May 8th – Day of Liberation?

Posted in Europe | 26-May-05 | Author: Dieter Farwick

The 60th anniversary of the end of WWII was broadly covered in the media around the world. For a vast majority of people and countries in Europe, it was the “day of liberation” – but not for all of them. These people and countries changed from one dictatorship to another. Hinting to those events is not an attempt to hide Germans' and Germany’s role prior and during WWII. But the historic truth allows a look into other dark sides.

Weeks ago, I visited the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial Foundation – Center of Communist Dictatorship for the first time. The center is the small rest of a former Soviet internment camp and the later prison of the STASI – the Ministry for State Security – one of 18 remand prisons on the territory of the GDR. Thousands of innocent people were taken there and kept there for years without any trial, and thousands died under catastrophic living conditions and torture. It is a dark chapter in a book called “liberation.”

In the middle of the ocean of articles and essays dealing with the end of WWII there was one tiny island offering a different – and for many people new – “truth.” The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung “ published an article on May 10 entitled “Day of Liberation?“ written by Dr.Hubertus Knabe, Director of the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial Foundation. In this breathtaking and shocking story, Hubertus Knabe reveals the deep, dark side of the “liberation” for the people in the Baltics, Eastern Europe and in Eastern Germany. They had to live under a brutal occupation force and/or were brought to prison camps in the Soviet Union. Hundreds of thousands lost their lives.

By no means does Hubertus Knabe try to bring the German guilt into equation with the guilt of others. We – the Germans – have done a lot to get our lessons from this phase of German history. It has been and will be a painful process. But the time is ripe to discover more chapters in European history during and after WWII.

A visit to the museum in Berlin-Hohenschönhausen should be a “must” for any visit to Berlin.

The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial Foundation