A “Disney World” about WWII and D-Day?

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It is a project of the president of the Normandy region, in France, to pay tribute to the fallen. Strong controversy.

He Day D it remains in the collective memory as the quintessential feat of warfare in modern history, a decisive contribution to winning the war against Nazism. The Normandy landing is remembered, on the ground, with the cemeteries of the fallen, the monuments, various museums and the Memorial de Caen, an extraordinary didactic center that includes the old underground bunker – restored – of the German general Wilhelm Richter, from the that the counterattack against the allies was prepared.

Given the wide range already existing, in real settings, in order to understand the past and pay tribute to the liberators of the Second World War, does Normandy need to also build a theme park, Kind of a D-day Disneyland with live re-enactments of the battle by actors?

This is the project announced last January by the regional president of Normandy, the centrist Hervé Morin, and which has caused an avalanche of criticism between historians, local associations and – most importantly – on behalf of the few survivors of the landing and their families.

The newspaper The world published this Monday a harsh tribune, signed by more than 150 descendants of the Kieffer command – the French resistance fighters who participated in the June 1944 operation – in which they denounced the obsceneness of promoting a show of these characteristics, with one objective commercial, in a place that is considered sacred.

They are also opposed by Leon Gautier and Hubert Faure, the only members of the Kieffer command still alive. The signatories considered “deeply shocking” the plans of the regional president, “for both historical and ethical reasons.”

According to them, the idea of mercantilist show “It goes against the message transmitted by our parents and our grandparents, characterized by great modesty and sobriety in the vocation of fighting.” “Her message was to never make us relive events,” added the authors of the rostrum.

Historian Maxi Krause, former professor emeritus at the University of Caen, described as “Monstrous” the initiative, unofficially christened D-Day Land.

Morin defends the project and denies that it is disrespectful to the memory of veterans. It ensures that, if it is carried out, it will be carried out with great sensitivity. The plans, in any case, are still in a preliminary phase.

It remains to choose the location, which will not be in the immediate vicinity of the beaches but in the interior. The park could be built in the department of Calvados or in La Mancha. Its promoters would like it to be ready for the 80th anniversary of the landing, in 2024, which will coincide with the celebration of the Paris Olympics.

Last year, on its 75th anniversary, Normandy commemorated it in a big way. The celebrations and events lasted for several weeks. Veterans came from Great Britain, the United States and Canada.

On June 6, 2019, the leaders of these countries were present. The re-enactment of parachute drops, from vintage airplanes, and the parade of old British vehicles in Bayeux, dances and other activities, was done with great respect and emotion.

Perceiving the impact of D-day does not need Hollywood tricks. It is enough to contemplate, in silence, the sea of ​​crosses in the American cemetery of Coleville-sur-Mer, on the beach since then called Omaha Beach, look at the age of the buried soldiers and imagine life itself if Hitler had won that war .

The recollection is even more evocative in small and often deserted graveyards, such as the Canadian of Bény-sur-Mer, surrounded by wheat fields, where 2,000 soldiers rest under gravestones with the engraved maple leaf.

By Eusebio Val, La Vanguardia correspondent in France

CB​

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