Commemorating the outbreak of WWII

Europe is commemorating the outbreak of World War II 80 years ago. Polish President Duda welcomed guests from more than 30 countries to Warsaw on Sunday to mark the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Nationalism must no longer be tolerated, some commentators insist. Others criticise how Central Eastern Europe in particular is dealing with the past.

Open/close all quotes
Revista 22 (RO) /

A battle over the prerogative of interpretation

Today, above all the nations of Central Eastern Europe use the commemoration of World War II to cast themselves in a better light than they deserve, writes historian Mădălin Hodor in the weekly Revista 22:

“The ceremony has opened a new chapter in a war that has been raging for almost a decade: the political and propaganda war surrounding the commemoration of World War II. Not only Putin's Russia is interested in this war. ... The Eastern European countries also 'shine' when it comes to the 'mystification of history' and exploit it for political purposes. ... In the search for a new historical identity, many of the states of Eastern Europe are trying to whitewash their past.”

Latvijas Avize (LV) /

Russia was an aggressor, not a victim

The decision not to invite Russian President Putin to the celebrations in Warsaw is justified, Latvijas avīze argues:

“Whenever September the first, 1939 is mentioned, the USSR, whose legal successor Russia is, was the aggressor that reached a secret agreement with Hitler on dividing Poland between them. Naturally, Germany was also an aggressor yet it was invited to the commemorative events. But that is not a contradiction. Germany has repented of its actions a hundred times, pursued an impressive de-nazification policy and made enormous efforts to educate the public. ... The attitude to the events is clear in Germany - it was a crime. The same does not apply to Russia.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Nationalism means war

Now more than ever we should bear in mind what a momentous turning point the end of World War II represented, El Mundo warns:

“On the smoking ruins of Europe a handful of genuine statesmen began to build what we now call the EU to eliminate the possibility of such horror ever being repeated. An eminently moral construction rather than the bureaucratic caricature that its detractors portray it as today, exploiting weaknesses that certainly need to be improved. The EU is an antidote to nationalism, because nationalism means war, as Mitterrand aptly put it. This should not be forgotten now that national populism is spreading, dividing societies, isolating the British and threatening the brotherhood of the past 80 years.”

Kommersant (RU) /

Soviet peoples triumphed over fascism together

The fact that not a single representative from Moscow was invited to the commemoration ceremony in Poland is outrageous, Kommersant comments:

“Warsaw's decision to exclude Russia while inviting the Georgians, Ukrainians, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Moldovans and Belarusians has made the whole situation absurd. ... No matter how one feels today about Russia or Putin, the triumph over fascism was a joint effort by all those who made up the Soviet Union. Dividing the former Soviet republics on the anniversary of their joint victory is like trying to cut water with a knife.”

The Guardian (GB) /

The Allies' greatest failure

The Guardian laments that the Allies did nothing to stop the Holocaust:

“The reality is that even when confronted with hard evidence of the unfolding genocide, key institutions in Washington and London, including the state department and the Foreign Office, did not see intervention as a key priority, either through the anti-Semitism of key officials, because they didn't care, or saw other military and diplomatic issues as taking precedence. ... Eight decades on, as the world marks the anniversary of the outbreak of war, it is still necessary to recall not only the Allies' ultimate victory but their greatest failure when confronted with a vast catastrophe foretold.”

Mérce (HU) /

Learn from war rhetoric

All wars begin with words, Mérce writes, stressing that we must learn from the past:

“We must understand how violence and war can be recast as something desirable and even heroic - even though all of the world's religions as well as secular humanism clearly see them as evils. We must understand what political and economic actors can shape the public discourse to such an extent that violence gains acceptance and legitimacy through terms like 'trade war' or 'war on terror'.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Trump's cancellation bad news for Warsaw

Commenting on Radio Kommersant FM Dmitry Drise sees Trump's cancellation as an ideological defeat for Warsaw:

“Hurricane Dorian is not just a natural disaster but also a political one, especially for Poland. ... Warsaw claims to be the most important outpost of the United States in Eastern Europe, if not in the entire Old World. The events marking the 80th anniversary of the start of the Second World War were intended to underscore this exclusive relationship between the two states, also in the victory over fascism. Yet Donald Trump didn't come. Of course, the fight against the forces of nature is more important, but for Warsaw this is a major flop from an ideological point of view.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

US president has insulted Poland

Gazeta Wyborcza is outraged over Trump's cancellation:

“On Friday he travelled to his summer residence in Camp David. According to the American media he spent Saturday doing his favourite thing: playing golf. How the president spends his free time is his business. But if he refuses to come to Warsaw citing the need to keep an eye on Hurricane Dorian he could at least have made an effort to make this look genuine in order to avoid insulting his allies. ... Unless Poland is a third-class ally, or not an ally at all.”

Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

Polish victims deserve a monument

Deutschlandfunk finds it shameful that Germany is only now discussing the possibility of erecting a monument to the Polish victims of World War II:

“At the same time, it's also very telling. ... The lessons that many learned with regard to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust have still not been learned regarding our Polish neighbours. A monument in the heart of Berlin would be a visible attempt to admit and confront this historical guilt. It would also attest to the Germans' compassion for the millions of Polish victims and their families. It would be a sign that Germany has finally set aside its disdain for Poland.”

The Irish Independent (IE) /

Drop the idea of Germany's collective guilt

The Irish Independent criticises that many people still blame today's Germans for crimes committed by the Nazis:

“Vietnam, the Sierra Leone civil war; the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, which saw up to one million people butchered to death, have been and gone, but the Nazis are still a benchmark for evil. When the subject of war crimes come up, does anyone mention the 13th century Turco-Mongol invasions under Genghis Khan, where 40m people were murdered? No, they mention the Nazis. … Bar a handful of sympathisers and ageing old Nazis, Germans living today did nothing wrong. So as we enter a new decade since the bloodiest war in history, we need to drop the collective guilt.”