WWII: True History is Always a Problem
(RIA Novosti, by Pyotr Romanov) — A Russian newspaper recently
wrote, "the president of Latvia wants a public quarrel with
Moscow." She wants to come to the 60th anniversary celebrations
of victory in WWII to share with the world her own version of
version put forward by Vaira Vike-Freiberga is far from new and
is built on the assumption that the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact did
not liberate but enslaved the Baltic republics. In my opinion,
Moscow has reacted to such attempts too sensitively, while Berlin
remains indifferent – with a good reason. Modern Germany is not
responsible for what Ribberntrop and Hitler did, just like modern
Russia is not responsible for the actions of Molotov and Stalin.
true history is always a problem. This is why history books are
a collection of myths that sooth somebody’s conscience or flatter
somebody’s vanity. In terms of WWII history, Russia and Germany
are in a privileged position because they have dispelled the majority
of the myths about themselves. Berlin denounced Nazism and Russia
buried Stalinism, and it should not be easy to hit a nerve. Why
hammer on a door that was long ago opened?
truth does not loom over them but over many other players in that
historical drama. One can feel sorry for the tiny and weak Baltic
states, which found themselves between the German hammer and the
Russian anvil before the beginning of WWII. One can grimace at
genuine documents describing how Baltic diplomats shuttled between
Nazi Berlin and Stalinist Moscow, pledging loyalty to both and
betraying both. Maybe Ms. Vike-Freiberga will dare to speak about
this too, and not only about the widely publicized Molotov-Ribberntrop
then, weakness cannot justify the Baltic authorities’ lack of
principle in that difficult period of history. Understanding and
accepting are two different things. Poland, which was much weaker
than Germany in military terms and had to surrender, did not sell
her honor, and we respect her for that.
lastly, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was not the only document
on the division of spheres of influence between the great powers
in the 20th century. "The History of Latvia in the 20th Century"
praises Latvian fascists and describes the Salaspils concentration
camp, where fascists experimented on children, as an educational
labor establishment. Thank God, there are other historical sources
on the war.
example, Winston Churchill, who is highly respected in the Baltic
countries, described a visit to Moscow in the final stage of the
war in his memoirs, when he invited Stalin to divide Europe into
spheres of influence. He mentioned Romania, Greece, Yugoslavia,
Hungary, Bulgaria and other countries, including possibly Latvia.
wrote about how he handed the sheet of paper to Stalin and then
there was a short pause. The Soviet leader took a blue pencil,
put a big mark on the paper and handed it back. Everything was
decided immediately. The paper with Stalin’s pencil mark lay in
the center of the table. The British prime minister asked whether
all this, solving problems that concern the future of millions
of people just like that, looked too cynical before suggesting
that the paper be burned. Stalin, however, said they had to keep
can read true facts about the division of Europe in Churchill’s
"The Second World War."
the Latvian president would like to recall also these pages from
history during the 60th anniversary celebrations in Moscow? I
can suggest other sources, but not all of them will please the
Latvian president and Latvian SS veterans, because historical
truth is always a problem.
is also one more point: Moscow has not invited guests to the celebrations
for political reasons. It has two goals.
is to pay tribute to the millions of Russians, Europeans and Americans
who died to end Nazism and liberate Auschwitz and many other death
camps, including the "educational labor camp" Salaspils
the other is to put a full stop to that old drama which is far
removed from modern players on the world scene.
will be no guilty and defeated at the May 2005 meeting. It is
a big event and it should not be attended to spite somebody, let
alone the hosts. After all, they, the hosts, lost many millions
of compatriots in the battles against Nazism.