Berlin is celebrating being liberated from the Nazis with an unprecedented holiday
via Bert de Wilde / Twitter

On May 8, 1945, Nazi Germany surrendered to Ally forces, thus ending World War II in Europe. For most of the world, it's a day to celebrate, but for the German people, the day comes with a feeling of uneasiness.

May 8 has different connotations throughout the country. In the west, most people feel a sense of shame over the day. In the east, which fell under the power of the Iron Curtain, it was taught in schools as the "Day of Liberation" by Soviet forces.

For the 75th anniversary of the fall of Nazism, the city of Berlin is celebrating with a public holiday to mark the end of World War II for the first time. The holiday commemorates May 8 as a day of liberation from the forces of fascism.


The day was scheduled to have public events including an open-air exhibition and museum events. But they were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posters by Kulturprojekte declaring "In the beginning was a choice — a choice and a result" have been hanging around the city.

Kulturprojekte says the goal of its campaign is to remind Berliners that the Nazi regime came through Democratic means and "that it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that history does not repeat itself."

It believes that making May 8 a public holiday "offers the opportunity to send an unmistakable message against fascism and war and for peace."

"We are also keen to reach a young audience, particularly those with a migrant background, who have little knowledge of German history," Moritz van Dülmen, the head of Kulturprojekte, told the BBC.

"It's the principles of democracy that we want to get across," Dülmen added.

There is also a movement to make May 8 a national holiday celebrating the liberation of Germany from Nazis. Holocaust survivor Esther Bejarano, 95, wrote an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushing for May it.

Over 100,000 people have signed her petition for a holiday that would commemorate "a day of liberation and the crushing of the National Socialist regime."

Prominent politicians from Germany's left-wing Linke party have backed Bejarano's plan. However, Alexander Gauland, a leading figure in the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD), disagrees.

"You can't make May 8 a happy day for Germany," Gauland said. "For the concentration camp inmates, it was a day of liberation. But it was also a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany and the loss of national autonomy."

As right-wing nationalism spreads across Europe, it's essential to keep the lessons learned during World War II from falling by the wayside. The biggest opposition party in Germany right now is the AfD, a right-wing nationalist party that has downplayed Nazi atrocities and has declared to fight an "invasion of foreigners" into the country.

Kulturprojekte's May 8 campaign is to remind Berliners that living in a democracy doesn't inoculate Germany form the forces of fascism. There's never been a better time to remind them than now.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less