70 years ago at the end of World War Two, the German people really felt that they had suffered a devastating defeat. However, today general opinion is that the end of the war ended a 12 year period of dictatorship under the Nazis.
On the week that many countries are commemorating VE Day, including Russia, the UK, France and Poland, Germany’s Parliament is planning to hold a commemorative parliamentary session for reflection on the end of the war. Members of Parliament will reflect on the new beginning that Germany had once the Nazis had been thrown from power, as well as the end to war.
Almost 90% of Germans now view the end of World War Two as a liberation from Nazism, while around 10% still call it a defeat. But that figure has fallen over the last 10 years, when it stood at around 35% of Germans calling the end of the war a defeat.
Among the commemoration ceremonies taking place, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has attended a ceremony at the site of the Dachau concentration camp just outside of Munich and she has also attended the commemoration ceremonies in Moscow. Other German ministers are attending services around Europe, including in the former city of Stalingrad in Russia, which is now known as Volgograd.
Over the years German perception of the war has changed. On the 40th anniversary commemorations of the end of the war in 1985, Germany’s then President Richard von Weizsaecker’s made a comment about the end of the war was a day of liberation for the German people. This comment has stuck with the German people from that day onwards.
Twenty years later at the 60th anniversary commemorations, Germany’s Chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schroeder, named those who had attempted to assassinate Hitler as heroes. This ensured that they would never retain the label of traitors, which the Nazis had given them.
Angela Merkel has this week delivered a video message online, and reiterated that current and future generation had to continue the healing process in a sensitive way. She said that Germany had to take responsibility for what it did when the Nazis were in power, the Fox News reports.
Meanwhile, German President Joachim Gauck has been paying tribute to the Soviet soldiers who liberated Germany. He said that this was regardless of the Cold War and the separation of East and West Germany that followed the end of World War Two.
Historians believe that World War Two will continue to play a central role in Germany’s perception of itself and to the outside world. They suggest that it will remain ever etched into the country’s history, just as the French Revolution has in France or the Civil War in the United States.