The Worker

FIR: Destruction of Memory Culture

Already several times the FIR has spoken out with clear words against the barbaric removal of the places of remembrance of the anti-fascist resistance, the places of fascist persecution and the monuments for the liberation and the liberators.

The removal of the historical testimonies and the memorials are an expression of historical forgetfulness, even more of the deliberate rewriting of history and the attempts to destroy the social memory of the action of the women and men from all European peoples against the fascist barbarism.

What is frightening, is the fact that this form of historical revision is not limited to individual countries, but is practiced in various European countries. When the scandalous European Parliament resolution on the “importance of the European past (or European historical consciousness) for the future of Europe” was adopted in September 2019, governments of various European countries believed they had carte blanche to rewrite history and eliminate places of memory. Especially in the transition states that had been newly admitted to the European Union, such destruction of the culture of remembrance was carried out on a massive scale.

In this context, the initiatives did not come from government agencies alone; municipal institutions and local actors also stepped forward when it came to removing monuments or historical sites. A study published just a few weeks ago revealed that, against the resistance of veterans’ organizations in Croatia, about half of all memorials to the Yugoslav liberation struggle had been cleared or destroyed.

In the Czech capital of Prague, the famous monument to the city’s liberator Marshal Konev has been cleared in a cloak-and-dagger action on the decision of a district government. In Germany (more precisely in Saxony), a local mayor, against the objections of scientists and veterans’ associations, pushed through the destruction of a historic building from the early Sachsenburg concentration camp – with money from the Saxon state government for “brownfield revitalization.”

However, the Baltic republics are particular pioneers in the destruction of memorials and monuments in the European Union. A few days ago, the Latvian news agency Leta proudly announced that more than 120 Soviet monuments had been dismantled in Latvia since the summer. According to the local governments, all 69 objects whose dismantling was specified by the government in Riga by November 15 had been removed. In addition, 55 other objects had been demolished or removed from public space on the local authorities’ own initiative, a Culture Ministry spokeswoman said. Since the Latvian government is aware that this kind of historical oblivion would not only meet with protest from the Russian population in Latvia, but could also trigger opposition from the international public, this historical-political barbarity was legitimized by a parliamentary resolution. An agreement with the Russian Federation from the 1990s was unilaterally terminated. The Ukraine war had to be used as a “justification”. Since these monuments allegedly “glorify the Red Army,” they should no longer have a place in public space.

In Lithuania, the authorities have begun dismantling six granite statues in a cemetery in Vilnus. Mayor Remigijus Simasius announced that they will “cleanse” themselves of this Soviet symbol. With the dismantling, the city government is defying a recommendation by the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which temporarily banned the project following a complaint.

Not a word is heard from the European Commission that the monuments commemorate the Soviet army that made possible the liberation of Europe from fascist barbarism as part of the anti-Hitler coalition. No one mentions that the destruction of Soviet monuments had begun long before February 24, 2022. Moreover, in Brussels it has been completely “forgotten” that in Latvia and Estonia the rehabilitation of the former SS volunteers who participated as collaborators in the war against the Soviet Union and in the murder actions against the Jewish population in the Baltic States has been practiced for many years with state support. Fascist perpetrators are redefined as “fighters for the freedom of the country,” marches are held in their honor, and anti-fascists who protest against such historical revision are massively persecuted.

All this has of course nothing to do with the war in Ukraine – it shows how this war is misused to change the politics of commemoration and remembrance in the sense of rehabilitation of collaboration and complicity.

The FIR supports all member associations in their efforts to preserve the testimonies of historical memory and to keep alive the legacy of the anti-fascist struggle against such forms of historical revision.

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