Under the impression of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, many people commemorated the dead of the World War and the victims of the Nazi regime at the weekend. This year, the commemoration on National Day of Mourning (November 13) also applies to the victims of war and violence in Ukraine, according to the Lower Saxony state association of the German War Graves Commission in Hanover. Volksbund President Wolfgang Schneiderhan warned of the responsibility of Russian society.

“They say it’s Putin’s war,” Schneiderhan told the editorial network Germany (RND). That’s true, but there are also Russian men who committed crimes in this war: “This addresses the problem of the future Russian society, which has to deal with this responsibility,” he explained. “We see cities being destroyed, infrastructure deliberately destroyed, civilians being murdered and desperate people having to flee.” The commemoration on the national day of mourning is also a reminder to the living.

The President of the Volksbund spoke out in favor of a contemporary commemoration – “no rigid rituals. It must also be understandable for young people”. That’s why the Volksbund brings young people together at war cemeteries: “There they see the consequences of war and violence. That doesn’t leave anyone unimpressed,” he said.

The Lower Saxony cities and municipalities have organized thousands of events, said Volksbund state manager Roland Behrmann. Unlike in the past, no representatives from Russia were officially invited because of the war in Ukraine. In Lower Saxony, around 258,000 dead from the two world wars are buried in 1,400 cemeteries, most of whom are Soviet prisoners of war and forced laborers. There are also other victims of the Nazi reign of terror, for example in the concentration camps.

In Delmenhorst, the Ukrainian scientist Volodymyr Kulyk was supposed to be the main speaker on video on Sunday. The Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg supports him and enables him to stay in research, the city administration said. The political scientist wanted to describe everyday life in Kyiv and report on his research on national identity and anti-Russian sentiment in Ukraine.

In Hanover on Sunday there was a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial of the Ahlem Memorial. The National Socialists had misused a Jewish horticultural school at the site as a collection point for deportations and as a prison and place of execution.

The Volksbund was founded shortly after the First World War. He devotes himself to the care of war victims’ graves and international youth and educational work. There needs to be more of a social debate about war and peace, said Lower Saxony’s managing director Behrmann. The national day of mourning and the Sunday of the Dead (November 20) enjoy special protection under the Lower Saxony public holiday law. On these so-called silent holidays, dance events, among other things, are prohibited from 5 a.m. in the morning.

The central hour of remembrance for the state of Bremen was also on Saturday in the town hall. According to the representative of the Senate, Olaf Joachim, Russia’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine has “deeply shaken the certainties and confidence in a Europe of peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations”. The consequences of the war determined daily politics and everyday life, and large numbers of displaced and persecuted people found protection in Bremen. All of this is unbearable, especially for people who experienced the consequences of the Second World War themselves.

“As correct and natural as it is that a democratic, legitimate state, a people, defends itself against an attack that violates international law, maintains its integrity and also receives the necessary support, the question arises as to how peace policy is still conceivable at this time, in the room,” said Joachim.

Volksbund for the central commemoration event in Lower Saxony