As the commemorations of the 75 year anniversary of D-Day take place, Lindsey German reminds us of the truth about the end of the Second World War
When we talk about honouring the dead and the survivors of D-Day we should have the decency to tell the truth about that phase of the war. I come from a generation whose parents fought in the war, and I know the sacrifices they made. But we do no one a service by ignoring the many, many sacrifices taking place across the world as a result of the war.
So here are a few counters to the narrative of Britain and the US winning the war single handed.
1There was massive courage and sacrifice from the resistance fighters across Europe who were civilians who fought against the Nazis, sometimes with spectacular success, but often ending in their own torture and death. From Norway to Greece these people showed immense bravery against fascism and their own Quisling ruling classes.
2Their fights were a serious hindrance to the Nazis and their collaborators. For this, local populations received collective punishment. In a beautiful hill town in Tuscany which I often visit - Civitella Val di Chiana - all the men of the town were herded into the church on its saints day in June 1944 and, along with the priest, were massacred.
3Yugoslavia and Greece saw bitter civil wars with many casualties.
4The turning point in the war is not generally seen to be D-Day but the defeat of Germany at Stalingrad by the Russians. How insulting to the 26 million Russians who died in total that they were not involved in the recent commemorations while Germany was. (This isn't an argument against Germany at all but about the hypocrisy of those who want to fit history into present day politics rather than tell the truth).
5Churchill was not keen on the D-Day invasion. He launched the Sicily invasion in 1943 in large part to protect the sea routes to the British empire through the Suez Canal. British troops fought in Europe but also in North Africa, Burma and other parts of the far east. Much of the fighting was to protect the British empire.
6Russian troops were advancing rapidly on Germany by summer 1944 and the US in particular feared that Russia would be able to control the whole of Germany. D-Day marked the beginning of a race to see who could get to Berlin first.
7The allies engaged in a severe bombing campaign of Europe towards the end of the war, carrying out bombing raids on parts of France, Germany and Italy. In Germany, these raids caused awful loss of civilian life. There was no attempt to bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz and other concentration camps.
8Trump and May waxed lyrical about the role of Britain during the Second World War. Yet they do not tell you that the battle for London was fought mainly by the ordinary people of the city and that the rich and powerful rushed to leave. The royal family spent most of their nights in Windsor and Churchill often stayed in the country.
9The huge sacrifices made by civilians and military worldwide led to a radicalisation which demanded change not just from fascism but from inequality and unemployment after the war. This led to a Labour government in Britain. The US used its Marshall aid to prevent left governments in countries like Italy.
10The ruling classes everywhere feared revolution and did their best to restore the status quo. Fascist regimes in Spain and Portugal were left in place. Trump and May are the descendants of those who appeased Hitler and Mussolini. People died on D-Day because they opposed a racist supremacist ideology. Trump represents much that those servicemen fought against. These commemorations should not be used to boost his standing or his politics.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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