Reminder for the future

Moving rally of Russian fellow citizens for peace

by Marion and Christian Fischer, Cologne

The 8/9 May 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. Although German politicians and the media did not ignore this event, the contribution made to it by the Soviet Union, the Russian people and the other peoples of this state was hardly appreciated. Unfortunately, it is left to small, active groups who do not want to accept the unworthy forgetting of history.
In Cologne – despite corona restrictions – a rally was held on 9th May at the Heumarkt, in the centre of the city, in which about 60 people took part at defined distances. It was the only Russian event in Germany on this day. In Düsseldorf there was a small memorial event in honor of Russian forced laborers, which had been organized by DFG-VK (German Peace Society – United War Service Opponents), VVN-BDA (Association of Persecuted Persons of the Nazi Regime – Association of Anti-Fascists); Russians also took part. The organiser in Cologne was the Russian group “Reminder for the Future” or “Immortal Regiment”, a civil society movement founded in Russia and dedicated to the remembrance and honoring of the fallen ancestors and to peace work. Russians living in our country also belong to this movement. They organised the rally in Cologne and also invited the DFG-VK and the Town Twinning Association Cologne-Volgograd to speak. The contribution of the chairwoman of this association, Eva Aras, is printed in the grey box below.
The rally was impressive not only because of her and other speeches, but also because of the cultural performances of the Russian participants, some of them appeared in uniforms for expressing their honorable memory. But their behavior was anything but warlike: between and after the speeches, both the ladies and the people in uniform offered singing interludes – accompanied by an accordion player – in which everyone was immediately infected by the joie de vivre expressed in them.
Sometimes the reference to the “Russian soul” appears to be a little forced, but here it came alive. One had the impression that for the Russian colleagues the various speeches were an important obligation, especially the remembrance of the victims and the sufferings of their ancestors and the appeals for a peaceful living together.
But their own music was the icing on the cake, giving them special joy and by creating a human connection directly, even if the lyrics of their songs were not translated.
Why do our politicians not participate in such peace work?       •

(Translation Current Concerns)

For a dialogue with russia

Speech by Eva Aras, Chairwoman of the Town Twinning Association Cologne-Volgograd, on 9 May 2020 (extract)

Dear citizens,
dear friends

I welcome you and am pleased to be able to speak at the manifestation on the 75th anniversary of the Victory over National Socialism and Fascism. The 8th and 9th of May are dates of crucial importance for Europe, as they marked the end of the Second World War, which was cruel for all involved. At the same time, it also meant “liberation from the system of inhuman National Socialist tyranny” - as former German President Richard von Weizsäcker called it in his 1985 speech.
The Soviet Union was invaded by Germany and 27 million citizens were killed. Did you know that this is almost half of all the victims in World War II? The Soviet Union bore the brunt. We Germans are infinitely grateful to them for having persevered in this war and for having liberated us from National Socialism together with the other Allies. Unfortunately, however, this gratitude is hardly noticeable, especially from our government.

  • So the German side did not respond to Russia’s invitation to participate in the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
  • neither Putin was invited to the D-Day in Normandy in June 2019 nor to the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz, whereby the liberation was an act of Soviet soldiers.

This is a disgrace – as the historian Götz Aly calls it – which is passed over wordlessly. The intention here is not a critical examination of Putin, but the appreciation of an entire people who have made a significant contribution to liberation from fascism.
But what can we do? In this political situation we can, as civil society, at least at the lower level, maintain understanding with Russia.
Our association has been doing this for 31 years. We support projects, especially the aid project for former forced labourers in Volgograd, which we have been promoting for 18 years; we organise regular trips to Volgograd. And each time we are overwhelmed by the wave of sympathy we encounter there: in the former Stalingrad, which was razed to the ground by Germans, everyone is so warm, open and hospitable towards us that we are almost ashamed of it. Despite its hostile attitude towards Russia, Germany has a high level of recognition and appreciation among the Russian population. We encounter this time and again. One loves German culture. So in the Hall of Fame in the large monument “The Motherland Calls” the “Träumerei” (dreamery) by Schumann is played.
The former Lord Mayor of Volgograd, Jurij Starovatykh, who founded the city partnership Cologne-Volgograd with Norbert Burger 32 years ago, always uses the term “people’s diplomacy”: The big ones do their politics at the top, and we at the bottom simply keep in touch with each other, meet each other and find out how much we have in common.
Thus, the town twinning between Cologne and Volgograd can be seen as a mosaic stone that brings people closer and allows them to live together in peace and friendship.
But we do not want to stay there.
Thank God, there are always voices in our republic that refer to the Ostpolitik of Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr and advocate a dialogue with Russia. For some years now, together with other groups in Cologne, we have made it our task to strengthen such voices. […]

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