80th anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union: No commemoration by the German government and Bundestag, German President under attack because of his commemoration address in the Karlshorst Museum.
German War of Annihilation
Following the Invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939 and the invasion of Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941, the invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 marked the beginning of the key phase of the German war of annihilation in Eastern and South Eastern Europe. Unprecedented in modern history, it exceeded well beyond merely military operations to occupy foreign territory but was aimed at conquering “Lebensraum” (living space) for the German Reich, and included massacres of the civilian population, unprecedented material destruction and barbarian “starvation policy,” aimed at depopulating entire regions – such as in the case of the blockade of Leningrad. That war also exposed the Jewish population of the Soviet Union to the Shoah. Around six million people in Poland fell victim to the German war of annihilation, around two million in Yugoslavia and more than 27 million in the Soviet Union, including at least 14 million civilians. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war perished in German captivity, though starvation, freezing, disease or execution. The victims of the German war of annihilation in Eastern and Southeastern Europe included around five million Jews.
Commemoration “Not Envisaged”
Neither the German government nor the Bundestag see it as necessary to commemorate the victims of German mass crimes on the 80th anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union. In response to an interpellation by the Left Party in the Bundestag, the government declared that it does “not plan any event,” nor does it plan the participation of members of the German government in “international commemorations.” Already in April, the President of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble, announced on behalf of the Bundestag that he does “not envisage” a commemoration on June 22. The Bundestag should rather maintain “the undivided commemoration of the entire course of the Second World War and the suffering it had caused.” The beginning of the most murderous phase of the German war of annihilation in the East only became a theme during a parliamentary “debate” on June 9, between the “first discussion of a draft bill introduced by the federal government for the all-day support of primary school aged children” and a regular “interrogation” of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Germany’s current foreign policy. Only the Left Party’s parliamentary group is organizing a commemoration on the premises of the Bundestag today.
“Largely Forgotten in Germany”
In addition, only Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has participated in commemoration ceremonies. In so doing, he has distinguished himself from his predecessor, Joachim Gauck, who spent the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in southeast Europe and spent the eve of the anniversary in Romania. As was recently pointed out by the Historian Götz Aly – Romania had, “at the side of Nazi Germany, invaded the Soviet Union with twelve divisions” on June 22, 1941. Last Monday, Steinmeier visited the memorial at the former X B Sandbostel POW Camp, where at least 300,000 prisoners of war had been held captive, including around 70,000 from the Soviet Union – “a group of victims, who have become largely forgotten in German memory,” as Steinmeier noted. On Friday, Germany’s president gave his main memorial address at the German-Russian Museum Karlshorst – noting that “from day one,” the “German military campaign was driven” “by anti-Semitism and anti-Bolshevism, as well as by a fanatical racist doctrine against the Slavic and Asian peoples of the Soviet Union.” The memory of this has been refused in the Federal Republic of Germany “for too long”: “The time has come to rectify that.”
“Peace with Russia is not a Moral Obligation”
Steinmeier is increasingly being criticized for his participation in the commemorative events, because, in the West’s escalating power struggle with Russia, erasing the memory of the mass crimes committed by Germans in the occupied Soviet Union is among the efforts to comprehensively dismantle the remaining bonds between the two countries. Recently, the online edition of the weekly Die Zeit, admonished that one must “get over the belief,” that “because of the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, peace with Russia is a moral obligation at all costs.” The Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk had boycotted Steinmeier’s address at Friday’s memorial event under official protest: The fact that the German President would hold a speech at the German-Russian Museum Karlshorst, is an “affront,” according to Melnyk, moreover, it “surpasses” his “imaginative faculties” that he would be participating in an event alongside a Russian diplomat. Commentators of the leading media organs have begun to join the attacks on the German President. It was a “mistake,” to hold the memorial address in a museum “of which the Russian government is one of the sponsors,” according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, last week.
Victims “in Central and Eastern Europe”
The efforts to ultimately isolate Russia, also in terms of commemorative politics, and thereby remove any remaining inhibitions against escalating aggression against Moscow, are increasingly successful. Thus, in the “debate” in the Bundestag on June 9, it was often repeated, “the German crimes” should “not lead” to a rejection of sanctions and other forms of aggression against Russia. Simultaneously, the German government is attempting to make the war of extermination against the Soviet Union vanish behind general statements concerning Nazi victims “in Central and Eastern Europe.” For example, the brief intervention by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in the Bundestag’s debate culminated in, he “bows his head before the more than 30 million people who lost their lives in Central and Eastern Europe alone between 1939 and 1945.” Maas did not mention that 27 million of them came from the Soviet Union or the fact that some of those countries in “Central and Eastern Europe,” as well as other countries as well as significant forces from other countries were participating in the German war of extermination against the Soviet Union. The formulation of Berlin’s foreign minister conflates victims and collaborators.
The Tradition of Collaborators
This is significant because today’s Germany-dominated European Union is also relying on forces, which see themselves in the direct tradition of Nazi-collaborators and are part of the main forces behind the current aggression against Russia. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.
-  See also Rezension: Wigbert Benz: Der Hungerplan im “Unternehmen Barbarossa” 1941.
-  Hannes Heer, Christian Streit: Vernichtungskrieg im Osten. Hamburg 2020.
-  Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Sevim Dagdelen, Heike Hänsel, Simone Barrientos, weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion Die Linke: Mögliches Gedenken der Bundesregierung an den 80. Jahrestag des Überfalls Nazideutschlands auf die Sowjetunion. Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 19/29115. Berlin, 29.04.2021.
-  René Heilig: Gedenken an Überfall auf UdSSR abgelehnt. nd-aktuell.de 05.04.2021.
-  Götz Aly: Krieg & Frieden. berliner-zeitung.de 11.05.2021.
-  Vergessene Opfer. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 15.06.2021.
-  80 Jahre Überfall auf die Sowjetunion. bundespraesident.de 18.06.2021.
-  Alan Posener: Deutschlands schallendes Schweigen. zeit.de 30.04.2021. See also “Peace with Russia No Moral Obligation”.
-  Botschafter boykottiert Gedenkfeier. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.06.2021.
-  Reinhard Veser: Steinmeiers Fehler. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 17.06.2021.
-  See also In the Spiral of Escalation (II) and In der Negativspirale.
-  Fraktionen gedenken des Überfalls auf die Sowjetunion vor 80 Jahren. bundestag.de 09.06.2021.
-  Rede von Außenminister Heiko Maas im Deutschen Bundestag zur Debatte “80. Jahrestag des Überfalls Deutschlands auf die Sowjetunion”. auswaertiges-amt.de 09.06.2021.