May 8, the day in Berlin in 1945 of the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, should it be a public holiday in Germany, as it is in France? The controversy has increased this year, on the occasion of the 75e anniversary of the end of World War II and when the far right is back in the political landscape. The city-state of Berlin will be the only region of the country to be unemployed this Friday to celebrate “the day of liberation”, exceptionally. Next year, May 8 will be a day like any other.
A petition from an Auschwitz survivor
The idea of making this date a holiday was revived by Esther Bejarano, president of the Auschwitz committee, in Germany. A 95-year-old Holocaust survivor addressed a letter to the President of the Republic, Frank Walter Steinmeier, and to Chancellor Angela Merkel. ” May 8 must be a holiday! She writes. ” A day when the liberation of humanity from the yoke of the Nazi regime can be celebrated. It’s been overdue for seven decades She writes. In the middle of the week, Esther Bejarano presented the Bundestag with a petition to this effect, which collected 91,000 signatures.
Supported by the left parties and by the liberals of the FDP, the idea was however categorically rejected by the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), the third political force in the Bundestag. ” May 8 does not have the potential for a holiday Comments his honorary president, Alexander Gauland. ” It is an ambivalent day. For the concentration camp inmates, it was a day of release. But it was also a day of absolute defeat for Germany, a day of loss of immense territories and its ability to organize “, He summed up. Classic for the far right, this position has been strongly criticized. Josef Schuster, president of the Council of the Jews in Germany, recognizes there a way of “ portray the Germans as victims “
Defeat or liberation?
Behind this debate, it is once again the question of the meaning to give to May 8 which is posed. Was it a defeat or a liberation? From 1950 to 1967, the East German communist regime made this date a public holiday, to celebrate the anti-fascist victory over the Nazi regime. In West Germany, on the other hand, it was not until 1985 that the debate progressed. The president at the time, Richard von Weizsäcker, was the first to call May 8 a day of “ liberation from a system erected by National Socialist tyranny ”
Twenty-five years later, this discourse is no longer controversial, outside of far-right circles. ” For many Germans, May 8 was a day of liberation against their will “Summarizes Jens-Christian Wagner, director of the Lower Saxony Memorial Foundation. From there to make it a holiday, the step is not yet taken.