Black Ribbon Day Committee Donates Official Archives

On August 23, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC) acquired the official archives of the International Black Ribbon Day Committee, a civic organization that successfully advocated to establish an international day of remembrance for the victims of totalitarian regimes.

Black Ribbon Day began in the 1980s, when refugees from nations held captive by the Soviet Union started holding demonstrations to protest Soviet atrocities behind the Iron Curtain. They chose August 23, the day the Nazis and Soviets signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact to carve up Poland in 1939 and ushered in a brutal occupation of more than half of Europe.

Their efforts eventually helped bring down the Berlin Wall, culminating in the “Baltic Way” demonstration of 1989, when two million people joined hands across the Baltic States to defy Soviet occupation.

Black Ribbon Day was officially recognized in 2009 by Canada and the European Union — where it is known as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism — followed by the US House of Representatives in 2014.

With official backing, the Committee became a movement of citizens devoted to educating people about the brutality of collectivist regimes.

At the donation ceremony, Markus Hess, the Committee’s founder, said the courage to hold course was inspired by moral clarity and a confidence that historical justice could be achieved. “We knew we were completely right and that they were completely wrong. And we knew that we were going to win and they were going to lose.”

The gift expands VOC’s growing archives — which include the Gulag Collection, a series of paintings by Nikolai Getman depicting the horrors of the Soviet gulag — and advance our goal to become the leading repository of knowledge on communism.