Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Benefits Linger On

Today is the 68th anniversary of D-Day.

Those who fought in that battle which began on June 6th saved millions in Europe from sure annihilation, starvation and oppression.

Unless you are from another galaxy (or perhaps some pockets in America), everyone has seen countless documentaries, news stories, movies about D-Day.  As one of the greatest battles of WWII and the 20th century, perhaps no other battle has symbolized freedom as much as the Allied landing on the shores of Normandy early that June morning.

My dad was half a year shy of his 10th birthday on June 6, 1944.  He was merely 1 year older than Maya is right now.  Living in hiding in Vichy, France for most of his lifetime at that point, my dad, aunt and grandparents huddled around the radio, listening to news of the invasion on the BBC.

My dad told me once that listening to those BBC broadcasts was the first time he ever allowed himself to be hopeful.  

That phrase and conversation with my dad still lives on in my mind's eye.  I can still feel the fabric of the chair I was sitting on when we had this conversation, can still see my dad's hazel eyes clearly as he looked away from me, can still see the blue shirt he wore, and the outline of his keys in the pocket of his chino pants.

I can remember all of that perfectly, but still more than 30 years later, I cannot imagine what it would be like to live without hope.  

My dad, aunt and grandparents lived comparatively well during the war years.    They were, thanks to the generosity and foresight of my grandfather's brothers able to buy phony identification papers which did not reveal their Jewish identity and thanks to the kindness of his university professor, they were able to live out most of the war in relative quiet and obscurity.

My dad, aunt and grandparents, circa 1940.
They were never deported, never humiliated, never gassed.

They were the lucky ones.

D-day brought freedom to Europe, liberation to European Jewry, Gypsies, Homosexuals and others oppressed by the Nazi regime and their collaborators. Many soldiers and civilians died in those weeks, more than 3,000 American soldiers died during the invasion.  So many sacrificed so that the world could live in freedom.

For the last decade the world Jewish community and others have been desperate to preserve as much history from this era as possible as the numbers of those who lived through this period, who fought, who were persecuted are dwindling rapidly.  It won't be long until the last survivor, veteran and witness are gone.

But I will never forget the sacrifice of those soldiers, those brave men and their families who fought, died and sacrificed so that I could live.

I probably never would have been born if the D-Day invasion had never taken place and it is doubtful that Leo would have been born either.

I don't think my dad ever really truly got his hope back, there were times in his life which were more hopeful than others, sure but living through that period brought him a blackness and despair which is unimaginable.

My daughter Maya is one of the most hopeful people on this earth.  Her joy and hope runs with wild abandon. Maybe she got it in such a high dose because it had so eluded her grandfather.

I'm sure he'd love that.

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