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Europe commemorates 68th VE Day as WWII history reflected

English.news.cn   2013-05-09 07:07:40            

BRUSSELS, May 8 (Xinhua) -- People from across Europe commemorated on Wednesday, in one way or another, the 68th Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) that marks the end of the Second World War (WWII) in Europe.

The VE Day on May 8 is marked by over 20 countries around the world as a formal celebration of the Allies' victory following the Nazi surrender in 1945.

The VE Day was a public holiday in Europe. Russia celebrates the victory on May 9.

In France, President Francois Hollande chaired Wednesday's celebrations in Paris, joined by visiting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. They inspected French troops and rekindled the flame together at the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe.

After laying a wreath at the foot of General de Gaulle's statue, the French head of state, under the escort of the Republican Guard, came to greet audiences along Les Champs-Elysees Avenue before meeting his ministers who welcomed him at the Place de l'Etoile (Star Square).

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, along with some government members and representatives from other countries attended the ceremony.

"The May 8," said France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, is "a form of message and sign of the Franco-German reconciliation" amid ups and downs of bilateral relationship.

On Wednesday, Poland, a major sufferer during WWII, also celebrated the 68th Victory in Europe Day in front of the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in Warsaw.

Polish governmental officials, representatives of war veterans from the war, and foreign ambassadors from the Allied countries in Warsaw attended the ceremony and presented flowers to the Tomb of Unknown Soldier.

According to the research by the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), there were between 5.6 and 5.8 million dead in Poland during the war.

"The war was over 68 years ago, it is history now, and history should be respected," said 90-year-old M. Paul, watching the ceremony, standing near the Tomb of Unknown Soldier in the city center of Warsaw.

Marking the Victory in Europe Day, the Latvian government on Wednesday also held a grand ceremony to mourn victims during that war.

Latvian President Andris Berzins, Saima Chairwoman Solvita Aboltina, Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, as well as foreign and defense ministers, representatives of World War II veterans and foreign ambassadors, more than 200 people, laid flowers at the cenotaph in Riga Brethren Cemetery.

In Germany, many people visited on Wednesday the Sachsenhausen memorial and museum, which was built at the site of the former Nazi concentration camp about 35 km north of Berlin in 1936.

The Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp now serves as a place to learn about the history within the authentic surroundings, including the remnants of buildings and other relics of the camp.

Commenting on the German history in WWII, museum visitor Jaap Van Dijk said that "you cannot really hide it ... the best you can do is to inform people about it, which I think they (German people) have done very well."

However in Asia, also as a key member of Axis powers, Japan's attitude toward WWII history makes a sharp contrast with Germany. Japan is still reluctant to make full-scale reflections on WWII.

Speaking on occasion of the 68th anniversary of the Victory in Europe Day, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, a prominent German historian, told Xinhua in a telephone interview that Japan could learn from Germany in improving ties with its neighbors.

Japan must finally make a candid public debate on its war past possible, said Wehler, who was known for his role in promoting social history through the "Bielefeld School" and for his critical studies of the 19th century Germany.

"It is obvious that the Japanese must admit the grave guilt," Wehler said. "They have to teach in the schools about the issue. They must encourage lectures and seminars at the universities."

"I find it unbearable that more than 60 years after the war Japan still insists on an obstinate attitude," said the 82-year-old historian. (Correspondents Shi Xu in Paris, Guo Xinyu in Berlin, Ya Jing, Gao Fan in Warsaw, Cao Ling in Riga contributed to this story.)

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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