23 August - The European Day of Remembrance for victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes

Members of the working group for the Platform of European Memory and Conscience commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

Ljubljana/Stockholm/Prague/Sofia/Berlin, 11 September, 2009. During the 20th century, many European countries experienced totalitarian regimes (e.g. Nazism and Communism) which committed violations of human rights and freedoms, genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Bearing in mind the awfulness of their ideology and the crimes those regimes committed throughout Europe, they should also be properly assessed as a part of our common European history. According to the Resolutions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, the European Parliament Resolution of 2 April, 2009 On European Conscience and Totalitarianism, and Parliament Resolutions all over Europe, 23 August is the European Day of Remembrance to honor the victims of National Socialism and Communism.

Members of the Working Group for the Platform of European Memory and Conscience believe that Europe will not be united unless it is able to recognise Nazism, Communism and other totalitarian and autocratic systems as a common European legacy and bring about an honest and thorough debate on all crimes against humanity of the past century. By commemorating 23 August, 2009 the members wish to contribute to the European remembrance of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and to emphasize the importance of respecting fundamental human rights and freedoms and the rule of law.

In Slovenia, the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, in co-operation with the National Museum of Contemporary History, TV Slovenia and the Municipality Krško, commemorated the European Day of Remembrance for victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes together with the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. To mark both events the Study Centre organized a public screening of the film “The Hidden Memory of Angela Vode” based on the book “The Hidden Memoir” by Angela Vode. The ceremony took place at the Rajhenburg Castle in Brestanica where Angela Vode, a Slovenian pedagogue, publicist, prewar communist, co-founder of the Slovenian Liberation Front and women's rights activist, was imprisoned during the communist regime. On 9 September the Study Centre and the National Museum of Contemporary History are also organizing a scientific conference to mark the 70th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

In Sweden, The Institute for Information on the Crimes of Communism together with the 1989-2009 20th Anniversary Alliance organized an event to commemorate the victims of Communism and National Socialism and to celebrate the liberation from Communism. The event was held on Stockholm's Norrmalmstorg square, site of the Monday Meetings for the Freedom of the Baltic States, where crowds of many thousands met regularly to support the liberation struggle against Communism. The inauguration speech at the first international 23 August Remembrance Day was held by Swedish EU Minister Cecilia Malmström. The day was introduced by Camilla Andersson and Anders Hjemdahl, founders of the 1989-2009 20th Anniversary Alliance, and featured speeches by representatives of Swedish-Baltic exile organizations, performances by Estonian folk dance troupe Leigarid, and speeches by prominent Swedish MPs, including Anna Kinberg-Batra, Chairman of the Parliament Committee on EU Affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson and Gustav Blix, members of the Parliament Foreign Policy Committee, Fredrik Malm, member of the Parliament Education and Cultural Committees.

In the Czech Republic, the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes organized a scientific symposium on 3 September on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War. It was followed by a film seminar on 10 September with the title “The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact 1939 and the Ukrainian card“ featuring a 2007 Ukrainian documentary film “Polityka dokonanych faktiv“ (Politics of accomplished facts). The film analyses the diplomatic courtship between Berlin and Moscow in the weeks preceding World War II. The preparations for the fourth division of Poland, included, on the Soviet side, the plans to utilize Slavic minorities in Poland, of which the Ukrainian was the largest. The screening was followed by a discussion with a Czech and a Polish historian.

In Bulgaria, the Hannah Arendt Center in Sofia supported the legislative proposal of 14 members of the National Assembly for an official commemoration every year of 23 August as The European Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. A draft law on establishing a National Memory Institute for the investigation of communist crimes against the people of Bulgaria was proposed to the National Assembly by the same deputies. The Hannah Arendt Center in Sofia in collaboration with 8 other NGOs is organizing a public hearing on this legislative draft on 1 October. On 9 September, the day of the beginning of the communist terror in 1944 when in one month over 20,000 people were killed, the Spravedlivost Association organized a commemoration in Sofia for the victims of the terror.

In Germany, Federal Commissioner Mrs. Marianne Birthler together with representatives of the Federal Foundation “Aufarbeitung” and the Association “Gegen Vergessen - für Demokratie” initiated a declaration under the title “Celebrating the year 1989 should include remembrance of the year 1939”. The declaration, signed by more than a hundred notable German public figures, was published in the renowned weekly paper “Die Zeit” on 20 August. The declaration appeals to fellow citizens and also the public of Germany‘s Eastern neighbours to keep in mind, amidst the joy and reminiscence of the peaceful revolution of 20 years ago, that the Hitler-Stalin Pact and the assault on Poland in 1939 were the starting point of the Second World War. In its aftermath the Eastern European countries came under communist rule for more than four decades, leaving Europe and Germany divided. At the same time the declaration appreciates the movements for freedom within communist dictatorships which finally resulted in the peaceful revolutions of the year 1989.

The declaration can be found in German, English, Russian, Polish, Czech and Hungarian on the website www.23august1939.de.

Contact:

Jiri Reichl
Spokesperson / Press Department
Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes
Security Services Archive
Siwiecova 2
Prague 3
130 00
Czech Republic
mobile: +420 - 725 787 524
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email: jiri.reichl@ustrcr.cz
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