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Remembering the victims of totalitarianism

Victims of totalitarian atrocities remembered

RobK(Photo: Michal Osmanda/Logo)

In many European countries, as well as in Canada, people are commemorating the victims of totalitarian regimes on August 23. The date was designated by European Parliament in 2009 as the European day of remembrance for victims of Stalinism and Nazism.

Also known as Black Ribbon Day, the origins of the remembrance go back to demonstrations against violations of human rights by the Soviet Union in the 1980s. In 2008, the government of the Czech Republic proposed August 23 as an official day to remember victims of totalitarianism. The Prague Declaration, signed by Václav Havel and others, extended the scope beyond the victims of Stalinism. The European Parliament adopted this wider definition, calling for a remembrance of "victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes".

The date of 23 August is a reference to that day in 1939, when Nazis and Stalinists sealed their plans to divide Europe between them in an agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

The six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, however, are also remembered on another date. In 1951, Israel's parliament decided that Yom Hashoah Day would fall on, or close to, 27 Nissan on the Hebrew calendar - late April or early May in the Gregorian calendar. The suggestion that the Holocaust and the atrocities of the Stalinist Soviet regime could in any way be seen as equivalent, sometimes referred to as the Double Genocide theory, sparked a fierce debate among scholars.

The Prague Declaration acknowledged this issue to some extent by stipulating in its first artice that "both the Nazi and Communist totalitarian regimes each need to be judged by their own terrible merits". - (IEDE)

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