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Luftwaffe fighters escort Queen Elizabeth into Germany for Royal visit

By Tony Jones

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh arrived in Berlin yesterday for what is likely to be her seventh and last official visit to Germany.

Escorted in by three Luftwaffe Eurofighters to Tegel airport, the royal couple were welcomed on to the tarmac with a 21-gun salute.

They walked down a red carpet lined by German soldiers to be met by the British Ambassador, before a limousine took them to the Hotel Adlon.

Their four-day state visit will include a visit Bergen-Belsen prisoner of war and concentration camps.

The camps, now a memorial to those who died at the hands of the Nazis, were liberated 70 years ago by British troops and the visit will be a personal and reflective one for the monarch with the minimum of ceremony.

When UK forces arrived on April 15, 1945 they found thousands of unburied bodies and severely ill prisoners who had been interned at the site in northern Germany.

The Queen and Duke will pay their respects to teenage writer Anne Frank and her sister Margot who died at the camp not long before it was liberated, and also remember the tens of thousands of prisoners from all over Europe who were killed at Bergen-Belsen or died after being freed as a result of their treatment.

The royal couple will meet groups of survivors and liberators, and representatives of Jewish and Christian communities. They will also hold a private meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, and some have described the visit as a diplomatic mission as Britain prepares for a referendum on Europe.

German tabloid Bild described the Queen as "the secret weapon of British diplomacy to shake up the Franco-German love-in". Both the Queen and Duke have strong German links - he was born into the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and went to school in southern Germany. The Queen's family name, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was changed by her grandfather, George V, during the World War One.

The visit will begin in earnest with a state visit, hosted by Germany's federal president Joachim Gauck and his partner Daniela Schadt.

The Queen and Duke will also travel by boat through Berlin on the River Spree and the monarch will lay a wreath at the nation's central memorial for the victims of war and dictatorship.

Frankfurt will welcome the royal couple, who will tour parts of the city visiting St Paul's Church - which played an important role in the birth of parliamentary democracy in Germany - and have lunch in the historic city hall.

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