Putin on WW II Hardships
by Stephen Lendman
May 9 marks the 70th anniversary of what Russians call the Great Patriotic War - representing victory over Nazi Germany.
No nation endured more and today gets less credit than Russia. Without its contribution, Hitler might have won.
No one knows for sure how many Russians perished. A 1993 Russian Academy of Sciences study estimated 26.6 million.
Some independent Russian researchers believe 40 million died - including combatants and civilians.
Millions more suffered serious injuries. Human misery endured can't be quantified. Large parts of Russia were devastated.
Many years of rebuilding and recouping were required. Americans can't imagine what Russians endured.
The National WW II Museum indicates 407,000 US military deaths - around 671,000 others wounded.
War didn't touch US soil. Americans old enough to remember recall minor inconveniences - including rationing gasoline and other goods needed for the war effort.
Except for loved ones away at war, life was mostly normal. Conflict raged out of sight and mind.
Americans today mostly ignore Victory in Europe Day (May 8, 1945) and Victory over Japan Day - August 14 and 15 when Japan's surrender was announced, or September 2 when done formally aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Victory Day in Moscow is special. Kremlin officials invited 68 world leaders to participate in this year's commemoration.
On April 30, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said around 30 world leaders confirmed their plans to attend along with heads of international organizations.
Obama will be conspicuously absent. Other Western European leaders aren't coming. Angela Merkel plans arriving on May 10.
She'll join Putin laying wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All countries involved in defeating Nazi Germany were invited. They should feel obligated and honored to attend.
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented, saying:
"Nobody in the west is even hiding that the whole issue of not coming to Russia is not based on what the population of Europe thinks about the issue, but is owing to extreme pressure from Washington."
"Everyone seems to have forgotten that heads of state are there to reflect the interests of their own countries and people."
"No one has asked the European veterans of the second world war whether it is right to boycott those who lost hundreds of thousands of people while saving Europe from fascism."
Its headquarters moved from Berlin to Washington - threatening world peace more than ever before in world history.
Putin calls Victory Day Russia's "biggest holiday." It commemorates its enormous sacrifices to defeat the scourge of fascism.
Ahead of commemorations next week, Putin commented on his family's hardships during WW II - in a Russia's Pioneer magazine op-ed.
He was born in October 1952, over seven years after war ended. "Frankly, father did not like even to touch this topic," he said. "Usually I would listen to the adults share their memories."
"It's from these adult conversations that I drew all the information there was to know about the war, and everything that had happened to my family, although sometimes they would talk to me directly."
Putin's father was a Soviet Russia submariner in the 1930s based in Sevastopol. He worked at a Leningrad military plant (today's St. Petersburg) when Nazi Germany invaded in June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa).
He served at the front as a volunteer - sustained a severe leg injury. It "was a heavy one," said Putin.
"He lived all his life with shell fragments in his leg that hadn't been taken out…They left the smaller bits inside so as not to fracture the bone."
Putin's older brother was evacuated from Leningrad's siege. He died from diphtheria. His mother was ill close to death when his father returned home at war's end.
He nursed her back to health. They lived until their late 80s. Many Putin relatives perished during wartime.
His father had six brothers. Five died. "It was a disaster for the family," said Putin. "Mother also lost her relatives. I was a late child. She gave birth to me when she was 41."
"Despite all this grief, misery and tragedy, they harbored no hate for the enemy, which was difficult for me to understand."
"Frankly, it still is…Mother was a very kind, gentle person…She said: 'How can you hate these (German) soldiers?"
"They were ordinary people who died at war too…How can you blame them? They are hard workers like us. It's just that they were sent to fight.' "
"These are the words which I remember since my childhood."
"There was not a family not having someone killed (in the war). There were, of course, sorrow, trouble, tragedy, but what is surprising is they did not feel hatred for their enemies."
He still doesn't understand it, he added. "Everything that my parents told me about the war was true. They did not make up a single word. They did not mix up a single day."
For those who lived through it, the horror can't ever be forgotten. It's madness to risk repeating what could be much worse next time.
Pioneer magazine editor Andrei Kolesnikov called Putin's comments "very sincere and intimate, maybe even too intimate."
"Apparently, this topic still strikes a chord with" him. For sure it does for anyone old enough to remember - especially Europeans, East Asians and North Africans experiencing it directly.
Endless wars followed. Washington bears full responsibility for all major conflicts.
Lunatics in charge may have WW III in mind. Humanity may not survive the onslaught.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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