Saturday, June 7, 2014

A memorial for deserters, for real

German media coverage of the start of World War I turned out to be rather interesting.

In our regional paper, we noticed significant emphasis on apprehension and reluctance of soldiers called up, of worries by their families.

Is this an effort to show balance or purposeful ignorance of the enthusiasm many Germans displayed at the beginning of the war? The trains full of happy soldiers, the marching bands, the patriotic fervor before the eventual hangover, illustrated, or example, on this web site?

We eventually ended up on web sites discussing those who did not want to fight and were court-martialed and executed.

The objectors from World Wars I and II did not have the benefit of popular support and TV cameras and remained largely forgotten.

In the UK, those "Shot at Dawn" now do have a memorial, and in Germany, there are several, with the Bonner memorial being among the most significant ones.

In the emotional debate about the subject, this article in the Daily Beast on a book about the topic is well worth a read.

As D-Day becomes an event of history with the passage of time, we have seen a more inclusive remembrance, the most obvious one being the regular invitation of the German chancellor, another the remembrance not just of soldiers. This year, French President Hollande added German victims of the Nazis in his speech.

We can no longer get the opinion of a local German D-Day veteran who made the trip to Normandy in June for many years. One year, a couple of gentlemen approached him as he was taking pictures of a group of allied veterans. They addressed me by name, he said, sounding incredulous even after years, and then they asked me not to take any more pictures. They knew. You don't forget some things, ever.

In Hollywood terms: It appears that collective memory is moving from The Longest Day to Saving Private Ryan.

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