On May 9, 1945, Soviet soldiers occupied Berlin. But what was thought of as the end of the brutal Nazi regime was the beginning of another dictatorship that had the German capital, Germany, and the rest of Europe divided for decades.
The infamous Berlin Wall, which the Soviets built to restrict the free movement of the European peoples, fell on November 9, 1989. A year later, on October 3, 1990, German states that had survived the Soviet-led ethnic cleansing were unified into the Federal Republic of Germany.
Now, as Europe strives for unification, we have two options: to celebrate Europe Day either on October 3rd or November 9th. But what is not an option is to mark with festivities the day that brought so much suffering to our peoples – that is, May 9th.
To some, May 9th is the date of the Schuman Declaration. That day, in 1950, the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, proposed the creation of a supranational organization as a means to promote unity and cooperation and to prevent future wars in the continent. One such organization today is the European Union.
But rather than focusing on when great ideas were expressed, we need to consider when they came to fruition. Moreover, European unity was not Schuman’s original idea. He merely embraced what other had strived for long before him. Nor was the date of his address the day when our peoples celebrated the signing of a major treaty that marked the beginning of European integration. This began much later.
At a time when Ukraine, another European nation, struggles to maintain its freedom and independence from the encroaching power of a former Soviet spy, we ought to think about honoring our continent and shared values in the right way. The Soviet Empire was once a Nazi ally that we were never able to subdue. We must at least refrain from celebrating its victories.
(First published on May 9, 2014. Copying and redistribution allowed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license.)