Europe is marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two on the continent.
European leaders gathered in the Polish port of Gdansk for a midnight ceremony at the site where the first shots of the war were fired.
The Gdansk commemoration was seen as a slight to Russia’s Victory Parade on May 9, which has been boycotted by Western leaders because of Ukraine.
There will also be ceremonies in Paris, London, Berlin, as well as Washington.
The commemoration in Gdansk was marked with a 21-gun salute on the stroke of midnight. Beams of light illuminated a monument to Polish defenders in Westerplatte and the national anthem was played.
In a speech, Poland’s President Bronislaw Komorowski said the war had started with the co-operation of two totalitarian regimes led by Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.
Bronislaw Komorowski went on to say that the victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 did not bring freedom but instead communism and the Iron Curtain. Such division finally ended, the president said, with the integration of the region into the European Union.
The event was attended by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the presidents of several countries including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania and Ukraine.
Many other Western leaders – who are boycotting Moscow’s event and for whom the Gdansk commemoration was partly organized – did not attend.
Among those in Gdansk was Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko who said it was possible to draw parallels from history and the current situation in Europe.
“Annexation and invasion, under the pretext of defending ethnic minorities… could all become the new reality,” he said.
Relations between Russia and the West have been soured by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s southern Crimea peninsula last year and support for rebels in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Moscow denies it is arming the rebels and sending troops across the border.
Russia, which lost more citizens to the WW2 than any other nation, will stage its biggest-ever military parade during its Victory ceremony in Moscow’s Red Square on May 9.
On May 8, there will be a ceremony in Germany where President Joachim Gauck will lay a wreath at a cemetery for Soviet soldiers. The German parliament will meet in special session.
In London, a remembrance service will be held at the Cenotaph and 200 beacons will later be lit across the country.
In France, where VE (Victory in Europe) Day is a national holiday, President Francois Hollande will lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
In the US, a ceremony will be held at the national World War Two memorial in Washington followed by a fly-past of vintage fighter planes.
On May 8, 1945, Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, marking the end of the war in Europe.
However, it was not the end of WW2. It would take another three months before Japan surrendered.
Forced prostitution in Asia during WWII was so commonplace that this author asked his grandfather about it and he said that he served with people who were stationed overseas talked about it in everyday life. This will delve into the facts and the statistics about these comfort women. Many of these women have since past without much impact on history or a voice to be heard. With this atrocity just being hushed throughout time and the numbers skewed, this will try to give the perspective that the governments that committed these crimes try to omit.
The Japanese first instituted comfort women as they are called now during WWII. These women were prostitutes that were used to keep the spirits of the soldiers up. The women were also there to keep the men more amicable to taking orders from their superiors. These was prevalent through much of Asia during the wars and Japanese occupancy in many of these countries. Korea implemented these US comfort women to keep the troops of the United States happy. The reasoning is highly contested about the comfort women in Korea. Some say it was to appease the troops that were stationed there although 2 lawmakers made it apparently clear that there were ulterior motives. They said at a Korean assembly that they should train a new wave of comfort women to keep the United States soldiers from going to Japan and spending their money there. So the reasoning was to keep allies and economic, appalling but very true.
Most of these women were from the occupied Japanese territories. The Japanese military procured the women through various tactics that were not only immoral but also deceptive. Many of the girls were very young and naïve not knowing what they were in for. Some of the girls were kidnapped from their native villages and taken to these comfort stations. Others were promised jobs and instead were forced to work in the comfort stations.
The treatment of these women was not only inhumane but appalling. The women endured physical and psychological torture on a daily basis. STD were rampant as well as the health of the women declined as the women were known to see between 20 and 40 male callers per day. If the women refused to work in the comfort station, they were executed without hesitation. These executions kept the other women who thought about refusing to keep doing the unimaginable just to stay alive. Many of these women had illegitimate children who faced discrimination throughout their lives. The offspring of the US soldiers who had since returned to the United States faced the largest amount of discrimination because of the way they looked and the fact their mothers served as prostitutes. The fact that their mothers did not willingly participate in these acts had no bearing on the public’s opinion.
These women faced years of physical and emotional torture. Mental illness runs rampant through the former comfort women community, post-traumatic stress disorder is the most common condition and it still impacts the women some 60 years later. We should not let these indiscretions of governments go silenced as we should make all aware of those who did not have a voice at the time.