Leaders of 54 nations that fought on both sides in World War II signed olive leaves on Sunday in a ceremony of reconciliation marking the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.
In Germany, commemoration of the Allied victory over the Nazis was underscored by the rumbles of rightwing extremism. A synagogue was set on fire and neo-Nazi disturbances left one youth dead.
But V-E Day ceremonies across the continent brought a mingling of joy, sorrow and hope.
The ceremony in London began with the soaring bugle blasts of Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” written by the Jewish American composer in 1942 as a rebuff to Nazi racist ideology.
Prince Charles, appearing with his estranged wife Princess Diana for the first time since Christmas, watched children lead politicians to flagpoles in Hyde Park for the signing of the olive leaves.
The children then entered a model globe, which began to revolve, releasing hundreds of doves into the air.
The leaders included Vice President Al Gore; Helmut Kohl, chancellor of the now democratic Germany; and King Mswati III of tiny Swaziland - among the Commonwealth countries that rallied to Britain’s aid.
Earlier, the leaders joined in thanksgiving and prayers for reconciliation at St. Paul’s Cathedral, which still bears scars of the combat that ended half a century ago.
The royal family, led by Queen Elizabeth II, attended the service at the cathedral, the towering symbol of London’s resistance to German bombing. Its bells pealed Sunday across the capital.
In brilliant, unusual sunshine, Britons and tourists perspiring in T-shirts and shorts pressed against barriers to watch processions of limousines.
“All the other countries (in Europe) were taken by the Germans,” said Paul Hastings, a 12-yearold Scout visiting London with his troop from Cornwall in southwest England. “We were pretty lucky ours wasn’t.”
Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, who led the service at St. Paul’s, asked for prayers “for the healing of memories, for those who suffer as a result of war, for communities where past wrongs and violence persist.”
Catholic, Greek and Russian Orthodox and Methodist ministers each contributed to a litany of reconciliation.
At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II implored mankind to erase the “culture of war.”
“A humane and just society is not built on violence and the force of arms,” the pope told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.
In the eastern Dutch city of Apeldoorn, 200,000 people came out to thank their Canadian, British and American liberators.
The 6,000 Canadian veterans who marched in the parade were besieged by flowers, kisses and handshakes from the jubilant crowd.
In Austria, tens of thousands of people gathered at the site of the Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen to honor the dead.
The main V-E Day commemorations move to Paris and Berlin today and to Moscow on Tuesday.
Kohl returned Sunday night to Berlin for the dedication of a Jewish community center and permanent exhibit in Berlin’s partially reconstructed, golden-domed New Synagogue.
Berlin Mayor Eberhard Diepgen, speaking to 4,000 people who gathered under umbrellas outside the synagogue, called the golden dome “a symbol of hope and selfunderstanding for this city.”
But the audience had to pass through airport-style metal detectors, and heavily armed police sharpshooters watched from nearby rooftops in what authorities said was one of the most intense security operations ever mounted in the city.
Arsonists had set fire early Sunday to the storeroom of another synagogue, in the northern city of Luebeck. Firefighters prevented it from spreading into the red-brick building’s main prayer hall.
79-year-old parachutist dies
Also Sunday, a 79-year-old Army veteran died in Moscow when his parachute failed to open as he practiced a commemorative jump to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, his son said.
Rolland Duff, a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, had returned last summer to France to reenact the parachute jump on Normandy Beach as part of the Allied invasion in June 1944.
Duff, who lived in Fort Myers, was invited to do the same for V-E Day celebrations Tuesday in Moscow, his son Tim Duff said in a telephone interview from Edina, Minn.
“He really loved the camaraderie,” he said. “It kept him young.”
Duff said his father was making a practice jump with five other veterans of the 82nd Airborne and two Russians in preparation for Tuesday’s events. President Clinton was scheduled to attend the Russian ceremonies.
“That’s all we really know,” Duff said. “We’re waiting for more.”
Prince, princess kiss
Although they mostly ignored each other Sunday, when they parted Prince Charles kissed his estranged wife, Diana, on the cheek.
The kiss, witnessed by their two sons and press photographers, was a rare show of affection between Charles and Di, who separated in December 1992.
Throughout the hourlong V-E Day ceremony in Hyde Park, the prince and princess exchanged few words and seldom made eye contact. Prince William sat between them.
At the end of the ceremony, Charles kissed William and Prince Harry goodbye. Then, he leaned across and kissed Diana, with whom William, 12, and Harry, 10, are spending the holiday weekend.