Germany commemorates WWII end amid Russia’s war in Ukraine

Germany commemorates WWII end amid Russia’s war in Ukraine

Germany on Sunday marks the end of World War II in Europe 77 years ago against the background of a new war on the continent, with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaking of an “epochal turning point.”

In Berlin, many people gathered at various memorial sites, notably the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park and the Soviet Memorial in the central Mitte district, where police were on hand to prevent potential clashes over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The events were taking place without disruption as of Sunday afternoon, a police spokesperson said, though some verbal altercations were witnessed by DW’s William Glucroft.

The police had previously imposed conditions on 15 memorial sites, including restrictions on Russian and Ukrainian flags. 

These measures were criticized by the Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk and Ukrainian associations on Saturday.

In Berlin, events on May 8 traditionally commemorate those who fought against Nazism in the German resistance and lost their lives in World War II.

What did the German president say?

Speaking at the opening of the national convention of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) in Berlin, Steinmeier said that May 8 had long been a “day of hope” as well as commemoration.

“But today, on this 8th of May, the dream of a common European house has failed and been replaced by a nightmare,” Steinmeier said, referring to Russia’s attack on Ukraine as a “brutal, illegal war of aggression.”

He said the war in Ukraine broke “with many things that seemed to us beyond question,” calling it an “epochal turning point.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin was “once and for all destroying the basis of the European blueprint for lasting peace that we created after the Second World War and the Cold War,” Steinmeier said.

The president also said one lesson to be learned from the current situation was that “the best price on world markets should not be the only thing to determine with whom one does business.”

Germany has come under fire for its many decades of relying on cheap energy from Russia to power its economy, which critics say has helped fund Putin’s war machinery.

What has happened at events in Berlin?

Several hundred people reportedly laid flowers and commemorated the fallen at the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park.

According to a police spokesperson, many people also came to the Soviet Memorial in the central Mitte district in the morning.

The spokesperson said the gatherings went off without serious disruption amid a strong police presence.

Dozens of commemorative events and demonstrations are planned for Sunday and Monday in Berlin organized by the Russian and Ukrainian embassies, among others. 

German media reported on Saturday that domestic intelligence in Germany expected “car parades and demonstrations” on Monday in support of Russia and possibly of the invasion of Ukraine.

In Russia, May 9 marks Victory Day, a holiday that commemorates the Soviet army’s victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.

 tj/fb (dpa, AFP)

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Last Update: Sun, 08 May 22 10:00:09