Our day began with a trip to the WWII cemetery at La Cambe, where German soldiers of many ranks and divisions are buried, including soldiers of the German SS. An academic interest in forms of commemoration carried me as far as the front gates, but I did not go further. My family lived in the Netherlands during the Nazi occupation there; the memories of the fear and pain they endured weighed heavily on me as I stood at the gate looking in. I could not enter a space where men like the ones my family encountered were laid to rest. The experience was an emotional and difficult one for us all.
Although I struggled with my emotions at La Cambe, I was deeply impressed by the groups of German soldiers we encountered throughout the day, at La Cambe, Pointe du Hoc, and Overlord Museum. As a group they were respectful, thoughtful, and interacted with their nation’s history straightforwardly and honestly. I was struck by the fact that I could stand among them without fear, an experience so different from that of my grandparents, and I was thankful in a new way for the sacrifices made to bring peace and rebuild a better world.
We took the evening off to explore the city of Bayeux, home of the famous Bayeux tapestry and an exceptionally beautiful cathedral, where we were fortunate enough to hear the pipe. One of the benefits of this trip is the ability to see history layered into a place as old as this cathedral. The architecture and art spans hundreds of years, and the memorials dedicated in the church are still being added. What seems ancient and solid is really a living and changing space.
Kings University College, London Ontario