Even after 70 years, the wounds and rivalries that triggered and resulted from the last ‘war to end all wars’ still fester in the heart of what many consider to be the most civilized part of the world.
At a memorial ceremony on Tuesday in Gdansk Poland, where a Nazi attack launched the war, these wounds were on full display, and it was perhaps Vladimir Putin who sounded the most conciliatory note.
This editorial on the event form the NRC Handlesblad of The Netherlands says in part:
“Obviously, Europeans are far from a basic historic consensus. The reason is clear. In the West, the 1945 victory of the allies was experienced as a liberation. The arrival of the Americans in particular symbolized the restoration of democracy and the rule of law. In the East, the march of the Soviet Army is viewed as the beginning of a second and much more prolonged occupation – this time by the Russians and communists. This interpretation leaves no room for the fact that between 1941 and 1945, the Soviet Union was an ally of America and England and during those years, perhaps 25 million Soviet citizens were killed. Conversely, Russian public opinion is offended by these views. Russia sees itself as a nation of victims and especially heroes.”
Translated By Meta Mertens
September 2, 2009
The Netherlands – NRC Handelsblad – Original Article (Dutch)
Seventy years later, the war continues to provoke political disputes. The service to commemorate the beginning of the war on September 1, 1939 in Gdansk was dignified in itself. But elsewhere, history was being liberally interpreted. Polish President Kaczynski gave a speech in which he compared the murder of more than 20,000 Polish officers by the Stalinist NKVD [the massacre at Katyn] with the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis. The public relations section of the Russian SVR, its foreign intelligence branch, used the historic date to present a book titled Secrets of Polish Politics, 1935-1945. According to Major General Sotskov, documents in the book prove that in the thirties, Poles wanted to fuel separatism in the Ukraine, the Caucuses and even Central Asia with something called operation ‘Prometheus.’”
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