Saturday 7 June 2014

The Day after D-Day

Its been impossible to ignore the D-Day 'Celebrations' over the last few weeks, and quite rightly so, and incredible feat of human endeavour and the beginning of the end of Fascism on the Western battle front.

But, as always, I have my issues with the way war is remembered, and only half of the story I told. I have seen no end of interviews with plucky 90 year olds, rightly proud and rightly moved by the memories. But I've yet to see a single interview with a German soldier.

They were there too. They too were mostly conscripts, they too watched as tens of thousands of their friends were killed.

I went to see the film, 'Saving Private Ryan' when it first came out, and I happened to take with me my German friend Uli. I came out, stirred, moved, shocked by the film - probably one of the most visceral exercises in capturing the horrors of the experience of D-Day ever made. My German friend was equally horrified and visually upset by the film. In the story, the Germans are just dots to be killed in the distance, the only one with any characterisation turns out to be a baddy. 'No wonder so many English don't like the Germans' said Uli 'Our Grandparents were just evil in your eyes, not fully human'.

Just as the Nazi leaders turned Jews into non-persons, and so allowed them to be exterminated as less than human - we must never turn our enemies into non-persons. Its a very dangerous game to play, especially during an age of increased nationalism and extremism. I would have loved to hear the voices of those Germans who face our troops on D-Day. They are people too. And 70 years on, that is perhaps the most important lesson that we need to learn from our shared history.

1 comment:

  1. I watched a few interviews with Germans, Chris, plus one with a representative of a German peace group. It was also good to be reminded by Eddie Izzard (who did his show three times on D-Day: English, French and German) that while we commemorate allied deaths we tend to overlook the 25 million Russian deaths in the same conflict.