May 04, 2008

May 4 and the Memory of World War II

After the American Century

World War II ended in Denmark on May 4, 1945. On that night, and ever since, Danes have quietly put candles in their windows. The first time it was spontaneous, but now it is a tradition, a silent witness to the end of their occupation by Hitler and the return to a democratic society. But tonight, as I walked the streets here, I saw few windows with candles. There were some in every block, but less than a third of the apartments and the homes upheld the tradition. 

I cannot help but link this to a news story last week, in the wake of the recent Italian election. The new mayor of Rome is a leader in the New Fascist Party. There was a picture in the newspaper showing his supporters on the steps of a Roman building giving the stiff-armed Nazi salute. Such a thing would not have been possible a generation ago.

Two different nations, at opposite ends of the European Union, both seem to have forgotten the horrors of the past. Time does not heal wounds that are forgotten or denied but only covered up to fester. It is important to remember. It seems quite a few Italian voters and Danish homeowners do not. 

I was not yet born in 1945, but I will be lighting candles on the evening of May 4, 2009.