The Worker

May 8/9: Days of Liberation – Victory Day

Every year FIR and its member federations remember the anniversaries of the liberation from fascism and war and Victory Day 1945. What looks like a
historical ritual, proves every year again to be an urgent necessity to keep the legacy of the survivors, the message of the women and men of resistance and
persecution alive in the present time.
And this memory is under massive attack. In Italy, the new right-wing government under Giorgia Meloni is doing everything it can to push through a roll-back
in historical policy as well. Of course, she and her Mussolini friends cannot be pleased that thousands in Italy commemorate Liberation Day on April 25 and
at the same time the adoption of the Italian constitution with its anti-fascist foundations. Those in Italy who attack the role of the Resistenza and April 25 as
a day of commemoration are trying to achieve an ideological unwinding of the historical foundations of Italian society in order to impose a different, an
extreme-right orientation on the country. And so this year in many Italian cities there were not only commemorative rallies for April 25, but they were
manifestations in defense of anti-fascism. It is a clear sign that the president of the FIR member organization ANPI, Gianfranco Pagliarulo, formulated at the
main rally in Milan the warning that one sees a change of the presidential system, which could change the foundations of the constitution, attack the
separation of powers and push the parliament back into the role of the Cinderella. So this is not just about historical memory, this dispute is about the
present and future development of Italy and Europe.
Also in the concentration camp memorial Ravensbr├╝ck it was to be experienced this year that attempts were made to misuse the commemoration of the
liberation by nationalistic forces. This was only prevented by the intervention of the memorial director.
But there are also positive signals from Europe:
In Belgium, the members of the city parliament declared Charleroi an “anti-fascist city” in the spring of 2023, deciding to support civil society in remembering
the resistance against Nazi Germany, fascism and the extreme right, and in particular to demand that May 8 become a public holiday again.
In Spain, it is May 5, which has already been declared by the government in 2019 as a day of remembrance for Spaniards who were deported and died in
Mauthausen and other camps and for all victims of Francoism in Spain. The purpose of this collective remembrance is to honor the Spanish women and
men – the first European anti-fascist fighters – and to recognize the privileged place they have not only for Spanish democratic history, but also in Europe for
the defense of freedom and democracy.
In Germany the demand raised some years ago by the former Auschwitz survivor and member of the honorary presidium of the FIR, Esther Bejarano, “May 8
must become a holiday” has received new momentum. Some time ago more than 175,000 peoples had supported this in an on-line Petition. Last year, the
petition was officially presented to those politically responsible in the person of the then President of the Bundesrat, Thuringia’s Prime Minister Bodo
Ramelow. Even after the death of Esther Bejarano, this goal continues to be represented. In Berlin, the VVN-BdA demands that May 8 should not only be a
day off from work – as in 2020 – but should be recognized as a commemorative and public holiday.
The VVN-BdA of Lower Saxony is bringing the proposal to the public debate this year, as the state parliament has decided to establish an additional holiday
in the state.
In other parts of the country, anti-fascist associations and civil society organizations are taking the initiative to publicly mark May 8 as a day of remembrance
and public holiday.
In Aachen, in preparation for May 8, the FIR exhibition “European Resistance against Nazism” is shown in the premises of the Volkshochschule. This is also a
contribution to keeping the memory of the liberation alive.
Such initiatives and public commemoration actions are an important contribution against all forms of history forgetfulness and history revision, as we had to
experience in the past months in all drama in many countries of the European Union.
The FIR and its member federations honor – together with the anti-fascist forces of the civil society – with such activities the liberators in the ranks of the anti-
Hitler coalition, whose military main burden was carried by the Soviet Army, but to which equally the women and men of the respective national resistance
movement belonged, and celebrate the victory over Nazism in May 1945.

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