May 2, 2023 marks the 90th anniversary of the defeat of the German labour movement by the National Socialists. To mark the occasion, the DGB held a commemorative event in Berlin to which the leaders of the German trade unions were invited. Lizaveta Merliak, chairperson of Salidarnast e.V., also attended the event as a guest-speaker.
In his speech, Professor Dr. Heribert Prantl recalled the events that took place 90 years ago, when on the morning of May 2, 1933, the National Socialist storm troopers raided and looted the offices of the German trade unions. Leading trade unionists were arrested, taken to concentration camps and brutalized. All trade unions were banned.
A month later, Koepenick Blood Week took place, a week of arrests, torture, and murder by Nazi stormtroopers. They blacklisted more than 500 residents of Koepenick, a working-class neighborhood in Berlin. The storm troopers invaded apartments and pubs, kidnapped their victims "according to lists" and brutally murdered them. Not all of the victims' names have survived; 70 people were reported missing.
DGB Chairperson Jasmin Fahimi called the participation of Lizaveta Merliak symbolic, because today in the XXI century very similar events are repeated in the geographical center of Europe - in Belarus, where the dictator Lukashenko has been personally ruling for almost three decades. For three decades, the democratic workers' movement has been suppressed.
- In 2020, during the mass uprising of Belarusians against Lukashenko and his regime, the workers challenged the dictatorship with a threat of a general strike," said the leader of the Association Salidarnast. - However, in response, the regime unleashed an unprecedented crackdown on civil society. Furthermore, Lukashenko dragged Belarus into a war, backing another dictator, Putin, in his aggression against the people of Ukraine. Nevertheless, a democratic workers' organization, the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions, expressed a strong anti-war stance of Belarusian workers.
Unfortunately, the consequences were the mass arrests and criminal charges of trade union and worker leaders a year ago, on April 19. Belarus has been a country without trade unions since July 2022, when all democratic trade unions were liquidated. In addition, the dictatorship in Belarus continues to repress civil society, branding any activity as extremism and terrorism.
Like in Germany 90 years ago, now in modern Belarus, for dissent or expression of protest, people are sent to colonies, in fact, labor camps:
- 32 of our comrades are imprisoned in Belarus. Some are convicted of treason, participation in and support of "extremist" activities, with sentences of up to 15 years in prison. And even in prisons, political prisoners, whose number has reached 1,500, are persecuted. Their uniforms are marked with yellow triangles. And forced labour is widely used in the colonies without respect for basic health and safety.
It is worth noting that after the end of the war, many members of the SA Nazi Stormtroopers who participated in those events were brought to trial. In 1950 the district court of East Berlin sentenced 55 defendants to long terms of imprisonment and 15 death sentences, six of which were carried out in February 1951.
This should be a reminder to all those who today make decisions to carry out terror in Belarus, pass sentences, make arrests, and mock prisoners in the camps.