08 May 2011

Happy V-E day

Today, May 8th, is the date that commemorates the defeat of Nazi Germany's campaign to enslave Europe in 1945. It had, of course, been clear for a long time that the end was coming. Germany's cities were in ruins from relentless Allied bombing; the Red Army had been steadily pushing back and grinding down the Wehrmacht ever since Stalingrad; the Americans and British had liberated most of western Europe. By the time Hitler blew his brains out in his bunker on April 30, the fruits of his megalomania had already taken the form immortalized in Yevgeny Khaldei's iconic photo- graph above -- Berlin reduced to smoldering wreckage under the Soviet flag.

In addition to launching the most disastrous war in history and murdering millions of people by means of extermination camps, slave labor, and starvation, the Nazi regime ended a century of German pre-eminence in the life of the mind by turning Germany into a place from which scientists and intellectuals fled. By leading Germany into an all-out war against the British Empire, the Soviet Union, and the United States all at the same time (perhaps the most spectacular error in judgment in history), Hitler all but gua- ranteed the catastrophic defeat that followed. The Nazi regime's crimes blackened Germany's name forever. The day of its defeat is indeed a date to celebrate.

Unconditional surrender was signed in Reims, France, on May 7, to formally take effect at 11:01 PM on May 8. Because of the time- zone difference, in Moscow it was May 9 when the war officially ended. For this reason the Soviet Union and its successor states have always commemorated V-E Day, which they call Victory Day (День Победы), on May 9.


Blogger LadyAtheist said...

If Hitler hadn't chased intellectuals out of Germany and into the arms of American universities, the United States would not have grown to be the power it became after the war.

And now the Right in the U.S. is promoting ignorance. I shudder to think what would have happened if Dubya had been allowed to stay in power more than 8 years.

08 May, 2011 10:53  
Blogger dmarks said...

"Berlin reduced to smoldering wreckage under the Soviet flag."

Which itself evolved into a tragedy beyond all proportion, as the greatest socialist state of all ordered rape as a punishment for German civilian women, and the people of East Germany endured a reign of terror for decades after that. The often-forgotten enduring legacy of WW2 was the successful expansion of the USSR over much new territory. The Nazis were turned back, and it was the Soviets who won this war of aggression.

08 May, 2011 11:27  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

LA: As is, it happened to an extent during the Bush years. I know some significant number of stem-cell researchers from the US went to Britain during the Bush years because they couldn't get funding here.

Pushing creationism is exactly the wrong thing to be doing as we enter an age when biotechnology will be so important, and competing countries don't suffer the same handicap in their school systems.

DMarks: It's debatable at best whether rape was ordered by the Soviet state, but it was certainly pervasive. Given the way the Germans had behaved in the USSR, a vengeful attitude was undertandable. As I like to point out to people, recall how furious Americans were when the jihadists murdered 3,000 Americans on our own soil -- then try to imagine if it had been 30,000,000, and you'll get an idea how the Soviet people felt about the Germans.

By the way, despite the use of the word "socialist" in its name, the Soviet state was Communist, not socialist -- there's a difference.

08 May, 2011 14:15  
Blogger Robert the Skeptic said...

The US actively recruited German scientists who had remained in Germany until after the war. Werner Von Braun among many others.

08 May, 2011 17:36  
Anonymous NickM said...

That iconic image was staged - well reconstructed. It was also touhed-up. The soldier was wearing too many watches that he'd pillaged. My understanding was that the mass rapes weren't so much ordered at Politburo level but the Red Army culture had been geared-up that way.

09 May, 2011 04:39  
Blogger tnlib said...

Ditto LadyAtheist. And thanks for the reminder. There's been so much excitement lately that I think VE Day was overlooked by most everyone.

I hear people say Hitler was smart. No, if he were smart, he never would have started WWII. But he was definitely crazy.

09 May, 2011 06:33  
Blogger Green Eagle said...

A little late, but May 8 was also the 100th birthday of Robert Johnson.

11 May, 2011 12:05  

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