The Eighth of May is a public holiday in France to celebrate Victory in Europe. 2020 sees the seventy-fifty Anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany that ended the Second World War in Europe and of peace in Europe but celebrations are subdued due to Coronovirus and commemorations in France and elsewhere have been whittled down to a bare minimum.
No veterans, schools, colleges or flag-bearers have been invited to France’s national ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe memorial in Paris – with President Emmanuel Macron to be accompanied only by his prime minister, state minister for the armies, the mayor of Paris and military representatives. Former presidents may be present at the event, which will be broadcast live on television.
Local communes usually hold their own wreath-laying services attended by citizens both young and old. This year, these commemorations are closed to the public, with mayors and prefects given strict instructions not to allow more than 10 people at any ceremony.
As an alternative way to mark the day, citizens are encouraged to participate by decking out their balconies in the national colours: red, white and blue. Some mayors are asking residents to lay flowers, poems or drawings at the foot of monuments to the fallen.
A virtual concert is being staged in the fortified western coastal city of Saint-Nazaire, which was under heavy Nazi occupation and was not liberated until the last day of the war in 1945.
In Britain, three days of celebration – including a procession of war veterans through London – have been cancelled, with British people instead invited to watch a re-broadcast of Winston Churchill's speech and an address from the Queen, as well as to participate in a two-minute silence.
In Berlin – where 8 May was declared a one-off public holiday for this year’s milestone – most people will also be marking the day from inside their homes.
This week Europe Remembers, run by the Liberation Route Europe Foundation, has been offering a platform for people to virtually converse with veterans and civilians who lived through the six year conflict. It includes a series of live streams of conversations in English, Dutch, French and German.
“Many people don’t know, or have never had the chance to speak with someone who can share first-hand accounts of life during WWII,” said the foundation’s managing director, Rémi Praud.
“This is especially true for younger generations, so we’ve organised a series of video calls with people who can describe what living through the war was like for them.
"Some of them lived through the war as children, others were adults, and we have civilians and ex-service people taking part from many places in world.”
By Eilidh McGinness
Author The Cypher Bureau, Josephine, singer,dancer,soldier, spy