WAR AND PEACE: Ilves says we should commemorate the victims of WWII, not refer to the winners and losers.
TALLINN - On May 8, to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves laid wreaths at the Maarjamae memorial in Tallinn in memory of those who lost their lives. He also spoke at a memorial event organized by the Estonian Freedom Fighters Association. “Today, we mark the end of World War II in Europe. We stand in memory of all of the war’s victims – all of our compatriots who did not return from that terrible conflict.”
“World War II was the result of the treachery and brazen ambitions of totalitarian regimes and the inability of democratic states to stop their ideologies or the States at their command,” said Ilves.
He added that it is a grim reminder that morality and ethics are indivisible values also in international relations, and we must “never avert our eyes when these values are flouted. If we do look away, it may win us a brief evening respite, but not a peaceful tomorrow.”
The Estonian president noted that Estonia’s losses in the war were “great beyond measure. Without being a belligerent in this conflict, but rather an overrun country, we lost our independence in World War II, along with one-fifth of our population. Reconciliation is necessary to overcome this painful past - that we be able to honor the memory of all of the war’s victims - for World War II took a very heavy toll on many nations.”
Ilves continued in his speech that it must not be forgotten “the injustice done to Estonia, [nor to] reconcile with those who committed crimes against their own and other peoples during the war. Nor can anyone expect absolution from us for the inhuman ideologies and regimes that sparked World War II.”
“Today I bow my head in memory of the compatriots who joined the conflict during World War II and believed that the Republic of Estonia could be restored. As we now know, this good fight did not garner sufficient understanding and support in the world at that time. Yet believing in their country gave our men courage in the hopeless situation they were in. I thank you for your courage and your belief. I bow my head before the victims of the Second World War,” said Ilves.
Later, at the invitation of the Russian head of State, Dimitry Medvedev, Ilves participated in Moscow at events to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. “I participated on May 9 at the event in Moscow marking the anniversary of the end of battles of World War II in Europe, in order to commemorate, together with other European States, all victims of that war,” said Ilves.
“My decision was preceded by the personal invitation of President Dmitry Medvedev, which was handed over by the Russian ambassador to Estonia,” explained the president. “When commemorating the victims of World War II, it is rather out of place to speak of winners and losers; we are commemorating all the victims of this war,” said the Estonian head of State.
“World War II was a war that resulted in tremendous losses for all the nations of Europe and it is these victims whom we are commemorating together in Moscow,” said Ilves.