Thursday, 6 June 2019

D-Day: what we should remember



I was six years old when the D-Day landings took place on this day in 1944. By the time I reached "call-up" age National Service in the UK was just about ending, so I have never been forced to "give" my life for my country and I am very thankful for that.

It is right to remember the young men on all sides who were sacrificed on the Normandy Beaches 75 years ago.  But note, for the most part they didn't "give" their lives, they were largely conscripts who had their lives taken, through a failure of politics.

Thankfully, in my lifetime, through the efforts of the United Nations, NATO, and, yes,the European Union, mass slaughter of the young and not so young on this scale has been avoided.

So, as well as the bravery and the bugles and the legitimate nostalgia for "past glories" we should look seriously at the causes of the conflict they died to end, and how to avoid the politics that might lead to another.

We should look carefully at the Treaty of Versailles and the policy of "squeezing Germany until the pips squeak?"

 What, if any, support did the "victorious allies" give to the struggling Weimar Republic?

To what extent did we create the conditions which enabled the aggressive nationalism and fascism of the Nazi regime to take hold and flourish?

To what extent are we replicating those conditions now?

Yes, I know, neither Donald Trump, Boris Johnson nor even Nigel Farage are proto=Hitlers.

 But to what extent are the fake news, undeliverable promises, blatant disregard of the niceties of diplomacy, the take-over of our fragile democracies by the most powerful monied forces, the policies of "ourselves first", creating the circumstances by which the relative peace and prosperity of the last seven decades may founder?

And  a little modest might help.  D-Day may have been the greatest  seaborne invasion in the history.of the World, but It was not the dominant factor in the defeat of Nazism.  The Western allies  lost military lives in the hundreds of thousands. The USSR, on the Eastern front, lost  between eight and eleven million. 

When and where do they commemorate that?  Shall we be there?  Are we treating the Russians and their government with the respect they deserve?

11 comments:

  1. D-Day n may have been the greatest seaborne invasion in the history.of the World, but It was not the dominant factor in the defeat of Nazism

    No, but what it was was much more important: it prevented the entire continent of Europe from falling to the USSR. It liberated Western Europe not so much from the Nazis, as from the Soviets, under whose control they would surely have fallen — as Poland, Hungary, Romanaia, etc did — had the Allies not managed to reach Berlin around the same time as the Red Army.

    Hitler was, by that point, a busted flush. Germany couldn't win. The attempts to capture the oilfields they needed to keep their armies supplied had failed. All that was left for Germany was a slow defeat.

    The real enemy, as Chruchill and Roosevelt saw, was Stalin. That was why they had to invade Europe — why they had to make it to Berlin. To avoid an evil communist empire stretching all the way from Brest to the Bering Strait.

    You won't hear it said much, but that's what we're really celebrating today (and it is worth celebrating).

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  2. Well, that's certainly a point of view.

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    1. Remember the Berlin airlift (now that's something we should celebrate far more than we do, I don't remember anything being said about the seventieth anniversary last year). If not for D-Day, there would have been no Western presence in Germany to even defend.

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  3. Also of course worth remembering that for the first third of the second world war, Hitler and Stalin were allies; and the then-equivalents of Jeremy Corbyn in Britain (hard-left socialists and communists) were, as a result, rabidly pro-Hitler, only switching sides after June 1941.

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    Replies
    1. Hitler and Stalin used that time to divide Poland between them. Thousands of Polish servicemen and other leaders were murdered by the Russian Communists. The price was paid by the Russian people not their cruel leaders.

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    2. I agree that it's a very mixed and messy period, and that it is a very blinkered view to suppose that all the goodies were on one side and all the baddies on the other. I just hope we're not entering into a similar period now, or, if we are, that it will be restricted to squabbles at the UN rather than hot wars.

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    3. Anonymous: You'll be pleased to know that there are three letters in today's Guardian (7th June) on this topic, one of which, by someone with a very Polish-sounding name, makes a point similar to yours. For some reason these letters are not yet on line so I can't give you a link.

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    4. And yet, somehow, saying 'I'm a Nazi' would (rightly) put you utterly beyond the pale of civilised discourse, but saying 'I'm a communist' does not.

      Can anyone explain that?

      (Other than Diane 'Maybe the good Mao did was worth the sixty million people he murdered' Abbott obviously)

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