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Soviet memorial in the Schönholzer Heide in Berlin-Pankow


Volker Hohlfeld / IMAGO

The memorial in the Schönholzer Heide is intended to commemorate fallen Soviet soldiers in the Second World War. On the wall of one of the urn halls there is a quote from Joseph Stalin:

"The strength of the Red Army is . . . that it does not and cannot harbor racial hatred against other peoples, not even against the German people, that it is brought up in the spirit of equal rights for all peoples and races, in the spirit of respect for the rights of other peoples."

For Cordelia Koch, mayor of Berlin's Pankow district, these words seem "like a mockery" in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the »Tagesspiegel«, the Green politician therefore calls for a historical contextualization of the state of Berlin.

She does not question the memorial itself, Koch emphasized. "But it must be placed in a historical context that also takes into account Eastern European post-war history, which has now once again become a terrible war story." After all, Ukrainian Soviet soldiers had also "liberated Germany from fascism at great sacrifice. Worse still, Putin is pretending that the Russian army is the successor to the Red Army, and is co-opting the victory over fascism."

"As an imperialist great power"

The district mayor is primarily concerned with the quote from dictator Stalin: "The problem is that the Soviet Union has appeared as an imperialist great power vis-à-vis Eastern European countries since the fifties." The Soviet Army crushed the democracy movements in Hungary in 1956 and in Prague in 1968 and occupied the countries. Putin is now continuing this imperialist policy with the attack on Ukraine: "He is not only fighting democracy, he is also waging a war of annihilation, at the end of which Ukraine should cease to exist. This, too, must be named at the memorial in Schönholz.«

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The controversial inscription in an urn hall of the memorial

Photo: Volker Hohlfeld / IMAGO

The Schönholz Memorial is a memorial and a military cemetery. About 13,000 officers and soldiers of the Red Army who died in the final stages of World War II in the so-called Battle of Berlin were buried there. It is one of three Soviet memorials in Berlin, completed in 1949 and renovated in 2013.

Already at this time, a classification had been discussed, Koch told the "Tagesspiegel". In 2015, a historian from the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst prepared a scientific contribution to the memorial in the Schönholzer Heide; She doesn't know what happened to it. An inquiry by SPIEGEL remained unanswered. Mayor Koch said that she had now asked in her letter to Berlin's mayor Kai Wegner (CDU) to "quickly" reactivate the plans for a commentary "and to include the district of Pankow".

Due to the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, there is increasing discussion about the memorials erected by the former Soviet Union. In May, a dispute escalated at the memorial in the Tiergarten. Last year, a tank parked there was covered with a Ukrainian flag. When the Russian ambassador laid a wreath there on May 9, 2022, a large contingent of police secured the process.