Honoring the dead

The memorial to the Soviet war dead in Schönholzer Heide is monumental, in the true Soviet sense, unlike anything else I’ve seen in Berlin. It sprawls out an acre or two long, funereal marble everywhere. In the shadow of a soaring obelisk, a woman’s statue holds a dead soldier in her arms, almost Pieta-style. In small rooms that would be chapels in a traditional graveyard, quotes from Stalin still adorn the walls.

With Zis German Life we visited the annual wreath-laying ceremony today, the anniversary of Germany’s surrender to the Red Army in 1945, and the honoring of the dead (total: 26.5 million Soviet dead in the war. Mindboggling). It’s a split affair; maybe 40 attendees overall, a scattered handful old enough to be actual spouses or veterans. The others may have been sons and daughters, other relatives; but there was a distinct political turnout as well. At least one of the wreathes was laid by the Linke party, the leftists here, and the successor to the old East German state party.

Elsewhere, plastered around our neighborhood in particular, are black-and-white posters saying “Thank You,” “Danke” or “Merci,” and the tag line (in German), “Like a light in darkest night…” Again, expressions of thanks to the Soviet soldiers who killed and raped their way through Berlin, but rid the country and the world of the closest thing to a genuinely evil government Europe may have ever had. The twentieth century was not one for moral clarity; but which century has been?

A few images from Flickr. One of these days I’ll figure out how to do this right:

Soviet statueFuneral progressionSoviet memorialStalin speaksComrades, unite