US WWII Veteran on Canceled Elbe Meeting Ceremony: Shame Not to Celebrate This Event
22:36 GMT 25.04.2022 (Updated: 09:24 GMT 18.11.2022)
© AP Photo / Andrew HarnikPresident Joe Biden visits Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on April 14, 2021.
© AP Photo / Andrew Harnik
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) – The cancellation of the traditional commemorative ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington to mark the anniversary of the meeting between American and Soviet troops on the Elbe River in April 1945 is pitiful, US veteran and participant of the historic meeting Frank Cohn told Sputnik.
On Sunday, Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov announced that the US authorities had canceled the annual ceremony held at the Spirit of the Elbe war memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Russian diplomats, their colleagues from the Commonwealth of Independent States, World War II veterans and US officials participated in the ceremony in previous years.
Cohn, a 96-year-old retired US Army colonel, joined the US army in 1943, a year later landing in France. In April 1945, he took part in the historic meeting of American and Soviet troops on the Elbe river.
"All I can say is that the entire situation is pitiful and that it is a shame that we are not celebrating the most important event in my generation and in the generations since, the fact that we were friends and allies during World War II," Cohn said.
"We have so many common goals in this world - fighting the coronavirus, fighting global warming, improving the world's economy and the economy of our respective nations," he stated.
The veteran, who has participated in the ceremonies at the Arlington cemetery for many years, and was the first to bring flowers to the monument from the American side, said he would like to place his wreath next to the wreath from the Russian side. He expressed the hope that both Washington and Moscow will not go further in their tensions over Ukraine, but is afraid that the new cold war may last longer than the previous one.
"My meeting with the Russians at the Elbe will always be remembered. It took me years to understand that what was celebrated on the Russian side was their survival, since they had to fight their way to the Elbe, every meter at a time and the sight of an American uniform meant that there were no more Germans in front of them," Cohn said.
Asked to share personal memories, the veteran noted that it was the first time he, then nineteen, tried Russian vodka. "It was too strong for me," he smiled.
Soviet and American troops met on the Elbe River in Germany on April 25, 1945, which is considered the highest point in relations between the countries of the anti-Nazi alliance.
WWII Veteran Says Destroying Monuments to Soviet Soldiers 'Stupid'
The current campaign against monuments to Soviet soldiers in Europe, which was liberated from Nazism by the Red Army, is stupid, Cohn told Sputnik.
Acts of vandalism against monuments to Soviet troops have swept Europe in recent weeks. In Berlin, police have recorded over a dozen such cases, including a Soviet war memorial in Treptower Park being splashed with paint and defaced with swastikas and calls of "Death to all Russians," and tanks in a memorial in Tiergarten being covered with Ukrainian flags. In Poland, three monuments to WWII Soviet soldiers were demolished on Wednesday in an effort to remove Soviet-era monuments throughout the country. In Lithuania, a monument to the victims of Nazi terror in World War II has been defaced for the third time in a month.
"Destroying monuments which reflect past friendships is stupid. Stopping athletes from participating because they are Russians, even though they have no political engagement, is stupid. Every individual needs to be assessed on his or her own merits," Cohn said.
The veteran disagrees with the position that the Ukraine crisis has solid links to the rise of neo-Nazism in Ukraine.
"There have always been and there are currently neo-Nazis everywhere, in the US, in Ukraine, in Russia, but they are in very small numbers and do not have an impact," the veteran argued.