World

Vienna unveils memorial honoring deserters from Hitler's army

  • People surround a memorial dedicated to deserters of the Nazi Wehrmacht troops and victims of their military justice during its unveiling ceremony in downtown Vienna, Austria, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. The memorial is located in front of the presidential office in the Hofburg palace and the federal chancellery, background. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

    People surround a memorial dedicated to deserters of the Nazi Wehrmacht troops and victims of their military justice during its unveiling ceremony in downtown Vienna, Austria, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. The memorial is located in front of the presidential office in the Hofburg palace and the federal chancellery, background. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)  (The Associated Press)

  • German artist Olaf Nicolai and Austrian President Heinz Fischer, from left, stand on a memorial dedicated to deserters of the Nazi Wehrmacht troops and victims of their military justice during its unveiling ceremony in downtown Vienna, Austria, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. The memorial is located in front of the presidential office in the Hofburg palace and the federal chancellery, background. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

    German artist Olaf Nicolai and Austrian President Heinz Fischer, from left, stand on a memorial dedicated to deserters of the Nazi Wehrmacht troops and victims of their military justice during its unveiling ceremony in downtown Vienna, Austria, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. The memorial is located in front of the presidential office in the Hofburg palace and the federal chancellery, background. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak)  (The Associated Press)

Austria's president has apologized for his country's treatment of soldiers who deserted Hitler's army during World War II as traitors.

President Heinz Fischer said that labeling the Austrian deserters that way for decades after the conflict is "something for which one has to apologize and shame himself."

He spoke on Friday while unveiling a memorial honoring those who had fled military duty rather than serve under the Nazi regime.

The ceremony in Vienna was attended by municipal dignitaries and some of those who had deserted the Wehrmacht.

The grey stone monument, just steps from the presidential offices, is the first of its kind in the Austrian capital.

A large "X'' on its surface stands for the tens of thousands of deserters who were executed under Hitler.