In Germany they are also arguing about tanks which is not for Ukraine – DW – 09/20/2022

Published by
Peter Kavinsky

Must Germany Ukraine with heavy weapons, including tanks? Chancellor Olaf Scholz from the very beginning of the war warns against such a step., if it is made by Germany at a national, and not a pan-European level. Social Democrat Scholz, like his party colleague, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht, points to the need to coordinate the delivery of heavy weapons to Kiev with NATO partners.

A final decision on this does not appear to have been taken yet. But against the background of the war in Ukraine, another discussion flared up in Germany. It’s about tanks, too, but not those that Kiev needs to repel a Russian invasion.

Should Soviet tanks remain in Berlin?

The tanks that German politicians are now arguing about were deployed on the battlefield in 1945, at the end of World War II – in the battle for Berlin. As a symbol of the USSR’s victory over Nazi Germany, they have been part of the historical monument ever since and are located 500 meters from the Brandenburg Gate. But is it appropriate against the background of the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine?

Stephanie BungPhoto: Ines Grabner

Many people think not. Berlin MP and Christian Democrat Stefanie Bung told DW: “The memorials must be preserved, but I demand the dismantling of the Soviet tanks and self-propelled guns on display in Germany.” At the same time, as a politician, she knows that in 1990, in the so-called “two plus four” agreement on German reunification, Germany committed itself to soviet monuments and take care of them.

Stefanie Bung, who leads European politics in her group, hopes that a discussion will start about whether weapons of war, as part of memorials, can be displayed in public space. “If we want to be taken seriously in Europe under these circumstances, we cannot hide behind the legal scenes when the political circumstances have changed drastically,” said Bung, who was born in Berlin.

According to her, it should be clear from a moral point of view how we will explain to our children and European neighbors that Soviet guns and tanks are considered a symbol of peace in Germany, “when Russia has been fighting against European values ​​for many years and is carrying out a cruel war against Ukraine”.

An instrument of war in public space

Stefanie Bung is pleased that this subject is receiving increasing international attention. At the same time, she points to the Baltic countries: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia – the former Soviet republics that became independent since 1991. In these countries, since the beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine many Soviet monuments were demolished.

“The Baltic countries show that the days of Soviet weapons and victory monuments are over and must be consistently removed,” says Bung, 44. Tanks, she says, are “materialized symbols of violence” designed to kill, intimidate and to subject.

Soviet tanks as part of a memorial in Berlin dedicated to World War II Photo: Carsten Koall/dpa/photo alliance

Wieland Giebel, author of historical books about Germany and Berlin, publisher, initiator of a long-term exhibition in Berlin devoted to the times of National Socialism, talks about the military character of such monuments. At the same time, he is against the scrapping of Soviet T-34 tanks: “They are here because Germany started World War II, which took the lives of 27 million Soviet citizens.” Among them were 8 million Ukrainians, Death recalled in an interview with DW.

It was a very different time and a different historical situation, he emphasizes: “Despite the terrible conditions, Soviet soldiers defeated Nazism. In order to remember and respect this, the Soviet memorial in the center of Berlin must be preserved in the form it exists in now – along with tanks.”

Tank – as a symbol of crimes during the war in Ukraine

That millions of people in Ukraine were affected by Russia’s military intervention in 2022 hurts Wieland Giebel. Shortly after the outbreak of the war, he volunteered to help Ukrainian refugees at the train station in Berlin. He is shocked by Putin’s actions and, in protest against the war in Ukraine, wants to place only one tank in the center of Berlin: “I want something against this crime.”

Wieland DoomPhoto: Marcel Furstenau/DW

The idea for this kind of temporary installation arose when he displayed a Russian tank destroyed by the Ukrainian army to the general public in June in Warsaw and Prague. Something like that should be in Berlin, says Wieland Giebel. And he says there is no better place for that than next to the Russian embassy in Berlin: “To show that we are against the war! That these tanks have brought violence to Ukraine.”

Such a tank, Death continues, may carry a different message – that Ukraine is capable of destroying the Russian war machine. “It would be a great help if Germany supported Ukraine with heavy weapons“, Wieland Giebel is convinced. But so far, the German federal government has not gone for it.

Gibel’s proposal to install a broken Russian tank at the Russian embassy in Berlin was also rejected. City officials have spoken out against the installation because there is a possibility “that people died in the destroyed military vehicle and such a demonstration is unacceptable.” Wieland Giebel is now challenging this decision in court.

“Bucha’s Testament” in the center of Berlin

He points out that the exhibition “Bucha’s Testament” was opened a few weeks ago in another district of Berlin, Charlottenburg, in the presence of the then Ukrainian ambassador Andriy Melnyk. As an exhibit, it presents a burnt-out car in which three women and a 14-year-old teenager were killed in a Russian attack.

The main exhibit of the “Bucha’s Testament” exhibition is the bus in which several Ukrainians were killed during the Russian attack Photo: Bruhl/Bezirksamt Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf

Wieland Giebel has already visited Kiev so that the concerned ministries would support his idea to install a tank in one of the districts of Berlin. He was asked to ‘turn a destroyed tank into a museum exhibition’. To get it from Kiev to Berlin, Gibel needs documents “that this scrap can no longer be used for military purposes.” Ukraine is willing to provide him with such documents.

According to Stefanie Bung, who advocates the demolition of Soviet tanks, the Doom action is a manifestation of populism: “From my point of view, this is a purely populist means of using the war for media purposes, and for ethical reasons this means is a bad choice. .”

The enemy’s weapons – whatever state they are in – should not be symbols, she is sure: “Instead, photographs of victims, documents telling of war crimes and fragments of cultural heritage destroyed during hostilities, evidence and symbols of protest against Russia’s foreign policy”.

Also see:

“Bucha’s Testament” in the center of Berlin

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Peter Kavinsky

Peter Kavinsky is the Executive Editor at cablefreetv.org

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