker’s apology. “An apology of this nature helps to heal the wounds of war.”

Bath resident Alex Schlesinger, whose parents fled Europe in the build-up to the Holocaust, said: “I’m not in a position to accept an apology directly for those who suffered loss, injury, loss of life, relatives or property during the bombing of Bath. However, we are all very swift to say ‘never again’, and I think the offering of an apology underlines that.

“I think it takes a considerable degree of bravery to come over and make that public apology. We should all respect him for it. Had more people been mindful of the consequences of their actions in the 1930s, this gentleman would not have been put in a position where it was necessary to make such an apology.”

Last updated: 3:15pm, August 18 2009