Table of contents:
- What are you celebrating here?
- Italy: ashamed of Mussolini
- France: Lost Bread and Lost Truth
- Little Europe
- Concentration camp Auschwitz, who freed himself
- Latvia and Lithuania: May 9 - regular working day
- INSTEAD OF EPILOGUE
On the eve of Victory Day, the KP correspondent spoke with Western Europeans, Chinese, Americans, Australians … To find out what they know about World War II. It is terrible that the majority declared unambiguously: "The USA has won."
The act of complete surrender of Germany was finally signed on May 8, 1945 near Berlin. That is 74 years ago. And it seems that these seven decades were enough for the world to completely forget about the role of our country in the victory over fascism.
What are you celebrating here?
Wake up at night any Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Uzbek … and say - May 9th. You will immediately hear - the war, the Red Army, 26 million dead, the Battle of Stalingrad, the blockade of Leningrad, a parade, a holiday with tears in our eyes - Victory Day. Whose? Ours, of course. The whole world knows!
And that's not all. I remember the sincere surprise of an Italian who came to his Russian girlfriend in May and ended up right on our May holidays.
- And what are you celebrating here? Victory Day? So it was the Americans who won! What does Russia have to do with it?
I was shocked and could not explain to him in any way, and he believed me that the USSR took the entire blow of the Nazis upon itself.
- At our school they say that the Americans won. And the facts are incontestable. It was American soldiers who came to us in 1945 and freed all Jews from concentration camps and drove out the Nazis. Have you watched Life Is Beautiful (an Oscar-winning Italian film about World War II in 1997)? Here! In the same place, an American tank came at the end.
This sexually mature, educated and generally not stupid person of 30 years old did not even hear the figure - 60 million dead, 26 of which are our Soviet people. How so ?!
On the eve of the 74th anniversary of the Victory, I set out to interview the maximum number of foreigners I know.
What do they even know about WWII?
Italy: ashamed of Mussolini
- Yes, indeed, before I moved to live and work in Moscow, I did not even know how much the USSR and the Russians did to defeat Nazi Germany, - confirms the words of his fellow countryman Italian Marco Ferdi. For the last 10 years he has been living in Moscow, he has a Russian wife. - But over the years I have also been to St. Petersburg. And in Volgograd on Mamayev Kurgan, I read a lot, watched films about the war. This is all very impressive, of course. A huge number of people have died in your country. And the way Russians and all CIS countries celebrate Victory Day suggests that nothing has been forgotten. For all of you, the events of those years are alive. But my family in Italy still do not know what you had here. In the school curriculum, very little time is devoted to studying the Second World War. We, the Italians, lost. But everyone knows that Mussolini sided with Hitler. This is a shameful fact for our history, so they try not to remember about it. But Mussolini did much good for Italy. The entire railway network in the country was built by him, he raised the economy, built many industries.
France: Lost Bread and Lost Truth
In memory of the difficult years of the Second World War, French cuisine has a dessert - “Lost Bread”.
- In the hungry war years, people found stale pieces of bread, sprinkled them with sugar and warmed them up a little in the oven. That was the dessert. Then he appeared in restaurants in the post-war years, - the famous chef told me.
And I told him that what the hell, bread and sugar. My grandmother recalled how they brewed quinoa and ate. Because there was nothing else, not even salt. Since then, a 5-kilogram bag of salt has been worth her entire life at home, just in case. Because without it there is nothing at all, the body becomes covered with rotting ulcers.
- Oh yeah! Was Russia hard hit during the war? Thank God that the Americans came and freed us all from fascism, - the culinary specialist admires.
That the Americans won, 90% of the inhabitants of France will tell you. There are even polls that have been conducted here since 1945. People on the street were asked which nation made the greatest contribution to the victory over fascism. In 1945, the majority answered that they were Russians. In 2015 - that the USA.
- When I had not yet lived in France, but had just arrived with friends on vacation to visit the country and practice the language (this was in 2009), we became friends with two young Frenchmen. They were then 24 years old, - says Vera Salychkina, now a resident of Paris. “They decided to give us an excursion, including taking us to the war museum. Word for word, my Russian friend suddenly asks them: do you know who won the Second World War? They looked at each other and unanimously: the Americans. Here we have already looked at each other. To say that we were shocked by such a confident answer is to say nothing. It turned out that they were taught this way at school, and no one doubted that the United States liberated the French from the Nazis, and then the whole world. So it is written in the textbooks. And the fact that so many Russians died, it just says that they lost in this war, it's obvious! While we continued our way through the labyrinths of the museum, my friend told the French about the historical facts testifying to the great victory of the Russian people, they listened and, it seemed, were no longer so sure that they were right.
The culmination was what we heard next: from the loudspeakers preserved from the Second World War, came: Vive la puissante Union Soviétique! (Long live the mighty Soviet Union!). It was already upon leaving the museum - that is, there could be no more doubts! It should be noted that not a word was said about the Americans.
In most European countries, there are almost no traces of the feat of the Soviet people, although 2.5 million of our soldiers died on their land. There are quite a few small obelisks on mass graves. But large monuments can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Monuments to Alyosha (Russian soldier-liberator) are in the Bulgarian Plovdiv, the Austrian capital Vienna. In Budapest, where more than 180,000 Soviet soldiers died, there used to be several monuments. But in the early 90s they were removed, and the mass graves were moved from the city center to the Kerepeshi cemetery. As a result, only one monument on Freedom Square survived all this. It is written on it in gold letters: "Glory to Soviet soldiers - liberators."
The most famous and majestic monument is, of course, Berlin's Treptower Park. There is a Russian soldier with a German girl in his arms, and a golden inscription: "Eternal glory to the soldiers of the Soviet army who gave their lives in the struggle for the liberation of mankind."
- We have not yet gone through the history of the Second World War. - says the German 8-grader Shane. “But I know what our people have done to yours. This is awful and very embarrassing. Dad told me that my great-grandfather fought for the Nazis.
The girl is clearly embarrassed by these conversations. Moreover, we talked with her in Moscow, where she came to exchange with a Russian family. A Russian girlfriend took Shane to watch the parade rehearsal. The whole group will definitely visit the Great Patriotic War Museum on Poklonnaya Gora. I think these children will have a strong impression. They were successfully sent here, to Russia, right on May 9th.
However, here is the survey data commissioned by the news agency and radio "Sputnik" (they were conducted in 2016 by the famous French research company Ifop and the British company Populus) - half of the inhabitants of Germany (50%) believe that the US Army is the leader in the victory over fascism.
But still, it was in Germany, in comparison with all of Europe, that the largest number of people remembered that the USSR was the main force in the fight against Nazism. Least of all, the contribution of the USSR to the fight against Nazism is noted in the USA - only 7%, and in France - 12%. And in England, for example, 59% of people are sure that it was the British who defeated Hitler.
In the Belgian park "Little Europe" there is not a word at all about the Second World War. There, everything is only about the war of 1914-1918.And even in the translated into Russian brochure-guidebook about the Second World War, nothing! As if she never existed.
“Last year, a boy from a family of Russian emigrants came to a history lesson with a report on the Great Patriotic War and the feat of Soviet soldiers,” says Valeria Vasilieva, who has been living in Antwerp, Belgium for 7 years. - So they put two for him and the parents were called to school: "Why are you teaching your child all nonsense." There was even talk of registering the family with the juvenile justice service.
Concentration camp Auschwitz, who freed himself
On January 27, 2019, in one of the saddest places - on the territory of the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, events were held to mark the day of liberation. The well-known journalist Eva Merkacheva, as part of the delegation from Russia, was at this event.
- A lot has been said from the stage about what a terrible camp it is. How many people died, what terrible torments thousands have suffered here. Well, it's good that the camp was liberated from the Nazis. But who released - not a word. I don’t even remember that the phrase “Red Army” was used. It turns out that the concentration camp liberated itself, and not at all the soldiers of the Red Army. Obviously, this fact was kept silent in every possible way.
The delegation of the descendants of the liberators was greeted more than strangely.
- Official delegations occupied the right half of the hall. We were seated in the back rows, so that what was happening on the stage was completely invisible. And nothing is clear, since there was no translation into Russian either. I was amazed that they did not remember a single word in Russian, even the prisoners (at the time of the liberation of Auschwitz, there were Polish and Jewish children in the camp). They didn't even say thank you. All celebrations took place in a building that the Nazis called a sauna. In reality, it was a gas chamber.
Latvia and Lithuania: May 9 - regular working day
“In our country, the topic of the Second World War is somehow not even relevant,” says Vaida, a primary school teacher from the small Lithuanian city of Kaunas. - There are no parades and wreaths. Maybe something is happening at the fraternal cemetery. But I don’t know, I haven’t been there for many years. "Immortal regiment" - no, I didn't even hear.
- In the Latvian Riga, Victory Day is celebrated with a fairly wide, by European standards, scope. On May 9, concerts are held at the monument to the fallen soldiers, says Svetlana Rosenblum, an English teacher from Riga. - The field kitchen is broken, songs of the war years are sung from the stage. Who wants - comes with flowers. Previously, St. George ribbons were handed out to everyone. But after 2014 (when Crimea became Russian), they stopped. Mostly Russians come to celebrate, of course. The tradition was introduced 10 years ago by our mayor Nil Ushakov. This is all on his initiative. In other cities - and that is not. In the country as a whole, May 9 is a normal working day.
USA: the real facts can only be learned at the university
And what do they know about the Second World War in America - I asked my friend Jeffrey Jackson, a theater actor from Los Angeles.
- In the United States, we are taught that we won the Second World War by helping the allies in Europe and single-handedly defeated Japan and the islands by dropping two nuclear bombs. They don't say in schools that 26 million people died in Russia (more than 50 times more than among Americans!). All that is taught in the United States is that the USSR also fought the Nazis, after which the Soviets immediately became the main enemy for the Americans. In the 1950s, it was called the "Red Panic". But, in fairness, American universities still provide more complete information about the Second World War. And they tell about the 26 million dead there.
- That is, the average American does not know that the USA and the USSR were once allies in this war?
- Exactly. The average American has no idea about the details of the USSR's involvement in World War II. Most Americans would say that the allies were, for example, England, France and possibly the Netherlands.
There is another sad story, but with a happy ending.
“My daughter, having finished 11 classes in her native St. Petersburg, went to study at a private school in the USA, Pennsylvania,” says Rostislav Litovtsev, a businessman from St. Petersburg. - In history lesson, when she heard that the Americans had defeated fascism, she could not restrain herself. She got up and spoke, telling everyone how it really was. About the Red Army, millions of dead, about the blockade. The teacher was shocked. Since, firstly, she herself did not know anything of this. And secondly, it is not customary for them to contradict teachers there. The daughter was given a deuce. But then the whole school came to their class to look at the brave Russian. So she met a guy who later became her husband. They now have three children.
INSTEAD OF EPILOGUE
World War II is the bloodiest and most cruel in the history of mankind. It is not necessary, for example, for a Dutchman to know the details about Marshal Zhukov, the Eastern and Western Fronts and other nuances. But how many millions died in this war, that it was the Soviet people who performed a real feat, defeating fascism - this must be known and understood in the world.
It is clear that history is plasticine. Some came - presented the story in this way, others came - rewrote it again, still others returned everything as it was, though it would have been something to understand how it was. But it's one thing to interpret facts in your own way. And the other is to openly lie, and even taking into account all the purely national priorities in teaching history, I personally feel very upset, right to the point of tears. Yes, there is a political agenda. But we all know that, for example, the Americans were the first to land on the moon. That football was invented by the British, and that the first car appeared in Germany …
Not so much time has passed since May 1945 on the scale of world history. Many eyewitnesses of those events are still alive. And it's good that my grandmother doesn't understand anything now and won't be able to read this material …
Doctor of Historical Sciences, specialist in the period of the Great Patriotic War, Scientific Director of the Russian Military Historical Society Mikhail Myagkov:
- Immediately after the end of World War II, the whole world unequivocally believed that it was the USSR that made the main contribution to the victory over fascism. And it was clear to everyone that in 1945 the Red Army was the most powerful army in the world. And the tactics and strategy of waging combat by Soviet troops in the battles of Stalingrad, Kursk, Belarusian and Manchzhur operations are still being studied in the US military academies as exemplary.
But then they began to rewrite history. This happened in several stages, starting with the Cold War. It is clear that it was politically advantageous for both the United States and England to demonize the USSR in every possible way, or as our country was called then “The Red Plague”, “The Evil Empire”. Then the memoirs of German generals suddenly became popular, who blamed Hitler for the defeats on the Soviet-German front, but preferred to whitewash themselves. Further, more: the notion that Stalin and Hitler should be considered on the same plane, since both of them are the instigators of this war, was hammered into the public opinion of Western countries. All these statements are smashed to smithereens by official, generally recognized documents.
Let's just compare the numbers.
More than 600 enemy divisions were defeated on the Soviet-German front. The best and most equipped.
In the West - 176, many of whom consisted of older conscripts or inexperienced recruits.
The length of the Soviet-German front was 4 times longer than all (!) Fronts combined, where the allies fought (including North Africa, Italy, then France, Germany, etc.).
Even after the landing of the Western Allies in Normandy at the beginning of July 1944, 235 enemy divisions operated on the Soviet-German front, and only 65 against the Allied forces on the Western Front.
The total losses of the USSR in the war are 26.6 million people (of which 8.6 million are military). The allies have 400,000 US and about 350,000 England. Which is less than the deaths of Leningraders during the blockade.
The second front (Western) was opened only on June 6, 1944, when the troops of the United States and Great Britain finally landed in Northern France. Before that, there were battles in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, but even Churchill and Roosevelts rightly considered them secondary theaters of military operations.
Tell me, was the role of the allies (USA and Great Britain) underestimated in Soviet textbooks and scientific literature? Especially during the Cold War?
- Not. Basically, everything was shown fairly objectively. Moreover, in the 1970s (at the height of the Cold War - ed.) Fundamental volumes of the 12-tonic "History of the Second World War" were published. Both earlier and later the works of Western historians, and even former German generals (G. Guderian, K. Tippelskirch, etc.) were translated.
Today, along with the published English-language literature, which continues to pour mud on the Red Army, our readers can get acquainted with an objective view of the gigantic feat that our ancestors performed, winning the Great Victory for themselves and for the whole world. Here we can mention the works of the English historian Geoffrey Roberts, for example, "Victory at Stalingrad: the battle that changed history", "The Stalinist Marshal. Georgy Zhukov "and others. It is very important that today the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation regularly declassifies documents of those years, which testify both to the contribution of our country to the liberation of Europe, and the enormous economic and food aid that the USSR provided to the liberated peoples. For its part, the Russian Military Historical Society is doing everything possible so that our fellow citizens and representatives of foreign countries learn more and more deeply about the events of the Great Patriotic War.