When the landings of allied troops began in France, occupied by the German Wehrmacht, in June 1944, it was for the peoples of the entire world, but also for a very large proportion of Germans, a sign of hope: may peace and liberty come to Europe soon. What had happened? A criminal and his henchmen had succeeded in taking the power of the State in Germany. And that had created a situation in which, under the domination of the Party, law and injustice became embedded one within the other, and often transformed, almost inseparably, one into the other. Because the regime led by a criminal also exercised the classic functions of government and its procedures. He could then, in a certain sense, demand legal obedience from the citizens and respect regarding the authority of the State (Romans 12, 1ss !), while at the same time making use of the instruments of law as instruments of his criminal goals.
The rule of law itself, which kept functioning partly under its ordinary forms in daily life, had become at the same time a power for the destruction of the law: the perversion of the procedures that should serve justice, yet at the same time consolidated the domination of iniquity and rendered it impenetrable, meant, at its most profound, a domination of falsehood, which obscured consciences.
At the service of this domination of falsehood, there was a regime of fear, within which no one could trust anyone else, because each one had to, in a certain sense, protect oneself under the mask of falsehood. Such a mask allowed one to protect oneself, but also served to reinforce the power of evil. It was thus necessary for the whole world to intervene to implode the circle of criminal action, to re-establish freedom and law. Because this was so, we give thanks at this hour, and it is not only the countries occupied by German troops and left at the mercy of Nazi terror that give thanks. Also we Germans, we give thanks that, with the aid of this engagement, we recovered freedom and law.
If there ever was in history a bellum justum, it was certainly this one, the engagement of the Allies, because the engagement also served the good of those against whose country war was waged. Such a finding seems important to me, because it shows, based on a historical event, the unsustainable character of an absolute pacifism. This takes nothing away, naturally, from the obligation of considering very strictly the question of if and under what conditions it is possible still today to have something such as a just war, that is, a military intervention at the service of peace and obeying moral criteria, against established unjust regimes. Above all, that which has been said allows for a better understanding, let us hope, that peace and the law, that peace and justice, are inseparably linked one with the other. When the law is destroyed, when injustice takes over, it is always peace that is threatened and already, partly, weakened. Concern for peace is, in this sense, above all a concern for a form of law that ensures justice to the individual and to the community as a whole.
Address on the 60th Anniversary of the Normandy Landings (introduction) [en français]
Abbaye aux Hommes (St-Étienne), Caen, June 5, 2004