Commemorating the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes

Prague/Wroclaw – 23 August – On this day the Platform with its member organisations commemorates the European Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes. This date coincides with the date of signing of the Molotov– Ribbentrop agreement in 1939, the non-aggression pact between the USSR and Nazi Germany which divided Eastern Europe into designated German and Soviet spheres of influence.

Throughout the 20th century, Europeans experienced various forms of totalitarian regimes in which their human rights were systematically violated and crimes against humanity were committed. On this day, we commemorate all victims of oppression, intolerance and hatred under totalitarian regimes (Nazism, Fascism, Communism).

Two poems are recited by 13 representatives of the Platform’s member institutions from 11 countries in 2 videoclips.

There are many ways to remember the victims of totalitarian systems. This year we want to recall two of them, both poets, using their own words. Let them speak for the millions who perished.

The Butterfly by Pavel Friedmann, 1942 

The poem “The Butterfly”was written by the young Jewish Czechoslovak poet Pavel Friedmann in the Terezín concentration camp on 4 June 1942. On 29 September 1944, he was deported to Auschwitz, where he was later murdered. In Friedmann’s poem, the butterfly, with its story of rebirth and transformation into a new life, becomes a symbol of liberation from oppression, intolerance and hatred. 

Stalin Epigram by Osip Mandelstam, 1934 

The poem “Stalin Epigram”was written by the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam. Born in Warsaw, of Jewish origin, and raised in St Petersburg, Mandelstam became one of the leaders of the Acmeist literary movement. After being arrested twice he was sent for forced labour in the Gulag and died in the Vtoraya Rechka transit camp on his way to Vladivostok in December 1938. As the influence of the Bolsheviks grew and the Soviet Union was established, he strongly opposed Stalin’s government and refused to consent to any form of political intrusion in his art. The poem illustrates his strong opposition to Stalin, whom he describes as a murderer and a dictator.