The Worker

80 Years of D-Day and Fascist Crimes – a New View of History?

Originally published by the International Federation of Resistance Fighters (Association of Anti-Fascists) –

This week saw the commemoration of D-Day, the landing of the Western Allies in Normandy and thus the opening of the Second Front 80 years ago. It should have been an occasion to pay tribute to the military achievements of the anti-Hitler coalition, the main burden of which was borne by the Soviet Army on the Eastern Front. Instead, it became a further step towards the rewriting of history, as we have had to experience several times in Europe in recent years. In the speeches by government representatives, reference was made solely to the heroic achievement of the Western Allied forces, whose invasion had brought about the liberation of Europe and the military defeat of the Nazi regime. The role of the European resistance, the women and men in the partisan units who contributed to the liberation of their countries as part of the anti-Hitler coalition, was simply “forgotten”.

A visible expression of this rewriting of history was the fact that the main representatives of the Soviet armed forces, namely representatives of Russia, were not invited, the same we experienced five years ago. The French government intensified this revision of history this year by inviting Ukrainian President Selenskyj instead. His government “qualified” itself by rehabilitation of NS-collaborator Bandera. This follows the line to name Ukraine instead of Soviet army as liberator of extermination camp Auschwitz, with reference to the troops of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, which reached Auschwitz on January 27, 1945. In this way, the invitation of Selenskyj not only sends a political signal, but also takes historical forgetfulness in the European Union to the extreme.

Nevertheless, another aspect of the disposal of history seems to be developing more positively. For several years, initiatives and veterans’ associations have been protesting against plans to build a kind of D-Day Disneyland on the historic site. The plan was to create a “theme park” that would exploit visitors interested in history for commercial interests. Thanks to the activities of civil society, which FIR also supported, the previous plans were stopped. The aim here is to create final clarity.

However, this year’s commemorations have brought clarity in other respects. Even 80 years after the historic event, the German government is still not willing to express more than words of regret for the fascist crimes committed during the days of D-Day. The fact that German President Steinmeier will be attending the commemorative event does nothing to change this. In autumn 2023, he emphasized that “as a society, we must be aware of our history”, but he rejected any responsibility for these acts. The FIR and the anti-fascist associations recall that a few days after the start of the Normandy landings, the fascist occupiers committed two crimes that had been “forgotten” for decades in West Germany – the SS massacres in Tulle and Oradour-sur-Glane. As a reminder: on June 9, 1944, units of the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” attacked the French town of Tulle because there had been acts of resistance in the surrounding area. In revenge, 99 Frenchmen were hanged from makeshift gallows that soldiers of the 2nd SS Panzer Division “Das Reich” had tied to lampposts, balcony parapets, trees or telephone poles. The youngest victim was 17, the oldest 45 years old. A further 100 inhabitants were deported to Dachau concentration camp.

The worst massacre took place the next day in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane. On the orders of SS Brigadef├╝hrer Heinz Lammerding, the entire village was burned down in the afternoon of June 10 and all the inhabitants were killed, only a few managed to escape. A total of 642 men, women, old people, children and even babies were shot, torn apart by hand grenades or burned alive. Although convicted of war crimes in France, Heinz Lammerding went unpunished in West Germany.

Until today, there has been no declaration by a German government acknowledging German responsibility for this crime, which would also have practical consequences for the victims and their relatives.

On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of these crimes, FIR expects a clear statement from those politically responsible in the German government that can be understood as appropriate by the victims and their relatives. And such a statement must also refer to the victims of German war crimes, for example in Greece, the former Yugoslavia and Italy. It is politically fatal if this German government believes that it can continue to evade the demands for compensation.

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