Demmin: Commemorating the victims of the war: criticism of the torch march

Commemoration of the victims of the war: criticism of the torch march

A demonstration against an NPD march is moving through the city center.  Photo: Bernd Wüstneck/dpa

A demonstration against an NPD march is moving through the city center. photo

© Bernd Wüstneck/dpa

On the anniversary of the end of the Second World War, people in the north-east also commemorate the victims. In Demmin, around 200 people are also protesting against a right-wing extremist NPD elevator.

On May 8th, 78 years after the end of the Second World War, the victims were commemorated in several places in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) laid a wreath at the “The Mother” memorial in Raben Steinfeld near Schwerin on Monday. In Demmin (Mecklenburg Lake District) the victims of the mass suicide in 1945 were also commemorated. Mayor Thomas Witkowski (CDU) and representatives of the city factions laid wreaths at a mass grave in the cemetery. In the afternoon, around 200 people took a walk through the city to demonstrate against an evening parade of the far-right NPD.

There were also around 150 participants who – as in previous years under police protection and past vigils – silently marched through Demmin and lowered a wreath into the Peene. According to the police, there were no significant clashes with counter-demonstrators.

“The things that happened back then belong to our city,” said Witkowski, referring to the events of 1945 in the Demmin region. But the city needs neither a funeral march by right-wingers nor riots by other forces. “We feel abused,” said the 47-year-old. It was lucky that the Allies had liberated the people back then, said the mayor.

According to historians, one of the largest mass suicides in East Germany took place in and around Demmin from April 30 to May 3, 1945 during the occupation by the Red Army. Because bridges had been blown up by the SS, the Red Army soldiers were stuck together with Demminers and thousands of refugees, with rapes and other assaults by the Red Army soldiers occurring. More than 1000 people were killed or women killed themselves and their children for fear of revenge. “It takes your breath away when you read about these fates,” said the pastor of the Protestant community, Martin Wiesenberg, at a peace service.

The survivors in the GDR had to remain silent about this time. Even after 1990, the processing got off to a very difficult start. In the meantime, a “garden of remembrance” has been created and the chapter has been scientifically and artistically processed in several stages. Nevertheless, right-wing groups have been gathering for years on May 8 for an NPD memorial march to the Peene River, which is declared a memorial event.

“May 8, 1945 was a good day for most Germans, a day of relief,” explained Schwesig in Raben Steinfeld near Schwerin. The most terrible of all wars in Europe, for which Germany was responsible, was over. That shouldn’t be forgotten. “More than 60 million dead, immeasurable suffering and widespread destruction were the terrible results.”

There was also hope and confidence. “Reconstruction has started and millions of people have made sacrifices,” says Schwesig. Since 2002, May 8th has been a state day of remembrance in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. There were other commemorative events in Schwerin, Rostock and Neustrelitz, among others.


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