Eighty years passed since June 22, 1941, when the Great Patriotic War began with Nazi Germany's treacherous attack. For us, this is a Day of Mourning, a Day to remember how the tragedy began for the entire Soviet people, a tragedy that brought suffering, rivers of blood, 27 million deaths and myriads of people wounded. Our memory of that war is indescribable and hardly possible without tears. And what about present-day Germany? Denazification yielded a new generation brought up in the tradition of democracy and hardly associating itself with Hitler regime crimes. But such an indifferent unconsciousness does not go for everyone.
So, German Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a video message and called the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany's attack against the USSR a reason for shame for the ruthless attack and all the horrors that the Germans brought to the people in the occupied territories. "We humbly bow our heads to the living survivors of that attack, and we are extremely grateful that so many of them have reached out to us as a sign of reconciliation," the head of government said, acknowledging that their willingness to do this amounts to a miracle, after all that the Germans have done.
At the same time, the Left Party believes that the German government and parliament were inattentive to this date and had their own events scheduled, although the Bundestag did arrange a parliamentary "Hour of Remembrance" to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union. Addressing the parliament, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed that Nazi Germany aimed to enslave and destroy entire states and peoples. Note that while bowing their heads in shame and mourning to the victims of Wehrmacht's crimes, both Merkel and Maas took heed to condemn Russia for "annexing the Crimea", as well as for "suppressing the opposition", along with Belarus. That’s what accounts for EU sanctions, the German minister pointed out.
It is noteworthy that a whole program of commemorative events was carried out by President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, while emphasizing the tragic fate of Soviet prisoners of war in Nazi concentration camps. Out of their total number reaching 5.7 million, 3.3 million Soviet soldiers and officers were killed by the Nazis or died of hunger and disease in hellish conditions. In this regard, the president of Germany visited the former Sandbostel concentration camp in Lower Saxony, where 70 thousand Soviet prisoners of war were killed.
The focal event involving Steinmeier was the opening of an exhibition dedicated to the fate of Soviet prisoners of war in the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst. Here, complete and unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany was signed on May 8 (May 9, Moscow time), 1945. In his speech, the German President noted that "From the first day, the German campaign was driven by hatred, by anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism, by racist madness against the Slavic and Asian peoples of the Soviet Union. It was German barbarism, it cost millions of lives and devastated the continent." Steinmeier also warned against turning history into weapons.
The German President urged not to forget about the value of reconciliation the day when the memory of many millions of victims is honored. He stressed the huge responsibility developing from the gift of reconciliation for Germany. "We want and must do everything to protect international law, to preserve the territorial integrity of our continent, and to work for peace and between countries of the former USSR." "I bow my head to the memory of Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian victims, all the victims of the former Soviet Union," Steinmeier said. By the way, ambassadors of all 15 states that emerged following the USSR collapse were invited to this event. Nine countries (among them Russia, Belarus, Georgia, and Moldova) did take part. Those to drop out were the Baltic states and Ukraine, whose Ambassador Andriy Melnyk stated his refusal in a three-page letter. He was "offended" by the word "Russian" in the museum's name. In response, the Office of the Federal President of Germany expressed its polite regret, noting that this move by the Ukrainian ambassador does hardly cultivate German-Ukrainian relations.
Directly on June 22, Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited northern Berlin to lay flowers at the largest but not the most famous Soviet war memorial in Schönholzer Heide. It represents a figure of the grieving Motherland sitting next to the banner-covered body of her soldier son. Here lie the remains of over 13 thousand Soviet soldiers and officers who died in the battles for Berlin. By the way, if you happen to visit this surprisingly touching place, save at least a couple of carnations to put them at the memorial stone behind the main monument, dedicated to Soviet prisoners of war tortured to death in Nazi concentration camps. Its inscription reads as follows: "They never surrendered to fascism. Love for their Motherland and loyalty to their people were stronger than death for them."
This day, flowers were laid at Soviet military graves in many cities and towns across Germany. For instance, a memorial stone was laid in Dortmund in the place of a former concentration camp, with the local City Council planning to mount 58 tablets with the names of tortured Soviet prisoners of war here, at the International Cemetery. Norbert Schilf, chairman of one of the local organizations advocating the idea of preserving the memory of Nazi crimes, believes that peaceful and partnership relations with all the countries of the former USSR should become Germany's state doctrine.
In his opinion, the opposite is happening right now: German soldiers within the framework of NATO have been brought to Russia's western border, the German military budget keeps growing, and the German government, along with the European Union, is introducing new sanctions against the Russian Federation. "We know that there can be no lasting peace in Europe without Russia! Peace should come from German soil, not war!" – words to this effect come from several Dortmund public organizations at once in their call to contribute to commemorative events over the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany's attack on the Soviet Union.