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ENGLISH football fans who laid a wreath today at the breathtaking Motherland Calls war memorial in Volgograd honoured the Soviet Union’s war dead and the anti-fascism for which they died.
The city, once known as Stalingrad, was all but destroyed in the epic second world war battle that marked a decisive turning point to guarantee nazi Germany’s defeat.
Blockaded Red Army soldiers fortified factories, office blocks and houses and defended on a building-by-building and street-by-street basis, being bombed by planes, tanks and artillery and suffering shortages of equipment and food.
Nazi forces, egged on by Hitler to record an iconic victory by taking the city named after Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, were sucked into hand-to-hand fighting that recorded previously unknown levels of casualties.
In a classic case of the biter bit, German Sixth Army troops who had driven the Soviet defenders into a small piece of territory by the Volga river were encircled as Red Army reinforcements turned the nazi flanks in a pincer movement.
Despite efforts by Berlin to reinforce Field Marshal von Paulus’s besieged forces, they had to surrender after a battle that began in August 1942 and lasted until February 1943.
The defeat ended German efforts to take the Caucasus, with its oil wealth, and to drive on to the Urals and the likely demise of the Soviet Union.
Axis forces, including Berlin’s Italian, Romanian, Hungarian and Croatian fascist allies, lost around three-quarters of a million men.
Soviet losses were over a million, but the Red Army prevailed, setting in train a series of offensives that continued until it captured Berlin.
Stalingrad was crucial to the entire outcome of the anti-fascist war and British and US political leaders spared no effort during the war to honour that reality. Parisians named a Metro station for Stalingrad after their own liberation.
Postwar political divisions between the anti-fascist Allies, resulting in the cold war, conspired to create a cover-up of how crucial Stalingrad and subsequent engagements were for freeing Europe from the nazi yoke.
While respect is due to all who fought on the Allied side, the Red Army — not just Russians but citizens from all Soviet republics — bore the brunt of the conflict.
Stalingrad and the Motherland Calls memorial bear testament to that heroic role and provide a constant reminder of the need to unite against the scourge of fascism.
Bullying rhetoric from Elkin
ISRAEL’S Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin clearly believes that, because Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump disregard international law over occupied territory, the world must fall in line.
His complaint that the official itinerary for William Windsor’s royal visit, which lists the Old City of Jerusalem as part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” in some way politicises it is beyond belief.
The itinerary actually describes the situation under international law that is backed by the overwhelming majority of the world’s states.
Elkin’s assertion that “United Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years” is nonsense. Israel has existed as a state for just 70 years, designating Tel Aviv as its capital, and it occupied the Old City — East Jerusalem — only in 1967.
Israel’s largely unrecognised annexation of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of their own independent state in waiting, is maintained by military might alone.
The likely result of Elkin’s bullying rhetoric will be to inform more people about the enormity of Israel’s criminal colonisation of the occupied territories and to encourage greater support for the BDS peaceful sanctions against apartheid Israel.
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