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In These Times: A 8-9 May 2022 Column
WW2 Remembrance is the post-bourgeois ideology of our juste milieu: unless we all come to grips with the past, we're certainly doomed to repeat history
As it happened, I found myself on a balcony overlooking the place I live in, on the occasion of a birthday party of my 5yo. The conversations among the other parents were, well, nothing to speak of, but in today’s column, I’d like to comment, however briefly, on my personal impressions concerning the celebration of VE Day in Norway, followed by a few paragraphs of commentary on the meaning of 8 May since 1945.
When WW2 in Europe ‘ended’, it did so in two locations and on two occasions: perhaps still hoping for an about-face of the Western Allies, German representatives signed an instrument of surrender at Reims, France, on 7 May 1945 (from the English Wiki):
Curiously, albeit as a sidenote, while 8 May has since become a public holiday in many Western European countries, the Soviet Union—whose forces bore the brunt of the German onslaught, suffered tremendously during the conflict, and was left out at Reims—insisted on a formal surrender, too. This occurred in Berlin-Karlshorst later on 8 May 1945, and the cessation of hostilities went into force on 9 May (hence today’s Russian commemorations).
Here’s German Wikipedia on this (the highlighted section):
For reasons of diplomatic protocol, a countersignature of the instrument of surrender was made late in the evening of 8 May at the Soviet headquarters in Berlin-Karlshorst (today the Berlin-Karlshorst Museum) by the commanders-in-chief of the Wehrmacht’s branches. It took until shortly after midnight. Since the German surrender was only announced afterwards in Moscow, 9 May is celebrated as Victory Day in the Soviet Union and its successor states.
I left the link to the entry on the location in place, which would bring you to the German-language Wikipedia entry, which opens innocently enough. It’s English version, by the way, mentions that it was ‘previously named German-Russian Museum Berlin Karlshorst’, with the footnote attached to this change leading to…a piece in The Guardian (emphases mine):
A Berlin museum dedicated to German-Russian relations on the site where the Nazis agreed to unconditionally surrender in 1945 is to drop the word “Russian” from its name before anniversary events to mark the end of the second world war in Europe.
With tensions already high in the lead-up to the 77th anniversary on 8 and 9 May of Nazi Germany signing the surrender agreement, the German-Russian museum’s director, Jörg Morré, said he would be renaming it Museum Berlin-Karlshorst.
‘Already on the first day of the invasion we said this is such a profound turning point that we had to do this’, Morré told the broadcaster rbb24. He said it no longer seemed appropriate to be giving the Russian federation the status it had enjoyed in the title…
The museum was established 30 years ago by German and Russian historians, after the withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from Germany after German reunification. Funding for it has come from the governments of both countries, and it was opened to the public in 1995 as the German-Russian Museum, dedicated to the history of German-Soviet relations.
In particular it focuses on the second world war, including the Red Army’s role in liberating Berlin, but reaches back to 1917. Historians from cultural organisations from Germany, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine have collaborated on its exhibits.
As a sign of solidarity towards Ukraine, on the day Russia invaded Morré removed all the flags of these four countries usually on display in front of his museum, leaving just the Ukrainian flag…
[Morré] stressed that the museum was still intent on commemorating the efforts and achievements of the Red Army in their fight against Adolf Hitler and in liberating Berlin, which he stressed had involved soldiers from Russia and Ukraine, as well as other former Soviet states. The bodies of thousands of the troops are buried in military graveyards in and around Berlin.
An increasing number of the memorials, including one in Treptower Park adorned with a Stalin quotation, have been vandalised and covered in graffiti in recent weeks out of protest at the invasion of Ukraine.
‘I am completely against dismantling them or razing them to the ground…however out of place they seem. But we do obviously have to contextualise them’, Morré said.
Events to mark the anniversary are to take place this coming Sunday and Monday, but will be low-key and will emphasise the victims of war, including remembering Ukrainian victims of the current conflict, officials have said
I’ll stop quoting The Guardian here, whose piece appeared on 6 May 2022.
As a service to you, my dear readers, I’ll invite you to check out the museum’s website. Speaking of the Museum Berlin-Karlshorst, here’s a statement they put up on this matter, dated 27 April 2022 (source here, scroll down for the English version; my emphases)
We once again strongly condemn the Russian Federation's war of aggression against sovereign Ukraine, which is contrary to international law and is being waged with numerous crimes against the civilian population. Our compassion and our support goes out to the people affected by the war. That is why we stand in solidarity with all those who are raising their voices against this war, both in Russia and around the world .
Our museum is the only one where former enemies in war commemorate the Second World War together in a continuous dialogue. It is the central place of remembrance to address the German war of annihilation against the Soviet Union. At enormous sacrifice, men and women from the Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Jewish and many other population groups of the Soviet Union fought for victory over National Socialist Germany—together with their British and US allies. This victory was sealed with the surrender of the Wehrmacht in Berlin-Karlshorst on the 8th of May 1945.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, which followed the already criminal warfare and occupation policy in Poland, marked an enormous expansion of German mass crimes. Furthermore, it enabled the transition to the systematic murder of the Jewish population throughout Europe. Never before had there been wartime atrocities and crimes against humanity on such a scale. One of the central tasks of our museum is to remember the victims of the German war of annihilation against the Soviet Union and to classify the German mass crimes on the basis of historical scientific knowledge. This historical-political educational work is of great importance in view of the current situation, as we must take note how the history of the Second World War is being instrumentalised by the Russian Federation to legitimize the current war. We continue to advocate a historical analysis that looks at the events of the past in a scientifically sound, differentiated way and in dialogue . Only in this way can we do justice to our responsibility.
Our museum was founded in 1994 jointly by the Federal Republic of Germany and the Russian Federation in the legal form of an association. The national World War II museums of Ukraine and Belarus joined as members in 1997/98. We would like to emphasize this diversity. Almost 30 years of continuous cooperation with our Eastern European colleagues have made our museum a forum for very different perspectives on our common history. In view of the current war situation, however, it is unclear whether and how we will be able to build on this in the future. The recognition of principles of international law such as state sovereignty and territorial integrity must be the basis of future cooperation .
For a long time now, we have been discussing our name as the ‘German-Russian Museum’. Because this name, although historically grown, does not adequately reflect our actual work. We remember all Soviet victims of the German war of extermination, regardless of their nationality. In future we will use our name ‘Museum Berlin-Karlshorst’, which is registered in the official public records .
The Museum Berlin-Karlshorst with its multinational sponsorship stands in a tradition of dialogue. However, in view of the war of aggression against Ukraine, we do not wish to celebrate 8 May this year with state representatives of the Russian Federation and Belarus . But also in the future it is very important to us to remain in exchange with all people who lived in the Soviet Union as well as their descendants and to remember together with them the end of the war in Europe and to commemorate the 27 million Soviet victims.
I shall comment briefly on this badly-worded piece of prose, in particular on the highlighted sections. For your convenience, I have added numbers (in squared parentheses) that correspond to the listing below.
As to the notion of solidarity with Ukraine, I’d propose: solidarity with the Ukrainian people, for in my opinion, this distinction *must* be made. It stands in the tradition of the Nuremberg Trials in the aftermath of WWII, which refused the hypothesis of collective guilt by emphasising the difference between Nazi German leadership and the German people(s). No such distinction is made today, as the cancelling, e.g., of renowned conductor Gergiev (formerly with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra), singer Anna Netrebko (by the Met), and even Tchaikovsky’s opera The Slippers by the Czech National Theatre indicate. When I read the most recent report by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (dated 27 Jan. 2022) and see, on p. 2 reproduced below, that more than 80% of all civilian casualties from 2018-21 occurred ‘in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed “republics” [of Lugansk and Donbass]’, I have only one question: what feelings shall one have towards a government (the one in Kyiv, or Kiev) that shells its own citizens? In my book, this is called ‘criminal’, and I don’t associate with criminals. My thoughts go out to all the people who suffer under both the criminal régime in Kyiv and the Russian military operation (sources on people fleeing west here and on people fleeing to Russia here). By omitting these facts, Director Morré fails both as a historian and, perhaps more importantly, as a human being.
As such, Mr. Morré and his ilk are very good examples of today’s self-identifying juste milieu, which becomes immediately telling once the museum’s statement turns to its ‘justification’: forget scholarship, intellectual curiosity, and the like, the primary aim of this cheap piece of BS agit-prop is: ‘historical-political education’, better known as propaganda. Talk about history repeating itself, eh? For starters in terms of ‘historical education’, I recommend everyone to read the Minsk 1 (Sept. 2014) and Minsk 2 (Feb. 2015) agreements. Go ahead, the link leads to the UN Security Council, which has promulgated these agreements—it’s as safe a site to go to (ahem). If you do, you might learn, among other things, that Russia isn’t a signatory to these agreements (which renders the repeated calls on Moscow to uphold these agreements by Western governments absurd), to say nothing about the factual context. What remains is the ‘political education’ mission of Mr. Morré and his ilk, which in more honest times was called ‘indoctrination’. I must say that, while I’m not surprised, I’m utterly disgusted by this sentiment.
The notion of a ‘dialogue’ without talking to the other side by the latter’s active exclusion is certainly without any need to comment on, right? I mean—what can one say about this, other than take a look at the company Germany’s juste milieu wishes to keep. Here’s Kyiv’s ambassador Andrey Melnyk on the occasion of a ceremony at the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin Treptow, calling on Germans ‘to take this war more seriously…which means going beyond merely symbolic gestures, but to undertake all that is possible [man wirklich alles unternehme]. When I say “all”, this means actually “all”, be it militarily as well as economically, to ensure that Ukraine doesn’t lose this war’ (source here, it’s in the video; my transcript and translation, as German legacy media plays up the notion that Mr. Melnyk was heckled while there). In other words: Amb. Melnyk calls for Germans to fight Russia over Ukraine—what else can I say about ‘dialogue’ here? (Note, by the way, that Mr. Melnyk has a long rap sheet of disgusting behaviour, summarised by Tobias Riegel.)
Sidenote: here’s the German transcript of Mr. Melnyk’s statement: ‘Mein Appell wäre, diesen Krieg ernster zu nehmen, weil dieser Krieg betrifft auch die Deutschen, auch wenn die Deutschen das nicht glauben wollen. Und das bedeutet, dass man nicht nur mit symbolischen Gesten uns hilft, sondern dass man wirklich alles unternehme. Und wenn ich sage ‘alles’, das muss wirklich ‘alles’ gemeint werden, ob militärisch, auch wirtschaftlich, muss alles unternommen werden, damit die Ukraine diesen Krieg nicht verliert.’
As you can see in this segment, the name change is nothing but cheap and despicable agit-prop of the lowest proportion. The name change was a long time in the making, and while it may or may not be historically more accurate to modify the name, it was done now, in the present context, and without holding back on the cheapest virtue-signalling. It’s—beyond disgusting, but it tells you a lot about the decay of morality in post-Cold War EUrope.
No representatives from Russia or Belarus are invited to Berlin-Karlshorst or any other commemorative events. Instead, the insufferable Mr. Melnyk, while speaking to the state parliament of Brandenburg, is calling on Germany to erect ‘in the centre of Berlin a dedicated memorial to the eight million Ukrainian victims of National Socialism’. Meanwhile, ‘the Russians remain alone’ in their commemoration of the victory over Nazi Germany, as the Berliner Zeitung reports.
At the same time, here’s what German president Steinmeier said on the occasion (my emphases):
Today, on this 8th of May, the dream of a common European house has failed; a nightmare has taken its place. This 8 May is a day of war…
This war is a break with much that we took for granted. It is an epoch-making rupture.
This war threatens the very existence of Ukraine. Vladimir Putin wants to wipe out Ukraine as a free, democratic country. He is not only violating its borders, he is denying it the right to be a state. Putin is thus definitively destroying the basis of the European peace order as we built it after the Second World War and the Cold War: Territorial sovereignty, free choice of alliance and renunciation of force, signed by Moscow in the Treaty of Paris—all this is no longer valid for him. The attack on Ukraine is also an attack on the idea of liberal democracy and the values on which it is based: Freedom, equality, respect for human rights, and human dignity.
Our response is clear and unequivocal: we stand by Ukraine, with full conviction and heart, together with our European neighbours! For this is also a lesson of 8 May 1945: that we Europeans will not allow ourselves to be driven apart once again by aggressive nationalism and hatred of others! Nationalism, hatred of nations and imperial delusions must not be allowed to dominate the future of Europe…
How mendacious, how history-changing do Putin’s assertions sound, especially on 8 May and especially to German ears? When he speaks of fascism, of ‘denazification’, he is lying. This is a perfidious and cynical distortion of history! When Putin equates his brutal war of aggression against Ukraine, which is contrary to international law, with the fight against National Socialism on 9 May tomorrow, that too is a perfidious and cynical abuse of history! Under the pretext of denazification, he even has people killed who have already gone through hell: including many survivors of the Holocaust. What barbarity!
I’ll stop here with these utterances. Evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, including the examples cited above, what else is there to say, or talk to, with ‘the Russians’, again relegated to barbarity. We’ve been there before, please let’s not do that again.
I am reminded of Mr. Steinmeier’s willing collaboration (as Chancellor Schröder’s de facto deputy, or Kanzleramtsminister), back in 1998/99), when ‘the international community’ offered terms to Yugoslavia that were more onerous than the ones demanded in July 1914 by Austria-Hungary, according to Regius Professor of History Chris Clark (Cambridge), as told in The Sleepwalkers (2012).
Yes, the Schröder gov’t didn’t contribute to the illegal attack on Iraq, for which none of the chief perpetrators—from W to Cheney, and from their lackeys elsewhere: here’s looking at you, Tony Blair—ever paid a price.
We may further mention the aggressions against Libya, Sudan, and Syria; the interference in domestic affairs in, say, Egypt, Venezuela, and other places.
To as we say, don’t you dare do as we do, appears to be the vile maxim of the evil masters of mankind.
WW2 Remembrance as Ideology
Yet, the most pervasive, and hence probably most pernicious, aspect is the shameless abuse of memory and remembrance—which should be sombre and inviting of reflection instead of aggressive and war-mongering.
As such, post-1945 remembrance may be understood as a form of post-bourgeois ideology, imposed on the devastated continent and its peoples by the propaganda machinery of both Moscow and Washington. With the end of the Cold War and the USSR’s dissolution, there’s but one increasingly shrill version that remains, and we can all see its ugly head rearing today.
Make no mistake, this is a tremendous achievement: the establishment of a new creed, engendered by the victorious American elites and gladly picked up, disseminated, and adapted by their servile satraps in Western capitals, constitutes without question the ultimate victory of WW2.
No discussion is permitted, and no matter how egregious the West’s own actions, they must never be mentioned in polite conversation, let alone in public discourse.
‘We’ in the West will not stop this madness unless we, the people, demand our sovereignty back from the spineless critters who send weapons to warzones, such as the Donbass, without anything even resembling the most perfunctory public debate, let alone a vote by parliament.
Yesterday I saw part of the Norwegian version: 21-gun salute, processions to memorials of resistance fighters, flags flying, weapons blazing, marching underneath Ukrainian flags hanging from windows.
To me, hailing from Central Europe from among the losing-winning side (Austria…), this was a quite unknown experience. The most stunning image, though, was the one reproduced below:
Let us do better, by us, by our children, by our children’s children.
On this 8-9 May 2022, let us come together in sombre reflection of our shared past, however disgusting and cruel it may be.
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, every one
Oh when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, every one
Oh when will they ever learn, oh when will they ever learn?
Watch a beautiful rendition by Marlene Dietrich (1963), via Eviltube.