German President Gauck remembers Soviet sacrifice on 75th anniversary of Nazi invasion | News | DW | 22.06.2016
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German President Gauck remembers Soviet sacrifice on 75th anniversary of Nazi invasion

Seventy-five years after Nazi Germany began its invasion of the Soviet Union, German President Gauck has paid tribute to Soviet war victims. Millions of Soviets lost their lives in WWII.

On Wednesday, German President Joachim Gauck paid tribute to Soviet victims of World War II 75 years after German soldiers under Adolf Hitler began their assault on Soviet forces.

"No country had as many victims in World War II as the Soviet Union," said Gauck in Berlin. "Nearly 27 million people lost their lives."

On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany launched "Operation Barbarossa," which sought to destroy the Soviet Union. The operation was designed to swiftly topple Soviet forces under Joseph Stalin, but ended up turning into a long war of attrition and driving the Soviets into allegiance with Allied forces.

"Hitler and his henchmen, supported by countless Germans, wanted the destruction of the Soviet Union, the enslavement of its people, and the plundering of its land," Gauck said.

Many of those targeted by the Nazis were Russian Jews, who were among the millions of victims of Nazi concentration camps.

Gauck referenced war crimes committed by the Red Army and later by the Soviet regime during the war, but said it didn't change the fact that the Soviet Union played "an irreplaceable and unforgettable role in defeating National Socialism."

"The anniversary of the invasion of the Soviet Union serves as another reminder of the importance of peace," Gauck said. "Peace is not a given."

A new exhibit on Berlin's Potsdamer Platz has opened to coincide with the 75th anniversary. It focuses on the preparation for Operation Barbarossa, those who put the plan into motion, and the victims.

mz/kms (epd, AFP)

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