May 8th/9th marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. In the current difficult times, the commemoration of this important day in world history is in danger of being lost. The History working group of DRA aimed to create a place online, where different views on the topic of the end of the war should have their place. To this end, we invited historians and members of NGOs from Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovenia/Italy, Croatia and Germany to answer to one of these four question:
1. Is May 8th/9th a public holiday in your country? If yes, why is this date important? If not, should May 8th/9th be a day of celebration and commemoration and why? 2. What should we remember and how could an appropriate commemoration of the end of the war look like? What are the biggest challenges in your country? 3. Because of the Corona pandemic, public commemorations in European countries were kept small. What would you have done this year on the 8th/9th of May to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II? 4. What does the commemoration of the end of the war mean to you personally?
The first contribution was sent by the historian Štefan Čok from Trieste. He is involved in the NGO Memorial Italy and in children and youth historical education.
In 2013, being then still a member of the DRA-team, Kristina Smolijaninovaitė from the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum initiated the Forum Working Group “Historical Memory and Education” that she coordinated until 2017. Kristina is one of the curators of the exhibition “Different Wars: National School Textbooks on World War II” and a co-author of the accompanying catalogue. On May 7th was launched a video documentation in the frame of the "Different Wars" project - an attempt to show different modes of remembrance in Germany, Poland and Russia, with the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin as the central memorial to the Holocaust in Germany. The film is to find here:
Andreas Ehresmann, the director of the Sandbostel Camp Memorial (Niedersachsen), answered the questions "What does the commemoration of the end of the war mean to you personally?" and "What would you have done this year on the 8th/9th of May?".
Ondřej Matějka is the deputy director of the Prague based Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (USTR). He has been working in the Czech-German field for various NGOs. In 1998 he became a member of the group called Antikomplex and in 2005 its director. Antikomplex provides a critical reflection on the German speaking history of the Czech lands. Ondřej Matějka answers a question about in what way should we remember WWII now and in the future.
Boris Stamenic from the organisation Documenta - Center for Dealing with the Past in Croatia is answering a question about whether 8/9 May is a holiday in his country and presenting his own opinion on the topic.
The 9th of May is one of the most important holidays in Russia and this year it will not be celebrated as usual. There will be no military parade on the Red Square. Ekaterina Makhotina, historian at the University of Bonn and last speaker of our series, tells us about the 9th of May in Russia during the Corona pandemic.