Alexander Gauland, co-leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD) political party, argued against celebrating the 8th of May as the day of liberation from National Socialism. “The 8th of May has no potential to be a holiday and a non-working day since it is an ambivalent day,” the politician said. “For concentration camp inmates, it was a day of liberation. But it was also a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany… Women raped in Berlin will see it otherwise than a concentration camp inmate.”
The AfD leader’s words were strongly criticized by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). Lars Klingbeil, SPD Secretary General, said Gauland’s statements were “simply disgusting”, while he emphasized that today it is important not to let “such people… ever get a chance to shape our country”.
In her turn, Katja Kipping, leader of the Left (Die Linke), stressed that, “regardless of how you mark this day, either with joyful celebration, quiet remembrance or visiting a memorial… the liberation day needs to be fixed in our consciousness as a special day so that future generations never lose connection with this date.”
The AfD leader’s remark has become one of the most talked-about topics on the German Internet, with lots of users claiming that such statements are attempts to “rewrite history”, and that the activity of Alternative for Germany has to be banned. The Day of Liberation from National Socialism is a memorable date celebrated on the 8th of May, the day of the Wehrmacht’s unconditional surrender and the end of World War Two in Europe. Officially, the 8th of May is only recognized as a memorable date in several German regions, which are Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (since 2002), Brandenburg (since 2015) and Berlin (in 2020). In January of 2020, Esther Béjarano, a former Auschwitz prisoner, initiated a petition on making May 8 an all-German holiday. The petition was signed by over 80,000 people.