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Hitler and Stalin's victims remembered with special day

Fundamental rights - 03-10-2008 - 12:23
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From left: F.Gaus from Germany, Joachim Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Joseph Staline, Soviet head of state and his Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov 23 August 1939 in Kremlin after signing the Non-Aggression Pact. ©BELGA/AFP

The signature of the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact August 1939

In the litany of historical infamy, the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of August 1939 looms large. It led to terror and occupation for the countries carved up by Hitler and Stalin. To commemorate the victims of Stalinism and Nazism, the date of the fateful pact - 23 August 1939 - has been deemed a day of remembrance by MEPs.

Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the pact and MEPs believe "a common understanding of the past” is necessary to "to build our common future".
The Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact of August 1939 stunned the world. Previously sworn enemies Hitler and Stalin cut a deal to carve up much of Europe. Secret protocols gave the USSR its own way in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and parts of Poland and Romania. The Nazis could go ahead in the rest of Poland, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia and Greece. It was a pact of pure aggression and was the harbinger of invasion, terror and occupation.
MEPs backed the proposal for a day of remembrance after it was signed by more than half of the 785 MEPs. It will be officially known as the "European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism".
"Liberated from the Nazis, occupied again by the Soviets"
Speaking to us directly British Conservative MEP Christopher Beazley emphasized the cross-party and cross national nature of the declaration: "It is particularly significant that the overwhelming majority of Members of the European Parliament, from all Groups and each Member State have supported the Written Declaration" he said.
Latvian MEP Inese Vaidere of the Union for the Europe of Nations group believes the declaration to be very important as different countries had different experiences: "We were liberated from the Nazis, but were occupied again by the Soviets. As a result of the Iron Curtain, people in the West did not know much about repressions, deportations and killings. Through a common understanding of the past, we can build a common future". 
Alexander Alvaro of the Group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe believes there is a unifying purpose to commemorating the 23rd August: "Choosing the 23rd as a European remembrance day would remind us of the crimes of the past and ensure that such horrors are never repeated. He also stressed that "Europe’s healing can now finally begin and neighbours can be brought together again".
70th anniversary in 2009
Supporters of the day of remembrance feel marking it is still important in today's Europe.
Hungarian Socialist MEP Zita Gurmai said that "nowadays when extreme right forces are getting ever stronger it is even more important to remember the victims so that Europe continues being a continent of peace and stability in the future”.
She also mentioned that the day had been remembered before in the Baltic States on August 23 1989 when approximately two million people joined their hands to form an over 600 kilometres long human chain across the three Baltic States to draw the world’s attention to the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
Estonia Socialist Member Marianne Mikko said that MEPs "had to respond to this highly political event, when two men, two evils, Hitler and Stalin decided Europe’s future for half a century".
How will it be marked?
MEPs are keen that the day be marked in some way although believe that each country should make up its mind about how it should be commemorated. It is also hoped that newspapers and TV stations will pick up on the event.
REF.: 20080929STO38339

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