Before heading to Moscow for today’s war victory celebrations, George W. Bush was in the Netherlands. The US President used the stop to pay tribute to those who died defeating Nazi Germany, including the 8000 American serviceman buried at the Margraten cemetery near Maastricht French President Jacques Chirac led events in Paris yesterday. He laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier under the Arc de Triomphe.
France paid a high price in the conflict: occupation and the loss of over 800,000 military and civilian lives. There were lower key commemorations in Britain. Prince Charles laid a wreath at the national war memorial. Bigger events are planned for later in the year to mark the end of the war. Some veterans said they were disappointed that neither the Queen nor the newly elected Prime Minister were present.
German political leaders gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin for what the country calls Democracy Day. May 8th is viewed as the date of liberation from Nazi tyranny. Riot police had to struggle to keep a Neo-nazi gathering away from some 6000 people who held a counter demonstration. In neighbouring Austria survivors of the notorious Mauthausen labour camp remembered the day 60 years ago when they were liberated by American forces. Around half of the 200,000 prisoners held there died.