Last week our radio, TV and podcasts were full of the D-Day 75th anniversary events. From a British perspective, how many covered the German remembrance? Almost none, that’s how many. There was coverage on the BBC Radio 4 “Today” programme, but that’s all that I could find.
We celebrate our heroes and all our veterans. Most of them were conscript soldiers, just as the enemy were. Both sides suffered; men on both sides were killed and suffered horrific injuries, both physical and mental. I find it heartening that men who could not talk to their own generation or their immediate family about the traumatic events can now open up to their grandchildren and to the media, and can find friendships with the men on the other side who endured those days. As they come to the evening of their lives, I believe that the importance of remembrance of the sacrifice of young men and women is high on their priorities.
And let us not forget in our national commemorations all the other nations involved in D-Day and the Normandy campaign. For example, there were Poles fighting on both sides in Normandy. My own late father-in-law was an unwilling Polish conscript in the Wehrmacht for most of the War, and ended up serving with the Polish army in exile in Great Britain. I only found out most of his story at his funeral.
As an aside It’s odd to think that I have to thank two of the most evil men in history for my wife. Her father was a Pole escaping Hitler. Her mother was a Latvian escaping Stalin. They were both welcomed, or at least accepted, into Britain.