The Cities of Europe Pause to Remember Victory in Europe, 70 Years on.
May 8th marked the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, VE Day to you and I, the day on which, in 1945, Nazi Germany formally surrendered to the Allied forces and World War II came to an official end. And all across the weekend and indeed across Europe, the capital cities have been commemorating this historic moment with concerts, marches and services of remembrance at some of Europe’s most iconic and recognisable sites.
Attended by UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and other Eastern European leaders, the Polish port city of Gdansk, site of the first shots of World War II, was one of the first cities to mark the occasion with a 21-gun salute fired from the city’s Westerplatte at the stroke of midnight. Most poignantly perhaps in Kiev meanwhile, a symbolic wreath of poppies was added to the head of the Motherland Monument, rising over 102 metres above the city.
In Berlin, an hour of remembrance took place at the Bundestag with flowers also laid at the Soviet War Memorial in the city’s Tiergarten, a stone’s throw from the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag Building, to honour the fallen soldiers of the Red Army. And in Russia itself, Red Square in Moscow witnessed a military parade of some 16,000 troops and tanks, attended by a number of non-Western world leaders including the Presidents of China and South Africa, in addition to Raul Castro of Cuba and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
Boycotting the Russian commemorations, President Hollande of France, together with the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. In Brussels meanwhile, King Philippe of Belgium also attended a service at his city’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, set at the foot of the Congress Column.
And finally in London, the commemorations saw all manner of events take place across the capital, from a 1940’s-style memorial concert and veteran’s parade on Horse Guards Parade, over which the Red Arrows, a Lancaster Bomber, a Spitfire and two RAF Hurricanes performed a flypast, to a service of remembrance attended by the Queen, Prince Charles and the Prime Minister at Westminster Abbey and the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph.