December 8, 2021

Remembering the Victims of Communism and Nazism in Eastern Europe

victimsofcommunism110720Today, August 23, is remembered across much of the world as Black Ribbon Day in remembrance of the millions of victims of Nazi and Communist totalitarianism in Europe.

Seventy-four years ago, on August 23, 1939, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany signed the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. The pact was a treaty of non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union that partitioned much of Eastern Europe into German and Soviet zones.

After the signing of the pact, Poland was invaded by Germany from the west and by the Soviet Union from the east. Finland was also invaded by the Soviet Union that same year. In 1940, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania were invaded by the Soviets and would remain occupied for 50 years.

If adopted, a draft resolution in Congress, sponsored by Representative John Shimkus (R–IL), would express congressional support for designating August 23 as Black Ribbon Day in the United States.

Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States Žygimantas Pavilionis explained the importance of the resolution for Americans:

New generations that are less acquainted with historic events are growing in America. Such a resolution, congressmen believe, will strengthen fundamental democratic principles in the country.

Reminding new generations of the dangers of totalitarianism is only part of what Black Ribbon Day is about. The day also celebrates those people who stood up to the aggression, including citizens of the Baltic states who, in 1989, on the 50th anniversary of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, joined hands to form a linefrom Tallinn to Vilnius in a peaceful protest against Soviet occupation. For its part, the United States never recognized the illegal occupations that resulted from the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, and maintained diplomatic relations with each of the occupied nations throughout the Cold War.

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