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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 May, 2005, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Europe honours war dead on VE Day
President George W Bush and Dutch Queen Beatrix at the Margraten cemetery in the Netherlands
President Bush: "Freedom is the birthright of all mankind"
Ceremonies have been held across Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the Allied victory over Nazi Germany.

More than 40 million people had lost their lives by the time World War II ended in Europe on 8 May 1945.

President George W Bush laid a wreath at a US cemetery in the Netherlands, where 8,000 US servicemen are buried.

Commemorations also took place in Germany, France and the UK, where the Prince of Wales laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in London.

Germany was holding a two-day Festival of Democracy at Berlin's famous Brandenburg Gate, in a sign of reconciliation with past enemies and relief at the defeat of the Nazi dictatorship.

Battles were fought by normal men who did outstanding things
DW, Chicago, USA

A planned march by neo-Nazis in Berlin was called off after thousands of anti-Fascist demonstrators gathered to try and stop them.

In a speech to parliament, President Horst Koehler said neo-Nazis "have no chance" today because the vast majority of Germans do not support them.

Victory's 'terrible price'

At the Margraten cemetery near Maastricht, President Bush and Dutch Queen Beatrix laid wreaths after a salute fired by a guard of honour and the playing of the Last Post.

"We commemorate a great victory for liberty. And the thousands of white marble crosses and Stars of David underscore the terrible price we paid for that victory," Mr Bush said.

Russian soldiers rehearse for 9 May victory parade in Moscow
We should not forget the things that brought us together, that united us
Russian President Vladimir Putin

"Americans and Europeans are continuing to work together and are bringing freedom and hope to places where it has long been denied. In Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Lebanon and across the broader Middle East," he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende paid tribute to the fallen US soldiers, saying "they gave us the most precious gift - freedom".

Military planes flew overhead in a "missing man" formation, where one plane breaks away from the group to signify a fallen comrade.

Mr Bush later arrived in Moscow, where he and other heads of state will attend Russia's colourful victory celebrations on Monday. From Moscow, Mr Bush will travel on to Georgia.

To mark Victory in Europe Day - or VE Day:

  • Germany held a special service at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin and a ceremony at the main Soviet war memorial as well as a special session of the German parliament.

  • In France, President Jacques Chirac attended ceremony on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, where he handed out medals to veterans and met school children.

  • In London, wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph to honour the 265,000 British servicemen and women who died in the war and tens of thousands of civilians killed in the German air raids.

    Nearby, thousands of people attended a concert in Trafalgar Square featuring wartime singer Vera Lynn, known as the "forces' sweetheart".

    Cold War legacy

    Poland's commemorations were marred by criticism of President Aleksander Kwasniewski's decision to attend the ceremonies in Moscow.

    A leading opposition party took out a television advert saying Mr Kwasniewski should not attend as the defeat of the Nazis in 1945 did not bring freedom to Poland, but almost half a century of Soviet communism instead.

    Mr Kwasniewski and his governing former communists said it would be foolish to boycott the ceremonies and risk damaging relations with Russia.

    The Soviet occupation of the Baltic states prompted Estonia and Lithuania to boycott Moscow's commemorations, which mark the signature of the unconditional surrender in Berlin on 9 May 1945.

    They have demanded a fresh apology from Russia, but President Vladimir Putin said it was not necessary as the 1939 pact that effected the handover had already been criticised by Soviet-era authorities.

    On a visit to Latvia on Saturday, President Bush branded the former Soviet domination of eastern Europe one of "the greatest wrongs of history". He promised to raise the Baltic issue with Mr Putin.

    See commemoration services across Europe


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