This answer has 3 parts, the first two answering the question in the title, the 3rd tackling the issue of glorification/(in)compatibility of memorials.
Steinmeier as president represents the Federal Republic of Germany. From a legal point of view, Germany is an international legal person (Völkerrechtssubjekt) and this international legal person is still the same as the Third Reich.
From this perspective, Steinmeier's position is like a convicted murderer who after some decades of reformed life asks their victims and their victims' families for forgiveness.
And is thus distinct from the position of any German below the age of approximately 90 who cannot have been involved in the 3rd Reich.
Note that holding descendants/relatives responsible for crimes of their forefathers/relatives is called Sippenhaft in German and was done during National Socialism.
Is this official line representative for the public opinion? YES:
A recent (2019) phone survey MEMO Multidimensionaler Erinnerungsmonitor was published that gives relevant insight. Participation was voluntary and anonymous [though of course anonymity in a phone survey is a matter of trust by the participant – after all, the phone number is known at some point], 1000 participants were chosen randomly and representatively. All questions had a non-answer option (I don't know/I don't want to answer). One of the interesting features for me is that they had rather a lot of open questions, that is question with free text answers – which means the answer is not prompted by hearing choices. (Questions and answers are my translation.)
The open question We'd like to know: in your opinion, which event of German history should be remembered most [am ehesten] by future generations?. The answers were afterwards grouped into (mutually exclusive) categories.
- 42.7% of the answers fell into the context of National Socialism (with 28.8 % having an explicit link to WWII),
- Reunification[/Separation] context was substantially lower with 35.4 %
- 7.9 % both World Wars was the 3rd most common answer category.
The open question Many people* and groups of people were killed or murdered during National Socialism. In your opinion, which of these people or groups should we remember? * I translate the German "Menschen" here with "people", but one may also use "humans".
- 95.8 % of the participants did answer this question, implying that remembering victims does have a substantial majority (even if you discount that a phone survey may have some bias towards politically correct answers, I don't expect such a bias to be of the extent of making such a vast majority if only a minority would like to remember).
- Answers were grouped afterwards, but one answer could comprise multiple groups.
- 49.4 % said all victims/groups of victims
Tom Uhlig (Bildungsstätte Anne Frank, Frankfurt a. M.) comments this as a tendency to
lose concreteness [literally de-concretion] of victim groups.
personal comment: I'd maybe have answered with "all victims independent of which group they belong to" because to me it is important that humans were murdered, and no victim should be remembered less because of "wrong" ethnicity/religion/philosophy/ideology/sexual orientation or gender/whatever, even though concrete groups come immediately to my mind.
- Relevant for this question, 6.6 % are group "soldiers killed in action/German victims" and one example listed for this group are "soldiers and their mothers and families".
It is not clear to me whether this group comprises explicitly or to which extent implicitly only German soldiers as opposed to all soldiers – my guess is that it was not possible to clearly separate the answers according to this.
Multiple choice question: In your opintion, should these people [victims] be remembered in Germany ...
- far more seldom => 0.8 %
- more seldom => 7.5 %
- as much as => 45.4 %
- more often => 35.1 %
- far more often => 7.1 %
... than it is currently done?
I.e. > 90 % of the participants think the victims should be remembered at least as often as it is done.
The following table gives the percentage of agree or agree strongly to several questions (my numbers for easier reference):
Question Percent (strong) agreement
1. I think people today could commit similar acts to
those during National Socialist times. 65.6 %
2. I see parallels between current political developments
in Germany and the times of National Socialism. 35.9 %
3. National Socialist times are part of the German identity. 71.1 %
4. For social affiliation to Germany, knowledge about the
history of National Socialism is a must*. 87.2 %
5. I'm annoyed that Germans today are still reproached with
the crimes against Jews. 33.9 %
6. Jews have too much influence in Germany. 5.6 %
7. It's time to rule off National Socialist German history. 32.6 %
8. As Germans, we can be proud of how we deal with our history. 31.7 %
9. Germany is a nation/country that has learned from the
mistakes of its past. 61.7 %
10.Germany may be a role model for other countries in how to
successfully [aufarbeiten]** one's history. 49.6 %
* Zur Zugehörigkeit zu Deutschland gehört das Wissen über die Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus.
** aufarbeiten: "doesn't mean to reconcile oneself with the [unpleasant] past, but to analyse events, identify responsibilities, and disclose unknown facts in order to establish what really happened and to reach general agreement on who is guilty and to what extent." (Andy AT at dict.leo.org forum)
As you can see there is a broad consensus that as a German one has to know about National Socialism (3+4), and there is also a broad awareness that the future or present may hold similar trouble again (1+2), but also confidence that we did learn from those past mistakes (9 – which does not necessarily mean they agree in their view of the current political situation).
I think questions 6 and 5 are interesting for this question. 6 is a plain National Socialist or Neo-Nazi statement. Whereas question 5 may get agreement from someone who is too young to personally have been involved in any way in the Third Reich – but feels personally accused (see also in particular Jay's answer).
What about glorification?
(1) I do see how the first link (Damp) may be seen as glorifying. And personally, I would not have expected to see such an inscription in a memorial stone exclusively for WWII soldiers.
But after WWII, the Wehrmacht had a comparatively good reputation (as opposed to SD, SS, SA, ...) until the Wehrmachtsausstellung (see Arno's answer). So I do see how such an inscription may have been put up shortly after the war was over.
For the usual memorials with soldier lists, I'd like to distinguish two different functions/purposes of these memorials that are both far from glorifying (and which are non-exclusive):
- (2) Mahnmal, see knallfrosch's answer and
- (3) "makeshift gravestone": these soldiers usually died or went missing far from home/their families, and these lists of soldiers serve in lieu of a grave stone and give/gave their bereaved a place for their mourning.
In addition, as @gerrit pointed out, there are a lot of these lists which are (4) add-ons to WWI memorials (and I've seen WWI being an add-on to the 1870/71 war).
This leaves us with the question how to deal with these memorials now.
Rewriting history whenever convenient is highly regarded in all kinds of totalitarian systems. Which makes us very cautious also in this particular question of dealing with war memorials that we judge to be inappropriate now.
Thus, you'll probably see rather that more is added to make clear the memorial is a Mahnmal (2) than taking off parts of the memorial.
Ole Albers' comment gives a prime example with a war memorial in Hamburg: Originally a war glorifying memorial, it was not removed (but there were discussions whether it should be removed; or that the inscription and relief should be removed). In the end, it became far less glorifying by adding lists of dead directly caused by this glorification. Later two more memorials, memorial against war and memorial for WWII deserters, were added. The war memorial is still sufficiently controversial to be frequently target for graffiti etc.
For the Damp memorial (1), the web site you linked gives an explanation of its historical context (it's not an add-on right on a WWI memorial stone, but it is inside a WWI memorial area) and then a critical discussion of the text which makes clear that nowadays militarism, nationalism and heroification are seen crititally but were rather normal at the time the memorial was built:
My translation of the 1st and 3rd paragraph on the web site linked by OP:
The discussion of the memorials is part of our culture of remembering. With this, it becomes apparent that also we as church learn to critically highlight our own involvement with the history of war and violence. Remembrance is needed to live reconciliation now and also serve peace in future.
In particular the many public [honoring] memorials for the first World War show the then characteristic influence of national and also national socialistic ideology. [Honoring] memorials for the second world war are not infrequently still under the influence of the forms [lit. language of forms] of that time.
The same applies to the WWI memorials that do list the fallen or missed soldiers as heroes. After WWI, Germany (and its allies) legally accepted guilt for the whole war, and they had made the "mistake" of losing it. But there was no blanco suspicion of war crimes standing against the soldiers. Thus, describing them as heroes was pretty much undisputed standard. And, with the still comparably good reputation of at least the lower ranks of the Wehrmacht directly after WWII, adding WWII soldiers listed alongside/near WWI soldiers who are called heroes was considered OK.
Similar to the approach used in Damp, nowadays rather than changing (or dismantling) the memorial it is pointed out what glorifying soldiers leads to. I think we quite got there, seeing that marines having a training march through Rostock are sufficiently worrying to the inhabitants that they call the police.
And I think this reserve wrt changing memorial inscriptions is also due to function (3) as gravestone replacement: you'd need extremely good reasons to change the inscription of a gravestone, however appalling that inscription is from today's point of view.
From your comments I suspect that in this respect you are very far from the prevailing view in Germany:
I find it inconsistent even to maintain monuments listing names of German soldiers and at the same time apologize to their victims.
For those lists that serve as makeshift gravestone, removing them to me amounts to basically denying that they were human: Terrorists and murderers can have gravestones in Germany, e.g. Baader, Ensslin and Raspe grave stone for a prominent example. Even though that question does trigger controversial discussions.
Sentences in that context are e.g. "At death, all enmity has to end." or "Human dignity is inviolable, regardless of what they did. A human does have a right to be buried." (my translations)
According to that newspaper article, such graves are often anonymous or at unknown locations but the reason given is fear of desecration of the grave.
After all, there are no graves or monuments of Hitler, Eichmann, Mengele, Göring, etc.
Relatively short Google search found, however, that e.g. Heß did have a grave and that that town had to cope with Neo-Nazis (and counter demonstrants) while the lease ran.
BTW, you'll not see that many graves in Germany that are more than ≈30 years old: many (Christian/communal) graveyards run out of space and the lease usually runs out after about 30 years - unless they are war graves (WWI and WWII, military and civil dead), or the graves of victims of National Socialist violence or measures violating rule of law by communist regimes, etc..
Just imagine how a descendant of those who were murdered or raped by German soldiers will feel seeing such monuments.
Possibly similar to the bereaved of said terrorists' victims who have to live with the murderer's gravestone as well.
Nowadays, it is established that the Wehrmacht as an institution was deeply involved in all kinds of atrocities and war crimes during WWII. Still, estimates of what percentage of soldiers was actually involved in crimes of war or crimes against humanity are hard to get. This newspaper article says estimates range from 60-80 % (Heer, leader of the first version of Wehrmachtsausstellung. This version was withdrawn after international criticism of being inaccurate.) at the high end down to single digit percentages according to a revisionist "calculation" by Post. The article goes on citing Hartmann who gives more insight, but no point estimate. He does sum up as "Many are responsible for few and few are responsible for a lot" and that the fraction of privates who were personally guilty of war crimes is low. This still translates to numbers in the hundreds of thousands as approximately half of all male Germans were member of the Wehrmacht at some point during WWII (conscription). This newspaper article states ≈3 % of privates being involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity as estimate, also based on Hartmann.
Still, while "low" isn't a number, even the high estimates mean that for any given name on such a memorial the chance that they are not guilty of a war crime is non-negligible (sorry for the double negative, but that is intended here). I don't think these lists on memorials have the same protection the real war graves have, but I think this blanco suspicion is not seen as sufficient to warrant the removal of a memorial or names from these memorials.