In Berlin, New May Holiday Sends 'Unmistakable Message'

City makes May 8 a public holiday to commemorate end of WWII, Nazi rule
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2020 9:54 AM CDT
Berlin Is on Holiday Today, and That's Remarkable
Berlin, Germany.   (Getty Images/bluejayphoto)

The US and Britain recognize May 8 as a special date—and now Berlin is joining them, even going so far as to make it a public holiday. Victory in Europe Day commemorates May 8, 1945, the day when German troops surrendered to the Soviets, effectively ending World War II. For years, the date was either dismissed in Germany or looked at as a shameful marker of Germany's defeat. But now, on the 75th anniversary of that day, Berlin has become the first German city to "acknowledge 8 May as a day of liberation" from Nazi rule, per the BBC. Those in support of making V-E Day an official holiday nationwide are especially concerned that the significance of this date is being lost on the younger generations—a fact made more worrisome in light of recent deadly attacks by the far right in different parts of the country, a German cultural expert tells the BBC.

Not everyone is on board with the new positive spin. Deutsche Welle reports that right-wing lawmaker Alexander Gauland is against making May 8 "a happy day for Germany," noting that while "for the concentration camp inmates it was a day of liberation ... it was also a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany and the loss of national autonomy." Still, the holiday will proceed. Due to the coronavirus, in-person events that had been planned have been nixed. But the Independent reports that the Kulturprojekte group has been holding a "digital theme week" through Friday that includes podcasts, augmented-reality apps, and an online exhibition. Recognizing the day as a holiday "offers the opportunity to send an unmistakable message against fascism and war and for peace," Kulturprojekte notes. (More Berlin stories.)

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