End of World War II in Europe commemorated at Freedom Park

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8 May 1945 marked the end of the Second World War in Europe and in honour of this occasion, a commemoration and wreath-laying ceremony was held at Freedom Park on Saturday.

Freedom Park Museum CEO Jane Mufamadi said it was an honour to host participants at Freedom Park, which is a memorial to some 135 000 people who died across various conflicts that shaped South Africa. “We remember them so we can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation,” she said.

Ukraine’s Ambassador Liubov Abravitova recalled that World War II involved 80% of the world and cost as many as 85 million lives – millions of small and big tragedies. “No country can say they won the war,” she said. “It was a combined effort. Today we say we will remember. This is a day of memory and a celebration of victory.”

After a minute’s silence, South African National Defence Force representative Brigadier General TP Motaung said World War II’s legacy was humanitarianism that became the cornerstone of postwar history. He added that COVID-19 is a threat to global peace today.

Germany’s Ambassador Martin Schafer said, “Today 76 years ago, World War II ended with the military defeat of Germany. More civilians perished in this war than ever before. Germany waged this war against almost the entire world and sought to dehumanise and invade entire nations.” He noted that in South Africa, the Second World War saw the lives being lost of many who fought against Germany – it took the military/industrial might of the whole world to defeat the Nazis.

“We are only doing well when our neighbours, partners and friends are doing well,” Schafer said. “Let us be united in defending peace.”

Georgia’s Ambassador Beka Dvali cautioned that in today’s world there are events reminiscent of those that led to the Second World War, such as land grabs. “Our responsibility is not to just remember, but to do our best when we face challenges, to prevent such tragedies again.”

After speeches by ambassadors and representatives, wreaths were laid alongside the names of the South Africans who lost their lives in combat. Representatives from Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Czechia, Georgia, Germany, the United Kingdom, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United States laid wreaths along with members of the South African Air Force Association and SA Legion.