Building peace in the minds of men and women

Forty years after; commemorating the end of World War II

It is the great virtue of anniversaries that, paradoxically, they are timeless occasions, when present, past and future briefly escape the tyranny of calendar and clock to remind us of their essential unity. Looking back into the past we see the roots of the present; looking forward we see the shadowy outlines of a number of possible futures the choice between which depends upon our present actions.

In this issue of the Unesco Courier, which commemorates the fortieth anniversary of the ending of the Second World War, while remembering with awe the heroism and the suffering of its fifty million dead of all nations, our aim is primarily to stress the appalling cultural wounds inflicted in a conflict in which spiritual values were the first to be attacked.

Our second purpose is to draw attention to the grim future that eminent Soviet and US scientists agree we are preparing for the world. In fact, they say, backing up their words with cold scientific evidence, that if a nuclear war were to occur, the world would be plunged into the darkness of "nuclear winter" and we would have no future at all.

Today it is clear that the physical and moral courage that, forty years ago, prevented the world from slipping back into the Dark Ages is no longer enough. As the preamble to Unesco's Constitution declares "it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed."

Nevertheless, it is proper that we should remember the sacrifice made by men, women and children of many nations four decades ago. Within the limitations of our thirty-six pages it is clearly impossible to compile a complete roll of honour, nor was it our intention to attempt to do so; in evoking one great collective feat of arms, one act of individual courage and endurance, one example of the human spirit withstanding the worst horrors that man is capable of inflicting on man, we pay homage to them all.

Their greatest achievement was to give us hope. They paved the way for the emergence of new nations and preserved the cultural heritage which has made possible new conquests of the human spirit.

Edouard Glissant, Editor-in-Chief

Read this issue. Download the PDF.  

Read also our online article: Why war? A letter from Albert Einstein to Sigmund Freud

May 1985

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