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Antifascists demand that May 8 become a holiday in Germany
by John Spohr
Friday May 8th, 2020 1:51 PM
The real goal is a nationwide public holiday anyway, as demanded in the petition. The Berlin Senate could also lobby for such a gesture, that May 8 is considered the day of liberation from National Socialism.
Antifascists demand that May 8 should become a holiday in Germany
Celebrate and challenge
Unlike in many countries of Eastern Europe, the day of the German surrender is not a holiday here in Germany. Anti-fascists have fought for years to change this.

by John Spohr

[This article published on May 7, 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

In many countries, the 75th anniversary of the liberation from National Socialism is marked more by the novel coronavirus than by the Soviet star. These are difficult conditions to pay appropriate tribute to the huge effort made by soldiers and partisans from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Ukraine and many other former Soviet republics as well as other countries. Under immense losses, they finally achieved what will be celebrated on 8 and 9 May: the liberation from the Nazi regime. While in Moscow the military parade for the "Day of Victory" has been postponed indefinitely, one under the autocrat and corona denier Alexander Lukashenko is taking place in the Belarusian capital Minsk. In Ukraine, within the framework of the "Europeanization" of commemoration and the policy of "decommunization" in recent years, people have already moved from May 9th to May 8th. The rulers of the so-called People's Republic of Donetsk in the separatist-controlled part of eastern Ukraine, on the other hand, have decided to call the capital of the same name "Stalino" again, as Donetsk was called between 1924 and 1961, on three public holidays a year, and to hold a military parade on 9 May.

"May 8 must become a holiday!" Esther Bejarano, Shoah survivor

In the Federal Republic of Germany, there can be no talk of a far-reaching appreciation of the day - 35 years after the then Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker spoke out in favor of interpreting Germany's military defeat as a liberation and postulated that 8 May was a "gateway to the future". Apart from symbolic politics, the anniversary is suitable for taking stock of the Federal Republic's "coming to terms with the past", the success of which the political scientist Samuel Salzborn recently described as the "greatest life lie of the Federal Republic".

The unconditional capitulation of the German Reich was the first time that the anti-Hitler coalition had defined the war target as a war goal at the Casablanca conference in January 1943. What was to follow was agreed by the Allied heads of state at the Yalta Conference in February 1945 and at the Potsdam Conference in July and August 1945: to conduct trials of war criminals and those involved in Nazi atrocities, to confront the German people with their responsibility for crime and destruction, and to oblige Germany to pay reparations for the losses and suffering caused. In Potsdam it was also stated that all Nazi laws should be abolished "which provided the basis for the Hitler regime or established discrimination on the basis of race, religion or political opinion". It was further stated that "No such discrimination, legal, administrative or of any other kind, will be tolerated.

With the onset of the East-West conflict, many of these demands quickly faded into the background and were also negotiated differently in different social systems. Even today they can be compared with the results of the Federal Republic's "coming to terms with the past". Some late corrections of the disastrous handling of National Socialist perpetrators by the bulk of the German judiciary have certainly taken place in recent years. Trials such as the one currently being conducted before the Hamburg Regional Court against Bruno D., the former security guard of the Stutthof concentration camp, cannot, however, hide the fact that only very few of those responsible living in the Federal Republic have ever had to fear criminal proceedings, let alone punishment. Recently, a possibly final investigation into the massacre in Babyn Jar was closed by the public prosecutor's office in Kassel for lack of evidence

Every federal government was able to claim that it had successfully circumvented most of the claims for reparations. To talk about the appropriate scope of such claims would raise questions about the economic order as well as consequences for relations at the political, monetary and social level. In business and politics, the compensation of former forced laborers is generally regarded as having been settled with the payments of the Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future", which was created as a result of international pressure.

Since 2014, the initiative "Ghetto-Renten Gerechtigkeit Jetzt!" has been fighting for the immediate payment of pensions to all remaining survivors of the German extermination policy, whose labor force was exploited in a ghetto during National Socialism. In February, the Bundestag decided to recognize those persecuted as "asocial" and "professional criminals" as a victim group and to raise public awareness of them. Payments to the group, which was not considered in the Federal Law on Compensation for Victims of National Socialist Persecution, are still outstanding, or have been saved by waiting too long.

75 years after the military defeat of the German Reich, numerous political, artistic, and journalistic initiatives commemorate the events and call for an examination of the National Socialist crimes. Partly successful: For 2020, the Berlin Senate and the state government of Brandenburg had decided to commemorate 8 May 2020 as a legal memorial and holiday and to accompany it with an extensive cultural program. The latter has prevented the Covid 19 pandemic.

Since April 8, the 95 year old Shoah survivor Esther Bejarano together with the "Association of Persecuted Persons of the Nazi Regime - Association of Anti-Fascists" (VVN-BdA) has been calling in a petition for making May 8 a legal holiday in Germany. Bejarano was liberated by US and Soviet units in early May 1945. She had previously escaped with other prisoners from a death march that had been set in motion from the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz. In her appeal she demands: "May 8th must become a holiday!" This is seven decades overdue and will perhaps help to "finally understand that 8 May 1945 was the day of liberation, of the suppression of the Nazi regime". To follow the teachings of 8 May meant, among other things, "to stop the AfD, NPD and their allies, to stop the activities of violent and murdering neo-Nazis, to uncover and dissolve their networks in the police, the Bundeswehr, to intervene when Jews, Muslims, Roma and Sinti and others who do not fit into the Nazis' world view are insulted and attacked". More than 55,000 people have now signed the petition.

For twelve years now, the VVN-BdA and other anti-fascist groups have been organizing a festival on 9 May near the Soviet Memorial in Treptower Park in Berlin under the motto "Those who do not celebrate have lost". This year would have been the thirteenth and was cancelled due to restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the VVN-BdA wants to commemorate and celebrate this year as far as possible. There will be brochures, posters and a radio broadcast. It calls for decentralized individual commemoration and documentation of this. Furthermore, due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the initiative "Ghetto Pensions Justice Now!" and the VVN-BdA postponed the inauguration of a commemorative plaque for the combatants of the First Polish Army, which participated in the liberation of Berlin in spring 1945 together with the Red Army, until 1 September - in the hope that veterans would then be able to participate.

In an interview with Jungle World, Markus Tervooren, the national director of the Berlin branch of the VVN-BdA, emphasizes that the day could not have its effect because of the current state of emergency. The senate is therefore expected to make up for the holiday next year. "It will be one of the last years in which liberated people will still have the opportunity to participate in the celebrations themselves," Tervooren said. The real goal is a nationwide public holiday anyway, as demanded in the petition. The Berlin Senate could also lobby for such a gesture, that 8 May is considered the day of liberation from National Socialism.

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