VE Day - why it's the wrong name for a great day in history

It's a bit like that episode in Fawlty Towers where the repeated punchline is "Don't mention the war". I'm under orders not to make this about Poland becaue apparently "you make everything about Poland." So I won't mention the P word again in this article.

The two crucial words are Victory and Europe. The word in between, that joins them, is "in". The implication is that Europe had had a total victory. That's the problem for me.

If it was about getting rid of fascism, well Spain, Portugal, and Greece remained or became fascist. No victory for democratic freedoms there. One could argue that Spain and Portugal were neutral in the war, but Greece wasn't. Don't Greeks count when it comes to victories, or when it comes to freedom? Ironic given it was the birthplace of democracy.

If it was about freedom, well Stalin's perspective on freedom was somewhat different from his Allies in Britain and France. He and his totalitarian, mass-murdering regime now occupied and for the next half-century would maintain dominance over about a dozen countries, including Czechoslovakia - whom Britain sold down the river in 1938 - the three Baltic States: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, and several others.

I have absolutely no problem joining in the commemoration and celebration of the end of Nazism, and the peoples from so many countries who contributed to that historic victory. But that's as far as it goes. Europe was not even half free. Victory was only partial, and the absence of victory was devastating for those who didn't taste it.

We should continue to celebrate the destruction of the Third Reich but we should also commemorate those we abandoned in May 1945 and earlier.


© 2019 by Martin Stepek.