To the German Nazis, the Ukrainians were “subhumans.” For the Russians, they are mortal enemies and must be eliminated.
If Russia does not suffer a crushing defeat, nothing good will happen to Europe. Commentary by Eugen Taize.
Bucha, Irpen, Gostomel, Mariupol, Trostyanets – the list of cities and villages in Ukraine, which symbolize the horrors of Russia’s aggressive war, is growing.
Men with their hands tied, executed with a shot to the head. Women were shot just because they dared to come out of basements. Schools and hospitals are under air fire. The indiscriminate killings of civilians seem to be typical of Russia’s approach to this war. Social media is full of eyewitness accounts and horrifying photos.
First Hitler, now Putin
One of the places where Russian barbarism has left deep traces is Peremoha, a village about 50 km east of Kyiv, lesser-known internationally than Mariupol or Bucha. After a month of Russian occupation, it was largely destroyed and looted.
Victory suffers not for the first time from aggression and violence during the war. Before 1945 the village was named Yadlivka. It is one of the symbols of the cruelty of the Nazi occupiers. During World War II, they set it on fire completely to punish the local population for the guerrilla resistance. After the war, the place was rebuilt. It was renamed Peremoha, which in Ukrainian means “victory”.
Six decades later, I had the opportunity to work in this village as a student – on a special project: for several years, young Germans and Ukrainians worked together to help rebuild the school in Peremoha during summer camps. This project, which was a symbol of reconciliation, had a profound effect on my life. The joint awareness of the crimes of previous generations builds a unique basis for true friendships, for a common vision of the future.
This is the best guarantee that the atrocities of the past will not be repeated.
Friendship after reconciliation with Germany
I am happy that today Germany and Ukraine are friends, that they share common values - such as democracy and freedom. Despite all the criticism that Kyiv is now criticizing Berlin over Germany’s gas deals with Russia and its long-standing policy of appeasing the dictator in Moscow, Germany supports Ukraine in this terrible war. Whether by helping refugees or by supplying weapons for self-defense.
Eight decades after the devastating German war, Ukraine has fallen victim to Russian aggression. Like the German occupiers of the last century, today’s Russian conquerors do not feel pity for the civilian population.
To the Germans, the Ukrainians were “subhumans.” For modern Russians, Ukrainians are mortal enemies who must be eliminated. Because according to post-imperial Russian understandings, Ukraine’s pursuit of freedom and self-determination is an existential threat.
Hatred for “Ukrainian traitors”
In the minds of most Russians, their lost empire never ceased to exist. And in this shockingly backward way of thinking, pro-Western sentiment in Ukraine is a supreme form of betrayal. According to the independent Russian sociological center Levada, 86% of Russians approve of the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine.
In a Stalinist society like the one revived by Vladimir Putin, the “enemies of the people” have been punished as severely as possible. And the Ukrainians know it very well – long before this war. Including Peremoha.
Just 30 kilometers east of the village shortly before the start of World War II, thousands of Ukrainians were systematically shot in a forest – without charge. They were simply declared enemies of the Russian regime under Stalin. Today, all Ukrainians who do not welcome the Russian occupiers are considered traitors and enemies.
Ukrainians can only win
Against the backdrop of indiscriminate killings and looting of the Russian occupiers, the successful defense of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities is inspiring. The West should not hesitate for a moment about its support for Ukraine and should not be afraid of a possible new escalation coming from Moscow.
Because a victory for the Ukrainians against Russian despotism would be a chance for the whole of Europe. Europe, which is on the side of Ukraine, is now rediscovering itself as a community of moral values.
And because Europe’s peaceful future is at stake. Only a military fiasco could create cracks in the Russian cult of war, cultivated for decades. For years, the aggressive dictatorship in Moscow has relied on massive propaganda, as a result of which many Russians are intoxicated by the notion of war.
The criminal regime insidiously derives its legitimacy from the myth of Soviet victory against Nazi Germany. And while in their revisionist madness the Russians imagine they are invincible, there will be no lasting peace in Europe.
Because while we in Europe learned from World War II that such horrors should never happen again, in Russia the motto “we can do it again” is extremely popular. And here it is no less and no more than the conquest of Berlin.
Victory means “victory”. The destroyed village will be rebuilt after the victory over the Russians. And will the new generations of Russians one day think about the fate of this village – as the Germans did a few decades after World War II? The answer to this question depends to a large extent on whether Putin’s criminal regime will be erased.
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