May 8th, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of World War II. This important date would have normally been commemorated by public events with political participation at the highest level. Now it will remain overshadowed, like so many other things, by the global Coronavirus pandemic.
Yet we cannot afford to lose sight of the significance this anniversary holds for Germany and the European continent as a whole, especially in these trying times and circumstances. On May 8th, we do not only remember the end of the bloodiest and most devastating war in history, but also the lessons this terrible experience taught us. This is underlined by the fact that this anniversary comes back to back with Europe Day on May 9th, the day the member states of the European Union observe in remembrance of one of its founding fathers and of the initial steps which started the process of European unification.
At this moment, Europe continues to be one of the epicenters of the Coronavirus-outbreak. Public life has been shut down with varying degree all over the continent, and its economy has almost ground to a halt, while governments are desperately trying to walk a narrow path between saving lives and preserving their health systems on one hand and saving jobs and livelihoods on the other in order to avoid an even deeper recession. And these difficult choices every country in Europe now faces will in the end only be able to succeed if they are coordinated within the European Union, because they will otherwise lead us on a downward trajectory of economic and political fragmentation. 75 years ago, Europe realized that it can only rise from the ashes if it pulls together and comes together as one. It needs to remember this lesson now.