Merkel, Ukraine, and the Second World War

Merkel and Putin


2014/08/30 • Politics

By Robert van Voren

When Nazi-Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the Wehrmacht swept through Ukraine with only little resistance from the Soviet Army, which had been severely weakened by Stalin’s purges and military incompetence. In their wake followed SS and the Einzatsgruppen, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians either because they were Jews or Communists or “sub-humans” such as mentally ill and mentally handicapped. Ukraine suffered heavily during the Second World War, probably most of all Soviet republics.

Yet interestingly, the tragedy of the Second World War is generally only connected to the suffering of Russia, and time and again used as an argument to explain why the country feels “threatened” and “in self-defense” feels the need to invade neighboring countries and set up puppet states. And this explanation, however false, is echoed by many in the West: we have to understand the Russians, they have suffered so much, they had Napoleon and Hitler, you need to give them a break and stop judging, they are just different.

Of course the argument is a completely faulty one. First of all, Russia itself is an imperium that has been created by conquest and subjugating other nations. Some of them, notably Siberian people, did not survive the onslaught and are extinct. Others are still recovering from decades of intense Russification. Also, many of the deaths during the Second World War are the result of decision of the “Genius” Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin, who was not such a genius at all but who just didn’t care for one minute whether 10,000, 100,000 or a million people would die. For instance, hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers died in the Finno-Russian war for… nothing. The argument was used in Soviet times and it was faulty, and it is faulty now again. Russia is an aggressor and has a long history of aggression.

What is very peculiar right now is that the Second World War is again used in relation to the Ukrainian-Russian war. We need to understand Russia, because it feels challenged and it suffered so much during the Second World War. It is one of the explanations why Germany is so meek towards Russia: the guilt issue plays a major role: we Germans are still in “pay back time” because of past horrors.

But what about Ukraine? Is there no “pay back time” when Ukraine is concerned?

How is it explainable that exactly on August 23, to the day 75 years after the signing of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact which carved up Europe between two dictators and caused so much suffering, Chancellor Merkel urges Ukrainian President Poroshenko to compromise, adding that the country still has the possibility to join Putin’s Eurasian Union. As if he ever indicated that wish, and while knowing that Yanukovych’s decision to do so was exactly the reason why the Maidan movement started!

Somehow the sense of guilt does not result in a special “German approach” towards Ukraine and an extra urge to help the country to defend itself against an external aggressor. Somehow Merkel doesn’t think in the case of Ukraine that past suffering by the its people makes it more urgent to help them at the moment when another aggressor (and not ”just an aggressor” but the legal heir to the same Soviet Union with which her country carved up Europe 75 years ago) invades its neighbor like a thief in the night.

As the heir of a formerly totalitarian country that caused so much suffering in this region, she should in fact be particularly sensitive to the needs of Ukraine, a country that stands up against it’s dictatorial neighbor that thinks it can just carve out pieces of land in complete violation of all international laws and agreements that shaped the post WW2 period.

It is a shame she isn’t. Maybe somebody should give her a wake-up-call.

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  • Jacks Channel

    To not help a weaker nation that asks for your help when it is clearly in the right is the act of a coward. We need to give Ukraine as much equipment as it needs to win, period.

    • Murf

      I can not tell you how embarrassed I am that the US will not be represented.

      Thus far the mighty have fallen. and in such a short time.

    • Arctic_Slicer


  • Mat

    Just to point out, 3,000,000 Ukrainians were killed in the Holocaust, and this is not mentioned. Hitler’s extermination policy towards the handicapped and mentally ill was a German program, not Ukrainian.

  • flypaper

    With Merkel and the other big 3 in the EU it all boils down to money…..They don’t want to loose putin land as a customer. Big business in Germany is the new NSDAP, they have locked Merkel in and she depends on there share in the Bund to stay in power…If Ukraine could replace putinland with bigger profits watch how quick Germany becomes a staunch friend of Ukraine…but until that happens the krauts will chase their russian profit even if they have to slip and slide in Ukraine blood to get to it.

  • ENo

    Your source is Press TV? The Iranian English-language news network. Christopher, you do know that Iran is not exactly a friend of the so-called West? Instead it has very close and warm relationships with Russia.

    • mcl

      No-not at all. degree in gov docs–

  • ENo

    Thank you. Again another excellent article. Russians lost a lot of people during the WWII. That cannot be denied. But can anyone tell the exact figures how many lives were lost in the early phase of the WWII when the Soviet Union was the aggressor in Poland, Finland, the three Baltic States and Romania in 1939 – 1940? At least In Finland they lost a lot of lives during the Winter War. It is worth remembering that not all of them were ethnically Russians. How well do the Ukrainians know what happened for example to the Ukrainian 44th Rifle Division in the Battle of Raate Road in January 1940 ( If you bother to check that link, I suggest that you especially read the chapter “Soviet executions”. I wonder have the Russians included also the masses of executed Soviet soldiers by the Soviets themselves in the total number of their “heroes” of the Great Patriotic War?

  • Mazepa

    Merkel means well, but she’s no Margarett Thatcher.
    Now THAT was an intelligent, determined and respected leader.

    • mcl

      you really wouldn’t want Thatcher now, would you? the woman had nothing but own ambition in sight.

      • Mazepa

        With all due respect, that is a nothing but a communist lie. During that period of time, while the impotent ‘leaders’ in France, Italy and Germany were drowing in their own confusion, M. Thatcher exhibited courage and leadership. She spoke the truth…..while the prime ministers on the EU continent were shaking with fear and typical stupidity.

        • mcl

          hardly– she spoke about as much truth as GW and only for her own personal agenda–don’t go about calling people communists simply because it’s your favorite ugly word of the day.